Not all little girls going to Disneyland dress up as princesses and line up to meet Snow White, Cinderella or Belle. Some prefer more empowering role models than Disney’s Damsels in Distress™. A five-year-old girl at Disneyland Park’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Anaheim, California offered "new hope" for more than just a Jedi renaissance. With a triple-bun hairdo, dressed head-to-toe in Jakku scavenger regalia and flaunting her lightsaber, this young Rey defiantly walked up to the menacing Kylo Ren and two First Order Stormtroopers patrolling the dusty marketplace of Black Spire Outpost on Batuu, a remote and near-forgotten planet on the Outer Rim of a galaxy far, far away.
The Supreme Leader appeared agitated and angry, which is understandable. He was just humiliated on Crait by his old master, Luke Skywalker, who allowed the Resistance to escape certain doom at the end of The Last Jedi. And here was a young girl, dressed as his arch-nemesis, refusing to provide any answer when questioned about Resistance sympathisers. The Force sure was strong with this pint-sized Rey as Kylo had no option but to move on to interrogating other locals.
(Seen here: The Millennium Falcon replica is over 100 feet long | Joshua Sudock/Disney Parks)
This is part of the larger-than-life charm of Disneyland’s newest attraction, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It is a blast of pure childlike amusement. And for the Star Wars fan, it is a sweet nostalgic thrill ride that not only lets you live out your childhood fantasies but lets you participate in a whole new intergalactic adventure of your own. It really lets you embrace the Dork Side of the Force.
Black Spire Outpost is a living, breathing world that gives you the most authentic Star Wars experience money can buy.
The Disney Imagineering team has built the colony on the never-before-seen planet of Batuu as one of the last stops for smugglers, rogue traders and adventurers before they set forth to the unknown expanse of Wild Space. So, you won't just come across the bad guys of the Star Wars universe in your Batuuan adventures. You should also spot familiar friendly faces like R2-D2 and Chewbacca (who is always happy to oblige you with a quick photo) and some unfamiliar ones like Vi Moradi, General Leia's spy who can be seen trying to recruit visitors for the rebel cause. So, always keep an ear to the ground for Wookie sounds and beep-boop-bopping.
(Here: Chewbacca is one of the more familiar faces you will find at Black Spire Outpost | Disney Parks)
The park's employees, cast members as they're called, make up most of the demographics of Black Spire Outpost and they all have their own interesting little backstories. They always stay in character to give you authentic Star Wars vibes, and even greet you with “Bright Suns” in the morning, “Rising Moons” in the evening, and "Till the Spire" as you leave. There is a multitude of aliens, creatures and droids that can be found in the many attractions, shops and eateries. Some of these are again cast members, the others are lifelike antimatronic figures.
(Above: Stormtroopers patrol the First Order base in Black Spire Outpost | Getty Images)
If you want to grab a proper meal, your best bet is Docking Bay 7, where Chef Strono “Cookie” Tuggs has docked his food freighter. Cargo crates have been turned into stalls big enough to seat the whole family with in-laws to spare. If you want something light for breakfast, go for the Rising Moons Overnight Oats (oats, dragon fruit, yogurt, seasonal fruit). But if you are planning to spend the whole day in Batuu, make sure to fuel up with a more substantial meal at lunch, like Smoked Kaadu Ribs (sticky pork ribs, blueberry corn muffin, cabbage slaw) or Roasted Endorian Tip-yip Salad (marinated chicken, mixed greens, roasted seasonal vegetables, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, green curry ranch). You can wash the whole thing down with any of the three available fruit-flavoured beverages: Batuubucha Tea, Phattro or Moof Juice.
If you want a grab-and-go bite, make sure to visit Ronto Roasters. You should be able to smell it even when you can't see it. Situated at the core of Black Spire Outpost’s Marketplace, Ronto has a giant podracer engine repurposed as a barbecue pit, filled with exotic meats from across the galaxy. Their chief speciality is the Ronto wrap, containing the spit-roasted meat of a massive beast native to Luke’s home planet of Tatooine. (It's just pork really.) And if you want something to snack on while standing in long queues, try the crunchy, savoury Outpost Popcorn Mix at Kat Saka's Kettle.
