When Star Tours Takes the Back Seat at Disney World

We recently took a trip to Disney World with the primary intent of getting lost inside the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge experience in the Hollywood Studios park. My fiancée and I are longtime Star Wars buffs, to the point of publishing Darth Maul fan fiction together in 1999. Galaxy’s Edge was something we vowed to each other when we started dating last year. Now having been, we’d both offer a mixed review of the replica spaceport dropped into a deep corner of a mouse cult far, far away.

Much of Galaxy’s Edge is breathtaking to behold with its creation of a craggy landing zone on the attraction-named planet Batuu. We wandered about the Black Spire Outpost, intimidated more by the prices for swag and refreshment and the excruciating wait times for the damned spectacular Rise of the Resistance and Smugglers Run rides than we were by the random appearances of Kylo Ren and his First Order stormtroopers. TJ had a playful verbal scrum with Kylo, who came no further than his stage as we partook the famous “blue milk,” which you can have laced with rum. A whopping $15.00 a pop each (rum version), we plunked the money like chumps for the sheer novelty of it.

Truth be told, Galaxy’s Edge is more fun in theory than in execution. The designers provided a wonderful sense of escapism with a Star Wars-true feel to it all. The first day we went into Galaxy’s Edge was disturbingly quiet, however. It wasn’t until we hit it again the following day on a Saturday, when the sounds of turbines, whirring motors, steam compression and port authority voiceovers chimed around us, giving it a more viable feel.

If you’re so inclined, you can shell out a couple hundred to build your own prop lightsaber or you’ll drop a single Benjamin to construct a fully-operational droid. You can read all the recent articles online about the price gouging running rampant all over Disney, and there’s full merit to the claims. Case in point, I was daffy enough to lay out $6.00 for the alien scrawled, globe-shaped Coke bottle made something a mini-rage amongst Star Wars collectors. Considering we rarely drink soda, I had to have one. It was the go-to souvenir (frankly, the only souvenir) we settled on at Galaxy’s Edge, since the heavy lean on merch is stuffed plush characters, Rebel pilot helmets and First Order battle gear, all geared for children.

The true reason for the season to Galaxy’s Edge, however, is its rides. I’m not going to lie; whatever your wait time is for Rise of the Resistance, whether you have a Lightning Lane or you slug through the poor schmo standby queue, do it. It’s a required element that can’t be spoken too much about, because it’s not a mere ride; it’s an experience. It’s a four-level trip from Resistance recruitment to full-on detainment on a Star Destroyer before you’re sent on a free roaming spiral through Hell itself with Kylo Ren hot on your tail.

Then there’s Smugglers Run, also a must-do for your chance to be either pilots or gunners inside the Millennium Falcon. TJ and I were pilots and we wrecked the snot out of Han’s trusty space bird. We brag on it, actually. Here’s a pro tip given to us by the park cast members… Wait until 2:00-3:00 as people are either eating or park hopping, or at the end of the day when visitors are chasing after the fireworks shows and you’ll have far less time to wait.

With all of this hoopla of Galaxy’s Edge comes a bit of a sacrifice, depending on how you look at it. I’m talking about Star Tours, built first for Disneyland in 1987, then added to the Florida hub in 2011. It’s been around a long while with interruptions in service, most notably during the COVID breakout.

picture from the public domain

Compared to the new thrill rides Galaxy’s Edge serves up, it’s sadly last-gen, even if it’s still a great time. They’ve even updated the theme to Star Tours to reflect the concluding trilogy of films and it’s a total hoot. Again, I’ll keep a tight lip, but just everyone who’s ridden Star Tours will tell you it’s a bumpy, raggedy 3-D adventure that can ding your hips or lower back a little bit. Still worth it.

The biggest point to be made about Star Tours, at least the Disney World version, is how easy it is to get on. The average time we saw for the standby wait on Rise of Resistance was two hours, getting as bad as two-and-a-half. Smugglers Run, the worst case scenario was an hour-and-half. Our waits were 75 and 55 minutes respectively, going by the suggestions of the Disney staff.

Star Tours, the longest wait time we saw either day we were at Hollywood Studios was 25 minutes. It’s a misnomer. The line flies, and we were on in 10. Now, anything Star Wars related is bound to draw serious crowds, unless you’re talking a nostalgic theatrical run of Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure. Yet you get a flavor of Endor in the approach to Star Tours, including a badass AT-AT towering over Ewok Village. It’s a tasty display that whets the appetite for a ride that once took up to three hours’ wait and at one time, reserved riding times. When it first opened, it was as eye-popping as the new rides and the Avatar: Flight of Passage ride at Animal Kingdom.

I don’t know about you, but to me a road lesser traveled related to anything Star Wars seems funkier than Bespin-mined tibana gas at Cloud City.

–Ray Van Horn, Jr.

photos by Ray Van Horn, Jr. except where noted