Why Disney’s Hollywood Studios May Be Worth a Visit

by on September 12, 2017 16 Comments

Filed under: Hollywood Studios

With the closure of the Great Movie Ride, I’ve heard many comments about Disney’s Hollywood Studios such as “See you in 2019”, or “I can’t believe Disney is keeping this place open”, or “You’d never want to waste a day of park admission to visit”. Surprisingly enough, there may be reasons why the Studios may be the best park for one day of your visit.

Is There Anything Left There?

First, let’s look at the makeup of the Studios as it is today. In terms of attractions, the Studios has:

  • Three thrill rides (Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Star Tours)
  • Seven shows (Beauty and the Beast, Disney Junior Live on Stage, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Muppetvision 3D, Frozen Sing-Along, Jedi Training Academy: Trials of the Temple)
  • One family-friendly ride (Toy Story Midway Mania)
  • Two (and a half) nighttime shows (Fantasmic, Star Wars fireworks, Disney Movie Magic)
  • An assortment of miscellany (Launch Bay, Star Wars Galaxy show, March of the First Order, meet and greets, Star Wars clip show movie)

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster may not be the best attraction for Grandma.

 

Shows, which are the bulk of the attractions at the Studios, eat up more time in a day than rides in a park. In terms of *just* rides and shows, here’s how the parks stack up against each other based on what’s open today.

  • Animal Kingdom: 162 minutes
  • Hollywood Studios: 195 minutes
  • Epcot: 219 minutes
  • Magic Kingdom: 226 minutes

 

Where parks like Animal Kingdom and Epcot also eat up time are the immersive walk-around experience and various exhibits. At Animal Kingdom, you can roam around the animal walking trails scattered around the park or look at the exhibits at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. In Epcot, you can explore the country pavilions, some of which have museum-quality exhibitions. Both Epcot and Animal Kingdom have a large amount of drop-in musicians and performers, while the Studios does have a much smaller presence with Streetmosphere than in years gone by. As a result, Animal Kingdom and Epcot have the feeling of more going on in between a show or attraction. The sheer bulk of the rides at Magic Kingdom (even if they are fairly short in duration) and each short ride having a decent amount of time spent in queue make the day seem more full, even if you don’t ride everything.

If you have a young child who isn’t into thrill rides and won’t sit for stage shows, the Studios is not a good option–a ride on Toy Story and a showing of Disney Junior Live on Stage simply won’t cut it. Perhaps that is why that announcements of things coming “soon” that aren’t Star Wars (Toy Story Land, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway) are focused on attractions that have family appeal, including those with younger children.

But if you have a family who needs or wants a day without much walking or a family that likes lots of sitting for shows, the Studios is your place to go. Likewise, if you have thrill-ride aficionados, the Studios offers more in the way of thrills than a park like Epcot or Animal Kingdom.

But isn’t the Studios a half-day park?

If you make wise use of rope dropping the park, a solid TouringPlan, and well-timed FastPass+ selections, plus have a desire not to sit through every stage show, the Studios can easily be done as a half-day park. However….

Sometimes all you need is a half-day park.

If you are planning to do some park hopping later in the day, if it is your arrival day, or if it is your departure day, you may only have a half day to spend. I don’t think many people would feel a lack of value if they did Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Toy Story Midway Mania, and caught a couple shows before heading to their mid-afternoon flight. Likewise, heading to the park after a mid-day arrival to do some of these headliners plus catching either Fantasmic or Star Wars fireworks makes for a very enjoyable first-day experience.

Someone told me there’d be food…

If you’re looking for dining options, the Studios still has some unique meals compared with other parks. (And I’m not trying to suggest that a carrot cake cookie can be a meal….unless you’re cool with that. No judgment.) I recently had a surprisingly good meal at the Sci-Fi Dine-In, which has one of the most uniquely immersive themes for any Walt Disney World restaurant. At almost a decade since their last visit, my family still talks about our server at 50s Prime Time CafĂ©. And even places like Hollywood Brown Derby and Mama Melrose provide meals better than some other options on property.

