How busy is a really simple question to answer. It is very busy, from a certain point of view. The Star Wars activities will be incredibly busy. The rest of the park tends to be fairly mild. If I had to choose the best day crowd wise, Friday would be the best choice.
Disney has really refined and perfected how things work at Star Wars Weekends since they started in 1997. The list of what to do and how to do it is extensive, but it breaks down into four basic categories.
- Exclusive Merchandise
- Character Meet 'n Greets
Exclusive Merchandise: This would include pins, lithographs, figures, etc. Limited edition pins and coins tend to go really quick. If you “must” have these limited edition items you will need to be at the park around 2 hours before opening to wait in the merchandise line. If you are not all that concerned with the limited edition stuff, wait until later in the afternoon to look at the merchandise. In the mornings the store (typically in a separate location other than Tatooine Traders) will be wall to wall people. By the place will be much more sane.
Character Meet 'n Greets: These are done just like the Disney meet 'n greets but there are quite a few of them and the characters rotate constantly. Ideally you will want to start doing these as soon as the park opens. This will allow you to get quite a few out of the way early. Like everything else, lines will get incredibly long as the day wears on - 45 minute lines are common by .
Shows: Shows will vary based on who is there but you will typically see a “Behind the Force” show (behind the scenes type of stuff), “Stars of the Saga” (interview show), Hyperspace Hoopla (dance show at the end of the day), Padawan Mind Challenge (kid’s trivia), Jedi Training (same as on normal park days) and lastly the parade. Some celebrities will do their own special shows. In particular, Ray Park will do a show called “An Afternoon at the Maul.” Regular shows will require you to be there at least ½ hour or more prior. The Padawan mind challenge, and Jedi training require you to sign up (your child must be present) beforehand and this will need to be done as soon as the park opens. For special shows I would get there 45-60 minutes before show time. Nearly every show will be at capacity and not being able to get in is very possible. I see people turned away at almost every show.
Autographs: These can be the craziest part of Star Wars Weekends. To get an autograph you must have an autograph FASTPASS. No exceptions. The FASTPASSes are handed out at park opening. However, if the celebrity is anyone of any notoriety, the line for autograph fast passes will start forming around midnight to 1:00 AM. When Ray Park and Billie Dee Williams were there in 2010, my wife and I got in line at and we were the second to last people to get fast passes. It will not be that bad for every celebrity. Many of them will only require showing up at around , but I would only recommend autographs for the most hardcore of fans and would never attempt it with small children.
There are just a few rules you need to follow to make the most of your day. The first is to have a plan. Most people will be able to accomplish two of the four activities per day and still mix in a few of the other things that Disney’s Hollywood Studios has to offer. If you are willing to sacrifice the rest of the park you can squeeze in three and sometimes all 4. Realistically, I would plan on spending two days at Star Wars Weekends to do everything and not kill yourself doing it. The most important rule for Star Wars Weekends is get to everything early. My fellow Star Wars fans are professional line waiters. If there is a particular celebrity they want to see or item they want to buy, they will have no problem camping out to do so. I would recommend getting to the parks no less than 1 hour before opening. Early Extra Magic Hours are on Saturday and you will still need to get there at least an hour before park opening on Saturday as well.
In spite of all of the warnings of huge crowds and long lines, Star Wars Weekends are incredibly fun if you are prepared. I have been to more than half of the Star Wars Weekends held since 2003 and have never had anything less than a stellar time. Some of my best family stories start with “This one time at Star Wars Weekends….” and I would not have it any other way.