Our 1-Day Hollywood Studios itinerary is an efficient step-by-step plan & strategy for minimizing time waiting in lines, maximizing rides, and avoiding crowds at Walt Disney World. It covers attractions, restaurants, shows, including Fantasmic, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, and more. (Updated February 18, 2024.)
This Disney’s Hollywood Studios (DHS) plan has been updated to take into account all of the major changes in the last year-plus. The itinerary factors in current crowd dynamics, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance reliability and popularity, Early Entry, Genie+ Lightning Lanes, the closure of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, return of Fantasmic, debut of Mandalorian and Grogu, and rare character initiative at DHS.
A lot has changed at DHS in the last few years with the opening of major new lands and rides, and disappearance of entertainment. While the new stuff is great news, the loss of shows and atmospheric acts–once thought to be temporary cuts–is a big blow. Aside from the Little Mermaid stage show, which will finally reopen in late 2024, most of the missing entertainment is gone for good. Crowds have been the other big change, as DHS is busier than ever. With all of that in mind, this is our revised 1-day Disney’s Hollywood Studios itinerary for 2024.
If you’re staying on-site and can arrive early, check out our report on Early Entry at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Either of those things will give you a big advantage, but neither are strictly necessary for a productive day in DHS. You’ll just spend more time waiting in standby lines without Early Entry or Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, and you’ll need/want to stay later in the day.
Fortunately, there are still ways to outsmart the crowds without buying Genie+ or being eligible for Early Entry. With that said, if you want to know which of those (and other) approaches is best, see our new Genie+ v. Savvy Standby Strategy at Walt Disney World, which details the best and worst ways to save time in lines.
This post continues our series of Walt Disney World Park Itineraries & Park Plans designed to answer the frequently asked question, “what would you do in an ideal day at the park?” With Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway plus all of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge now open, including both Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, there’s more to do here, and we once again recommend spending a full day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
However, it also can be a very challenging and frustrating day because the attraction lineup is very top heavy, consisting almost largely of highly popular rides. Unlike virtually every other park at Walt Disney World, DHS is lacking in the “supporting players” department. Which is to say there are very few low hassle attractions and shows that are easy to do with minimal wait to round out your day or kill time.
Unlike all of our other WDW plans, our strategy for Disney’s Hollywood Studios starts prior to the day of your visit…
DHS Rope Drop – For an ideal experience at DHS, we recommend arriving to the park about 30 before official opening time, and picking up this itinerary from there.
If you’re staying on-site and are eligible for Early Entry, we’d strongly recommend arriving 45 minutes before the official start time of that.
Start with Second Choices – Unfortunately, if you’re staying off-site and are arriving for official park opening, you’re going to be behind the crowd, making both Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance bad options for starting the day. This leaves you with the “second choice” options.
If you don’t mind criss-crossing the park and also don’t intend to stay all day, that opens up Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run or Toy Story Mania as good options. Those have high average wait times (#3 and #5 at DHS) over the course of the day, but won’t yet have long lines. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is another strong selection (#4 average wait at DHS) on the way into the park, and it also won’t be bad yet.
Normally, our advice is to “zig when they zag” right at the start of the day and head to Sunset Boulevard. During the first hour, wait times for Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror should be relatively low. You can usually start with Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster and you might even be able to do that twice as a walk-on before heading to Tower of Terror.
To make a long story short, we recommend starting with Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway between now and July 2024. Maybe Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run if you love Star Wars, want to see Galaxy’s Edge while it’s still quiet, and don’t mind extra walking. After your first ride or two, it’s time for a contrarian approach…
Hollywood Dreams – By the time you’re done with your first ride or two, all attractions will have high wait times. This is an unfortunate reality at Disney’s Hollywood Studios–wait times get long earlier than any other park. The first bit of good news is that it’ll work to your advantage later in the day.
