A Twentysomething’s Guide to Walt Disney World: Hollywood Studios
Walt Disney World is a truly magical place, but going as a twentysomething can be intimidating. Luckily for you, I’ve created a 4-part series to surviving Walt Disney World in your 20s. Follow this guide to ensure your experience in Hollywood Studios is as dazzling as possible.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios originally opened in 1989 as MGM Studios. Over the years, Hollywood Studios has made a name for itself because of the awesome rides and attractions that the park features. From staples like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to the Beauty and the Beast Stage show, Hollywood Studios holds a special place in the hearts of patrons.
Currently, the park is undergoing two major expansions: Toy Story Land, set to open in June of this year, and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, set to open in 2019. Because of these expansions, the park is smaller than usual, with construction taking place where the Back Lot Tour and Lights, Motor, Action stunt show used to be. If you plan on visiting before the Toy Story area opens, know that you will be able to take your time! At present, the park isn’t too crowded, giving you plenty of time to explore existing areas. After the new park areas open, be warned that Hollywood Studios is going to be packed, such as Pandora: The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom currently is.
Update 11/2018: I visited Toy Story Land!
With the current renovations, there are not a ton of rides at Hollywood Studio (though this will be changing in June!). The existing rides in Hollywood Studios are some of the best rides in Walt Disney World. From roller coasters to motion simulators, there’s a ride for everyone at Hollywood Studios.
The only ride in Echo Lake is Star Tours. Star Tours is a 3-D, motion simulator ride that places you in the heart of the Star Wars universe. On the ride, you’ll help the rebel forces get a win over the villains from the films. For me, the best part of this ride is seeing my future hubs John Boyega as Finn. If you have the time, ride Star Tours as many times as possible, as sometimes the simulation varies from room to room, depending on the movie Disney is trying to promote!
In my opinion, it’s worth visiting the park to only ride the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The Tower of Terror is built around a legend that the hotel was struck by lightning, causing several guests in an elevator to be transported to the Twilight Zone. The accident caused the hotel to close, but now, guests can visit a working service elevator to be transported themselves. While queuing, you walk through the hotel grounds, lobby, library, and then boiler room area before loading your elevator. After you travel to the tower, your elevator plunges. It’s spectacular. Be sure to check your picture out after the ride, as they are usually hilarious (photo is taken at the first drop).
The other ride on Sunset Boulevard is the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. In the queue, you tour “G-Force Records” studio before joining Aerosmith in the recording studio. You are then taken to a parking garage where you board into a limo and take off from 0 to 57 MPH in less than 2 seconds! Each of the 5 limos has its own license plate and song for time ride, so definitely ride more than once. My favorite limo is the UGOBABE limo, which plays “Love in an Elevator” and “Walk this Way”. There is a single rider line for this attraction that can help save some time in the queue.
Muppet*Vision 3D is the only ride in the Grand Avenue area of the park. Muppet*Vision 3D is a 3D film that stars our favorite puppet pals. America’s most famous frog, Kermit, guides visitors through Muppet Studios and into the lab to see some of Beakers notorious experiments. By utilizing typical 3D pop outs and some of the 4D effects the theater is equipped for, Muppet*Vision is around 15 minutes of just plain fun.
Since it opened in 2008, Toy Story Midway Mania! has been the most crowded ride in Hollywood Studios. On the ride, you compete with your seat mate through a variety of 3D carnival games along your favorite Toy Story characters. I can’t even begin to explain how fun this is. The line is usually insanely long, so if you can, try to get a Fastpass+ as soon as you begin planning your trip! The entrance to this attraction will be moved to the back of the current building into Toy Story Land when it opens in June.
Character encounters are very experience based in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In other words, there much more than just a photo-op! Interacting with the characters is a unique and fun experience in Hollywood Studios, though I’m a huge Star Wars fan so I might be a bit biased. Before meeting the characters, have a question or conversation point in mind, as many character encounters are built around these things.
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you are able to meet Mickey Mouse and his lady, Minnie, through the same queue! Mickey is decked out in his Sorcerer garb and ready to meet you in his lair. Thankfully, the brooms are asleep and won’t run amuck, as they do in Fantasia.
