Hooray for Hollywood! I am unabashedly proud to admit that Disney’s Hollywood Studios is currently my FAVORITE theme park at Walt Disney World in Florida. Yes, more than the Magic Kingdom, and yes, more than Epcot.
I’ve always loved the glitz and glamor and old “Hollywood that never was and always will be” vibes of the park, but the last five years or so it’s undergone a complete transformation that’s brought (in my opinion) the best lands and attractions to Walt Disney World.
Full disclaimer…I am an AVID Star Wars fan and have a STRONG sentimental attachment to Toy Story so this park was basically made for me.
Here’s the deal though…Hollywood Studios has a HIGH concentration of truly stellar attractions which is good news because you’re going to get to do amazing things! But bad news because it means that most of the rides in the park have pretty long lines. More on that later.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Tips
So let’s get on with it…in this post I’m going to dish on what I think are the “must dos,” things you can skip, the best entertainment, character meet and greets, where to eat, etc. PLUS strategies for putting together an itinerary.
Things to Do at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
It’s all about the attractions and “doing the things” right? Well you’re going to have your hands full because there are a LOT of top notch attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and you’re going to want a plan for your day. Here’s my breakdown of what you can’t miss, what’s worth your time, extra things to do besides rides, etc…
Under No Circumstances Should You Miss These
Here’s what you need to plan your day around. You don’t want to end your day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios not having experienced these four things. Whether or not you arrive early for rope drop and knock them all out first thing in the day or you pay for Genie+ to avoid the lines or you just end up waiting in a few lines, GET ‘EM DONE!
Rise of the Resistance
This is Disney’s latest and greatest attraction and the one that pretty much everything else gets compared to. It’s a MUST DO for Star Wars fans and even if you’re not a major Star Wars fan, the scale of this ride is just unreal.
Yes, it’s a ride, but you’ll go through multiple “rooms” before you even get on the ride that make it feel like you’re moving through a Star Wars movie.
The ride itself isn’t physically very intense (it’s not a coaster or really even a thrill ride), but it’s still so impressive.
You can purchase an individual lightning lane to walk right to the front of the line or wait in the standby line (there’s no more virtual queue).
If you’re going to do the regular line, your best bet is to do it first thing in the morning BUT only if you’re there realllllllly early and you’re at the front of the pack heading back towards Galaxy’s Edge. Like…in line an hour before early entry for resort guests starts.
Some people have had good luck getting in line once towards the end of the day (maybe 30 minutes or so before the park is supposed to close) and not waiting very long, BUT Rise is notorious for having a lot of “down time” so if it’s a once in a lifetime trip or at least a MUST DO then I’d plan to get on it earlier in the day.
Slinky Dog Dash
Toy Story Land’s premier attraction really is a great coaster (big enough to be a thrill but tame enough for brave kids), but its highly visual nature (it’s not inside a building) keeps the line long all day. And let me tell you, this is not a line you want to wait in during the heat of the day if you can avoid it at all.
It’s pretty open to the elements (an hour in the Slinky Dog Dash line can make a pleasant spring day feel like one hundred degrees!) so either book with a Genie+ or plan to go first thing in the morning or in the evening.
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
I love this ride so much! It’s fun for the whole family, but it’s still really entertaining. It’s also the first (and only) attraction in Walt Disney World to FEATURE MICKEY MOUSE!
Tower of Terror
Tower of Terror was Hollywood Studios’ original big thrill ride and there’s still nothing like it. It’s partially the actual drops and partially the spooky setting, but it always scares my socks off!
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster featuring Aerosmith is the only coaster at Walt Disney World that has inversions and it is WILD. Flying past the neon of LA while Aerosmith is blasting makes for a pretty perfect coaster and the preshow and queue really add a lot to the experience. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror are right next to each other so they’re a good combo to rope drop first thing if you’re not using Genie+ (even if you are, it’s hard to squeeze everything in) plus Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster also has a single rider line if you don’t mind splitting up and riding with a stranger.
