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.
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!