The original version of this post debuted in 2016 and has been updated every year since.
Finally. There is an end in sight for this post we have run every year for nearly the entire existence of this blog. Of course, that end isn’t this year but next. If we run a Is Disney’s Hollywood Studios Worth Going to in 2020 post then the body of that post will simply be “Yes”. Unfortunately, 2019 isn’t quite as clear-cut.
For the last 5 years, Hollywood Studios has been transitioning. The park terminated (“I’m from the future”) any notion of being a working studio, the park’s original theme, and moved forward. This was a good change albeit maybe a few years too late. Hollywood Studios was stripping attractions away and the park had become stale. A wholesale change was needed and now is nearing completion. While I don’t think the park has established an identity or theme yet, they are adding a good amount of attractions. In fact, 2018 saw Hollywood Studios adding Toy Story Land. Unfortunately, we are only luke-warm on Toy Story Land and that’s why this post still exists in the current iteration. Even with the addition of Toy Story Land, Hollywood Studios remains firmly at the bottom of the Walt Disney World totem pole and questioning whether you should even visit is fair.
How has a park at Disney’s vacation kingdom fall so far? We can blame the company for letting the park sit and rot for too long before deciding to do something. With that in mind, they do deserve at least an ounce of credit for finally deciding to do something instead of letting the park become even worse. Unfortunately for guests and Disney, Hollywood Studios has to get worse before it gets a whole lot better. The park hit rock bottom in 2016 and spent most of 2017 in that same cellar. 2018 saw the park climb a few steps and, hopefully, 2019 is the year the park climbs fully out of the cellar and sees daylight.
Before going any further, let me address the 800 pound wookie in the room. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is opening in 2019. Once it opens, Hollywood Studios is worth going to. Of course, the park will also be total chaos at that point. Since the point of this post is to judge whether Hollywood Studios is worthy of a park ticket strictly based on attractions, shows and environment, I won’t factor the crazy crowds descending on Hollywood Studios. Again, the park is well worth going to once Galaxy’s Edge opens, strictly based on how ground breaking we expect the land to be. I don’t care if you don’t like Star Wars, it’s not likely to matter. We’ll save the post about seeing the land vs. battling the crowds for another day.
Instead, what this post will focus on is if Hollywood Studios is worth going to before Galaxy’s Edge opens this coming Fall. Along with Galaxy’s Edge construction happening, there is gondola construction right outside of the gates and work continuing on Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, all of which are set to open after this summer. In short, there’s quite a few construction walls and dead ends in the park still.
For those that aren’t able to visit after all of the openings later this year, is visiting the park in 2019 still worth the time and money? For guests who frequent Walt Disney World regularly, these construction zones will be a promising sign. For those who don’t get to go as often, the construction walls and cranes will be fairly frustrating. While the construction is too bad for those infrequent visitors, I do have to caution that there is no perfect time to go to a Disney theme park. There will always be construction going on as these parks change with the times. I know that’s frustrating, but it’s also a good thing.
With all that being said, should guests completely skip going to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2019? Let’s take a closer look at what is offered before we make a final judgment.
Now, I know that Disney doesn’t call them rides but instead refers to them as attractions. I typically do that, as well, but for this post I’m using the term ride literally. These are open attractions that you physically get on to ride.
- Rock N’ Roller Coaster
- Star Tours the Adventure Continues
- Toy Story Mania
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Alien Swirling Saucers
Toy Story Land just opened and the park still only has 6 literal rides. That lets you know the dire straits the park was in a couple of years ago. Things still aren’t going very well. After adding three more rides by the end of the year, Hollywood Studios will still not reach double digits. Fortunately, the quality of the attractions is pretty strong. The big problem with so few attractions are capacity issues. The more attractions that are open, the more the park spreads people out and keeps wait times down. That simply doesn’t happen when there are 4 attractions to ride, especially when they’re all fairly popular. If 100 people are going to go get food at a baseball game then having more concession stands open will limit the lines, even if one of the concession stands is selling pizza that tastes like cardboard (insert
Pizza Planet PizzeRizzo joke here, never mind that place is generally closed).
