As anyone who has set foot in the Walt Disney World Resort recently can attest, Disney Hollywood Studios is quite the hot ticket thanks to the recent-ish addition of Galaxy’s Edge and the new park reservation system. And who are we to argue? Galaxy’s Edge rocks! (Sorry Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, you’ll always have our heart.) However, since the Galaxy’s Edge opening, this has pushed what was originally a one-day park further into two-day territory.
So, how do you make the most of your precious park time once you’ve nabbed one of those covetable reservations? Never fear – we’re here to help with our 1-Day Hollywood Studios touring plan.
This step-by-step guide will walk you through our tried-and-tested Disney Hollywood Studios itinerary. With our tips and tricks, you may not accomplish everything in the theme park (especially with the current COVID-19 closures), but you should get pretty darn close, and you’ll definitely have a ton of fun along the way.
With FastPass+ currently suspended, you will mostly be exploring the theme park like they did during olden times: by waiting in standby lines. The main exception to the standby rule is, of course, Stars Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Nevertheless, you should still be able to get quite a bit done thanks to social distancing caps on capacity and by starting your day early.
For our last trip, after a pre-7 a.m. wake up to get our Rise of the Resistance boarding group (more on this below) and arriving an hour before park open, we were able to hit Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, Slinky Dog Dash, Toy Story Mania, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Star Tours, and, of course, Rise of the Resistance. Even with all those rides, we still had time left over to squeeze in others like the Alien Swirling Saucers, Muppet*Vision 3D, or a show or two. All of this is completely possible for you to achieve as well if you follow the touring plan we’ll lay out for you in a bit.
A FEW CONSIDERATIONS
Disney’s Hollywood Studios might get the least amount of traffic of the four Disney parks at Walt Disney World, but you wouldn’t be able to guess that from looking at Disney’s theme park reservation availability calendar. As we mentioned earlier, this is the most popular park on property thanks to the relatively newly opened Galaxy’s Edge. Given that, it can be a bit tricky to secure a reservation at the last minute, especially if you’re an annual passholder. So, be sure to make your park reservation early so you aren’t out of luck later.
Furthermore, because there’s a whole new world (sorry, we couldn’t resist) just waiting to be explored, everyone and their brother will be scrambling to ride the same attractions, namely Rise of the Resistance and Smugglers Run. That’s why we came up with this 1-day plan to help you hack the crowds and get as much done as possible.
Finally, although it might seem like there’s a ton of stuff to see and do at Hollywood Studios – Rides! Shows! Shopping! Food! – not everything will appeal to everyone. Plus, the more pressure you put on yourself to get everything done, the more stressful your day will be. So, take some time to research what the theme park has to offer and cut out anything that doesn’t interest you. Then, if you have time at the end after crossing everything else off your list, feel free to add things in as time allows.
Coming up, we’ll go over the best that the theme park has to offer, along with when everything should happen during your Hollywood Studios day.
MOST POPULAR ATTRACTIONS AT DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
For many, the following rides and shows aren’t just must-dos at Hollywood Studios – they’re at the top of the list for any Walt Disney World Resort vacation. You might have even ridden them virtually thanks to videos on YouTube. While a few are new, some have been favorites for a while. Regardless, you should also expect these attractions to have some of the longest lines in the theme park.
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (coming soon to Disneyland)
- Toy Story Mania!
- Fantasmic! (currently closed due to COVID-19)
These next rides and shows are still popular, though they tend to have shorter lines than those above, making them the perfect “fillers” if you need to kill time while waiting to enjoy the previous attractions or after seeing everything else on your list.
- Alien Swirling Saucers
- Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
- Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy
- Muppet*Vision 3D
- Vacation Fun – An Original Animated Short with Mickey & Minnie
- Walt Disney Presents
- For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
- Beauty & The Beast Live on Stage (currently closed due to COVID-19)
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (currently closed due to COVID-19)
- Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple (currently closed due to COVID-19)
- Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular (currently closed due to COVID-19)
- Star Wars Launch Bay (currently closed due to COVID-19)
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid (currently closed due to COVID-19)
- Wonderful World of Animation (currently closed due to COVID-19)
- Citizens of Hollywood (currently closed due to COVID-19)
- And much more!
