Disney's Hollywood Studios is one hopping park! With its relatively new additions of Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, it's no surprise that the park has a high demand at the moment. In fact, Disney Park Pass reservations tend to fill up faster for Hollywood Studios than the other Disney World theme parks. Since crowds have returned to Disney World, Hollywood Studios has been seeing higher wait times, especially over weekends and during holidays. While that might be worrying for those of you with upcoming visits, we're here to take the stress off. We hop to this park quite a bit as part of our ribbeting research (it's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it).
As we look further into 2021, we expect that Hollywood Studios will continue to be a big draw for guests who are still looking to experience the newer attractions for their first time, and of course, frogs who just can't get enough (like us!). We're also excited for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, the immersive Star Wars hotel, which is expected to open sometime in 2021.
If you have questions about joining the virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance or catching sight of your favorite Toy Story pals, you've hopped to the right spot! We're here to help if you plan to visit Hollywood Studios during this time.
Getting into Disney's Hollywood Studios
We understand that most of you will want to try your luck at getting a Boarding Group for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. There will be more details later in this guide (we also have an entire post about how to navigate Boarding Groups), but Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is currently the only ride at Disney World that uses a virtual queue.
Instead of previously opening at 10 a.m. and requiring that you must be inside the park, the virtual queue now opens at 7 a.m., and guests can check for an available Boarding Group as long as each person in their party has valid admission and a Disney Park Pass for Hollywood Studios. This can be done in your Disney hotel room, or wherever else nearby you may be at that time (we successfully got a Boarding Group off-site about 20 miles away). As of Dec. 20, the virtual queue will reopen at 1 p.m. as a second chance for anyone who didn't get a Boarding Group in the morning. For this second distribution time, guests must be inside the park.
Lately, Boarding Groups have been filling quickly (and by quickly, we mean within the first minute), so we suggest taking advantage of both distribution times, if the ride is a top priority. However, plexiglass has been added to the ride vehicles in order to increase the ride's capacity, which has helped with allowing more people to ride it.
After visiting the park since this change, we noticed it has made an impact on the initial crowds in the morning. When we arrived just after 10 a.m., there were still a lot of guests already inside the park, but the lines seemed much more controlled and the crowds felt less chaotic. Since there isn't a mad dash to get inside the park before 10 a.m., you can better prepare your day, as it's up to you to decide when you want to arrive. We still recommend arriving early enough to maximize your time inside the park. Note that hours may be subject to change, especially around the holidays or busy peak periods.
Cars park with an empty space between each side, and the parking trams are not currently available. We also noticed that the Disney Skyliner was up and running by 9 a.m. from Disney's Caribbean Beach station, which is a great option for anyone staying at the resorts along the Skyliner route. When we recently stayed at Disney's Grand Floridian, the buses started running by 8:50 a.m. (typically, bus service is supposed to start an hour before park open). We arrived at the bus stop at 8:42 a.m. and caught the second bus at 9 a.m. Know that buses can only take five to six groups (and now some buses can hold up to 10 groups) at a time due to social distancing — there were already eight groups in front of us, so that's why we had to take the second bus!
The temperature screening, security check and park entrance's touch points were a breeze, and we passed through with minimal waits. Security is now using new touchless detectors that you simply walk through, and there are no finger scans at the touch points to minimize contact.
If you're planning to hop to any of the three other parks, park-to-park buses are now available, starting at 1:30 p.m. so you're able to arrive at your second park right when Park Hopper hours start at 2 p.m. Cast members will be scanning either your MagicBands or park tickets to confirm that you have Park Hopper access. You can also take a Friendship Boat or Disney Skyliner if you're heading over to EPCOT.
Disney's Hollywood Studios Attractions and Wait Times
As the crowds have steadily come back to Hollywood Studios, so have the long lines and high wait times. When Disney initially required that guests had to be inside the park prior to the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance's 10 a.m. distribution time for Boarding Groups, crowds were the highest of any Disney park. Now that the distribution time has changed to 7 a.m. (and can be made from outside of Hollywood Studios), we felt a difference. It wasn't incredibly significant, as most rides still had 50+ minute waits by 10:15 a.m., but crowd control overall was much improved. It seemed that crowds were more spread out evenly throughout the park, instead of Slinky Dog Dash and Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway having the highest wait times.
