A week before closing down in March 2020, Disney's Hollywood Studios premiered its newest ride, Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway. Combine a brand-new headlining attraction with the relatively recent additions of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Toy Story Land, and it's no surprise that the park has a higher demand at the moment! Before we hopped to the park, we were aware that Disney Park Pass reservations filled up faster for Hollywood Studios than the other Disney World theme parks. However, despite the Hollywood Studios reopening being busier than what we've experienced so far, we were still able to ride a majority of the attractions (even the most in-demand ones!), eat at a table-service restaurant and catch all of the character motorcades. Score!
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.
Entry into Disney's Hollywood Studios
We've mentioned before in our Disney's Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom reopening guides that it's worth arriving later to avoid any lines for parking and minimize the potential for initial crowds as much as possible. We still stand by this, no matter which park you'll be visiting. However, if the top priority of your entire trip is riding Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, you may want to consider arriving before park opening. There will be more details later in this guide (we also have an entire post about how to secure your Boarding Group), but Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is currently the only ride at Disney World that uses a virtual queue. Unlike before, the virtual queue opens up at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (instead of only once when the park opens), so arriving early is not a necessity. However, you'll have more chances to snag a Boarding Group if you're there by 10 a.m. when it opens for the first time.
We arrived at the parking booths around 9:30 a.m., and the parking attendants were already letting frogs park. The parking toll booth attendant said the parking lot had opened at 9 a.m. when we asked. Overall, the parking situation was not as busy as we anticipated. Once again, cars parked with an empty space between each side, and the parking trams were not available. We also noticed that the Disney Skyliner was up and running, which is a great option for anyone staying at the resorts along the Skyliner route. The temperature screening, security check and park entrance's touch points were a breeze, and we passed through with minimal waits. The security check was similar to Magic Kingdom's process (regular metal detectors), and there are no finger scans at the touch points to minimize contact.
Disney's Hollywood Studios Attractions and Wait Times
Disney was letting frogs into the park before the official park opening. By the time we were inside at 9:45 a.m., there was already a two-hour wait for Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, which was not running yet. Cast members cut off the end of the line and were telling guests to come back later. Before the clock struck 10 a.m. (the park's official opening time), we passed by Slinky Dog Dash, which was operating, unlike Runaway Railway — though by then, it was so close to the opening time that we were unsure of how much earlier it opened before 10 a.m.
Wait times were considerably higher in the morning, but dwindled down later in the afternoon. For instance, Slinky Dog Dash and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run each posted 60-minute wait times a few minutes after park opening. By noon, Runaway Railway said 75 minutes, while the wait times at other rides were more evenly distributed. At that point, Millennium Falcon was at 45 minutes, and Slinky Dog, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror were all at 35 minutes. Flash forward to the last few hours before closing, most rides had 5- to 20-minute wait times, except for Runaway Railway. (Tower of Terror's waits seemed to fluctuate the most throughout the day. Blame it on the Twilight Zone.)
Every attraction has safety measures in place, including floor markings six feet (or more) apart and touchless hand sanitizer dispensers. Some queues had plexiglass barriers when it wasn'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. For instance, Slinky Dog Dash and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster skipped rows between different parties. Star Tours had dividers strapped to booster seats that would separate parties in the rows. Muppet*Vision 3D, Mickey Shorts Theater and Lightning McQueen's Racing Academy had rows closed and appropriate spacing in the rows that remained open.
Most rides are open, but many of the shows are not available, such as Beauty and the Beast Live, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, Voyage of the Little Mermaid and the Jedi Training experience. 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, Pluto and Chip 'N' Dale
- Pixar Motorcade: Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Edna Mode, Sulley, Green Army Soldiers, Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear
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. We saw each of them at least twice. 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!
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 10 a.m. and 2 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. 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 Disney's Wi-Fi, 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 10 a.m. time because it'll likely be one of the first things you tackle in the morning. Plus, you have two more chances if you don't get a Boarding Group on the first try.