The second bit of good news is that, currently, character meet & greets lag behind other attractions in having long wait times. Get ahead of the crowds by doing Red Carpet Dreams, which is the Minnie and Mickey Mouse meet & greet. This currently averages a 61 minute wait time throughout the day, but should have an actual wait time of under 30 minutes when you arrive.
In particular, we want to draw your attention to the Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers meet & greet at the Adventure Outpost by Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular starting at 10:15 am daily. Following that, Vacation Goofy and Max Goof as Powerline appear on Grand Avenue near the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge entrance starting at 10:45 am. These rare characters are all very popular, and we highly recommend seeing them as early on as possible. Depending upon the time, you may either want to do this or the next step first.
Go See A Star War: Episode I – Once you’re finished with the characters, continue to Star Tours: the Adventures Continue and then Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Don’t be afraid to slow down and enjoy some of the atmosphere on Batuu–it’s the least crowded Galaxy’s Edge will be until the evening hours. Consider perusing the shops and marketplace stalls now, as many will have lines later in the day.
We’d also strongly recommend prioritizing the free-roaming Mandalorian and Baby Yoda characters who appear in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. This duo is absolutely mobbed in the afternoon, but their sets that start before 11 am are not nearly as bad. Now might also be a good time to try your luck with a walkup at Oga’s Cantina, the Star Wars bar.
If characters aren’t your thing, another strong option is doing Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway first and Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run second. (In which case, you should skip Star Tours and do it later.) You might encounter a slightly longer line for Smugglers Run, but it won’t be nearly as bad as later in the morning or early afternoon.
Early Lunch – During the middle of the day, you’re going to have some time to kill while waiting for wait times to drop. Fortunately, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is home to two of the Best Themed Restaurants at Walt Disney World.
Definitely book Advance Dining Reservations for right around noon 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. (Note that both are incredibly hard Advance Dining Reservations to score right now; Hollywood Brown Derby is also a great pick if you can’t book either of the other two.)
Shows & Stuff – Disney’s Hollywood Studios has a bunch of shows that are worth seeing. These include the Frozen Sing-along, Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, and MuppetVision 3D.
No strategy is required for seeing these, just do them at your leisure around their scheduled showtimes. They seldom have actual waits or lines, and are a good way to fill the middle of the day while the rides have long standby queues.
In particular, we highly recommend MuppetVision 3D–to skip 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.
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is also a ton of fun, a blockbuster production worthy of its “epic” name. Definitely make sure you watch (at least) both of those; these shows are great ways to kill times while waiting for standby wait times to drop on the park’s headliner rides.
Early Dinner – If you’ve somehow already worked up an appetite and still have time to kill, consider doing another meal. Ideally, whichever of the two table service restaurants you didn’t do above. If you’re more in a drinking and snacking mood, give BaseLine Tap House a try (food spreads pictured above).
Whatever you do, make sure you’re not going to need to eat a full sit-down meal in the last 4 hours that DHS is open. This plan practically relies on doing dinner early, which is another “zig-when-they-zag” piece of planning advice for Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Sunset at Sunset – At this point, it’s a good idea to do Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway or the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which you didn’t do to start the day.
With both attractions, there are benefits to going earlier or later. First, that’s when its line is shortest, so you’re waiting the least amount of time. Second, the queue is mostly outdoors, and the sun can be brutal earlier in the day. Finally, they’re near the front of the park, and has the longest lines while guests are arriving or leaving. The sweet spot for short lines is about 5 pm or so. You won’t experience the shortest lines of the day, but this is a good compromise.
Toy Story Land Mania – The most popular part of Disney’s Hollywood Studios with families is Toy Story Land. It’s even more popular than the bigger budget Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge with this demographic, and the crowds you’ll experience earlier in the day bear this out.
Everyone’s gotta eat, and most people dine on a consistent and predictable schedule. This is doubly true of families with small children, the core audience of Toy Story Land. Like clockwork, families will start doing dinner at around 6 pm, resulting in a bit of a lull in Toy Story Land crowds. This is precisely why we recommended zigging when they zag and eating an early dinner if at all possible.
