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Summer trips for Star Wars fans
There are several Star Wars-themed events in Alabama and Florida that should be worth the trip, so you won't have to crash on Dagobah or invade Naboo to feel the Force this summer.
Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida
Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from May 21 through June 13
This annual festival attracts Star Wars fans of all ages to Walt Disney World. There are meet-and-greets with a number of Star Wars characters, including Darth Vader, C-3PO, Luke, Leia and Jedi Mickey, who will sign autographs and pose for photos. Stars of the movies and TV series in the Star Wars franchise appear each weekend for "star conversations" and autograph sessions. This year's guests include Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett) May 21-23 and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) June 4-6.
Most of the action is centered around the Star Tours theme park ride inside Disney's Hollywood Studios. The ride will be closing in September for an update, so many Star Wars fans are attending Star Wars Weekends this year to get their last ride on the original attraction before it changes.
There's also a Hollywood-style motorcade of Star Wars characters and celebrity guests each afternoon, complete with contingents of marching Stormtroopers. And don't miss the Hyperspace Hoopla, which often degenerates into a Star Wars character dance-off.
Star Wars Weekends are free with regular admission to Disney's Hollywood Studios. A one-day ticket will run you $79.
Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination
U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
June 25 through Sept. 6
It's the first Southeast U.S. showing for this traveling exhibit, which uses the futuristic robots and vehicles in the Star Wars movies to teach real-world science and engineering.
Visitors can meet C-3PO and R2-D2 and learn about how humans interact with robots in Star Wars. Then they can design their own robot in the Robot Engineering Lab. Or view a Star Wars landspeeder and actual vehicles and prototypes being designed today for space travel. In total, more than 80 original costumes and props from the six Star Wars movies are part of the exhibition.
More than 100,000 people are expected to visit the exhibit in Huntsville, and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center says it will likely be sold out during peak times. Officials there suggest you buy your Star Wars exhibition tickets in advance. Day tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for kids, evening (off-peak) tickets are discounted to $20 for adults and $15 for kids.
And if you have Star Wars fans ages 7 through 12, be sure to check out the Jedi Experience overnight camps being offered at Huntsville's Space Camp facility.
Star Wars Celebration V
Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida
This Star Wars fan convention is sanctioned by and this year, produced by, Lucasfilm. It includes parties, autograph signings, costume events, collectible sales, panel discussions and all manner of Star Wars geekdom.
Jay Laga'aia (Capt. Typho in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith) is the celebrity host for the event. Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) is the headliner.
A four-day ticket to the Star Wars Celebration will run you $128, kids get in for $54.