These Aren’t “A Listers” But They’re Worth Your Time
Okay, depending on what you’re interested in, who’s in your travel party, the weather, etc. these are all things you may want to add to your day or you may want to skip. I’ll give my two cents on each one:
Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
Here’s the deal, I don’t think Smuggler’s Run is really all that great of an attraction, but you get to go INSIDE the Falcon and even fly the ship which is REALLY COOL for Star Wars fans.
The wait is nowhere near as long as Rise of the Resistance and there is a single rider line if you don’t mind splitting up.
If you’re riding as a group (up to six people in one cockpit), put your favorite person as the “right pilot”. They’ll be the one who gets to make the jump to lightspeed. Punch it Chewie!
Toy Story Midway Mania
When Toy Story Midway Mania first opened, it was CRAZY POPULAR. We used to race back here in the day at park opening and wait in a line that snaked around JUST TO GET PAPER FASTPASSES.
It’s since gotten bumped down the list of the park’s most popular attractions, but it’s still always worth a spin. It has those super nostalgic Toy Story vibes and combines classic carnival games with an arcade shooting style attraction.
People with motion sickness beware! This is the original Disney x Star Wars collab and back in the day it was really something. It’s still fun, although certainly no longer cutting edge and great for Star Wars fans or just when you’re looking for a ride with a shorter line.
Alien Swirling Saucers
A good diversion if you have kids, or just love a good old fashioned spinny ride.
Besides all of the rides/attractions at Hollywood Studios, there’s a handful of shows that are a nice way to break up the day.
But they’re definitely in varying degrees of being “worth your time.”
I think the Frozen Sing Along Celebration is a must do if you have any familiarity with the movie. It’s enchanting for kids, but it’s FUNNY for grown ups and while there’s plenty of singing and Frozen fanfare, it’s basically a 20 minute stand up comedy show and a lot of it goes right over the kids heads.
The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular is also a must do if you can squeeze it into your day. It’s a large-scale stunt stage show and it’s only performed a couple of times a day so it takes some planning to catch the show. Even if you’re not a huge Indiana Jones fan, it’s still a great show.
For me, Beauty and the Beast LIVE on Stage falls into the last resort category. If you are a mega Beauty and the Beast fan or just really need something to do in the middle of the day where you can sit in the shade for a bit, it’s an ok option. But it is sooooo cringy and I really hope they put something new here soon.
Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy is also a good place to take a little heat break, but it’s by no means a “must do.”
Character Meet & Greets
There’s a whole slew of characters that you’ll find around Hollywood Studios, but one of my favorites is “Red Carpet Dreams” Minnie Mouse.
It’s also to see who you’ll spot out and about in Galaxy’s Edge. Storm Troopers are a dime a dozen and it’s not unusual to find Rey, Chewbacca, and Kylo Ren.
If you want more traditional meet and greets (stand in a line to get your photo taken), Star Wars Launch Bay is where you’ll find Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and BB-8.
And of course, you can always find Woody, Jessie, and Buzz in Toy Story Land.
Where to Eat
Here’s the honest scoop: I don’t think dining is Hollywood Studios’ strongest selling point, but there’s decent options.
If you’re looking for a quick service (order at a counter) option, Docking Bay 7 (in Galaxy’s Edge) and Andy’s Lunchbox (in Toy Story Land) are probably the flashiest options. Mostly because so many people are drawn to these lands and just want to eat in Galaxy’s Edge or Toy Story Land.
Both have decent food. Docking Bay 7 has indoor (air conditioned) seating, Andy’s Lunch Box does not and honestly I think has waaaaaay too few tables for the crowds.
If you’re just looking for an easy location, it’s hard to beat Backlot Express or the ABC Commissary since both have ample indoor seating and way more capacity. There’s also options on Sunset Boulevard like Rosie’s All-American Cafe or Catalina Eddie’s that aren’t indoor but have plenty of shaded and covered seating.
