by: guide4wdw – Collin

Our Ideal 1-Day Itinerary for Disney’s Hollywood Studios 

If you’re looking to visit Hollywood Studios, our 1-Day itinerary provides a guide to the park after one of it’s largest expansions in the history of the park, Toy Stay Land. It’s not a huge surprise that I’m not the biggest proponent of spending a massive amount of time in Hollywood Studios. The Toy Story Land expansion has made things vastly better, but I still can’t recommend devoting more that one day to this park during more lengthy vacations. With that being said, there still is a vast amount of quality entertainment and things we recommend you try in the park at least once. Inevitably, this is going to be a place where we share thoughts and opinions of what we do and what we recommend you do regarding top attractions, dining choices, and even shows that should be a part of your day in the park. 
As many of you know, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (better known as “Star Wars Land”) is set 
to debut in this park in Summer of 2019. The expansion is what will set this park over the edge. Hollywood Studios has needed something big for many years and while Toy Story Land was an amazing step in the right direction, this 14 acre expansion is going to drastically alter the park. For reference, when Pandora debuted at Animal Kingdom it was a 12 acre expansion. Combine the sheer size of the expansion with the cult-like following Star Wars has grown to encompass and you have the recipe for incredible and unparalleled levels of success.
With all of that being said, the problem still remains of what exists in the park today. Don’t get the wrong, Hollywood Studios is a park that is far superior to nearly any average theme park destination, but it’s also a park that has struggled with a definitive identity. In the early days, it was an active studio, but as the years continued on that concept was left behind and another theming concept never fully took hold. The end result is what we have to day, and the sole reason we highly anticipate the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. I believe it will give this park the needed push and needed character it deserves while remaining true to the classic nature of the park. Setting all of that aside, here’s how we recommend planning your Hollywood Studios day! 

Toy Story Land Strategy  

First and foremost, plan your park day (if possible) on the same day as an early entry extra magic hour day. Second, get to the park before it opens and head straight to Toy Story Land when it opens. The shortest wait times you’ll find for the attractions of the land will be right when the park opens. On an average day for crowds, all of Toy Story Land can be ridden in under 45 minutes, even if you include Toy Story Mania. We’ve done it and tried this strategy first hand. If you follow our plan (How We Rode All 3 Toy Story Land Attractions in Under 45 Minutes!) it can save you hours of time waiting in line. If you move quickly from attraction to attraction it can be surprising how much you can accomplish quickly due to the proximity of the attractions to each other. When you get done with the attractions of the land, move on to other top tier attractions you may or may not have a fastpass for or take a few minutes to explore the land, grab a snack, and take in a few details if you’re not overly worried about riding the other two main attractions of the park.

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror 

If these attractions are “must-do’s” for you, typically you can still get to these attractions before the lines start to build heavily as the day progresses. On early entry days, fastpasses don’t start slowing the lines until the park officially opens to non-resort guests. If these two are on your list of attractions, I highly recommend booking a fastpass for one of the two and then holding your other two fastpasses for whatever shows you decide are must-do’s for you and your friends or family. If for some reason you can’t secure a fastpass for Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster or Tower of Terror, don’t worry too much because nighttime at Hollywood Studios is a great time to experience attractions because most of the shows end their performances fairly early in the day.
In my opinion, these are the must-do shows.

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

This show has remained largely unchanged for years on end and it is a staple of our Disney trips year after year. The Voyage of the Little Mermaid has a certain level of depth that has stood the test of time with rain and laser effects coupled with the on stage performance. It’s unique and creative and an honest must-do for most guests touring the park. As a result, the wait times can get rather lengthy, and shows are somewhat sporadic but also quite plentiful throughout the day. The experience only lasts 14 minutes, but depending on wait times it may be something you want to reserve up to an hour of time during your day to see and do. If anyone in your party does not particularly care for the show or is uninterested, the Star Wars Launch Bay is only steps away and provides entertainment of an entirely different variety.

