Touring with a Toddler – The Disney’s Hollywood Studios Plan

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There are few vacation destinations that are as simultaneously wonderful and frustrating to bring a toddler to as Walt Disney World.  Today I’m going to walk you through the One Day Touring Plan for Adults with Small Children at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  As always, I have added several tips, suggestions, and snarky comments.

(If you are interested, I have also commented on plans for the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.)

I will preface this plan by saying that I am learning to love Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but I am not ready to profess my adoration for it quite yet.  The park holds a few of my favorite attractions (which I’ll get to below) and some wonderful themes, but I still find it to be scattered.  What I mean by that is the different areas are not very well defined, and the transitions are mostly non-existent.  What can I say, I’m a sucker for a theme.

Okay, okay, before this turns into my diatribe on what’s wrong with Hollywood Studios (the hat!) let’s get into the touring plan.  I have paraphrased and added plenty of my always insightful comments (or at least I think they’re funny).  You can refer to the original plan for all of its originality and planniness.

1. Arrive at the entrance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios 30 minutes prior to opening.
It’s hard to argue with this, and this park may be the most crucial one to arrive pre-opening because of the all-out, elbows-flying, running-down-Grandma dash to…

2. Obtain FASTPASSes for Toy Story Midway Mania!

Well, the race to Toy Story isn’t THAT bad.  It is a little bit too competitive and too aggressive for my liking, though, so make sure you hang on to that little one until you’re clear of Pixar Place.  I’ll discuss the actual attraction below (I know the suspense is awful, but please try not to scroll ahead).

It's just like Hollywood! The Art Deco, the palm trees, the actresses, the...giant hat?

3. Voyage of the Little Mermaid

I personally really like this show, but I’m a musical theater kind of guy (comments to yourselves, please).  It’s long enough to get at least portions of all the popular songs in there while staying short enough to hang on to little attention spans (like mine).  I also really love the rain effect.

Enough about me (I don’t say that often); you’re wondering how it is for 1 and 2 year olds.  I would say that it’s…meh.  If your child likes lights and singing, the kid may love it, but there are dark parts, smoke, lasers, and a really big Ursula that may just as likely terrify.  If you are unsure, take a seat near the exit in case the need to flee arises.

4. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

To start, Star Tours has a 40” height minimum, so most toddlers will be too short to enjoy.  Even if they are tall enough this is a little bit rough and loud and in-your-face, so they may not like that.

If you are wondering how the new (new? redone?) attraction is, I will tell you.  Let me preface by saying that I am a huge Star Wars geek, yet not a fan of motion simulators (because they tend to be motion sickness stimulators).  I loved this attraction.  It is reasonably smooth, the 3-D images are fantastic, and the varied landscapes are thrilling.  Even though there are locations taken from those “new Star Wars” movies (which I refuse to admit exist), I found this completely satisfying.

5. Jedi Training Academy

Your toddler will not be able to participate in this since the minimum age is four, but it still is fun to watch…for a little while.  If you are unaware, the Training Academy is an interactive show where the basic story is that several new Jedi (young park guests) are trained in basic combat. The training is interrupted by Darth Vader, and then the kids take turns battling the Sith Lord (that’s Vader…told you I’m a geek).  Watching the kids’ faces when Vader comes out is really fun, but the rest gets a little stale unless you have personal ties to one of the Jedi.

If this isn't enough evidence of my geekiness, I'm wearing a LOST Dharma Initiative shirt in this picture (Orchid Station).

6. Jim Henson’s Muppet-Vision 3-D

Just like many of the 3-D movies, the issues here with a little one are mostly related to loud noises and short attention spans.  There are several in-your-face moments and big bangs (in true Muppet fashion), but overall this is such a fun show that I suggest you try it. For full disclosure, I’m a Muppet geek (yes, I’m a geek about everything…except Avatar).

7. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure

This is a really fun play area, although a toddler may need help with a few of the apparatuses.  I usually skip it, however, because it always seems very hot in there and is usually quite crowded.  If you feel like your child has some energy to burn, this is as good a spot as any.

8. Toy Story Mania!

Well, now your patience has been rewarded and you get to read my thoughts about Toy Story.  It’s a very, very fun attraction with absolutely ludicrous lines (like some rides, my opinion wasn’t worth the wait).   Using FASTPASS, like you’re doing here, is just about the only way to go.

The actual ride has a few things that you should be aware of with a little one:  You have to wear 3-D glasses, there are occasional blasts of air or sprays of water, and the guns may be tricky to operate.  Most of all, the cars turn very quickly between game areas which can throw a small body around.  My daughter whacked her head on the first spin (nothing serious), so I had to keep one hand on her shoulder the rest of the ride.

