Our 1-Day Disney’s Hollywood Studios touring plan covers our strategy for an efficient day in the park, minimizing time spent in line, avoiding crowds, and experiencing as much as possible. These are the attractions we would do, the restaurants at which we’d dine, the shows we’d see, and the details we’d try to enjoy. This post continues our series of 1-day park itineraries designed to answer the frequently asked question, “what would you do if you only had one day in ____ Disney park?”
Frankly, “perfect day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios” in 2016 is sort of a misnomer. If I wanted to have a perfect day at Walt Disney World, that day would involve not going to Disney’s Hollywood Studios this year. That is, unless you’re a Star Wars fan, as the “Star Wars Awakens” event has added some reasonably cool offerings. Disney closed a slew of attractions at Hollywood Studios in the last couple of years in preparation for a massive overhaul that is now underway.
This overhaul includes the addition of Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land, both of which began construction in 2016. The expansion will also include placemaking and other cosmetic and thematic changes to the park, the first of which is occurred with the removal of the giant Mickey Mouse Sorcerer’s Hat at the front of the park.
All of this, unfortunately, means that Disney’s Hollywood Studios is in “transition mode” right now. If you’re planning a once in a lifetime trip and are dead-set on doing every park at Walt Disney World, by all means, go. You’ll still have a good time. However, if I were going to skip any park this year or thinking about devoting a day to Universal Orlando, Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be the one to get skipped.
With that in mind, this post assumes moderate crowds at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the day of your visit; actual crowds and park hours vary. Consult our When to Visit Walt Disney World post to determine how bad crowds might actually be, or to plan your visit. If you’re looking for something more comprehensive to plan every aspect of your Walt Disney World vacation, from where to purchase discount tickets to transportation to what to pack and more, read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.
FastPass+ is somewhat important for Disney’s Hollywood Studios (read more about FastPass+ in our MyMagic+ FAQ), especially if you want to do Toy Story Mania. The Studios uses a tiered system for FastPass+, and my top picks for each tier are as follows: Toy Story Mania (Tier A) plus Tower of Terror and Star Tours (Tier B). For the plan, we’ll assume you are able to make the recommended FastPass+ selections.
Alright, now on with the 1-day touring plan for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Here’s what we’d do on an ideal day in DHS…
ROCK AND ROLL! – You’re up early, bright eyed, and ready to rock. Do exactly that by heading to Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster. You don’t have a FastPass+ for this, and presumably won’t be able to get a day-of one after you’re done with your other FastPasses, so you might as well do this first thing to avoid the crowds.
Cupcake Time – This is our second plan with an early morning cupcake stop, and it might seem crazy to burn those critical morning hours getting cupcakes, but really, on a moderately crowded day, you shouldn’t run into any issues with lines at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as most of what you’ll be doing is shows that have high capacity. With that in mind, head to Starring Rolls for one of Disney’s Best Cupcakes, the Butterfinger Cupcake. It will make you feel a little better about having chosen to visit the Studios! 😉
Toys & Terrifying Towers – Use those FastPass+ for Tower of Terror and Toy Story Mania, and do The Great Movie Ride. Doing so early isn’t a bad idea, as you might be able to pick up additional FastPass+ if you’re lucky. (Sometimes they are needed for Great Movie Ride these days.) If not, no biggie.
Shows & Stuff: Part I – Disney’s Hollywood Studios has a bunch of shows that are arguably worth seeing. These include the Frozen Sing-along, Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, and MuppetVision 3D. The only one of these that I absolutely implore you to see is MuppetVision.
To miss it would be distinctly unpatriotic. Consider spending some time in the pre-show area and overflow queue at MuppetVision, as there are some hilarious Easter Eggs all around. You can pencil these shows in whenever time allows, and showing up right before they start is fine, as they almost never completely fill up.
Lunch – For all of my complaints about the current state of this park, it does have two of the Best Themed Restaurants at Walt Disney World. Definitely eat at 50’s Prime Time Cafe or Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. Disregard the negative reviews, as the experience at both restaurants is the star of the show. (Personally, I think both serve pretty good food, too.)