Beauty and the Beast – Live On Stage

While this show isn’t necessarily my personal favorite, it is one that guests sincerely love. In my opinion it is better that the feature length Broadway play, due in part to it’s more concise representation of the story, but your opinion may vary. Either way, I’ve seen the Broadway iteration and this theme park iteration of a similar concept is far more impressive that I tend to give it credit for. If you enjoy the movie, you’ll love the show! If this one is on your list, as it likely should be, I recommend the afternoon showings. Arrive early for the performance to avoid sitting in the bleachers in the very back of the theater. If you’re late or arrive at the last minute, overflow seating is incredibly hot in the afternoon sun and is not covered as well as the rest of the theater.

Years ago, my next must-do pick would have been a stop by the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. At one point, this was one of my favorite shows in all of the Disney parks. Today, it has remained so unchanged for so incredibly long that I can’t say it holds quite the spot it once did for me in this park. At the same time, it is a really neat experience for first time guests that can’t necessarily quote the entire scripted performance. It’s a great look at what it takes to film a scene in a movie while taking a few creative liberties along the way to make it comical and entertaining. If you choose to view this show, I recommend doing so in the afternoon before or after Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage. Check the time guide for that particular day in the parks to choose which showing works best for your day.

Truthfully, these are the main things I would put on an itinerary for the park as it sits right now. Dining is a whole different topic so we’ll dive right into that. Dining at Hollywood Studios isn’t quite as expansive as many guests anticipate it to be. Personally, I see it as a good place to catch a counter service meal but the options are pretty limited when you get away from burgers and fries. One option is PizzeRizzo, and others are the array of different stands in the “marketplace” area of sunset boulevard. The food offerings vary but if I had to pick one dining experience to add to a day in this park, it would be a table service offering outside of the park (only a short distance away) over at the Beach Club. The ride to the Beach Club via boat takes around 15 minutes and the views are spectacular. You can also walk over but transpiration is provided if you choose to use it.

If you’re looking for table service, the Beach Club’s Cape May Cafe is our top pick. The seafood is unlimited, the macaroni and cheese is incredible, and the atmosphere is far better that nearly anything you’ll find in Hollywood Studios. Skip Hollywood and Vine and head here instead if you are looking for a quality buffet!

Nighttime Entertainment

Nighttime at Hollywood Studios has become the highlight of the park in my opinion. The shows will have wrapped up for the night, but the attractions continue to run until the park closes for the day. However, this is the ideal park to take some time to simply enjoy being there and to explore without having to deal with lines or overly heavy crowds. It’s a pleasant place to hang out for the night and the atmosphere, complete with the neon glow of Sunset Boulevard, will exceed your expectations.

As far as nighttime fireworks shows are concerned, Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is a great show. It is rather lacking in the department of large fireworks bursts but the scenes it helps portray from the film, not only through the projections but also in the 4 dimensional space around you, is pretty great to experience in person. Don’t expect a Happily Ever After-esque performance but it is an interesting show nonetheless. If this is one day of a short trip, I would likely recommend park-hopping over to Magic Kingdom to see Happily Ever After a second time, but it’s going to depend largely on your affinity for the Star Wars franchise.

The other main nighttime show is Fantasmic. Fantasmic is unique in that it often fills to capacity. The show is different and largely a performance rather that a strict fireworks show and it has become a guest favorite. Go early (up to an hour early) to grab a seat or risk missing it entirely once the theater fills.

In my opinion nighttime entertainment could be better in this park and if your time is limited you may be better off spending the night at Epcot or Magic Kingdom. Toy Story Land is show stopping at night and could sway a necessary visit to this park at night, but it will largely depend on your length of stay and desired outcomes of your trip.

Wrapping Up

As always, use our itineraries as a guide but don’t follow them to a science. Alter the plan to make it work for you. Don’t over-plan your day and be sure to stop and smell the roses along the way. Sometimes the simplest of moments and the simplest of experiences can make all the difference when you least expect them to occur. As a final parting note for today, if you’ve yet to take the time to enjoy the random performances of the Citizens of Hollywood, add that to your afternoon and you wont regret it! Enjoy the parks, and we’ll talk with you again soon!

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Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you’re starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You’ll probably even save money along the way.