19 Exotic Places That Aren’t In Scotland So Shut Your Lying Mouth

1. This is definitely in Vietnam, right?

No, it’s actually the Trotternish Peninsula on the Isle of Skye.

2. OK, well this is clearly a bay in Cyprus.

Nope, it’s Achmelvich in the Scottish Highlands.

3. OK, well this lake is obviously in India.

Um, no. It’s actually Loch Rusky.

4. Well these rocky mountains have to be Utah.

No cowboy movies were filmed here, it’s actually Stob Beinn a’Chrulaiste.

5. Aha, got you this time. This has to be Hawaii.

No, these palms are growing in Plockton, warmed by the waters of the gulf stream.

6. There’s no way this isn’t Paris in the springtime.

Wrong, it’s the arch at the entrance to Glasgow Green.

7. This sunny fishing village has to be in Cornwall.

Wrong again, this is Tobermory on the Isle of Mull.

8. Surely this has to be a tropical rainforest?

No, this is actually Rothiemurchus Forest near Aviemore.

9. This looks like New England in the fall.

And yet it’s Am Taigh-bàta (the boat house) at the far end of Loch Chon.

10. You can’t possibly deny that this was taken in Florida.

Wrong. It was taken in the Moray Firth off the east coast of Scotland.

11. This town must be in… Iceland?

It looks like Reykjavik, but it’s actually Fort William and Ben Nevis.

12. Is this a forest temple in Japan?

No, it’s the Hermitage near Dunkeld. Good try though.

13. This sea plane is landing on an Australian beach, no?

No, it’s actually a commuter flight landing at Barra Airport.

14. Don’t try to say this dramatic waterfall isn’t in Norway.

I will try to say that, because it’s Kilt Rock waterfall in the Isle of Skye.

15. Well there’s no doubt these lava rocks are in the Pacific.

They’re actually The Stacks of Duncansby in Caithness.

16. This looks like a fast-flowing stream in…Canada?

Sorry, it’s in the foothills of Glencoe.

17. This lush, sunny field is in Portugal for sure.

Close. It’s a popular picnic spot near Perth.

18. These are Swiss chalets, no doubt about it.

They’re actually lodges bordering Barend Loch in Dumfries and Galloway.

19. Fine, but this has to be the troll village from Frozen.

Yes, OK, you got us there. But it’s also known as Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye.

AMERICA’S BEST SMALL CITIES TO MOVE TO BEFORE THEY GET TOO POPULAR

The best small towns to visit in America are easy to commit to for a weekend. It doesn’t take much to fall in love with Main Street; all you need is a couple of friends, a shaded porch, a six-pack of pale ale, and nothing but time to kill for you to think, “Hmm, I could get used to this.”

But if you’re going to full on move to a small town, you gotta be selective. Pick wrong and you’ll be bored, underpaid, and isolated. But pick right, and you can get all the best aspects of a metropolis — energy, creativity, charm, excitement — without the up-yours prices and the built-in migraines.

So we asked dozens of writers around the country to find the small American cities (with a max population of 70,000) where they’d put down roots. We looked for up-and-coming hotspots (think, Asheville 10 years ago), underappreciated gems, and towns where a person with verve could scratch out a cool life. Places where you can raise kids and those kids can raise dogs and those dogs can raise hell. And where, when your friends visit from the city, they take a seat on your porch and say, Damn, this is nice. What does your mortgage cost, again?

MOUNT HOOD, OREGON | TUSHARKOLEY/SHUTTERSTOCK
Hood River, Oregon

Great beer and the great outdoors within spitting distance of Portland
Population: 7,700
The Columbia River Gorge is one of the most beautiful natural features in the Pacific Northwest, a winding stretch of river sandwiched between dense forests, towering cliff faces, and more waterfalls than a TLC tribute show. Its finest town is Hood River, a Rockwellian, hilly burg unofficially known as “Portland’s backyard.” It sits at the shores of the Columbia and on the foothills of Mount Hood, plopping you into fantastic hiking, mountain biking, skiing, snowshoeing and kitesurfing. It’s also home to an inordinately large number of breweries, including Full Sail, pFriem, Logsdon Farmhouse, and Double Mountain, making Hood River one of the best small beer towns anywhere.