Shows & Stuff: Part II – Do whichever of the shows that are listed in Part I that you didn’t manage to do before lunch. Descriptions and reviews of these shows can be found in our Disney’s Hollywood Studios Attractions Guide post.
Citizens of Hollywood – One of the saving graces of Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the Citizens of Hollywood “streetmosphere” performers. Instead of running off to do more attractions (what attractions?) take the time to actually stop and watch one of their performances. My favorite is the “Funniest Citizen” competition that usually occurs on Sunset Boulevard in the late afternoon. Since you’ll have plenty of time, it might also be worth checking out the Cavalcade of Stars at 10:30 am.
Star Wars Awakens – Come mid-afternoon, wander over to Star Tours: The Adventures Continue and catch the last showing of Jedi Training Academy: Trials of the Temple. Even if you don’t have kids, this is a fun show. (If you do have Star Wars-obsessed kids, race over here first thing in the morning to sign them up to participate in the show). Follow that with a spin on Star Tours, and then head over to the other side of the park to experience the rest of “Star Wars Awakens,” including Launch Bay and the “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away” stage show. At Launch Bay, you can check out the displays and meet Kylo Ren or Chewbacca.
Feel the Force…in Your Stomach – If you’re feeling brave, stop by Backlot Express for even more Star Wars “goodness” and try the Royal Guard Burger or Dark Side Chicken. (Actually, the burger isn’t nearly as bad as it looks.) Or, you can play it safe and stop by Dinosaur Gertie’s Ice Cream of Extinction for some delicious soft serve. Yeah, definitely go that route instead.
Dinner – It’s rare for me to recommend two table service restaurants in a single 1-day plan, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do here, as I recommend eating at whichever of the two restaurants above where you didn’t do lunch. If money or Disney Dining Plan credits are an issue, split meals and go just for the ambiance. If you’re staying this late at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a long table service meal is a good way to kill some time.
Meeting Tinseltown’s Finest – Another new for 2016 offering at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the opportunity to meet Mickey and Minnie in “Mickey and Minnie Starring in Red Carpet Dreams,” where the characters wear their finest formalwear. In the evenings, the lines for this are virtually non-existent (we waited less than 5 minutes), allowing for some of the best character interactions we’ve ever experienced. This is a real under the radar meet & greet, and an absolute must-do. Just save it for late in the day!
Fantasmic? – If you’ve never been to Disneyland, you’ll probably want to do this. If you have, and have seen their Fantasmic, you’ve seen the better version, so you can save yourself the time and headache of seeing it here. Note that right now, Fantasmic conflicts with Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular, making it very difficult to do both. It’s unclear whether this will continue to be the case in the fall and beyond, but if so, we recommend choosing the fireworks over Fantasmic. For more Fantasmic advice, check out our Fantasmic Tips & Tricks post.
Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular – The new Star Wars fireworks show debuted in Summer 2016, and it’s different than its predecessor. There’s less pyro, but more projections and other effects. Not necessarily better or worse, but (like we said) different. We really enjoyed both, and highly recommend seeing the new show. Note that unlike Symphony in the Stars (the previous show), the experience is not nearly as good from outside of the park.
Neon Jungle – Take the time for a slow stroll out of the park upon exiting, taking your time to look at and photograph all the beautiful neon signs. The good news here is that even though it’ll be dark out, the neon is so bright that it’s easy to photograph at night.
As compared to our other 1-Day Disney Parks Itineraries, this one is lame. I know that. The problem is, there isn’t much strategy required, nor are there many cool little things to stop and see. Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a park that will be great in a couple of years, but right now it’s just experiencing some growing pains.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? If you’re interested in learning more about hotels, our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page is a good place to start. For where to eat, try out our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews page. If you want to save money on tickets or determine which type you should get, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. OurWhat to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at unconventional things you should take on your trip. Once you arrive at the parks, our Walt Disney World “Ride Guides” are great for determining what to do and when to do it.
For overviews of all of these topics and so much more, the best place to start is our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!
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What would you include in your ideal day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Would you recommend visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios to a first-timer given the current state of the park? If you haven’t visited Walt Disney World, what do you plan on doing? Share your questions and thoughts in the comments!