UPDATED DECEMBER 2015
Sadly, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will not be hosting Star Wars Weekends in 2016, due to the construction of a new 14-acre Star Wars-themed land in the park and other Star Wars attractions opening in early 2016. We are sorry to lose Star Wars Weekends, but excited to celebrate Star Wars every day at Walt Disney World.
Like many boys, my 7-year-old son loves Star Wars. He has collected movies, costumes, action figures, and several light sabers, which see a lot of action whenever his friends come to visit. My son is also a cancer survivor and a Make-a-Wish kid who wished for a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando. When we realized that the dates of our trip coincided with a Star Wars Weekend at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we knew we had to be part of it.
Even casual Star Wars fans can have a great time at Star Wars Weekends, which are held in May and June each year at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Want to experience Star Wars Weekend with your family? Here are our top tips:
1. Consider costumes, or at least geek chic tees
This is your chance to release your inner Star Wars fan. Lots of Star Wars Weekend attendees will be wearing costumes and other Star Wars apparel. We purchased an Anakin Skywalker costume from Amazon.com for my son prior to the trip. I was worried about long, polyester sleeves and pants in June, but the costume is loose and lightweight. My son was comfortable all day.
For my husband, I bought a retro Star Wars t-shirt from Target before our trip. There are a lot of cool tees and other souvenirs to choose from in the gift shops at Disney’s Hollywood Studios as well. My daughter opted for a more generic Disney costume. She picked a Minnie Mouse costume from Amazon.
2. Arrive early for the Storming of the Gates
Arrive Early should be your mantra for everything you do at Star Wars Weekend. I know it isn’t fun to get the family up early on vacation, but it really is the key to success on any Disney trip and especially at Star Wars Weekend.
The gates officially open at 8:00 a.m. You should be standing in line at 7:00 a.m. Look up the day’s schedule in advance so you won’t miss your priority shows and attractions.
While you’re standing in line for Star Wars Weekend at 7:00 a.m., you’ll probably meet some fun people. We happened to stand near another Make-a-Wish family with a boy the same age as my son. They were both in costume and they hit it off immediately. It was hilarious to watch them spontaneously re-enact favorite movie scenes together.
The other rewards for lining up early are that the gates often open earlier than 8:00 and you’ll see storm troopers “Storm the Gates.” This is a humorous mini-show performed on high, moving platforms just before the gates open. It’s worth seeing.
3. Sign up for Jedi Training and Padawan Mind Challenge first
Immediately after the rope drop, head to the left to sign up for Jedi Training and the Padawan Mind Challenge if your kids want to participate. One parent will need to accompany the child in each line.
Jedi Training is for kids ages 4-12 who want to learn the ways of the Jedi and fight Darth Vader and other Sith villains. The whole experience will last about an hour – 30 minutes to get the kids organized and 20 minutes for the actual event.
There are lots of shows throughout the day, but they’ll fill fast during Star Wars Weekend. If you will be at Walt Disney World for several days, you can participate in Jedi Training nearly any other day of the year with a lot less competition.
We did not participate in the Padawan Mind Challenge, but it’s like a Star Wars game show for kids. The sign-ups are near the line for Jedi Training, and according to the blog Easy WDW, the line will be shorter. If you have two adults, have one adult stand in the (probably long) line for Jedi Training while the other adult takes the kids and signs them up for Padawan Mind Challenge. Then take the kids back to the Jedi Training line. If you have one adult, sign up for Jedi Training first.
4. Sign up to march in the Motorcade
Marching in the “Legends of the Force” Motorcade Parade is an extra-cool perk for kids at Star Wars Weekend. Kids will be provided with a Jedi robe and light saber and will march with Star Wars celebrities and characters in the parade. One parent gets to accompany the child. Sign-ups are at the Star Wars Weekend information desk – probably the same place you sign up for the Padawan Mind Challenge. Sign up early.
My son and husband marched in the parade. Getting autographs and photos with celebrities backstage is a no-no, but I hear that it was still pretty awesome to see Billy Dee Williams and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) up close.
If you are not marching in the parade, be sure to stake out your spot at least an hour in advance. My daughter and I were given passes for the VIP viewing area, since my son and husband were in the parade.
5. Plan for character greetings
Our time was limited, so we skipped the lines for character photos and autographs. However, if you have the whole day or weekend, you’ll want to spend time getting photos with Mickey, Minnie and the gang, who will all be wearing Star Wars costumes.
Another new way to get time with the characters is to reserve your spot at a Star Wars themed character meal. These are new for 2014 and are sure to be popular, so make reservations early. These meals will only be available in May and June, but are available on weekdays as well as weekends.
6. Consider using PhotoPass
PhotoPass is pricey, but it is one of the Make-a-Wish perks, so we were able to get all the photos on our account. When we visited the Photo Pass station to upload our photos, we were surprised to find that we also had access to dozens of professional, unobstructed shots of the Jedi Training and the motorcade and beautiful photos of Disney characters in Star Wars costumes. Unless otherwise noted, the photos in this post are from our Photo Pass. If you want to be sure to come away with fantastic photos of your kids in Jedi Training and the motorcade, consider Photo Pass.
There are lots of Star Wars fans who spend the entire weekend in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We, however, had a mission to visit seven theme parks in six days. We only spent half a day at Star Wars Weekend, and it was still satisfying.
If you’re a serious fan who is after celebrity autographs and limited-edition merchandise, you’ll want to consult other sources for additional tips and tricks. Here are a few other Star Wars Weekend resources I’ve found. May the Force be with you!
- Official Disney Star Wars Weekends page – DisneyWorld.Disney.Go.com
- Top 5 Tips for Kids at Star Wars Weekends – StudiosCentral.com
- Star Wars Weekend Touring Tips – SWW.StudiosCentral.com
- Star Wars Weekend Strategy – EasyWDW.com. This was written for 2013, but there are some good tips for any year.
- Star Wars Weekend Tips and Info for 2014 – DisneyTouristBlog.com
- Star Wars Character Meals are new for 2014 – DisneyFoodBlog.com
Have you attended Star Wars Weekend? Share your tips in the comments!
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