BEYOND THE RIDES: The Star Wars Guided Tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Editor’s Note: This editorial contains the opinions and insights of the author and the author alone as per personal experience on the tour. Activities described throughout the editorial were part of the tour as of July 2018 but are subject to change as deemed necessary by the Disney Company.
Star Wars Guided Tour
at Hollywood Studios
Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been getting a lot of attention lately with the opening of Toy Story Land. Although Hollywood Studios has always had some of Walt Disney World’s best attractions and theming, I think it’s also fair to admit that the opening of Toy Story Land and the upcoming Galaxy’s Edge, aka “Star Wars Land”, will also bring some much needed energy back into the park. However, there’s no need to wait for new attractions to get as much as possible out of a day at Hollywood Studios. There’s more to do at the park than perhaps meets the eye. It’s time to go Beyond the Rides with the exclusive Star Wars guided tour.
First, let me start by saying that although this tour is perfect for any Star Wars enthusiast, you don’t have to love Star Wars to enjoy the experience. Yes, I happen to be a huge Star Wars fan myself… movies, books, you name it, but this tour is more than just Jedis, droids, and giant man-dogs that carry cross bows. The tour is also oozing with unique, behind-the-scenes peeks into Hollywood Studios as a park as well as some fun additional Walt Disney World history. So with that in mind, strap securely into your space craft and hold on tight as we break this epic 7-hour tour down into Jawa-sized bites.
Check-In and Orientation: To get things going, guests are welcomed near Grumman’s Chinese Theater by receiving VIP passes and a home-planet assignment (as you can see, it’s a good thing I wasn’t around on Alderaan as Princess Leia watched it get blown up!). You’ll also be asked to make your selection for lunch that you’ll enjoy later in the afternoon at Backlot Express.
While we waited for other guests to check-in, we enjoyed an unexpected meet-and-greet with Boba Fett and some power-hungry Shadow Stormtroopers.
Once everyone is checked in, you’ll meet the friendly guides who’ll take you throughout Hollywood Studios for the complete 7-hour tour. To me, the guides were among the best parts of the tour. Not only do they fill you in on all sorts of Star Wars trivia, but they’re also happy to answer questions and share secrets about Hollywood Studios that will bring you a whole new appreciation for the park.
Path of a Jedi: Although the order of tour activities may vary depending on the day, one part of the morning will be spent watching a park-exclusive movie called “Path of a Jedi”. Tour participants are given front row seating in the ABC Sound Studio theater as they then enjoy the 10-minute film detailing the history of the Jedi Order throughout the original saga. With various clips from the movies, the film is both familiar yet fresh and exciting. It’s also a welcome rest out of the sun and heat!
March of the First Order: Another part of your morning will be spent facing down Captain Phasma and her order-seeking stormtroopers. Tour participants are given priority viewing for the march along Hollywood Boulevard. The march will stop in front of Grumman’s Chinese Theater as Phasma demonstrates the discipline of her troopers before your attention is then directed toward a stage performance. With the Imperial music blaring along the boulevard, the march is a somewhat immersive way to feel like you’re a part of the films, even if in just as a common civilian.
A Galaxy Far, Far Away Stage Performance: Though not originally part of the Star Wars tour, the Galaxy Far, Far Away stage performance is a somewhat newer addition to the tour’s list of activities. Following the March of the First Order, the stage performance begins with a selection of clips from all 7 movies being projected on a screen. A handful of your favorite Star Wars characters will then enter the stage to further bring the character experience to life. This stage performance is admittedly a bit slow in pace and not up to part with the typical magic of Disney stage shows. However, it is fun to see all the Star Wars characters in one place, particularly Rey, who otherwise doesn’t make appearances very often.
