By now you’ve felt it: the energy in the air. Sure, the holidays are approaching with their usual joyful crackle of magic, but this year the excitement is distinctly over-the-top as fans of a certain tale from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away eagerly anticipate the upcoming film Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which is scheduled to premiere December 18.
My two boys, 4 and 8, can’t wait for the newest installment of the saga. (Neither can their parents, who were right around their ages when the original movie debuted!) So when we all heard that the Season of the Force – a celebration of all things Star Wars – has taken over Tomorrowland at the Disneyland Resort for the holiday season, we were beyond eager to check it out. And what a perfect time to visit, as Disneyland continues its 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration!
As a little girl, I was captivated by the stars above and the seeming mystery of space travel, and the original Star Wars trilogy played like backdrop to my imagination. The same went for Tomorrowland, which by far was my favorite of Disney’s “Lands,” with its perfect blend of nostalgia and futurism. Now as a parent of two energetic and wide-eyed boys who also look to space with wonder, I was delighted that Disneyland managed to meld the nostalgia of Tomorrowland with the excitement of the Star Wars universe. New adventures, reimagined attractions, iconic characters, and a truly interactive new space in Tomorrowland delighted the Star Wars and Disneyland fans in us during our visit to the Season of the Force. Here is a list of must-see attractions, all approved by my little Jedis.
Tomorrowland’s iconic Space Mountain gets a Star Wars upgrade, transforming my family’s favorite Disneyland ride into something better than we imagined. Picture yourself speeding through dark space in an action-packed battle between Rebel X-wings and Imperial TIE fighters. Match that with the film’s musical themes, recorded right here on Earth by the London Symphony Orchestra, and … well, needless to say, it’s a total blast.
Star Tours, which has been a popular Star Wars-themed attraction since it debuted in 1987, has introduced a new 3-D adventure as you climb aboard a Starspeeder 1000 and blast off on a thrilling tour of the Star Wars galaxy. Expect to see new characters and visit new destinations like Jakku, the desert-planet featured in the upcoming film. My kids pretty much squealed when we received a hologram transmission from the adorable BB-8.
The Launch Bay
Welcomed by the iconic message, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,” guests enter this museum-like homage to all things Star Wars, including authentic replicas, props, models, and artwork. Take in the high-end merchandise, like a $3000 Yoda statue or a $4000 life-size Darth Vader costume (it’s fun to dream). Drool.
Then it’s time to choose your side. A visit to the Dark Side will allow you to check out replicas of helmets and lightsabers used by the Sith (mortal enemies of the Jedi, of course), and land you in a private meeting with Darth Vader himself. And the dark lord will talk to you! It’s like some sort of Dark Side dream come true.
The kids were beyond captivated by this character encounter, but as true Jedis at heart, we needed to visit the Light Side as well. After taking in more prop replicas, including lightsabers once wielded by heroes like Luke Skywalker himself, we entered a private audience with Chewbacca. He talked to the kids in his own special Wookie way and gave tons of hugs. The Force was with us!
The Path of the Jedi
Craving a cinematic journey in between your rides and character encounters? The Tomorrowland Theater now shows The Path of the Jedi, a compilation of scenes from the Star Wars saga, perfect for well-versed fans and their little ones. It’s like all the best, iconic scenes rolled into one epic trailer. Moments from the new film are included.
The interactive Jedi training was, alas, not open as of our visit, but it is scheduled to debut December 8. It will transport young Jedis-in-training to the secret site of an ancient Jedi temple, where they encounter characters such Darth Vader and the Seventh Sister Inquisitor (from Disney XD’s Star Wars Rebels) to test their skills and discover if they have the makings of a true Jedi. Can’t wait to see my little ones in Jedi robes, wielding lightsabers. We’ll be back.
Themed Food and Merchandise
My boys were very excited by all of the Star Wars treats and goods available for purchase, and we indulged them with a trip to the two build-your-own stations in the Star Traders shop. They enjoyed designing their own Droids at the assembly stations, but the ultimate experience had to be the custom lightsaber table. Both kids chose colors and designs that suited them and then it was time for a proper brother-to-brother lightsaber battle. Proud mama!
Season of the Force also features special menus at Pizza Port and Galactic Grill. At the latter (previously dubbed Tomorrowland Terrace), you can select from dark side or light side menu items. Think indulgent vs. healthier. Those wishing a lighter option can select from the Jedi Order grilled chicken sandwich, Wicket’s Wicked veggie sandwich, or a Chopper Salad. I took a decidedly tasty trip to the Dark Side with the First Order Specialty Burger, a patty of angus beef and chorizo, topped with fried cherry peppers and a spicy lime aioli on a dark-as-night bun. Recommendation: top it off with the Darth by Chocolate, a parfait with dark chocolate ganache, red velvet cake, and chocolate sponge cake.
The Season of the Force is well-done, and a visit will definitely captivate the imagination about Disneyland’s plans for the future Star Wars-themed land and leave families eager for The Force Awakens. My family thoroughly enjoyed their visit and can’t wait to return for more out-of-this-galaxy adventures. While the Season of the Force is a temporary transformation of Tomorrowland, no end date has been announced. For more information, see www.Disneyland.com.