Six Real-Life Places To Visit For The Full Endor Experience

When Return of the Jedi was released in 1983, there were two divergent, yet equally powerful reactions to the scenes on the forest moon of Endor:

1. What in the good goddamn are those teddy bear things and why are they ruining this movie?

2. Those teddy bear things are amazing! I want one! So cuddly!

In fact, besides “is Prince any good?” there’s no greater question to mark the chasm of generational divide than “are the Ewoks fuzzy Jar Jars or the best part of the best Star Wars movie?” But in all the love and hatred of the Ewoks, the actual planet they’re yub-nubbing on is largely overlooked. Because of all the planets in the Star Wars universe, there are few places more beautiful than Endor.

Sure, there’s the occasional giant spider, and homicidal Care Bear to contend with, but the lush forests and blue skies almost make you forget about the wartime atrocities of the Ewoks. And while you can’t actually travel to Endor (because of reality, and giant spiders), here are six real-life places you can visit to experience the land of tall trees, space bears, and storm trooper mass grave sites:

Redwood National Park in Northern California was one of the primary filming locations George Lucas chose for Endor, and considering how majestic this place is, it may have been the last unquestionably good decision of his career.

The World Heritage site is open year round, and though regulated, it is possible to camp in the back country. For those who prefer their nature experiences without ticks and al fresco bowel movements, you can stay at the Carter House, an 1880s mansion converted into a hotel, in nearby Eureka.

If you didn’t get your “enormous goddamn tree” fix in Redwood National Park, then you can head south to Calaveras Big Trees State Park near Arnold, California. Calaveras, as you may have guessed, has quite a few big trees. These giant sequoias are definitely massive enough to support an Ewok village worth of elevated huts like in the movie — but sadly there’s not a single tree house in the park’s almost 6,500 acres due to environmental protections. Which is probably a good thing because, back in the day, finding new and creative ways to destroy these trees was as much a gentlemanly pastime as growing jaunty sideburns and dying of syphilis.

When you’re done exploring the park, drive to nearby Sarafina’s for quite possibly the best dish of intra-forest pasta you will ever consume.

If you’re a traveler who can’t accept an Endor experience without sleeping in a tree like an Ewok, then you can book a stay at the Tree House Swallowtail Magic Grove in Petaluma, California. The lodging even has a complimentary breakfast (which is good) and in-tree plumbing (which is even better).

Of course, the Ewoks only took to living in the trees because they are furry appetizers for the rest of the nightmare creatures on Endor, but you’re in wine country, so the most you have to fear is the embarrassment of getting chardonnay sick in a tasting room.

If Ewoks existed in the real world, they would undoubtedly spark a black market exotic pet trade that would end in face maulings and Oprah segments, because, and lest we forget, Ewoks are bloodthirsty monsters.

But because you can’t snuggle an Ewok (and you really shouldn’t even if you could), then do the next best thing by visiting the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China, where you can hold a baby panda (if you have the cash). Because after all, what are panda bears but the docile, morbidly obese Ewoks of nature? Unlike Ewoks, the pandas probably won’t even rip your face off. Unless, of course, they decide they’d like to (because mother nature is stone cold sometimes). Though considering the low birth rates of panda bears, they could probably stand to borrow a bit of the unrestrained libido of their intergalactic cousins:

So far, the Endor travel experience has involved a lot of looking at trees, sleeping in trees, and paying off Chinese conservationists to spoon panda bears — but some people want a bit more excitement in their travel adventures.

So, if you want the full Endor experience, then strap on your sturdiest helmet and recreate the speeder bike chase from Return of the Jedi on an ATV tour through a tropical rainforest with Estigo Tours in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Granted, Endor is clearly a coastal forest, so besides being chock full of trees, other green things, and terrifying wildlife, there isn’t much in common between the jungles of Jalisco and the forest moon.

But we’re talking about recreating the feel of the heart-pounding speeder bike chase, and as anyone who has driven in Mexico can attest, a trip to buy a gallon of milk and lottery scratches at the Mega can be a pantalones-dampening experience.

Now imagine the thrill of doing that in a vehicle that is already stupidly unsafe at any speed.

As exciting as tempting compound fractures on an ATV might be, it still doesn’t quite capture the primal thrill of combat from the objectively awesome, objectively ridiculous battle of Endor.

But because the actual battle of Endor would be much less “family friendly fun” and a whole lot more “war koalas noisily devouring fascist clones,” you’ll have to simulate the carnage at the Ewok Invasion paintball course at the Bawtry Paintball & Laser Fields in Bawtry Forest, England.

Instead of keeping the “evil soldiers vs. teddy bears” storyline from the movie, the park assigns players to either be Ewoks infected with the rage virus from 28 Days Later, or a team of unnamed heroes tasked with eradicating the species for the good of the galaxy.

Which, to be fair, is a far more compelling story than 98 percent of the extended Star Wars canon.

Coming Soon: The Star Wars Travel Guide to Hoth!