9. Eat lunch…or no dessert (and missing dessert at Starring Rolls or Writer’s Stop is a punishment).

10. Take a mid-day break. If your children are willing to ride Tower of Terror and you’ve not already done so, send one member of your party to get FASTPASSes for Tower of Terror on your way out of the park.

That paragraph is straight out of the Touring Plan and I left it verbatim because that says it all.

11. Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage

This is a great show, but there are a lot of variables to consider: It is a bit long for short attention spans, it is outdoors, and it is still outdoors.  Sitting in the heat can be no fun.

12. Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show

I’m not a huge fan of this show.  There is a lot of downtime in between stunts and it’s another outdoor show.  Also, my interest in watching cars driving fast wanes quickly (okay, immediately).  If you or your child are more forgiving of these things then go for it.

13. Studio Backlot Tour

I don’t think this is a good idea for a toddler.  They’re not going to care about the water effects pre-show (if it’s working), they will very likely be frightened by Catastrophe Canyon (if it’s working), and they will be bored by the props (they are usually working).

This is my daughter with Sjonnie from Boca Raton, FL. He dressed her up to welcome guests back to the Tower Hotel and is another reason why I love Cast Members.

14. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

The most well done attraction in Walt Disney World.  Your toddler may not meet the 40” height minimum and they will probably not like the attraction even if they do.

15. The American Idol Experience

I’ve never seen this and I really don’t have a desire to.  That is not helpful to you in any way.

16. Fantasmic!

This will have to be a judgment call for parents of small children.  There are some hard-to-see water projections, fireworks, fire, and a dragon, all of which can be boring/scary for children.  In addition, having to fight through the crowd to get to and from the theater always makes this show less appealing to me.  On the other hand, it is a very good show.

==============

That’s all there is for the plan, there are a few things that weren’t mentioned above though:

- Rock n’ Roller Coaster:  A toddler is in no way going to make the 48” height requirement but, if you are not roller coaster averse, this is a very cool coaster.

- Disney Junior Live on Stage:  This is a great diversion for the little ones which consists of what is basically a puppet show featuring Disney Channel characters.  It has sketches from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Handy Manny, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  I would insert this into the plan above (anywhere where another show or the Backlot Tour would be).

- Sounds Dangerous with Drew Carey: This is only open seasonally.  If you happen to be passing by and it is open, keep walking anyway.  This show is dated, not that funny, and not that interesting.  There are better ways to spend your time.

- The Great Movie Ride: A wonderful, classic-feeling ride that your small children will probably not give one darn about.  They may find certain scenes interesting, but they may also be scarred for life by the Wicked Witch or the Alien scene.

- Character Greetings:  I wanted to mention this because there are characters at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that can only be found here.  Greetings with Lightning McQueen and Mater (Cars), Phineas and Ferb, Mike and Sully (Monsters, Inc) and the Incredibles are all available.

Overall, it always feels like there is not a lot for a toddler to do at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  What there is to do is unique and fun, so it is still definitely worth a visit.  Let me know what you think below (unless you like the giant hat…I’m just kidding…maybe).

 

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Posted on October 14, 2011

12 Responses to “Touring with a Toddler – The Disney’s Hollywood Studios Plan”

  • After our last trip to Hollywood Studios my toddler earned the nickname Toddler of Terror! He was having a really bad day and bringing everyone (I mean everyone within ear shot) down with him. He did have fun watching the Jedi Training, and the Stunt Show. He even rode Toy Story Mania after most of our party parted ways and he got his wiggles out at the Honey I shrunk the Set area. Thanks for all the ideas for visiting HS with ToT!

  • We enjoyed a day recently at Hollywood Studios with our toddler and 10 year old. It worked out well for mom and 2 year old to grab Toy Story fastpasses while 10 year old and I did tower of terror, rockin roller coaster, and Star tours. 2 year old and mom saw Hollywood Mickey, Minnie, Donald, daisy, and it seems like some others although I can’t recall. They enjoyed the characters with little wait.

  • Our kids are 5,5, and 3. Rather than battle to get into Fantasmic and run out with 3 screaming kids we watched it on youtube. It was a great way to test their reactions out. But every kid and ride is different. The kids were all sure they could handle haunted mansion. One bailed in the preshow, the others were scared.

  • I don’t have a toddler (thank goodness) but loved the sarcasm and wit in this article. But then I’m English, edgy is good! :)

  • by Anne Heaviside on October 14, 2011, at 8:14 pm EDT

    Good article but I’m so confused now as to whether to do DHS with a 4 and 2 yr old or skip it until they are older?? From your article, it appears that Voyage of the Little Mermaid, TSM ride, Disney Junior Show, and Character Meet Greets are about the only true things aimed at toddlers. The Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground seems to get mixed reviews with many saying it’s for older kids. Sounds like Epcot might actually have more to do with my toddlers than DHS.

