Creating an itinerary for Hollywood Studios right now is a bit challenging. The park is currently undergoing some major construction with the upcoming additions of Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land. It’s also gone through several closures in the past year, and as a result, the park is experiencing some growing pains. Even though I expect it to be pretty awesome in a few years, it’s sort of a weird time to visit Hollywood Studios right now.
On the flip side, crowds are not nearly as high as usual at this park, so it is a little easier for the casual traveler to enjoy the remaining attractions. I also tend to think that the “Old Hollywood” vibe of the park may be headed out the door, so right now is a great time to still enjoy the glitz and the glamour of this theme.
Since there are significantly fewer attractions/shows available right now at the Studios, there is not much strategy required to experience it all in just one day. In fact, I think this is more of a park to wander around and enjoy the details or atmosphere (before tons of construction walls are set up), so the approach to the day at Hollywood Studios will be quite relaxed.
Know Before You Go
Buy Tickets Ahead of Time: Not as big of a deal at Hollywood Studios as it is in the other theme parks, but even in the off season, ticket lines can get long, and waiting for them is only wasting time!
Use FastPass+: There are a few rides that I highly recommend getting a FastPass+ for, namely Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror, Rock N’ Roller Coaster, and Star Tours.
Rider Switch: Also called Child Swap, this service allows parents traveling with infants or small children to “swap” or take turns riding bigger rides without having to wait in line twice. Here’s how it works: If you go on a ride with a height requirement, tell the Cast Member at the line entrance that you’d like to use Rider Switch. The Cast Member will give the waiting portion of your group a Rider Switch pass (which works like a FastPass+) and the riding portion of your group will proceed through the line. Once the first riding group gets off the ride, the waiting group can then go through the FastPass+ line to ride next.
First Aid: Since you’ll be at the park all day, it’s good to know your options should anything happen. There is a first aid station located near the front entrance between Guest Services and Sid Cahuenga’s. There are on-site nurses offering everything from bandages to over the counter medications.
It’s not completely imperative that you arrive first thing in the morning to this park, though it will help you get onto some of the bigger rides more quickly. If you go during peak season, it’s still probably a good idea. Let’s assume you arrive at rope drop if the crowds are at their highest.
First thing to do is to head to either Toy Story Mania or Rock N’ Roller Coaster. Both are a truly awesome rides that always have a long line. Hollywood Studios FastPass+ is on a tiered system, with both of these rides in Group A. This means you won’t be able to get a FastPass+ for both of them, and it’s unlikely that you’ll get a day-of FastPass+ reservation for either. Ride whichever one you don’t have the FastPass+ for first to beat the crowds, and ride the other one next. Depending on what time your Group A FastPass+ is for, get a quick bite to eat either before or after that ride. The best breakfast location is Starring Rolls on Sunset Boulevard.
Try to get a FastPass+ for Tower of Terror around 10:30 a.m. so you can head over there after your first two rides. You’ll already be close to the Hollywood Tower Hotel from Starring Rolls, so it should just be a quick walk down Sunset Boulevard to get there.
By now, you’ve hit all the major rides in the park except Star Tours. Depending on the time of day, use a FastPass+ for Star Tours either right before or right after lunch. It’s across the park from Tower of Terror, so if you go before lunch, make sure you’ll have enough time to ride if you need to make it back for a dining reservation.
There a handful of both quick service and full service restaurants in this park that all (in my opinion) have pretty decent food. However, the highlights of the dining locations in Hollywood Studios are the 50’s Prime Time Cafe and the Sci-Fi Dine In Theater. Both have excellent theming, good food, and are completely transportive, taking you to a fictional version of mid-century America.
While I don’t usually recommend going to two full service restaurants in one day, neither of these are to be missed. If you only have one day at this park, both of these restaurants need to be part of that day. Whichever one you don’t go to for lunch, go there for dinner.
If you find you aren’t hungry enough for a full meal at dinner, the 50s Prime Time Cafe has a great lounge where you can go for appetizers and atmosphere, though the experience isn’t quite the same. Alternatively, you can always split meals to save some room in your stomach (and wallet).
Afternoon to Early Evening
Now is the time to watch all the shows Hollywood Studios has to offer. But be sure to see the Great Movie Ride first. Even at this time of day, it should be okay without a FastPass+. Also, if you were unable to ride Star Tours in the morning, now would be the time to go.
All show times will be listed in the park’s Times Guide (found with the park maps), so do what you can based on when shows are playing. Some of the best ones are the Frozen Sing-along, Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, and MuppetVision 3D.
This is pretty much it for now when it comes to actual attractions at the park. If you’ve done everything, but still want to stick around for the night time shows, try hitting some of the bigger rides again or you could attempt to get a day-of FastPass+ to something.
If you’re hot or tired, now is a nice time to enjoy some quiet spots in the park. My favorite sitting place is the Writer’s Stop located in the area formerly known as the Streets of America.
This little known spot is technically a merchandise location, however, what many don’t know is that there is actually a small cafe inside where you can order coffee and pastries. It’s a super small area just off the store itself, so this won’t lend itself to a true “cafe” dining experience, but since the Writer’s Stop is so often overlooked, you’ll likely have the place to yourself.
This little shop is imagineered to immerse and transport you to a romanticized version of what I imagine a mid-century book store would be, and it definitely has a Disney touch to it.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, take some time to enjoy Star Wars Launch Bay where you can meet Kylo Ren or Chewbacca and geek out with some of the other Star Wars offerings the park has. Don’t miss the Citizens of Hollywood “streetmosphere” performers. The Citizens are characters that interact with guests and perform short, improvised sketches along the streets of the Studios. I love the Citizens of Hollywood, and though they have experienced a downsizing, they still remain one of my favorite “shows” to see in the park. If it’s dark enough, stroll down Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard to get a taste of old Hollywood nightlife. There’s lots of great neon signs and atmosphere to enjoy.
Basically, you can do whatever you want with this time. Fit in more rides, shows, or “other stuff” the park has to offer – you should have plenty of time to kill before Fantasmic and Symphony in the Stars.
There are two nighttime shows at Hollywood Studios – Fantasmic and Symphony in the Stars. Fantasmic is easily my favorite show for nostalgic reasons, though it has not been updated and the Disneyland version is unarguably better. If you’re at Hollywood Studios on a night where Symphony in the Stars conflicts with Fantasmic, I’d skip the latter.
Symphony in the Stars is a Star Wars themed fireworks show shown behind the Great Movie Ride on Hollywood Boulevard. It used to be shown exclusively on Star Wars weekends, but with the advent of the new Star Wars Land, the writing on the wall seems to say that the show will become a permanent addition to the park.
Some other fun things to do in the park are grab a drink at the Brown Derby Lounge, get ice cream at Dinosaur Gertie’s Ice Cream of Extinction (if it’s open), or get ice cream at Scoops if it’s not.
What did I leave out? Is there anything else you would include in a day at Hollywood Studios? Share your questions and thoughts in the comments!
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