Essentially this comes down to if you’ve been to the Studios before. If you haven’t, most of these rides are must-do’s. Tower of Terror is quite possibly the best attraction at Walt Disney World. There’s not much like Rock n’ Roller Coaster in WDW so if roller coasters are your thing, it’s probably a must-do as well. Toy Story Mania has it’s critics but is generally adored and is the park’s most popular attraction. Star Tours is a classic Disney attraction. Slinky Dog Dash might be the most fun out of all of these attractions, as it’s just a good old-fashioned family coaster themed to Toy Story. Alien Swirling Saucers is just a flat ride that isn’t worth a long wait but is fun for what it is. I’d argue that 5 of these attractions are probably must-do’s for a first time guest (or an infrequent visitor). Get there when the park opens and you’ll be able to complete all of them by mid-afternoon, if you take advantage of FastPass+. Frankly, those that have a 4+ day, park-hopper ticket should go to Hollywood Studios for a morning just based on the rides. I wouldn’t spend all day there but with a park hopper I think it’s well worth your time from an attraction standpoint.
There are a few more options of things to do at Disney’s Hollywood Studios than just rides. There are a decent amount of shows. Here they are:
- Walt Disney Presents
- Muppet-Vision 3D
- Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage
- For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid
- Star Wars Launch Bay
- Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away
- Jedi Training
- Lightning McQueen Racing Academy (opening early 2019)
A decent list, right? Well… Let’s break it down a little more.
Muppet-Vision 3D and One Walt Disney Presents are both quality attractions. Walt Disney Presents has some great exhibits and then a nice little film about Walt Disney. Unfortunately, that attraction is often used for movie previews and isn’t always showing the film. Muppet-Vision is a classic Disney attraction (it’s also the last piece of Muppet entertainment Jim Henson worked on before he passed away) but it is getting a little tired and could use an update. Beauty and the Beast and Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular are both nice productions that unfortunately show their age. The stunt show is better than Beauty and the Beast. Like Muppet-Vision, I think these shows are a little tired and I’m guessing it’s most interesting to first-time guests and not frequent visitors. While all of these shows are good, I don’t think any are standouts. Voyage of the Little Mermaid falls into the same boat. Pun intended. Maybe “falls out of the same boat” is the better joke?
When you include a few shows from the above list along with the quality attractions that makes for a pretty solid day here. I’m not sure that’s worth the money on its own but if you have a Park Hopper ticket then it’s worth a half day, at least.
Jedi Training is for kids but this show is pretty fun to watch, especially for parents of kids who participate. Get to the show early so that you can sign your child(ren) up.
Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away is a pretty bad stage show that debuted in 2016. There isn’t a great plot but it does pay homage to the Star Wars universe which some might enjoy. Before the show, storm troopers march through Hollywood Studios. It’s fine.
A few of these shows are probably of interest to first-time guests and rightfully so, they’re pretty good. These shows just aren’t good enough that someone who’s seen them all would base a trip to the Studios around (of course, some might argue). Star Wars Launch Bay is new and opened to average reviews, as did the film Star Wars: Path of the Jedi. There are some interesting models in Launch Bay but most reviews I’ve read are that it’s not worth making a special trip for.
I did leave meet & greets off this list but the Studios does offer a few unique ones (Kylo Ren and Chewbacca namely) including some Star Wars characters. I guess that could be a pretty big draw to some people, but I have never thought characters meets are worth a trip to a park. Now, when you include it with a few of the other offerings here, then maybe it is worth it to you or your family. Oh, there’s also a dance party. Yippee!
Hollywood Studios has two nighttime spectaculars for guests to enjoy. Fantasmic! is shown in a large amphitheater. Most agree that the show just isn’t as good as Disneyland’s version of Fantasmic! Still, if you’ve never seen any of them, it’s probably worth going to. If you have seen Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studios before then it shouldn’t top your list of priorities.
Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is also offered at Hollywood Studios. This is a fireworks show featuring lasers and projections that are set to some of the classic scores from Star Wars. I enjoy this show and recommend it over Fantasmic! If you like Star Wars and fireworks then this show will impress AS LONG AS you get a good spot for it. Try to be close to the stage in front for the Chinese Theater for the best viewing. I think this show is the reason for frequent visitors to go back to DHS in 2018.
