A Disney fan blog about the good things in life.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Star Wars Weekend 2014 - A Newbie Retrospective

Last year we had the good fortune of being at Disney during the Limited Time Magic, May the 4th Be With You. It was amazing. The characters, the dance party, the fireworks. It psyched us up so much we naturally thought, "we need to be there for the real deal". So we planned on a weekend in 2014 to visit during Star Wars weekend.

Let me begin by saying that it was fun. We all enjoyed ourselves-- I mean how can you not? But it was different from the Limited Time Magic and I can't figure out if the unexpected spontaneity of the May The 4th weekend has some extra pixie dust, or Disney needs to adjust a few things. Here are my thoughts on what worked (and what didn't) as a Star Wars weekend newbie. 

WORKED - The excitement. It's hard to describe the nerdy tingles that run through your body when you hear the Cantina theme song playing as you walk into the park. While Hollywood Studios could still be enjoyed by those not into Star Wars during Star Wars Weekend, it would take some serious Force to ignore the movie theme at every turn.

just try to ignore the Storm Troopers on pedestals 
Storm Troopers take over the main stage

Oh Han. 

DID NOT WORK - Crowds.  I know, I know. Disney gets crowded. But Hollywood Studios is already on the small side. Couple that with a parade route the length of my kitchen and eager 40 year old nerds (I am married to one, so I can say this without pause) trying to catch a glimpse of one of the celebs in the motorcade-- well, your kids aren't going to see much. We tried to watch the parade and maybe caught a glimpse of the top of Mickey Mouse's ears-- maybe. We still aren't sure. I'm just not into throwing elbows to wave to the guy who played Jar Jar. I have no photo proof of the crowds as I think I went and bought a cocktail. Or some popcorn. Or maybe both. 

WORKED - Happy accidents. Here's a tip for next year. Skip the parade and head to the back of the Mouse hat. When the parade ends the characters have to go somewhere and if you position it right, you will have an AMAZING vantage point for all your favs. We just pulled over to tie some shoes, and then the pictures below happened.

Not planned at all
An unplanned side-eye
Glamour Droid Shot!
Slow down Boba Fett!
There were more photos, but as you can see from the above, it was just us watching the characters walk by. No crowds, and an impromptu parade of sorts. Even the droids spun around and beeped for us for a bit. Way more fun than standing in a line of people 10 deep waiting for a parade you never get to see.

WORKED, and at the same time DID NOT WORK - VIP access. So there is this new trend at Disney where if you would like to pay a boat load of money you can get pretty much whatever you want. I say this is new because in all my years of traveling to Disney I have not seen the have and have nots divided so blatantly. 

Let me explain.

I knew from blog posts and the like that getting character autographs Star Wars weekend was a lesson in patience and sometimes futility. So when I saw that Disney was offering a dining option with the characters I was all in. There were two choices. One was with the Disney characters dressed up like Star Wars characters. The other was the Star Wars characters themselves. We opted for straight up Star Wars characters. It was breakfast and we got to see Darth Vadar, Boba Fett, Storm Troopers, Greedo, and Jawas. I'm not even going to go into how much my French Toast cost me. It was slightly ridiculous at $49 per adult and $29 per child, but hey-- nobody was forcing me to do this. I was considering this an investment in time saving. It was fast, but good. We had some themed breakfast items:

C3PO breakfast pastry anyone?

Enjoy Yoda yogurt parfait you will
 And we got to meet all the mentioned characters:

We traded Jawas some JetBlue pins for gold coins. 
set your blasters to "look at the wrong camera"
Greedo swagger

my husband is the side-eye master

Breakfast was at the Sci-Fi Drive In, so we sat in a car and watched clips of the various Star Wars movies as we ate our overpriced meals. Overall, a really good time. One could argue that we were paying to get to the front of the character line. True. But at least we got some pastries in the process. What I didn't expect, were all the people who paid to get to the front on every line. All day. And also into the evening.

Disney also offered front of the line options for the parade, the fireworks, and around Star Wars weekend in general. It felt like one velvet rope add on after another. When my 6-year old asked me to hold him up so he could get a glimpse of James Arnold Taylor at the end of the day finale,  at first I was like "who?" and then I held him up as high as I could and glared at the ropes that separated the audience into various categories.

VIP offerings are a slippery slope. One thing that was always nice about Disney is that we all have pretty much the same access and definitely the same treatment. Sure, the celebs skip the lines-- but you kind of expect that and it happened quietly. What I don't love is this new trend of creating visible class systems that make me feel like my price of admission is somehow worth less. Shouldn't we all have a shot at the best parade route spot or fireworks view? The fact I'm pretty good about carving out good spots and that my family just didn't have a chance made me feel a little bleh. And who wants to be at Disney and feel bleh? My advice, if there is something you know to be a priority for your upcoming trip, check and see if Disney offers an upgrade experience.  Even if you decide not to go that route, at the very least you will know/understand the situation when you see the ropes that divide.

WORKED - Shopping. I heard horror stories about lines for days at Darths Mall. Apparently that was just the first weekend. The weekend we went was pretty quiet and totally manageable. It was like the Christmas Tree Shop for Star Wars stuff. Those of your from the New England area will totally get that reference. Everything you think you want but have no idea where to put it when you get home.

It's a trap! Don't buy it. 
Refer to photo caption above
Here's a fun fact. I asked the cashier at Darth's Mall what the hot items were. He paused, thought about it and said, "well, whatever they were, they were long gone the first weekend." And there you have it.

Would we do it again? Probably. Yes we made some newbie mistakes, but all-in-all we had a great time and I really can't complain. I mean, I can. I can always find something to complain about, but Star Wars Weekend is a tough, hard core nerd-out weekend and so long as you go prepared, the entire experience is out of this world (pun intended). 

Do you have some tips for navigating this inter-galactic weekend? We would love to hear them. Feel free to comment and let us know what we should have done differently. 

May the force be with you. Always.



1 comment

  1. Thank you for this post! I'm planning a trip during Star Wars weekend May 2015. Me, husband, and 7 year old daughter. I found your blog by googling "skip parade Star Wars weekend". I've been thinking we should skip it, but most Star Wars weekend experts say not to miss it. But you encapsulated my feeling precisely " not throwing elbows for the guy who plays Jar Jar" . I needed to hear someone else say it. Thanks!


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