    • Depending on the time you have, I would not skip it all together. We went earlier this year, one month after my son’s 5th birthday. His favorite ride was Star Tours and TSM. He also really loved the Indiana Jones stunt show (although he has no idea who Indiana Jones is) and even Beauty and the Beast. Great photos with Buzz and Woody too. We were there four nights. The day we arrived and morning we left we did DHS. Then one day at Animal Kingdom and two at MK. Skipping EPCOT was a HARD choice, but I think it worked for us. We wanted to do it when we had two days to devote to EPCOT. Good Luck!

    • My husband, parents, and I visited DHS in early-September with our 2 year old daughter (and I was 24 weeks pregnant). My parents and I are Disney veterans and it was my husband’s first trip. The only rides/shows she did were Toy Story Mania (twice and LOVED it), Little Mermaid (so so but she doesn’t do well sitting for ‘long’ periods of time), Disney Junior (she watches the shows so knew the characters plus she could stand and move around), and the Great Movie Ride. The adults (minus me) also rode Tower, Rock ‘n Roller, and Star Tours (while she and I did Disney Junior and some shopping). We arrived at rope drop and left the park by 2 (riding TSM immediately upon arrival and then getting a FP after riding to use before leaving the park).

      There isn’t a huge amount to do, but what is there can be alot of fun for that age. We spent much more time at Epcot during our trip, but it’s also our favorite park. It was very obvious to me after visiting with a 2 year old that Magic Kingdom is the place to spend most of your time. For us, Epcot was second, followed by AK and DHS. We had 5 day hopper passes, but spent 2 full days in MK, 1 morning each in AK and DHS, 2 evenings and 1 morning at Epcot, and an evening at Downtown Disney. Each day we napped from 2ish to 5ish which prevented any potential meltdowns and allowed us to see the nighttime shows but also be at rope drop each morning.

  • Loved this! Always appreciate your humor! My 2 year old daughter loved Disney Junior stage show, Muppets, Honey I Shrunk the kids, Toy Story Mania and Indiana Jones, too. This year we are going to have a girls lunch at Hollywood and Vine and send the boys off to the roller coasters. I think this will be a great addition to our plan since she loves Little Einsteins and her big brothers, well, don’t.

  • Hollywood Studios used to be a half day park for us. The addition of TSM and recently adding Lighting McQueen to Lights Motors Action Stunt show have extended our time a bit, but we are still done usually right after the 345pm parade. Our kids are not big enought for RnRC and ToT, so that is usually a ride swap/single rider line while the other parent watches Beauty and the Beast show. Our day at DHS is typically filled up with all the different character greetings available, Muppets 3D, TSM, Lights Motors Action, and Playhouse Disney. Star Tours and Indiana Jones hold no interest for us.

  • For a 2-4 year old, I’d pick Animal Kingdom over Hollywood Studios as a 3rd park (Magic Kingdom 1st & Epoct 2nd). We went in 2004 when oldest was 2-1/2 (pre-TSM days), and the only things we did were Playhouse Disney (he was a Bear in the Big Blue House fanatic), Muppets 3D, and Voyage of the Little Mermaid. We went in 2008 and our youngest two were 2 & 3, and we went to Animal Kingdom instead. They all loved the Festival of the Lion King, the Kilimanjaro Safari, Triceritops Spin, and the Boneyard. Plus the 3 yr old was over 38″, so he could do Kali River Rapids. Just came back last week, and did both HS & AK — The kids are now 6, 7, & 10 and it was a draw as far as which park they like better now. For us, AK seems to be a more relaxed day, especially without the TSM dash/rumble.

  • Wow… love Star Tours ride, check. Love The Muppets, check. Love “LOST,” check (though no T-shirt). Guess that means I’m a geek too! Great recap! My kids (4 & 7) love the Studios perhaps more than the Magic Kingdom. It’s still not my #1, but the new Star Tours ride, def. moved it up a notch in my book! Also, Fantasmic! rocks.

  • Studios is not my favorite park either… but I’m learning to like it and there are things I miss on years we don’t go. If we have fewer than 5 days with preschoolers/toddlers, we usually skip it.

    I would add, for little ones, that at rope drop, ride Toy Story Mania and get fastpasses when you get off for later in the day. Depending on the kids, Light’s Motors Action and Indiana Jones can be good- mine (boys) usually enjoy them both and I’m sure they’ll be extremely excited to see McQueen on our next trip. They have also enjoyed Beauty and the Beast, but they were scared of the Little Mermaid. And yes, character greetings are huge for this age- and I love my pictures of my then 2 year old son hugging Lightning McQueen’s tire! Can’t get that anywhere else.

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