Every day, Portland’s traffic and rents are looking more like LA. Whether you land a job in Hood River itself, telecommute, or drive the (gorgeous) hour to Portland daily, you’re looking at rents a fraction of the big city’s (where a studio runs a ridiculous $1,500, easy). Plus you get friendly locals, great schools, fresh air, and some of the most breathtaking views in the state. It’s a wonder more people aren’t treating Portland as the weekend getaway and settling into one of America’s best, and most strategically located, small towns. — Andy Kryza

DOWNTOWN BISBEE, ARIZONA | ATOMAZUL/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Bisbee, Arizona

A mountain-ringed artist’s haven in the middle of the Sonoran Desert
Population: 5,200
Southeast of Tucson and 20 minutes north of Mexico are the Mule Mountains, wherein lies Bisbee, a world unto its own. Driving into the town is a thrill: you arrive from above, via a mountain tunnel, dropping past the homes, art galleries, and cute shops that now populate this old copper mining town formerly filled with brothels and bars.

Today the town is less about vice and more about cheap living in an eclectic high-desert town. The average house will cost just $130K; your neighbors will be a mix of rough-and-tumble miners, writers, painters, old-school hippies, new-wave hippies, and recovering yuppies — including artists and University of Arizona academics who have decamped from the “big city” two hours away. Tucson’s residents flee to these mountains in the summer, as Bisbee’s mile-high elevation means a respite from the searing desert heat. They, like you, come to chill and slow down. Just remember there’s a wild and fascinating universe in any direction just over the mountains. — Jackie Bryant

Port Chester, New York

Affordable rents and a bustling downtown that’ll make you forget Brooklyn
Population: 29,000
No need to live in Bushwick or Williamsburg to feel like you’re a New Yorker. Just an hour-long train ride north from Grand Central, and you’ll find yourself in Port Chester. This Westchester County village has all the allure of a poppin’ Brooklyn neighborhood, minus the bullshit. Obscenely high rent? Not here. Mayor Dennis G. Pilla told The New York Times, “Millennials are moving here from the outer boroughs and other places because of the bang for the buck.” You can land a 1/1 apartment for $1,600, aka what you’d pay in NYC only if your aunt owns the building. Maybe you could even (hold onto your hat, now) buy.

And get this — there’s actually stuff to do. Since the Capitol Theatre (built in 1926) was reopened in 2012 by Brooklyn Bowl owner Peter Shapiro, huge acts like Bob Dylan, Sarah Silverman, Father John Misty, and the Pixies have been booked. The fleeing New Yorkers ensure a healthy appetite for bars, brunches, and well-respected restos. You can hit Mario Batali’s Bartaco or Tarry Lodge, or scarf down a chili cheese dog from Hubba’s, a hole-in-the-wall shop that’s been around for over 100 years. Then gaze around at the once-sleepy town for people who still can’t bring themselves to admit they might one day wind up in Connecticut. — Rebecca Strassberg

TOP 5 THEME PARKS IN FLORIDA

Theme parks are a great way to spend a fun day. Whether you are hanging out with friends, your significant other, or even the whole family, a theme park is a great way for people of all ages to have a blast. Florida is one of the most theme park filled States in America, they have several to choose from spread all throughout the state. Today I am going to be talking about my personal favorites and including 5 of some of the best theme parks you can find in Florida. We hope that you enjoy these Top 5 Theme Parks in Florida.

1. UNIVERSAL STUDIOS/ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE – ORLANDO

Universal Studios is a fun filled theme park that is great for people of all ages. They have a ton of rides that cater to kids and adults and there is a wide variety of themes to cater to whatever you like. They have classic movie themed rides such as E.T. Adventure, Men In Black: Alien Attack, and Revenge of the Mummy. There are more rides catered to kids such as Minions Mayhem, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, and The Cat in The Hat. There are also rides for the Superhero lovers like The Incredible Hulk Coaster and The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man. Not to mention of course the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Simpson’s Springfield, plus there is a brand new ride catered to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon! It’s a world of fun and definitely something you don’t want to miss out on.

