Disney’s Hollywood Studios Half-Day Itinerary
If you only want to spend a half-day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this post offers a plan of attack for touring the park efficiently in a single evening. Given that DHS is the Walt Disney World park with the fewest rides, that may be all you need to experience everything of interest to you.
For Walt Disney World first-timers, a full day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is probably a good idea. Before making a decision, you should read our 1-Day Disney’s Hollywood Studios Itinerary and see how much of that appeals to you. With a handful of stage shows and several great table service restaurants, it’s still very possible to have a satisfying first-visit to DHS.
Moreover, now that Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge are both open, you might want to plan a full day for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Doing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run, Slinky Dog Dash, and both nighttime spectaculars via this itinerary is not possible…
There are a few ways to approach an evening in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. First, if you want to do Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, you need to strategize. Thankfully, the virtual queue is gone, but it’s still the most popular–and frustrating–attraction at Walt Disney World. Read our FAQ & Ride Guide to Star Wars Rise of the Resistance for everything you need to know.
Upon arrival, you can either do a few headliners like Slinky Dog Dash, Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, or exit the park immediately. We’ve opted for both approaches, sometimes sticking around until ~9 am. Other times, we’ve left DHS after less than 5 minutes, not even venturing beyond the Crossroads of the World.
Either way, we walk or take the Skyliner over to Epcot for the middle of the day before returning for the late afternoon and evening. Upon returning when your boarding group is called, you can slot Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance into the beginning (or wherever) of this itinerary…
If you’re fine forgoing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, there a couple of ways to approach a half-day in the park. The more conservative option is booking Genie+ Lightning Lanes for the afternoon and evening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, rope dropping another park, and doing as many attractions as possible with minimal via standby before Park Hopping to DHS once crowds catch up to you. In this scenario, we’d recommend making that your second day at whatever the first park might be (likely Magic Kingdom or Epcot), and not trying to go for broke on the park’s most popular attractions.
The alternative is booking Genie+ as normal for your first park (or not at all), trying to do as many high profile attractions as possible, and showing up at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with zero Lightning Lane ride reservations in hand. This Half-Day Disney’s Hollywood Studios Touring Plan is going to assume the latter approach, primarily because that’s the more difficult strategy.
ACTION! – For this plan to work, you need to arrive on ‘set’ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios by 5 p.m., having already eaten dinner and with no interest in any of the stage shows. You also have to be prepared to do things efficiently. Unlike our other Disney Parks Itineraries, this one is not a ‘stop and smell the roses’ touring plan–it’s an aggressive plan of attack that requires some hustle.
If you want to do dinner at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we highly recommend showing up an hour and a half earlier and doing a table service meal. Alternatively, we’re huge fans of Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (as well as the nearby Ronto Wraps) if you’re tighter on time. Either way, you need to be finished with whatever else you add to this schedule by 5 p.m.
Star Tours: the Adventures Continue – Thanks to the finest technology in space tourism, the fine folks who operate tours of the Star War are incredibly efficient. This attraction usually has minimal wait in the late afternoon, and should take 30-40 minutes of your time from the moment you enter the queue until you disembark.
Even if you’ve experienced Star Tours: the Adventures Continue before, we’d recommend doing it again. New scenes were added following the release of Star Wars: the Rise of Skywalker (you might want to see the movie first if you haven’t already, as the scenes offer mild spoilers).
Toy Story Mania – For years, the longest line at Walt Disney World was Toy Story Mania. Then, another track was added to Toy Story Mania, causing its waits to drop dramatically.
Waits for Toy Story Mania typically peak by about 2 p.m., and hold steady for the rest of the evening until right before park close. As such, we’d recommend this in the early evening, prior to the other two headliners.
Rock and Drop – The attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with the longest waits throughout the day are Slinky Dog Dash, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run, and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Their waits tend to not drop off until a couple of hours before park closing, which is really the sweet spot for experiencing these rides if you don’t have Genie+ or don’t want to do Single Rider.
The problem with that is the reason these waits are dropping is because people are starting to get spots for Fantasmic. In an ideal scenario, you do Millennium Falcon via Single Rider ~3 hours before park closing, then Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster ~2.5 hours before park closing via the Single Rider, Tower of Terror thereafter, and then immediately head to the first showing of Fantasmic. You won’t get front row seats for Fantasmic in this scenario, but you also won’t waste a bunch of time in line, and then sitting around waiting for the show to begin.
Enter Mickey’s Imagination… – This nighttime spectacular is succinctly described by the opening narration: “Welcome to Fantasmic! Mickey Mouse uses his vivid imagination to create magical imagery…a beautiful fantasy or an exciting adventure! But beware… nothing is more powerful than the imagination–for it can also expand your greatest fears into an overwhelming nightmare.” Basically, Fantasmic is Mickey Mouse tripping, but without any psychedelic drugs (at least, to our knowledge).
