1. Travel

Want to stay in a Star Wars-themed house? Florida has it covered.

Some of the vacation rentals in the Solara and Reunion resort-home neighborhoods of Kissimmee feature Star Wars-themed kids’ bedrooms. [JOE BURBANK   |   Orlando Sentinel/TNS]
Some of the vacation rentals in the Solara and Reunion resort-home neighborhoods of Kissimmee feature Star Wars-themed kids’ bedrooms. [JOE BURBANK | Orlando Sentinel/TNS]
Published Aug. 8, 2019

KISSIMMEE — The room looks like it's straight out of the forest moon of Endor in Star Wars.

A disabled TIE fighter — the attack vehicle of choice for the Empire in the Star Wars movie series — sits in the middle of the room, doubling as a TV-viewing cubicle and bed.

A stormtrooper stands guard as well in one of the 12 bedrooms of the house on Muirfield Loop, where a night's stay runs between $1,300 and $3,000 per night, depending on the season.

As Walt Disney World barrels like a runaway tauntaun snow lizard toward its highly anticipated Aug. 29 opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, some vacation rental properties in Central Florida have been trying to capitalize with themed rooms.

"We are pushing them hard because we know there is a lot of hype around the Galaxy's Edge opening," said Sharon Harley, founder of the property management company Jeeves Florida Rental. Her group has been on social media promoting such houses.

Harley said she expects more customers to be interested in rooms decked out in Star Wars decor.

The attraction's opening could provide a big opportunity for officials with Experience Kissimmee, which oversees a fast-growing vacation rental industry.

The city has several newly built neighborhoods made up exclusively of vacation rentals. More and more, these homes are managed by businesses rather than individual homeowners.

Tourism officials say high-profile openings such as Galaxy's Edge boost the rental market.

"It's going to be great for business for everybody," Experience Kissimmee president and CEO DT Minich said. "Star Wars will be huge for us. There has been a lot of buzz and excitement around it already."

For Minich, the Star Wars opening will mark another major debut in a series of new attractions.

"The parks are going to continue to evolve," he said. "If the theme parks weren't here, we wouldn't be here."

Depending upon the time of year, number of guests and extravagance of a vacation home, they can be had for as little as $30 per night, per person.

However, mansion-style homes, which Harley said have been rented by celebrities in the past, can run into the thousands of dollars per night.

The rooms are a mix of commissioned wall paintings, commercially licensed decals of main characters and papier-mache Imperial war vehicles.

They depict scenes from the movies, with some more specific than others.

For instance, a wall painted to look like a desert with C-3PO and R2-D2 decals makes one of the rooms appear to be straight out of Return of the Jedi.

It's a way to entice vacationers to choose rental homes that expand their Star Wars experience during their visit, said Michael Terry, associate professor at University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

"It's not just, 'We are going to the theme park.' Now, it's, 'We live it from morning to night,' " Terry said.

Although some rooms are themed around other movies, whether it's Toy Story or the Disney princesses, the longevity of the Star Wars series means it will likely draw more specific interest, Terry said.

"This is not a one- or two-generation thing," he said. "It's a three-generation experience. Everybody is excited. It's not mom and dad taking kids to see Star Wars. Now it's the kids taking mom and dad to Star Wars."


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