Hollywood Studios Reopening Report: A Tale of Two Visits
Our final park to visit post-reopening of Walt Disney World is Hollywood Studios, following our days in Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot. In this post, we’ll cover our first two visits to DHS, the frustrations and pleasant surprises we encountered, health safety rule & mask compliance, plus our experiences with the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding pass dash, Toy Story Land, and more.
Even before the parks resumed operations, we knew Disney’s Hollywood Studios was going to be the most frustrating park. In our We Were Wrong About Disney Park Pass, we discussed some of the capacity woes of the park. New Virtual Queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance covered the updated and improved boarding pass process, but concluding that it was easy to foresee rope drop at Disney’s Hollywood Studios being one of the biggest reopening problem points.
The unfortunate reality is that Disney’s Hollywood Studios does a poor job of absorbing crowds. The park’s layout, crowd-flow, reliance on stage shows, top-heavy attraction line-up, and even little things like the park’s approach to shopping & dining are all not conducive to present circumstances and reduced capacity operations. If you were designing a park to operate during this period of “temporary abnormal,” Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be a lesson in many things to avoid…
To be abundantly clear, we knew all of that going into our visit. As did Walt Disney World leadership, which is undoubtedly why Disney Park Pass availability is so limited for DHS. It’s less about this being the most popular park and much more that the park’s capacity has been significantly reduced–to a lower level than any other park at Walt Disney World.
We’re offering this preface not to “roast” Disney’s Hollywood Studios or offer some sort of scathing indictment of the current operations. To the contrary, we had a pretty good idea of what we’d be getting ourselves into well in advance with Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as would anyone who has visited since last December or read anything about the park since Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opened.
Originally, we didn’t even plan on rope dropping Disney’s Hollywood Studios because we expected the worst and wanted to mitigate our risk.
However, we felt that might be doing a disservice to those using these reports for planning purposes or to see whether they’d be comfortable visiting. (The above and below photos are deceiving, but this line was actually pretty well physically-distanced when viewed closer.)
Instead, we opted to arrive 20 minutes before rope drop, but grab a bench in the shade beyond the Skyliner station to watch the crowd situation play out.
This line was longest about 10 minutes before park opening–above is how it looked a few minutes before 10 am. The guests towards the end of this line probably didn’t enter prior to opening. If you’re going to arrive for rope drop, your best bet is arriving closer to 9:30 am.
It’s amazing how quickly this all dissipated. By 10:08 am when we entered, every line (health screening, bag check, and turnstiles) was totally gone. Literally no one in front of us.
(For what it’s worth, we tried to enter the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue from outside the park and it did not work. No surprise there, but we double-checked anyway.)
Here’s a view from above about 90 minutes after park opening. Note that there’s not a single person walking towards the park in this shot.
At this point, there were already more people leaving the park than entering. This was the pre-closure norm at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and it remains true that DHS crowds peak within 30 minutes of rope drop. That phenomenon is not happening at any other Walt Disney World park.
Inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the longest line you’ll encounter early-on is for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. (See “line starts here” sign on left side of photo above.)
Again, physical distancing generally looked fine to us, but this is nonetheless a very long outdoor line that’s going to be in the sun for a while.
About an hour later, the same area looks like this.
While the line for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway has been cut on some mornings due to it getting too long, that was not the case here–it just naturally subsided due to the posted wait time being two hours.
Here’s a look at wait times as of 10:19 am. Slinky Dog Dash had just gone down, but was a 90 minute wait prior to that.
As before, you should either be in line for a headliner before official park opening time or save them for later in the day. Don’t jump into line for one of the top Disney’s Hollywood Studios attractions between 10:00 am and 10:30 am unless you want what will literally be the longest line of the day.
We enter Toy Story Land shortly after passing by the Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway line.
Not much of a crowd coming or going here at this point.
Slinky Dog Dash after reopening, with a physically-distanced queue.
Aside from the line being long, this was pretty well done. It’s essentially a “party per umbrella” system, with this stretching back towards Toy Story Land’s entrance.
