The Ultimate Guide to Hollywood Studios
Heading to Hollywood Studios? In this blog we’re covering tons of Hollywood Studios tips, including Galaxy’s Edge info, the best rides and food, FastPasses, and more!
Fun fact: Adventures of A+K started at Disney World back in 2015! We crashed our friend’s family trip to Disney with 10 people during the week of the 4th of July and despite the holiday crowds, we had the best time and hardly waited in any lines. After that trip we wanted to share our tips and experience visiting the parks so we started a blog!
Fast forward to 2020, we were finally able to make it back to Disney World and it was so special for us to be in the place that started this whole travel blogger journey for us. We spent a day park hopping between Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom and just like in 2015, we had the BEST time!
The big difference with this trip compared to the last one was that there was a big new area to explore in the parks: Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.
Adam is a big Star Wars fan, while I am more of a Star Wars appreciator, but we both knew we had to visit Hollywood Studios to experience this new area. And WOW! We were both blown away by how spectacular it was! The amount of thought and detail that went into every inch of the park was mind blowing. While the crowds were large for this area and the wait times were long, it was absolutely worth it!
We’re excited to share tons of new Hollywood Studios tips from our most recent trip, including: how to experience the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge attractions, the best Hollywood Studios rides, Hollywood studios FastPass+ planning, what to eat at Hollywood Studios, as well as general tips for Disney World!
Buckle up, it’s a long post, but we hope it helps you plan your own Hollywood Studios adventure!
- About Hollywood Studios
- When to visit Disney World
- Where to stay at Disney World
- What to bring to Disney World
- How to get to Hollywood Studios
- Hollywood Studios FastPass+ Planning
- Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge Tips
- General Hollywood Studios Tips
- Park Hopping with Hollywood Studios
- Best Rides at Hollywood Studios
- Top Shows at Hollywood Studios
- Best Food at Hollywood Studios
Headed to Magic Kingdom? Check out our Magic Kingdom guide (Coming soon!)
Watch our Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom vlogs!
Looking for other things to do in Orlando? Read our list of 18 things to do in Orlando besides theme parks
Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!
About Hollywood Studios
Hollywood Studios is the third oldest of the four main Disney World parks. Opening in 1989, it was originally named MGM Studios until 2008 (it was MGM Studios during my first ever Disney trip!). It’s also one of the smaller Disney World parks at around 135 acres, making it pretty easy to navigate by foot!
Hollywood Studios was originally just supposed to be a pavilion in Epcot, but Disney Imagineers decided there would be enough entertainment for its own park. The park focuses on bringing movies and television to life, and from the moment you walk into the park and down Sunset Boulevard, you feel like you’re a part of the story.
The park has changed a lot over time. Once home to an animation studio where “Mulan,” “Lilo & Stitch” and “Brother Bear” were produced, none of the original attractions from the park still exist, but there are many new classics, like the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror, as well as two new very popular areas of the park: Toy Story Land and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.
When to visit Disney World
Disney World is a year-round destination, but there are definitely better times to visit due to crowds, park hours, and weather. To hopefully make your trip less stressful!, here are some tips about when to visit Disney World!
We have visited Disney World together twice, the first time during the 4th of July week and then this most recent time on a Wednesday in mid January (January 15, 2020 to be exact!). So we have experienced the parks during both a summer holiday, as well as the “slower” season. While our 4th of July trip was very hot, looking back, the parks actually felt less busy to us. Granted, this was before the Star Wars craze, so things may be different in the future.
While the crowds in January weren’t that bad, we were a bit surprised by how busy it felt at times. We of course expected long waits and crowds at Hollywood Studios, but when we park hopped over to Magic Kingdom, we were greeted with much bigger crowds than we expected. The wait times for most of the top rides at Magic Kingdom were between 60-120 minutes. And for a Wednesday in mid-January, that felt crazy to us!
What we learned from both experiences is that you should always make a list of your top priorities, get your FastPasses, and be mentally prepared for crowds. If you go into the day with realistic expectations, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised!
The busiest time to visit Disney World will be during weekends, school holidays, and around major holidays, especially Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and the 4th of July. We’d suggest avoiding these times if you really don’t want to battle crowds!
It’s also good to look at the Disney event calendar to make sure that there isn’t a major event during your planned visit (such as the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival and the various races). Unless of course you’re wanting to visit for a specific event!
