Erik Avanier geeks out over trip to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

Build a lightsaber check? Fly the Millenium Falcon? Bring a droid to life? Check

Disney's "Star Wars": Galaxy's Edge is set to open this week in Hollywood Studios in Florida.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – It's one thing to grow up in the '70s and '80s as a fan of a trilogy that happened a long time ago in galaxy far, far away, but getting the chance to set foot into Galaxy's Edge, Disney World's new Star Wars attraction, was literally out of this world.

Being the super Star Wars fan that I am, I went to my news director several months ago and asked if I could take a day off from covering the nightly hard news in Jacksonville to be one of the hundreds of journalists in the world to cover media day for the newest addition to the theme park.

On Tuesday, fellow Star Wars fan and News4Jax photographer Chris O'Rourke joined me on one of the best news assignments a fan could ever ask for. Moments after we parked our truck and grabbed our gear, we got book bags with cool Star Wars emblems on them. Inside were our press credentials, along with some cool Star Wars gifts that included a towel, water bottle and a small electronic BB-8 droid. 

SLIDESHOW: Sneak peek at Disney's Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

Our first stop was inside a theater, where more than 200 journalists got the scoop about a new starship cruise where visitors and their family can stay for two days living in a Star Wars universe. This includes dining, shopping and even training on how to use a lightsaber. 

We were also told about a new upcoming Star Wars ride in which riders would drop from an Imperial Star Destroyer in an escape pod and land onto a planet. But I was more interested in seeing Galaxy's Edge in full detail, and that's what did as soon as the meeting ended. 

Chris and I got to get up close to the realistic Star Wars ships, robots and buildings. It was obvious that Disney spared no expense when it came to detail. Two moments during our trip really stood out – flying the YT-1300 freighter known as the Millennium Falcon and building our own lightsabers. 

Flying the Falcon was so realistic. Chris and I were the pilots, two other journalists were engineers and the last two were gunners. Our mission was to steal coaxium, or the fuel that powers starships' hyper drives. The experience was like actually piloting the Falcon through an asteroid field and into battle. 

Building the lightsaber was an interesting experience because more than a dozen people gathered around a table as a narrator talked about choosing the right Kyber crystal. Once the crystal was chosen, we all constructed our own sabers. By far, the best part was igniting our finished product. 

Another unforgettable experience was building a droid. There is a droid depot where visitors can pick parts off a conveyer built to build their own BB or R-unit droids. Once the droid is built, it can do all kinds of tricks by remote control. 

As hot as it was outside, I have mad respect for the employees who not only dressed up in heavy costumes but also played the part, right down the details. Many of them appeared to have really brushed up on their Star Wars knowledge. 

In my opinion, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will be a major draw for folks who are both new to Star Wars and even folks who have been fans since Star Wars "A New Hope" came out in 1977. 

About the Author:

Award-winning broadcast and multimedia journalist with 20 years experience.