While these wait times are peaking–because the vast majority of guests in the park are standing in line somewhere–Disney’s Hollywood Studios feels like a ghost town.
We sat in Echo Lake for 10 minutes and didn’t see another person during that entire time.
Even the Grand Avenue entrance to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is pretty quiet shortly after park opening.
Paradoxically, the busiest time of day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the best time to wander around and get empty park photos because most guests are locked into lines for their first rides of the day.
Even Muppets Courtyard is totally devoid of guests!
…Okay, bad example.
A little bit later, and we’re starting to see more guests on Sunset Boulevard.
These are mostly people leaving the area, presumably finishing up rides on Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
As we leave Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the morning, here’s a look back at Hollywood Boulevard.
All in all, a pretty good morning for DHS…so long as you’re not looking to do anything aside from walking around. In terms of the park’s public spaces, we didn’t encounter anything troubling.
We returned (twice) at around 3:45 pm to test out how a late arrival and evening visit would work. On only one of these visits were we able to score a spot in the virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
Thus far, the staggered distribution of boarding passes has been a bit flawed and glitchy. The process for entering the virtual queue could definitely could use tweaking and improvement, but we found the actual ride experience to be markedly better. (All of that is a full post unto itself, so stay tuned.)
It should come as absolutely no surprise, but wait times were significantly shorter around 4 pm.
Above is a look at posted times, which are the highest we’d see during our afternoon and evening visits.
By 5:30 pm, everything except Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway has a posted 10 minute wait.
In actuality, everything we did aside from Slinky Dog Dash was a walk-on.
Slinky Dog Dash was an 8-minute wait one time and around 5 minutes another.
We would’ve felt comfortable waiting longer in this line. The spacing is great, they’ve installed barriers throughout, and it’s all open-air. This is going to be one of our go-to evening attractions this summer and fall.
From our Slinky in the Sky, we can see that the walkways are pretty clear.
Of course, we were sure to scream inside our hearts.
After doing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, the rest of Galaxy’s Edge was pretty empty.
I never expected to see this land as quiet as it was last summer at Disneyland right after it debuted. Surely that was a total fluke that would never repeat itself, especially once the incredibly popular Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opened, right?!?
The late arrival approach is obviously the way to go, so long as you’re not dead-set on doing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
If that attraction is a must-do, you should arrive before 10 am as that increases your odds of scoring a spot in the virtual queue. We’ll offer a more comprehensive DHS strategy post at some point in the near-ish future, but feel free to ask any questions you might have.
Even with a good number of tables out of commission, BaseLine Tap House remains a great under the radar option for a low-key late afternoon meal. How this spot remains a “secret” despite its prominent location on the main walkway to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is beyond me. (But we are totally fine with that!)
Thanks to their outdoor seating, along with Docking Bay 7, this is now our go-to restaurant at DHS. Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge is not serving its food menu, unfortunately.
As with the other parks, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has a few different motorcades that drive up Hollywood Boulevard.
These are pretty good, with the Mickey and Minnie one being an especially great fit for the area now. Once things start getting back to normal, Walt Disney World should really condense these cavalcades into one, creating a new Stars & Motorcars Parade.
My “favorite” of these motorcades is the Disney Junior one, which we’ve now seen about a half-dozen times. It features a vampire and a doctor, who I assume appear together in a buddy comedy getting into all sorts of morbid hijinks. (That premise sounds a bit dark for kids, but I’d watch it.)
The Disney Junior motorcade also has an ear-worm of a song consisting of ~15 words. I know maybe half of these words, yet insist on humming/singing it anyway. Sarah is thrilled by this. (Of course I don’t have any photos of this motorcade–I was too busy rocking out to that sweet jam.)
Entertainment in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is also great.
I really hope one of the long-term consequences of the modified operations is more spontaneous character appearances and fewer static meet & greets. I wouldn’t mind a future where the only posed interactions are via character meals.
Wait times for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway dropped to around 30 minutes in the last hour that Disney’s Hollywood Studios was operating each night. Far and away the longest line at that point of the day at DHS.
