Disney worked for years to add more excitement to the 154-acre Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The kiddie rides of Toy Story Land (opened 2018), and the hotly anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (2019) have helped bring people back in, but apart from those two improvements, the rest of the park still lags. Still, because of those two tent poles, it’s the resort’s second-hardest park to get a reservation for, after Magic Kingdom.

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.

When Covid-19 shut down live entertainment around the world, the flaws of Hollywood Studios became pronounced; a significant chunk of its diversions depend on person-to-person performance such as live retellings of popular movies. Without them, there are only nine rides to occupy your time (there are that many rides in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland alone). Although a few of those rides are simply terrific, there are not enough of them. This park still lacks the sizzle of the others, but after dark, you can either see the meaty spectacular Fantasmic! or two shorter presentations that require less planning. Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is a decent 13-minute show that mixes fireworks, lasers, and projections; it’s well done but modestly so. Get a viewpoint that looks squarely at the Chinese Theater or you’ll miss details.

You arrive by the usual car/tram combo, by free ferry (from Epcot and the Boardwalk), by Skyliner tram (from Epcot and a few hotels), or by bus (from the other parks). As soon as your bag is approved and you’re through the gates, take care of business (strollers, wheelchairs, lockers) in the plaza before proceeding down Hollywood Boulevard. There are no attractions on the entry street, only shops and restaurants. In 2001, a 122-foot-tall Sorcerer Mickey Hat was built at the Boulevard’s terminus as a central icon for the park, but it was demolished in 2015 (to cheers from purists) and the park’s original entrance vista of the Chinese Theater was restored. No one pays much attention to the theatre’s forecourt and it is no longer refreshed with footprints and handprints, but you can still see many concrete impressions collected from movie stars when the park was still angling to be a player in the film industry. In fact, this is the only place to find Audrey Hepburn’s handprints; she didn’t leave them at the Hollywood Grauman’s.

The Best of Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Don’t miss if you’re 6: Slinky Dog Dash
  • Don’t miss if you’re 16: Rock n’ Roller Coaster, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
  • Requisite photo op: The Chinese Theater, The Millennium Falcon
  • Food you can only get here: Ronto Wrap at Ronto Roasters, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Hollywood Boulevard; Peanut Butter and Jelly Milkshake at 50’s Prime Time Café, Echo Lake
  • Where everyone stampedes first: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance; Slinky Dog Dash
  • Skippable: Beauty and the Beast—Live on Stage
  • Quintessentially Disney: Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
  • Biggest thrill: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Best show: Fantasmic!
  • Biggest store: Mickey’s of Hollywood, Hollywood Boulevard
  • Where to find peace: Around Echo Lake