By Nina Kokotas Hahn
This May, we took our four-year-old son on his first Walt Disney World vacation and our family’s first-ever visit to Star Wars Weekends, a four-week, spring celebration of Star Wars and Star Wars: The Clone Wars held annualy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A lifelong fan with two kids in the program, I looked forward to this event above all else, even that happy mouse.
After several wild days at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, we finally made it to opening day of Star Wars Weeekends. Hollywood Studio’s was abuzz with Star Wars energy — the theme song in the air, the Force almost palpable, the fans bursting at the seems. We headed straight for the special kid events requiring a first-come, first-serve signup (oddly un-Disney in spirit). We missed the coveted Jedi Training Academy, but our daughter scored a spot in the Padawan Mind Challenge and got to test her Star Wars knowledge up on the big magic hat stage. She even won an action figure.
Next on our list was the all-new, 3-D Star Tours ride, a fantastically remade Starspeeder adventure featuring 50-plus possible missions and changing characters.
Speaking of characters, all I can say is “WOW.” Every Star Wars character we saw looked like they had just stepped off a George Lucas movie set. Our favorites included the towering Chewbacca, spooky Aurra Sing and my all-time favorite, an imposing Darth Vader. These same characters also closed out the day with an all-out rock concert.
Star Wars and Disney fans through and through, we still looked forward to returning each evening to our off-property hotel, the Omni Orlando Resort at Champions Gate. A luxurious, Old Florida-style resort with an air of tranquility and grace (not to mention an amazing pool complex), the Omni Orlando gave us a break from the mouse and a chance to recharge.
Nina Kokotas Hahn is a contributing travel writer and editor. Globetrotting since infancy, she’s the daughter of a travel agent and knows a thing or two about finding great travel deals.