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. (Last updated July 29, 2018.)
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 is open, you might want to plan a full day for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as doing Slinky Dog Dash and both nighttime spectaculars via this itinerary is not possible unless you have a FastPass+ for Slinky Dog Dash. However, if shows aren’t really your thing, or you don’t want to do table service restaurants, or if you have small children (there’s only one moving ride without a height requirement), less time in Disney’s Hollywood Studios is probably a better idea. As repeat visitors, Park Hopping to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the evening is typically what we do.
There are a couple of ways to approach an evening in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The more conservative option is booking FastPass+ for 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 FastPass+ as normal for your first park, trying to do as many high profile attractions as possible, and showing up at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with zero FastPass+ bookings 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 (and this plan is more or less the same–except easier–if you have FastPass+).
Despite DHS being a half-day park right now, it’s the only park with two nighttime spectaculars worth seeing. Expecting people to spend two days in Disney’s Hollywood Studios right now feels like a cruel joke, but the good news is that since Toy Story Land opened, it’s now possible to see both shows in one night. Unfortunately, depending upon how you schedule your itinerary, you still might need two evenings to see both.
We’d never recommend you spend two full days in the Walt Disney World park with the least things to do, but this plan coupled with intelligent use of Park Hopper tickets makes it possible to see both while still spending as little time in Disney’s Hollywood Studios as possible…
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.
Yeah, we realize eating dinner before 5 p.m. is ludicrous, but the efficient alternative is eating Dark Side Chicken and Waffles (or something else, equally bad), which derive their name from the fact that the Dark Side feeds these cardboard waffles to prisoners as form of torture. If you want to do dinner, we highly recommend showing up an hour and a half earlier and doing a table service meal. Counter service is mostly awful at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
If you want to add shows to this plan, consult a daily schedule and arrive whenever is appropriate for them. 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.
Toy Story Mania – For years, the longest line and most coveted FastPass 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 – As of Summer 2018, the attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with the longest waits throughout the day are Slinky Dog Dash, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, 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 FastPass+.
The problem with that is the reason these waits are dropping is because people are starting to get spots for Fantasmic or Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular…which you also will probably want to do. In an ideal scenario, you do Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster roughly 2.5 hours before park closing via the Single Rider (unless the wait is <30 minutes), do 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.
If you have to choose between Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular and Fantasmic, we would recommend everyone but the staunchest Star Wars fans opt for Fantasmic. While the Star Wars fireworks are enjoyable, the pyro is limited, and it’s essentially a montage show projected onto Grauman’s Chinese Theater with other effects and the scores from the films. For fans, this enough to make it a compelling, emotional experience. For those with casual interest (or none at all) in Star Wars, it’s somewhat underwhelming.
Lightspeed to Hollywood Boulevard! – The lightspeed trip to Hollywood Boulevard is not so important as of Summer 2018, as there’s an hour buffer between the first Fantasmic and Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. However, there’s only 40 minutes between Fantasmic and Disney Movie Magic, which is a fun fireworks pre-show show that we recommend seeing, so don’t move too slowly to Hollywood Boulevard after Fantasmic!
If Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is scheduled 30 minutes after Fantasmic (as is often the case), it is possible to see both shows in a single night. With Fantasmic being around 25 minutes long and (easily) 5 minutes from Hollywood Boulevard, it’s difficult to see both shows in full, but if you have back-of-the-house seats for Fantasmic and race out the moment the show ends, you can get subpar spots on Hollywood Boulevard for nearly the entire Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular.
Slinky Dog DASH! – The duration of Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is right around 15 minutes, meaning it’s entirely possible to see the fireworks and then dash to Toy Story Land to jump into line for Slinky Dog Dash before the park closes–at least as of Summer 2018, when Disney’s Hollywood Studios closes nightly at 10:30 p.m.
We highly recommend this strategy, as Slinky Dog Dash’s lines are shortest at the end of the night. With that said, it still is a savvy idea to see Star: Wars A Galactic Spectacular from closer to Grauman’s Chinese Theater so you can beat the (small) crowd to Toy Story Land, and so you’re not “swimming upstream” on Hollywood Boulevard as the mass exodus of guests leaving occurs. Fifteen minutes is plenty of time to get to Slinky Dog Dash, all things considered.
(Note: it’s also possible to see all of the pyro from Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular from within Toy Story Land–see above photo–so if you don’t care about the projections, watching the fireworks from Toy Story Land might be the smarter choice.)
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!
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.
Hopefully this Disney’s Hollywood Studios touring plan makes sense and helps you experience the highlights in a single evening. The good news is that there’s a lot on the horizon that’s exciting at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the next few years. However, with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge not opening until late 2019, and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway likely opening around that same time (if not 2020), it might be a while before you want to spend a full day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
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!