While we often skip Fantasmic because we find the Walt Disney World version inferior to the Disneyland version, it’s a can’t-miss nighttime spectacular if you’ve never seen it before. It’s incredibly unique, incorporates a lot of different visual effects, and has a great soundtrack. Sure, there’s way too much Pocahontas, but nothing is perfect.
Slinky Dog DASH! – At present, the fireworks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios begin at park closing. This means it’s not possible to do both Slinky Dog Dash and watch the fireworks. Fortunately(?), these are the weakest fireworks in all of Walt Disney World, and are safely skippable. Moreover, you can see a decent amount of the pyro from within Toy Story Land.
In any case, you need to book it from Fantasmic to Toy Story Land to jump into line for Slinky Dog Dash before the park closes–and before everyone who is exiting Fantasmic with the same idea gets in line ahead of you. We highly recommend this strategy, as Slinky Dog Dash’s lines are shortest at the end of the night.
Neon Jungle – The pace of this plan was so frantic that it’s nice to finally take some time to slow down and enjoy the details. Fortunately, once you’re done with Slinky Dog Dash, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be pretty quiet, and you can take your time with a peaceful stroll out of the park.
While exiting, slow down to look at and photograph all the beautiful neon signs. Examine the buildings, each of which are modeled after real locations in Los Angeles. This is a great way to experience the beautiful architecture of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and will give you a greater appreciation of the park. Trust me, the versions of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards in DHS are better than the real thing!
Hopefully this Disney’s Hollywood Studios touring plan makes sense and helps you experience the highlights in a single evening. Minimally, this aggressive plan will provide you an idea of whether it’s worthwhile to return to Disney’s Hollywood Studios a second night to experience whatever you miss.
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!
What would you include in your perfect evening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Do you think this plan makes sense, or is it an overzealous amount to accomplish in a single evening at DHS? Would you recommend visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios to a first-timer given the current state of the park? Any questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Do you have any suggestions for trying to get a half-day in later this month? With the suspension of fast-passes and rules on park-hopper tix saying you can’t enter a second park until 2pm will we be able to get get in on any of the attractions?
I’ll be going back to WDW in May. I’m looking at doing a full day in DHS for doing most things not star wars, then the day we leave, I plan on doing a Star Wars morning. Planning on Star Tours, both SW:GE rides – if it works out, Build a bear…or droid rather (my 5 year old will enjoy that more than a lightsaber), Star Wars meet n greets at the launch bay, then the jedi training academy if possible. Got my fingers crossed FP’s will be available by then, haha.
Could you do a holiday version of this? This is exactly what we were planning to do when we are there in early November, but obviously it will be with the holiday entertainment. We haven’t done the new holiday shows at Studios, so we aren’t sure what to expect time wise. (And thanks to Disney’s ever procrastinating schedule publishing, there’s not a lot out there to plan with) With a 3 year old and an 18 month old, we will be there primarily for TSL and the holiday shows! Ideas/recommendations about FP reservations for the evening? Would you expect the FP 30 day reservations in early November to be similar to what they are now? Or maybe thin out a little?
Also, only slightly related…..any rumors on when the cars show will debut at studios in 2019?
What is the dinosaur in the last picture on this post?
My answer it that it’s a dinosaur statue that is positioned over the lake that’s inside Hollywood Studios, to the left by the Indiana Jones show. It gets decorated for the winter holidays. Tom has much more to say about it in this older post though: https://www.disneytouristblog.com/dinosaur-gertie-awesome/
Can you please do winter versions of your itineraries when the parks aren’t open as late? I will be there late January 2019.
Agreed a different itinerary will likely be needed looking at the closing hours and show times for December.
For Star Wars fans, I think you are remiss to not mention the Jedi Training at the Temple opportunities for kids. This was the highlight of our DHS day as my 5 year old is an avid dark side fan and thoroughly enjoyed battling Kylo Ren (although she would have preferred Darth Vader). There are later Jedi experiences, except it requires signing up first thing in the morning so that could throw a wrench into a true half-day plan.
I just wanted to post that my family loves this park. My kids were 6 and 12 the last time we went and we went back to DHS a second day. It’s a shame they lost the Honey, I shrunk the kids play area. All the kids seemed to love that.
The Indiana Jones stunt show really is worth seeing too
Thanks so much for this advice. I read it just the night before I set my fast passes for my Dec Trip. We will be doing this. I had already planned to do two nights because we loved the Star Wars Fireworks.
I was wondering about this myself. We arrive at 10am on December 10th and plan on hitting Hollywood studious that night. Figuring we can get to the park by 3pm at the latest. We do have a dinner reservation at 5pm. What do you think my fast pass plan should be. I was thinking, Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania and Star Tours. Do you think this is a good plan. We don’t plan on seeing Fantasmic as both my wife and myself are not fans (i know this is sacrilege but oh well, LOL). Thanks.