You’ll find Minnie Mouse dressed for Hollywood in a glimmering pink dress in an art-deco inspired setting. If you ask nicely, Minnie might even teach you how to pose for the paparazzi. The entrance to meet Minnie and Mickey is kind of tucked away across from where the ABC shows are advertised.
Depending on the day, you might also be able to meet Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, and Chip and Dale! These characters rotate the space near where you meet Mickey and Minnie. On my last trip to Hollywood Studios, Goofy and Chip and Dale were in the same queue.
At the time of this writing, you are able to meet Star Lord and Baby Groot in the back of the Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream building. When you meet the pair, some of the tunes from Star Lord’s mixtapes are playing and Baby Groot is playing with some electronics. Comment on the music and Baby Groot might even dance with you. With THAT thing that happened in Avengers: Infinity War, I’m guessing Star Lord and Baby Groot will not be available for much longer. Catch them while you can! With a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction in the works at Epcot, hopefully Star Lord and Groot will be moving.
At the Celebrity Encounter by the Hyperion Theater, you can meet everyone’s favorite (and quite possible the only) magic snowman, Olaf! At this setting, Olaf is finally living out his summertime dreams, relaxing in the sun and hanging out on the scorching sand. The best time to meet Olaf is when the Frozen stage show is happening, as kids and their parents flock the queue the minute the show lets out.
At Pixar Place, you are able to meet Buzz and Woody! The last time I visited, the line was incredibly long, so I skipped meeting these two. Around the queue, you’ll find some Army Men! With Toy Story Land set to open this summer, these characters will be moving to that area. More Pixar friends will probably be filling in the space Buzz and Woody currently occupy.
At Star Wars Launch Bay, you can meet some of your favs from the new Star Wars movies! Each of these meetings is what Disney calls a “character experience”, meaning you actually get to interact with the characters!
First up, I met BB-8! To say I was excited was an understatement, especially when I learned that BB-8 has an interpreter who will translate his beeps to English so you can have a conversation with this little droid. Upon meeting BB-8, I was told he was having a BB-Great day (ha! puns!) before he requested a hug. Best. Day. Ever!
Next up was Kylo Ren, which was intimidating as heck! Kylo Ren, or Ben Solo, depending on your preference, immediately asked me if I was planning on joining the First Order. He then went into a spiel about what happens to recruits who say no. It was kind of terrifying, but in a fun “hey it’s Star Wars and he is so in character!” way.
Finally, I headed across the hall to meet Chewbacca. Like BB-8, Chewie has an interpreter who can tell you what his gargling means, just in case you don’t speak Wookiee. Chewie is HUGE – I’m a pretty tall gal at 5’8″ and he still had a good foot on me! While meeting Chewie, expect to be given the warmest, furriest hug of your life. It’s pretty phenomenal.
If you aren’t a huge Star Wars fan, you can still have all sorts of fun meeting these characters! If you’re a fan of the Force, plan to spend at least an hour in Launch Bay. There are tons of cool props from the films and cartoons displayed around the building!
In addition to killer rides and fun character experiences, Hollywood Studios is known for the spectacular shows (both stage and pop-up). I tend to plan my day around the showtimes to ensure I can see my “must visits” at the park. Luckily, most of the shows have a Fastpass+ option for a short line and extra awesome seats!
One of my favorite shows in Hollywood Studios is Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. At the Indiana Jones show, you get to see some behind the scenes action of how epic stunts are pulled off. The show was obviously designed a long time ago, as the twentysomething lead claims to be a “stunt double” for Harrison Ford (who is definitely far from his twenties). The show also uses audience members, so show up for the “casting call” if you want to get on stage.
Another classic Hollywood Studios show is Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage. This musical extravaganza uses fan favorite scenes and songs from the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast in just under 30 minutes. The show is in a covered amphitheater and showtimes are posted at the entrance.
One of the most heartwarming features of Hollywood Studios is For the First Time in Forever – A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration. This 20ish minute long show includes songs, lots of puns, and a bit of Elsa’s magic. Be prepared to sing your heart out, along with the toddlers in attendance, to the beloved Let it Go.
