Disney's Hollywood Studios is one hopping park! Just a week before Walt Disney World closed in March 2020, Hollywood Studios premiered its newest ride, Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway. If you combine that brand-new headlining attraction with the relatively recent additions of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Toy Story Land, it's no surprise that the park has a higher 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. And now, as the crowds have started to return to Disney World, Hollywood Studios has been seeing higher wait times, especially on weekends. 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). Despite the crowds and longer lines, 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 the character motorcades during our most recent visit. 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. This post will walk you through our recent visit to Disney's Hollywood Studios, but keep in mind that things can change at any 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 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 ... but you'll have double the amount of chances to snag a Boarding Group if you're there by 10 a.m. when it opens for the first time.
Lately, Boarding Groups have been filling quickly (and by quickly, we mean within the first 15 seconds), so we suggest taking advantage of both distribution times, if the ride is a top priority. Whether you're driving or using Disney transportation, it is then essential to arrive early in order to get inside the park before 10 a.m. This means being ready at your hotel's bus stop before bus service begins at 9 a.m. or showing up at the parking toll booths when the lot opens at 9 a.m.
Previously, we've mentioned in our individual park reopening guides that it's worth arriving a little later than opening to avoid lines for parking and minimize the potential for initial crowds as much as possible (note: this runs counter to our pre-COVID-19 advice). If you wish to avoid the rush of crowds and don't mind missing the 10 a.m. distribution time, we would still recommend arriving shortly after park opening to allow time for the crowds near the entrance to disperse. Out of the four parks, Disney's Hollywood Studios has consistently been the busiest at park opening.
During one of our repeat visits since reopening, we arrived at the parking booth tolls right at 9 a.m. The parking attendants did not let anyone through until 9:10 a.m. So if you're driving, our advice for the best time to arrive would be anytime between 9 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. (and the earlier, the better if it's over the weekend). You don't want to get there too early and be waiting in your car for a long time (or be told to turn around and come back), but you also shouldn't arrive too late so you have enough time to get through security and the touchpoints. Using ride-sharing services to arrive before 9 a.m. may be risky because the parking lot may not be open, resulting in an expensive Uber or Lyft ride if you have to wait in line.
Cars park 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 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 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 the new touchless detectors (same as the ones at Disney's Animal Kingdom), and there are no finger scans at the touch points to minimize contact.
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. Because Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance requires a Boarding Group to access its virtual queue, many guests are showing up before park open to try to obtain a pass during the first distribution period of the day. To avoid crowding as much as possible at the front gate, cast members let people into the park before 10 a.m. (we've gotten in as early as 9:23 a.m.).
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. Expect the first hour or two to be the most jarring in terms of seeing wait times as high as 120 minutes and lines that may spill out or snake down the pathways. 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). In the afternoon, wait times start to decrease, and during the last few hours before the park closes, most rides have 10- to 45-minute wait times.
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. For instance, Slinky Dog Dash and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster skip rows between different parties. 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
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 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 (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 10 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 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 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 ... or just keep re-riding to try out each role. It's toadally possible later in the evening 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). 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 Backlot Express, PizzeRizzo 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.
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 getting reservations at both Mama Melrose's and 50's Prime Time Cafe a day or two 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. (On a recent visit, around 5 p.m., Slinky was a 45-minute wait, and we walked right on Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania.) We expect that Hollywood Studios will remain the busiest Disney theme park during the phased reopening and through the holiday season.
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.
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 start to level out from the initial morning rush, but it isn't until later in the early evening (5 p.m.) when rides reach their lowest wait times.
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 6:27 p.m., the queue said 90 minutes (though we noticed it quickly dropped to 75 minutes a few minutes after we hopped in line), but we ended up only waiting for 52 minutes. 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. One other note: 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.
Overall, while busier compared to the other parks, we still managed to get a lot accomplished during our last visit, although it was a long day with a lot of hopping around! We stayed for the entire day and were able to ride everything except for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, have a sit-down meal and watch a couple character cavalcades.
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.
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.