So as you already know, in 2016 we had the great privilege of being at WDW for 15 fantastic days. We had 8 days in the parks and didn’t have park hoppers. When we sat down for one of our many family meetings, we discovered that the first day we wanted to go to a park was going to also be the same day as runDisney. So instead of being able to go to Magic Kingdom on the first day, our first experience with WDW was actually Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Interestingly enough, we’ve since heard that you should do the opposite of what we did. Apparently, the park that hosts the run is the surest bet for being the least busy because people avoid it. I know, mind-blowing.
This park was a bit of a letdown because we were amped up for a “Disney experience,” and it just wasn’t quite up to the expectations for some of us. I think the reason it was such a letdown was that we were thinking it would be like Disney California Adventure. Or at least I was thinking that. My mistake was not experiencing it for what it was.
My family unit of 5 really loved Hollywood Studios… so much, in fact, that when we had the choice between a second day at Epcot or a second day at Hollywood, the kids were adamant that it needed to be Hollywood. The foodie in me was a LITTLE sad, but I do think it was the right decision overall.
When we went in 2016, Toy Story Land wasn’t open yet. That meant there wasn’t as much to do.
(If you’d like to hear all about Toy Story Land, head to this post). Plus, we are used to California Adventure which has a LOT more rides. This led to us feeling like we had “done” the park by early afternoon.
So we got there, and we hadn’t been able to score a FastPass for Toy Story Mania! (which is also in DCA) so we headed there first. We are believers in starting with an attraction for the entire party, and since we had 2 one year old’s in the group, it was really important.
One thing we mentioned in a previous post is how much better the lineups are at WDW. There was just SO much more to look at in the Toy Story lineup. It felt like you were inside of a kids board game. Lots of colours and interesting things to see. The line up for Toy Story Mania! at DCA is the WORST. You are mostly in a super cold little room (or outside in the blazing hot sun) with very little to see. So that ride was great in regards to the lineup, and the ride was basically the exact same.
The rest of this area was very sparse at the time. We got to meet Buzz Lightyear, high-fived an army man, and that was basically it. If you go now, you will have the opportunity to check out Toy Story Land, where you can ride Slinky Dog Dash (must be 38″ to ride) and Alien Swirling Saucers (must be 32″ to ride). I think this area adds a lot of dynamic to the park, which was needed.
Next, we headed over to The Great Movie Ride, which was a real highlight for our group. Unfortunately, it’s changed since we’ve been, but it will be coming back as Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. This will be the first Mickey and Minnie themed ride in all of the park’s history! We only rode this ride once on our first day, but our family got to go back on it during our second day in Hollywood Studios, and to our great surprise we realized we were in a different car sequence and got to experience a different saga than the first day. That was great!
The rest of the day was a bit of a blur, but I know that we headed to Sunset Boulevard to go on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. This is where I think we lost some of the group (as in, they weren’t as into this park). These two rides are in a corner of the park away from other rides, and there really is nothing to do for littles in this area. One of the things we love about Disneyland is if you have a height restriction ride, really close by there’s going to be something for kids under 40″. Here, there just wasn’t.
We did really enjoy these two rides (and now that Tower of Terror has changed in DCA, it will be especially nice to ride it in WDW) plus there are little changes from our original experience at DCA that made it fun. I physically crave the Guardians of the Galaxy ride in Disney California Adventure. So I was really excited to experience it here. It didn’t drop you as much as in DCA, or as far. It was also even spookier than DCA, so young riders beware. This was the first time my ride-sensitive son tried TOT and he came off (not crying at least) and said never again.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster was good, but it’s no California Screamin’ (aka Incredicoaster) IMO. Again, I love that tummy-drop feeling, which this ride did not rely on. It was more about corkscrews and spins as opposed to those high-highs and low-lows. I absolutely loved this ride. It was in the dark with neon signs and lights popping up here and there. It was so different than the Incredicoaster and I think it’s awesome. I found this one gave me a headache and just wasn’t as good as the Incredicoaster.
Grand Avenue had Muppet*Vision 3D, which is a blast and fun for the whole family. We definitely miss having this at DCA. Echo Lake has Star Tours, which is another fun one (but has a height restriction of 40″). Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens up in the fall of 2019. Overall our biggest complaint about Hollywood Studios is that it felt sparse. Adding the 2 new lands will really help this park.
And that’s it for rides, folks! See what I mean about it being less rides? Crazy.
This is where Disney’s Hollywood Studios really shines. There are SO many good shows. And the quality is so good you could easily see them twice in one trip.
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!: This was surprisingly fun for the whole family. Our 3 girls really liked it. We saw it both of the days we visited. If you’re a fan of stunt shows or Indiana Jones, this is a must see. Lots of action sequences, so if you have a super sensitive child, this may not be for you. That being said, we had 7 kids ages 1-9 and they were all fine.
When we returned last year I got chosen to volunteer in the show. Such a fun thing to do, so don’t be afraid to put your hand up! We also like to play “spot the audience plant” aka, the professional they have in with the volunteers. (Small things amuse small minds? Maybe.)
Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage: We had seen this years ago at DL, so it was fun for us to see it again and with our kids. Nice and fun musical, especially if your kids are into Belle or princesses.
