How to travel the world as a Star Wars nerd this May 4th

Since Disney bought Star Wars and subsequently released a number of much-loved and critically acclaimed new films, there has been a revival of love for the classic sci-fi story the world over. Die hard fans who adored the originals have been able to sink their teeth into a whole new world of locations and characters. And children, too young to remember the classics, have been inspired by the exciting new films.

How about if the Star Wars universe didn’t just have to be on a screen, but available to experience in real life? Disney are making this possible with the opening of the new Star Wars theme park, Galaxy’s Edge. This park promises a fully immersive experience in the Star Wars universe, where visitors will be able to eat, live and breathe Star Wars. There will be two parks, both in the US. One in Disneyland California, which opens May 31st, and one in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida, which will be open to the public in August (date unconfirmed).

Once you’ve whetted your sci-fi appetite, there’s no reason why the Star Wars travelling has to stop there. The amazing set-pieces you’ve seen in the films are captured in equally mesmerising locations across the globe, which you can visit. Read on to find out all you need to know about Galaxy’s Edge, and where to head to after for the ultimate Star Wars world trip.

First stop: Galaxy’s Edge

Galaxy’s Edge isn’t just any old theme park — it’s a living, breathing Star Wars world. The park is set on the fictional planet of Batuu, which has not yet been seen in any of the previous films or media, but still hosts many of the aliens and droids you will recognise.

Whether you think you have a Jedi-level knowledge of the franchise, or if you have absolutely no idea what an Ewok is, you’re sure to find something to love. For those who wouldn’t consider themselves Star Wars mega fans, the park still offers exciting rides, fun games and delicious food. However, if you’re a Star Wars super nerd, the park is filled with Easter eggs — some obvious, some hidden — that will surprise you at every corner.

This park is all about staying true to the illusion that you’re actually in a Star Wars movie. It even has a narrative to it. As a visitor to Batuu, you will be part of the Resistance forces. When you’re there, the First Order will have just arrived on the planet, and you will experience what it’s actually like to be part of the story. Likewise, everything you encounter will withhold the fact that you’re actually on the fictional planet. For example, the foods you eat all have alien names. Gorge down on some Kaadu sticky ribs — which is actually pork — or grab some Endorian tip-yip — which is fried chicken to you and me. Similarly, as you’ll actually be in Star Wars, you won’t be able to buy anything from the gift shop that has the Star Wars logo on it, as the characters in Star Wars don’t know they’re in a film called Star Wars. Make sense?

Both the parks will have two rides. The first, ‘Rise of the Resistance’ is halfway between a ride and a cinematic experience. As part of the Resistance, you will be carted off into space, where you’ll be attacked, captured and taken prisoner in a First Order ship called the Star Destroyer. What follows is a daring escape in which you’ll come face to face with a full-sized AT-AT, and even Kylo Ren himself.

The other ride everyone’s been talking about is ‘Smuggler’s Run’. This ride let’s visitors behind the controls of the fastest ship in the galaxy — the Millenium Falcon! You’ll take the role of one of the crew members, and be required to activate levers and buttons in order to pilot the ship. How you direct the ship will have an impact on the narrative of the ride — a bit like a video game. Therefore, once you’ve finished, it’s a great excuse to jump back in the queue, get back on the ride and have a completely different experience.

Once you’ve visited Galaxy’s Edge, you may want to take your Star Wars trip to the next level. Just because you’ve done the theme park, doesn’t mean that the journey has to stop there. The globe is littered with wonderful locations you’ll recognise from the Star Wars movies. And if you live in the UK, you may not have to travel far from home to visit them. Here are some of our favourites.

Redwood National Park, California

redwood_national_park

If you visit Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland California, you won’t be too far away from Redwood National and State Parks. This mystical section of protected forests was the setting for Endor, the forested moon, home to the cute and furry Ewoks in The Return of the Jedi. In real life, the park is no less impressive. Known for having the tallest trees in the world, this national park is great for hikes and camping. Walking through this forest, you’ll feel like you’ll be part of one of the many speed bike chase scenes that were filmed there.

Tikal National Park, Guatemala

After your visit to the states, you could head south to Central America to the small country of Guatemala. Deep into northern Guatemala is Tikal — one of the largest ancient Mayan ruins site in the world. The temples of Tikal are some of the largest in South American, with Temple IV being the largest pre-Colombian structure in the world. It’s also the setting for Yavin in ‘A New Hope’. You can climb up Temple IV and experience a glorious view where you can see Temples II and III reach over the jungle canopy. It’s the exact same shot as you see in the film.

Once you’re in Guatemala, take the opportunity to learn about the deeply fascinating rise and fall of the Mayan civilisation. Or, go on a trek to ‘the lost city of Maya’ — ‘El Mirador’. These vastly untouched Mayan ruins are only reachable by foot, and a great opportunity to learn about ancient history whilst experiencing the wonders of jungle.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Bolivia salt flats

As you’re in the Americas, why not take a trip to another Star Wars setting? This time, in Bolivia. Remember that scene in the latest Star Wars film, ‘The Last Jedi’, where an epic battle takes place between the Rebels and the First Order on a big salt plain? It was filmed on actual salt plains in Bolivia, a landlocked country bordering Peru. In the movie, the upper layer of white salt is blown away to reveal a bright red mineral. Although this isn’t the case for the salt flats of Bolivia, the real-life is just as impressive. Due to how flat the salt flats are, you can do some creative photography and have fun with perspectives.

Puzzlewood, England

Puzzlewood

You don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to visit an iconic Star Wars location. The cast and crew of the legendary films have come to our very own UK to film some of the pinnacle scenes you’ll recognise from the films. The forest of Puzzlewood, Gloucestershire was used as a location for an integral part in ‘The Force Awakens’ — the scene where Rey and Kylo Ren have that epic lightsaber battle. Producer, Kathleen Kennedy chose Puzzlewood forest, based on her feeling that it’s “most magical forest on the face of the earth.”

It truly is. It’s deep pathways and moss-covered rock make it an excellent location for a day trip. It has been equipped with handrails and directions, so you and the family won’t get lost. Due to its mystical ambience, it’s also been the set location for Doctor Who and Harry Potter — making it the perfect forest for geeks!

So, if you’re a Star Wars superfan, take a trip to Disneyland’s new Galaxy’s Edge, and be a part of the resistance on the planet of Batuu. Or, head to the many magical locations scattered across the world where Star Wars has been filmed. Whatever you do, book your accommodation, flights and Disneyland pass through Quidco, and earn cashback.

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Patrick Gilligan

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