I would like to think that everyone in the world is familiar with Walt Disney World Resort (or Disney, as it is more commonly known) in Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, Florida. But did you know that Walt Disney World is actually 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 25+ hotels, 200+ restaurants, golf courses, and a mega shopping and entertainment complex? The theme parks that pay tribute to the movies and golden era of Hollywood is Hollywood Studios, currently the hottest ticket at the Disney parks. Being a Florida resident and annual pass holder for years, I love exploring Disney’s parks, but you need some instruction and guidelines for having the ultimate time.
Here is how to spend a perfect day at Hollywood Studios.
Wander Through Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Step into the village of Black Spire Outpost on Batuu, the area that houses the majority of the Star Wars attractions at Hollywood Studios, for a galaxy experience far, far away. Blast off on the thrilling Millennium Falcon; Smugglers Run or Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance rides, both exciting for our age but not too daring. Other points of interest at Galaxy’s Edge include:
- Fun things to see and take photos of
- A place to build your own droid or lightsaber
- Unique shops with licensed merchandise
- 5 dining locations (Oga’s Cantina, Milk Stand, Ronto Roasters, Kat Sakas Kettle, and Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo)
All this hoopla is sheer magic for Star Wars fans, but for myself, I’m there to see Chewbacca, the lovable Wookie warrior, in front of Launch Bay. Rey Skywalker and Vi Moradi are also in attendance for the distanced meet and greets.
Pro Tip: If you get to the park early, enjoy a tasty breakfast from Ronto Roasters. The breakfast wraps (with eggs, sausage, peppercorn sauce, and cheddar cheese in pita bread) are delicious. Plant-based options are also available.
Ride Slinky Dog Dash
The land dedicated to the Toy Story franchise at Hollywood Studios is known as Toy Story Land. Here, you’ll find larger than kid-centric rides, larger-than-life toys, and the possibility of character greetings from Buzz, Jessie, and Woody. Rides include Toy Story Mania (a 4-D arcade ride and game), Slinky Dog Dash, and Alien Swirling Saucers. Be on the lookout for the entertaining Green Army Man Drum Corps drumming its way through the crowds.
While all of those things are bright and colorful, fun and engaging, they simply cannot compete with the adorable and fun Slinky Dog Dash, the star attraction of this Disney land. Disney created the ride in the likeness of the 1940s famous Slinky toy. Don’t blame me if you leave this part of the park singing or humming, “It’s Slinky, it’s Slinky, oh what a wonderful toy. It’s Slinky, it’s Slinky, fun for a girl and boy” like I did.
Experience Two Of Disney’s Thrill Rides
Hollywood Studios features two of the best thrill rides in all of the Walt Disney World property: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Aerosmith’s Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
Tower of Terror, opened in 1994, is a 199-foot accelerated drop from the 13th floor, with a few bounces in between. The anticipation of getting to the drop spot is a big part of the fun on this 4-minute ride. I rode Tower of Terror right after it opened (at the then Disney-MGM Studios) when it was the first of its kind, maybe in the whole country. I didn’t ride it again until about 20 years later because I was too chicken. Don’t sweat it; if you’ve been a thrill ride fan in your younger years, the love comes right back. Go for it!
The second ride is Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, a high-energy and loud ride in total darkness. You’ll help Steven Tyler and the band make their way to an award show in a stretch limo as you buzz in and out of traffic on busy highways. Bonus: As you are twisting and turning and holding your stomach from the deep drops, you can sing along to some of your favorite Aerosmith tunes. The ride goes 57 miles per hour at its fastest part.
Ride Mickey And Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Though I haven’t done the Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway, it is high on my bucket list. This is the first time the stars of Walt Disney World have had a ride made specifically with the powerhouse mouse duo in mind. It is extremely popular right now. The line to ride was over 2 hours on my last Hollywood Studios visit, so I skipped it, but I highly recommend trying to get on the 5-minute long cartoon-inspired ride, if possible.