There’s no reason to expect this to change. With how scarce Park Passes remain for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this is going to be disproportionately tourists every day of the week. As this is the big new thing (that has a standby line), it’s going to be a must-do for many/most guests.
Mask compliance was exceptional at Disney’s Hollywood Studios during both of our visits–even at the end of the night when you’d think fatigue would be setting in for more guests. What we observed was around 98% compliance.
This is especially great news given that Disney’s Hollywood Studios is going to be the toughest park when it comes to physical distancing and time spent in lines.
Ultimately, Disney’s Hollywood Studios remains Walt Disney World’s most paradoxical park. We had two unexpectedly pleasant days in the park, but we also went from ~10 am to 11:30 am one morning (doing zero attractions) plus ~3:45 pm to 8 pm two evenings. We haven’t even experienced the lunch rush or early afternoon when walkways might be more crowded. It should go without saying, but this is not how the average guest is going to approach DHS.
While Disney’s Hollywood Studios was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise for us, we also were braced for the worst with it, and did everything we could to avoid lines and minimize exposure to points of friction. The fact remains that this is the most frustrating park to visit at Walt Disney World, and that’s exacerbated by the reduced stage show lineup. More than any other park, you’ll need to visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios with a strategy, or better yet, willingness to skip Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. If you’re potentially okay with that, it’s the perfect option for an afternoon arrival after enjoying a morning at the pool or somewhere else.
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Have you visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios since the park reopened? What was your experience? When did you arrive? How long did you stay? If you’ve yet to visit, will you be attempting to join the modified 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!
We are here now. Left Riviera Resort at 8:30 am. Temp & security check went smoothly. TONS of people here and despite showing no availability in the park pass system and they were selling admissions at the window. We jumped in line for slinky dog dash immediately and it was already showing an hour wait. After 45 min it broke down with no ETA.
Every single other attraction except Muppets was showing 60 min plus wait times.
We’ve been here since last Saturday and we have not found wait times inflated. They are all long except tiki birds and the bears in MK. The parks are packed with long wait times for everything. The only reason we came was because we assumed reduced capacity would make for a better experience with three kids 4 and under. Record heat and long lines has made for a miserable experience!
This question may have been asked already but are there certain days that are better to visit the different parks during this time ? We are going for 6 days in October and I thought we’d do two days at MK & HS (only for because of the virtual que) then do a day at each of
the other two parks. Not being able to hop really put a glitch in original plan to try every day until we got a boarding group. We are staying on site at AK kidani village so on shorter days we will hang out at the hotel. We are going with all of our Kids and grandkids (age 5-10) some of which have never been to Disney and all are star wars fanatics . Just trying to plan for the best trip possible
Tom – First, THANK YOU for this guide. It helped me plan for our 7/22 trip for my daughters birthday. We could not have had a better experience at DHS.
We parked at about 9:55 and walked straight to the Skyliner (staying off property but kids wanted to ride it!) and took our time getting into the park. We walked in and Star Tours had a 5 minute wait so we did that (didn’t bother with child swap but then my wife had to wait 20 min). Then we setup shop at Baseline and had some beers and watched the crowds walk by and the wait times.
We had a Mama Melrose reservation at 1130 and got called to our table at 11:25. We sat there and watched the thunderstorm roll in and soak everyone outside as we sat at our table for about 90 minutes and ate/drank. We sat here until the 1 PM Rise of the Resistance window and didn’t get it. The passes were literally gone within 5 seconds. We did end up getting Group 60 at the 4 PM slot and we got called at about 445. They were calling about 7.5 groups an hour.
At 1, we ventured out into Galaxy’s Edge for a 5 minute Smuggler’s Run and dealt with some drizzle but got some blue and green milk. We went to Toy Story Land where Slinky Dog was closed the entire day up to that point. They were testing trains so people started lining up. We got in the line and waited about 10 minutes then just went to Midway Mania (walk on). When we came out Slinky Dog was open and we got into essentially the same spot in line we were before. About 10 minute wait (30 min posted time).
