Considering spending a day at Disney Hollywood Studios? With all the recent closures you may want to think again! Although there are definitely some wonderful restaurants, expanding Star wars presence, and don’t miss rides, you will NOT need a full day here until the park as finished it’s overhauling to add Star Wars Land (exact name pending) and Toy Story Land. Keep reading for the Hollywood Studios tips and Disney World Planning details you need to make the most of your time here.
Post updated & revised on January 2019.
Disneys Hollywood Studios Tips
This fun park is geared towards feeling like you stepped on the set of a movie; it is also home to the Pixar characters (Cars, Toy Story, The Incredibles, Up, etc.)
This park has been one of my favorites for years, but with the recent closures and reduced character interactions this park has dwindled down to my 4th favorite. This will be the home of Star Wars Land (14 acres; details pending) and newly opened Toy Story Land so it will be awesome by the end of 2019. For now, I honestly only recommend a 1/2 day for those that have a week or less at Disney World. (preferably the second half so you don’t miss Fantasmic! as outlined here)
If you would like a relaxed full day (with time to slow down, enjoy sit down restaurants, and even head back to enjoy your resort pool ….. here is what I recommend:
What Hollywood Studios Fastpass+ to Get
First, learn about Disney Fastpass+. Second, make sure you reserve them up to 60 days in advance for hotel guests and 30 days in advance for all other ticket holders. Finally, here are our recommended Hollywood Studios Fastpass Selections in order of best first:
Slinky Dog Dash – this is the newest ride open at Disney World so the lines are still heavy for this super cute, whimsical roller coaster
Alien Swirling Saucers – another new ride in the newly opened Toy Story Land; think tea cups a la Alien
Toy Story Mania – this always popular attraction is perfect for everyone. You will done your 3D glasses and shoot targets of flying plates, ring toss, and bullseyes in an attempt to get more points than other guests
Fantasmic – this amazing evening show is my favorite at Disney World. It combines characters, boats, projected images, pyrotechnics, and fireworks too! I suggest you get free ticket with a dining package. It is a large venue so most everyone who goes will get in, but the better seats go to Fastpass+ and Dinning package guests.
Eating at Hollywood Studios
First things first, if you haven’t already made your dining reservations and you are less than 180 days before you trip – make your dining reservations ASAP! Guest favorite restaurants fill up quickly.
At Hollywood Studios I recommend eating . . . .
Sci Fi Diner– amazingly themed table service meal; need reservations (see review)
50s Prime Time Cafe – well themed table service meal; need reservations (see review)
Mama Melrose – table service meal; need reservations (see review)
Hollywood & Vine – this buffet restaurant has basic all you can eat food. The reason to pick this place is the characters in unique themed costumes and as part of a Fantasmic Dining Pacakge
Toy Story Pizza Planet currently closed; reopening as a muppets themed pizza restaurant
Backlot Express – lots of indoor seating, free drink refills, star wars themed menu items
Note: Since Disney updated where Fantasmic Diner Package Guests enter and streamlined the main line, I no longer feel that a Fantasmic Diner Package is necessary or a “great deal”.
Planning Your Day at Hollywood Studios
Note: One of my top 2 favorite shows is at this park – Fantasmic. It does not run every night so make sure you pick a day to come where it will be showing!
Plan to arrive at the park at least 30 minutes before it opens.
Like all the Disney parks, you will need to go through security before entering.
(Hint: If you are a Disney Resort guest, try to do this park when you get morning or evening magic hours!)
Toy Story Land
With the opening of this new land you will want to get here first off to make sure you get on the newest attractions. Start off on Alien Spin and then use your (hopefully) Fastpass for Slinky Dog coaster ride. Soak in the charm of this area and then head off to another Toy Story land favorite . . ..
Toy Story Mania is an incredibly popular ride, and for good reason! Everyone can ride this interactive and playful ride. After walking through the cutest line filled with larger than life toys, you will get in a car, put on your 3D glasses, and get ready to use your shooter/canon. As you go through there are different screens where you shoot rings, darts, pies, etc. But it is better than 3D because if you hit a balloon air will blow at you, etc. This is SUPER fun for kids and adults of all ages!
Now that a new track has been added this ride has lower wait times! Expect 30-60 minutes wait time during the day.
Morning Priorities at Hollywood Studios
Jedi Training Academy
If your child would like to participate in the Jedi Training Academy, send at least one adult & that child to go get a ticket (currently to the left of Indian Jones Stunt Show). It is a first come first serve kind of thing that will fill up within 1-2 hours after the park opens!