2. DISNEY PARKS – ORLANDO

Of course you can’t go to Florida looking for a theme park without visiting the Wonderful World of Disney! What’s great about it is that there are several different Disney parks so you can experience the Disney magic in so many different ways. There are 6 different parks to visit and they are all a blast. If you’re into Star Wars, you want to be full of Terror on the Hollywood Tower of Terror, or maybe you want to rock out on Aerosmith’s Rock n Roll Coaster head to Hollywood Studios. If you are wanting to experience the jungle and spend the day with Animals, be sure to check out Animal Kingdom. Want to travel the world? You can do that and experience several countries at Epcot. Looking for a fun water experience? Check out Typhoon Lagoon or Disney’s Blizzard Beach! Finally, for all things Magic and all the amazing classic Disney experience be sure to head over to the Magic Kingdom!

3. LEGOLAND – WINTERHAVEN

If you have kids that love building with Legos, Legoland is the place for you! Legoland is filled with amazing sculptures made completely from Legos, there are a ton of great rides including Lego NINJANGO the Ride, Flying School, and Coastersaurus. Legoland is a great way to spend the day with the family. There are a lot of fun things to do at Legoland and it’s so interesting what can be made of Legos, I definitely recommend checking this one out.

4. FUN SPOT AMERICA – ORLANDO

How could you pass up on going to visit a place called Fun Spot America? You are bound to have a fun time! Fun Spot America is full of rides, games, and just pure fun. I love Fun Spot America because it is like a mix between a typical theme park and a carnival. They have some rides/attractions that you would typically find at a Carnival such as the Fun Slide and games like Balloon Bust, Water Gun Fun, and Hot Shot. However, they also have more theme park typical rides such as the Tea Cups, White Lightning, and Space Invader. Either way, you’re bound to have a blast at Fun Spot America.

5. BUSCH GARDENS – TAMPA

If you are someone that loves amusement parks but also loves animals, Busch Gardens is the place for you. I absolutely love going to amusement parks as well as the Zoo so Busch Gardens is one of my favorite places to go. They have great rides including Cheetah Hunt and Cobra Curse but they also have great animal shows/exhibits like the Animal Care Center where you can peek in on the doctors as they care for and check up on all the animals in the park or the Cheetah Run where you can experience up close and personal just how fascinating Cheetahs are.

Florida is a great vacation spot because there is SO much to do there and so many great family-friendly spots to hang out and have a great time. These are just a few of my personal favorite Florida theme parks but there are still even more than just these. If you’re looking to do a vacation with a lot of theme park days, Florida is a great spot because all of the parks I listed are within about an hour or so of one another so you can just any that you would like! I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. Which of these Top 5 Theme Parks in Florida do you want to go to?

The Great House, Sonning, Berkshire: hotel review

A Coach House apartment at The Great House at Sonning
It is obligatory, when writing about the Thames-side village of Sonning, to quote Jerome K Jerome. In his 1889 novel Three Men in a Boat he said: “It is the most fairy-like little nook on the whole river. It is more like a stage village than one built of bricks and mortar.” It has retained these charms but now there is another name to drop: George Clooney. He and his wife, Amal, bought a £10m house here in 2014. They are the latest in a long line of celebrity residents of this village four miles east of Reading, from Terence Rattigan to, er, Uri Geller.

I arrive expecting to see Clooneys around every corner. Alas, it isn’t to be: perhaps they are in one of their other houses, in LA, Lake Como, or Mexico … But enough celeb-stalking; I’m here to check out the Great House at Sonning, which reopened in May after a major refurbishment. The main building is a Grade II-listed Elizabethan inn, with gardens spilling down to the river. There are more rooms around the courtyard – 49 in all, from “cosy” to suites.

The river Thames at Sonning
We’re in the Coach House apartment, a split-level suite with river views. The duck-egg blue and burnt-orange colour scheme gives immediate character. There’s an exposed-brick wall and retro touches including vintage-style radio, telephone and record player, plus a popcorn-maker. The Smeg fridge contains fresh milk (but no mini-bar). Down a half-flight of stairs is the TV room – or second bedroom – and bathroom. The latter has a freestanding bath, separate shower, and slate-grey metro tiles.