Fun Facts: There are several different technology tracks (for lack of a better word) for this ride, so your experience may differ from ride to ride. Also, it is thought that Mickey’s full name is Michael Theodore Mouse. Be ready for that Jeopardy question someday!
Sing Along To Frozen
If you are familiar with the Frozen movie, and I’m guessing every grandparent can raise their hand here, you are going to love and know the fun songs at For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration in Echo Lake. The 30-minute production features real-life characters (Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff) and the Royal Historians of Arendelle telling the story in condensed versions.
The theatrics and costumes make for a spectacular show. Audience members can sing along with the cast (don’t worry, words are on the screen) and laugh at a few jokes along the way. The Frozen Sing Along runs every hour on the half hour. Don’t be surprised if you are humming, singing, or whistling “Let it Go” for days after this attraction.
Pro Tip: Disney’s music is copyrighted and cannot be shared via social media, so skip making videos here as they will be taken down immediately.
Dine Around Echo Lake
Two of the best Hollywood Studios restaurants face Echo Lake, where you’ll see the body of water with an impressive dinosaur sticking out of it. First is 50’s Prime Time Café, a kitschy restaurant with black and white TV shows playing throughout, has an official “mom” who expects you to clean your plate and comfort food dishes that are super tasty. Mom’s Old-Fashioned Pot Roast (with roasted garlic mashed potatoes) and Cousin Megan’s Traditional Meatloaf are my favorite. Even the waitstaff takes part in the family theme, and it’s a fun experience for the whole family.
The second restaurant is Hollywood and Vine, a little-more pricey dining option that includes Minnie and friends’ character greetings (in seasonal clothing) and photo ops. Hollywood and Vine has delicious food (a buffet-style until COVID), and the ambiance is energetic. Bonus, the air conditioning is cool and welcoming during the summer months.
Lunch and dinner feature shared appetizers and a choice of individual-plated main courses and desserts. You can eat at Hollywood and Vine for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but keep in mind prices are the same (and menus) for both.
My go-to meal at Hollywood and Vine is the Carved Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast, a Thanksgiving-type meal that is perfect any time of the year. The turkey dinner has mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, cranberry orange relish, green beans, and turkey gravy. Mmm, mmm, good.
Pro Tip: For any visit to Disney, I recommend having a full-service (sit down) dining experience to beat the heat and have a good meal. There honestly isn’t that much difference in price for a sit-down Disney meal and a walk-up kiosk meal, so I always splurge on the rest opportunity.
If You Have Time
You won’t run out of things to do at Hollywood Studios, but the ones listed above are what I recommend for a perfect day at this Disney park. Other fun things include Muppet*Vision 3D, shopping, and having a snack from Woody’s Lunch Box.
The Muppets attraction can be found on Grand Avenue, a picturesque part of the park to walk around and take photos. Special glasses are required to get the full effect of this 3D show, which is filled with comedy and a few surprises for the audience. I’m sure many of us in the 50+ group have fond memories of the beloved Muppets gang, so it gets bonus points for the nostalgic factor. Jim Henson’s The Muppet Show aired between 1976 to 1981. Did you have a favorite guest star? Mine was always John Denver.
There is great shopping at Hollywood Studios, including a year-round Christmas shop (It’s A Wonderful Shop) that unfortunately hasn’t reopened yet due to COVID, but watch for it later in the year. I enjoy browsing Celebrity 5 & 10 for new pins to add to my collection, Mickey ears, apparel, and Mickey-themed kitchen items, and Mickey’s of Hollywood for pretty much the same items. Woody’s Lunch Box, back in Toy Story Land, has excellent pop tarts. You can choose between three flavors: chocolate-hazelnut (with candied bacon), raspberry, and lemon-blueberry — all perfect for the right amount of sweetness. This stand also has ice cream floats made with Barq’s Root Beer — another snack I can totally get behind.
Eager to get to Hollywood Studios and enjoy all the other Walt Disney World Resort experiences? See all our Disney coverage here.