The 154-acre Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the least popular of the four Disney parks, is undergoing massive development, and so many attractions are offline that to pay full-price for it would currently be an outrage, so it’s a good thing for Disney that Magic Your Way exists to float attendance. There’s a lot to fix. Rushed into existence to head off competition from Universal, this troubled park is poorly laid out and the weakest in Orlando on activities for small children. Over the next few years, Disney is throwing billions at an attempted resurrection with the addition of a 14-acre Star Wars-themed land, a Toy Story Land of kiddie rides, and very likely a new name for the park, its third in three decades. Until then, the park is crippled and confused, and construction disruption is everywhere. Prioritize DHS last—if you skip it entirely, you’re really only missing three noteworthy rides: the Tower of Terror, the Rock n’ Roller Coaster, and Toy Story Midway Mania.
While it was originally conceived as a single Epcot pavilion about show business, Universal’s invasion of the Florida market prodded Disney executives to hastily inflate the concept into an entire park and working production facility, Disney–MGM Studios. In 1989, the Studios opened with just two tame rides (the Great Movie Ride and the Backlot Tour). Production never took off and most guests didn’t care about the MGM co-branding. An on-site center for hand-painted animation shut down in 2004; MGM was stripped from the name in 2008; and the Backlot Tour, a tram ride/Universal rip-off that pretended that film production was actually happening, died in 2014.
Permanent closures come frequently as Disney scrambles to reorganize the park, and minor attractions in this guide may have been booted with only weeks’ notice by the time you arrive. Disney’s rich film legacy is ignored; to spackle over the glaring gaps, it relies heavily on cheap material from Star Wars, a brand it purchased off the rack in 2012.
Given its current state, Frommer’s does not recommend devoting a full day to Hollywood Studios. Instead, combine it with Animal Kingdom or linger just long enough to ride the marquee attractions and then catch the pyrotechnic-and-water curtain evening show, Fantasmic!, which actually is good. Also good is Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular, a nighttime show that mixes fireworks, lasers, and projections—it’s well done even if it is one more Star Wars thing, but get a viewpoint that looks squarely at the Chinese Theater or you’ll miss things.
The Best of Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Don’t miss if you’re 6: Jedi Training
- Don’t miss if you’re 16: Rock n’ Roller Coaster
- Requisite photo op: The Chinese Theater
- Food you can only get here: Grapefruit Cake, the Hollywood Brown Derby, Hollywood Boulevard; Peanut Butter and Jelly Milkshake, 50’s Prime Time Café, Echo Lake
- The most crowded, so Fastpass or go early: Toy Story Midway Mania
- Skippable: Beauty and the Beast—Live on Stage
- Quintessentially Disney: The Great Movie Ride
- Biggest thrill: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Best show: Fantasmic!
- Character meals: Hollywood & Vine (breakfast, lunch)
- Best shopping: The Beverly Sunset, Sunset Boulevard
- Where to find peace: Around Echo Lake