Experience Walt Disney World as a “Kid at Heart “at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
My husband and I took a trip to Orlando Florida to see Disney World for our 19th wedding anniversary. Hollywood Studios was our last stop on the Disney World tour. I had been to Universal Studios in California years ago and figured Hollywood Studios would be similar. Although there are a lot of commonalities, these two parks are definitely not the same!
Before we left for the park in the morning, my husband made dinner reservations at Mamma Melrose for an early dinner. At certain restaurants you can purchase a package for a meal and preferred seating tickets to their big light show Fantasmic, an after dark extravaganza. Mamma Melrose was rated well so we thought that would be a good bet.
Although rides are not the main attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there are several fun ones to choose from. I’ve listed our top picks below.
Toy Story Mania
We arrived at the park early to get in line for this ride as it was listed as one of the most popular rides in the park. Due to our advanced planning and our , we were actually on the ride before the park officially opened for the day. Toy Story Mania did not disappoint! It’s a fast-paced twirling, whirling shoot em up joy ride through “toy story land” where you can compete with your (ride) partner for the most total points. This is one of my husband’s favorite rides! handy guidebook
One of my all-time favorites, Star Tours is a realistic action-packed virtual reality ride. The Star Tours ride at Hollywood Studios was very much like its twin in Disneyland except the inside staging area that weaves through scenes and animated robotic props from various Star Wars movies is much shorter and has a different look than at Disneyland. The ride itself is very similar except the ride scenarios aren’t the same. We went on this ride twice (the first time because there wasn’t a line and the second because we had a fast pass) and both times it was the same story line even though they claim to have several different scenarios. It was still great fun, with the fast turns and bumps you feel like you’re really there!
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
I had to work up the courage to try this one! You start out by wandering slowly through an old hotel that has clearly fallen into ruin after being abandoned years before. There are lots of scary props, cobwebs and of course ghoulish spirits to set the stage. You get the impression that this was once a grand place indeed! The story goes that five people tragically died in an elevator accident (the elevator was struck by lightning on Halloween night) and ever since the hotel has been haunted. At one point you enter a large room where Rod Sterling from the old Twilight Zone is telling the story of the hotel on 50s style TV screens encircling the room (I loved this part). After that you work your way through more of the house to a set of elevators. Once the doors open you enter with your group and buckle into a seat. Then the thrills really start! The remainder of the ride consists of a series of sharp random drops which propel your elevator towards the ground floor. Big double doors open suddenly, offering a quick look outside, then abruptly close. Then, the elevator either drops suddenly or rises up higher. You never know which time after the doors open that you’ll drop which keeps the thrill factor high and intense!
Various other Diversions
Throughout the park you will find “mini” shows out on the street called diversions. These are usually short and either informative or action packed. One of the diversions my husband and I enjoyed was at the Walt Disney Museum where we watched a short film about the career of Walt Disney. It was a fascinating little clip about his life and dream—a dream that came true! Another diversion we enjoyed was set up in the middle of the street. It was action all the way with this one—Star Wars: a Galaxy Far Far Away. This mini show featured live actors portraying scenes from various Star Wars movies, complete with a swordfight between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. There were also appearances from C3P0 and R2D2 as well as the adorable BB-8, a droid character from a more recent Star Wars movie. Great fun!
Most of what you will get when you go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios are shows, and lots of them. Following are the ones we decided to attend.
Voyage of the Little Mermaid
We enjoyed this live version of the Little Mermaid story—it was cute but very short. Quite colorful stage sets combined with live actors, singing and lively costumes. I found myself smiling the whole time. This show is a fast-paced condensed version of the 1989 Little Mermaid movie.
Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular
We had high expectations for this one, but unfortunately, it failed to thrill. I guess we were looking for more of a story and this was really just an expedition into the world of stunt people. It was a great display of their craft and there were some truly magnificent stunts, but it was loud and overdone (in my humble opinion) and very choppy to follow. There was great audience involvement, though, including a few lucky show-goers who got a chance to be a part of the show. It had its merits but not a favorite.
Beauty and the Beast Live Onstage
This was by far and away my favorite live show. So well done—colorful and creative costumes and stage sets along with superb performances by the actors which pulled you into the story. As with the Little Mermaid, it was a shortened version of the Beauty and the Beast movie although not as short as the Little Mermaid show. Regardless of the length, the overall performance of the players brought the packed arena to its feet in a thunderous roar of applause leaving us hungry for more. I laughed and cried and laughed again— this show is definitely a must see.
Fantasmic is really the capstone event of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Much like the show by the same name at Disneyland, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios there is stadium seating in a smaller lagoon with an island in the center. It follows Micky Mouse through magical dreams, singing and dancing, building to the grand finale showdown between good and evil with a firework extravaganza. Very entertaining! Making those early dinner reservations that morning before we went to the park for the package deal at the Mamma Melrose restaurant in order to get preferred seating at Fantasmic certainly paid off. Not only did we get a great meal—steak dinner and wine— but a great show to boot—what a deal!
Star Wars: A Galactic Spetacular
Just when we thought we’d seen everything Disney’s Hollywood studios had to offer, including the big Fantasmic spectacular, we found that they weren’t quite done with us. A crowd started to form in front of the Chinese Theater façade and so we joined them to see what would happen. To our delight a new show started—Star Wars: a Galactic Spectacular. It begins with a booming voice broadcast out over the standing crowd of onlookers those famous words: “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…” and showcased the big events that occurred in the various Star Wars movies. This was projected on the front of the Chinese Theater complete with lasers and yes, you guessed it—fireworks! It was a big colorful and exciting conclusion to a very full day. When we were planning this trip, we had at first considered adding another day to the Magic Kingdom and not visiting Hollywood Studios at all. I have to say, I’m glad we changed our minds. Happy and tired, we returned to our hotel, mission complete.
Heading back home on the plane at the end of our Disney World adventure, we knew that it wouldn’t be the last Disney park visit for us. It reminds you that the world is full of magic and possibilities if you don’t close your mind or heart to them. It’s perfectly okay to leave the hectic and stressful life of an adult, don your Micky ears, and be a kid again if only for a few days. It gives you the courage and fortitude to face the struggles of “real” life.