I look around a “cosy room”, too: it’s surprisingly spacious, with many of the same features, excluding the TV room and bath. (Cosy and “relaxed” doubles are great value, from £60 a night.)

One of the hotel’s communal areas
The accommodation isn’t the main focus at the Great House, though. The restaurant is the original Coppa Club, opened in 2015; there are now three others in London . It is a handsome room with a curved pewter bar, velvet sofas, fireplaces and booths – the hotel refit was based on the same aesthetic. We arrive at 9pm on a Thursday, when many hotel dining rooms would be winding down for the night. Not here: the bar, restaurant and terrace are packed until late – and heaving from breakfast onwards the next day. And most people seem not to be hotel guests but mates out for cocktails, or families having brunch, which makes for a lively atmosphere.

The all-day menu cleverly ticks all boxes without being bland. There are nibbles such as crispy truffled gnocchi (£3.50); small sharing plates (squid with sriracha mayo, £5.95); plus grills, salads, pizza and pasta. Our crab and avocado crostini are satisfyingly earthy, with lots of brown meat. Sustainably caught hake with romesco and greens (£13.95) shows more evidence of a sure touch with seafood; roast chump of lamb is a bit too bouncy (£16.45), though broad bean hummus is a nice addition.

Breakfast at the Great House. Photograph: Milly Kenny-Ryder
We hold off on sides to save room for a cheese plate, only to learn that cheese isn’t served in summer. (Isn’t cheese a food for all seasons?) We make do with a gooey, flourless chocolate and almond cake (£5.45), with dessert cocktails for good measure. This was pure greed: chocolate cake does not need a Turinese chocolate orange (praline liqueur, Baileys and Cointreau, £6.95).

Breakfast is served until a civilised 11.30am, with weekend brunch till 4pm. It ranges from the comically clean-eating (a bowl of quinoa, alfalfa and spinach) to a full fry-up. I meet it halfway with avocado, poached eggs and kiln-roasted salmon (£9.45). Drinks also cover all bases, from green juices to white-peach sangria.

After breakfast, we walk out of the garden, past the deckchairs and the outdoor bar on to the lovely, tree-lined Thames Path, winding past Sonning Lock. On the way back, we call in at the Bull, an “old country inn … with low, quaint rooms and latticed windows” (Jerome again). It’s our last chance to bump into George but the closest we get is his Casamigos brand of tequila (now owned by Diageo) behind the bar.

• Food and accommodation were provided by the Great House at Sonning (0118 969 2277, greathouseatsonning.co.uk, doubles from £60 room-only)

Ask a local

Sally Hughes, managing director, the Mill at Sonning restaurant and theatre

Riverside Tea Garden
• Eat
The quaint Riverside Tea Garden is a picturesque spot. It’s right by Sonning Lock, so you can drop by after a leisurely stroll down the Thames Path.

• Do
Take in the gorgeous scenery from onboard a Thames steamer. The service from Reading to Henley goes via Sonning Lock and runs daily in summer.

• Explore
The River & Rowing Museum in nearby Henley turns 20 next year. There are various galleries, plus an exhibition inspired by the much-loved book The Wind in The Willows.

Disabled passengers waiting hours to disembark at Heathrow

Disabled passengers have been forced to wait up to two hours to disembark at Heathrow, according to the aviation regulator Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Archive/PA Images
The treatment of disabled passengers who are forced to wait hours to disembark from flights at Heathrow Airport has been branded “discriminatory”.

A survey of almost 1,200 passengers who use Heathrow’s assistance service found 62% rate it as “poor” or “very poor”, with some having had to wait up to two hours for assistance.

The executive director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Melanie Field, said: “For disabled passengers to be treated as second class citizens and having to wait hours to leave a plane is not only bad service, it is discriminatory.

The aviation regulator found instances of passengers not being met on board and not being treated with “dignity and respect”.

Some disabled passengers were encouraged to make their own way through the airport due to lack of staff or equipment.

Airports where the assistance service for disabled passengers was judged to be “poor” by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)

Heathrow
Manchester
East Midlands
Exeter
More than one million passengers requiring special assistance travel through Heathrow every year – more than any other European airport.

Its assistance service is provided by US-based firm OmniServ.

A statement from Heathrow apologised to customers affected by the poor service and pledged to address the issues raised.

