Plan your day at Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World

June 3, 2013, 11:23 AM · Opened in 1989 as Disney-MGM Studios, Disney's Hollywood Studios was the Walt Disney World Resort's third theme park. Intended as a working movie and television production studio to counter the Universal Studios Florida park that would open the next year, Disney's studio park today just uses its studio setting as a thematic device. Disney abandoned live production in the park years ago.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

But not using the park for filming means more space available for rides and shows. Today, Disney's Hollywood Studios includes some of the most popular attractions at the Walt Disney World Resort, making early arrival and advance planning a must to get the most value from your day at the park.

What to do before you go

Please see our guide to the Magic Kingdom for advice on booking hotels and buying tickets to the Walt Disney World Resort and its four theme parks. Disney's Hollywood Studios also offers two of the resort's more popular tale service restaurants: The Hollywood Brown Derby, a recreation of a classic "old Hollywood" restaurant, and Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant, where you dine in booths made to look like convertible cars while watching cheesy old sci-fi movies on a drive-in theater screen on one wall of the restaurant. Call +1-407-WDW-DINE or visit Disney World's website to book, up to six months in advance of your visit, to ensure you get a table at the time you want.

Hollywood Brown Derby

As with all other Disney World theme parks, avoid visiting Disney's Hollywood Studios on days when the park is hosting Extra Magic Hours early admission for Disney hotel guests, unless you're one of those guests. Check Disney's parks hours online to find those days.

If you want to stay for the Fantasmic! show at the end of the park day, you can save yourself some time holding a seat for the show by reserving space in a VIP seating section. To do that, book a Fantasmic! Dinner Package in advance, at one of four participating restaurants in the park. Note that you must book this specific dining package to get the Fantasmic! seating -- just eating dinner at one of the four restaurants won't get you those seats.

Special events at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Disney's Hollywood Studios hosts the wildly popular Star Wars Weekends in late spring each year, drawing tens of thousands of Star Wars fans to the park on those days. In November and December, the park also hosts The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, a massive holiday lights display that draws huge crowds to the park in the evenings. Plan accordingly, either to catch these events or to steer clear and visit at a less crowded time, if you're not interested in them.

What to do when you get to Disney's Hollywood Studios

Parking prices have risen to $15 a day at the Walt Disney World Resort, but Disney's Hollywood Studios is accessible via motor boat or walking paths from the Disney's Boardwalk and Epcot resorts area, as well as by driving or taking a bus from elsewhere in the resort. Remember that once you pay to park at a Disney World theme park, your parking ticket is good for parking at all other WDW theme parks on that day, at no additional charge. Just so your ticket to the parking toll booth attendant.

Getting to this park before it opens in the morning is essential in avoiding long waits for its top rides. The toughest attraction wait in all of Walt Disney World is at Disney's Hollywood Studios, for Toy Story Midway Mania, for which all Fastpass ride reservation times for the day often are distributed before noon. You can find a clone of this ride at Disney California Adventure, with a much shorter wait. If you've been to California Adventure or planning a trip, we'd recommend riding Toy Story there, and using your time at Hollywood Studios on other attractions. But if you aren't going to California anytime soon, and you must ride Toy Story here, make it your first stop of the day. If the standby wait is under 20 minutes, go ahead and ride now. If not, get a Fastpass return time for later in the day.

Toy Story Midway Mania

After Toy Story, head over to Rock n' Roller Coaster to pick up a Fastpass for that ride, if you didn't get one for Toy Story. If you did, and the standby wait for Rock n' Roller Coaster is under 30 minutes, ride it now. Otherwise, note which time you're able to get another Fastpass (it's noted on the bottom of your Fastpass ticket), and plan to come back to Rock n' Roller Coaster then to get that Fastpass. Next, go next door to ride the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Remember that you must use Fastpasses during their specific time window now. You can't simply choose to return at any time later in the day, after your return window opens.

The next three Hollywood Studios attractions highly recommended by Theme Park Insider readers are Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, the Lights! Motors! Action! auto stunt show and Walt Disney: One Man's Dream. The Walt Disney show is a walk-through exhibition followed by a short movie about Walt's life, and rarely attracts a wait. Enjoy it at your convenience later in the day. Check the day's show schedule for auto stunt show times and plan to arrive 20-30 minutes early to get in line for seats.

That leaves Star Tours, for which you should get a Fastpass time once you've eligible to get another one after collecting your previous Fastpasses. (Of course, if you show up at an attraction to get a Fastpass and find a standby wait of under 20 minutes, just go ahead and get in the standby line to ride now. Or, get the Fastpass first and bank it for a re-ride later in the day!)

Theme Park Insider readers prefer the original version of Fantasmic!, which plays at Disneyland in Anaheim, over the Disney's Hollywood Studios version. But if you'd like to see this version of the show, plan to arrive at least one hour before show time to claim a seat (two hours or more during the summer or holiday seasons), if you've not booked the dining package described above.

