It’s been a busy long weekend. It started with our 20-Hour Day at Walt Disney World, continued with more Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, plus Food & Wine at Epcot. Bright and early this a.m., we once again returned for Extra, Extra Magic Hours (ExEMH) at DHS, which we’ll cover in this ‘morning report’ that also offers something of a touring plan.
For those who haven’t been paying attention, I’ve been pretty hyped on Extra, Extra Magic Hours at Walt Disney World since they were announced in the spring. I thought these would offer a huge strategic advantage to anyone willing to get up early, and would put to bed a lot of the complaints about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening earlier than anticipated.
In retrospect, all I can think is how naive of me. ExEMH only added fuel to the fire, leading to more issues due to the ridiculously early morning hours, and lack of an evening counterpart. That’s understandable coming from many guests, especially families who have a difficult time getting out the door so early. However, you’ll absolutely want to take advantage of ExEMH if you can. The rest of what follows is a breathlessly long-winded post about why Extra, Extra Magic Hours are the greatest thing at Walt Disney World in a while…
After finishing our fist round of Extra, Extra Magic Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I’m even more sold on the excellence of this invention. This was one of our best-ever “days” at DHS, and it makes me want to scoop up some more DVC reservations. I’m doubling-down, and imploring you to take advantage of Extra, Extra Magic Hours.
Seriously, do not sleep on this. Extra, Extra Magic Hours instantly jumps to the top of our list for best ways to experience the parks, well ahead of evening Extra Magic Hours, or even the paid After Hours events. You’ll have large portions of the park almost entirely to yourself–all you have to do is drag yourself out of bed super early. We know that’s asking a lot on vacation, but the payoff here is totally worth the effort.
Even if this means taking a nap each and every day of your Walt Disney World vacation between 11 am and 6 pm (except Epcot day), you’ll still come out ahead. The reason so many people have complained about ExEMH is the reason they’re so great: no one wants to get up before 5 am on vacation.
Because no one wants to get up before 5 am on vacation, these mornings are going to be criminally under-attended, allowing you to experience “nighttime” at Walt Disney World, see the sunrise, and experience (essentially) an entire day in the parks, all in one condensed morning. AND ALL WITHOUT PAYING AN UPCHARGE COST.
This simply wouldn’t be possible with a late night event, as far more people are willing to stay until midnight or even 1 am than are willing to get up at 5 am. We more or less witnessed exactly that with the evening EMH for Pandora – World of Avatar, which were just as crowded as a regular day.
For those who don’t pay close attention to Walt Disney World news, ExEMH was announced at a time when most prognosticators (including Disney’s own) anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to be chaotic and crowded for months on end upon opening. That didn’t happen at Disneyland and has not happened at Walt Disney World. At this point, it could be December before crowds really spike.
Suffice to say, Extra, Extra Magic Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a great way to experience the park’s most popular attractions, including Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Mania & Slinky Dog Dash in Toy Story Land, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror all as virtual walk-ons. (Don’t expect ExEMH to be extended for November and/or December.)
Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be offering Extra, Extra Magic Hour from 6 to 9 am every day from now through November 2. We decided to partake in the fun on day 2 of ExEMH, opting to skip the first day because we assumed there would be some pent-up demand for that, and it wouldn’t necessarily be representative of future ExEMH mornings.
One could argue that today is also not representative of actual crowds due to Hurricane Dorian cancellations. While there definitely have been some of those, today is still only the second day of this offering and is also a holiday. Accordingly, I think the ‘missing’ guests who cancelled are easily offset by the remaining pent-up demand and the slight spike due to Labor Day.
As excited as I was by the prospect of experiencing these attractions with minimal waits, the real reason we got up at the crack of dawn to head to Disney’s Hollywood Studios was for the sunrise photos. The necessity of doing a post offering some “strategy” was simply my excuse to convince Sarah to accompany me…and do most of the work.
We arrived at Disney’s Hollywood Studios extra early for Extra, Extra Magic Hours…getting inside the park just after 5:30 am.
Our thinking here was that the park might quietly open even before the published start time, but that didn’t happen, so we ended up just waiting a bit longer.
We always get questions about what time buses start running, and the answer is almost always earlier than necessary. If the park opens at 8 a.m., buses are on the prowl by 6 a.m.
I don’t know what time the buses start running during ExEMH, but if you wanted to be there at 5 am for some reason, you’d probably have no problem catching a bus. Same will likely go for the Skyliner once it starts operating later this month.
We waited on Hollywood Boulevard until exactly 6 am, at which point an announcement played and Stormtroopers slowly walked us back to the queue for Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run.
All told, the walk took 18-20 minutes (depending upon when you stop the clock) and it was excruciatingly slow, and unpleasant. At this point, Sarah did the attraction and I ran off to take photos.
