15 Places to Get Your Star Wars Fix Around the World
With the premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" coming up next month, Star Wars mania is on the rise. Multi-decade devotees and Padawans just learning the ways of the Force can feed their fandom before and after the film's release at these events and destinations around the world.
The National Cathedral may seem an unlikely destination for Star Wars enthusiasts, but for those who find themselves in Washington, D.C., it's worth a visit: A grotesque on the northwest tower has been sculpted to look like Darth Vader. Bring binoculars, because it can be hard to see with the naked eye.
This boutique hotel in Brighton, a seaside resort town, features themed guest rooms. One of the most popular is Lord Vader's Quarters, starting at about $125 a night. Star Wars memorabilia adorns the walls and a bunk bed makes it a fun option for a parent-child trip.
The next Star Wars Celebration, an annual global convention, will take place July 15-17, 2016, in London. Cast, crew, original costumes, exclusive merchandise, and hordes of Star Wars enthusiasts will gather for the event. Jedi Master VIP tickets sold out almost immediately, but some general tickets (30 euros for adults, 15 euros for children) are still available.
Death Valley National Park is the backdrop for many scenes from the original "Star Wars" (aka "A New Hope") and "Return of the Jedi." Visitors can take the Golden Canyon Hike, about two miles long, and see if they recognize the scenery. Guides and printable maps of notable spots are available online, and entrance is $20 per vehicle.
In the Presidio, near the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge, look for the Yoda fountain at the Letterman Digital Arts Center, home of Lucasfilm, LucasArts, and Industrial Light Magic. The buildings are closed to the public, but visitors can wander the park space outside. Posts on Yelp report that it's possible to enter the lobby to view life-size statues of Darth Vader and Boba Fett and costumes and props from the films during weekday business hours.
The original set for Luke Skywalker's childhood home on Tatooine, in Matmata, Tunisia, was turned into a hotel in 1995. The accommodations at Hotel Sidi Driss are basic and the facility earns mixed reviews on Trip Advisor. But many fans willing to travel to Tatooine/Tunisia are eager to spend the night anyway, and prices start at about $16.
Disney's Hollywood Studios hosts annual Star Wars Weekends at the resort. The summer 2016 event will feature special shows, characters signing autographs, and a Jedi Training Academy (ages 4 to 12). Admission isn't cheap, but there are ways to save on a Disney vacation.
A walk through any redwood forest will remind aficionados of Endor, but sadly many of the locations portrayed in "Return of the Jedi" are no longer accessible to the public. There are still two, though -- both used for the speeder bike chase scene: Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park in northern California.
Sitting on the edge of Lake Como in northern Italy, the Villa del Balbianello is a picturesque destination. The villa appeared in "Attack of the Clones" during the lake retreat scenes (and made cameos in the James Bond film "Casino Royale"). Entrance fees start at 8 euros (3 euros for children 4 to 14) for the gardens only; guided tours of the villa are also available.
Legoland in California celebrates Star Wars Days in early March with life-size Lego models of characters, minifigures, Jedi trivia, a building competition, a costume contest, and a fan gallery. In the year-round Star Wars Miniland -- also on display at Legolands in Germany and Denmark -- 2,000 models chronicle the first six movies. Tickets aren't cheap ($89 for adults, $83 for children), so be sure to buy online at least a week in advance to save $5 a person.
Check Meetup and Facebook groups and connect with nearby Star Wars fans to celebrate year-round with different events and activities. The Star Wars Enthusiasts of Houston meet weekly at a local pub. A New York City-based group arranges monthly gatherings where members discuss the latest books, TV series, movie, and back stories. Fans convene annually on Star Wars Day, May 4, a date chosen for the irresistible pun "May the Fourth be with you."
Many Major League Baseball teams host an annual Star Wars night, and there's no reason to expect next season will be different. This year's Oakland A's event included a fireworks show backed by Star Wars music, Darth Vader throwing a pitch, and Stomper (the mascot) dressed as a Jedi. Photo ops were offered at Boston Red Sox games, and the Los Angeles Dodgers sold exclusive T-shirts. The crowd is always encouraged to come in costume, as well.
The Fort Worth Botanic Garden's annual "Star Wars Beyond: A Laser Light Spectacular" includes music from "Star Wars" and other films performed by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Tickets usually go on sale in April or May for the June show.
In New Orleans, krewes organize and put on parades or balls during Carnival season. The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus, named for Star Wars' fuzziest hero and known for pranks, publicity stunts, and drunken antics, will put on its 2016 Mardi Gras parade at 6 p.m. on Jan. 30.
Beginning in the wee hours of Dec. 17, participating movie theaters will be hosting Star Wars marathons. Die-hards can watch all seven films in chronological order, culminating with "The Force Awakens." At some theaters the package includes Star Wars-themed 3D glasses and discounted concessions.