Disney Junior – Live on Stage: This is really great for three and under. Characters from the Disney Junior channel show up on stage for a dance party. This guy could not get enough of Disney Junior Live! (Note: This attraction is now called Disney Junior Dance Party!)
Star Wars – A Galaxy Far, Far Away: We didn’t see this. We aren’t the biggest Star Wars family. I’m sure my husband would’ve enjoyed it, but we just didn’t get to it this trip. It happens in the Hollywood Boulevard so even if you aren’t stopping to watch it, you can still see a lot of it. From The Great Movie Ride lineup we caught the majority of the show. My son loved seeing the Stormtroopers.
Voyage of The Little Mermaid: We also saw this twice. It was interactive and really cute. It’s on every 20-30 minutes which is also really nice, so you don’t have to schedule your whole day around it.
For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration: If your kid isn’t tired of the Frozen soundtrack yet, and you’re okay with listening to everyone around you belt out the songs from Frozen, this is for you. The girls thought it was okay.
Fantasmic!: So this was really really great. In DL, you are all squished together on the streets in front of Pirates of the Caribbean… in Hollywood Studios you get to go into a huge stadium. The show is also slightly different. It was really great, definitely a highlight of the whole trip! If you haven’t seen it, make sure you do so. When my husband and I were in Florida for my 30th we only had 2 days in the parks. We had park hopper passes so we chose to do Hollywood Studios for a half day because I really wanted to see Fantasmic. No sooner were we settled in our seats when an announcement came on. A storm had rolled in so the show was canceled and they urged us to “seek shelter immediately.” Slightly disconcerting in an amphitheater made of metal.
I loved that you get to sit down and enjoy the show. You are a little farther away than in Disneyland, but the fact that you get to sit down more than makes up for it. One cool difference was they focused on a different storyline in the middle. Where DL had Peter Pan, HS had Pocahontas. They utilized their stage so perfectly and it lent itself well to the Pocahontas storyline.
Meet and Greets
Meet and Greets aren’t everyone’s thing, but there are some fun ones in this park. At Mickey and Minnie Starring in Red Carpet Dreams (which you can find in Commissary Lane) you can meet Sorcerer Mickey and Minnie too! If you’re really into Star Wars, there are several characters you can meet. The big ones for us were getting to meet the Disney Junior characters. My girls really enjoyed meeting Doc McStuffins and Sofia the First! That was definitely a highlight, and with less rides you feel like you can take the time to do this.
Eating out for two weeks can get real expensive real fast. As a general rule, we tend to pack one meal and buy one meal. The meal we buy is quick service. Occasionally we will buy a snack. We like to find places with loaded fries or chicken strips and split a couple between our family.
There are a couple of table service restaurants here. It’s recommended to get reservations well in advance. Table service restaurants in Hollywood Studios include The Hollywood Brown Derby and 50’s Prime Time Cafe. There are also a couple of places that you can get food while viewing a show, if that’s for you.
We’ve heard Woody’s Lunch Box is great! I would definitely eat there. The first day we ate at Sunset Boulevard; there was a strip of restaurants with pizza, flatbreads, and burgers… all around $10 or less.
The second day we ate at the ABC Commissary which is an air-conditioned quick service restaurant. The food wasn’t super memorable, but the actual memorabilia (scrubs from Grey’s Anatomy, that sort of thing) was.
If you’re into old Hollywood and TV shows, this is your park for souvenirs. There were lots of fun things to look at. One of the things we did was get each of the Starbucks “You are Here” mugs (one per park). You can get them in a shot glass size or the full size. While some parks were better than others, we still chose to get one from each of the parks, and that was great. I regret not getting the “You are Here” mug from this park because at the time it wasn’t my favourite, but now I find myself wishing I had proof I was there for my cupboard!
For FastPass, obviously Slinky Dog Dash is going to be the one to get since it’s new. After that, for families, get Toy Story Mania. Then, of course, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror if you are into those. And you can also get your FastPass for Fantasmic! without it impacting the rest of your FastPasses.
There were a couple of fun spots to take pictures with the PhotoPass in this park. If you get photos taken in front of the Tower of Terror, they will ask you to make scared faces and to be honest, these were my favourite photos from that day. There was also a really cool Star Wars themed photo shoot with lightsabers and everything, but I expect that will change once Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens.
If you’re into thrill rides, two of the biggest rides in all of the parks are here. If rides aren’t your jam and you like shows, this park will be great. With the addition of Toy Story Land it is definitely more family friendly, and obviously, when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge comes, it will attract that crowd. This is one of the parks that if you have park hoppers, you’re going to be glad. It’s definitely worth seeing, but you may find that there isn’t enough to do for a full day or multiple days. Park hopping this one with another of the additional parks like Disney’s Animal Kingdom might be a good plan.
For our thoughts on the other 3 parks, check out Magic Kingdom: First Impressions, Disney’s Animal Kingdom: First Impressions and Epcot: First Impressions.
Thanks for stopping by! What are your impressions of Hollywood Studios?
Have a magical day!
Erica, Heidi, Elisia, and Danielle