(Black Spire Outpost's Marketplace is home to a variety of merchandise stores | Kent Phillips/Disney Parks)
Batuu even has its own local watering hole — Oga's Cantina, where you can knock back a couple of beers, cocktail concoctions or other interstellar libations, like a regular Han Solo. If the Mos Eisley Cantina was a seedy bar with a dangerous allure frequented by shady clientele of various alien races, Oga's has a more family-friendly disposition. It's still Disneyland after all. So, as parents sip on their Fuzzy Tauntauns (peach vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice with tangerine, pure cane sugar, and “buzz button tingling” foam), the kids are drinking their Jabba Juices (orange juice with pineapple, kiwi, cantaloupe and blueberry popping pearls).
(Above: Oga's Cantina offers a wide range of beers, ciders, cocktails and mocktails | Kent Phillips/Disney Parks)
But you can't have alcohol and no music. Sadly, the galactic funk of the Jizz-wailers are replaced by an animatronic droid named DJ R-3X, who entertains patrons with his uninspired electronic dance tunes. Being the first and only venue at Disneyland to publicly serve alcohol, Oga's Cantina is one of the hottest joints in Batuu. So, visitors are not allowed to stay for longer than 45 minutes and are limited to a two-drink maximum.
But don't worry. There's also a Milk Stand to keep you refreshed and recharged in the hot California weather. There are two varieties — blue bantha milk like the one Luke drinks in A New Hope and the green milk he drinks in The Last Jedi. They're more like berrylicious smoothies and contain no milk whatsoever, ensuring they can be enjoyed by even the lactose intolerant adventurers.
(Above image: Blue Milk and Green Milk can be found at the Milk Stand inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge | David Roark/Disney Parks)
Docked right in the middle of Black Spire Outpost is the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy — the Millennium Falcon. The 100-foot-long replica of the iconic starship instantly takes you back to all of Han Solo and Chewbacca's breathtaking adventures across the galaxy. While you don't get to go inside the model, you do get to experience an authentic Star Wars adventure in an interactive Millennium Falcon flight simulator. The sole ride (for now) at Galaxy's Edge, Smuggler's Run lets you embark on a mission for Hondo Ohnaka, who has borrowed the Falcon from Chewie to, well, smuggle in a shipment of coaxium.
(The entrance to Millennium Falcon Smuggler's Run is right beside the replica ship | Joshua Sudock/Disney Parks)
The queue for the ride begins from the right side of the Falcon replica and as you make your way into the hangar, it is eye candy of the highest degree and detail — so much so that you may want to stand in the queue again to catch all the Easter Eggs and references hidden in all the nooks and crannies. Once inside, you're allowed to explore the inside of the ship, which again boasts great detail but also suffers from frequent malfunctions. You realise why Leia called it a "bucket of bolts".
(Here: The interiors of Millennium Falcon boast an astonishing level of visual detail | Richard Harbaugh/Disney Parks)
The cast members split you into groups of six — consisting of two pilots, two gunners and two engineers — before briefing you on the mission. Once you enter the cockpit, you make your way to your seats: pilots in the front, gunners in the middle and engineers in the back. The ride is every bit as thrilling as what you see in the films and more — as you jump to lightspeed, steal what you need to steal, perform daring evasive manoeuvers through an asteroid field, shoot down enemy TIE Fighters, and perform necessary repairs. Though your crew will never be skilled enough to complete the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, you still feverishly press every button and control as if your life depended on it.
(In Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run, visitors are split into groups of six — consisting of two pilots, two gunners and two engineers | Joshua Sudock/Disney Parks)
The immersive nature of the ride enhances our brain’s ability to suspend disbelief. It makes the adventure more edge-of-the-seat, combat more pulse-pounding, and even damage repair nerve-racking. The pilot still gets the best seat in the house as you not only get to steer the ship but also make that jump to hyperspace. So, if you can, insist on it.
