We started our Walt Disney World vacation at my favorite park — Hollywood Studios. If you know me, it’s probably not hard to guess why I love this park so much.
Two words: Star. Wars.
Before we go there, though, I’d like to give you an overview of Hollywood Studios in terms of shows, rides, and restaurants.
Let’s start, shall we?
My wife and kids are not huge fans of rides, so we take in a lot of shows, which is totally fine by me because the shows are always amazing. Allow me to briefly run through them.
For the First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration — I must admit that I wasn’t quite excited to see this one again after seeing it in the summer of 2017. Boy, was I wrong. The premise is that two Arendelle historians run through the story of Frozen with appearances by men and women dressed as Elsa, Kristoff, and Anna. They also show scenes from the movie in the background on a huge screen. The stage is made to appear as though you are inside Arendelle’s walls. Make no mistake, however–the historians are the real stars of this show. The historians are part story tellers, part singers, and part comedians. They sing each and every major song while encouraging the audience to join along. But they are also hilarious. As I said, I wasn’t quite so excited to see this show again, but the historians were so funny that I actually enjoyed it more this second round. A man fell asleep in the front row who also happened to have very shiny knees (yes, you read that right) and they started improvising the heck out of that situation. They had the Kristoff actor laughing so hard that he had to turn his back to the audience in order to collect himself. They absolutely had me rolling. Of course, Elsa makes a grand entrance at the end and the kids will love it when fake snow begins to fall from the ceiling in the air-conditioned theater. Even if you’re not especially into Frozen, the ad libs and improvisation will more than entertain you.
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular — This was a first-time experience for us. Though we loved it, it might have been a little too intense for my six-year-old. As an avid Indiana Jones fan, I insisted that we take this one in. While you sit in a large outdoor amphitheater, you watch a director and his stunt crew recreate epic scenes from the Raiders Of the Lost Ark film–yes, they are epic. It’s not just recreating the scenes, though, it’s almost like watching a story of the director actually filming it. There are some incredible falls from atop buildings, lots of jumps and flips, and even some extremely large explosions. These explosions caught us off guard. They were fireball big, loud, and we could very easily feel the heat from them from where we sat. I loved it, but it frightened my youngest to the point of tears. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t take her to it. It’s incredible, but far more intense than I expected.
Beauty and the Beast: Live On Stage — Again, you sit in an outdoor amphitheater for this one. This show is about 30 minutes and features live actors creating an abbreviated version of the movie. The character costumes are really impressive, but a little on the cartoonish side. The singing is wonderful and the dancing is really something to behold. There is always a lot to take in on stage, so I don’t see the young or old getting bored during this one. I have no idea how the dancers in the character costumes could stand the heat, but they gave no signs of fatigue.
Voyage Of the Little Mermaid — Parents, this is another air-conditioned theater, so put it on your list! This short, 15 minute show features puppets standing in for the fish and a live actress as Ariel. Some of the show takes place in the pitch black with the puppets lit up by black lights as they sing and dance–it’s very cool. The actress then appears as Ariel as she runs through many of her songs while clips of the movie play in the background. The stage and theater are designed to give you the sense of an underwater cave. An enormous Ursula appears at the end. She’s a neon puppet and literally takes up half of the stage–very impressive. It’s especially cool when water lightly drizzles from the ceiling during a fabricated lightning storm.
Disney Junior: Live On Stage! — My nine-year-old was not quite as excited to see this again after seeing it last year, but my six-year-old still loved it. If your child loves Disney Junior, this is the show for them. You enter a giant (air-conditioned) room with the stage set up to look like the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. An actor or actress (we’ve had each) leads the crowd in song and dance as puppet versions of Jake the Pirate, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, and Minnie appear. You sit on the floor and the crowd is mainly comprised of small children, so be ready to dial your patience up to full-throttle. I had a baby next to me intent on feeling my knee as I sat cross-legged. Didn’t bother me, but you may encounter something similar. Again, items fall from the ceiling at various points during the show, which the kids love.
Muppet Vision 3-D — My kids aren’t terribly familiar with the muppets, but that didn’t seem to bother them one bit. In fact, they loved this little show so much we saw it two or three times! Kermit is desperately trying to put a show together when Beaker unleashes Waldo, a 3-D character who takes everything up a notch. This show has excellent 3-D and is very funny to boot. You even have the two old guys sitting up in the balcony! I recommend this show no matter what, but if you’re looking to sit down in the air-conditioning, this is a fantastic option.