With any quick service options in Hollywood Studios, I would strongly recommend using Mobile Order (on your phone in the app) to cut down on lines).
If you’re looking for a sit down restaurant experience and you’re able to snag reservations in advance (sometimes hard to do), I think Sci Fi Dine in Theater and 50s Prime Time are both really FUN options.
Hollywood Brown Derby is the place to go for a more upscale (and less hectic) meal even if it’s just on their patio, and I have high hopes for Roundup Rodeo BBQ when it opens. Hopefully it fills a big need in the park.
As far as snacks that are unique to Hollywood Studios, some of my favorites are the carrot cake cookie which has been a feature in the park for decades but is now only available in Trolley Car Cafe (Starbucks) which means you have to wait in that huge Starbucks line just to get it (so I don’t get it very often anymore).
The blue (and green) milk in Galaxy’s Edge is also fun and the seasonal pop tarts at Woody’s Lunch Box are always a crowd pleaser.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Plan of Attack (aka Itinerary)
Okay, now that I’ve told you about all of the great things to do in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, here are some tips for how to actually get it all done…
I know everybody has a different budget, but since this post is just me giving my best advice to you…I can only tell you how I would do it.
And I never go to Hollywood Studios (unless I’m just walking around to enjoy the atmosphere) without doing Genie+ and usually a Lightning Lane for Rise of the Resistance.
So I’m just going to assume that you’re going into this day paying the $25-40 for Genie+ and Lightning Lane. If you’re determined to do it without paying extra, I would strongly recommend using a Touring Plan.
How to Use Genie+ in Hollywood Studios
By far the hardest Genie+ reservation to get (anywhere in Disney World) is Slinky Dog Dash. It’s also the line you’ll least want to wait in (all outside). Be ready on the trigger and make Slinky your first selection RIGHT AT 7AM. And your return time will likely be afternoon.
Then you should immediately purchase an Individual Lightning Lane (ILL) for Rise of the Resistance. Remember, if you’re a Disney resort guest, you can do this at 7AM but off site guests have to wait until park opening (they’re usually sold out by then). It’s not uncommon for Rise of the Resistance to show that it’s sold out for the day around 7:00-7:15AMish, but keep refreshing and time slots almost always pop up. But don’t sleep on this! By park opening they’re usually all gone for real.
Besides Slinky Dog and Rise of the Resistance, rides I would prioritize for Genie+ are: Millennium Falcon Smuggler’s Run, Toy Story Mania, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Tower of Terror, and Rockin’ Roller Coaster.
I’ll level with you…it’s going to be really hard to get all of those. If you end up with three (plus Slinky and Rise), I would consider that a very good use of Genie+.
So if you’re able to show up for rope drop, I would suggest doing EITHER:
- Heading to Tower of Terror first thing followed by Rockin’ Rollercoaster. They’re right next to each other and most people are dashing to Galaxy’s Edge or Toy Story Land first thing so the lines don’t get quite as crazy early.
- Head to Toy Story Land and knock out Toy Story Mania and Alien Swirling Saucers. Slinky Dog Dash draws all of the traffic to Toy Story Land first thing and these two have pretty short lines first thing. Then you could go for Genie+ on Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Rollercoaster later in the day.
Another thing to know…Rockin’ Rollercoaster and Millennium Falcon Smuggler’s Run both have single rider lines. If everyone in your party is okay riding separately, it usually saves quite a bit of time. You’ll all stand together in line, but once you get to the front, they’ll use you to fill in odd numbered parties.
Just keep in mind, the single rider line is usually faster, but not always (if it’s a long string of even numbered parties, your line isn’t going to move much) and it’s not guaranteed that it’s always open. I’ve had better success earlier in the day than later, but it’s pretty random.
I wouldn’t burn a Genie+ reservation on Star Tours (usually a shorter line) or any shows.
