LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – It's no surprise (at least to everyone in the newsroom) that I am a huge "Star Wars" fan! My brother got me into the original films and since then I've been a full-on Jedi. Getting the chance to be one of the first people to get a look at Disney's Hollywood Studios new "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" was the assignment of a lifetime.
While I was there, I decided to list my top five best experiences for all you aspiring Jedis out there.
5. Oga's Cantina
This is the Galaxy's most infamous watering holes. Don't be surprised if you run into some smugglers, droids and weary travelers swapping stories and maybe getting into some trouble! The drinks and food here are definitely out of this world.
There are alcoholic beverages and a fan favorite is the Fuzzy Tauntaun with Ciroc Vodka, Bols Peach Schnapps and Simply Orange, topped with tangerine and pure cane sugar. Then there's the foam that literally makes your mouth go numb.
My personal favorite sweet item was Oga's Obsession, which is basically Jell-o, lemonade and cotton candy flavor, along with pop rocks.
Food-wise you can snack on Batuu Bites, which is a mixture of spicy chips and chocolate meringue. Sounds strange, but give it a try. You won't hate it.
Oh, and while you're drinking and eating, enjoy some sounds from resident DJ R-3X.
Travelers' tip: make reservations if you want to experience this galactic bar. Space is definitely limited.
4. Make your own droid
This is probably going to be a favorite of the little padawans! The Droid Depot itself is fascinating. You literally see parts of a droid on a conveyor belt and see droids from up above.
The process is quite simple: (with the help of a Disney employee) you pick out your parts. The biggest decision you have to make is deciding on either making an R-series droid or a BB droid. I chose the R-series and modeled it after one of my favorite characters, R2-D2. Except I named him VOSOT, which is a play on a term we use on TV.
Once you pick your parts you go to the next step, which is putting it altogether. Again, a fairly simple process with help from cast members. Then you activate your droid and it is up and running! With a remote, you can move it around as you please. What's even better, you can add personality chips to help with your droid's interactivity with elements within the land. So, for example, if you add a personality chip that's connected to the resistance, every time the droid interacts with any sort of resistance, it'll get happy and excited. Obviously, the same cannot be said if it interacts with the First Order.
Travelers' tip: these droids don't come cheap, but I promise your kids while be begging for one! The less accessories, the less expensive. But the starting price is $99.
3. The Millennium Falcon
Need I say more? It is the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy and it is as glorious as you can imagine. The Falcon can be spotted around the center at Batuu, right in front of the ride Smugglers Run. It really is one of those "ohhhh" experiences when you first see it. It is large. I mean HUGE. And this will clearly be the most popular photo spot for every visitor. Don't be surprised if you see Chewbacca hanging around. He really likes hugs and, although he's tough to understand, he mostly has nice things to say. I think.
Travelers' tip: for a great photo spot, walk up a small set of stairs to the left of the Falcon. From this view you can get the whole spaceship -- and it's a great angle for selfies.
2. Smugglers Run
So while looking at the Millennium Falcon is great, riding in it is even better. Smugglers Run is a first-of-its-kind for Disney because it's immersive. That means YOU are in charge. The ride takes six people at a time and each person plays a different role. There are two pilots, two gunners and two engineers. All roles are critical to helping Hondo (a sketchy pirate) smuggle some things (he says) will help the Resistance.
You have to work as a team in order to make it work, so you may end up riding with strangers if you don't have a family of six, but think of it like a fun social experience. The ride is really like a moving video game. It's fairly easy to play as Hondo yells out instructions, but he's also not afraid to tell you you're doing a bad job.
Depending on how you do as a team, the ride can be different, but the outcome is always the same. In true Disney fashion, it'll always be a happy ending.
Travelers' tip: being the pilot is clearly the best part to play on this ride, but I recommend riding it a few times to see the difference between each experience. That is, of course, if you can stand waiting in what will surely be a very long line.
1. Rise of the Resistance
This ride is not even open yet and it is easily my favorite. As members of the media, we got a sneak peek inside and all I can say is, "Wow!" It literally looks like a movie set. As you enter, you are in the hangar bay of a Star Destroyer with dozens of stormtroopers lined up ready to attack. Eight riders at a time will board a trackless R5 droid that is pretty clumsy and doesn't exactly listen to instructions.
The story is you're joining the Resitance, but then the First Order gets word of what you're doing and, well, traps you. Kylo Ren appears and tries to get you to reveal the location of the Resistance base. That's when you start to dodge lasers as you look for a way off the Star Destroyer. I don't want to spoil the end, but let's just say it is quite a climax. Make sure you're buckled in tightly!
I can honestly say that when the media walked into the room and saw the stormtroopers all lined up, we all applauded. Loudly. It is THAT realistic.
Travelers' tip: this ride doesn't open until Dec. 5, so start making your holiday plans NOW.