Fantasmic — A nighttime show, Fantasmic makes use of fireworks, music, lasers, actors, automated creatures, and fire. It’s an extraordinary thing to behold, but if I’m being honest it was far more intense than we anticipated. The audience sat in an outdoor amphitheater with a moat between us and a mountain. Mickey Mouse appears at the top of the mountain and that’s when the show starts. At one point, a giant dragon appears which frightened my youngest. It was absolutely huge. At another point, they literally lit the moat on fire. It was so hot that we could feel it from where we sat. My oldest did not care for that aspect. The fireworks, while amazing, are right on top of you and pretty tumultuous. My wife and I were quite impressed by the whole thing, but neither of our kids particularly enjoyed it. They honestly found it a little scary.
Star Wars: Path Of the Jedi — This short film creatively summarizes everything that takes place leading up to The Last Jedi. It even includes a few scenes from The Last Jedi that really sets up Kylo Ren and Rey’s evolving dynamic. My nine-year-old and I are very big Star Wars fans, and we loved this refresher. We thought they were very clever how they weaved in and out of the seven films. It doesn’t move chronologically, yet it somehow still covers all of the most important bases. I’m not sure how much the casual person would enjoy this, but Star Wars fans will really get a kick out of it.
Star Wars Launch Bay Characters — By far my favorite place in the park, the Launch Bay houses several props and models from the Star Wars movies. You’ll see replica lightsaber handles, helmets, blasters, models of vehicles, and even some full-sized vehicles! Best of all, you’ll have the chance to meet BB-8, a very fun Chewbacca, and an unsettling Kylo Ren. BB-8 is just a model on a platform, but still cute as can be and full of sounds. Chewbacca is an actor in costume, and he loves to play around with people. Kylo Ren is another actor in costume reciting lines from the movie. He will get right in your face and try to intimidate you, so be ready!
As I said earlier, my family is not big on rides, so this section will be much, much shorter!
Star Tours: The Adventures Continue — Last year I had to ride this one by myself, but this year I managed to get my wife and kids on-board with me! Though this ride doesn’t actually go anywhere, you feel like you’ve traversed the galaxy by the time it’s over. The premise is that you’ve loaded onto a freighter in order to travel to your destination. A life-size automated version of C3PO is piloting your ship when it’s discovered that a rebel spy sits among you. The First Order or Empire (depending) come after your ship, and that’s when it blazes across the galaxy trying to escape. A giant screen looms before you–a view out the cockpit–and with your 3D glasses you’ll feel like you’re zooming through several popular planets from the film. Again, you don’t actually go anywhere, but the “freighter” pitches up, down, and side to side in conjunction with the screen to give the illusion that you are actually zipping through space. Apparently there are many different adventures, so you can keep riding it and experience something new every time!
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror — Needless to say, I rode this one by myself. I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this, but I’m so glad I did it! With this ride, you load onto an elevator car. It has about four rows in it for people to sit down. You then begin moving up, and out, then up, then out. As it’s moving you along, you’ll have to deal with all kinds of trippy optical illusions. Finally … the car shoots straight up into the air, then plummets, then shoots up again, then plummets again. This went on for several moments. I’m not sure how high we went, but at the peak of our climb I could easily see the whole park. Be prepared, though the fall did not feel out of control, it was so hard and fast that my arms were lifting over my head on their own volition. It was a thrilling ride that left me breathless!
Hollywood & Vine — This was a really fun experience because, along with the buffet of everything you could ever want, you immediately got a picture with Donald Duck as you entered (see below). Furthermore, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Daisy Duck were all wandering around as well. All four stopped at our table and interacted with my daughters. Goofy even attempted to floss with them–the dance, not the dental hygiene measure. He was very confused at first. They were a blast, and the food was very good. This is a popular, busy place, so be sure to plan ahead and make your reservations.
50s Prime Time Cafe — Among my favorite restaurants at Walt Disney World! Clearly one of my best meals, this restaurant is straight out of the 50s. The wait staff refers to themselves as “Cousin” this or “Uncle” that, and they continuously remind you to behave, keep your elbows off the table, and chew with your mouth closed. This is not the kind of place where they will berate you, though. My daughters were on red-alert thinking that they were going to get in trouble. It’s all done in good-nature. Most of the food is diner style comfort food, so right up my alley! Our waiter was particularly good, and he made the experience all the more pleasant. Like with Hollywood & Vine, make your reservations ahead of time. I heard them say the wait time was 90 minutes at one point!
Okay! I hope that gives you an idea of Hollywood Studios. Obviously, I loved it all. We didn’t go into every shop, but I feel like we’ve covered most of it during the last two years. As always, thanks for reading. Magic Kingdom is up next!
(Did you enjoy this article? Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)