As for the best day of the week, mid-week is typically the slowest time since some folks may take a Friday or Monday off for a long Disney weekend.
When in doubt, there are many helpful crowd calendars online to help you double check the estimated crowds for the day you’d like to visit.
One thing we noticed during our most recent trip to Disney World is that it felt like the park hours were shorter. We couldn’t remember the hours from our 4th of July trip, but after researching a bit, we discovered that some parks, especially Magic Kingdom, do have longer hours in the summer.
Magic Kingdom, for example, was only open until 8 PM during our January trip, but in July it’s open until 10 PM. Those 2 extra hours can make a huge difference when it comes to getting on the popular rides!
You can see park hours by month here.
We’d suggest avoiding Disney World in the summer if heat, humidity, and rain are not your jam. The summers in Orlando can be pretty brutal with the heat + humidity combo and the Orlando area is prone to lots of rain in the summer, as well as hurricanes and tropical storms. Our previous trip to Orlando was during 4th of July week and we were basically soaked in sweat the entire time. It did make the pool and frozen treats even better though! 🙂
Visiting Disney World sometime between January-mid May or October-December, all while avoiding major holidays, would have more bearable temperatures, less rain, and less crowds! Our most recent trip to Orlando was in January and while they did experience unusually high temperatures, we couldn’t really complain while a lot of the country was freezing and getting snow!
No matter which day you choose, Disney is truly the happiest place on Earth and even with some crowds or a little bit of rain, you’ll still have a magical day!
Where to stay at Disney World
There are so many options of places to stay at Disney World—it can be a bit overwhelming! If you plan to spend multiple days at Disney and want to take full advantage of everything the park has to offer, from free transportation to extra magic hours, we highly recommend staying on property at a Disney hotel.
But if you only plan to spend a day at Disney World and either want to save a little money or have rewards with specific hotel chains, there are lots of great off-property hotels and Airbnbs to check out!
Below is a list of some of the many options that we suggest considering!
Disney Hotels: Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, or for something more affordable and outdoorsy, stay at the Fort Wilderness Campground! You can see all Disney options here.
Airbnbs: We LOVED the Airbnb we stayed at near Disney! The complex was so nice, had tons of amenities, and was close to Disney. Here are some Airbnbs at the property: Option #1 (this is the one we stayed in!), Option #2, Option #3.
PS: If it is your first time staying at an Airbnb, click this link to get $40 off your first stay!
What to bring to Disney World
One thing we love about Disney is that you can bring a bag (less than 24″ long x 15″ wide x 18″ high) onto any ride! We always dislike when we have to hop back and forth to a locker at theme parks, so their bag policy is so convenient!
After a few fails, we now have a pretty solid idea of what to bring to Disney World. Here is our go-to list!
Umbrella or Rain Jacket: Our first huge fail at Disney was during our trip in 2015. We forgot to bring an umbrella or rain jacket. We didn’t even think about the fact that it may rain. Well, in summers in Florida, an afternoon shower is very common and we found ourselves spending $20/each on ponchos at the park to stay dry. We’ll never make that mistake again!
Comfy Shoes: Comfort > Fashion is the motto at Disney. You’ll be doing lots of walking, so you’ll want to make sure that your shoes are as comfortable as possible!
Camera: Whether it’s your phone, a point and shoot camera, a DSLR, or a GoPro, having a camera to capture the moments at Disney is a must! We loved documenting our facial expressions on rides with our GoPro (best investment!), snapping photos with characters, and filming our day at the park.
Sunscreen: They don’t call Florida the Sunshine State for nothin’!
Portable battery charger: During our most recent trip to Disney, we found ourselves panicking a bit when our camera batteries were all almost dead and we still had a couple hours of filming left to do. We didn’t think about bringing a portable battery charger (like this one!), which would’ve not only helped keep our camera batteries charged, but would’ve been a good backup in case our phones died.
Food: Another huge perk of Disney is you can bring your own food in! This actually shocked us a bit, because usually places want you to spend all of your money on their food. 😉 The biggest rule with food is that it cannot be in glass containers. We love bringing our own lunches and some snacks to save us money throughout the day.
Water: Similar to food, you can bring your own water into Disney! We brought our CamelBak Bladder with us last time and it was easy to carry around, held a lot of water, and was easy to quickly drink from.
To see everything you’re not allowed to bring, check out Disney’s park policy!
