By Anastasia Mills Healy

As Disney World prepares to open a new ride, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, on December 5 (January 20, 2020 at California’s Disneyland), here’s some background on what to expect.

The Star Wars world, called Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, opened August 29 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (May 31 at Disneyland in California). The 14-acre land meant to be Batuu has one ride open already, areas to build a lightsaber and a droid, and lots and lots of retail opportunities.

This land is the culmination of a relationship between Disney and Lucasfilm that stretches back to 1987 when Disneyland opened its Star Tours ride. Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 and released its first Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, in 2015. The latest Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker, opens December 20.

The Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge ride that opened in August is called Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. Everyone gets handed a card with a duty—pilot, engineer, or gunner—and collectively has to complete the mission, jumping the Millennium Falcon to hyperspace and shepherding it through enemy fire on a ride that responds in real time to the actions of the people onboard.

On the new ride, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, people get in the middle of a battle between the First Order and the Resistance. A Resistance transport is captured by Kylo Ren’s Star Destroyer. Helped by Rey, Finn, Poe, and BB-8, you escape from its hangar bay and crash land back on Batuu.

This is one of the largest attractions Disney has ever created. Its building alone houses two full-sized All Terrain Armored Transport (AT-AT) walkers (the huge four-legged, tank-like machines that look like animals) and a Star Destroyer hangar bay complete with a TIE fighter (single-pilot craft) and a garrison of Stormtroopers.

Another Star Wars ride opened back in 2011. Star Tours is close to Galaxy’s Edge but not in it. This attraction is in the Echo Lake area of the park, and unlike the other Star Wars rides, accepts FastPass. Watch Jedis being trained at the entrance, circle in line through a transport area past R2-D2 and C-3PO and a droid that rambles amusingly about cargo packing restrictions, to a ride with changing storylines. Generally though, you’re in a Starspeeder 1000 that gets boarded by the First Order looking for a rebel.

In addition to the two rides, there are other ways to connect with the Star Wars story in Galaxy’s Edge. There are also live Star Wars staged shows (“A Galaxy Far, Far Away” and “A Galactic Spectacular”) so check daily entertainment listings.

Build a Lightsaber
Head to the Black Spire Outpost where Gatherers usher you into a covert workshop to build your own lightsaber (prices start at $200). Choose a hilt theme and select a red, blue, green, or violet “kyber” crystal. You assemble the bottom and a Gatherer will add a 31-inch “blade” and give you a carrying case. This experience is recommended for age five and older.

Build a Droid
Choose to make a BB- or an R-series unit (starting at $100), pick components from a conveyor belt, then build it following provided instructions. You will then be handed a remote control and watch your droid come to life. This experience is recommended for children age five and older.

Hang Out in Oga’s Cantina
The galaxy’s most infamous dive bar, Oga’s serves adult beverages but also allows children and has a menu of nonalcoholic concoctions as well. It was fully booked when I visited but Disney describes it as having “bold musical entertainment” and says patrons can be “unpredictable, so just keep your head down—and drink casual.” There’s a limit of two alcoholic drinks per guest, so don’t plan on being there all afternoon.

Interact with Characters
Keep your eyes peeled. Chewbacca rushed right by me en route to the Millennium Falcon and Rey darted by separately in the same area. Stormtroopers stopped someone near me and asked to see his papers. I noticed a group forming near Kylo Ren’s ship and then he appeared onstage and interacted with other Star Wars characters as well as with the audience. A visitor near me was wearing a First Order uniform (not everyone is pro-Resistance, I learned) and she and a “real” First Order officer had quite a rapport going.

See Memorabilia at Star Wars Launch Bay
Outside of Galaxy’s Edge, Star Wars Launch Bay is in the Animation Courtyard. Here you’ll find costumes, props, models, and sets from the movies as well as a short documentary. Characters including Chewbacca and Kylo Ren are known to show up as well.

Train to be a Jedi
Kids ages 4 to 12 can sign up in person at the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost (not within Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge) to learn how to use a lightsaber and then battle a villain in a regularly scheduled show. The slots fill up quickly and cannot be booked ahead.

A Star Wars-themed hotel is under construction in the Epcot Resort Area; no opening date has been announced. It’s reportedly called Halycon, will have a hotel staff that includes droids and creatures, and will offer experiences like lightsaber training.
Hotels close to Disney’s Hollywood Studios include the Swan and the Dolphin, both four-star properties. Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort is a short boat ride away. Just across the road, the new Riviera Resort opens December 16 with a sophisticated Italian theme.

Info and Tips

Trip planning

To avoid disappointment, make reservations at Droid Depot, Savi’s Workshop—Handbuilt Lightsabers, and Oga’s Cantina as much as 180 ahead.

If everyone in your party is old enough and willing, you can get in the single rider’s line for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. On our visit, it went twice as fast as the regular line, and two of the four in our party got to go together.