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.
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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!
Was at HS yesterday but I had VIP tour. We arrived at 1:50 pm. The tour guide gave me the tips on the virtual queue and I was able to get boarding group 93 for my group of 7. We were called and arrived by 6pm. The crowd seemed thin in Galaxy Edge in the afternoon but I don’t have much to compare to as it was my first visit.
We have been doing disney for a few years now and are pretty good with how things work but with these fabricated wait times, I’m wondering if having a DAS pass will complicate matters in terms of getting accurate return times. My son is autistic and struggles mightily with lines. We are fortunate to get a DAS and it saves our vacations but if the wait is really 25 mins but the return time is 60 then that complicates matters or does it? Plus how does that work with ROTR?
I have DAS too. I haven’t been to the parks since March, but when I asked about DAS for ROTR, I was told it wasn’t being offered since the current system of reserving a boarding group is basically already like a DAS pass. Things may have changed, or you might have a more sympathetic CM, so I would definitely recommend still asking to see if they’ll be able to make any accommodations. Even though you don’t have to wait in tooo long of a line for it, there are separate holding areas with CMs who are actually in character pretending to be First Order soldiers, and I almost had a meltdown because I felt claustrophobic in a small hallway with a soldier yelling at me. If that’s going to be a concern for your son, you could maybe see if you could circumvent those holding areas as well.
If you are lucky enough to get a boarding group, then they will allow you to take a different more wheelchair friendly route onto the ride. You have to get a boarding group in order for this to work. Hope that helps.
We were at HS three weeks ago today. I was able to talk the hubs out of hitting Galaxy’s Edge first based on your advice – thanks. We hit Toy Story Land first, riding Slinky and Swirling Saucers before 10:00. We had no luck with ROTR at 10:00. We lucked out and did get a queue spot in the 2:00 try. That was a really pleasant surprise. With a little forethought and checking the MDE app we found the lines not too awful, for the most part. Smugglers Run and Runaway Railway were pretty spot on with posted and actual wait times. About an hour for each. Since other lines were reasonable, it didn’t feel too wasteful to have those longer lines. While it was “crowded” we definitely felt we could space out. I had been worried we would all be bunched together like a regular rope drop, but letting people in and then allowing them to immediately spread out to all over the park was much more comfortable. We arrived about 9:20 or so, so got right in and didn’t have to bunch up at the gate. Thanks for all your tips and giving us a better sense of what to expect. We had a great time!
My group of 7 will be at HS on October 12th doing a VIP tour. Starting with HS Park first. Currently VIP is picking us up at 9:30 a.m
1. should I make the pickup time earlier to get into the park earlier? VIP pay time starts at pick up time and I don’t want to pay for waiting to get into the park.
2. Desperately trying to get a reservation for savi workshop. Is the time spent in the workshop worth giving up time on the VIP tour?
At this point I’m ready to offer two spots on the VIP tour in exchange for a savvy workshop reservation
Savii’s is awesome, but with the cost of the VIP tour I wouldn’t use any of that time for things you can get into on your own. (If they could get you in that would be different, it’s not super long).
We’ve done the VIP at Disneyland, was definitely worth it but that was 3 years ago.
I would not waste VIP time on a workshop. Your VIP tour is probably for 7 hours or so right? That time will go by much faster than I think! If you are scheduled to begin at 9:30 your tour would be over by 4:30 or so – you could schedule the workshop for the afternoon or evening then?
We are planning on visiting dec 12-19. My shortest kid is 40″ so we can ride everything, except the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. We want to do a holiday character meal and the droid depot. I’m not sure how many days we should plan to go to HS. Does anyone have any suggestions?
Thanks for the updates 🙂 couple questions about our trip in a few weeks….
1.) We are staying at Riviera-To get to HS, do you recommend us driving our own vehicle or taking the Skyliner to get there for rope drop/early?
2.) Same thing going to MK. Drive own vehicle or take Disney bus? If we are staying on property, is parking free at the Parks?
3.) From Riviera, skyliner to Epcot?
What time does the Skyliner begin to transport? Is it crowded in the early mornings With guests trying to go to the parks for rope drop? Thanks.
Skyliner to Epcot from Riviera won’t be an issue and you could easily go 30-40 min before the park opens.
Now, getting from Riviera to HS via skyliner will still require planning and time. We did this last week and it took 47min from the time we got off the gondola at the main station to get back in line for HS’s skyliner. They are only allowing one party per gondola, plus any small delays, caused a nice slow line. The lines for Epcot and HS are merged as one until you’re back up to the skyliner themselves. So, plan to give yourselves plenty of time, or drive in. I have clients going in two weeks and I may suggest an Uber or Lyft in the am. Hope that helps.