Launch Bay Exhibits: A final stretch of your morning will be spent at the Star Wars Launch Bay checking out various exhibits packed full of original Star Wars art work, memorabilia, film replicas, and other artifacts. Although Star Wars nuts will appreciate this portion of the tour, it is admittedly the slowest part of the day. Tour guides pull back a bit to give you some time to wander on your own and take things in at your own pace. However, don’t let the slower pace fool you into letting down your guard… you might just be surprised with an unexpected encounter with Lord Vader himself. This Force-filled meet-and-greet is NOT listed as part of the tour on Disney’s website and is not a guarantee, but interesting things happen over in the Launch Bay so you never know who might be around the next corner.
Backlot Express Lunch: After a jam-packed morning full of lots of walking and standing, you’ll have worked up an appetite worthy of a Bantha. Good thing you already made your lunch selection when you checked in for your tour in the morning! It’ll pretty much be ready and waiting for you at the Backlot Express. Sorry, blue milk is not a part of the meal.
The cost of your food IS included with your tour tickets so no need to pull out any more galactic credits.
However, you will want to keep your eyes open for some trouble-seeking troopers! Be careful not to say anything that might upset them…
Jedi Training: After lunch, Padawans ages 4-12 are recruited to join the Jedi Academy to train and defeat the Dark Lord himself. Padawans especially strong with the Force might even get to take on Kylo Ren as well. Adults will spend this time either exploring the area on their own and/or taking a seat to watch the Jedi Training. Your feet will thank you!
Behind-the-Scenes With Star Tours: Another big highlight of the guided tour is to get exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the Star Tours attraction. Star Wars fan or not, you’ll appreciate this rare VIP glimpse into some of the magic of the Star Tours ride and Disney Imagineering in general. Your tour guide will escort you throughout the attraction, filling you in on Disney secrets before you then get front-of-the-line access to the ride. You’ll have a badgood feeling about this!
Stellar Meet-and-Greets: You’d be very mistaken if you thought Younglings in training would be the only ones during your tour who get to have personal encounters with Star Wars characters! That’s right, everyone on this tour will get a chance to experience the thrill of facing the raw power of Kylo Ren and the shaggy warmth of everyone’s favorite wookie, Chewbacca. Not being a huge fan of meet-and-greets myself, I was a little tentative about this portion of the Star Wars tour. However, it ended up being one of our favorite parts of the day and I’m glad we were able to experience it. Let loose, have fun, and SMILE!
A Galactic Spectacular Nighttime Show: By the end of the day, you’re happily exhausted as only a Disney park can make you. But before you call it a day, you’ll get one more opportunity to complete your ultimate Star Wars day with priority viewing for the Galactic Spectacular nighttime show. And with that, you’ll be thinking to yourself, “Truly wonderful my day has been!”
Things To Know Before You Go:
Is it worth the $100? Absolutely, YES! We were continually and pleasantly surprised with the white-glove service and unanticipated additions to the tour on top of everything we already expected. Also, although the Star Wars guided tour is clearly a Star Wars geek’s ultimate day come true, you do not have to be a Star Wars fan to appreciate this tour. Tour guides make a clear effort to point out secrets, insider tips, and more about both Hollywood Studios and Walt Disney himself throughout the day.
Children ages 4-12 can choose to spend a portion of the day with other Younglings at the Jedi Academy. They are NOT required to join the the Padawans if they’d prefer to stay with the tour group.
Although the Star Wars tour DOES end with the Galactic Spectacular show, it does NOT include the dessert party! For the guided tour, you get priority seating for the outdoor show only, but no dessert is offered. If you’d like to enjoy the dessert party with the nighttime show, you’ll have to reserve additional tickets for this separate event on another night. More information can be found here.
On a final note, although I whole-heartedly recommend this tour, I do think it’s an experience for those who’ve previously visited Hollywood Studios or who plan to visit the park on more than one day of their trip. The 7-hour tour will dominate an entire day, so if you’re wanting to visit other attractions, including the new Toy Story Land, those are details to consider before booking your spot in the tour.
For more information about tour times, booking, accommodations, and rules, click here.