Because there are fewer rides at Hollywood Studios and most of the shows are not running, there are less options for everyone to space out, which means lines can get pretty long. It's even more noticeable when a popular ride doesn't open immediately or breaks down. Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Toy Story Land specifically feel more crowded in the morning as those pathways are more narrow. However, the lines are spaced out due to social distancing and there are no FastPass+ reservations, so generally the lines keep moving (only stopping if there is a short cleaning delay). We've noticed that now the wait times remain the same throughout the day, only dropping at night an hour or two before park close. But the highest wait times have peaked at around 90 minutes (as low as 70 minutes on weekdays) instead of 120 minutes.
In terms of accuracy when it comes to the posted wait times, we've noticed it can be a hit or miss. Sometimes, the actual wait time is considerably less than what is posted. For instance, Toy Story Mania! had a 45-minute wait with the line starting outside of Toy Story Land, but it only took 14 minutes before we boarded the ride vehicle! For other rides, the posted wait time was more accurate, but we've rarely waited longer than expected (and if we did, it was only by a few minutes).
Every attraction has safety measures in place, including floor markings six feet (or more) apart and touchless hand sanitizer dispensers. Some queues have plexiglass barriers when it isn't possible to maintain physical distancing in switchbacks or places where the standby and FastPass+ lines are next to each other. There are no FastPasses available. However, people with a DAS card or those taking advantage of Rider Switch will typically use the FastPass+ line (though this may vary by ride, so if you're looking to utilize Rider Switch or DAS, be sure to ask the cast member at the attraction for instructions). Specific safety measures vary by ride or show, and are subject to change. For instance, Slinky Dog Dash and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster initially skipped rows between different parties, but both are currently utilizing every row. Star Tours have dividers strapped to booster seats that separate parties in the rows. Muppet*Vision 3D, Mickey Shorts Theater and Lightning McQueen's Racing Academy have rows closed and appropriate spacing in the rows that remain open.
All rides are open, but many of the shows are not available, such as Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Voyage of the Little Mermaid and the Jedi Training experience. (However, Frozen Sing-Along Celebration recently reopened!) Nighttime spectaculars and entertainment, including Fantasmic! and Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular, are temporarily suspended as well.
Character Experiences at Disney's Hollywood Studios
We've been loving the new character cavalcades and boat cruises, so we also really enjoyed the motorcades for the Hollywood Studios' reopening! Instead of traditional meet and greets, you'll be able to spot Disney's very own stars and celebrities strut down Hollywood Boulevard. There are three separate motorcades with different characters:
- Disney Junior Stars Motorcade: Fancy Nancy, Doc McStuffins and Vampirina
- Mickey & Friends Motorcade: Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, Daisy, Pluto and Chip 'n' Dale
- Pixar Motorcade: Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Edna Mode, Sulley, Green Army Soldiers, Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear
- Santa Motorcade: Available Nov. 6, 2020 to Dec. 24, 2020
All of the motorcades begin near Guest Relations at the park entrance, proceed down the street to the Chinese Theater and turn left, ending near the Jedi Training Academy stage. There isn't a specific schedule, nor is there a set amount of time between the motorcades. They can appear at any time! Don't worry if you catch the end of one ... the motorcades hoppen often throughout the day. Our best advice is to listen for any sudden music changes, because that usually means the characters are on their way. Nothing can stop us now! If you have some time to spare and can park yourself at a table along the route to enjoy a snack, you may catch a few motorcades in a row!
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Don't you worry ... we didn't froget about Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and the rest of Batuu! Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is quite literally its own separate universe, so we thought it'd be best to have an entire section of this guide dedicated to the land.
Let's get to the most important business first — landing a Boarding Group to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. As we mentioned before, the virtual queue opens up two times during the day at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. While there are more opportunities to snag a group than before, you still have to act quickly because the spots fill up fast (within seconds lately!). In the morning, set an alarm on your phone before each time the virtual queue opens, as it's super easy to lose track of time amid all of the day's excitement! We recommend setting your alarm 5 to 10 minutes in advance because you don't want to be in the middle of riding Tower of Terror when the clock strikes the hour. Stay off of Disney's Wi-Fi, find a secluded spot and refresh the page as soon as it's time for the virtual queue to open. If getting on this ride is top-level priority, it's easier to remember the 7 a.m. time because it'll likely be one of the first things you tackle in the morning. Plus, you have another chance if you don't get a Boarding Group on the first try. However, it's definitely worth mentioning that these have been notoriously difficult to get as of late. If you have tadpoles, it's definitely worth setting the expectation early that getting to ride is a bonus, not a guarantee, to avoid disappointment.
