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The How To for Disney's Hollywood Studios

As much as I love Disney's Hollywood Studios, I freely admit that it's the hardest park at Walt Disney World to plan a touring strategy for.  Often someone will ask me for how to tour the Studios effectively and I have in my head a great plan, but it isn't a simple sentence or three to convey it to them and after a minute or two, it starts sounding like an amphibious assault plan.  What separates the Studios from the other parks is the amount of shows it has and many of those shows vary in terms of the amount of performances each day.  This greatly complicates things for anyone who wants to see everything in Hollywood Studios in one day. If you can't devote more than a day to the Studios, then here is your strategy for seeing it all in just one day.

The most important tip for any touring strategy is you must be at Hollywood Studios before it opens.  About 30 minutes or so before the park happens is sufficient.  Once the park opens, join the rest of the crowd in a mad dash to Toy Story Midway Mania. There's conflicting theories about to FASTPASS or not, but I recommend just riding it now as the wait time will be negligible.  

Next, head to Sunset Boulevard and grab a FASTPASS for Rock 'n Roller Coaster and then go ride Tower of Terror.  Afterwards, head to the Animation Courtyard to see Voyage of the Little Mermaid. See the Great Movie Ride and Star Tours (in that order).  That was the easy part.

At this point, you strategy needs to change.  Up to this point, we've utilized the typical theme park strategy of going from attraction to attraction in a set order.  You need to consult the show times for the day and see what time shows are and plan accordingly.  The premise of your new strategy is to see the shows while mixing in the other rides in between.  So if there's a showing of Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at 11:30am and then Beauty and the Beast at 12:45pm, you'll have about 15-20 minutes to kill between shows, which is a perfect opportunity to see One Man's Dream or Journey into Narnia.  After Beauty and the Beast, cash in that FASTPASS you got earlier at Rock 'n Roller Coaster and check that out.  Then return to the show schedule, keeping mindful of the last show times and ensuring that you prioritize shows that have less shows than those that have more (for example, Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show should be prioritized over Beauty and the Beast because there are far less showings of Lights, Motors, Action).

Here are some general tips to keep in mind to make the decision easier of what show to see and when...

  • For the American Idol Experience, see the finale show at 7:00pm.  It will be harder to get a seat, but the show tends to be far more entertaining during the finale. Be sure to arrive 30-45 minutes ahead of time .
  • If there are two showings of Fantasmic!, always see the second showing.
  • If you are interested in kids shows like Jedi Training Academy or Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage, opt for the shows in the morning as they tend to be less crowded.

What I like about spending two days (or more) at the Studios is there is far less backtracking across the park as when you are trying to see everything in one day.  An advantage in the Studios compared to the other parks, is because it's the smallest park, backtracking isn't as much a problem as it is in Animal Kingdom or Epcot. While no one likes walking across the park a few times per day, Hollywood Studios' size makes it a bit easier.

When to eat your meals is another conundrum to ponder.  Generally, I like to have an early lunch (before noon) and an early dinner (before 5pm) to avoid the crowds.  The last thing you want to do is have a great touring plan and really be on top of things and then run into a 30 minute wait to get your food at a counter service location.  I know eating early is sometimes easier said than done, but if you see a large line at the place you want to eat, consider coming back after one more attraction in hopes that the line may die down a bit. 

Touring the Studios effectively in one day isn't impossible and if you follow this strategy, you should have some time in the late afternoon to catch the Citizens of Hollywood, meet some characters or re-ride your favorites.  Have fun and may the force be with you!

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A regular look into Disney's Hollywood Studios, both past and present, with commentary and analysis from Matt Hochberg.


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Posted: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 by