Although our 1-Day plan focuses on rides, we highly recommend that you save some time during your day to take in at least one of the shows (and the other park entertainment that’s available when we’re not in quarantimes). While this is true for any of the Disney parks (like Animal Kingdom), this is especially true for Hollywood Studios, thanks to some truly entertaining stage shows and more intimate atmosphere performers.
Of course, we also understand the instinct to try and pack as much into your day as possible. That’s why our following plans check as many big boxes off the to-do list as possible. However, if you do have more time during your trip, or if you’d prefer a more leisurely approach, we’d again recommend choosing the rides that most appeal to you and then interspersing them or ending your day with whatever collection of filler rides, shows, and other entertainment most appeals to you.
1-DAY TOURING PLAN DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
This first plan is meant for groups without any height restrictions, or, in other words, for guests who can go on any ride. It has been designed to accomplish the most popular attractions in the park without using FastPass+, making it perfect now that the service has been suspended.
Similar to our 1-day plan for Disney’s Magic Kingdom park, you must plan to be at the park before the gates open in order for this plan to work. In this case, however, your day actually begins before you reach the park. To start your day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you will first need to rise early. We’re talking really early. Wake up before 7 a.m. EST and follow our tips and tricks guaranteed to secure a Rise of the Resistance boarding group. Keep in mind that you will first need to have a park reservation in order to get your boarding group.
Once you’ve got your boarding group squared away, you will next want to make your way over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s very important that you plan to arrive at least an hour early. Recently, Disney has been opening the gates about 45 minutes to an hour before the official park hours. We’re not sure how long this is going to continue, so you should try to capitalize on this as long as it’s happening. It’s a great way to get a head start on all those people that aren’t as prepared as you are.
If you’re staying on Disney property at a hotel and are thinking of using Walt Disney World Resort’s bus system, it’s likely that you’ll arrive only 30 minutes ahead of park open rather than our suggested 60 minutes because of all the stops. So, we suggest driving your own car or taking an Uber or Lyft instead.
Once you’ve gotten to the gates of Hollywood Studios, you will first need to have your temperature taken before going through security and finally having your tickets scanned. While exploring the park, remember to keep checking the status of the Rise of the Resistance virtual queue and which boarding group is next. You’ll need to squeeze in a trip to that side of the park when your boarding group is called. Don’t worry if you’re in the middle of something or on the other side of the theme park when it’s your turn – Disney usually allows an hour from when your group is called for you to arrive. Just pay attention to what the app says and allow enough time as needed.
After being let inside, you will first want to run straight back to Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. As the newest attraction in Hollywood Studios, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is one of the most popular rides in the entire theme park, and the line can get pretty long throughout the day. The building it’s in, the Chinese Theater, is the icon of the park and one of the first things you’ll see when you walk through the door, making it a prime target for guests just entering the park. So, run there right away and get this popular attraction checked off your list before everyone else arrives.
After that, make a mad dash for Hollywood Boulevard for Hollywood Studio’s two thrill ride heavy-hitters: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and The Twilight Zone Tower of Tower. Aside from the rides in Galaxy’s Edge, these are two of the most popular attractions in all of Walt Disney World, so you’ll want to squeeze them in first before later-arriving guests start to pour into the park.
Now that those are checked off the list, you’ll next want to hike across the park to Toy Story Land so you can tackle Slinky Dog Dash and Toy Story Mania. Don’t let the former’s standing as a “family coaster” keep you from enjoying Slinky Dog Dash. With a launch, some banked turns, a few smooth drops, and quite a bit of speed, this friendly coaster is fun for the whole family and a ride we don’t recommend you miss. We even think it beats out Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
Sometimes the lines for both of these attractions can reach out to where Animation Courtyard used to be. They shouldn’t be that long at this point. Once you’ve ridden Slinky Dog Dash hop on over to Toy Story Mania if you haven’t already.