The sensational six (Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto) are all available under the iconic hat during the first couple hours of the morning only. They will be wearing their “hollywood” clothes.
Buzz and Woody have a wonderful meet and greet opposite of the Toy Story Mania ride. The line just gets longer throughout the day so if this is a priority, go ahead and hop in. You will probably wait up to an hour, but there are fun photo ops along the way. You may also run into the Green Army Men patrolling in front of the Toy Story Mania ride. All three of these characters either sign or stamp their autograph.
Meet Klyo Ren and Chewbacca in Star Wars Launch Bay
Meet Olaf in his summer setting (next to Path of the Jedi)
Meet Sorcerer Mickey in his fantastically themed area
Meet Disney Junior characters like Sophia the First, Jake from the Neverland Pirates, Pluto, and Doc McStuffins, next to the Disney Junior show.
Filling up the Rest of Your Day at Hollywood Studios
Once you’ve seen the Toy Story Mania Ride and done any morning priority items for your family, it’s time to plan the rest of your day.
If your group is made up of older children & thrill seekers you will want to hit the following attractions (suggested order based on crowds & location):
The Hollywood Tower Hotel
Rock ‘n Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith (not a favorite with our family because it is so loud and jerky)
Star Wars Launch Bay (Path of the Jedi movie, chance to meet Kylo-Ren and Chewbacca, “museum” like exhibit)
The Indiana Jones Stunt Show
Lights, Motors, Action Stunt Show closing April 2, 2016
The Great Movie Ride closed to make room for a new Mickey Mouse ride
Beauty and the Beast
If your group is made up of families with children 8 and under, you will want to prioritize the following attractions:
Beauty and the Beast
The Voyage of the Little Mermaid (okay show; great indoor spot for a break)
Disney Junior Live (great for toddler/preschool crowd)
Meet Mike & Sully from Monsters Inc closing April 2, 2016
Honey I Shrunk the Kids Play Area closing April 2, 2016
Muppets in 3D
Star Tours (you must be 40″ tall to ride)
The Hollywood Tower of Terror (must be 40″ tall to ride)
All of Hollywood Studios Rides & Shows at a Glance
Star Tours: The Adventure Continues
Star Tours is especially fun if you have a Star Wars fan in your home, but it is great either way. You will need to be 40” tall to ride – this is one of my kiddos favorite rides! You go through a super fun themed line then wait for your shuttle to be ready. You board your (simulator) aircraft. You watch a cute safety video with Chewbacca and other Star Wars Characters as if you are on an aircraft.
This ride has been updated in 2016 to include clips from The Forse Awakens including BB8 and Fin as well as the 54 different possible outcomes to the ride. Ride it again; chances are it will be different! Isn’t that cool!! One of our favorites has Chewbacca jumping on the front of our craft – it was AWESOME!!
Hint: We usually get to this ride just before lunch and then again in the later afternoon or evening.
Tower of Terror
The theming on the Tower of Terror is INCREDIBLE! You will enter an old hotel that is all dusty as it is no longer open. Then you will watch a short movie from the Twilight Zone (it is cheesy so my son wasn’t scared – he thought the big eye was hilarious!) where you learn more about the hotel’s past. You will then head to the ‘basement’ where you will get on the ‘only working elevators’ – the freight elevators. In this ride you will go up and see different floors with the ghosts of the family that vanished in the elevator long ago. Your car will actually move forward through a floor (super cool how they made that work!) It is all dark. Then comes the thrilling part – as you face outwards so you can see the Hollywood Studios park (and how high up you are) your elevator will drop quickly then bounce back up & drop again. I think it is GREAT! But if someone doesn’t like the dark, slightly scary content, or the quick drop/bounce & drop – you may decide to skip this. You need to be at least 40” tall to ride and not be too frightened. My just-turned-6 year old LOVED it! He wanted to go again & I was happy to do so!! (My hubby who has a more tender stomach did not go on this)
Hint: This attraction is now linked to your magic bands! Pictures and 15 second video from your ride will be automatically uploaded onto your account!
Step into a recording studio where you see Aerosmith wrapping up a practice session The show is at the other end of town and they are going to be late; they invite you to come along and board your stretch ‘limousine’. This ride is FAST from the moment you move! FYI- It goes upside down. There are some neon signs you pass along the way as you are zipping along. You need to be 48” tall to ride (my kids were all too short to ride). I love roller coasters and enjoyed riding it once, but I don’t think I’d feel the need to ride again. Why? It is very jerky and my neck ended up being sore afterwards. It is also VERY loud (Aerosmith music) with 125 speaker, 24 sub-woofer, 32,000 watt, onboard audio system. So although I love the speed, I could pass on the noisy neck pain. (Do I sound older than I am or what?!)
