Visit California is welcoming Star Wars fans to explore the Golden State while celebrating the much anticipated North American premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There's more to loving Star Wars than sitting in a theater. Let the force guide you through a number of experiences around California – to see where the films were shot, where they are still celebrated in vivid detail, and where the spirit of intergalactic adventures extends beyond that galaxy far, far away.
Train as a Jedi Pilot: Sacramento or Anaheim
Think you could steer an X-Wing starfighter into the trench of the Death Star? You can test your skills—and your ability to channel the Force—using one of the F-16 simulators at the Aerospace Museum of California, outside Sacramento. Or, in Anaheim, FlightDeck Flight Simulation Center lets you choose between a fighter jet and a Boeing 737 experience; your companions, meanwhile, can watch your escapades from the LCD-screen-equipped “Officers Club.”
Put the Death Star in Perspective: LEGOLAND California, Carlsbad
Who says the LEGOLAND California theme park is just for kids? The Star Wars area of the theme park's Miniland keeps expanding and diversifying its mini-Empire—like the scale model of the Death Star, a 1,900-pound masterpiece made with half a million plastic bricks. New additions to the seven LEGO-constructed landscapes include a Jawa sandcrawler on Tatooine and an underwater Opee sea killer on Naboo.
Behold a Sea of Action Figures: Rancho Obi-Wan, Petaluma
Some people come to Sonoma County for wine, but others come for this museum near Petaluma. Rancho Obi-Wan is home to the world's largest private collection of Star Wars memorabilia and props—and even includes a few vintage pinball and arcade video games. This is no casual drive-by, though: You can tour by appointment only—but the guided tour lasts two to four hours, and adult-accompanied kids 12 and under get in free.
Spend a Weekend on Tatooine: Death Valley
Many of the desert planet scenes in Episode IV were filmed in Tunisia, but a few choice locales were shot in California. To see the rough-and-tumble spaceport Mos Eisley (minus the alien bar), go to Dante's View in Death Valley National Park; located about 16 miles from Furnace Creek, this Black Mountain spot was where they filmed the view as seen by Luke and Obi-Wan.
Discover Distant Planets: Griffith Park Observatory, Los Angeles
Granted, it's a long shot that you would spot Dagobah through one of the telescopes at this famed Los Angeles observatory, but you can certainly gain new appreciation for all that our home galaxy has to offer. On one Saturday of each month, you can attend the public parties here, where resident astrologers walk around and help you understand what you are seeing through the variety of sophisticated giant scopes.
For an out-of-this-world getaway, find more travel inspiration at DIY Star Wars Experiences in California, or follow in the footsteps of your favorite characters with California Vacations for the Star Wars Icons.
Visit California is a non-profit organization with a mission to develop and maintain marketing programs – in partnership with the state's travel industry – that keep California top-of-mind as a premier travel destination. According to Visit California, travel and tourism expenditures totaled $117.5 billion in 2014 in California, supporting jobs for 1,013,000 Californians and generating $9.3 billion in state and local tax revenues. For more information about Visit California and for a free California Official State Visitor's Guide, go to www.VisitCalifornia.com.