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I went to Disney’s new Star Wars land — and it’s just as amazing as the hype

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Go behind the scenes of Disney's Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The new "Star Wars"-themed attraction will open at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, on May 31, 2019, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Lake Buena Vista, Florida on August 29, 2019.
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Go behind the scenes of Disney's Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The new "Star Wars"-themed attraction will open at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, on May 31, 2019, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Lake Buena Vista, Florida on August 29, 2019.

When I walked onto the stone streets of Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge for the first time, I gasped.

Rising above me, massive domed buildings dominated the skyline, as tangles of crisscrossing wires created an overhang between the structures. In the background, spindly rock formations gave the illusion of a place far, far away from Anaheim, California.

And right there in the middle was that infamous hunk of junk, the Millennium Falcon — replicated fully to scale with painstaking detail, looking exactly as though Han Solo might come strutting out of it at any minute.

I wasn’t alone in my audible reaction to Disney’s new Star Wars land.

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The entire group of people I was with for Wednesday’s media preview of the theme park attraction was impacted as soon as we walked around the corner and landed smack dab on a foreign planet. Some gasped, others “ooh-ed.” One man laughed, saying, “That’s what I’m talking about.”

That was the moment I realized that Galaxy’s Edge might just live up to the hype.

Galaxy’s Edge opens to the public on a reservation basis on Friday, and then to everyone on June 24. But before that happens, I’m here to tell you all about my experience at this big, huge, one-of-a-kind new park, and why it could be one of the best things to happen to Disneyland in a while.

The view at Baatu

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Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is set in the fictional planet of Batuu, at a remote outpost called Black Spire. Much of the architecture throughout the land features the familiar domes and spires so prominent in the “Star Wars” movies. The new “Star Wars”-themed land opens Friday in Anaheim, California. Kaytlyn Leslie kleslie@thetribunenews.com

Visually, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is unsurpassed among its fellow Disneyland lands when it comes to coherence. The place immediately looks like it belongs in the “Star Wars” universe.

The familiar domes that define so much of the “Star Wars look” are on full display throughout the land, set in the remote outpost of Black Spire on the planet of Baatu in the far reaches of the galaxy.

The architecture and decorations have a distinctly Middle Eastern flair, which makes sense. The creative team behind the addition conducted research trips in Marrakesh and Istanbul to get inspiration.

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View of the marketplace in Black Spire. Kaytlyn Leslie kleslie@thetribunenews.com

What’s more interesting than the big structures however, are the millions of tiny details that make the land fascinating to look at from every angle.

The cement is stamped with droid tracks. Most of the signs are written in an alien language. Scorch marks line the walls of the local watering hole. The list goes on and on.

Making the land visually stunning goes a long way toward keeping visitors entertained throughout Black Spire, which is a good thing given that crowds are likely to dominate many of the land’s experiences for the coming months. Even if you couldn’t do everything on your list, the intricacy of Black Spire alone would be enough for many “Star Wars” fans.

Sounds like ‘Star Wars’

One of the other great details of the land is the attention to sound.

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Keep an eye on the skies when wandering around Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and you’ll see the evidence of the Resistance’s fight against the First Order everywhere. The new “Star Wars”-themed land opens Friday at the Anaheim, California, theme park. Kaytlyn Leslie kleslie@thetribunenews.com

The first thing that struck me about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was how noisy it seemed.

In each of the different areas of the land, different sounds added to the different experiences.

In the marketplace area, subtle music mixed with the hubbub of voices; in another area, the buzz of radio equipment dominated. Meanwhile, out in the forest area, nature sounds prevailed.

Music is, of course, used to great effect throughout the land, with an original score by Academy Award winning-composer John Williams that makes you feel as though you stepped onto one of the classic “Star Wars” films.

Have a drink at the Cantina

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A simple sign marks the entrance to Oga’s Cantina in Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The new “Star Wars”-themed theme park attraction opens on Friday, May 31, 2019, in Anaheim, California. Kaytlyn Leslie kleslie@thetribunenews.com

Sure to be the second most popular spot in Black Spire, Oga’s Cantina is a refreshing change for Disneyland.