Star Wars Jedi Academy
The Star Wars Jedi Academy is a show that runs about a dozen times throughout the day on the stage in front of Star Tours. Basically a Jedi will train a group of young Padawans (ages 4-12) when they are interrupted by Darth Vadar himself. Each participant will get a chance to dual with Darth Vadar or Darth Maul himself.
I really only recommend it if your kid is in the show (which you will need to get the free tickets within the first couple hours of the park opening if you want to participate!). For families with kids in the show it is AWESOME and the experience of a lifetime! But unless your kid is up there, you may walk by & watch for 5 minutes and be done.
Note: if your child is participating there will be a Disney Photographer who will take pictures and give you a number to claim the images to add to your Memory Maker if you like – he took some cool pictures. Plus then you know you can focus on getting a video of the memorable event
Meeting Characters inside The Magic of Disney Animation (closed)
Looking for more autograph & photo ops? Go inside The Magic of Disney Animation building. There are always a variety of rotating characters here. There are usually 5 characters at any one time, and by the time you get through them you may be able to get in a line to see the new ones. Here are some characters we’ve seen here in the past: Captain Hook, Geppetto, Pinochio, Mr & Mrs. Incredible, Sorcerer Mickey (we call him Magic Mickey), Meeko, Frozone, and characters from Winnie the Pooh.
This AMAZING character interaction is now a thing of the past. You can see random characters by Tower of Terror, but there is no schedule.
Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage
The Beauty and the Beast show (which is right next to Fantasmic) retells this popular story in the most spectacular 25 minute live show! It is filled with amazingly talented vocalists and stunning costumes. This is really good show – don’t miss it!
Hint: Try to do this at the beginning or end of the day as it is in a covered outdoor theater that gets warm!
Voyage of the Little Mermaid
This show runs continuously throughout the day so no need to run here right away. The show has lost some of it’s luster, but it is still a great chance to sit down in some air conditioning and enjoy a short retelling of The Little Mermaid. Kids might be frightened by the huge Urusla, but will love the special effects (bubbles filling the auditorium) and live acting & singing. The show lasts about 15 minutes.
Indiana Jones Stunt Show
This show is in a covered, outdoor auditorium so it gets hot towards midday (although a few fans do a nominal job at keeping the air moving). This is really fun look at how movies do stunts. They run through various scenes in this 30 minutes show. I still remember seeing this as a kid! Kids 8 and up will enjoy it, younger children may be frightened by the special effects and slower pace of the show.
Disney Junior Live on Stage
This show is aimed at the preschool crowd. If your kids watch Disney Channel shows like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Handy Manny, and more they will be delighted to see them come to life. There is 1 or 2 Disney actors that interact with the 3 foot tall puppet characters that pop out of the floor (the characters look bigger when you are sitting on the floor). It was cute & okay to see once, unless you have a HUGE fan you may want to skip this. as this show has a LONG line usually.
Note: You will sit on the floor, but there are a couple benches at the back of the room for grandparents or people with mobility issues.
Lights, Motors, Action Stunt Show (show closing 4/2/16)
This 33 minute action packed stunt show is almost a thing of the past to make room for the massive 14 acre Star Wars Land. If you like lots of action, loud noises, cars zooming around, doing jumps, and exploding, plus a surprise visit from Lightening McQueen than this show is sure to be a hit. It is outdoors, but you will get to sit and if you time it right can get in some shade.
The Great Movie Ride closed to make way for new Mickey Ride
This ride is Disney’s tribute to great movies over many, many decades. You will begin by entering a replica of Hollywood’s historic Grauman’s Chinese Theater. As you weave through the line you will see costumes from various movies. Then while you wait you will watch clips from classic movies .When it is your turn you board large vehicle with your guide. (There are 2 slightly different rides you may take – either with live acting with gangsters or in the wild west.) You will go through scenes from some classic movies like Wizard of Oz, Singing in the Rain, Alien, Tarzan, Radars of the Lost Ark, and more. When you get to the 1930s gangster area there will be a shoot out with live actors popping out of the scene and your guide will pop out to interact with them (my preschoolers were a little startled, but okay sitting on Mommy or Daddy’s lap). This is a fun look back if you like movies and will take about 20 minutes (assuming there is a minimal line).