If you're looking for a free souvenir and a unique hands-on experience, visit the Animation Academy in the park's Magic of Disney Animation pavilion, to learn how to draw a Disney character, that you can take home with you.

Getting Goofy at the Animation Academy

Visit Theme Park Insider's Disney's Hollywood Studios page for a list of other attractions in the park, which you can enjoy at your discretion during the rest of your day. If you get Toy Story, Rock n' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror out of the way early in the day, seeing everything else worth seeing in the park shouldn't be a problem, nor should it require stressful down-to-the-minute planning. Just keep in mind the day's show schedule if you'd like to see the Indiana Jones, Beauty and the Beast or auto stunt shows.

Where to eat

The park's counter service options are pretty ho-hum and indistinguishable from one another -- mostly predictable theme park burgers and pizza -- so you'll find much better meals by calling to book advance dining reservations at the park's sit-down restaurants.

What's next

Rumors are flying that Disney will close the auto stunt show and backstage tour to clear space for an east coast version of Disney California Adventure's wildly popular Cars Land. But there's no confirmation of that yet, much less a timetable.

Next week: Universal's Islands of Adventure


Replies (8)

June 3, 2013 at 12:48 PM · The Citizens of Hollywood street shows are a must see. We actually enjoy them as much as some of the attractions. There's one that we saw that was about a 20 minute sarcastic take off of the WDW maintainance crews. That was the funniest skit I've seen anywhere, TV or stage. The Citizens really add a lot to the ambiance of the park.
June 3, 2013 at 1:01 PM · Toy Story Midway Mania is the perfect example of when the FastPass application fails and outright sucks. If they'd eliminate it from this ride the wait time would even out at about 45 minutes (reasonable) versus the usual 75-90 minutes (unreasonable) stand-by line.

The capacity for Midway Mania is too low to properly handle FastPass and as a result too few are distributed to meet demand. Only the few who arrive before park opening and race to get one first receive one of any value. (If you're picking up a FastPass at 11:00 am and it is not valid until 8:00 pm it's not very helpful.)

I think the one flaw in the advice in this article is that if the line for Midway Mania is 45 minutes or less you should ride it. Don't get greedy looking for 20 minutes or less. This park has a severe shortage of quality attractions and you'll have plenty of time to ride the other rides even with a 45 minute wait.

June 3, 2013 at 1:06 PM · Surprised you didn't mention The Great Movie Ride.
June 3, 2013 at 1:54 PM · Hi Eric,

I changed that recommended time on TSMM about five times before I decided to go low and just see what people said. So let's throw it out there -- what's the longest a TSMM standby wait time would be before you wouldn't get in line right then?

Also, to clarify: On these pieces, I'm including the top five or so attractions in a park that get an average 10, 9 or high-8 rating from Theme Park Insider readers. GMR has a 7, so that's not one I'd include as a "must see" in the park, based on readers' average ratings. It's a nice get, but there's much in the park that readers collectively have decided is more worth seeing first.

June 3, 2013 at 2:44 PM · This park is the least interesting if you've been to Disneyland and California Adventure. Tower of Terror, Toy Story, Star Tours, Muppets, and Fantasmic can be enjoyed there. The remaining attractions are boring. The tour guides have to fake enthusiam on the tram ride, the Great Movie Ride, and the Animation exhibits. Rock N Roller Coaster is probably the main highlight. Their Tower of Terror is better than DCA's version. Try it out if you have the time.
June 3, 2013 at 3:38 PM · Interesting that they would consider leveling the Lights,Motors,Action stadium for the new Cars Land. That stadium isn't even 10 years old. Although with that and all the space needed for the cars, it is a lot of prime real estate.

The Great Movie Ride is a worthwhile attraction for anybody who hasn't been on it. It's exclusive to only this park and this high capacity ride rarely has a long wait. Special props go out to the actors on this ride, always amusing.

June 4, 2013 at 3:26 AM · Great Movie Ride is called Great for a reason!
*heads to ratings to give it a 10*
...I'm so impartial on my favourite WDW park :-)
June 4, 2013 at 8:22 AM · My Favorite WDW park and unless the other parks see some much needed changes the only one I will continue to visit. Tower of Terror and RNR are light years ahead of anything else in the park and the Sci Fi Dine in restaurant is great also enjoy the Muppets 3D and love The Great Movie Ride (though it could do with a refurb and update)The front of the park is excellent with the Back end below the Muppets being a major let down the Back Stage tour is painful. Lights Motors Action is a once off experience. Toy Story is not worth the que in any way and Star Tours is ok... I love Star Wars but the Ride is only ok and it feels very short. Like alot of people on here I would love to see the Hat gone !!!Oh and lets not forget American Idol surely the worst addition to any park in recent history (Its competition being Fear Factor at Universal)Still the park has TOT and that alone redeems everything else worth the admission alone just to experience it ;)

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