Like the rest of the park, the small bar is detailed to the extreme — with a menu in a galactic language, a DJ droid whose first job was working on Star Tours and snappy cocktails like the Jedi Mind Trick or a Fuzzy Tauntaun.

Oga’s Cantina is the first place in the park to make alcohol available to the general public, and the pub’s tone is much more lighthearted because of that. (Alcoholic beverages have previously only been allowed to members of the private Club 33.)

The two times I visited the cantina during my trip, the sensation was less like stepping foot in a mellow space bar, and more like dropping in on a raucous party of happy rebels. Dim lighting and close quarters added to the atmosphere.

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Inside Oga’s Cantina at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, you can sip alcoholic or non-alcoholic concoctions while you take in the scum of the galaxy, make covert deals or just enjoy the tunes of Rex, the Star Tours pilot turned DJ. The new “Star Wars”-themed land opens Friday at the Anaheim, California, theme park. Kaytlyn Leslie kleslie@thetribunenews.com

The best part of the cantina, in my opinion, was how in character the bartenders are. Depending on the moment they could be leading visitors in a drinking song, banging on the bar with a hammer or bantering about the local wildlife.

Word of warning: The space isn’t large, so if your heart is set on drinking like a scoundrel, be prepared to wait in line.

Blue milk, smoked ribs and more

I only had a small sampling of the food and drinks on offer during the media preview, but what I did have was generally scrumptious.

The special spicy-sweet blend of popcorn at Kat Saka’s Kettle tasted a bit like popcorn that’s been dipped in Kool-aid and chili powder, but somehow it worked.

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Kaytlyn Leslie kleslie@thetribunenews.com

The spiced sausage and pork wraps at Ronto Roasters — cooked over a podracing engine, of course — smelled and tasted divine, and the Smoked Kaduu Ribs at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, served with coleslaw and a corn muffin, were also tasty.

In the dessert arena, the chocolate cake puff was suitably delicious, if a little rich for some people’s taste.

Unfortunately, I did not dig the much-heralded blue milk.

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t bad, so much as just ... strange? The frozen concoction tasted fine, but I wasn’t a fan of the slightly slimy texture.

Those with dairy allergies might appreciate the drink, though, since it’s made with a mix of rice and coconut milk.

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Blue and green Milk are available at the Milk Stand at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The new “Star Wars”-themed theme park attraction opens on Friday, May 31, 2019, in Anaheim, California. Kaytlyn Leslie kleslie@thetribunenews.com

I didn’t try the green milk, but I heard that it has a more citrusy, sharp taste than the mellower berry flavor of the blue milk.

Shop till you drop in Black Spire

Shopping in Black Spire is a slightly different experience than in the rest of Disneyland.

Instead of the logo-stamped souvenirs and trinkets you might find elsewhere, all the merchandise at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge feels as if it actually came from that land.

For example, the Toydarian Toymaker stall features plush character dolls that look as though they might have been hand-sewn by someone’s grandma on Batuu. Next to them, wooden musical instruments and stormtrooper dolls sit on the shelves.

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Heads of animals appear on the walls of Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, where visitors can buy Jedi and Sith artifacts. The new “Star Wars”-themed theme park attraction opens on Friday, May 31, 2019, in Anaheim, California. Kaytlyn Leslie kleslie@thetribunenews.com

Clothing is available, but none of it says “Galaxy’s Edge” on it. (For that kind of merchandise, you have to go to Tomorrowland or Main Street.) Most of the gear looks exactly like what a Jedi might wear.

The attention paid to crafting souvenirs is most evident in Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, where you can find everything from Imperial identification cards to a Princess Leia-style gown.

Dok-Ondar’s is also visually fascinating. I could have spent hours in there looking at the decorations on the walls or watching an animatronic Dok-Ondar count money and do business.