We just got back from a week stay at Caribbean Beach and DHS was definitely the most stressful. It took almost 45 minutes to get on the Skyliner from CBR at 9:20am (the line was huge) and we missed getting in to the park for Rise of the Resistance at 10am (and didn’t get a boarding pass at 2pm unfortunately). Waited in line for Slinky for an hour, ToT for 45 mins, Millennium Falcon was an hour even at 6pm, and Mickey and Minnie was an hour and a half. We did walk straight on Star Tours and Midway Mania, and did Lightning McQueen twice for my 2 year old. This was all on a Monday. The other parks were all much better.
We just left the parks this past weekend, hitting up Disney Springs on Fri, doing HS on Sat, and MK on Sun. We were all over the map, and probably did everything you just advised against, but here is how it went. Got into the park about 9:40am and rope dropped Galaxy’s Edge, going straight to Smuggler’s Run (which we still hadn’t done yet somehow) and waited outside with others until the queue opened for RotR. Were able to grab boarding group 4, and then walk-on Smuggler’s Run, took 10mins max. After a delay in which my phone fell out during the ride, I waited for CMs to search while wife and daughter hit grabbed a Ronto breakfast wrap, still no phone, so hit up our boarding for RotR. Second phone check success, did Muppets.
Completely agree on avoiding Muppets midday! Wife wanted to do it, and because or rain as well, what said 15mins ended up being an entire hour when over. Hit up baseline for a midday snack, then the orchestra’s last day performances at the theatre outside Tower of Terror. Got in line for Tower, said 65mins, was actually around 45mins, so not too bad, then grabbed some popcorn bucket refills, saw a few cavalcades, and left by 4pm.
Granted we live in Tampa, and really were just looking to get our first trip back in the parks under our belts, so any since of stress wasn’t there, and we’ll try Runaway Railroad next trip. And not to keep this any longer, but on Sunday went to MK, and honestly, never enjoyed the park more not darting around for FP+s all day.
Just got back – went to all parks twice during our 2 week stay
As you suggested we practice leading up to our Hollywood visit joining the virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. We had great luck leading up to our live visit and tried through out our trip – getting to practice up to the “not so fast” . Our first live Hollywood visit my son got us group 1 and our second trip i got group 12.We arrived both days at about 9:15 – 9:30 and got in line for Mickey while tring the virtual queue.
Silly question: if the park officially opens at 10:00, what time do we need to arrive for rope drop? Sounds like people are arriving around 9:00. Is that true for all parks, or just DHS?
All parks quietly open before the official time. How early depends on the day of the week and the park. Arriving about an hour early across the board is a good plan right now.
1. There are 5 people in my party. When trying for RoR do we need to scroll down and click each name to “select our party” after the initial “Join” button? Or do we just click “join” initially and then there is another “join” button or something similar??? Trying to figure out what to tell my teenager, who will be trying also.
2. Do you have any plans to update Animal Kingdom’s touring plan?
Thanks so much! My family leaves soon and can’t wait!
1) Everyone who scans into the park should be pre-selected.
2) Yes, within the next week or two.
The app has been updated so it automatically includes everyone in the park who is also in your party. If for some reason it glitches out, just get a pass and the Guest Experience team will be able to add the rest of your party.
For Animal Kingdom touring plans – if Tom’s is out of date, try easyWDW.com, Josh regularly updates his (and is friends with Tom I believe).
I was just at AK last week, along with all the other parks. It was so empty and my son and I rode Flight of Passage 3x’s that day. The last two times were both ridden in under 1 hour. He loved the Safari so we did that twice as well. I’m loving the lower crowds right now and sending a lot of my clients there!
Hi Tom! Love your updates on the real world of Disneyworld. In regards to renting a car, we were already planning to do so, but I’m wondering if you have any advice regarding toll roads and rental cars? Is it worth it to get an inclusive toll pass from a rental car company, or just try to pay the tolls if and as we come to them? Thanks!
Unless you’re driving all over Florida, you’re only likely to hit toll roads to/from the airport–and even those are avoidable. I’d probably pay as you go, but this is not a topic I’ve researched extensively. Or you could get your own SunPass if you visit often.
We decided to purchase the movable Sunpass. You preload it with $10 and once you get the rental car, hop on the website and update your account to show the car’s information and the dates you’ll be using the Sunpass. We don’t often drive, but we’ve been glad to have it when we did. (And it’s much cheaper than the toll pass from the car rental company.)
Again, thank you! So helpful…and a few questions…
1) If we are lucky enough to score a rise of the resistance boarding pass and the time ends up conflicting with an ADR, what happens?
2) Runaway railroad – seems like the best time is just before closing. any other times to try to sneak in a 2nd go at it?
3) We’ll be coming to HS from Boardwalk. Does taking the skyliner get us there early enough to rope drop, or would you recommend uber/lyft even from there?
thank you so very much!!
