Hollywood Studios Park Opening Strategy & Rope Drop Tips

For the final park in our Walt Disney World park opening series, we head to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Rope drop has seen a new intensity with Toy Story Land, and that’s going to increase exponentially with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge next year. For now, we’ll cover morning strategy for DHS, including optimal standby attraction order and when to arrive at the park.

We’ll start by saying Slinky Dog Dash hasn’t had as pronounced of an impact on crowds as many people (us included) expected. We wouldn’t be surprised if Walt Disney World was also anticipating a bit more. Slinky Dog Dash already is showing that it lacks the staying power of Avatar Flight of Passage, and it’ll only fade further as Disney’s Hollywood Studios becomes “the Orlando Star Wars park” next year.

That’s probably for the best. Not the part about people not knowing the actual name of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the part where everything else will be a supporting player used to soak up surplus crowds next year and beyond. There’s zero chance of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge drawing lackluster crowds. DHS will undergo such a fundamental shift in touring strategy that we’ll have to totally redo this–and all other tactical posts–to account for Disney’s Hollywood Studios surging popularity. In the here and now, if you’re traveling before late 2019, this morning strategy will cover you…

As with the other parks, you need to arrive at DHS well before the official opening time if you want the lowest rope drop waits. On mornings when Disney’s Hollywood Studios opens at 9 a.m., you’ll want to be at your hotel bus stop by around 7:45 a.m. Regardless of your hotel, buses are abundant first thing in the morning, so you won’t be waiting too long.

If you’re staying in a Crescent Lake resort, we recommend walking to Disney’s Hollywood Studios rather than taking the Friendship boats. Many guests don’t realize there’s a walking path, but it’s over behind Jellyrolls at BoardWalk, and easily accessible from any of those resorts. If walking, you’ll want to leave your hotel by around 8:00 a.m.

This gets you through security and into Disney’s Hollywood Studios no later than 8:30 a.m., if all goes correctly. On a related note, if you want to enter DHS even earlier to experience Hollywood Boulevard and Echo Lake without the crowds (oh, and character breakfast), check out our Pre-Park Opening Breakfast at Walt Disney World Strategy post.

You may recall that we recently did a post on Morning Extra Magic Hours Strategy at DHS, and this tracks relatively closely to that from here. The biggest difference we’ve already addressed: that you won’t have to get up as early. Unfortunately, you also won’t accomplish as much. I’m no scientist, but there might be a causal relationship between the two.

From our experience, the biggest difference between the two days is that you won’t be able to “ride the wave” ahead of the day’s crowd simply by arriving early to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As compared to morning EMH, the crowd is more evenly distributed at regular rope drop.

In all likelihood, this is because hotel guests who were dedicated enough to arrive at a theme park around 6 a.m. during the summer either had been planning their trips around Toy Story Land or were “regulars” who disproportionately wanted to see these new offerings.

By contrast, after regular rope drop, we’re seeing more of a balance between guests going directly to Slinky Dog Dash and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. The crowds and wait times between Toy Story Land and Sunset Boulevard certainly are not equal, but it’s not as clear-cut as before. As the new toy smell wears off Slinky Dog Dash, we’d only expect this to further equalize.

Basically, your focus for rope drop at Disney’s Hollywood Studios should be the attractions for which you couldn’t score FastPass+. Since it’s impossible to obtain FastPass+ for all of the Toy Story Land attractions, our objective advice is to start there, doing Slinky Dog Dash via standby even if you do have a FastPass+ for later in the day.

With that in mind, here’s our recommended rope drop attraction order:

  • Slinky Dog Dash
  • Toy Story Meet & Greet
  • Alien Swirling Saucers
  • Toy Story Mania
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
  • Tower of Terror
  • Star Tours

If you have FastPass+ for any of those attractions–or simply don’t want to do them, cut them from your schedule. The earlier you can get over to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, the better. If you do all of these things, there’s a decent chance you’ll get there and find the wait to already be above 45 minutes.

Alternatively, my personal preference would be starting at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and doing that 2-3 times before the crowds really arrive, then bouncing to Tower of Terror for a couple of drops on that. I love those two attractions, and find Toy Story Land a bit underwhelming, so I far prefer that approach, doing Slinky Dog Dash via a FastPass+ later in the day…and just flat out skipping anything in Toy Story Land that has too long of a wait.

This might be a savvy approach for you, too. It really all depends upon how important doing everything in Toy Story Land is to you. The “problem” with both Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is that they have longer pre-shows and load times, meaning that even when the attractions are walk-ons, you’re still looking at a 10-15 minute experience from start to finish, during which time crowds build behind you.

To chart out the rest of your DHS day, we recommend consulting our 1-Day Disney’s Hollywood Studios Itinerary. Alternatively, if you want to skip rope drop entirely and arrive in the afternoon, that’s also a viable option. Refer to our Half-Day Disney’s Hollywood Studios Itinerary for that. We aren’t saying DHS is only a half-day park…but we’re not not saying that, either.

To that point, I have mixed feelings about morning at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The rope drop experience is an efficient way to get things done, but that’s true everywhere. Maybe we were spoiled by the morning Extra Magic Hours that ran over the summer, but I view this as the least productive rope drop at Walt Disney World. That perspective is further colored by my view that scoring evening FastPass+ times for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Slinky Dog Dash and Park Hopping to DHS is just as good of a strategy–if not better.

Ultimately, morning at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is something we won’t be doing with regularity until Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens next year (then, the park will certainly be a full-day park–in lines alone!). Evening is our preferred time to experience Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as the park comes alive with the glow of neon, and there are two different nighttime spectaculars. Of course, we’re also Walt Disney World regulars who are perfectly comfortable skipping the stage shows at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Our approach works for us, but for you, rope dropping DHS might be the best option. In which case, hopefully these tips were helpful!

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

What is your preferred morning strategy for Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Which ride do you do first: Slinky Dog Dash or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (or something else entirely)? Do you agree or disagree with our DHS park opening strategy? 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!


21 Responses to “Hollywood Studios Park Opening Strategy & Rope Drop Tips”
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