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You need more than the Force when it comes to making the most of a day at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The 14-acre universe within Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida—which transports people to the Black Spire Outpost on the planet Battu—requires a bit of planning and strategy, certainly since the highly anticipated ride, Rise of the Resistance, opened in December of 2019. Many visiting Star Wars fans have since learned some valuable lessons, and we’re here to pass them on to you, my Padawan friend, as you look to optimize your visit to this galactic setting. *

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Download the My Disney Experience app

To score a boarding pass (a spot in the virtual queue) for Rise of the Resistance (RoR), you need the My Disney Experience app. Once you buy your tickets (you can buy them well in advance here), download it. Or, at the very latest, download it the evening before your visit. Then connect your park ticket, along with everyone else’s in your group, to the app.

Arrive EARLY (seriously early) for Rise of the Resistance

A very early start is the price you must pay for this experience—but it’s totally worth it if you’re a Star Wars fan, even one who hates mornings. Boarding passes become available via the app when the park officially opens (hours change seasonally), and you can only access one by being inside Hollywood Studios. In other words, you cannot score one from the comfort of your hotel bed, then leisurely stroll into the park later in the day. Staying at a Disney resort doesn’t give you a leg up either. Make sure to arrive at the gates of the park before the opening time to ensure you’re inside the park (along with everyone else in your group who intends to ride), with your smartphone charged and app open as soon as the park starts letting people in. It also helps to not bring a bag, so you can bypass the bag-check security line.

Be on the ready

Boarding passes for Rise of the Resistance are distributed on a first come, first served basis—from Boarding Group 1 through 108. Don’t get distracted as the clock ticks closer to the opening hour (in our case 6am). Each person in your party with a smartphone should attempt to get a boarding pass that includes your entire group. My husband and I tried simultaneously at 6am, and he was the first to get us in: Group 16. The chatty woman next to us was slightly delayed in accessing her phone and secured Group 68 for her family. So, just a few moments can make a huge difference. The moment when boarding passes are virtually distributed is energetically charged and memorable, with excited celebrations erupting from within the crowd as people receive their confirmations.

Remember, you have a two-hour arrival time window for Rise of the Resistance

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge | PHOTO: David Roark

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge | Photo: David Roark

Although boarding groups don’t come with a specific time to ride, the lower your number, the earlier in the day you’ll be invited to ride; the higher the number, the later in the day. Active boarding groups are announced via push notifications to your phone and on digital signs throughout Hollywood Studios. Each boarding group has a 2-hour arrival time window, so don’t worry if you’re elsewhere in the park when your group is called—you’ll have plenty of buffer time to make it to the ride. Those who’ve receive higher numbers have even been known to leave the park and come back when their boarding group is called.

If you don’t score a Rise of the Resistance boarding pass …

If this happened, you most likely arrived at Hollywood Studios too late in the morning. There is a standby option, but standby riders are only notified if all the boarding groups have been called. This isn’t a guaranteed thing. Your best bet is to try again another day—and wake up earlier next time!

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Play in the park before the non-Star Wars crowds descend

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge | PHOTO: Abigail Nilsson

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge | Photo: Abigail Nilsson

The early rise comes with a perk: Other park rides that can exceed two-hour waits later in the day have lower wait times very early in the morning. We headed for Smuggler’s Run after securing our RoR boarding pass and waited 55 minutes in line; later that same day, this ride’s wait time jumped to 140 minutes.

Translate galactic symbols and uncover hidden messages while in line for rides

Even waiting in line is more fun, thanks to the Easter eggs awaiting fans throughout Galaxy’s Edge. The coolest way to access these is through the Play Disney Parks app, which has a Galaxy’s Edge Datapad function that will transform your phone into a datapad that can hack into droids, scan cargo and translate the intergalactic symbols found throughout the park (a.k.a. the Star Wars language of Aurebesh). Look for the Star Wars-themed QR codes to scan to stay entertained while in line or while wandering the streets—just be careful not to do so in the presence of Storm Troopers who randomly patrol the area. They’ll be eager to question what you’re doing and even reprimand you.

Make use of the single-rider line at Smuggler’s Run

Smuggler’s Run, which puts you in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon for an interactive flight through space, has a single rider line. As long as you’re OK with not riding with the rest of your group, this can save you time, as the wait is significantly shorter than the regular line. Just accept that you’ll most likely be assigned the role of “Engineer” if you go this route …

Request to be a Pilot or a Gunner on Smuggler’s Run

Our recommendation: Request to be a “Pilot” or a “Gunner” on this ride. These are the two roles that keep your eyes on the action in front of you. Those assigned to “Engineer” are relegated to the back of the cockpit and asked to push flashing buttons to “fix” the ship when it’s in “distress.” (A Disney cast member told me that “Engineer” was his favorite when I, not knowing any better at the time, was assigned this role.)

Explore the Millennium Falcon’s lounge

The famous “chess room” inside Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge | PHOTO: Joshua Sudock/Disney Parks

The “chess room” inside Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run | Photo: Joshua Sudock/Disney Parks

While you’re awaiting your turn to enter the cockpit, you’ll be in a holding area that replicates the lounge area of the Millennium Falcon. Explore! Take selfies at the dejarik table (that’s “holographic alien chess” for non-Star Wars diehards), explore the circular corridors and more.