You can see Disney’s resident mermaid at Voyage of the Little Mermaid. This 15 minute stage show combines puppets, actors, and black light to retell the Disney classic in a super colorful way. I always check out the line before going in, as many small children get frightened by the darkness and start screaming when the lights go off.
The final theater show is Disney Junior – Live on Stage. I have not been to this attraction since I was a wee kid watching Bear in the Big Blue House. I don’t recommend going unless you are with a tiny human.
Around the Park
In addition to stage shows, there are a number of Star Wars themed “pop-up” shows around the park. The first of these is Star Wars – A Galaxy Far Far Away. This show combines clips from the movies with characters on stage as their clips play. It’s fairly anti-climactic, but you get to see all the villains and it’s your only chance to see Rey.
The next pop-up is March of the First Order. This show is essentially the Storm Troopers and all the commanders marching their way through the central hub of the park. It is a great chance to snap a pic with a Storm Trooper.
The final show is Jedi Training – Trails of the Temple. At this show, Jedi “train” kids the ways of the force and have them fight the Star Wars villains. It’s cool to watch for like a minute, but unless you know a kid in it, I don’t recommend staying the full-time.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios has a fairly large (and delicious) selection of food. The park is “Hollywood” themed, so all of the available options are American fare. There are two types of dining at Hollywood Studios: quick service and table service. Quick service is where you order food at a counter and then find your own place to sit and eat. Table service is where you have a waiter and are served at a table, so pretty self-explanatory. At most parks, I prefer table service, but I actually prefer the quick service options at Hollywood Studios!
One of my favorite meals in any of the Disney parks can be found at a quick service restaurant in Hollywood Studios and that’s the fried green tomato sandwich at Rosie’s All-American Cafe! You can also grab burgers, fries, and nuggets at Rosie’s. If you’re in the mood for bar-b-que, head to the ABC Commissary, where seating is indoors and air-conditioned. Pizza can be found at Catalina Eddie’s or PizzaRizzo. Cool down with some ice cream at Hollywood Scoops or munch on funnel cake at Oasis Canteen. If you’re a caffeine addict like I am, grab some coffee at the Trolley Car Cafe, which serves Starbucks coffee.
Hollywood Studios is home to one of the most in-demand reservation spots in all of Disney: the Sci-Fi Dine-in Theater Restaurant. At Sci-Fi, the tables look like classic cars and the restaurant is modeled like an indoor drive-in movie theater. I have never gotten the chance to eat here, but it is on my list! Another popular spot is the 50s Primetime Cafe, which serves classic fare like burgers and milkshakes. Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano serves pasta favorites and is a great place to kick back and get away from the craziness of the park. Baseline Tap House serves pub food and has great pretzels. Finally, the Hollywood Brown Derby boasts “fine dining” in the middle of the Disney park.
The best attraction at any Disney park is, in my opinion, the nighttime spectacular Fantasmic! Fantasmic occurs nightly just behind the Beauty and the Beast stage show. The show is centered around Mickey battling the forces of evil using his magic! Special appearances are made by Pocahontas, Ariel, Belle, and various other princesses and their princes, as well as some very giant villains. The show is lengthy, so maybe bring a snack. The show also uses mist, so try to sit higher up if it’s a windy day or you might find yourself getting soaked. I recommend getting to Fantasmic at least half an hour early, as seats fill up quickly!
Another nighttime option is Disney’s Movie Magic, which is a projection show on the side of the Chinese Theater. The show often takes place the same time as Fantasmic, so I usually skip it to see Fantasmic. Attending does give you a better chance at getting a prime viewing spot for the nightly fireworks!
Speaking of fireworks, Hollywood Studios has one heck of a fireworks show centered around Star Wars! Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is a fantastic fireworks show that merges scenes and images from the Star Wars films with explosions. It’s insanely cool, just wait until you see how they create lightsaber imagery! The fireworks tend to start right as Fantasmic lets out, so you have to be ready to hightail it across the park if you want to see both.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Let me know in the comments below! If you’re planning on visiting more than one Disney park, be sure to check out my guides to Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot!
Update 11/2018: I visited Toy Story Land!