If You Can’t Wait until Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Opens…

For the Star Wars fan, the Studios has enough options to build some excitement for the new park land that seems to be a long time in the future. Although the Launch Bay holds very little interest for someone who isn’t much of a Star Wars fan, it can be a highlight for a Star Wars fan. Seeing the parade of Stormtroopers or the “Let’s bring out every major character in the franchise” stage show provides wonderful photo ops. Even something like Trials of the Temple is fun for Star Wars fans to watch. Oh, and you can’t forget at least a couple rides on Star Tours, too. Cap it off with the Star Wars fireworks, and you’ve got a solid bit of enjoyment for a Star Wars fan.

Overall, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is lopsided in its current offerings, and because it provides an experience that isn’t as well rounded with “lots for everyone”, it is easy to dismiss it as having nothing for anyone. And although I don’t think anyone would suggest that if you only have one day in Walt Disney World that this is the one and only park to do, for most people a Walt Disney World vacation is a multi-day affair. Depending on your interests, amount of time to devote to a park, activity level, and thrill ride tolerance, it may be that Disney’s Hollywood Studios might be the best park for one day of your visit.

And if not, we’ll see you in 2019!

 

Does your upcoming trip have a day at the Studios planned? Is the Studios a hard pass for you at this point? Let us know in the comments.

Posted on September 12, 2017

16 Responses to “Why Disney’s Hollywood Studios May Be Worth a Visit”

  • Thank you for a thought provoking article. I’ve been struggling with this myself – we have a large family group going to Disney World in March; some of whom are Star Wars/thrill ride fans and some are not (myself, my daughter & niece). Not sure yet if we will accompany the group to HS as it would be fun to do TSMM and the 50’s Prime Time Cafe is pretty great but there’s not much else there that would capture our interest.

    For people who strongly dislike thrill rides, is the queue for ToT worth waiting through just to see it and then exit via the chicken door?

    • Queue for ToT is very detailed and visually interesting, but it’s not worth going to the studios *just* to walk it. I’d check out a walk-thru on YouTube to see if you get the “I want to see that in person” feeling or the “I’d rather sit on a bench with a churro” feeling.

      Depending on the ages of your daughter & niece, they could certainly LOVE the Frozen singalong, Disney Jr, or even *shudder* Beauty & Beast and Little Mermaid.

    • The queue for Tower of Terror isn’t that interesting. Spoilers if you haven’t been…… It has a spider web lobby with some hidden Mickeys. The pre-show room is too dark to appreciate all the references to the Twilight Zone television show. Then, you walk into a basement like room with elevators.

      While it is indeed themed very well, there isn’t anything exciting or interactive about the queue. The amount of time actually spent in the lobby and the preshow room is generally low compared to the basement and of course the outside queue through the gardens.

  • There’s a problem with the “seven shows” bullet point that feeds into your observation that the park is lopsided. Of those seven shows, three only appeal to young kids (Disney Jr, Frozen, Jedi Training), two are objectively terrible (Beauty & Beast, Mermaid), and two are great but haven’t changed in the *slightest* in over a quarter-century (Indy, Muppets). If you’re an adult who’s been to the park several times (as I have to assume most people reading this are), those seven shows hold zero drawing power.

    • by Julia Mascardo on September 12, 2017, at 3:33 pm EDT

      It really depends on the person. I’m not a big fan of stage shows in general, and so the ones at the Studios hold equally as little draw as Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo, or even non-live-performer ones like The American Adventure. I know some people who like to do primarily the shows at theme parks and skip other forms of attractions. But older and unchanging doesn’t automatically mean zero draw for the general population. (If it did, Peter Pan would be a walk-on every day, for instance.)

    • Frozen Sing a Long is amazing for all ages and very
      We love DHS and spent a lot of time there in April with a Family group aged from 2 to 90 . We just split up so everyone could do what they wanted.

    • I’m an adult who’s been to the parks countless times and the Frozen sing along is my favorite show there. The jokes change quite frequently and if you want the best experience, follow @equityben on Instagram. He’ll post the days and times of when his shows are and he really makes the show ten times better.