Note: Although there is no age/height requirement, some of the movie clips, movies represented, and the live actor segment of the ride may be too scary for younger children.
Honey I Shrunk the Kids Play Area (closing 4/2/16)
My kids are so sad to see this fun, larger than life play area. But out with the old and in with the new (Star Wars Land). The will love sliding down a blade of grass or climbing up the giant ant. It is a LOT of fun, but it can be hard to keep track of the kids as the pathways interconnect. So make sure you keep a close eye on them.
Muppets Vision in 3D
Whether you like the Muppets or not, you will enjoy this silly, fun 12 minute show. The show is in 3D with special effects that will fill the theatre. Your kids will not be frightened as they may be in other 3D shows.
The Magic of Disney Animation (closed)
This 20 minute video will show you how Disney brings their characters to life. If you are looking for a way to get out of the heat, this may be a good option for you. I would say it is best for older children who have an interest.
One Man’s Dream
This is a self guided tour through memorabilia helping you to learn more about the man who started the happiest place on earth – Walt Disney! The grandparents enjoyed browsing around and said they’d gladly go back. I never really wanted to spend the time and though my kids were too young to appreciate it. We will plan to do this when our oldest hits mid elementary.
Fantasmic! is one of my top two shows – DON”T MISS it!! It doesn’t play every night so plan carefully! Some nights it plays at 7pm and 9pm, others it only plays once. You will want to line up 45-60 minutes early to get in. It is a huge open air amphitheater with lots of seating. The middle towards the lower third might be ideal, but there really is no bad seat.In the show Magic Mickey fights off the Villains (so there are parts that can be scary for toddlers or preschoolers). You will see fire tricks, water tricks, images in the water, fireworks-ish, Villains, and Princesses riding by on boats in the water – this show has EVERYTHING!! It lasts 25 minutes .
Hint: You are welcome to bring snacks or drinks into Fantasmic, so feel free to grab something to keep your kids entertained while you wait for the show to start!
Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular
Star Wars fans young and old will delight in this new fireworks show featuring music from the new Star Wars movie The Force Awakens.
CLOSED (September 2014) – The American Idol Experience
I’ve never even been tempted to do this. I LOVE to sing, but with the auditions and then if you get picked I feel like it would just eat up a bunch of your time. But if singing is your dream you may want to try. I’ve heard that if you actually make it to the finals you get a special pass that allows you to get on attractions with little to no wait.
CLOSED (September 2014) Backlot Tour
This is an interesting ride/attraction. You will start by standing in three rows to see how they do a stunt scene in the water. There will be a couple folks picked to participate: think missals that make water spray and fire from explosion. My kiddos were all okay, but ready to move on. Then you will go through an old warehouse with lots of props from movies (that was pretty cool) and board your tram. The tram will take you on a tour of the backlot – you will see the mickey water tour, costume department, see old planes & props, and hear about the Lights, Motor, Action Stunt Show. This 35 minute attraction is interesting & fits in with Hollywood Studios well. We try to do it every visit, but it is not one of my top attractions.
CLOSED – Pixar Pals Parade
Don’t miss the 3:45 (check for current times) Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun Parade. This is the only park that features all your favorite Pixar friends from Toys Story, A Bug’s Life, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Monsteres Inc, and Up.
Star Wars Weekends
If you coming during the super fun (but VERY busy) Star Wars Weekends, don’t plan on having time to see many ‘normal’ shows. Your time will be spent meeting unique characters, parades, and waiting in line!! We waited in line 2 hours to meet Chewbacca!
If you are a Star Wars fan this is a lot of fun – you will find characters all over the park and just strolling around. There are stormtroopers that guard the entrance to Hollywood Studios when you arrive – it’s a hoot! The Star Wars Disney friends can now only be seen as part of the Star Wars Dining and it fills up very quickly.
Would I do it again? Jury is still out – it was VERY cool! But it was unbelievably crowded and if you want to see any of the “regular” rides and shows at Studios, you need to allow 2 days.
*Please visit Disney’s website for any updates, changes, and current ride closures/refurbishments.
More AMAZING Tips for your Next Disney World Vacation
Beth Gorden is the creative multi-tasking creator of 123 Homeschool 4 Me. As a busy homeschooling mother of six, she strives to create hands-on learning activities and worksheets that kids will love to make learning FUN! Beth is also the creator of www.kindergartenworksheetsandgames.com where she shares Kindergarten spedicif worksheets,& educational ideas.