Hollywood Studios Crowd Report: Morning Highs & Evening Lows

We’re back at Hollywood Studios to check on the increased fall crowds. In this Walt Disney World photo report, we’ll look at October’s rope drop crowds, posted v. actual wait times, our attempt at Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance’s boarding pass dash, and share our step-by-step morning and afternoon/evening in DHS.

For about the last month, we’ve been emphasizing the reality that crowds and wait times are increasing at Walt Disney World. Disney’s Hollywood Studios was already “selling out” of Disney Park Pass reservations prior to the 40% Crowd Increase at Walt Disney World–but the park’s wait times still somehow increased by 39% in September!

Given that Disney’s Hollywood Studios still doesn’t have its stage shows or other entertainment, dining options are limited, the layout is compact, plus a top-heavy and limited ride lineup, DHS feels like a recipe for frustration during the current modified operations. And without question, it can be. Our goal was thus to do as much as possible while minimizing our headaches. Here’s our step-by-step approach to rope drop and beyond…

As a threshold matter, day of the week doesn’t really matter at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Saturdays and Sundays are marginally busier, but the park is coming close to or hitting its reduced capacity every single day of the week. That is not true of any other park at Walt Disney World right now–all the rest are much busier on weekends.

For the latter reason alone, you’re better off visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios on a weekend if you’re visiting any park on a weekend. The best plan of all is doing only weekdays, but if you don’t have that option, do DHS on a weekend. Its 1-2% increase in weekend wait times is much better than the double-digit increases at the other parks, plus the chaos at EPCOT.

We entered Disney’s Hollywood Studios a tad later than anticipated (~9:30 am), as the vehicle line for the parking booths was pretty long.

Next time, we’ll head out 30 minutes earlier. We clearly underestimated how long getting into the park would take. Those arriving on buses won’t encounter this, but you will encounter unpredictable lines and waits at the bus stops. Our top recommendation for rope dropping DHS remains either driving or using Uber/Lyft–just be sure to give yourself a sufficient buffer.

At this point, the posted wait time for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway was already 90 minutes.

Across the board, rope drop wait times at Disney’s Hollywood Studios are inflated. Part of this is to keep some–that really have nowhere else to go–manageable. Another part is managing expectations. To our knowledge and experience, this has nothing to do with cleaning cycles.

Here’s a look at the extended queue, which is at its full size. Once demand drops, this is scaled back so it doesn’t block the stairs down to Toy Story Land.

If you’re doing the full day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we do not advocate rope dropping Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Not only is this the longest line in the park, but the vast majority is in direct sunlight with zero shade.

In order of popularity, the main rope drop options are: Runaway Railway, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, sitting around waiting for 10 am, Toy Story Land, Sunset Boulevard, or Starbucks.

Our go-to is Toy Story Land, which we believe presents the biggest time-savings.

At 9:35 am, Toy Story Mania is a walk-on.

Almost none of the rope drop guests heading towards it–for good reason.

Same goes for Alien Swirling Saucers.

If that’s your saucer of tea, you probably could rope drop this and swirl with the aliens 3-4 times before crowds arrived. Live your best life, as the kids say.

While that’s one “valid” approach, we instead queued up for Slinky Dog Dash. The line was just over the bridge when we jumped into line.

Posted wait time was 40 minutes initially and shot to 60 minutes almost immediately thereafter; our actual wait time was 21 minutes.

The bigger issue is that our timing was poor, and I boarded Slinky Dog Dash right as the clock struck 10 am. That left Sarah (who had already opted not to ride irrespective of timing) alone to try the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding pass dash.

Despite many past successes, she had no luck this time.

That is becoming increasingly common, including among seasoned app refreshers. If Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is make or break for your visit to DHS, you either might want to build another day into your schedule for trying again…or skip DHS entirely for the time being. It’d be nice if the ride vehicles were modified to accommodate more than one party, because the math on park v. ride capacity just isn’t adding up right now.

Meanwhile, I had a hoot on Slinky Dog Dash. It truly was a roller coaster of emotions–the highs of the ride followed by the low of finding out we wouldn’t be doing Rise of the Resistance.

Next up was Toy Story Mania. At this point, the posted wait time was 30 minutes and line was back past the entrance of Toy Story Land. (The line for Slinky Dog Dash was back into Animation Courtyard!)

However, because the hourly capacity of Toy Story Mania has not been reduced much at all, the line moved incredibly quickly and our actual wait time was 8 minutes.

I assumed we’d have time to knock out Alien Swirling Saucers before moving on, but the posted wait had already shot up to 40 minutes.

