Star Wars Weekends

Arrival

Hollywood Studios officially operates from 8am – 10pm on Star Wars Weekend dates.  Despite the official 8am opening, the turnstiles will begin letting guests inside the Park between 7:15am and 7:30am.  There are two sets of bag checks.  The two on the far right are designated for those seeking celebrity autographs.  However, anyone can use these bag check lines if they’re shorter.  If you don’t want an autograph, you can simply duck under the ropes.

Each guest is allowed one autograph FASTPASS and each celebrity has an individual line.  This is the scene at 7:42am on Friday May 17th.  Celebrity autographs were available for every celebrity other than Ray Park.  If you wanted an autograph for Mr. Park, you would have needed to arrive by 3:30am.  For the others, an arrival around 7am is fine.

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Star Wars Weekends is an annual event held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios during regular theme park hours.  There is no additional cost to attend, meaning the price of the ticket is the same as any other day.   Traditionally, the event occurs over four weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) in May and June.  Occasionally, the event will not include any May dates, so you may want to plan a trip that includes the first full weekend in June if you’re planning a trip before the dates are announced and Star Wars Weekend is an integral part of the trip.  Disney usually announces the dates during the first week of February, with more details emerging as the first date draws near.  Star Wars Weekends are a lot of fun and you don’t necessarily need to be a die-hard Star Wars fan to enjoy many of the events.  Activities include indoor and outdoor stage shows, celebrity autograph sessions, special Star Wars character meet and greets, Star Wars Parades, limited edition Star Wars merchandise, a Star Wars themed dance-off, and celebrity hosted shows.  While past Weekends have included big name appearances, recent focus is on the Clone Wars animated series.  Many of the celebrity guests are voice-actors or directors on the show.  Let’s have a look at what you can expect.

Crowds

For many, the biggest concern regarding a Disney World vacation is the crowd level, both overall and specifically to an individual theme park on a specific day.  If you’re looking for the lowest crowds, you’ll want to avoid a Star Wars Weekend date.  Somewhat surprisingly, it may seem like less people are meandering about the Studios, but that’s only because they’re occupied with other activities.  So far in 2011, we’ve routinely seen triple digit waits at Toy Story Mania and Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, along with waits at Star Tours and Tower of Terror that are about 60% higher on average than recommended days during the week.  However, Disney has greatly extended the operating hours for Star Wars Weekend days, which means there are two or three good hours to tour in the morning and late evening.  The Park tends to clear out after Hyperspace Hoopla and the first Fantasmic.  Those of you who are late risers can have success if the Studios doesn’t close until 12am and you’re able to stay up that late.  You’ll be in great shape if you arrive prior to Park opening and take care of the headlining attractions or the major meet and greets first thing.  Once 10:30am hits, crowds are going to be significant, especially over Memorial Day Weekend and into the second Weekend in June when most schools are on summer break and crowds increase overall.

Sunset Boulevard at 12pm on May 29th.  Note that there are no Star Wars characters or activities down here, other than the merchandise tent.  These people are all going to Beauty and the Beast, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror.  Or they’re lost.

The 11am Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show.  Almost completely full – a rarity, particularly for the early show, which is the least crowded.

These are people waiting to get into the Studios at 12:20pm.  Lines in the afternoon to enter the Studios are almost unheard of during recommended days during the week.

Touring Plan

You’ll be in better shape if you can swing two days at Hollywood Studios during your stay or whittle down your touring plan to just a few of the usual attractions.  That way, you can focus on the Star Wars characters, shows, events, Parade, etc. without having to worry about the Disney Jr. Live on Stage schedule or getting into position for the 3pm Parade.  You can certainly enjoy both Star Wars and “regular” activities in one day, but meeting the Star Wars characters takes a lot of time, as does lining up for a good spot for the Parade and other shows.  With only one day, you’ll need to plan carefully and decide which attractions, characters, and shows are more important.

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