Hello everyone! Welcome back to my Disney World 101 Series! My last entry in this series was all about Epcot’s World Showcase. Today we tackle the 3rd Disney park to be built – Disney’s Hollywood Studios!
The park originally opened in 1989 in partnership with MGM Studios. Originally the park centered around all aspects of movie making and the silver screen. The Backlot Studios tour gave guests a peek behind the scenes of the movie making experience. The Great Movie Ride took guests on a nostalgic trip to classic Hollywood. However, at the end of the 2000’s, the MGM part of the name was dropped. The new name was simply “Disney’s Hollywood Studios”. Additionally, the park began to move away from attractions centered around movie making. The homage to old Hollywood is still there, however the park has now begun to focus more on high speed thrillers and big ticket attractions based on their biggest blockbusters.
So, what is Disney’s Hollywood Studios all about? Check out this complete breakdown!
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Hollywood Boulevard is where your adventure in to the movies begins. This Main Street USA styled entrance represents a classic 1920’s Hollywood street. Unlike the other parks, there is no iconic landmark greeting you as you head up the street. When the Backlot Tour was still operational, a water tower sporting Mickey Mouse ears was the icon of the park. This was later removed, and a giant Sorcerer Mickey hat popped up in the middle of the park. It housed a gift shop and was occasionally decorated for special events. This was later taken down in 2015. Feelings are still mixed on how well received it was (I personally loved it!) Here’s a super grainy picture of it from 2006!
There IS a replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theater at the end of Hollywood Boulevard (technically in Animation Courtyard), which is where the old Great Movie Ride used to be housed. It will be the new location of Mickey Runaway Railway, which should be opening in 2020. The attraction was originally set to open this year but was pushed back. The theater is complete with handprints of famous Disney stars (and characters!) which can still be viewed despite the attraction being closed!
Also at the end of the street is the Hollywood and Vine restaurant. This buffet is named for the intersection of Hollywood and Vine in California, where the Walk of Fame starts. The theme is that Minnie Mouse and friends are your hosts. The gang even gets all dressed up in seasonal outfits! Check out the adorable spring outfits they were wearing when we visited!
The Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant is a fancier dining option across the way from Hollywood and Vine. This signature dining experience is modeled after the steakhouse restaurants of the same name from the golden age of Hollywood. It offers a number of signature dishes as well as unique dining experiences, including the Fantasmic! Dining package!
For a quick snack before you take on the thrills of the park, check out the Trolley Car Cafe (serving Starbucks coffee).
Beware before you head down Sunset Boulevard – some of the most thrilling rides in all of Disney reside here! The first thing you’ll notice as you head down this path is the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror looming over the park in front of you. This drop ride is daring enough to get your adrenaline pumping, but mild enough that even kids can enjoy it. If you’re a fan of the Twilight Zone (the classic show, not the reboot) you’ll find Easter Eggs GALORE in this ride. This ride is good to get a FastPass for, but due to multiple elevators, it usually loads pretty quickly.
Next door to the Tower of Terror is the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. This thrilling roller coaster is an indoor dark coaster that launches you out and has three inversions along the track. The story is that you’re headed to an Aerosmith concert, but you have to rush through LA traffic to get there on time! This is one of my all time favorite Disney rides. The launch is my favorite part!
The newest residents of Sunset Boulevard are Lightning McQueen and friends! Kids and adults alike will love the new Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy attraction. Lightning McQueen shows you all the behind the scenes magic that goes in to his races!
Along the way to the Hollywood Tower Hotel you’ll pass two large auditorium style theaters. The first one is where Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage plays at various times throughout the day. The large Fantasmic! theater is also located next to Tower of Terror. You’ll see crowds lining up well in advance for each show. This is is another reason I love the dining packages for this show. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a must do evening spectacular. I prefer the later show, because many families rush to get the first one and then leave the park.