This was a tag-team approach throughout, as we each did some attractions individually and some together, meeting up after every ride so we didn’t cross-over one another time-wise.
Anyway, here’s what Sarah and/or I managed to get done during Extra, Extra Magic Hours between 6 and 9 am…
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (6:20-6:44 am)
- Slinky Dog Dash (x3) (6:50-7:08 am)
- Toy Story Mania (7:10-7:19 am)
- Slinky Dog Dash (7:23-7:40 am)
- Wandered Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (x2) (8:01-8:20 am)
- Tower of Terror (forgot to count–it was a walk-on)
- Left park at 8:50 am
A couple of important notes here. First, we cannot understate how unpleasant that slow march was back to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
It’s in a large blob of humanity, and even if everyone around you has showered and is wearing deodorant (a huge if), it’s already hot and humid at 6 am in Florida this time of year, so…there’s that.
This is unpleasant to the point that rather than heading to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge with almost everyone else, we’d do Toy Story Land first next time.
Barely anyone was heading that direction, and judging by the 5 minute wait time for Slinky Dog Dash well after 7 am, we’re guessing you could ride that coaster literally a half-dozen times with no wait.
Plus, the posted wait time for Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run actually goes down over the course of ExEMH. It peaked at 70 minutes around 6:30 am. That 30 minute posted wait above is the ride’s status as of around 8:30 am.
So long as you’re in line before 9 am, you should experience a relatively low wait for this attraction. The posted times are definitely inflated across the board, but even an actual wait of 30 minutes isn’t too bad considering all you can get done by doing Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge “last” during ExEMH.
Speaking of the 9 am crowd, that’s it to the left, waiting behind the turnstiles.
It’s tough to tell from the photo, but there are a ton of people waiting in line here. If you’re staying off-site, I’d probably recommend saving DHS for later in the day. These people are going to be behind 3 hours worth of on-site crowds–that’s still not a ton (wait times were still pretty manageable when we left), but it’s way worse than a normal rope drop day. Go at night instead.
Even towards the end of the morning Extra, Extra Magic Hours, Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror, and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster were all at or near walk-on status. Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run and Slinky Dog Dash are the only rides that had a long posted wait times.
As for the full strategy, you could probably do Slinky Dog Dash 8+ times or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster over a dozen times if you cut Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge from the beginning of this itinerary and instead moved it to the end of the night. One, that’s an objectively better time to be on Batuu. Two, we’re already noticing highly disproportionate crowds in Galaxy’s Edge first thing in the morning.
Going forward, it’s entirely possible that Extra, Extra Magic Hour will get progressively more popular as we enter October and Walt Disney World gets busier. Moreover, word is going to get out about how great ExEMH is thanks to glowing posts like this one, and more guests will get up to partake.
Consequently, you can bump up wait times by about 25% across the board if you’re visiting in mid-September or later. It’s unlikely to get much busier than that, simply because arriving to Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 6 am is a non-starter for so many families on vacation.
Among attractions, don’t expect priorities to shift much. “Everyone” will start their morning in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge before moving on to Toy Story Land before moving on to Sunset Boulevard. So long as you arrive right at 6 am and ‘surf the wave’ of the crowd, this will remain the best approach.
That is, unless you don’t want to be part of the ‘Star Wars: GalaxSea of Humanity’ at the start of ExEMH, and would prefer cutting ahead and doing Slinky Dog Dash, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, or Tower or Terror repeatedly as walk-ons.
By arriving at the start of Extra, Extra Magic Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you can easily experience Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run, all three Toy Story Land attractions, Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Star Tours before 9 a.m. You could probably experience Slinky Dog Dash multiple times, in fact.
Right now, this is especially huge given that it’s impossible to simultaneously hold FastPass+ for the headliner attractions on that list. If you’re a repeat Walt Disney World visitor who isn’t interested in Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ shows, you could be done with this park, walk to Epcot’s International Gateway entrance, and be there right around rope drop.
Ultimately, this post underscores how clutch getting up early can be in accomplishing the must-dos at Disney’s Hollywood Studios now and for the next couple of months. We cannot overstate the value of Extra, Extra Magic Hours at DHS–you can literally do more in these 3 hours than in all of the remaining hours of the day the park is open (excluding shows). If that’s not enough to sell you on Extra, Extra Magic Hours…what about sunrise on Batuu?!
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Have you done morning Extra, Extra Magic Hour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios yet? Which attractions did you do? Are you planning to take advantage of this wonderful offering? Will you go for sunrise serenity in DHS or doing a ton of rides? Do you agree or disagree with our morning ExEMH advice or attraction order? Any questions we can help you answer? 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!