Hi! This itinerary has provided me with some good ideas for our trip in Nov. during Jersey week. Based on our schedule, we are considering checking out opening night of Jingle Bam but I’m trying to figure out if we will have time to get to HS in time from our 5:30 pm dinner reservation at Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge . I would think we have sufficient time, but then when I read blogs and see “leave 60-90 minutes” to get between resorts and parks, I hesitate. Any thoughts if we’ll make it? Thanks for your thoughts in advance.
where is the best place to see the galactic spectacular at dhs
Can u do top 10 rides at Disneyland resort? Then, can you also do your favorite rides at Disneyland resort? Sort of like what you did for Walt Disney World.
How crazy to read this post!! This past weekend I more or less came to the same conclusion regarding DHS itinerary for my next trip in November. Now I see I wasn’t that far right about it.
And like you say, I plan on going a bit earlier than 5pm to see the shows (I actually like them).
The thing is… Star Wars Espectacular is being replaced with Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM at 8pm the week I’m visiting.
Fantasmic is 8.30pm.
Do I have time to do BOTH shows in the same night if I get FP+ for Fantasmic? (I already know the answer If I don’t have FP+).
Thanks a lot!
When I was there in March and both shows were scheduled we tried this plan. We did sit in the back right facing stage for Fantasmic and at the end of show they directed us out back stage and we ended up at the entrance of the park at crossroads/spinning Mickey. Like you mentioned, by that time there is not a good place to see the Star Wars projection and the fireworks. We moved as close as we could on the boulevard, but basically enjoyed the music and some of the larger fireworks. If you don’t stay around after(we didn’t that night) we had timed it perfect for the busses. We missed the waiting after Fantasmic and front of the crowd after Star Wars.
Maybe it’s just because I’m into photography, but I actually prefer a bit farther back on Hollywood Blvd for Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. I don’t think the projections are particularly well-done, and from this area you have far thinner crowds, can still see the pyro, see the lasers, and hear the score. Fairly ideal for me–but that assumes you’re fine missing the projections.
Good point about the buses, too! Sometimes they hold them until each bus is completely full, but even then, at least you’re not waiting in a huge line with 2 buses filling before you’re able to board.
Better title “Complete a full half-day at DHS: What to do after toy story and star tours”
I think we’d be remiss to not mention The Brown Derby. Our touring plan in September is to hit star tours, tower, and mania with fast passes in the morning, single rider Rockin and then bag out of there to eat lunch and walk the Word Showcase. Maybe snag a FP at Epcot for something or snag a later DHS FP. We are gonna come back for an excellent meal at the Derby and then dump out into the street for Star Wars. To me, that’s the best use of Hollywood Studios at this point!
The toughest part for me about only doing an evening in DHS is skipping the trio of excellent table service restaurants. While the parking is still lacking on things to do, 2 table service meals in one day plus a show or two easily turns this itinerary into a full day one.
I think you’d be justified in calling a half day park even with some excellent dining. My wife and I don’t plan on spending more than 2.5 hours there in the morning, leaving us the late morning and all afternoon and evening before getting back to DHS by 7pm for dinner and some fireworks. That’s about a max of 4.5 hours in the park wherein we are hitting all four of the rides (and probably trying to squeeze in the Muppets) and dinner and fireworks in the evening. Pretty efficient use of a half day, I think.
It helps that we are staying on Crescent Lake, but if we are still spending another 5.5 hours not at DHS – be it at the pool, EPCOT, another park and still making time for the cocktail hour at personal favorites of Belle Vue or Abracadabar.
As much as I agreee with DHS not being a full day park, I often find a few hours here and there over the course of my trip is the best strategy. I have very strong feelings towards the stage shows, I love them far more than most full grown men should. My absolute highlight at DHS is Beauty and the Beast the musical purely for Gaston (by far my favourite ever Disney character). I often cherry pick a fast pass at DHS along with a show time, get my full and repeat over a couple of days (not neccassarily consecutive) but I’m British and my holidays are usually 14+ days so can afford the luxury of 3/4 short visits to DHS
Hollywood Studios has always been my least favorite park, except that it has Tower of Terror, my favorite ride! My husband and I actually opted to skip it entirely during our last trip – our honeymoon in May. I was sad that I didn’t get to go on ToT – it just felt wrong to leave it all alone like that – but we also opted not to get park hopper this trip (tight budget after that wedding!) so even a half day wasn’t possible.
I like your plan for an evening in HS. Nighttime is definitely better to go, to see the streets of Hollywood lit up with the Tower looming at the end…Awesome!!
I’m not a Star Wars fan at all, but I love Fantasmic. Even the amphitheater is impressive, let alone the great show they put on! And I actually love how much love Pocahontas gets – she deserves more recognition, and hoo boy John Smith is hot!
A perfect night at HS for me would be to eat at 50’s Prime Time, Do Rock’n’Rollercoaster once, and then ride ToT over and over and over again, stopping just to see Fantasmic. Yep. That sounds perfect and not sickening at all!
I sure hope there is a break between sci fi and the thrill rides