The Four Hour Tour: Disney's Hollywood Studios

April 16, 2008, 10:40 AM · Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida [Map]

Theme Park Insider's "Four-Hour Tours" are designed to get you and your family to the top attractions in the world's top theme parks... before anyone can get tired and cranky. The attractions and restaurants selected for this tour are those in Disney's Hollywood Studios most highly rated by Theme Park Insider readers.

When to go: Up until this year, Disney's Hollywood Studios was known as the Disney-MGM Studio Theme Park. It was the third theme park to open in the Walt Disney World Resort, in 1989. All Disney World theme parks are open 365 days a year, although opening and closing times for each park varies from day-to-day. If you are traveling without kids, try to visit on a school day to avoid the largest crowds. If you need to visit during a school vacation, try at least to avoid the week between Christmas and New Year's and the Fourth of July.

If you are not staying at a Disney World hotel, avoid visiting parks on their Extra Magic Hours days, as Disney's hotel guests get into those parks early on those days, inflating wait times for visitors who arrive at the park's normal opening time.

Before you go: Buy your Walt Disney World tickets online at Disney World's website. For advice on picking the right ticket, see our guide to Disney World tickets, keeping in mind that for the Four-Hour Tour, you will *not* need the park-hopper option.

You will also need to call in advance to make lunch and dinner reservations. Disney accepts reservations, via 1-407-WDW-DINE, up to 180 90 days in advance. Times do go quickly, so call early.

When you get there: Plan to arrive at the park's front gate before the park opens in the morning, leaving yourself time to park and either walk or take a tram to the front gate. You can check the park's opening time via Disney World's website.

1. Disney's Hollywood Studios will open its new Toy Story Mania! ride in May, so if you are visiting after then, head up to Pixar Place and make that your first stop, as it is sure to be highly popular.

2. After riding Toy Story Mania!, if it is open, head back to Sunset Boulevard and get FastPasses (Disney's ride reservation tickets) for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

3. Then walk next door to Rock n' Roller Coaster and ride that.

4. Return to Tower of Terror, and if your FastPass return time has arrived, use the FastPasses return queue to skip the stand-by line. If not, go ahead and wait in the stand-by line, then use your FastPasses to ride Tower of Terror a second time, without waiting. Tower of Terror won Theme Park Insider's inaugural Best Ride in America Tournament and features a random drop sequence that makes each ride unique, making this attraction worth a second ride.

5. After Tower of Terror, walk across the park to Star Tours, for your final ride of the morning.

6. Then it's lunchtime! Double back to the Hollywood Brown Derby, in time for your lunch reservations. (We suggest making the reservations for between 12 and 1pm.)

In the evening...

Theme Park Insider readers highly recommend the Studios' night-time show, Fantasmic! You can make dinner reservations at Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano that include priority seating for Fantasmic!, which is a nice way to wrap up the day with no waiting. Call the Disney dining number above in advance and ask for the Fantasmic seating at Mama Melrose's, while you are setting your Brown Derby lunch time.

Replies (8)

April 16, 2008 at 1:17 PM · I will say that this plan was similar to how I did it the last time I went. However, I also went to the other 3 parks that day as well. So it was more a 13 hour plan. 2 in Epcot, 3 in DHS, 2 in AK, and 6 at MK.
April 16, 2008 at 1:48 PM · I have no issue with this plan. Heading straight to Toy Story Mania makes a ton of sense as it will get besieged when it first opens. Once the ride is "broken in" it will probably be a good idea to start at TOT and RnR Coaster THEN head to Toy Story as it will be a huge people mover just like Buzz Lightyear. But in its inaugural year, TSM is going to be the #1 attraction at DHS.

Because I always like to offer an alternative: the Backlot Express is a fine counter service diner for those folks wanting to save some time and money. Sitting very close to the last stop on the tour, STAR TOURS, Backlot is often overlooked and the burger fixin's bar is top notch. However, the Hollywood Brown Derby is an amazing full service restaurant. Folks may want to change into a tuxedo to fit in, as the shorts and sandaled patrons look very out of place in this ritzy restaurant.

Also, thanks for including a comment about avoiding Extra Magic Hours if you are not staying at a Disney resort. It will be a huge help to most folks.

April 16, 2008 at 2:50 PM · I'm thinking about adding an optional attraction before lunch for people visiting on less crowded days, when you can blow through the morning attractions more quickly. (I'm including sit-down, table-service lunches on most of tours, with the idea that the tours should reflect the best-of-the-best in each park. Usually, that means a table service joint.)

I'd want the optional attraction to be near or between the last listed one of the lunch location. Ideas? Indy might be tough due to the show schedule. Muppets? Great Movie Ride?

April 16, 2008 at 3:06 PM · One comment about reservations for Mama Melrose's/Fantasmic - call well in advance for reservations. We were at WDW over spring break a couple of years ago and tried to get reservations a few days in advance and they were sold out. For the busiest weeks, you may need to make reservations well in advance.
April 16, 2008 at 4:25 PM · Lights! Motors! Action! is an excellent show...worth seeing multiple times, and it is on a separate fastpass system from the rest of the attractions (I am not sure this is still true but someone who works at DHS should be able to confirm). Which means, you can hold a fastpass for Lights! while still waiting on your fastpass for something else, like Tower of Terror.

However, The Great Movie Ride is a decent choice simply because it is Disney's longest dark ride, and a huge people mover always able to handle the load. And it is air conditioned!! =)

One other note: if peeps do come back for Fantasmic (which they is an awesome show), they should set time aside to catch the Beauty and the Beast show as well. It is right next to Fantasmic and definitely as close to Broadway quality as any of the better Disney theme park shows.

April 16, 2008 at 10:58 PM · Personally, I've always considered Hollywood Studios to be a half-day park, anyway. But, that's just me.
April 16, 2008 at 11:00 PM · This Plan sounds good, except Star Tours is a waste of time until they update it, not to mention all of the other opening day attractions that are still remaining need updates or revamps as well. The Stunt show is pretty cool if everything is working, but it is probably too long for a Four Hour Tour. The Brown Derby is one of my favorites for dinner, but the lunch menu and service is lacking.

Anyway None of the WDW Theme Park Shows are close to Broadway quality! I've seen all the Disney Musicals on Broadway multiple times (Mary Poppins is my favorite, and The Little Mermaid is nothing like what you would think) and the only one that ever came close to broadway quality was Hunchback and then only when it first opened...

April 17, 2008 at 5:14 AM · Not to split hairs, but I said Beauty and the Beast was "as close to Broadway quality as any of the better Disney theme park shows." B&TB is a very short version (30 minutes tops) of the B-way musical, but the singing, costumes , and sets were all top notch. Definitely worth a look prior to seeing Fantasmic (I think the last show is generally around 5:30 PM).

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