How to get to Hollywood Studios
There are a few ways to get to Hollywood Studios, depending on if you’re staying on property, off property, or park hopping!
If you’re staying off property, your best options are Uber/Lyft or parking at the park. Uber/Lyft prices vary based on where you’re staying, so we recommend looking at their fare estimator tools (Uber, Lyft) to see what the cost would be.
Parking costs $25/day and it works for as many parks as you can squeeze in!
If you’re staying on property, you have more options! You can either:
- Take a bus from your resort (free for resort guests!)
- Park at Hollywood Studios (free for resort guests!)
- Take an Uber/Lyft to the park (cost varies)
If you’re park hopping (on or off property), you can get to and from Hollywood Studios a couple ways from the other parks! But when in doubt, we recommend asking a cast member for the best route, as sometimes things can change.
- From Epcot: You can either take the new Skyliner (a fun gondola!), take a 20-30 minute boat ride, or walk 15-20 minutes!
- From Magic Kingdom: Take the bus
- From Animal Kingdom: Take the bus
- Drive and park at each park: $25/day for off property guests and free for on property guests!
Hollywood Studios FastPass+ Planning
Figuring out FastPasses can be a bit confusing and overwhelming if it’s your first time to Disney World! Here’s a quick rundown of how they work so you can figure out your Hollywood Studios FastPass+ strategy!
- Everyone gets 3 FastPass+ choices before they visit the park. They are free! However, not all rides and attractions are eligible for FastPass+.
- If you’re staying on park property, you can start making your choices 60 days before your check in date. If you’re not staying on park property, you can start making your choices 30 days before your park date at 7:00 AM ET. It’s important to make your Hollywood Studios FastPass+ choices as soon as possible to have the most options.
- If you’re park hopping, you can only pick your first three FastPasses at one of the parks (no mixing parks allowed unfortunately) and then you can get individual FastPasses (one at a time) once you get to your second park. You could choose to select your three FastPasses for your second park if you’re not worried about lines at your first park and want to guarantee shorter lines at your second park.
- At Hollywood Studios, the attractions are split into tiers and you can only choose one Tier 1 Ride for your first three FastPass+ selections. Tier 1 rides are changing on February 19, 2020 and will be the following: Smugglers Run and Slinky Dog Dash. Unfortunately Rise of the Resistance is not eligible for your Hollywood Studios FastPass+.
- You then can pick two Tier 2 rides, the top options in Tier 2 at Hollywood Studios are: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Toy Story Mania. There are shows included in Tier 2 as well.
- Your FastPass+ time slot is an hour, which means that if you book a 10:30 AM time for a ride you have from 10:30 AM-11:30 AM to enter the ride.
- After you run out of passes and book individually, you may notice that the time slots are limited. Check the app often throughout the day—we snagged one for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad super last minute and it saved us so much time!
Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge Tips
Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge is definitely the most popular area of the park and with the big hype at the moment, it can be a bit overwhelming trying to figure out the best plan to see it all. If you’re not a Star Wars fan, feel free to skip this part of the blog, but if you want to visit Galaxy’s Edge, here is exactly what we did to ensure we saw everything in just half a day!
Arrival Time: During our visit, Hollywood Studios was opening early at 7 AM (even though the website said otherwise) to accommodate the crowds and turn on the virtual queue for the Rise of the Resistance boarding groups (more on that in a second!). We arrived at the park around 5:45 AM and despite them opening the park at 7 AM, we actually were let into the park around 6:30 AM. It’s crucial that you find out the actual opening time to ensure you can get a boarding group.
Boarding Groups: What is this boarding group thing you speak of?! Well, unlike any other ride at Disney, Rise of the Resistance uses boarding groups to manage the popularity of the ride. What this means is that at 7 AM (during our visit), you have to click “Find out More” under the Rise of the Resistance section on the Disney Experience app homepage to get placed into a boarding group.
These boarding groups go FAST! As soon as the clock turned 7 AM, everyone was frantically clicking “Find Out More” on the app to try to get into a boarding group. It took us a minute or so for everything to work and we finally got boarding group 74. What this meant is that they would eventually call our boarding group number and then we had two hours to enter the ride. We hear that sometimes they only give you one hour, so make sure you look closely!
They didn’t start calling boarding groups until 8 something on our day and our boarding group wasn’t called until 1 PM. So we waited 6 hours to be able to enter the ride. But on the plus side, with the boarding group process we didn’t actually have to wait in line for 6 hours and could go do other things!