      As for the others, I love Beauty and the Beast, so I actually like the show. Indiana Jones is entertaining every time, and I don’t mind doing the Little Mermaid every now and then. The Muppets and Disney junior shows I have no interest in though.

    • 1. Yes some of the shows are for little kids. Frozen is not- even though I didn’t really care for it.
      2. No not “Objectively terrible”- “Subjectively terrible” maybe. I love both of those shows and think they are great. So this point is wrong.
      3. Muppets is a must-do, but Indy is a once every few years for me. Just because something hasn’t changed doesn’t mean no one wants to go.

  • Frozen Sing a Long is amazing for all ages and very funny
    We love DHS and spent a lot of time there in April with a Family group aged from 2 to 90 . We just split up so everyone could do what they wanted.

  • I certainly don’t represent every guest, but as an annual passholder and DVC member who is at Disney World twice a year at least, I love DHS. There are a handful of rides that rank among my favorites at any park and we enjoy the shows. But since we go often, a lot of times I care less about what we ride/see and more about enjoying walking around the park. I enjoy the cast members walking around playing roles, I like wandering around with a beer, we pin trade, the fireworks are cool… I think the park has a fantastic atmosphere. If you have one shot at Disney World this year and don’t have park hopper, I might not recommend it. But I always leave there in a great mood.

    • Excellent point – the cast members/actors on the street are great and pin trading appeals to us as well. Also the shopping. Maybe we’ll hit up HS with our larger group but enjoy a loosey-goosey “schedule” instead of a firm touring plan/

  • We were there recently and were pretty disappointed. Most of the place seemed to be one big gift shop. After the Roller Coaster, ToT, TSM, and the stunt show, we really didn’t have much to do since we are not SW fans and my teens weren’t interested in the kid’s shows. We ended up sitting around playing cards waiting for Fantasmic. We only spent 1/2 day and even that was too much.

  • I completely agree with you, Julia! As a thrill ride fan, I can’t imagine going to Disney World and not riding the Rockin’ Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror! Fantasmic is unique and I enjoy the Frozen show and the Star Wars stuff. I definitely think DHS is worth a half day, but probably not a whole day. Last time I think I paired it with dinner and shopping in Disney Springs. Another option might be to pair it with a half day at Magic Kingdom, spending 1 1/2 days there, because 1 day at Magic Kingdom never seems to be enough!

  • My teenage boys were there over the summer and left after a half day. Most of the shows hold little appeal, and there’s only so many times you can ride RnR or TSM, especially if you don’t want to wait in lines after FP+ run out. I think their interests are skewing more toward Universal at this point, so that probably also plays into their experiences.

  • We initially planned on doing only a half day this last June when our family of 4 went to HS. My husband had fond memories of HS the last time we went (10 years ago) and convinced me to throw caution to the wind and go the whole day. We went early and just winged it the first part of the day and picked up at 11 am with our Touring Plan. We were SO GLAD we did! We had so much fun and the kids loved the rides and characters. It was nice to have a day where we didn’t feel rushed to get from one attraction to the next and could enjoy everything and take it all in. It was definitely a full day of fun without being in a hurry to get to everything. The whole day we just kept saying, “this is so much fun” and “what a great experience!”. I wouldn’t miss HS, otherwise, you will miss the classic Disney experience.

  • Planning our next trip, half-universal/half-disney. With only 3 1/2 Disney days, and in the wake of Great Movie Ride being closed, I had decided to skip HS this time… then my daughter asked, “Which park is Tower of Terror in?” and “Wait, what about Rock & Roller Coaster & Star Tours”? and “Isn’t all the Star Wars stuff in HS?” and “Fantasmic is my favorite night show” and “Can’t miss the muppets”. And this kid doesn’t even want to do the Frozen show (backlash, was her favorite movie until it was no longer cool for that to be one’s favorite movie), even though I think it’s the funniest show there, with one gag after another.

    So I’m trying to figure out how to fit it in. The easy thing to do would be departure day, but missing Fantasmic is not an option.

    This was a really excellent article.
    I was surprised by the time element, but indeed shows take more time.