Macy’s guide to surviving Star Wars Weekends

So I’m home from a 15-day trip across the United States (and Canada!) split almost evenly between the two coasts: a few days in Seattle, a week-long cruise in Alaska, then another six days in Orlando. The Orlando leg of the trip was the most tiring by far, partly because it was the last leg but mostly because of all the walking we did in the theme parks. The most tiring theme park? Disney Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekends. Woke up at 4:30am, left our hotel at 5:30, fell in line at 5:45 for the celebrity FastPass autograph distribution , entered the park at 7:30, started the day at the merchandise tent at 8am, then finally left DHS at 9:15pm. WOW. For the record, I had a GLORIOUS time and would definitely do it again. However, having a great time at Star Wars Weekends requires some planning and a whole lot of refreshments. Here are my tips to maximize your stay:

1. Get there early. How early depends on what you want to do. If you’re after a FastPass ticket to get an autograph from the visiting celebrities, get there by 6am. I arrived at 5:45am and this is the line I encountered:
line at celebrity fastpass distribution
Even if you’re not interested in getting an autograph, arriving early also means that you get to be the first ones on the major rides and cut the waiting time. DHS opens at 8am during SWW (usual opening time is 9am) so arriving at 7:30 should be fine. Once you’re in, I recommend doing all the major attractions first: the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, the Tower of Terror, The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, and Star Tours. We were able to ride Star Tours two times in a row with only 15-20 minutes waiting time in between. There was also practically no waiting time for the Aerosmith ride but my friend wasn’t up for it so I let it go. When we got to The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow at 2pm, the waiting time was listed at 45 minutes but ended up being longer. We had to leave the line to make it in time for our 3:20pm slot for the autograph signing with Sam Witwer.

See the Star Tours line at 10am. Not bad, eh?

2. If you want an autograph from the visiting celebrities, arrive at the park before 6am to guarantee a FastPass for the signing. They distribute a limited number of FastPasses per day (wasn’t able to get the exact number). If you get there later, say around 7am, you’re most likely to get a standby ticket. “Standby” means that you aren’t guaranteed an autograph but have a good chance of getting one depending on how fast the guaranteed line is progressing and if the celebrity is up for it. Just a reminder: each person is allowed only ONE FastPass autograph ticket. Basically, choose the celebrity you would most like to meet. No substitutions will also be allowed. The FastPass also comes with a wristband and you need both at the autograph signing. If you want your kid to be able to meet the celebrities, they better be there in line with you too. The way other folks got more autographs is that they had other family members line up for the other celebrities and just give them the photos to be signed. I saw a guy and his autographed photo collection lined up for Sam Witwer, his dad for Tim Rose, and his mom for Warwick Davis.

What you get for waking up at 4:30am: Please note the mistake they made regarding the character that Sam Witwer voiced in TCW *facepalm*

3. Go on a Friday. It’s (relatively) the least busy of the three days.
4. Prioritize. Accept that you will not be able to do all the SWW events AND all of the regular DHS attractions in one day. Once you get the schedules of the SWW activities and the regular DHS attractions, set up your schedule for the day.
Our schedule:
  • Darth Mall
  • Star Tours (twice!)
  • 11:00 am – the “Legends of the Force” celebrity parade
  • 12:00 pm – “Behind the Force: Star Wars Voices” (Ashley Eckstein, Sam Witwer, and James Arnold Taylor)
  • lunch
  • 1:45 pm – Indiana Jones stunt show
  • fell in line at the Captain Jack Sparrow ride but had to leave because the line was too long
  • 3:20 pm – autograph signing with Sam Witwer (!!!)
  • missed the 3:30pm “Stars of the Saga” show with James Arnold Taylor because the autograph signing ran late so we arrived at the theater at 3:45 pm
  • 5:00 pm – “An Ewok’s Tale – My Short Story” (Warwick Davis)
  • 6:30 pm – “Obi-Wan and Beyond” (James Arnold Taylor)
  • 8:00 pm – Hyperspace Hoopla
Please note that the only regular DHS things we were able to do were the Indiana Jones stunt show and Star Tours. No photographs with the costumed characters too, though I purposely skipped this because hey, my friends and I regular dress up as Star Wars characters anyway 😛 If you want to have photos taken with all of the characters, be prepared to cull even more events from your schedule and/or to get show seats that are in the back of the theater.
5. The one-stop shop for event merchandise is the “Darth Mall” tent. However, if all you’re after are small items like event shirts, mugs, glasses, pins, and the like, there’s really no need for you to brave the crowds at the Mall since these items are scattered in the other gift shops around the park. Going to Darth Mall is only worth it if you’re going to buy a lot of toys, collectibles, and artwork (and Ashley Eckstein’s Her Universe line) since you’ll find them all in one place. If you’re going to Darth Mall, get there early as well to avoid the lines.
6. Be patient! And either bring a friend who loves Star Wars just as much as you do or someone who likes you enough to willingly subject themselves to the immense crows and long lines.
7. Drink lots of water. Seriously. It was freaking hot.
8. Bring something to read or a friend. Waiting in line may get boring. Another option is chatting with the other people in line.
9. No whining.
10. Have fun!
And those are my tips for a kick-ass time at Star Wars Weekends. My feet ached and I had no money left but hey, IT WAS WORTH IT. It was an experience I’ll never forget and something I look forward to doing again in the future. May the Force be with you! 😀