Morning Extra Magic Hour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a great way to experience the park’s most popular attractions, including Slinky Dog Dash in Toy Story Land, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror with short waits. In this post, we’ll share photos from our sunrise morning EMH, plus tips on efficiently getting as much done as possible prior to park opening for regular day guests.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been offering a morning Extra Magic Hour starting at 7 a.m. every day from Toy Story Land’s opening through August 25th. As this website is wont to do, we decided to partake in the fun only a few days before this offering would be discontinued, so we could bring a firsthand report to the 8 or so of you who might be able to still take advantage.
In reality, once this limited-run 7 a.m. morning Extra Magic Hour ends, Annual Passholder previews begin select days for the month of September, and regular morning Extra Magic Hour will thereafter be a perpetual thing, it’ll just occur at 8 a.m. on select days. Plus, I really wanted to take photos of Disney’s Hollywood Studios at sunrise, and this post was my excuse to convince Sarah to tag along (and do most of the work). I would say don’t tell her, but the cat’s already out of the bag on that one.
We left our room at 5:50 a.m., and got to the Port Orleans French Quarter bus stop at 5:53 a.m. The bus arrived one minute early (WOO HOO!) and we were off. We arrived at Disney’s Hollywood Studios just before 6:15 a.m., at which time there were less than 20 other guests at the park.
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. When the DHS opens at some ungodly hour next year for Galaxy’s Edge, expect buses to be out at an ungodlier hour.
Security opened a few minutes after we arrived, and we were through in short order. Following that, the turnstiles opened at around 6:30 a.m. We were then held towards the end of Hollywood Boulevard until around 6:45 a.m., at which time at announcement played about inviting guests to “play in Andy’s backyard” and Cast Members us to Toy Story Land. There was also a sign pointing towards Jedi Training Academy sign-up.
Morning Extra Magic Hour starting earlier than advertised is a relatively common practice at Walt Disney World for alleviating crowds and potential congestion at the front of the park. The same still happens daily at Animal Kingdom for Pandora. I’d expect this to continue in the short-term at Disney’s Hollywood Studios once the start time of morning EMH shifts to 8 a.m.
We had run of the park for about 15 minutes before sunrise, which is a cool experience. Reminds me of the “old” 24-hour parties that ran for a few years. I’d absolutely love to see those return, but with a bunch of new stuff coming to the parks over each of the next several years, I’m guessing Disney views stunts like that as operational headaches that are not “necessary.”
Anyway, once Cast Members released us, we were on our way to Toy Story Land. Here’s what we managed to get done:
- Slinky Dog Dash (x2)
- Toy Story Meet & Greet
- Alien Swirling Saucers
- Toy Story Mania
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (x2)
- Tower of Terror
Or should I say, that’s what Sarah managed to get done. While Sarah was doing the tough work of riding Slinky Dog Dash, I was running around taking sunrise photos.
This is also the order you should experience these attractions for optimal efficiency during morning EMH at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, cutting out (or adding) repeat attractions depending upon your preferences. Add Star Tours to the end if you want–we ate breakfast instead.
I joined after Slinky Dog Dash, and even at that point, the posted wait for the roller coaster was only 35 minutes (I’m betting the actual wait would’ve been around 15-20. In hindsight, I should’ve joined her for the second ride, as it turns out the best view of sunrise in Disney’s Hollywood Studios is Slinky Dog Dash. Whoops.
I opted to skip it because I really enjoy Slinky Dog Dash with the show lighting and views of the neon illuminating other areas of the park. Totally personal preference, and I certainly wouldn’t turn down a FastPass+ some other time of day (or discourage you from making one then), but if you are only doing it once and have your choice of times, night is absolutely the way to go. Slinky Dog Dash is markedly better at night…unless you have the chance to ride it at sunrise.
Even at the end of the morning Extra Magic Hour, Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror, and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster were all at or near walk-on status. Slinky Dog Dash is the only ride that had a long posted wait time, at 60 minutes. Granted, this was for a morning Extra Magic Hour starting officially at 7 a.m., so that certainly played a part in many of the other attractions still being walk-ons.
As for the full strategy, you could probably do Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster 3-4 times if you cut the Toy Story meet & greet and/or Alien Swirling Saucers. We noticed that even after the park was officially opened to day guests, waits remained relatively short for both RnRC and Tower of Terror. Presumably this is because day guests are also racing to Toy Story Land to do Slinky Dog Dash first, which isn’t the best of ideas as a long wait has already built at that point.
Going forward, Extra Magic Hour will run from 8 until 9 a.m., and it will also occur during a more popular time of year. Both of those factors, in tandem, should result in larger crowds for morning EMH. Consequently, you can bump up wait times by about 25% across the board. Among attractions, I wouldn’t expect priorities to shift much.
“Everyone” starts their morning in Toy Story Land before moving on to other areas of the park. This will remain the best approach unless you’d prefer to do Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Tower or Terror repeatedly as walk-ons. Even then, it’s smart to get a couple of early rides on the Toy Story Land attractions before bouncing back to the front of the park.
“Everyone” will also linger in Toy Story Land for far too long, which is the strategy you’ll want to avoid during morning Extra Magic Hours. Get a few attractions done quickly, and then bounce to other areas of the park while the bulk of crowds continue flocking to Slinky Dog Dash.
What surprised me most about this morning Extra Magic Hour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was the lack of popularity. Toy Story Land has not been as popular as we expected, but I still did not expect so few people to avail themselves of the opportunity to experience DHS with such low crowds, and at an hour when the weather is actually pleasant. Then again, we also didn’t have to get 2.5 children ready and herd them to the bus stop at the crack of dawn.
By arriving at the start of Extra Magic Hour, you could easily experience all three Toy Story Land attractions, Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Star Tours all before 9 a.m. You could probably experience Slinky Dog Dash multiple times, in fact. 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 year. On the other hand, this provides very little long-term value for planning a morning Extra Magic Hour visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Once Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens, there will need to be a 4 a.m. morning EMH just so those without FastPasses can get on the two new Star Wars attractions. That might seem super early, but just think of the possibilities in selling overnight up-charge cabana tents in the DHS parking lot!
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Have you done morning Extra Magic Hour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios recently? Which rides did you do? Do you agree or disagree with our morning EMH 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!