With those down, you can (finally!) make your way over to what will likely be the highlight of your entire day: Galaxy’s Edge. This land has enough details to keep true Star Wars fans entertained for hours just in idle wandering alone. Even if you’re not a massive fan of the series, you’ll still feel completely immersed in the out-of-this-world environment Disney has created. So, with basically everything else out of the way, you’ll have plenty of time to explore all the nooks and crannies properly.
EXPLORING GALAXY’S EDGE
Begin your visit to Galaxy’s Edge with a trip on Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. Once you complete that ride, you should have only one major attraction left of your list: Star Tours. But before you head over there, take some time to appreciate all the loving details sprinkled throughout Galaxy’s Edge. This is also a great time to sit down and enjoy something to eat and drink. Docking Bay & Food and Cargo and Ronto Roasters offer tasty, Star Wars-themed eats and you can’t miss a chance to drink a legendary cup of blue milk just like Luke Skywalker would enjoy. If you’re lucky, you might even get a chance to enjoy at drink Oga’s Cantina.
RESTAURANTS NEAR GALAXY’S EDGE
If you’d prefer to snack on something a little bit closer to home, or if you’d rather tuck into a table-service meal, no worries – there are a few other options close by in the neighboring Commissary Lane and Grand Avenue areas. BaseLine Tap House is a delicious option if you’re in the mood for small bites and an array of wines and beer from California. For sit-down meals, Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater offers all-American favorites in a fun, drive-in theater setting, while nearby Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano serves up Italian dishes with a California twist. Another great table-service option, 50’s Prime Time Café, is a bit of a hike towards the front of the park in Echo Lake, but the playful atmosphere courtesy of the servers is well-worth the walk from Galaxy’s Edge. If you’d prefer quick service, Backlot Express and ABC Commissary are also just a short walk away.
When you’ve finished exploring Galaxy’s Edge or a bite in one of the neighboring lands, continue your journey through a galaxy far, far away – and start heading back toward the front of the theme park – with a spin on Star Tours. Although one of the more popular rides in the park, it is also one of the fastest loading with numerous ride vehicles. In other words, you can basically count on a quick-moving line throughout the day.
DISNEY HOLLYWOOD STUDIO SHOWS
With the rest of your day free and all the popular rides out of the way, spend the remainder of your time taking in one of the various shows and other attractions Hollywood Studios has to offer. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, many of the shows are on hiatus. When they’re open, however, they are the perfect way to sit down, relax, and cool off during the day. Another personal favorite is Walt Disney Presents, a walkthrough tour of some extraordinary (and rare) artifacts followed by a short documentary about the man, the myth, the legend himself. It’s a great way to get some perspective on everything you’ve seen throughout the day.
Finally, when the world is normal, no visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is complete without a viewing of Fantasmic. Due to COVID-19, however, this thrilling evening show is canceled. Call us biased, but we cannot wait until this production is back up and running – it truly is the perfect way to cap off a day at Hollywood Studios.
1-DAY TOURING PLAN FOR DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS WITH KIDS
No ifs, ands, or buts about it: traveling to Disney with kids can be less than magical sometimes. But for many guests, it might be the reason you’re even there in the first place. So, why not plan your day to be as fun as possible for everyone? Fortunately, we’ve already a few of the kid-friendly rides off the list with the above plan – all that’s left to do is fill in the gaps.
PARENT SWAP AND RIDER SWITCH
Disney makes it easy for both parents to enjoy attractions that their little ones might not be big enough to ride thanks to their Parent Swap (also known as Rider Switch) program. Utilizing this program is easy – all you need to do is tell the cast member at the entrance of the attraction that you’d like to do a parent swap.