After this point, literally every ride we did was walk on including Mickey and Minnie at about 6 PM. Kids built droids at 750 and we walked out of the park at 8:05 PM. Additionally, it looked like they were still letting people onto Rise of the Resistance at the end of the day who didn’t get passes.
Of all of the times we’ve been to DHS (first time for Galaxy’s Edge), we have never been able to do so much in one day. We almost cancelled our reservation and switched to Animal Kingdom but after 1 PM, it was home free.
We were at HS on Friday and arrived around 9:40ish to the park. We were let in right away (no wait at that point) and got right in line for MMRR, which they were already running. We were off that ride before it even hit 10. Wait times were significantly inflated all day – the longest we waited was 19 minutes for Slinky Dog when it was posted at 45 minutes. Most rides we walked on to. The only exception was ROR – we got stuck waiting for around an hour when it broke down during out boarding group. By the time we left the park around 5, it was pretty much empty. We honestly wouldn’t have bothered getting to the park so early if it wasn’t for the fact that my husband was worried we wouldn’t be able to get a ROR boarding group at one of the later time slots.
“I really hope one of the long-term consequences of the modified operations is more spontaneous character appearances and fewer static meet & greets.” THIS! Yes! The spontaneous character appearances make the experience so much more magical. We stayed at The Yacht Club on our last visit and seeing Minnie and Daisy walking around in resort attire, randomly interacting with the kiddos and fawning over the guys working out in the gym (ha!) was so memorable.
Tom, our group for our Dec trip will be of 12…hopefully, if everyone still goes. I am the one that will get into the park and work on getting us into the virtual queue for ROR, but I have a question…
does all 12 of my party need to be in the park with me to acquire that like it was pre covid?
This I don’t think has been touched on yet, or at least I haven’t read anywhere where it said that. Thanks for your reports. This is defintely a park I see my group coming into a little later and staying till closing.
Every member of your party will have to be IN the park in order to get them into a boarding group – this hasn’t changed! 😉
Wondering if you might know anything yet about DAS? As a senior guest, a combination of heat-walking-standing becomes even more challenging with social distancing. For the last 2 years, DAS has been a vacation-saver for us. Being able to pace ourselves and sit more frequently is critical for my hubby and stress-reducing for me.
My daughter has a DAS and we used it this past Saturday (7/18). We arrived before 10am, got in the vitual queue for Rise of Resistance and then used DAS for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Our virtual hold in line was about 50 minutes so we did other things and came back at our scheduled time. Did the same thing with Slinky Dog Dash a little later. Nice and easy and allowed my daughter to sit and stay out of the sun/heat which is critical.
I was able to get both of my Ques for Star Wars Resistance at the 4 o’clock slot. I was very pleased with the social distancing that they had and enforced and agree with the compliance of the masks. Let me tell you Sea World Aquatica does not promote social distancing or masks but that’s off topic. We had ease getting our park passes. We thought Disney did a great job. It will be interesting to see how it all goes when the capacity in the park’s goes up
Had to vent, we are longtime passholders who will never set foot on Disney property again. We were told as passholders we could move our reservation, sure but at full rack rate defeating the reason we buy the passes. So we asked for a refund Disney did come out with a passhilder resort rate, but we dont have the option of extending our passes even though we haven’t recieved a penny. They couldnt even tell me how much to see if it is worth renewing. With 6-7 hours of being in holff and passed from dept to dept were done. We know its a tough time but leave it to Disneynobody can tell us how much our refund is. Took 6-7 hours on hild for that.
Love your updates! Thx!
Could a group show up for rope drop at DHS to get a spot on Rise of the Resistance, leave the park and come back when it is closer to their time without loosing their spot?
How were you guys able to get so many reservations for HS that you could go three times in the last week? I thought all the AP slots were sold out?
Please share the secret! Thanks!
This was only two reservations (you can leave and come back), but it’s because of a resort reservation.