The airport announced that it will amend its contract for providing passenger assistance to ensure waiting times are reduced.

A spokeswoman for OmniServ said the company is “investing significant sums in staff training” and will “continue evaluating our performance… to provide the best service to all of Heathrow’s passengers”.

The report found that six airports provide “very good” assistance support, while 20 were described as “good”.

Travel tips for the monsoons

Rainy season lifts up our mood like anything. It washes away all our worries and refreshes our mind and body. Another thing that comes up in our minds when we see the rains is of going on a trip with family or friends. Though tripping in the rainy season might seems like a super excellent idea but it has its own set of pros and cons.

Below are some pointers on things that we need to keep in our minds before heading for a trip in the rainy season:

  1. Mosquito repellent: Do not forget to apply a coat of your mosquito repellent throughout your trip to stay away from the mosquitoes and the bugs
  2. Rain coat / umbrella: These are but obvious stuff for the monsoon. You never know when you have the requirement of these on your trip during the monsoons
  3. Weather forecast: Make sure you see the weather forecast (of an entire week) of the place where you are heading to. Monsoons can be risky if you are planning to visit any hill station. Fun is one thing, but safety is more important
  4. Avoid street food: As you are told since your childhood, apply it here as well. Try to avoid street food as much as possible to keep yourself active throughout the vacation
  5. Extra clothes: Since it is the season to enjoy the weather, you might end up drenching your clothes. And drying of clothes is also a headache in this season. Hence don’t forget to stuff some extra pair of clothes

Corsica police link beach shooting with row over nudism

tourists enjoy a day out at the Citadel Beach in central Ajaccio on the French Mediterranean island of CorsicaImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe island of Corsica is a popular destination for tourists (File photo)

A shootout on a beach popular among naturists on the French island of Corsica was caused by a local businessman who disagreed with their presence there, police say.

One woman was injured on Wednesday’s incident, which led to dozens of nudist sunbathers fleeing Carataggio beach near Porto-Vecchio.

Witnesses said the man had threatened the group if they did not get dressed.

When they refused, he allegedly pulled out a rifle and started firing.

The injured woman, reportedly in her thirties, was hit in the thigh as she ran away.

The suspect – whose identity has not been revealed – owns a beachside cafe, police said on Friday. One man had been questioned in connection with the shooting but had since been released.

Despite being famous among nudists, the beach is not an official naturist site and locals have complained about their presence there.

Why millennials are the next tourism frontier

Girls take a selfie in SpainImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe millennial generation spends an estimated $200bn a year on travel

Clint Johnston can’t speak on the phone when we first try because the service is patchy as he travels from Montenegro to Bosnia.

The next week it’s hard to connect because he’s sailing in Croatia.

It’s a pretty typical schedule for the 33-year-old who founded website Triphackr, a travel company built for the millennial generation.

“Like their parents, millennials love to travel, but they are looking to experience travel in a different way,” says Mr Johnston.

The site mixes “travel hacks” like how to get cash back for delayed flights, with Instagram “trip-spiration”.

A giraffe licks Triphackr founder Clint JohnstonImage copyrightTRIPHACKR
Image captionClint Johnston spends his life travelling

Tie-ups with companies and tourism agencies have elevated the business from side-project to full-time job. It now earns up to $15,000 (£11,353) a month.

Johnston is one of a slew of digital media influencers reshaping the millennial tourism market.

The age group – loosely defined as those born from the early 1980’s to 2000 – spends around $200bn (£153bn) on travel each year, according to market research firm FutureCast.

And overall, they have more cash to splash than any previous generation, with around $6tn in disposable income, according to market research firm Asia Insight.

Often cast as fickle and self-absorbed, the generation has been criticised for burning their money on lifestyle perks like avocado toast rather than saving to buy a house, but that tendency to spend is good news for tourism.

And a growing number of travel firms are trying to get a slice of the market.

A tropical islandImage copyrightTRIPHACKR
Image captionPeople of all ages would likely enjoy a luxury holiday on a tropical island

All around holiday firms are touching up their brands with millennial buzz words – connected, experiential, authentic – in the hope of snaring younger customers.

