Orlando… a day at the park
Hollywood Studios
A group visit in 2013

The Park: Hollywood Studios

Located at: Disney World

Overview: With Avatar on the way to the Animal Kingdom, the Hollywood Studios theme park is truly the subject of questions… since it may soon become the “smallest” park as far as places to see, things to do, and need to return a second time to complete the rounds. (And, it should be noted, there really does seem to be an awful lot of speculation out there. Star Wars seems to be the biggest theme in whispers… but Marvel talk is mounting as well. So there could be news on the way.)

And yet… funny thing is… the park is pretty good.

Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster are a strong combination of thrill rides, and Toy Story Midway Mania! is just brilliant.

I like Muppet*Vision 3D, and really enjoy it as a nostalgia attraction every time I get to the park.

And then the next wave of possibilities is pretty awesome… Star Tours – The Adventure Continues, the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!, and Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show all have strong supporters attesting to their reach and quality.

The Studio Backlot Tour, Great Movie Ride, and Voyage of the Little Mermaid are quite good for some fun.

The Primetime Café and Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater are two of the better in-park and themed restaurants around.

And then… the showstopper… Fantasmic!

Review that list, pick your favorites, and you’ll find that this park… the third at Disney World and approaching its twenty-fifth anniversary (opened in 1989)… can hold its own.

Rides we went on:

Studio Backlot Tour
Star Tours: The Adventure Continues
Muppet-Vision 3-D
The Great Movie Ride
Voyage of The Little Mermaid
Toy Story Midway Mania!

Events we saw:

Lights. Motors, Action!
Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular

Places we ate… or food we enjoyed:

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater
ABC Commissary

The best of the best: Going from our visit, it would be Toy Story Midway Mania!

Not even close.

And that would stand even if we had gone to Tower of Terror or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

What an amazing attraction. And… because we had FASTPASS access, we missed several aspects of the preshow and line area.

The motion of the ride vehicles adds a terrific loopiness to everything, and it is an interactive experience. It’s just flat out fun. That simple.

You really need to know (and other observations): Run…

Do not walk…

Do not hesitate…

Do not pause to get situated and check the map.

Run to get your FASTPASS for Toy Story Midway Mania! This attraction not only routinely has a wait of at least 45-60 minutes, it also features a FASTPASS that quickly after the main gates open has the return visit time reaching late into the afternoon and up against park closing.

(I am only slightly exaggerating. This really should be one of your first efforts once inside the park.)

When it comes to Fantasmic!, you have to get there early. I have been in this park several times to see people arriving about 30 minutes prior to the show turned away. Even Disney knows the theater is filled way ahead of time. In fact, this is so well understood by repeat visitors and Disney that over the years I have seen several different preshow events run to entertain the crowd since people routinely arrive 60-90 minutes ahead of the performance.

Some unexpected fun we had (or special moments we experienced): Again, Toy Story Midway Mania! was the most fun for the day… and easily the biggest surprise.

If you have never been to see this attraction, I can guarantee it will be the one you are talking about for days and weeks after the experience.

Special praise (or complaints): Ok…

I have no idea why the Sci-Fi dropped the buffalo chicken potato skins. We had these during a visit a couple of years ago, and they were a treasure. I have no clue what sales were like for the item… but my experience with them was a fabulous presentation and a great spin on a classic.

There were two showings of Fantasmic!, the night we were there, and in order to move around the incoming crowd our group was directed to leave through an extended walkway that ended in the main entrance area. This effectively ended our thoughts of attempting the Tower of Terror or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster to end our day.

Star Tours can still be a bit tricky for motion sickness.

Putting a ribbon on the day: Just a guess… but off the top of my head, between Toy Story Midway Mania!, Tower of Terror and the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, I wonder if there is a park where you would be more tempted to use FASTPASS several times.

That’s likely not true. FASTPASS pros could easily point to the Magic Kingdom.

But the reality is, that once you add in Fantasmic!, you’ve got four major things that require planning, with the potential of extended waits in the standard line or an early arrival necessary in order to even guarantee seats.

You really can’t go wrong making a reservation and stepping away from the attractions in the park for a meal in one of the on-site outlets. Prime Time Café and Sci-Fi Dine In are both great places. (Just make sure you can take it easy for a bit after the meal.) I would actually place Hollywood Studios right behind Epcot now for in-park dining options that are creative, fun, and worth the investment of time (and money) for the experience.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com