I haven’t yet discussed my love of Science Fiction but trust me it’s there. For me, Star Trek is my first love but Star Wars has it’s place too. I generally just find the exploration and technology of the Star Trek universe far more appealing. But the Star Wars trilogies are a wonderful epic.1 The Jedi and the Sith are great and the video games have generally been superior than their Star Trek counterparts in every measure.
One of the things Disney has done to push attendance numbers in certain parts of the year is to have themed days or nights, weekends or weeks. Disney gets the benefit of increased attendance, while attendees get to meet people with similar interests. One example that most people are familiar with is Grad Nites, where high school seniors invade the park in the late afternoon/evening and stay in until early morning. Another is Night of Joy, an event much like Grad Nite but focused on Christian youth and music.
One of their best events, in my not-so-humble opinion, is Star Wars Weekends. They put on a great show at their Hollywood Studios park in Orlando with parades, special guests, themed shows and performers and a giant pavilion of Star Wars and Star Wars-themed Disney merchandise.2 The first time I went was in 2011 with my fraternity little brother and little sister and my mom.3 They managed to get me on the Rockin’ Rollercoaster and I picked up a sketch of Stitch as a jedi. I didn’t make it last year but I was determined to go again.4
This year, the timing was perfect in a lot of ways. My girlfriend’s birthday is May 17th and we had planned on seeing Star Trek Into Darkness in IMAX 3D and that was the opening weekend for Star Wars Weekends. Also, I was flying out of Orlando on May 19th to travel to Portland, Oregon for DrupalCon. So we spent Saturday at Hollywood Studios. We arrived a little later than we had planned but we managed to see the 501st Legion part of the parade. Then we quickly darted towards Star Tours to pick up our fast passes and run on the ride quickly.
Star Tours continues to be a great ride no matter how many times you’ve been on it. The droids are funny, the multiple choice paths offer a lot of diversity, and the movie itself is good and uses recent 3D tech. All important considering I tend to get migraines from 3D and movies. As we got out, we ran into one of our friends and her siblings getting ready to go to one of the major shows of the afternoon. The show was about the voice actors from the Clone Wars and was well done and funny.5 In the end it was one long, but very good, advertisement for the final season of Clone Wars.
We ate lunch at the 50’s Sci-Fi Drive-In Theater and it was easily the best dining experience I’ve had at a Disney park as an adult. The atmosphere was perfect, dimly lit by the tables and with the big movie screen projector. I’m not sure what it was but Disney seems to have improved on their food selection without raising prices too much. The only complaint I have is that the tables are a bit small in the two person booths.
We wrapped up the day by watch the Beauty and the Beast show and visiting Darth’s Mall. I picked up one of the Disney/Star Wars action figures, Stitch as General Greivous. All in all a great day. I followed this up by visiting a few weeks later with my mom. We had a great time and hit up several of my favorite rides and shows.[^6] We went to the Voices Behind the Force show again and this time got to meet the current voice of Yoda and the narrator of the Clone Wars series.
If you’re a Star Wars fan and you have the ability to go, you should definitely visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios on a weekend in late May/early June. It’s a great event. So much so that even when I leave Florida, I’ve been planning on making a trip to Hollywood Studios every year for Star Wars weekends as a way to meet up with some of my closest friends.