Our 1-Day Disney’s Hollywood Studios touring plan offers strategy for an efficient day in the park, and a step by step itinerary for 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. (Last updated July 21, 2018.)
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 full day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios” in 2018 is sort of a misnomer. Things are starting to get better, particularly with the addition of better nighttime entertainment, but Disney’s Hollywood Studios is still at least a few months from being a full-day park again. As such, we also have a Half-Day Disney’s Hollywood Studios Itinerary, if you only want to spend the evening in the park.
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, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. The latter two will open by Late 2019, while Toy Story Land opened this summer, and has now been incorporated into this 1-day DHS strategy guide…
Despite the debut of Toy Story Land, Disney’s Hollywood Studios remains in “transition mode” right now. You’ll still have a good time at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, particularly at night, but the park definitely is undergoing some growing pains. In fact, 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. (Consult our Universal Orlando Trip Planning Guidefor more info on visiting those parks.)
As for Toy Story Land, the ideal scenario is going to be securing a FastPass+ for Slinky Dog Dash Roller Coaster. If you’re unable to do this–as will be the case for many people reading this–you will want to either do the Toy Story Land attractions first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening.
As you will see below, we’re taking the late night approach with Toy Story Land, as that’s when wait times are lowest and the attractions are best thanks to the evening ambiance. If you’re staying at an on-site Walt Disney World hotel, doing Toy Story Land during morning Extra Magic Hours is another excellent option. We do not recommend rope dropping Toy Story Land when Disney’s Hollywood Studios opens to the general public.
FastPass+ is still somewhat important for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We would recommend using your Tier 1 FastPass+ for Slinky Dog Dash or Alien Swirling Saucers, if Slinky Dog Dash is unavailable, and your Tier 2 FastPass+ selections for Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. Read more about this in our Ultimate Guide to FastPass+ at Walt Disney World.
This post assumes moderate crowds at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the day of your visit; actual crowds and park hours vary. It also assumes no FastPass+, but (as noted above) you should definitely book some. Consult our When to Visit Walt Disney World post to determine how bad crowds might actually be. For other planning for 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.
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. If you’re a thrill ride junkie, you might want to get a FastPass+ for this in advance and also rope drop it so you can do it twice; if you do it first thing it’s possible to do it a couple of times via standby before crowds show up (depending upon the season). You’ll also want to do Tower of Terror while you’re in the neighborhood.
Toy Story Mania – For years, the craziest morning at Walt Disney World was the Toy Story Mania dash. Then came FastPass+, pretty much ending that. Now, another track has been added to Toy Story Mania, and its waits have dropped dramatically. In an ideal world, you’ll get here within an hour of park opening, and will have a relatively modest wait. Waits could spike further for this now that Great Movie Ride is closed (to be replaced by Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway), as this is now the only ride (moving attraction) at Disney’s Hollywood Studios without a height restriction.
FastPass+ – Use your FastPass+ selections at this point. Unlike other parks, doing so early isn’t a bad idea, as this should exhaust your supply of FastPass+, enabling you to pick up additional same-day FastPass+. If you’re lucky, there will be some good stuff left. If not, no biggie.
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 Trolley Car Cafe (the Starbucks location at Disney’s Hollywood Studios) for one of Disney’s Best Cupcakes, the Butterfinger Cupcake/Chocolate Toffee Cupcake.
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.
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.) Consider this Option A for dinner if you’d rather do something lighter.
Meeting Tinseltown’s Finest – Another new(ish) 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!
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. (If you want a fancier meal, we’re also big fans of Hollywood Brown Derby.)
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.
With that in mind, we recommend choosing the fireworks over Fantasmic. For more Fantasmic advice, check out our Fantasmic Tips & Tricks post.
Disney Movie Magic – In a surprise move starting last summer, Walt Disney World has introduced a new projection show on Grauman’s Chinese Theater, which lasts 10 minutes and occurs 30 minutes before “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular.” Disney Movie Magic includes many Disney live-action movies, including Beauty and the Beast, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, Jungle Book, and Tron! We really enjoy this.
Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular – This Star Wars fireworks show debuted a couple of years ago, 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.
Slinky Dog Dash – As soon as Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular ends, race to Toy Story Land and jump into line for Slinky Dog Dash. As of Summer 2018, it is possible to watch the fireworks and jump into line for Slinky Dog Dash before park closing. At this point, you’ll likely wait in line around 45 minutes. Considering the significantly longer middle of the day waits–which are also in the hot Florida sun–that’s not too shabby. Plus, the ride is better at night thanks to the fun lighting package, so it’s win-win.
Alien Swirling Saucers – You will almost certainly not have time to do Alien Swirling Saucers after Slinky Dog Dash but before park closing. We mention it here because you could skip Slinky Dog Dash or Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular to ensure you’ll have time to do Alien Swirling Saucers…but we really would not recommend that. Give this one a year or so, and wait times will consistently be under 20 minutes. (If this is really important to you, do it early in the morning, after Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror but before Toy Story Mania.)
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 a ton of strategy required, nor are there many cool little things to stop and see. If there’s any day you want to sleep in, make it the day you visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Whereas it’s pretty important to rope drop the other 3 parks at Walt Disney World, your touring plan for Disney’s Hollywood Studios can be much more laid back. This is a park that will be great in a couple of years, but right now it’s just experiencing some growing pains.
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!