Star Wars Day: Top 5 Spots to Geek-Out in California on May the Fourth
Curiously, no major happenings are scheduled in California, the birthplace of Star Wars. George Lucas attended film school at USC, wrote much of the Star Wars script at his home in San Anselmo (Marin County) and founded Lucasfilm Ltd. in neighboring San Rafael. But the Golden State's Jedi connections don't end there. Check out these top 5 spots to geek-out on Star Wars Day:
5. Northern California redwoods
In Return of the Jedi, Northern California's lush redwood forests doubled as the planet Endor, home to the cute and cuddly Ewoks. Though many old-school fans still cringe at the thought of Lucas' intergalactic teddy bears, there's no denying some exciting scenes were shot in the area (speeder bike chase, anyone?). The principal filming locations were on private logging company land, and have since been clear-cut. Yet you can still see a few Endor backdrops at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park (specifically, the Cheatham Grove).
4. Legoland California
Back in the day, Kenner Star Wars figures and playsets ruled, and LEGOS had no place in the galaxy far, far away. Enter the late 90s, when Star Wars-themed LEGO toys exploded on the scene like Luke blowing up the Death Star. Make the jump to light speed and hit Carlsbad's Legoland theme park, where the Star Wars Miniland has everything from the Millenium Falcon to Carrie Fisher's cinnamon roll hairdo rendered in plastic bricks.
3. TCL Chinese Theatre (aka Grauman's Chinese Theatre)
Star Wars had its world premiere in Hollywood on May 25, 1977 at this planet's most famous movie palace, Grauman's Chinese Theatre (then called Mann's Chinese). Within weeks, the Flash Gordon-esque space opera would become a cultural phenomenon. And by August, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Darth Vader were cementing their footprints in the theater's fabled forecourt. See how your puny foot measures up to the Sith Lord's boot print (located near the sidewalk next to Harrison Ford's slab), then head inside the theatre for a guided tour. Imagine it's the summer of '77 and the opening scene is blowing your mind.
2. Death Valley National Park
Though most Episode IV scenes on Luke Skywalker's home planet of Tatooine were shot in the Tunisian desert, Lucas and his crew also did location filming in Death Valley National Park. R2-D2 rolled across the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes near the valley's Stovepipe Wells village. Bantha-riding Tusken Raiders (aka Sand People) roamed starkly beautiful Desolation Canyon (an outstanding hike). In Return of the Jedi, Jabba the Hutt's palace inhabits Twenty Mule Team Canyon. A meticulous band of Star Wars/Death Valley fanatics have put together an excellent self-guided day trip you'll find here.
1. Disneyland: Star Tours--The Adventure Continues
An old joke goes like this: What did Walt Disney say when they thawed him out of his cryogenic freeze? "Who the hell is George Lucas and what's his crap doing in my park?!"
The Star Tours motion simulator attraction debuted at the Magic Kingdom in the late 1980s. By 2010, the hokey, herky-jerky ride felt badly outdated, so Disney suped-up the experience with eye-popping 3-D effects and 54 different possible adventures through the Star Wars universe. This means uber-dweebs can ride Star Tours all day long and potentially have a different experience every time. No doubt, it's California's ultimate Star Wars geek-out.
Can't get to Disneyland for Star Wars Day? Disney Stores nationwide will be celebrating with special activities and, yes, merchandise.