There’s no way this was even remotely accurate, but we weren’t willing to gamble on even a 10 minute wait for this particular attraction especially this early in the morning. You’d have to be a really big A.S.S. lover to get in this line.

Instead, we cut through Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Posted wait time for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run was 45 minutes at this point. That’s probably not inflated too much given that the line was all the way back to the “refreshers.” (In checking My Disney Experience, the posted wait had shot up to 65 minutes shortly after we saw this.)

There were long lines for pretty much everything in the land at this point.

Pre-closure of Walt Disney World, a disproportionate number of guests headed to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at rope drop. Post-reopening, the same is also true. It was bad strategy then and remains bad strategy now.

Our intent was simply to cut through Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to get to Star Tours.

Posted wait was 40 minutes; actual wait was 17 minutes.

We’re still avoiding indoor shows so we didn’t do it, but at this point MuppetVision actually would’ve been the best choice.

The posted wait time was 35 minutes, but you wouldn’t have had to wait through multiple shows to see it. Due to physical distancing, single-theater shows actually have long midday waits right now and are a big time commitment.

We headed to Sunset Boulevard to check out waits for the two headliners up here.

They were…not good! Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster already had a 60 minute wait, which was actually the better of the two attractions here.

Tower of Terror’s queue was back into the Fantasmic amphitheater, with the posted wait time being 105 minutes. While I’d imagine that was inflated, we were not about to find out.

If you’re not staying the entire day, it’s possible that rope dropping Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster might be a better strategy than starting with Toy Story Land.

By around noon, Disney’s Hollywood Studios looks pretty quiet. That’s not because it’s a slow day–it’s due to the vast majority of guests being in standby lines somewhere.

We left around this point, but if that’s not an option, your best bet is going to be booking an Advance Dining Reservation for a table service lunch right around noon. This is when wait times peak at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so it’s a good idea to wait out the crowds at this point. If you can’t score an ADR or would prefer to dine outdoors, your best bet would be BaseLine Tap House–we’d recommend showing up there before noon, as tables do fill up.

If you’re staying at a Crescent Lake or Skyliner resort, heading back to your hotel for a midday break is another really good option–especially if you didn’t score a Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding group.

Remember, you can do the 2 pm draw from outside the park. The only “validation” that’s performed is whether your MagicBand has been scanned into the park for the day. There’s no geolocation limitation.

We headed back to Disney’s Hollywood Studios at around 4 pm.

After wandering around, taking photos, and grabbing a couple of snacks, we headed over to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The goal was to see how much we could accomplish in the last 2 hours of the day.

We got into line for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run right at 5 pm.

Posted wait time was 35 minutes; our actual wait was 17 minutes.

Bouncing to the other side of the park, I did Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

Posted wait time was 25 minutes; actual wait was 12 minutes.

Sarah rejoined me and we did the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror next.

Posted wait time was 30 minutes; actual wait time was 11 minutes.

At this point, we arguably still had enough time to do Slinky Dog Dash again but it would’ve been a really close call.

Instead, we opted to play it safe and did Toy Story Mania again. Posted wait time was 10 minutes; it was a walk-on.

We finished up there shortly before 6:45 pm, and were in line for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway by 6:50 pm. (In retrospect, I’m 95% positive we could’ve done Slinky Dog Dash, but it wasn’t worth the risk.)

Posted wait time was 50 minutes; our actual wait time was 32 minutes.

Judging by social media, we missed a really epic sunset–but still cannot complain too much about what we accomplished in our day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Ultimately, this should demonstrate that it is still possible to do (almost) everything in Disney’s Hollywood Studios with minimal waits. However, that comes with the huge asterisk that we got shut out of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and skipped the entire middle of the day. This will work for some of you, especially repeat visitors staying on-site at a Crescent Lake or Skyliner resort, but it’s going to be frustrating for many more.

Even if you were to do a table service lunch, that still leaves a lot of time to kill in the middle of the day in order to have an efficient day. Walt Disney World really needs to bring back the outdoor stage shows here to fill that gap, and also fix Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. As we wrote before the closure of Disney’s Hollywood Studios: This Isn’t Working. That remains the case now for some of the same–and some different–reasons.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Have you visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the last month or so? What was your experience? When did you arrive? How long did you stay? Thoughts on lines and crowds? Success or failure with the virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance? Do you plan on arriving at rope drop, or will you utilize a late arrival strategy? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? 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!

78 Responses to “Hollywood Studios Crowd Report: Morning Highs & Evening Lows”
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