Disney’s Star Wars attraction gives you the chance to meet your childhood heroes from the iconic movies

AS my son is enveloped in a huge, hairy hug by Star Wars’ Chewbacca, I’m welling up.

He may be a 6ft teenager with the normal aversion to anything uncool, but the chance to meet one of his childhood heroes is irresistible.

The Disney experience brings iconic characters such as Chewbacca to life

And for me, seeing him caught up in the moment is one of the highlights of our short but sweet tour of Walt Disney World, Orlando.

Ben met his intergalactic idol at Star Wars Launch Bay in Disney’s Hollywood Studios — where you can have personalised meet and greets with Chewie, Kylo Ren, BB-8 and many more.

Surprisingly, queue times are short, and there is plenty to explore, from original movie props to video games and interactive exhibits.

And come the autumn, a whole new land, called Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, will be opening up.

You can catch a tempting glimpse from the top of the Slinky Dog Dash coaster in the recently opened Toy Story Land.

And my too-cool-for-school teen was more than happy to climb aboard for a chance to grab a peek at the park in progress.

Judging by the grin on his face as we whizzed round, he loved the ride, too.

Ben may be a typical teen — Snapchatting every aspect of our trip with the free wifi in all the parks — but he’s just as impressed with Disney’s own tech.

Even before you set off for Florida, you can start planning your trip on the My Disney Experience app.

Link your park tickets to the app and you are able to book FastPass+ slots for the most popular attractions, shows and character meet and greets as well as make restaurant reservations, check show times and even see the ride times across all parks.

Plan ahead

If you are staying at one of the onsite hotels, then the tech notches up with your MagicBand wristband.

Not only does it open the door to your room, it can be used to pay for everything from snacks to those all-important gift-shop purchases.

You will definitely need to take the time to plan ahead.

Walt Disney World is vast — the size of Manchester.

As well as the four theme parks — Magic Kingdom, Holly- wood Studios, Animal King-dom and Epcot — there are three water parks and the newly ex-panded Disney Springs shopping and dining area.

Stay onsite and there are plenty of options to whizz you from one park to the next, with buses, boats and a monorail.

From late this year, a new ski lift-style Skyliner gondola will connect Epcot and Hollywood Studios with four onsite hotels, including the popular value Pop Century and Art of Animation resorts.

You will need at least a week to feel you have even scratched the surface of what there is to see and do.

But here’s the highlights from my quick trip and a few insider tips . . .

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom certainly offers the most breath taking experience with its incredible firework displays

IT is THE park for kids, with classic rides such as It’s A Small World and Peter Pan’s Flight. But big kids can still get their thrills on Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain.

It’s not all about the rides though. Check out the Storybook area where there is a fab Dumbo-themed splash park that will keep the kids cool and happy between rides.

Teens will want a snap at the Purple Wall – a random wall on the side of a building at the entrance to Tomorrowland that has become an Instagram hashtag sensation, much to Disney’s bafflement.

Seeing its success, the park are now selling purple-themed snacks and gifts.

And no trip to the park would be complete without catching the night-time Happily Ever After laser and fireworks show.

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom allows you to walk with the world’s most incredible wildlife

THIS gorgeous and naturally lush park is all about blockbuster movie Avatar – and the film is brought to life in Pandora: World Of Avatar.

I’ll be honest, I did not get the fuss about the film and was bit worried I would not be that bothered by the multi-million-dollar themed land.

How wrong I was.

The floating mountains are spectacular and the attention to detail is incredible.

The main ride, Avatar Flight Of Passage, sees you catch a ride on the back of a flying mountain banshee – and is well worth the lengthy wait times.

The Na’vi River Journey is great for the whole family and the entire area has an other-wordly feel with fascinating plant life. It is even better seen at night.

Hollywood Studios

The Hollywood studios is a park for kids of all ages to relive their favourite childhood movies

THE park is marking its 30th anniversary this year and is offering even more chances to meet your favourite characters.

Pixar Place is being turned in a Municiberg city block from The Incredibles and there is a new Lightning McQueen Racing Academy with all your favourite Cars stars.

Older kids will love the thrills of Tower Of Terror, Rock ’n’ Rollercoaster and, of course, the upcoming Star Wars: Galaxy Edge opening.

If you are visiting before the new area opens, there is still plenty of Star Wars fun to be had – and the night-time fireworks show themed around the best moments from the movies is a must-see.


Epcot is always growing and expanding with more places to explore every year

STILL one of my favourite parks, this is getting better in 2019.

The 11 countries featuring in the World Showcase are at their best after dark – with restaurants, shows and, of course, the Illuminations fireworks.

The new Frozen attraction in the Norway pavillion will be joined by a new Ratatouille attraction in the France area.

Also coming in 2021, in time for the park’s 50th anniversary, is its first ever roller coaster – tipped to be the longest in Florida and themed around hit movie Guardians of the Galaxy.

The classic Soarin’ simulator is one of my favourites in the park – for the best views of this aerial adventure, head to the B1 seats.

And car ride Test Track had my husband and teen son living their best petrolhead life.

Disney Springs

The Disney Springs offers a huge array of restaurants and shops to visit throughout your visit

THIS expanded area is your go-to destination for shopping, dining and entertainment.

It is almost double the size of the old Downtown Disney and you do not need a theme park ticket to get in.

There is a huge range of restaurants and shops as well as numerous bars, plus live music venues, cinemas and even a bowling alley.

Kids will also love the chance to climb aboard the Amphicars.

Docked next to the Boathouse, these classic 1950s cars can take you on cruises around the water with your own personal car captain.
It’s not cheap at nearly £100 for up to four people, but you’ll get around £20 off if you eat at the Boathouse restaurant.


VIRGIN HOLIDAYS has a package for a family of four from £3,999.

It includes seven nights’ room-only at Disney’s All Star Sports Resort, flights from Gatwick, car hire and Disney Ultimate Tickets.

Price based on two adults and two children age three to nine sharing, and on June 22 departure.

Start your holiday in the V-Room at Gatwick airport, adults £24.50, kids from £14. To book, see virginholidays.co.uk or call 0344 557 3859.


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