Hollywood Studios AFTERNOON Genie+ Stacking Strategy
Okay, this is kind of different, but I’ve done this on several trips and it works REALLY well.
Sometimes I do this on my travel day when I’m not going to get to Orlando and get to the park until 2ish and sometimes I do it when I have plans to do something in another park in the morning but I wouldn’t be going crazy with rides (or at least using Genie+).
It could also work if you just want to take the morning a little easier and show up for lunch and a fun afternoon/evening. Or if you just want to roll up mid morning and do shows, character meet and greets, etc and then do most of the rides in the afternoon and evening.
Since Hollywood Studios has a pretty high concentration of “must do” attractions, even when you start there first thing in the morning, your Genie+ reservation times usually end up being for later in the afternoon. So it’s the perfect park to show up to mid afternoon with a whole slew of Genie+ reservations to walk right on the park’s most popular attractions.
So let’s assume you’ll get to the park by 2PM.
At 7AM make your first Genie+ selection for Slinky Dog Dash. Be ready and push the button right at 7AM. Return times are usually for mid afternoon right at 7AM so it should work well.
As soon as you do that, then buy the Individual Lighting Lane for Rise of the Resistance. You’ll obviously want to pick a time for later in the day.
Two hours after the park opens, you can make your next Genie+ selection. So check the park hours and set an alarm on your phone so you don’t forget. If the park opens at 9AM, you’ll be able to make your next reservation at 11AM.
Slinky Dog Dash is the hardest reservation to get (it books out the fastest), but pretty much everything else moves slower. So starting at 11AM you’ll have to start monitoring return times and you’ll want to pick rides that are booking farther out.
Example…at 11AM if the return time for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is for 11:30AM but Millenium Falcon Smuggler’s Run is for 4PM, then go with Smuggler’s Run since it’s going to run out of availability quicker.
Every time you make a reservation, set an alarm for 2 hours and then go back in and make another one. Each time, you’ll just pick the next best option in terms of ride popularity (what you want to ride) and how far back the return times are.
It sounds complicated (and it kind of is), but if you can wrap your mind around it, it works REALLY WELL. I know I said you’ll have to pick the best option every time and that can change, but generally, I’ve found that this pattern/availability holds pretty well:
7AM Book Slinky Dog Dash Genie+ Reservation
7:01AM Book Rise of the Resistance Lightning Lane
11AM Book Smuggler’s Run Genie+ Reservation
1PM Book Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway Genie+ Reservation
3PM Book Toy Story Mania Genie+ Reservation
5PM Book Alien Swirling Saucers Genie+ Reservation (maaaaybe depending on availability)
Those are the times that you will login to your app to make the reservations, NOT the “call back” times they’ll give you.
***I picked the above attractions because those are my favorites, but alternatively you could swap some out for Tower of Terror and Rockin Rollercoaster. But remember, Rockin Rollercoaster has a single rider line so it’s always possible to knock that one out without Genie+.
With a little luck (the stats mostly just work out this way), you’ll walk into the park at 2PM (or a little before) and have FOUR reservations already made to walk right on popular rides and a good plan to make two more while you’re there.
Here’s the only little snafu you could run into…it’s possible (but unlikely) that it’ll give you an early call back time for Slinky Dog Dash (you can’t pick the time, it just gives you the next available). Well a 10AM call back time won’t work so you’ll need to “modify” the reservation time to later.
Also, Disney won’t officially verify this but I’ve heard it from mannnny cast members…you can’t show up BEFORE your call back time, but they won’t turn you away if you show up AFTER your call back time. Example: if your reservation for Rise of the Resistance is from 2:05PM to 3:05PM…you can’t show up at 1:45PM but if you show up at 4:15PM they’ll still let you on.
This is helpful, because you could end up with some overlapping reservation times and it’s nice to have a little breathing room especially if you want to stop for lunch/dinner.
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