For example, if you and your family would like to ride The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror but your youngest is too short, simply let the cast member know at the entrance to the attraction that you would like to do a parent swap. One parent will then stay behind with the child who is too small to ride while the other continues on to the ride. Then, the parent who stayed behind will receive a return time from a cast member which allows them to use the FastPass+ line, along with two other guests, after the first parent is done with the ride.
We think this timesaving (and fun-saving!) hack is hugely underrated. Keep in mind that you can rider switch on any ride with a height restriction. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, attractions with a height requirement include:
- Alien Swirling Saucers – 32 inches (81 centimeters) or taller
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run – 38 inches (97 centimeters) or taller
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster – 48 inches (122 centimeters) or taller
- Slinky Dog Dash – 38 inches (97 centimeters) or taller
- Star Tours – 40 inches (102 centimeters) or taller
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance – 40 inches (102 centimeters) or taller
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – 40 inches (102 centimeters) or taller
If you have at least one child who doesn’t meet the above requirements, here is our 1-day Disney’s Hollywood Studios plan for those with kids:
1-DAY DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS PLAN FOR KIDS
Compared to our 1-Day Magic Kingdom park plan, our two 1-day Hollywood Studios plans (with and without kids) are actually quite similar. You only need to squeeze in two more rides before filling in the rest of your day with shows and other attractions.
Start your day before 7 a.m. again to get your Rise of the Resistance boarding pass, then get to the park an hour early. Once you’re in the park, run to Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway before heading over to Sunset Avenue. Next, use parent swap to ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror – remember to tell the cast members at the entrances to the rides.
After that, make your way to Pixar Place and Toy Story Land to knock out Toy Story Mania. While you’re at it, why not have friendly contest to see who can come up with the highest score? Once you’ve all earned your bragging rights (and let go of some stress in the process), head over to the zippy, family-friendly thrills of Slinky Dog Dash.
Here is your first change: Before leaving Toy Story Land, take your kiddo on Alien Swirling Saucers. Although all of these rides have height requirements, they are fairly low, and despite some speed and spinning, also very family friendly.
From there, head next door to Galaxy’s Edge to take on Smugglers Run, then enjoy lunch or a snack while exploring the land. Be sure to grab a cup of green or blue milk from the Milk Stand – kids will love the fruity flavors and fun colors.
As you start heading back toward the front of the theme park, stop and enjoy the crazy antics of the loveable Muppets at Muppet*Vision 3D. Yes, the show is what we can now call a classic, but you’ll love a trip down memory lane as much as your little ones will love all the 3D fun. Plus, this is a great chance for everyone to enjoy some shade.
Finish up your must-do rides with another trip to a galaxy far, far away on Star Tours. This is another attraction with a height requirement, so don’t forget to alert the cast member at the entrance to the ride if you want to do a parent swap.
By this point, you will have finished all the must-do and in-between rides in the park. All that’s left to do is fill in the rest of the day with shows and other attractions (and go on Rise of the Resistance whenever your boarding group is called!). Although many of these are unfortunately closed due to COVID, Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy and A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration are still up and running.
The kiddos can also enjoy character encounters like Disney Junior Play and Dance and the character motorcades. It is important to note, however, that (again) due to COVID, these are not meet-and-greets. We are definitely looking forward to these returning when the world goes back to as close as normal as possible. They are great opportunities for your kids to get close to the characters they love, and, if you play along, they can be memorable interactions for years to come.
LEAVE SPACE FOR DISNEY MAGIC (AND BAD WEATHER)..
Going into your Disney day with a plan is important, but don’t be so stringent that you stress yourself out when life happens. Central Florida weather in Orlando can be crazy, so if a ride is down due to an impending storm, skip over it and ride the next one on your list. For many people, their vacation seems to grind to a halt when the skies open up. So, rather than taking shelter in a restaurant or shop along with everyone else and their brother, grab a poncho and ride on the next ride on your list or double back to a favorite. And speaking of bad weather, be sure to come prepared for last-minute showers, or get ready to spend money on one that Disney have to offer.