If you’re starving for some food after experiencing some of Disney’s best thrills, head to the multiple dining options along the main street of this section of the park. KRNR the Rock Station is located outside the exit to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (I would definitely wait till AFTER the ride to stop by) and is a counter service serving American classics. Across from Beauty and the Beast, you’ll find Fairfax Fare and Hollywood Scoops, which provide many great meal and dessert options if sitting down at a table service restaurant isn’t in your plans. Finally, Anaheim Produce has lots of fruit snacks or Mickey pretzels if a quick bite is all you’re looking for!
Gertie the Dinosaur is the first thing your eye gravitates towards as you enter the area. While her food stand is no longer open, the majestic brontosaurus is still keeping watch over the lake! Across the lagoon you can find the Dockside Diner, which serves hot dogs and other quick bites for you to grab on your way to the rest of the park. Or maybe you’ll find yourself at For the First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration. If you have ever wanted to belt it out in public to Let It Go, now is your chance!
Echo Lake has some great dining options. One of my personal favorites? 50’s Prime Time Cafe! This throwback cafe serves American favorites like pot roast and has fun concoctions like the peanut butter and jelly shake. My favorite part of this restaurant is the service. The idea is that you’re dining in Ma’s kitchen – so if you don’t finish your vegetables or put your elbows on the table, the servers may send you to stand in the corner! Don’t worry, it’s all in good fun. If they know you’re uncomfortable, they’ll stop. They usually target the little kids anyways.
After dinner, check out the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! This show has set time throughout the day, and uses audience volunteers to help show how stunt movie magic is made. Three scenes from Raiders of the Lost Arc are played out in front of you as the stunt doubles show you all the behind the scenes tricks they use in movies! Epic Eats is situated right across the street if watching those stunt doubles run around made you hungry!
It’s a bit of a drastic change from jungles and tomb raiding, but Star Wars: Path of the Jedi is situated in the old ABC Sound Studio. Essentially it’s a summary of the Star Wars saga. It’s a great way to get out of the heat, and a crash course for those who haven’t seen the films.
The pathway to Grand Avenue behind the studio hosts one counter service restaurant – the ABC Commissary. A homage to all the dramas on ABC (a company owned by Disney) they serve burgers and other traditional fast food dishes at this counter service restaurant. I’ve heard a lot of people write this one off, but honestly? I like it! The crowds are also much lighter in this restaurant due to the out of the way location.
Right outside the new Galaxy’s Edge, Grand Avenue houses some of the classic restaurants and attractions still around from the original park opening. Muppet Vision 3D is a classic 3D film starring Kermit and friends. It’s a bit dated, but the jokes never get old. If anything, see it so you can finally understand why Disney nerds refer to 4th of July as “A Salute to All Nations – but Mostly America!”
The pizza restaurant across the way from the Muppets has gone through some changes over the years (including being a Pizza Planet at one point!) to its current iteration – PizzeRizzo. Aside from pizza, there isn’t much else – but if you’re craving a personal pizza, this is your place! If you want a fancier option, Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano is a table service Italian restaurant that also has Fantasmic! dining packages!
Italian food not really on your radar? Guests who love pub food will be happy to find BaseLine Tap House across the way from Star Tours. Next to that, Sci-Fi Dine In Theater Restaurant also offers American cuisine, all while sitting at tables that look like old cars. The inside of the restaurant resembles an old drive in theater, and a loop of campy sci-fi movie trailers from the 50’s plays as you eat!
Once your food has settled, be sure to check out the OG Star Wars attraction Star Tours – The Adventures Continue. This motion simulator ride takes you on a crazy tour of the galaxy, hosted by C-3PO, and each ride is different. There are a whopping 384 different combination of video segments on the ride, making it a literal new experience every single time!
Finally, one last counter service restaurant makes up the culinary journey of Grand Avenue – Backlot Express. Paying homage to one of the original attractions, you can find burgers, chicken salad sandwiches and even a cold beer on the menu for a quick bite to eat.
Tucked near the back of the park, Animation Courtyard is where you will find the Voyage of the Little Mermaid stage show. This shortened version of the movie is one of my favorite classic attractions. It’s a bit dated with the puppets and costumes. However, if you’re a huge fan of the animated film, it’s worth a stop!
