California Vacations for the Star Wars Icons VC_StarWarsVacations_Stock_RF_496924649_1280x640
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California Vacations for the Star Wars Icons

The Force may be strong—but the need for a vacation can weaken even the toughest Jedi knight. Indeed, while the promise of Star Wars: The Last Jedi has kept fans in a lather of excitement, our beloved (and hardworking) Star Wars characters are clearly due for some downtime.

In the future, their playground will surely be Disneyland Resort’s 14-acre Galaxy’s Edge, a high-profile project that promises to be an immersive intergalactic experience when it opens in 2019. In the meantime, though, these characters will have to look elsewhere. So we played travel agent for some of the series’ most popular intergalactic characters. Here are the fabulous, only-in-California vacations that will suit their individual needs—trips that would help anyone recharge for life’s battles (or other sequels) that may lie ahead.

Darth Vader: Death Valley

Lord Vader will no doubt be drawn to this national park based on its name alone—but taking nature walks to look for birds and wildflowers will also help the former Anakin reconnect with his good side. Since Death Valley is the nation’s largest national park with “Dark Sky” designation (i.e. exceptional stargazing), Vader can spend his evenings looking for new galaxies to conquer—ahem, explore.

Luke Skywalker: San Diego

He’s always had a surfer’s earnest attitude (and the hair), so this desert boy is overdue to catch some waves—and using the Force will help minimize wipeouts. He’ll sample the beaches from San Diego’s Coronado up to San Onofre, in Orange County, but he’ll especially love Swami’s Beach in Encinitas, a great break point named for the meditation-friendly ashram next door.

Yoda: Mammoth Lakes

California may not be known for its swamps, where the diminutive Jedi master would feel at home. But he'll love mellow Mammoth Lakes for its natural hot springs—like Benton, Travertine, and Keough—where he can work out some kinks. No doubt, he’ll also want to visit nearby Mono Lake: The shallow, super-salty lake was once an inland sea, and is today surrounded by limestone “tufa” towers. It’s ancient and a little offbeat, just like Yoda.

Princess Leia and Han Solo: Santa Barbara

Thinking about this intergalactic couple is now bittersweet—but in better times, Han Solo and Princess/General Leia could have found some peaceful alone time in the American Riviera. The romantic city of Santa Barbara is laid-back enough for him and luxurious enough (but nicely under-the-radar) for her. He might rent a plane to check out the coastline from the air, then do some old-school sightseeing in a top-down convertible car. She could day-trip into the Santa Ynez Valley wine country, bringing back bottles of Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, and they would happily bicker over which ones they like best.

Finn: Beverly Hills

This career Stormtrooper underwent a major transformation in The Force Awakens (Spoiler Alert!), joining the Resistance. But hey, stepping into the light is not just about changing your insides. What better place to finish his dramatic makeover than Beverly Hills? Once he’s shed that after–Labor Day white armor, he’ll be ready for some spa treatments to invigorate his skin and helmet hair, followed by a serious wardrobe upgrade on Rodeo Drive.

Rey: Palm Springs region

This plucky gal has honed her skills as a junk scavenger in the desert of Jakku—and she’s ready to go upscale with her love of upcycling. The Palm Springs area will be an aesthetic treat for her, thanks to its time capsule of midcentury modern architecture and its dozens of antique and vintage shops. (Plus, she can choose her favorite way to chill—from rock climbing in nearby Joshua Tree National Park to sipping a cocktail poolside at a resort hotel.)

C-3PO: San Francisco Bay Area

This persnickety multi-linguist has always been both a geek and a bit of a snob, so the Bay Area is his spiritual mother ship. He’ll fill his days in the city with pour-over coffees and artisanal cuisine in San Francisco, head north over the Golden Gate Bridge for wine tasting in Napa Valley, then venture south to the Silicon Valley, gushing over the microprocessors at Santa Clara’s Intel Museum or driving slowly past the garage in Los Altos where Steve Jobs started Apple.

R2-D2: Hollywood

While some celebs might don a privacy-seeking baseball cap and shades for their time off, not so this mega-star droid. He’s ready to see and be seen, and where better to do that than Los Angeles? He can nosh at The Musso & Frank Grill or Pink’s Hot Dogs, then head over to the Hollywood Walk of Fame to take a selfie by his own wheel prints, and maybe throw shade at the Darth Vader impersonator in front of the Hollywood & Highland Center.

Obi Wan Kenobi: Big Sur

The Jedi Master has always embraced his solitude, so he’ll take the awe-inspiring drive along State Highway 1. Along the redwood-cloaked cliffs of Big Sur he can take meditation and yoga workshops at Esalen Institute, or find his own Zen-perfect space overlooking McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. These idyllic spots, cloaked by redwoods and fog, are perfect for the hoodie-wearing wise man.

Chewbacca: the Bigfoot Scenic Byway

The giant Wookiee, who has always stood in the shadow of Han, may be hungry to reconnect with some peers—or at least see Sasquatch, who has reportedly been spotted in Northern California. Chewie will road-trip on the Redwood Coast, along Route 96—including the so-called Bigfoot Scenic Byway—where he’ll find Yeti statues, murals, and no shortage of Sasquatch-y souvenirs, especially in the towns of Willow Creek and Happy Camp.

BB-8: Sacramento

This round-bottomed droid may be the cute new kid in town, but he knows how to give props to his machine elders—and not just R2-D2. He’ll head to the state capital to see Sacramento’s historic iron horses at the California State Railroad Museum, and wax nostalgic for the early days of transcontinental rail travel. Assuming he is of age, he might also explore one part of Sactown’s 21st-century personality, found in its thriving craft brewery scene.

The Ewoks: Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park

The cuddly creatures from Return of the Jedi have felt both the agony and ecstasy of celebrity, and there’s no place like home to get centered again. In this case, the little guys should head to this state park in Humboldt County, whose Cheatham Grove provided the setting for the scooter chase on the planet of Endor. Like the Ewoks themselves, the state park is compact but full of life: just one square mile, but with fives miles’ worth of hiking trails.

Jar Jar Binks: Anaheim

The much-maligned Gungan politico has not always shown grace under pressure—but maybe he just needs more positive reinforcement. That’s why he’ll go to the Happiest Place on Earth, spending plenty of time at Disneyland Resort, including Disney California Adventure, in Anaheim. A judicious use of FASTPASSES—and some well-placed Minnie ears—will help him keep a low profile among his possible critics. Then he can hang with the ultracool crowd to nosh at nearby Anaheim Packing House.

Kylo Ren: Lava Beds National Monument

Since this angry young man was responsible for his father’s demise in The Force Awakens, he might be tempted to go underground for a while—and he’s in luck. The Shasta Cascade’s Lava Beds National Monument is home to 700 caves, shaped when volcanic lava cooled into eerie tubes; the caves provided hideouts during the Modoc War of 1872-3 and offer cool, secluded exploring today. 

Kylo Ren could extend his vacation by exploring a dozen more underground attractions in California, from the Moaning Cavern in Gold Country (deep enough to hold the Statue of Liberty) to the stalactite-filled Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park (and since it’s always about 50 degrees in this marble cavern, he can stay comfortable with his mask on). 

 –Katrina Brown Hunt