If you're lucky frogs like us (we scored Boarding Group 2 during our 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 were working during our trip, 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. Once you get to the interrogation rooms, each party gets its own escape pod vehicle.
As for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, the line was much longer in the morning. By 3 p.m., it lowered to 25 minutes, and we didn't see it rise above 25 minutes for the remainder of the day. The pre-show with Hondo Ohnaka was 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 ... or just keep re-riding to try out each role. It's toadally possible later in the afternoon when the wait time drops!
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).
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.)
Savi and his Gatherers are collecting "scrap metal" elsewhere in the galaxy, so you cannot build your own lightsaber at this time. However, Savi is letting Dok Ondar use his workshop space to showcase the legacy lightsabers. If you haven't had a chance to build yet, this is a great opportunity to get to see the space! (Still, keep the deets on the DL; who knows what Kylo Ren would do with that kind of information.)
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 found the most quick-service options for mobile ordering at the Hollywood Studios reopening. In addition to Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, Ronto Roasters and the Milk Stand in Batuu, you can use mobile ordering at Backlot Express, PizzeRizzo and Rosie's All-American Cafe.
Since we did the mobile ordering option at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, we decided to make a last-minute reservation for Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano to get the dish on the new procedures at table-service restaurants, such as mobile check-in. Mama Melrose's was the only option available on My Disney Experience. We also asked some of the other table-service restaurants if they were accepting walk-ins as we walked by. 50's Prime Time Cafe and Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater were only seating frogs with reservations.
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 spaghetti, 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
The Hollywood Studios reopening certainly drew more crowds than what we've been used to. Narrower pathways made the crowds seem a little more amplified — most notably in the morning when we walked down Hollywood Boulevard. Crowds thinned out as the day went on. Because there's a lower amount of attractions, there are more frogs dispersed in the queues. We think it's also important to note that we attended the second day that the park reopened without any passholder previews, which likely affected initial crowd levels ... to an extent. For that reason, we'll continue to monitor wait times over the coming weeks. But we also expect that Hollywood Studios will remain the busiest Disney theme park during its phased reopening period.
With limited capacity and additional times that the virtual queue opens, there is a slightly better chance to obtain a Boarding Group for Rise of the Resistance. However, we have to be realistic frogs too. There is still no guarantee that you'll be able to ride it. We've heard from other guests that spots fill up within the first minute, and some were unsuccessful for all three tries. 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.
If getting a Boarding Group isn't super important to you (aka it'd be cool if you get one, but it wouldn't be the end of the world if you didn't), we'd recommend arriving around noon or later. That's when the ride wait times started to level out. At noon, we hopped on Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run when the posted wait time was 45 minutes. But as we've experienced at other parks, our actual wait time was 22 minutes. Similarly, we waited 22 minutes for Slinky Dog around 1 p.m. when the posted time was 35 minutes (and much later in the afternoon, we only waited 5 minutes!). We walked right on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at 4:30 p.m., despite a posted 20-minute wait time.
We highly suggest waiting to hop in line for Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway until the afternoon or evening. When we got in line at 5:20 p.m., the queue said 60 minutes, but we ended up only waiting for 35 minutes. Here's what the line looked like:
If you see that the queue starts where the guests are standing on the far left side of this photo, you'll likely experience a similar wait time as long as there are no delays.
Overall, while busier compared to the other parks, we still managed to get a lot accomplished, considering we hit many of the major attractions ... only missing out on Tower of Terror. We toadally could've gone on it if we hadn't waited for as long as we did to see the Mickey & Friends motorcade for the first time (because who can resist stopping to wave at the main mouse himself?! Not us.).
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.
- We love competing against each other on Toy Story Mania, but for the short-term, we’ll be skipping it. We’re not comfortable using the pull-string cannons without knowing when they were last sanitized. You could also bring your own wipes if you wanted to ride. You can pick up your own 3-D glasses (there wasn't a cast member handing them out like there was for Avatar Flight of Passage).
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.