How to plan your day at Galaxy’s Edge: Since we had time to kill until our turn to ride the Rise of the Resistance, we tried to do everything else we wanted to do in the park before it was our turn to ride, especially since we had to park hop afterwards.
As soon as the park opened and we got our boarding group, we headed straight to Galaxy’s Edge to see its epicness and get into line for Smugglers Run. Since this will soon be a FastPass+ ride, you may not have to take that approach, but we figured it would be best to wait in line for it right away before the line got any longer.
After riding Smugglers Run, we wandered around Galaxy’s Edge a bit more before visiting other areas of the park. We returned to Galaxy’s Edge after riding everything else at Hollywood Studios to see anything we missed earlier while continuing our wait to ride the Rise of the Resistance.
General Hollywood Studios Tips
- If you’re staying on resort property, you may be able to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours! These are either in the morning or evening and vary by day. So make sure to check the Disney calendar!
- Make sure to download the Disney Experience app to see line times, book extra FastPasses, and to see the park map.
- Ride single rider whenever you can to avoid long lines. While it’s fun to ride with your group, single rider has saved us a ton of time and we still have a ton of fun. At Hollywood Studios, the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Smugglers Run offer single rider lines.
- As we mentioned above, visit Galaxy’s Edge first (for Smuggler’s Run and to see it all!) and then go on other rides while waiting for Rise of the Resistance. That way, if your Rise of the Resistance time is kind of late you don’t have to worry about seeing or riding anything else after.
- If you do not have your tickets in advance, make sure to either pick up your Magic Band or ticket from a guest services desk before you get to the park. This will save you the hassle of having to get your ticket there! We picked ours up at Disney Springs.
Park Hopping with Hollywood Studios
Is park hopping with Hollywood Studios doable? We think so!
During our latest trip to Hollywood Studios we were at the park from 7 AM-2 PM, but a solid hour of that was waiting around for the Rise of the Resistance. Although we didn’t ride everything at the park or see any shows, we felt that we got to see everything we wanted to see.
During our previous trip to Disney we went to Animal Kingdom (pre Avatar) + Hollywood Studios (pre Galaxy’s Edge) + Epcot in one day. It was a bit chaotic, but a lot of fun!
It really comes down to what you want to do. Just want to ride the main rides and leave? A half day is totally doable! Want to see all of the shows and do all of the rides? You probably would want a full day.
If you do decided to park hop, we suggest combining Hollywood Studios with Epcot or Animal Kingdom!
Best Rides at Hollywood Studios
If you like thrill rides and amazing, immersive ride experiences, Hollywood Studios may just be the best park at Disney World! With terrifying drops, rockin’ flips, and a unique ride unlike anything we have ever experienced, we had SO much fun riding the rides at Hollywood Studios during our last trip. Here’s our list of the best rides at Hollywood Studios that deserve top priority during your day at the park!
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Rise of the Resistance is by far the coolest “ride” we have ever been on! In fact, it’s more of an immersive experience than a ride. You are truly placed into the world of Star Wars.
As we covered in our Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge tips section, getting a spot to ride this line requires fast thumbs and patience, but boy is it worth it! Make sure to arrive to the park early and when it’s finally your turn to experience the Rise of the Resistance magic, prepare to be amazed.
The ride has multiple phases and each aspect of the ride is a story that you get to be a part of. We filmed the entire ride and to see the highlights, check out our vlog from our day in the park!
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
This was the first ride we did during our day at Hollywood Studios and to be honest, I (Kathryn) thought it was going to be a lame virtual reality ride and wasn’t that excited to go on it. We waited in line for a while, but were entertained by how well thought out and designed the line queue was. It definitely made the wait fly by!
After receiving our roles (we were pilots!), we boarded the Millennium Falcon and oh my gosh, it was SO MUCH FUN! Everyone on the ship had a job to do and I was in charge of steering left and right and Adam was in charge of going up and down, and we laughed and screamed the entire time as we ran into things. Instead of just sitting back and enjoying the ride, you truly get to be a part of the experience.
We only got 34%….womp womp! But hey, the more we crashed the more exhilarating it was! 😉 I take back any concerns I had about the ride being lame—it was super thrilling and fun!