Accommodation providers are concentrating on shared spaces, faster internet and high-tech toys.

Serviced apartment operator Frasers Hospitality said iPad-activated check-ins, and laundrettes fitted with video game consoles, are helping lure travellers to its millennial-focused Capri by Fraser hotels.

Meanwhile, Aloft Hotels has attempted an emoji-based room service trial, and a robot butler service .

And soon millennials will get their own airline.

Joon uniformsImage copyrightAIR FRANCE
Image captionJoon’s electric blue uniforms symbolise the airline’s dynamic attitude, Air France say.

It’s called Joon and is due to hit the skies later this year. The carrier will serve the needs of 18 to 35-year-olds, though exactly how it will do so isn’t clear.

Owner Air France has revealed snazzy blue crew uniforms and said it won’t be a budget airline. It describes Joon as a “lifestyle brand” and a “permanent innovation laboratory” for its customers.

Joon, it says, is a “state of mind.”

Is that enough to hook the discerning millennial traveller? #Probably not.

Katrina Leung, executive director of travel trade group ITB Asia, believes Joon’s pitch won’t cut it with younger consumers.

For it to take off, Joon needs to deliver more of what they want.

“If it focuses on more perks and the ambiance as a whole, partners with key hip hotels or works with local guides, those things might help attract millennials,” she says.

Montane Mansion of Quarry Bay, Hong KongImage copyrightTRIPHACKR
Image captionPacific Asia Travel Association says that millenial travellers want to live like locals

A survey by the Pacific Asia Travel Association found that 85% of Asian millennials wanted to “live like a local” while on holiday. Food was also priority when visiting a new destination.

They also travel more than older people. When millennials hit the road they want unique experiences, as well as cultural and authentic encounters.

Along the way millennials will share their experiences on social media and rely heavily on user reviews to make travel decisions. Brand loyalty is typically low.

Tapping into these desires and habits, says Ms Leung, is crucial to securing younger traveller.

Young woman takes a selfieImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionMilliennials are said to want to “experience travel in a different way”

Like their holidays, millennials want authenticity when it comes to brands.

Jeff Fromm, partner at Barkley ad agency, says companies make some common mistakes in their pitches to young consumers, including trying to act like millennials and not making good on promises.

“Millennials can spot a phony, so brands must offer proof on any claims.” he says. “When brands try to be something they aren’t, they get caught.”

And that’s where influencers and websites like Triphackr can play a role.

Mr Johnston said the community he can reach through social media offers “more value than any traditional marketing campaign”.

“I have made friends all over the world through Instagram and the community is one of the best on any social network,” he says.

“When someone asks me to help plan their next trip I am only a comment or email away. “

Is Disney’s upcoming theme park, Star Wars Land, the future of movies?

Members of the media get their first look at a 50-foot, detailed model of Star Wars land during a media preview for Disney’s D23 Expo. Picture: Jeff Gritchen/The Orange County Register

STAR Wars makes me emotional. Like, really emotional.

I had what my husband identified as a “panic attack” during Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If that sounds hyperbolic to you (it definitely should), I will direct you to reaction videos of me losing my damn mind while watching the trailers for The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I cannot help it. My love for this franchises is coded into my DNA; if I were to have a child, odds are they would be born saying the phrase “My hands are dirty too, what are you afraid of?” Everyone at the hospital would find that disturbing, but I would know that my kid is legit.

There’s something about the cinematic experience of Star Wars that gets to me, deep down in my heart. So imagine my surprise when I found myself crying — no “I was actually just choking up” but full-on bawling — over a photo of a theme park.

View image on TwitterThis ain’t no movie, this ain’t no trailer, but this pic ain’t fooling around. That’s a to-scale Millennium Falcon, nestled within the beautifully lush and mountainous terrain of Disney’s upcoming Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge theme park. Disney parks on both coasts will each get a 14-acre addition that will transport hyperventilating visitors and their frustrated families to a totally new planet in Star Wars lore (presumably located on the edge of the galaxy).

Galaxy’s Edge, which is slated to open in 2019, will include two rides: one will drop you in the middle of a battle between the First Order and the Resistance on the hangar of a Star Destroyer, and the other allows you to pilot the Millennium Falcon on a mission. And in addition to the rides, the rest of those acres will be filled with creatures, droids, and characters from the SW universe as well as shops and restaurants selling/serving in-universe goods/food.