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What Droid Depot would be complete without everyone’s favorite R2 unit? He’s also for sale at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, if you have $25,000 lying around. The new “Star Wars”-themed land opens Friday at the Anaheim, California, theme park. Kaytlyn Leslie kleslie@thetribunenews.com

There are a lot of different merchandise options throughout the land, so I unfortunately can’t get into all of them here.

I will say I left the park as the proud owner of a brand-new pair of hanging dice — the kind Han Solo might display in the Millennium Falcon — and it was the best $13 I spent all day.

Interactive play at Galaxy’s Edge

One of the biggest pushes by Galaxy’s Edge’s creators was for the entire land to be immersive and bring visitors into the stories in a brand-new way.

To a huge degree, they achieved that in Batuu. Thanks to the Play Disney Parks mobile app, every corner offers a new opportunity for you to get involved with the Resistance or help the First Order.

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The Creature Stall at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge features “pets” from across the “Star Wars” universe that growl, burp, purr and cackle. The new “Star Wars”-themed land opens Friday in Anaheim, California. Kaytlyn Leslie kleslie@thetribunenews.com

Through the app, you can translate the native language (though I had a bit of trouble with this at first — getting the framing just right for it to translate automatically is a bit of a chore), scan for cargo and secret surprises or hack into door locks. My personal favorite was de-scrambling radio transmissions for the hot gossip of Black Spire.

I shouldn’t tell, but I learned that Oga has a Wookiee boyfriend who is very well liked among the Resistance.

Playing in this way kept me entertained throughout the day, where I might have otherwise gotten bored and antsy.

With the app comes some challenges, though.

Along with all the photos I was taking, using the app ate up my cell phone battery pretty quickly. And there aren’t any obvious places around the land to recharge your phone.

To avoid this, remember to bring a portable charger so you aren’t forced to cut your day short.

The reason to go: The Millennium Falcon

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What “Star Wars”-themed land would be complete without the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy? A full size replica Millenium Falcon is prominently displayed at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, at the entrance of the Smugglers Run ride. The new “Star Wars”-themed land opens Friday at the Anaheim, California, theme park. Kaytlyn Leslie kleslie@thetribunenews.com

The ultimate Galaxy’s Edge moment for me, and the reason I’ll 100% recommend that everyone I know going to the new land at least once, is its single operating ride.

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is, quite honestly, the best ride in the entire Disneyland park.

It’s fun. It’s fast. It asks you to think and focus and concentrate.

I have never been so entertained. The only other ride in the Disneyland Resort that comes close to the level of pure diversion is the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride in Disney’s California Adventure Park.

Here’s how it works: After a quick walk through a winding, blissfully air-conditioned indoor line that bypasses faulty engines and views of the Falcon outside, you are given an audience with miscreant Hondo Ohnaka, who is in the market for crewmembers for a smuggling mission.

After you learn your mission, you and five other visitors are assigned one of three roles: pilot, gunner and engineer.

Before hopping into the cockpit, you also have the chance to poke around the ship and even take photos at the table where a game of Dejarik can be played.

All of that pales in comparison to the actual ride itself.

I tried all three roles, and I wouldn’t say any were bad.

If you aren’t much of a gamer, or are looking for an easier role, go for engineer. You can spend less time frantically pushing buttons, and more time watching what’s happening.

Being the gunner is fun if shooting down enemy ships is your jam. But for me, it’s really all about being the pilot.

The first time on Smugglers Run, I was lucky enough to get the pilot role, which meant me and the other pilot had literal front-row seats to the ride.

The best part? Because I was sitting on the right, I got to pull the lever to send the ship into hyperspace.

As the stars blurred, and we all cheered, I knew for sure now that Disneyland’s Star Wars land is undoubtedly worth the hype.

Hey, Star Wars fans: We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about Disneyland’s opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. What do you want to know about the new section of Disneyland? Send your questions, tips, praise and gripes to kleslie@thetribunenews.com.

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Kaytlyn Leslie writes about business and development for The San Luis Obispo Tribune. Hailing from Nipomo, she also covers city governments and happenings in the South County region, including Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach and Grover Beach. She joined The Tribune in 2013 after graduating from Cal Poly with her journalism degree.
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