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Tackling Hollywood Studios when it's super busy

You may have read about how busy Disney's Hollywood Studios are already this holiday season and that may give you pause about going to Walt Disney World during this time of the year.  Despite the concerns of mega crowds, many people still flock to the parks because, well, it's hard to pass up a trip to Disney World!

If you're going to head to Hollywood Studios, you don't have to accept a day in the park mired in long lines everywhere.  There are ways to enjoy your time in the park and still avoid the really long lines.

What I'm about to recommend isn't some amazing new way to beat the crowds to the most popular attractions in Disney's Hollywood Studios.  Rather, I'm going to encourage you to expand your "attraction horizons" and take in other forms of entertainment.  That being said, if you're looking to do it all in the Studios, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention TouringPlans.com, because their methodology for tackling the parks is second to none.  There, my civil duty is done.

Fastpass or die

Everyone wants to ride the most popular attractions in Disney's Hollywood Studios such as Toy Story Midway Mania or Tower of Terror.  Yet the problem with that is these attractions during this time of year will become insanely popular.  They key is fastpass.  

I know I'm not breaking any new ground by recommending you use fastpass to avoid the lines, but my strategy is more than that. For the rides that generate waits longer than 30 minutes, just use fastpass.  Standby lines are your enemy during this crazy time of the year so if you need to get a few rides in on Tower of Terror, then grab fastpasses at your convenience throughout the day.  

So now that I've knocked out standing in standby lines, what exact are we going to do?  

Meet the people

My favorite way to be entertained even during the busy Christmas week in Hollywood Studios is the Citizens of Hollywood. There shows, which happen once an hour (usually opposite the Disney Channel Rocks schedule), are a great way to pass the time in the parks.  What I really like is that the sort of show you will see changes throughout the day.  In the morning you may see their "radio broadcasts" where they key guests into what's happening around the park.  Around lunch they start doing some group shows and mix in the Funniest Citizen in Hollywood and the Citizens of Hollywood Holiday Glee Club as well.

The shows are never the same and it's a favorite way I spend my time in Hollywood Studios during Christmas week.  The best part is there are no lines either.  Sure a crowd may develop, but you can always squeeze in and enjoy their shows.  Given that they will perform from park opening until the evening, it's a great way to pass the time.

Food, glorious food

A great way to avoid the crowds is to enjoy dining in the parks.  It may be too late at this point to get an ADR at your favorite Hollywood Studios restaurant, but there are still a couple of ways to get in.

First, try the walk up. Getting a table by simply walking up has been easier than ever since many Disney Parks enthusiasts have noted greater ease in walk up reservations.  For best results, go to the restaurant itself (avoid the dining reservations booth at the tip board) at around the time they open and inquire about availability. Eating off-peak hours (like dinner at 4pm or lunch at 2pm) is a great way to sneak in.

Since we all don't have Daddy Warbucks paying our tabs, if counter service fare is more your style, then check out the new food kiosks that have been installed around the park. Their menus are limited but it can be easier way to snag a quick meal.

Rock Out

A really underrated form of entertainment is the Mulch, Sweat and Shears rock band.  They perform throughout the day and they are really fun to watch and (if you dare) dance with.  Kids, adults....it doesn't matter.  It's fun for everyone and their talents really show off.

Take in a (short) movie

Starting on Christmas, the Premier Theater (the building behind the San Francisco mural on the Streets of America) will be showing holiday Disney shorts such as Mickey's Christmas Carol.  They offered this last year and there was never an issue with large crowds so 30 minutes or so here and there sitting down in a chair can do everyone a world of good.  Plus, it's free and the movies are entertaining.

Laugh it up

Also starting on Christmas Day is the Comedy Warehouse shows in Sounds Dangerous.  These improv comedy acts were a big hit when they were performed on the now-defunct Pleasure Island in Downtown Disney and some very smart person has decided to bring this act back temporarily.  If you're around, be sure to go out of your way to see it because I believe these shows will be that fun.

For me, enjoying DIsney's Hollywood Studios during this time of the year means avoiding the long lines by enjoying the small things in the park.  I love the ambiance of this time of year and just being in the park does a lot for me.  The great thing is there's plenty of stuff to do to keep yourself entertained even when the wait times for some attractions can get into the triple digits.

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About this column

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, December 21, 2011 by