If you're lucky frogs like us (we scored Boarding Group 2 during our initial visit!), then you'll be able to head to the ride entrance when your group is called. There is a one-hour return window once that happens. Once you obtain a Boarding Group and ride, you cannot sign up for another Boarding Group that same day. All of the pre-shows are working, so you'll get the full experience! Parties stand on an assigned circle marker in the briefing room with Rey and BB-8, as well as inside the transport vehicle. The escape pod vehicles now have plexiglass barriers that allow a higher ride capacity (one party per row). If you're seated behind the plexiglass, you may catch reflections.
As for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, the line is generally much longer in the morning, and decreases as the day goes on. The pre-show with Hondo Ohnaka is running, but you walk straight through it, only pausing if the line stops moving. Because each party gets its own mission aboard the Millennium Falcon, you are not assigned any particular role. Tad and Lily piloted the ship, while Leap and I were the gunners. We suggest figuring out the roles among your frog squad before you board so there aren't any last-minute squabbles!
Hungry after battling the First Order or piloting the Millennium Falcon? It's best to come prepared if you want to eat in Batuu. Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, Ronto Roasters and the Milk Stand exclusively use mobile ordering. You'll also need a reservation for Oga's Cantina (walk-ins were not accepted when we asked). Note that some mobile ordering locations in Galaxy's Edge are unavailable later in the day. However, Oga's and Savi's have recently had some reservations available after park close, so keep an eye out!
The Black Spire Outpost Marketplace uses a designated entrance and exit. You enter by the water fountain and restrooms, and then exit by Ronto Roasters after you've finished shopping. The capacity is very limited so that only one party can be in each marketplace stall at a time.
You can still build your own droid at Droid Depot! Instead of utilizing all 10 building stations, only four are used at a time. There are markings on the ground so you know where to stand, and plexiglass divides the stations. (A cast member told us that the pieces on the conveyor belt are regularly sanitized.)
Upon reopening initially, Savi and his Gatherers were collecting "scrap metal" elsewhere in the galaxy, but they have returned! The build-your-own lightsaber experience is back, and reservations are available 60 days in advance.
Chewbacca, Rey and Vi Moradi may not be roaming around Batuu actively recruiting Resistance members, but it doesn't mean they've stopped their secret missions entirely! You may be able to spot the spies hanging out at the speeder garage (across from Droid Depot). Meanwhile, Kylo Ren and his Stormtroopers interrogate Batuu citizens and intergalactic travelers at the First Order's TIE Echelon (across from the Milk Stand).
Restaurants and Retail at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Out of all the parks, we find the most quick-service options for mobile ordering are at Hollywood Studios. In addition to Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, Ronto Roasters and the Milk Stand in Batuu, you must use mobile ordering at ABC Commissary (lunch only), Backlot Express, PizzeRizzo, Woody's Lunch Box and Rosie's All-American Cafe. If you plan to eat at quick-service restaurant, we still suggest avoiding peak dining periods. You can choose the arrival window when you place your order, but once you hit "Prepare My Order," it may take a bit before you can pick up your food, as there are many mobile orders being processed. We personally haven't had issues with mobile ordering, but we have heard from other frogs that it can take a while. We've waited up to 10 minutes.
If you want to dine at a table-service restaurant, you need to prepare at least a few days in advance by picking up an Advance Dining Reservation (ADR). It's still toadally possible to snag one last minute during the week of your trip, but it's much more difficult to find one on the day of your visit. You can always check the Walk-Up List availability through My Disney Experience or at the restaurant, but more often than not, the table-service restaurants will not have availability; we've had luck with Walk-Ups in other parks, but Hollywood Studios has proved more difficult to snag. Keep in mind if you're making a reservation that you'll need valid admission and a Disney Park Pass reservation and ADR for the same park, on the same day; a dining reservation does not guarantee entry.
We've had luck with getting reservations at both Mama Melrose's and 50's Prime Time Cafe a few days before. Here's what the check-in process looks like. About 10 minutes before our reservation, we received a notification via the My Disney Experience app that it was time to check in. Then, we answered questions about our party mix (how many adults, children and infants would be dining), mobility accessibility, dietary requests and special occasions. We provided our phone number, which was used to notify us that our table was ready via text message.
