So just about every time I have come back to Orlando for a visit, I have usually had a day for some time at Disney Parks, save for once or twice where I may have only gone to Disney Springs or spent time at the other Orlando Parks. While there's usually been at least one new thing to try with each visit I've made to Florida, today was a chance to try several new attractions as this was my first visit since the new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opened at Hollywood Studios. Along with hoping to try out both Smugglers Run and Rise of the Resistance, Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway had opened only a week earlier, so there was a possibility of getting to try that out as well.
Joining me for this visit to Hollywood Studios was my friend Andrew once again, and we did what most everyone was doing at the time when they would go to Hollywood Studios...get there early and try to get a boarding group number for Rise of the Resistance. Well, we did manage to get a boarding group #10, so we felt our chances of riding it would be pretty good. With that arranged, we went ahead over toward the Galaxy's Edge to wander around and see about getting a ride in on Smugglers Run while we waited. With this still being a fairly new area of the park, along with the popularity of the Star Wars franchise, it was no surprise that it was really busy as we arrived.
I would never try to claim to anyone that I am as big of a Star Wars fan as others, but I would say compared to say Harry Potter, I have a bit more familiarity with it as my dad and I have had a tradition since I moved back to the Seattle area that we will go to see the newest Star Wars movie when it comes out in theaters. So by the time I came here I had seen Episodes 7-9, along with Rouge One and Solo, and beyond them, I've seen the original trilogy (4-6) and two of the prequels (2&3), but I haven't read the books, seen the holiday special with Carrie Fisher's awkward singing, and I've yet to see an episode of the Mandalorian. That being said, I really got a kick out of walking around this section of the park. While I don't believe I would have been able to tell you every single detail and what it's based on, there were many props that were familiar, and the level of themeing was incredible! If you are a fan of the Star Wars franchise, you could probably spend half the day just looking around and finding all of the different details around the land.
Even as someone who doesn't consider himself a huge Star Wars fan, I really enjoyed the immersive feeling of this area the same way I do each time I walk through the Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter at Universal (and I've only seen two of the films, and have yet to read one of the books). Even a casual fan can get lost in the incredible work done by those who created this.
I will say though that I had a bit of a moment of awe as we walked up to the Millennium Falcon to make our way to Smugglers Run. This being one of the most iconic parts of the entire film franchise, it's hard not to get caught up in seeing it in person. Of course, when you see it you'll want a flight in it, and the park has an attraction where you can do just that.
As Andrew and I are both seasoned theme park visitors, we knew that having an open single rider line was a must to take advantage of, especially as the line for the ride was already around and hour and a half by the time we got there. There are some downsides in utilizing this quicker line for Smugglers Run though. Like any attraction, you typically miss out of different parts of the queue that can be part of the overall experience (things like pre-shows, or video segments that give insight into the story the attraction tells), although you do at least get to see some of the more recognizable parts of the ships interior before you go into the cockpit. The other downside is that, as a single-rider who's typically joining another group for the six-passenger cabins, you're all but guaranteed to be in the back as one of the engineer positions, which can have an effect on your overall experience.
For the ride itself, this is an attraction that I really wanted to like, as it's like an advanced version of the Star Tours motion simulator attractions at Disney Parks, with the added touch of the interactive parts based on which seat you're in. What I feel took away from this attraction for me though is that the interactive part (in my case having to push specific buttons are certain times to "help keep the Millenium Falcon flying") could take away from seeing what has happening in front of you if you were wanting to see what was going on. The other downside comes from when you have someone in the pilot spot who isn't very good with the control (ours was one of those who could have been better), it can really take away from the overall experience, and from my understanding people would have the ride just end on them because of crashing if the pilot did poorly enough. Luckily that doesn't seem to be the case any more as we did make it all the way to the end in spite of our pilot not having the best of skill.