With so many high-profile rides in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this is really your best play if you aren’t eligible for Early Entry and are unwilling to purchase Genie+ access to Lightning Lanes. The reality is that you’re going to have to compromise somewhere, as it’s simply not possible to get everything done without going against the grain somewhere. You can’t have your cake and eat it too at DHS…unless you do so at 4 pm or 5 pm! 😉
Once you’re in Toy Story Land, you’re going to want to do both Toy Story Mania and Slinky Dog Dash. Which you should do first really depends on when you enter the land. If you arrive before 6 pm, do Toy Story Mania first. If after 6 pm, do Slinky Dog Dash first. Don’t worry too much about posted wait times–they are reactive rather than proactive, meaning Slinky Dog Dash’s posted wait time will drop towards the tail end of the dinner lull…right as people are starting to jump back into line. (Skip Alien Swirling Saucers.)
Another option here if you’re not up for an early dinner is eating at Woody’s Lunch Box after both Toy Story Land attractions, after the dinner rush subsides a bit there. If you have even more time, you can do the new Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant. However, that typically requires ADRs or getting really lucky with Walk-up Waitlist!
Go See A Star War: Episode II — Following Toy Story Land, we recommend backtracking to Batuu once again. It’s better to spend the bulk of your time in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge later in the day rather than in the morning for a couple of reasons. First, crowds are actually worst in the morning and get progressively better as the day wears on.
Second, because Star Wars Land is simply better as the day goes on. The lighting adds a lot to the moody off-planet atmosphere, and makes the experience even more immersive. If time allows, try to knock out both Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance via the standby line.
Do the attractions in that order, and expect Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance to take less than an hour, even if the posted wait time for the standby line is 90 minutes or longer. (Barring a breakdown, it’ll take far less time than the posted wait time suggests.)
Fantasmic – Returning after a nearly 3 year hiatus in reimagined form, Fantasmic is a must see. On nights when there’s only one showing of Fantasmic, that’s the one you’ll do (obviously). While you can line up to see Fantasmic up to 90 minutes in advance, we recommend showing up around 30 minutes in advance. You won’t get as good of a seat, but most views in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater are “good enough.” (Consider booking the cheapest Fantasmic Dining Package to guarantee yourself a great seat that way!)
On nights when there are two showtimes of Fantasmic, it’s common for the second one to occur at park closing or 30 minutes after. We’ve managed to see the second showing of Fantasmic from spectacular seats without arriving more than 5 minutes in advance of showtime.
This has been the case even on evenings when the first performance was quite busy and seats filled up 30 minutes before showtime. On those same busier days, the late performances of Fantasmic had multiple entire sections that went unfilled. I was able to snag the third row of a great section at (literally) 2 minutes before showtime, and that was on a busy day.
If you’re a Fantasmic fanatic, you might prefer the ‘perfect’ view of the newly-reimagined nighttime spectacular. Again, we’d recommend booking the dining package in that case. For more viewing advice, see our Guide to Fantasmic at Disney’s HollywoodStudios.
After that, 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.
All in all, it should conclude a pretty satisfying day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This park is so much better than it was just a few years ago–it’s now unquestionably a full day park and one that is free of visible construction. The added good news is that Disney’s Hollywood Studios should further improve once more of the stage shows start to return. That has already happened with the Frozen Sing-Along, so hopefully the others will follow suit soon!
What would you include in your ideal day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios? What’s your preferred strategy for Toy Story Land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the Sunset Boulevard duo? What about the first v. second showing of Fantasmic? Do you utilize a zig-when-they-zag approach to DHS, or stick with conventional strategy? If you haven’t visited Walt Disney World, what do you plan on doing? Do you agree or disagree with our strategy or plan of attack? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!