This past weekend, in a theme park not so far, far away.. I was invited out to experience the Star Wars Guided Tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and it was out of this world.
If you’re even just a little bit of a Star Wars fan, this tour will blow your mind. I’ve been known to geek out from time to time over this franchise but I wasn’t prepared for what I learned or experienced during this adventure. With Walt Disney World’s version of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge scheduled to open later this fall (Disneyland will open theirs a few months before) you might think that there’s not much to talk about yet - but you could never be so wrong.
The Star Wars Guided tour is perfect for the novice fan as an introduction to the franchise and its offerings throughout the park. It’s incredibly insightful for the fans who have been following the saga since the first film was released back on May 27th, 1977.
Starting off with the tour, guests are greeted by a pair of Cast Member Tour Guides who handle everything from the jokes, getting your lunch orders and hooking it up with VIP treatment for front of line access that you could only get when taking part of the tour.
Did I mention that you’re able to get into the park before anyone else? Yup! You’ll leave the crowds behind as you embark on the first part of the tour that brings you straight towards Star Tours. Just don’t forget to take a selfie with all the regular day guests behind you.
You’ll also be treated to views of an empty Chinese Theater plaza with the mobile Star Wars stage front and center. As a local, you never get these shots so take advantage.
Our tour began bright and early on Hollywood Boulevard where we were handed our listening devices, had our lunch orders taken, and ultimately given those swanky personalized credentials . Our two guides gave us an overview of what we were to expect through the day and the franchise and it’s history within the park itself.
After our introduction and the ever so important instructions on how to use our listening device, we headed down towards Star Tours where we had the option to be the first riders of the day. The majority of our group opted in to ride while only a few passed. Maybe it’s just me but there’s something incredibly rewarding about being the first or last person to ride an attraction.
Once inside we were able to walk through the queue without the background music or sound effects. It was easy to fully appreciate the detail and the scope of the life-size props including the Starspeeder 1000.
Once we were beyond the queue we had to tuck our phones away as we were able to view the loading platform and the ride vehicle inside the theater with the show lights on. If you’re like me and love seeing the mechanics and backstage parts of attractions, you’ll geek over what follows. As a group we were able to get insight on how the simulator vehicle works and how technical the safety requirements are. The coolest thing we learned is about the gangway that leads to the simulator has a camera stationed directly above it which photographs the platform before and after each cycle. The camera sends the image to a computer that scans the surface area for any of the smallest changes… be it the alignment or even if there was something left on the bridge, the computer detects those changes and will halt the ride operation.
After we finished up with Star Tours, we headed out to watch a short film called Star Wars Path of the Jedi. The film is a retelling of the epic saga that encompasses all the films and gives hints at whats to come in the future.
The short film is a seasonal experience so being able to have a special private viewing for the tour group was a real treat. This again is a great opportunity for the novice fan to learn the story of the Jedi and all the characters that make up the Star Wars Universe.
When the film wrapped up, the next stop on the tour was the Star Wars Launch Bay for some VIP character meet and greets. This is where the perks of the tour shined as we were escorted to the front of the lines.
The first meet and greet was with BB-8, the droid most people are looking for. I’ve never met BB-8 before so this was a fun and new experience for me. He was adorable and full or personality! plus, skipping the line because of the tour made this interaction extra sweet!
Next was this big guy - literally. Meeting Chewy was the most fun of all the character interactions and he obviously loved my shirt.
This was my first time meeting Kylo Ren and felt it was appropriate to share some fashion advice. It gets hot here in Florida, this boy wont last through July wearing all black like this.
After the character interactions we got to walk around the Launch Bay and learn about the exhibits and props on display. We even got to watch a short film called ‘The Stars Behind Star Wars” which is about the storytellers who are crafting the Star Wars universe. Once our group wrapped up in the Launch Bay, it was time to head back outside and caught a glimpse of a few Star Wars characters on their way back from the “Star Wars” A Galaxy Far, Far Away” show. If you look closely you can see a little Porg in tow with Rey. I posted a quick video on my Facebook Page and your heart will absolutely melt.