So in general, I think I would have been alright if they made this a bit more passive like the Star Tours attractions, but I can appreciate the desire to make it more unique by having the riders more involved, plus it was cool to be able to say we "rode the Millennium Falcon", and the themeing was great!
As we exited from Smugglers Run, a couple of Storm Troopers walked by which they do on a fairly regular basis in the area, as will other characters from the franchise. It is neat that they will interact with park guests as they go on patrol.
This was also an opportunity to try the Blue Milk, one of the special food and beverage items created for the park. While the name implies it's a dairy item, it's actually more of a rice milk, so it can be enjoyed by those who are lactose intolerant. It has the consistency of a smoothie, and my understanding is that it's a combination of fruit flavors. I certainly didn't mind the flavor, but it wasn't something that I would go out of my way to get with each visit to the park. It's more of something you try once for the experience, unlike Butterbeer at the Wizarding World which I will by a glass of every time I set foot in Universal.
Because Rise of the Resistance was having some operational issues, there was a bit of a delay getting to our boarding group. So Andrew and I made our was over to see what the lines were like for Tower of Terror and the Rock n' Roller Coaster. The coaster line was fairly long, and the single rider line was longer than either of us cared to wait for since we've been a number of times over the years, but Tower of Terror was another story as we would find that their line was only about 20 minutes or so.
Tower remains one of my favorite attractions at the Disney World Resort, as I love how it has the different drop programs so that the ride experience isn't the same every time. I also love the way that the elevator cars involve more movement to them than the other versions of Tower. I will say though that while I enjoyed this version of Tower far more than the California's Adventure version, it did fall back a spot after the re-theme of the California version to Guardians of the Galaxy. But hey, that's not meant to be a knock against the original. I would be far more upset with this one getting a re-theme than I was about the California version getting it.
Fortunately, it wouldn't be too much longer before we were notified that we could head to the queue for Rise of the Resistance. Of the three new attractions I hoped to experience on this day, this was the one I anticipated the most, as I had heard so many great things about it, especially from friends who I used to work with at Disney when they tried it out.
Much like the rest of the Galaxy's Edge area, the queue is incredibly immersive, even before you get into the pre-show segments of the queue. It was neat to see items that looked like they might have potentially been props from the films (although I would venture to guess they were made specifically for the queue of the attraction).
But what really set this attraction apart from other attractions is the pre-show segments. The really well done animatronics and holograms for characters like Rey, BB-8, Admiral Ackbar and others give it an extra feel of realism, but the coolest part was the transport shuttle pre-show that was like a motion simulator ride in itself where it becomes captured by the First Order, and as the same door you entered opens, you find yourself in a completely different room, facing an entire army of storm troopers. This was a really well executed by Disney, and by far is one of the best queue experiences for a theme park attraction anywhere.
And it doesn't even end there, because you then become "prisoners" of the First Order, and are led to prison cells by Disney Cast Members who play up being part of the First Order before you eventually get onto the ride vehicles.
So how was the actual attraction?
Well, I want to start off by saying that a few weeks before coming to Florida (I think it was while I was somewhere in South America actually), I had a dream that Rise of the Resistance was actually more similar to riding the Forbidden Journey at Universal Studios, but with large drones that transported each passenger individually, and would bring you to within a mere couple feet of different animatronics, like that of Kylo Ren who would swing his lightsaber at you, and there were times where the drone would turn you upside down and go into a drop before a Rey animatronic uses the force to save you. Now, while this would have been an AMAZING experience, I knew it was only a dream, but based on the feedback I read and heard from friends who had done it before me, i ended up going into it with some big expectations for it to blow my mind.
After actually riding it, I came off of it liking it a lot. It really is a great ride, as I love the way they combine various types of attractions and elements into one from the use of trackless cars to make it feel less predictable, to the elevation changes with multiple floors by way of elevators, and the motion simulator part of the ride is a really cool touch. Not to mention, I really dug the Kylo Ren animatronic scenes, and seeing the AT-AT's was cool too.