I’m pretty sure you can just walk over if you’re up for it! We’ve walked from Epcot to Hollywood studios and walked through part of the boardwalk to do it, it was super easy.
1) Tell someone at the restaurant before doing the ride; they will accommodate you.
2) First thing in the morning and last thing at night.
3) I’d walk from BoardWalk over the Skyliner or Uber.
Pardon my ignorance, but DHS has a 10AM open right now, correct? If so, I take it most rides start operating before 10?
They start letting people into the park around 9:20-9:30. Some rides, mainly the most busy, start operating shortly after, around 9:40-9:45. So in theory you can knock out one or two rides by the official 10:00 am opening.
Thanks for the newsletter and info as always. I was reading this while eating lunch at Flame Tree today. We’re heading to Studios this week for the first time and staying at POP. Our plan has been to drive over to avoid the buses taking to long. We’re prepared to be up and out early so no issues there. If you were us, would you:
1. Get in line first at the skyliner? We know this means 7a.
2. Get in line first for bus.
Our main focus is rope dropping To get done what we can while it’s slower and being ready for the Rise Sweepstakes. Definitely taking your lunch advice with a 50s ADR.
Thanks for your thoughts and help.
Drive–without question. Right now, if you leave Pop Century by car at around 8:30 am (give or take depending upon how far towards the front of the pack you want to be), you should be good.
@Tom what time do you recommend arriving at the park gates with a 10 a.m. opening? We are staying at Beach Club and will walk.
(Or if you’re planning to do a 1-day itinerary like you’ve done for MK and Epcot, I’ll wait for that!!!)
Are there huge wait times on the skyliner throughout the day?
Trying to prep for our upcoming December trip. We are there for a week and can mostly go to all parks twice, mostly on weekdays. Please refresh my memory as I’ve forgotten since February…when joining a boarding group for RoR does the system recognize all people in the party or do you have to manually tag everyone? We have 4 and are wondering if we should all 4 try to get our group a boarding group or if we’d be faster trying for 2 and 2. I’m assuming if it will auto tag all 4 of us, our chances are better if we can all try for a boarding group.
Right now, the system auto-selects everyone on your list who has tapped into the park. That’s a change as of about two months ago.
Do not even bother checking to make sure everyone is selected–milliseconds matter. If there’s a problem (like someone was missed), you can always go to the Guest Experience Team Cast Members and have them fix it.
When trying for ROTR, is it better to have two separate groups of four and six or keep all ten together? If they are only loading one group per vehicle, can ten guests fit in a vehicle? Thanks!
Beth – Only 8 people can fit in a vehicle. I’m not sure if the app still pre-selects all ten people and puts you in one boarding group or if it divides it out for you, though. However, each runthrough involves two vehicles kind of dancing with each other through the ride, so its very possible to do ten at once even if you’re not *technically* on the same vehicle.
This is frustrating- have been reading and prepping and somehow didn’t realize until this post that HS was starting rides early, and that you could try at 2pm from outside the park if you’ve already scanned in. Went to HS yesterday, got lucky on RoR but waited until late for railway and it went down for like 2 hours. The park was
busy, no open walkways like the photo above, and doable but high waits. MK was super busy today when I was hoping for a lighter crowd. Not what I was expecting when we booked and I’m worried about the rest of the week now.
Does anyone know how long it takes to walk to HS from the Yacht Club?
We’re getting ready to head to Yacht Club too and I was wondering the same thing! Now that I’m reading this I’m wondering if we should skip HS altogether. We’ve never done HS before and aren’t huge Star Wars fans anyway, so we don’t care so much about getting RoR passes. My little guy likes Toy Story though. Tom, would you recommend we skip HS altogether this trip? We only have 4 park days. Maybe an extra day in MK would be better. We did snag an ADR at Hollywood & Vine for lupper, so maybe that will help. Torn about what to do!
It’s about 10 minutes walk.
Thanks Tom – enjoy all your posts and pics! What is the purpose for Disney seemingly doubling the posted vs the actual queue times? It’s been several weeks of operating with social-distancing in place and it seems like they’d have a better idea of queue times. (We cancelled a trip to DHS because of the times we were seeing in the app – maybe they’re trying to scare visitors away?).
A big part of it is discouraging more people from getting into line because there is–quite literally–nowhere for some of these queues to go. Disney will either need to install more markers on the ground (which they have been doing) or add more barriers on ride vehicles (which they’ve also been doing) to accommodate additional guests.
Ugh, super frustrating about DHS. We are going in November and planning to do 2 days there and skip Epcot because we really want to do RoR. If we get on RoR the first day, maybe we’ll change the second day to Epcot.
We did the RoR lottery when it first opened in California and were successful but it was stressful. I was hoping to avoid that stress this time around.
Sadly, it is more stressful now than it has ever been on either coast.