Last week I spent my first Christmas at Hollywood Studios to get a sense of what it's like to be in a theme park during this holiday. After all, the week between Christmas and New Years is the busiest time of the year at Walt Disney World in terms of guests and being that I was close enough to spend some time here, I figured it was time to see what it was like.
Before I stepped foot on Disney World property, I fully expected a real gridlock of people, especially considering that Hollywood Studios is the smallest of the four theme parks in terms of land. Don't quote me on this, but I remember reading that Hollywood Studios is around half the size of the Magic Kingdom or so and with that in mind, it wouldn't take much to overwhelm the park to capacity. I had spent a July 4th at Hollywood Studios and based on that experience, kept my expectations in line. Back on July 4th, the park started out slow and steadily got busier and busier as the day progressed and it got closer to the fireworks. However on Christmas, there are no special fireworks aside from two showings of Fantasmic! so things are going to be different.
Christmas Day came and I descended upon the Studios bright and early. There certainly were a lot of people stirring and Disney was fully expecting it. I spoke with some Cast Members to gauge their expectations. Being that this was my first Christmas in a Disney theme park, I was unsure what to expect. Most of what I heard was they expected a busy day but not enough of a crowd to cause any kind of closure. But just because the park isn't going to close doesn't mean they weren't ready for crowds. The operating hours and attraction times were in rare form. Some character meet-n-greets were slated to run all day, other attractions added extra show times and even some previously closed attractions re-opened for the week.
Even rope drop was different on Christmas. Instead of the rope drop being for everyone at the corner of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, they pushed the rope drop back to the Sorcerer's Hat and a third of the way down Sunset Boulevard. And to keep up with the guests coming into the park, the rope drop started early and by 8:45am, I was riding Toy Story Midway Mania.
To be honest, the crowds throughout the morning weren't terrible. I think with all of the extra capacity around the park, it didn't feel like the park was any more crowded than it had felt in the previous weeks leading up to Christmas. Like July 4th, guests descended upon the Studios for two good reasons. Either they were sleeping in or doing their Christmas traditions in the morning and came to the Studios later or the guests who wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom realized it was crowded/closed and opted to come to the Studios instead. Either way, Christmas morning was a great time to be in Hollywood Studios.
Since I visited Hollywood Studios on Christmas Day I made another discovery that Christmas Day was just the beginning and not the pinnacle. SInce Christmas Day, Hollywood Stuidos has closed once to capacity and there's still a few days left before New Years Day so crowds get worse as you go past Christmas as I think some families opt to have Christmas at home and afterwards head to Disney World to spend their week of vacation.
So spending the day at Hollywood Studios for Christmas wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Considering there's so much going on at Hollywood Studios for Christmas (Osborne Lights, Holiday Glee Club, decorations), it makes for a great option considering the Magic Kingdom gets so busy due to people thinking the Christmas Parade on TV is shot live (it's recorded nearly a month earlier) or people wanting to spend Christmas in the Magic Kingdom. You can see photos of my day at Hollywood Studios on Christmas and check out some of what I was talking about. Given the increased operating hours for everything in the park, Hollywood Studios makes for a great option on Christmas Day.