I think the biggest problem I had with this attraction was that I expected this ride to just flat out blow me away, and I didn't quite get that feeling when Andrew and I exited. Part of it may be from the fact that certain aspects of this ride reminded me a lot of Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland, and so there were features of this ride that were not as novel to me as they may have been to others since they might not have had the chance to get to Hong Kong yet.
Still, even if it didn't quite leave me in the level of awe I was anticipating, this is an excellent attraction that should be on everyone's list to experience! It certainly is among my top Disney attractions of all time, and had I not been to Hong Kong Disneyland and ridden Mystic Manor before, I would probably just as blown away with it as my friends were.
That left one more attraction that was new for me, and it might have even been new for Andrew since it had opened so recently, and that with Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway. So this was an attraction that I had not heard as much about for obvious reasons as it had only been open a week, so I didn't quite get the same level of high expectations with it as I did Rise, yet when coming off of this one, I feel like I had a more enjoyable experience because of not having the higher expectations for it.
This too is a trackless ride system like Mystic Manor and Rise of the resistance, but the execution of it was really neat because of how the cars would stick together to start like they were train cars, and then split off into the different scenes as they do in the ride. This ride also has A LOT going on visually throughout the different rooms you go through and has some fun comedic portions. This may not be as exciting of an attraction as Rise is, but is really is one that will fill you with the joy of a child as you exit (at least it did for me).
I know a lot of people were sad to see the removal of the Great Movie Ride, but I truly feel like this was a worthy replacement. Even as I look back at it now, I personally may rate this higher than Rise of the Resistance, but I would hold off until riding them both again, because the advantage that Mystic Manor has over these two is that I rode it several times since the lines were short at Hong Kong Disneyland that day.
At that point, Andrew and I made our way over to EPCOT for a couple hours as we walked around, met up with his fiancée Brittany (who had joined us back in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming as well!), and then I made my way over to see Chelsea and Jay one more time as they were having a group outing with friends who couldn't make the cruise over at the Boardwalk resort for an evening of drinks and hanging out to watch the EPCOT fireworks from the Boarwalk. Unfortunately though I couldn't stick around as I was being picked up by my friend Lou, and we went to his house because the next day we would begin making our way back to the Seattle area on a cross country drive since he was moving out this way for a job transfer.
In a bit of a bizarre twist, the first night of our drive, we were at his college roommates house in Rome, GA when the NBA announced the suspension of their season because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, which seemed to be the first domino for the larger shut down of things in the country, and the night we arrived to my condo in Renton, the announcement was made that the next day would be the start of the lockdown in Washington State. So the timing of Jay and Chelsea's wedding couldn't have been better all things considered.
And that brings an end to this visit to Florida for the Disney Dream Wedding and More! If you haven't had a chance to, please check out my friend Chelsea's blog Twenty Something In Orlando. You can click the link below to follow her wedding journey, or continue further into the blog for great ideas of things to see and do in Central Florida!
Thank you all for checking out this Written Travel Log, I hope you enjoyed it and that you'll come back for more Coasting with Culture!
- Take Care & Safe Travels
Bonus: The Bride and Groom's Post Wedding Cruise Festivities:
Day 7 - Part 3: The Celebration
Day 8 - Animal Kingdom Photos
To follow Chelsea's full first-hand account of her wedding experience, along with all the planning details and helpful information for planning your own Disney Dream Wedding, check out her Twenty Something in Orlando Disney Dream Wedding Series!
See More of 2020 Disney Dream Wedding & More:
1: Universal Studios & Florida Strawberry Festival / 2: Hoop-Dee-Doo Ever After / 3: The Dream Begins /
4: A Morning in Nassau / 5: The Wedding / 6: Pirates Night & Fireworks at Sea /
7: Castaway Cay and the End of the Dream / 8: A Little More Disney Magic With New Attractions