For younger kids, the Disney Junior Dance Party! is a great place to cool off and let the kids burn off some energy. The show stars Disney favorites like Vampirina and Doc McStuffins. Preschool fans of Playhouse Disney will have a great time! For the older kids, Star Wars Launch Bay is located at the end of the courtyard. This is where you’ll find one of a kind movie props and of course, meet and greets with everyone’s favorite Wookie and Sith Lords!
Finally, as you head down to Toy Story Land, you’ll find yourself at Walt Disney Presents. This walkthrough exhibit showcases Walt’s life and creative process. If you’re a Disney history buff, this is a MUST do!
Toy Story Land
Ever wondered what it would be like to be a toy? Now you can find out! Step inside Andy’s toy box in Toy Story Land. Here you’ll find the classic ride Toy Story Mania. This is an interactive attraction that allows you to play midway games against your party. Plus, it’s in 4D! This attraction has already been at Hollywood Studios for a number of years. The expansion added two new attractions based on the franchise. The only downside to all the new rides? All these attractions are in the top tier Fastpass category, so you can only get one at a time! (This may change due to the opening of Galaxy’s Edge later this year).
Slinky Dog Dash is a coaster where you get to ride in a Slinky Dog train through twists and turns! If you have to pick any of these attractions for a Fastpass, I’d go with this one. The thrilling aspect of the coaster makes it a top pick for many guests, so lines are usually very long! Alien Swirling Saucers star everyone’s favorite galactic squeaky toys, and is a spinning ride that is a little less intense for the younger kiddos.
There aren’t many dining options in this part of the park (seriously Disney, no Pizza Planet?!) However, you can stop by Woody’s Lunchbox in between attractions. This counter service restaurant serves mostly sandwiches and to go snacks.
Opening on August 29th, Galaxy’s Edge will open and the expansion of Hollywood Studios will be complete. Essentially a mirror of the Disneyland version, Galaxy’s Edge will open with interactive experiences, dining options and one new attraction. The crowning jewel of this land is easily Smugglers Run. This attraction allows guests to actually pilot the famous Millenium Falcon. Later this year, a second attraction, Rise of the Resistance, will be opening as well. Rumor has it that this attraction will be one of the most immersive attractions ever. It has been announced that the attraction will open on December 5th, 2019!
One of the best parts of Galaxy’s Edge are the interactive shopping experiences. You can build your own personal droid at the Droid Depot, and your own Lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop. The droid depot is the cheaper option out of the two. If you’re a huge fan of Star Wars, the high price tag may be worth it for you!
Finally, have you ever wanted to try blue milk from A New Hope? Here is your chance! Oga’s Cantina is a great place to grab some drinks. Hungry instead? Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo is the best place to grab some food to eat. If you’re just looking for little bites, there are many stands around the area where you can get smaller meals or just grab that blue milk for your Instagram.
Preparing for Opening
Unlike the Disneyland resort, there’s no reservation system in place for the opening of Galaxy’s Edge at this time. My guess is that this is because there is much more room to roam around at Disney World. This means guests who want to visit will have a place to que up before entering. Expect time restrictions to be in place to keep crowds at bay, or a Fastpass system of some sort will be given to guests who wish to enter that area.
This concludes our complete breakdown of Disney’s Hollywood Studios! This has always been one of my favorite parks. Even though I miss a lot of the now-extinct attractions, I am excited to see where it goes from here!
Lights, Camera, Action!
If you’re looking for more help, be sure you check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. It has the best information you could possibly ask for when planning a trip to Disney. The authors also compile actual guest reviews of restaurants and attractions. So you know you’re getting an HONEST review of everything – from the resorts to the parks and everything in between! Going to Disneyland? They have a version for that too!
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Hollywood Studio used to be my least favorite park, I can’t wait to see if my opinion will change with Star Wars…
It’s definitely low on my list too, I only need to spend about half a day there now as opposed to a whole day.