After briefly checking in with the host outside, we were given a QR code to access the digital menu when we sat at our table. Our waiter said that we could take our masks off once seated but must put them back on if we left the table for any reason. After we devoured our meals, we received the check in a disposable paper folder.
For retail locations, pay close attention to any signs or ground markings, as there are designated entrances and exits. Be extra vigilant about the flow of traffic.
Touring Advice for Disney's Hollywood Studios
As we've mentioned before, narrower pathways make the crowds seem a little more amplified — most notably along Hollywood Boulevard upon entering at park open, as well as inside Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Toy Story Land in the first couple of hours. Because there's a lower amount of attractions, there are more frogs dispersed in the queues. If arriving early, we suggest you don't waste time hopping around the park trying to decide what to ride. There is often a delay in the Disney World app updating with accurate wait times right after opening, and the app doesn't show wait times at all prior to opening — so know what you want to ride and hop in line (they're all going to be lengthy at first).
We prefer starting out near Rock 'n' Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror because we feel that Sunset Boulevard provides more room to accommodate the long lines. Plus crowds usually decrease in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Toy Story Land later in the afternoon. We expect that Hollywood Studios will remain the busiest Disney theme park well into 2021.
With an additional distribution time, there is a slightly better chance to obtain a Boarding Group for Rise of the Resistance. However, we have to be realistic frogs too. It's worth repeating that there is still no guarantee that you'll be able to ride it. During our last visit, spots filled up within the first minute, and we were unsuccessful for the second try too. We don't want to be the bearer of potentially bad news, but we also can't promise that you'll be able to snag a Boarding Group pass during your visit.
We highly suggest waiting to hop in line for Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway until the afternoon or evening. The queue reached an all-time low of 35 minutes at around 5:30 p.m. the last time we visited, due to increasing ride capacity (the ride vehicles have also added a layer of plexiglass between rows). The picture above is what the outdoor portion of the extended queue looks like around 11:30 a.m. with a 90-minute wait time.
Overall, while busier compared to the other parks, we still manage to get a lot accomplished each time we've visited, although the visits have been long days with a lot of hopping around!
Now that park hopping is possible, we are keeping our eye out for any changes in crowd levels and wait times. So far, since crowds have decreased as usual after the holidays, we haven't seen any significant differences. But we expect that the mornings will still continue to be busy with guests sticking around until 1 p.m. to try their luck at obtaining a Boarding Group. When we hopped to Hollywood Studios right at 2 p.m., we were able to get into the park without any long lines, so there were less people hopping along with us than we expected. We'll note any changes as we get closer to the next busy period: Spring Break!
Additional Disney's Hollywood Studios Reopening Tips and Tidbits
- Hollywood Studios has two mask relaxation areas where you can take a quick break and remove your masks while socially distanced from other guests. Relax at an outdoor relaxation area in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge (next to the Black Spire Outpost Marketplace entrance), or hop over to Star Wars Launch Bay, which has both indoor and outdoor relaxation areas.
- Lines for popcorn carts and food stands such as Anaheim Produce do not have mobile ordering, so they may have long lines around meal times.
- While park hours are shortened, keep in mind that you can often jump in the ride queue as long as it's before the park's posted closing time. If you have a post-park closure reservation for Savi's or Oga's, it's generally just enough time to hop into a longer ride queue prior to hopping back to Galaxy's Edge for your cantina or saber experience.
- Out of the four parks, it's the hardest to see characters (via the special motorcades) at Hollywood Studios. We think it's because there are fewer motorcades, so they come by less frequently. Also, if you're in Galaxy's Edge, Toy Story Land or on Sunset Boulevard (where the majority of rides are), you would not be able to see them. Our best advice if the motorcades are a must-see is to grab a churro or pretzel and sit down along Hollywood Boulevard. Since the motorcades tend to come out in succession, if you carve out an hour or so to rest those legs and get a bite to eat, odds are good that you'll catch some (if not all) of the fun.
It felt good to be reunited with Rey, Chewbacca, Woody, Jessie and friends! Do you have any additional questions about the Hollywood Studios reopening? Let us know if you're planning a trip soon.