Star Wars Weekends 2010 is just about two weeks away and this annual geek event is among my favorite festivals to occur at Walt Disney World every year. I've been going to Star Wars Weekends for over 6 years now and it's still one of the most interesting and fun times of the year for me. Whether you've been to Star Wars Weekends a few times or this year will be your first, there are some general guidelines you ought to try to follow for an ideal experience.
All too often, I get questions about how one can experience Star Wars Weekends in one day and while there are strategies for doing so, ideally stretch Star Wars Weekends over two or three days if you can. I know not everyone has the luxury of that kind of time, but if you can, spread your plan of attack over more than one day because it will make your experience much more fun and far less stressful. Given the big crowds and oppressive heat that can come with Star Wars Weekends, I find it ideal to try to "see it all" in more than one day because it will make things far easier to get to. Just getting Fastpass's for the celebrities in attendance is hard enough and there's lots of events and characters roaming the park and merchandise to pick up and very quickly it becomes a daunting task to squeeze it into one day. If you can, spread things around with say one day for celebrity autographs and another day for the events and sprinkle in some merchandise shopping for good measure and you'll come away being able to actually enjoy the event much more.
It's so much fun gearing up for Star Wars Weekends and then finally that fateful morning arrives and you and your group set out for a lot of fun in Disney's Hollywood Studios to experience the Star Wars Weekend phenomenon but then by noon, you feel like you've mistakenly spent all day at Mustafar (that means it's really hot). May and June in central Florida can be very hot and you need to be mindful of the heat and humidity that can be with you all day. Given that many events are outdoors, do what you can to avoid direct sunlight to ensure you aren't knocked out by lunch. When outside, seek shelter in any shade you can find. This is especially true for the Star Wars parade where the sun can be really oppressive. You also need to listen to your body and when you've had enough, take a break. Better yet, take a preemptive break and leave before someone in your party throws a temper tantrum (that's usually me). Head back to your hotel and spend an hour or two at the pool or just relaxing. This goes back to my first tip about spreading the events over multiple days and the heat factor can be greatly reduced.
If you've been to Star Wars Weekends in the past few years, you likely remember there being a huge warehouse of merchandise in Soundstage One (the building between the Backlot Tour and Toy Story Midway Mania) where you could easily find everything you need to buy in one place (and air conditioned). Well, things are changing for 2010 and this year, if you're looking to pick up something unique to Star Wars Weekends, you'll need to go somewhere else. The AFI Showcase shop will be the shop where the limited edition merchandise will be located. This is the shop that's at the end of the Backlot Tour, and can be accessed by going to Studios Catering Co restaurant, then turning down the path that leads past the restrooms and Monster's Inc meet-n-greet and will bring you right into the shop.
What about the rest of the merchandise that isn't limited edition stuff? It will be in the Prop Shop gift shop, which is that open air gift shop across from the Studios Catering Co that has all sorts of weird things hanging from the ceiling. How this new layout for shopping will work is anyone's guess but it will likely still be a better option for picking up merchandise than trying to traverse the big crowds that frequent Tatooine Traders shop at the end of Star Tours.
There's some fun events at Star Wars Weekends for kids but you'll need to act quickly if you want to have your kids be a part of some of the fun. Let's start with the parade. In the late morning, there is a Star Wars parade that features all sorts of Star Wars characters as well as the celebrities that are on hand for that weekend. Disney selects a number of children to march in the parade as well, and if you want your child to be a part of it, you'll need to be at the park when it opens and then proceed immediately to the Star Wars Weekend information table (usually near Sounds Dangerous) and ask to have your child signed up. This is also where you can sign your child up for the Star Wars trivia for kids.
For Jedi Training Academy, you may recall the Jedi Master picking children out of the crowd but that is no more. Now, kids are picked from a standby line so first come, first served. Try for the first or second shows of the day as they will be the easiest to get into. It only gets more and more crowded (and hotter) as the day goes on.
Not everyone is interested in going to Star Wars Weekends and often I'm asked about if they should avoid Hollywood Studios on days when Star Wars Weekends is occurring. While there will be a lot more people in the park, most of those people are doing Star Wars Weekends events and lines for non-Star Wars Weekend attractions should be about normal for that time of year. Yes, there will be larger crowds for restaurants but overall, it's still manageable. So if you're someone who is coming for a short trip and can't avoid the weekend, you can still go to Hollywood Studios on a weekend and be able to successfully tour the park despite the geeks that have flooded it temporarily.
I also wanted to include a shameless plug for some meets that Studios Central is hosting on Weekend 1 of Star Wars Weekends (May 21-23). If you're going to be in town, you're invited to stop by and say hello. For more information about the meets happening that weekend, check out our schedule.