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
While I (Kathryn) love me a good roller coaster, I am not a fan of rides that drop you quickly and unexpectedly. They give me a lot of anxiety, make my stomach feel weird, and I am always afraid I am going to fly off the ride. So the Tower of Terror isn’t really my favorite.
While I had been to Disney World twice before, my first time going on the Tower of Terror was on my second trip to the park 4.5 years ago and I remember being terrified the entire time, but also secretly having a tiny bit of fun. Before this Disney trip, our group decided to use our FastPass+ at Tower of Terror so we could guarantee we would ride together. I didn’t want to be lame, so I said yes, but the anxiety started creeping back up again.
Our FastPass+ time window opened and the four of us entered The Twilight Zone. We got front row seats and I held onto the handle for dear life as we began our journey through the Hollywood hotel, towards the windows where they eventually drop you down.
And then we dropped 131 feet and the screaming began! We had bought a GoPro before this trip and it was honestly worth the cost just for this ride alone. Getting to rewatch my face and reactions during the ride is absolutely priceless.
While I didn’t love the ride, I will admit the thrill was a bit fun! 😉
Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster
Out of every ride at Disney World, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster holds the most sentimental value for me. When I was 7, my family (plus some extended family) went to Disney World for the first time. During the end of our day at Hollywood Studios, we only had time for one more ride and it was between the Tower of Terror or the Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster. I wasn’t much of a roller coaster fan back then, so I chose the Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster because it was indoors and surely that meant it wasn’t scary!
Wrong. Lol! 7 year old me thought it was definitely not going to go upside down, so imagine my surprise when it did many, many times. I squeezed my dad’s arm so hard (sorry dad!) and definitely was a bit traumatized, but now I love the ride!
Slinky Dog Dash
We unfortunately only got to enjoy this ride as viewers, not participants, but it looked like so much fun! Unlike the Tower of Terror and the Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, which may be too thrilling for little ones, Slinky Dog Dash is great for all ages (assuming they are 38” or taller!)
We watched this ride for a solid 5 minutes. Slinky Dog hoots and hollers during the ride, which put a huge smile on our face. 🙂 Next time we will make sure we have some time to ride this one, but it is popular, so either make it your FastPass+ choice or be prepared to wait!
Top Shows at Hollywood Studios
While we are bigger fans of the thrill rides than the shows, there are some great shows to check out at Hollywood Studios! During our last visit we didn’t go to any shows, but we have in the past. Here are some of the top ones to consider watching, with a little something for all ages and interests. To see the schedule for each show, click the show’s name.
- Duration: 30 minutes
- Frequency: 5 times throughout the day
- Duration: 30 minutes
- Frequency: Every hour on the hour from 10:30 AM-7:30 PM
- Duration: 25 minutes
- Frequency: 5 times throughout the day
- Duration: 14 minutes
- Frequency: Once in the evenings
Best Food at Hollywood Studios
While one of our top tips for Disney is to pack your own meals. It’ll save you a lot of money in the parks on larger meals and give you more money to spend on snacks! We love grabbing fun and unique snacks in the park, from blue milk, to Mickey ice cream bars. Here is a list of some of the best food at Hollywood Studios worth splurging on!
Blue or Green Milk (Galaxy’s Edge): We tried both blue and green milk and really liked them, although we hear you either love it or you don’t. You can get them with alcohol ($14) or without alcohol ($8) and we still cannot figure out what exactly they tasted like, but they are a fun drink to try in Galaxy’s Edge!
Ronto’s Roaster (Galaxy’s Edge): This open air spot has mediterranean food, like kebabs, as well as jerky! You can also see them roast the massive ronto 😉
Oga’s Cantina (Galaxy’s Edge): A variety of alcoholic drinks and super light snacks. Make sure to get a reservation in advance!
Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo (Galaxy’s Edge): Meat focused dishes like pot roast, ribs, and chicken, but with a galactic spin! These are heavier meals, but could be shared to save some money.
Kat Saka’s Kettle (Galaxy’s Edge): A fun and colorful popcorn mix! Perfect for walking around Galaxy’s Edge!
Woody’s Lunch Box (Toy Story Land): A fun spin on simple classics! Enjoy totchos (tator tot nachos), a s’more french toast sandwich, and grilled cheeses!
Mickey Ice Cream Bar (Anywhere!): A classic Disney treat! You can find these for sale all over any of the parks.
Ready for a fun day at Hollywood Studios?
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