If you’re going to the theme parks with kids, particularly young ones, naptime and mealtime can get in the way of how much time you have to explore the park. Fortunately, each park has a baby care center near the entrance that is perfect for nursing or if someone needs a break. At Hollywood Studios, it’s right on the left-hand side as soon as you go through the entrance near guest services. Alternatively, you are also free to nurse throughout the park. To make the most of your time, we recommend nursing during one of the parks many shows. Just think of it as dinner and a show for your little one! And if you have a child that needs a nap, consider hitting up a ride that offers parent swap so the other parent can ride while the child rests.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE PLAN
Aside from the very beginning, you might have noticed that our plan has you moving in a large counterclockwise circle around the theme park. This is a tactic that we’ve used a lot through the years, and it’s something we continue today.
In general, it should help you stay ahead of the crowds, unless you happen to arrive on a day that is especially busy. If you do notice that you’re falling behind (in this case, you reach a ride that has a wait of at least 45 minutes), simply skip over the next in-betweener show or ride and move on to the next must-do. To really set yourself up for success, use our Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar to help you pick your travel days.
DINING AT DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
While the highlight of any Disney vacation is obviously the rides, dining at Walt Disney World Resort is nothing to snuff at. In many cases, where and how you choose to eat can really take your vacation to a whole other level.
At Hollywood Studios, aside from a few quick-service locations on Sunset Drive, the vast majority of the dining is located on the west side of the park (Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, Echo Lake). So, try to plan your breaks accordingly. Fortunately, our one-day Hollywood Studios plan already has you starting and ending your day where the food is.
When you do decide to take a break, we highly recommend that you stick as close to the area you’re in as possible to save as much time as possible. If you’re anything like me, consider looking at all the dining options ahead of time and have a few different dining outlets and meals in mind so you can plan out your day accordingly. Think about bringing along some easy-to-pack snacks to carry you over until you’re ready to sit down.
And as we mentioned before, don’t underestimate any of the various table-service options the park has to offer. From fine dining at The Hollywood Brown Derby to retro, comfort-food favorites with a mind-your-manners twist at 50’s Prime Time Café, Hollywood Studios boasts some of the most fun restaurants on Disney property. And for those with kids, character dining with Hollywood & Vine is always a treat, especially when the restaurant is decorated for different holidays.
PARADES AND FIREWORKS
Unlike Magic Kingdom park, parades and fireworks aren’t headlining acts in your visit to Hollywood Studios. Yes, they do exist (when we’re not in a pandemic), but they are by no means the main event. This is great news for your plan because it’s not necessary for you to put everything on hold to go grab a seat and watch the parade roll by.
Instead, we recommend that you wrap up your day with a viewing Fantasmic (again, when we’re not in a pandemic). This musical under the stars will have guests of all ages on the edge of their seats as Mickey dreams about an epic battle between good and evil. When up and running again, be sure to save yourself enough time to get seats for this incredible show. If you don’t have FastPass+, the line can be long. To save yourself some stress and take advantage of one of the great sit-down meals the park has to offer, think about opting for a Fantasmic Dining Package. This allows you to enjoy a meal earlier in the day, and saves you time by reserving seats for your group in a reserved section of the outdoor theater.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
Well, that wraps up our one-day Hollywood Studios plan for the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida – both with and without kids. If all goes according to plan, you should have accomplished quite a bit all while not driving yourself or anyone else crazy.
For all you diehard Hollywood Studios fans out there, we’d love to hear how our plan stacks up to yours. Is there anything we should cut, change around, or add? Drop your thoughts in the comments below or shoot us an email. If we think it deserves to be shared, we’ll be happy to add it.
Amber is a proud former Walt Disney World Cast Member, an unabashed travel addict, and a hospitality and tourism specialist with over 10 years in the industry. She likes getting her wanderlust fix by sharing her favorite park tips and tricks with other Disney fans. When she isn’t working, you can usually catch her in a hot power yoga class or spending way too much money at Disney Springs.