As we waved goodbye to the characters it was time to head back to the front of the park for yet another surprise that I don’t think any of us saw coming. We were not only going to be watching the March of the First Order as Captain Phasma and the Stormtroopers made their way up Hollywood Boulevard, but we were going to march right behind them! This experience is exclusively reserved for attendees of the tour and it was probably the closest opportunity you’ll ever get to walk in a Disney parade.
Walking in, everything seemed like normal and I figured they would have had a section reserved for us, especially since they took our orders at the top the day. To our surprise and delight, the tour went above and beyond and arranged for us to be seated in groups according to the home planet on the back of our credential and even had assigned placemats with our names written in Aurebesh which is the official written language in the Star Wars franchise.
Along with the placemat we were also given a name tag and a collectible Darth Vader cup. On the back of the tour credential you’ll find a Aurebesh decoder that will help you reveal what the name tag says and shows how the letters line up with your name.
The lunch options we were given were the same as what’s currently on the Backlot Express Restaurant Menu but can vary from time to time as these menus change often. I opted for the 1/3 lb Angus Bacon Cheeseburger and fries along with a soda - which also comes with free refills. We were also treated to a lightsaber churro for dessert.
Another suprise they had in store for us was that two Storm Troopers showed up during our lunch break, posed for photos, and interacted with all of us. We were each given the option to pose for a photo with one of them and even though this isn’t considered a Character Dining experience, it felt like it.
As you can see here, I tried to offer this trooper a relic from his old boss and tell him how sorry I was for the demise of Darth Vader… he held back his emotions and carried on with his patrol.
When our lunch break finally concluded it was time to head off to the next location, Walt Disney Presents. If you’re unfamiliar with this location, its one of my personal MUST-DO attractions. It’s a semi-rotating exhibit that shows the history and touches on the legacy of Walt Disney while noting a bunch of his achievements. Here is where you’ll see actual props and replicas from the archives, get a sneak peak of the latest big feature from the studio, and check out several models on display from Walt Disney Imagineering. One of the models is a part of the upcoming Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge land that will be opening up later on this fall at Walt Disney World.
The final part of the tour that I participated in was the Star Wars: Galaxy Far, Far Away stage show located in front of the Chinese Theater. This action packed adventure brings you front and center with your favorite characters. Our group had special reserved viewing for the show which gave us front row seating. Afterwards, we were brought to the courtyard of the Chinese Theater and told a bit about the history of the theater and how it hosted the silver screen debut of Star Wars back in 1977. From here we said our goodbyes and received further instructions for our viewing later on that evening of the Star Wars; Galactic Spectacular fireworks show.
If you experience the tour with younger children, they can be signed up for the Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple experience. Kids can be transformed into little Jedi’s and learn the ways of the force to help battle against the Dark Side. You can read more about the Jedi Training here.
Tour participants receive a special VIP area thats reserved for the fireworks later on that evening which is located on the raised stage in front of the Chinese Theater. The show provides stunning projections on the facade of the theater and uses a dynamic mix of pyrotechnics lighting and lasers to truly make you feel like you’re in the middle of the action.
The tour runs Monday -Saturday, with no tours being offered on Sundays. Prices for adults and children are $92.95 per person (before tax) and for a limited time there’s a 15% discount applies if you’re a Disney Vacation Club member, Annual Passholder, or Disney Visa card holder. Each tour last about 5 hours. There’s no telling if this tour will stick around once Galaxy’s Edge opens up so take advantage of this while you can.
I was invited to participate for this tour but I think it’s still an amazing deal. With VIP line access for three character meet and greet opportunities, becoming part of show and marching behind Captain Phasma in a parade, having lunch included with the price of the tour, and the exclusive opportunities such as seeing some of the backstage magic that makes Star Tours work and being granted VIP viewing… it’s well worth it.
For more information about the tour and to book yours, click HERE or call (407) WDW-PLAY.