I’ve been procrastinating a bit on writing this series of blog posts, but I certainly wanted to do it! Star Wars Celebration was last month, and I still remember it fondly! Everything Star Wars for 5 days, up from 4 days during Orlando in 2017. Since a lot of exciting things happened during Celebration, I’ll split up this recap into multiple posts. Probably 3 or 4 posts!
Day 0 (Pre-Convention)
My journey to Celebration started, well, at home! I got my badge near the end of March and promptly activated it. I got chosen by the Light Side. That was for a mini-game (Use the Force) at Celebration run by Amazon, where you had to scan QR codes hidden at certain key areas in the convention center.
I also signed up for the panel lotteries with my roommate, and we won all 4. I know, I was shocked! The list below is what we got into for the main panels. Celebration stage was the live stage, while Galaxy and Twin Suns were the streaming stages.
- Episode IX Panel – Celebration Stage
- Galaxy’s Edge Panel – Celebration Stage
- The Mandalorian – Celebration Stage
- Episode I Panel – Galaxy Stage
I live in North Alabama and Chicago is not a bad drive, maybe 8 to 9 hours (600 miles approximately). Driving seemed like a smart and cheap option for me. I fortunately had relatives that I could visit before and after, and keep my car at their place instead of paying upwards of $30 per day for parking at the hotel. Another nice thing about driving is loading up on snacks and water for the convention from home. Bought a whole lot of protein bars, vitamin water, and some Propel (gatorade). Learned that the Propel stuff, while it had a nice citrus taste, probably wasn’t helping with the amount of sodium in it. The vitamin water and protein bars were definitely good choices! In addition, other essentials I brought with me were hand sanitizer (avoid that con crud!), a poster tube (ironically didn’t use it much), and books for signing. My luggage bag of clothes was obviously filled with Star Wars shirts, and some cold weather clothing (hoodies and jackets). I brought my young Lando costume with me as well. First time I had to fold a cape LOL! I opted not to bring a laptop, figured I would be too busy (and that was correct!). I brought some cereal for breakfast at the hotel, along with a bowl. I could at least eat the cereal with coffee every morning before heading to the convention. I am a creature of habit and like to maintain a routine when it comes to meals, heh.
Anyways, onto actually leaving for Celebration… I left on Tuesday (April 9th) and it was a good day for driving. It was actually really warm (80F) on a few rest stops along the way in Tennessee and Kentucky. My mom packed me some Indian snack food for the road (paratha if you are curious). One of the rest stops was near the Kentucky and Illinois border at Metropolis, IL! Yes, named after the hometown of the one and only Superman! They do have a Superman museum but I didn’t plan on taking an extended stop. The rest area had one of those cardboard Supermans, without a head, so you could use it as a photo-op.
I arrived at my cousin’s house (recently bought, huge!) and hung out with my cousin, her husband, and their dog Biscuit! My mom and I got Biscuit a squeaky toy, and Biscuit really liked it. He wouldn’t stray far without his brand new toy. Considering I’m not a pet owner, I was pleasantly surprised the gift went well! In addition, we got a nice plate as a housewarming gift. I ate dinner out with them at a Thai restaurant and rested up after a long day of travel.
The following day, Wednesday (April 9th), I had planned on visiting my uncle and aunt (my cousin’s parents) and doing some Indian grocery shopping for my mom. Our area doesn’t have many Indian grocery options, and the sole store has a bit of a monopoly so my mom wanted me to buy certain essential dry groceries in Chicago. Good thing I brought my car! Not sure if any of you have experienced shopping in an ethnic store, but it is a bit overwhelming without someone with great knowledge of the products (like my mom or aunt). My cousin’s husband and I were stumbling along, hoping to find whatever my mom indicated on her list or sending her pictures of items to make sure it was what she wanted. That took about 2 hours between waiting for confirmation, searching for items, and talking to the owner. At this point, it was past 2 PM and we still had not visited my aunt and uncle, so we decided to drive there and get something to eat for a late lunch! My uncle has had health troubles and is in a wheelchair mostly these days. It was a little hard seeing him in that condition, but I believe he was happy to see me there. My dad and my uncle were close back in India where they grew up. I spent most of the remainder of the day with my relatives. My cousin joined us for dinner after a few appointments / surgeries (she’s a doctor). It was nice to have some home-cooked Indian food before eating out for the remainder of the trip, lol!
It was staring to get late, and I still had not checked into the hotel. My relatives would have been willing to drop me off, but it is definitely out of their way. My cousin’s husband would have to drive about 40 minutes to the city and 1 hour back home. I told them I’d check out Lyft and see what the pricing was. It was about $25 (+ tip) for a drive directly to my hotel. Not bad at all! Lyft conveniently gave me 50% off my next 10 rides (up to $6 total discount) shortly before the trip started. Not sure why, but great timing! I said my good-byes and headed off to the Hilton Chicago in downtown right off Michigan Avenue. My hotel isn’t extremely close to the convention center (1.7 miles away), but it was the best my roommate and I were able to book after trying the booking service on the Celebration website. I believe the room rate was $250 a night. The hotel is a bit of a historic landmark for Chicago and had been featured in a few movies (Home Alone 3, The Fugitive). My roommate wasn’t coming in until late Thursday since his girlfriend couldn’t get Wednesday off, so I had the double bed room all to myself on the night before!
So, after writing this, I realized how long this post was getting, and we weren’t even at Celebration yet! I’ll continue my Celebration journey with the actual convention’s first day in my next post!