Make reservations for Oga’s Cantina, Savi’s Workshop and Droid Depot

Oga’s Cantina, a local watering hole where galactic travelers unwind | PHOTO: David Roark

Oga’s Cantina, a local watering hole where galactic travelers unwind | Photo: David Roark

These three experiences within Galaxy’s Edge are bookable via the app:

  • Oga’s Cantina is the Star Wars watering hole that features curious concoctions such as Blue Bantha (the iconic blue milk of Star Wars), Carbon Freeze and Jedi Mind Trick.
  • Savi’s Workshop is where you can customize your very own lightsaber and meet Master Yoda.
  • The Droid Depot is where you can customize your very own droid. Customized droids and lightsabers can interact with specific areas of Galaxy’s Edge, which adds another fun layer to the Galaxy’s Edge experience.

Reservations are taken up to 180 days in advance; so, the earlier you begin your planning, the better your chance of getting a day and time you prefer. If you don’t have a reservation, however, you can take your chances in the standby line for each, awaiting no-shows or cancelations, but admission is not guaranteed and you may sacrifice precious park time waiting … and waiting … and waiting. Worth noting: When my husband and I were in line for Smuggler’s Run, we made a reservation for Oga’s Cantina for the following morning at 6:30am, so last-minute reservations are sometimes available if you’re flexible with plans.

If you don’t get a reservation for Oga’s Cantina, don’t worry, you can still try the blue milk

The Milk Stand, where you can try Batuu’s blue or green milk, is open to all guests of Galaxy’s Edge. Use the app to pre-order your beverages to avoid the line.

Book a FastPass for Star Tours

This is the only Star Wars-themed ride at Hollywood Studios that you can book in advance using Disney’s FastPass+ system, which allows you to reserve an attraction time (with a 1-hour arrival window) that allows you to skip the regular line. Even though Star Tours is a longstanding park ride that doesn’t technically reside within Galaxy’s Edge, the 3D, motion-simulated space flight captained by C-3P0 is a must for the true Star Wars fan—and wait times can spike to 75 minutes if you don’t apply a FastPass.

Pose at the Tatooine Wall

After leaving the gift shop at the end of Star Tours, hang a left at the pathway to Muppet’s Courtyard and strike a pose in front of one of Disney’s many Instagram-famous walls: the Tatooine Wall.

Seek out Disney PhotoPass photographers for amazing photo opps

The roving Disney photographers know ALL the great spots. You can ask them to take a photo with your camera, and they’ll happily oblige. However, the photos that they take will surpass whatever your camera can do, including wow-worthy twists such as super-zoom motion, 360-degree perspective or introducing surprise animation into the photo, such as porgs and fighter jets. Note: I purchased the Memory Maker photo option in advance of my trip (cost: $160), which gave me unlimited access to downloading all photos taken by Disney photographers across all the parks.

Have cameras ready for Storm Trooper encounters

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Hangar | PHOTO: Joshua Sudock/Disney Parks

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Hangar | Photo: Joshua Sudock/Disney Parks

Storm Troopers regularly patrol Galaxy’s Edge, issuing all sorts of “warnings” to park-goers as they march by. As my husband tried to get a photo of two Storm Troopers, he was reprimanded by both: “That is unauthorized” and “Put that scrap metal down.” Storm Troopers, as I witnessed, do not pose for pictures.

Meet Darth Vader, Chewbacca and BB8

Some Star Wars characters, both light and dark, however, will oblige for a photo. You’ll need to exit Galaxy’s Edge to a spot called Star Wars Launch Bay to meet Darth Vader, Chewbacca and BB8. Get in line for a unique 1:1 interaction. Tip: Chewbacca gives the BEST hugs!

Enjoy Star Wars shows without the lines

Enjoy a live-action lightsaber extravaganza in front of the Chinese Theater. Several times each day, a Star Wars theatrical performance takes place on the main stage. Starring characters such as Rey, Kylo Ren, Darth Maul and Chewbacca, the 18-minute show is set to the backdrop of movie clips and music. Just before the park closes, there is a nighttime performance that includes fireworks, too.

Learn to be a Jedi

Younger fans of Star Wars can learn the ways of the Jedi with an interactive on-stage experience that will allow them to don Jedi-in-training robes and wield a lightsaber against Darth Vader or Kylo Ren. Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple is only available to children ages 4-12 and on a first-come, first-serve basis. As a grown-up Padawan, I was disappointed that I couldn’t participate, too—but thoroughly enjoyed watching the little ones go up against Vader. This attraction is next to Star Tours, which is outside of Galaxy’s Edge.

Pay attention to the details

PHOTO: Abigail Nilsson

Photo: Abigail Nilsson

Everything in Galaxy’s Edge is designed with precise detail to replicate the Star Wars world: the structures, the props, the sounds. Even the bottled soda sold in this part of the park is designed to look like spherical explosive weapons used by intergalactic bounty hunters and is emblazoned with Aurebesh logos. Walk slowly, look up, look down, look closely—even while waiting in lines—as you might be pleasantly surprised at what discoveries reside in plain sight.

*This advice is current as of January 2020. Disney ride procedures are always subject to change.

Tagged: Florida, Orlando

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Erica Bray

Erica Bray

Erica is a practical free spirit who loves travel, yoga and ice cream. A Northwestern University-trained journalist with more than 15 years of experience straddling digital and broadcast media, Erica can be found doing handstands everywhere she travels -- even risking arrest in some cases. Learn about her at www.erica.media.

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