Terrans like us might be confused by some of the alien signage found all over Batuu. Here's where the Play Disney Parks app comes in handy. It allows visitors to not only translate the Aurebesh text but also transforms your smartphone into a datapad to interact with the environment. It lets you scan crates and containers found in Black Spire, tune into secret communications, and play hacking games. These not only help you kill time while standing in long queues but also help create a more immersive Star Wars experience.
But once you're immersed in the Star Wars story, you're compelled to take a piece of it home. And if there's anything in Galaxy's Edge that excites any of your five senses, know that it's for sale in the numerous merchandise stores. From simple Galaxy's Edge T-shirts to artisan-style Porg toys, from Sith robes to blaster pistol holsters, from Holocrons to First Order propaganda posters, you can buy anything at the Marketplace. Dok-Ondar's Den of Antiquities even sells a variety of galactic artifacts from different eras of the Star Wars saga.
(Above: You can buy plenty of unique artifacts and souvenirs at Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities | David Roark/Disney Parks)
You can even buy your very own beep-booping R2-D2 or BB-8 at the Droid Depot; or if you're the DIY kind of person, you can build a custom R-Series or BB-Series astromech droid for 100 credits (US dollars). You can select from a variety of domes, bodies and other components from the conveyor belt in the Parts Station. It can also be customised further with a personality chip (First Order, Resistance, or Scoundrel) before a cast member helps you bring it to life. They even help you pack it up in a cute little box so you can carry your new travel companion across all your adventures in Batuu.
(You can customise astromech droids of any size and shape at Droid Depot | David Roark/Disney Parks)
Perhaps, the most spiritual experience for a Star Wars fan is offered by Savi’s Workshop, where you can build your own lightsaber. You get to customise your weapon by choosing from a variety of designs and Kyber crystals (blue, green, violet, red). After mixing and matching parts, and assembling the lightsaber, you place it in a special chamber to activate the Kyber crystal. Once you take the final product, glowing and buzzing in your hand, you truly feel the Force — an icy tingle creeps along your skin, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and goosebumps tickle your arms and shoulders. Only for $200, you're not sure if it's the light side of geeky nostalgia or the dark side of consumer capitalism.
(Above and below: You can build your own lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge | David Roark/Disney Parks)
As the sun begins to sink below the horizon of Batuu, the blue sky still painted with the last orange of sunset creates a purple glow. The black spires are lit up in various shades of blue, and the earth-toned architecture perfectly complements the droids, starfighters and more colourful elements of the park.
(Above and below: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge gets prettier and more colourful just before sunset | Matt Stroshane/Disney Parks)
Sadly, there’s just the one ride for now. The second one, Rise of the Resistance, is expected to open in December later this year at Walt Disney World (Orlando), and January 2020 in Disneyland Park (Anaheim). The attraction will see visitors join Rey and General Organa in a climactic battle between the Resistance and the First Order.
Another Star Wars expansion was also announced recently at the D23 Expo. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Galactic Starcruiser will bring guests onboard a ship called the Halcyon, where they will be part of a three-day, two-night long interactive vacation. You get your own cabins with stellar views into space, try out intergalactic cuisines and receive lightsaber training as you travel across the galaxy.
(Here: Batuu is filled with Easter eggs, callbacks and references | David Roark/Disney Parks)
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge provides a high-fidelity experience for both casual and die-hard fans. Some fans of the original trilogy may be left a little disappointed as the park expands more on the mythology of the sequel trilogy (Episodes VII-IX), rather than the films they grew up watching. But it is still a gloriously geeky ode to all fans of the Skywalker saga and a fitting reward for those of us who spent way too much of our life assembling Star Wars Lego sets, playing with plastic lightsabers and obsessing over every little detail of George Lucas's universe.
Galaxy's Edge gives you the feeling you have been teleported to an actual planet in the Star Wars universe. It makes you feel warm and fuzzy and familiar in all the right places. In the words of Han Solo, it feels like "we’re home". Even if it is in a galaxy far, far away.