Galaxy’s Edge represents Disney rising to meet The Wizarding World of Harry Potter over at rival park Universal Studios. That themed area, styled mostly after the Harry Potter film series, changed the way people thought of theme parks when it opened in 2010. Basically, Universal totally upstaged Disney — and Disney scrambled. Disney looked around for hot properties to turn into a massive, Wizarding World-style experience and, since it was 2010, it saw … Avatar. Disney had no idea that:

1. They would acquire Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise just a few years later

2. Avatar filmmaker James Cameron would take FOREVER to get any of his bajillion Avatar sequels off the ground (Avatar 2 was bumped back from a 2014 release to a 2020 release)

3. Everyone would aggressively stop caring about Avatar

But once Disney’s plans were put in motion, they couldn’t stop them and the 12-acre Pandora — The World of Avatar attraction opened as part of Disney’s Animal Kingdom in May 2017. Considering how big a deal Harry Potter still is (three films have been released in the HP franchise since Avatar came out almost 8 years ago), Pandora just isn’t on the same level as the Wizarding World.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, though? That’s real competition.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Orlando Resort. Picture: Zak Simmonds

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Orlando Resort. Picture: Zak SimmondsSource:News Corp Australia

And unlike the Wizarding World, Galaxy’s Edge isn’t just recreating what fans have seen on-screen or read in various books. Instead of taking tourists to Tatooine or Hoth, Galaxy’s Edge has been created to tell a totally new story on a new planet.

One of the main selling points is the (presumably) opt-in adventure you will go on just by stepping foot in the park; based on how well you do on the Millennium Falcon ride or how you interact with the characters around you, you — like, specifically you — will earn a reputation as either a hotshot pilot flush with credits or a troublemaker with a bounty on their head.

I always hear people say that video games are the future of movies, but Galaxy’s Edge, which reframes the actual world around your physical body, seems like the real deal. This isn’t just giving you control over an avatar on a screen; this park brakes through the screen and makes you the avatar. This even outdoes virtual reality; for the time you’re in Galaxy’s Edge, Star Wars will be your actual reality.

This is why I cried over a photo. This park is a literal dream come true. This park will allow me to physically interact with my favourite franchise of all time. It will put me in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, my favourite thing in all of existence. The closest I’ve come so far was seeing one of the actual models used during the original trilogy. No matter how hard I tried, I could not climb into this cockpit.

I love the movies, but Galaxy’s Edge is offering the kind of experience I have spent my entire life just assuming could never happen. If movie studios are looking to up fan engagement like never before, dropping the big bucks to create a totally immersive experience like Wizarding World, Pandora, and Galaxy’s Edge seems like the way to go. I could easily see the Marvel and DC shared cinematic universes getting similar attractions, and even non-sci-fi/fantasy series like Fast & Furious or James Bond. We could even get to experience a safe, theme park version of The Hunger Games before our world descends into the actual Hunger Games!

Members of the media get their first look at a detailed model of Star Wars land.

Members of the media get their first look at a detailed model of Star Wars land.Source:AP

Still, as awesome as these parks look, I actually don’t think they’re going to replace movies outright (the same way that video games will never totally replace film). The main reason I love Star Wars is the story and characters. I don’t love the Millennium Falcon because of how it looks. I love it because of its role in the films and the heroes and moments it holds within its kitbashed corridors. And I know that whatever Rian Johnson has in store for Luke, Rey, Leia, and the rest in The Last Jediwill be light-years more engaging than whatever I bumble into while wandering around a wonderfully immersive theme park.

I think it’s more accurate to say that Galaxy’s Edge is the future of theme parks. It’s no longer enough to slap a known property on top of an existing, decades-old ride (like the Tower of Terror’s Guardians of the Galaxy makeover). Theme parks are upping their game considerably, becoming movies that you can actually walk around inside. If that’s what it takes to draw in new visitors, then so be it. After all, I’ve never given much thought to flying to Orlando as an adult. Now, after the Galaxy’s Edge reveal, it’s practically all I can think about.

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