A projection show called Disney Movie Magic plays in the same spot and before Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. This is a nice little addition that makes seeing the Star Wars fireworks even more worth it. There will be a new projection show that debuts in May.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! is a fireworks show that debuted for the holidays in 2016 and again showed in 2017 and 2018. I think an iteration of this will likely be back in November and December. We aren’t fans of the current iteration of the show.
Ambiance, Food and Intangibles
I’ve added this category for 2018 because I do think that Hollywood Studios offers a few things that I haven’t mentioned. Let’s start with another look at Toy Story Land.
As I said in our review of the new land, Toy Story Land is fun but doesn’t add much to the park in terms of ambiance. Unlike some other lands, this isn’t the type of land where it’s inviting to linger in. Others may disagree but I don’t find Toy Story Land all that inviting in terms of aesthetic.
Other areas in Hollywood Studios have a nice ambiance. I’m fond of Echo Lake, especially after sunset. Hollywood Boulevard is also a fun street albeit a bit crowded. As a mega-fan of the Muppets, I’m also fond of Muppets Courtyard (Grand Avenue). Hollywood Studios has a surprisingly strong Christmas decorations game and is pretty fun that time of year.
There are also some huge negatives when it comes to Hollywood Studios current state. With all of the construction walls, there are dead ends and bottlenecks that make the park unpleasant. Toy Story Land will eventually open up to Galaxy’s Edge but for now it’s a dead-end, with the entrance and exit to the park being one and the same. There’s a ton of people in the land both because it’s new and because it doesn’t lend itself to crowd flow. Other problems like the bus station being a disaster and Grand Avenue being another dead-end make Hollywood Studios a somewhat frustrating experience.
As far as food goes, I don’t think Hollywood Studios offers much. 50’s Prime Time Cafe is highly thought of but I have never eaten there. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater offers a great atmosphere but is lacking in the food department. Stay away from the counter-service here. All in all, Hollywood Studios offers a few unique table-service restaurants but is otherwise lacking and not worth a special trip for.
As I said in the ride portion of the post, if you have a 4 day (or more) park-hopper ticket then going to Hollywood Studios is well worth your time. The attractions offered are high quality, there just aren’t enough of them. Use your three FastPasses, get there early and you can do all of the rides in a few hours.
If you don’t have a park hopper ticket then the answer isn’t nearly as clear. Although, I’ll do my best to make it succinct (not sure why I’m trying that AFTER 2,400 words). If you are a person who is drawn to rides then using a day of your tickets at this park is fine IF you have 4 or more days total at Disney World. I’d definitely recommend all of the other Disney World parks before Hollywood Studios. Of course, family dynamics and personal preferences can make change what is right for you. Even if you have 4 days at Disney World on a one-park-per-day ticket, I would think long and hard about repeating either Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom rather than going to Hollywood Studios. Both of those parks make for a more well-rounded day but I’m not sure a repeat viewing instead of going to Hollywood Studios is the clear choice here.
Where it may be the clear choice is if you enjoy the ambiance of the parks more than the attractions. I certainly do, and would rather be in any of the other three parks multiple times before going into Hollywood Studios. To clarify, I do enjoy the rides there and usually step foot in the park at least once a trip to do a few of the attractions but I don’t like to spend much more than a morning or evening there, much less a full day.
Rather than adding or subtracting a day for Hollywood Studios, another option is to take whatever day you were planning to spend at Hollywood Studios and go to Universal Orlando instead. This option obviously takes more time and costs more money, but if those two factors aren’t big deterrents to you then I’d absolutely go with this option. While not the biggest Universal fan, I do think those two parks offer significantly more than Hollywood Studios currently. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands are nothing short of incredible and there are other fantastic attractions in those parks.
By this time next year, Hollywood Studios will be a far more interesting place. Adding three state-of-the-art attractions will do that to a park. While capacity may be an issue, there won’t be a question of whether you should visit or not. For most of 2019, the question still remains. While Hollywood Studios has certainly upped it’s stock in the last year, I would only recommend it to those with ample time at Disney World and those with park hoppers. For others that don’t have that luxury, it comes down to weighing some excellent rides against a sub-par ambiance and a logistical headache.
If you have questions about Hollywood Studios or Disney Parks in general, leave us a comment below and we’d be happy to get to it! If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World, check out our planning guide! Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney, if you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages. You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.
Categories: Vacation Tips