Our 1-Day Hollywood Studios itinerary offers an efficient touring plan & strategy for minimizing time waiting in lines, maximizing rides, and avoiding crowds at Walt Disney World. This covers attractions, restaurants, shows, and includes Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. (Updated October 28, 2021.)
This Disney’s Hollywood Studios (DHS) touring plan has been overhauled has been overhauled following the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration, start of Early Entry, introduction of a standby line for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, and rollout of Genie+ and Lightning Lanes–the the paid replacement for free FastPass.
Suffice to say, a lot has changed in the last several months from a strategy perspective. Nowhere at Walt Disney World is this more apparent than Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Normal touring plans have been upended not only by all of the above, but also a lack of stage shows, nighttime spectaculars, and other entertainment. We visit DHS roughly once per week, and have monitored wait times, tested various approaches, and fine-tuned our strategy as crowds have progressively increased. Accordingly, this is our revised 1-day Disney’s Hollywood Studios itinerary for Late 2021…
This itinerary assumes you will not be buying those line-skipping services nor will you be taking advantage of Early Entry. If you do plan on spending the extra, consult our 1-Day Disney’s Hollywood Studios Itinerary with Genie+ and Lightning Lanes.
If you’re staying on-site and can arrive early, check out our report on Early Entry at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Either of those things will give you a big advantage, but neither are strictly necessary for a productive day in DHS. You’ll just spend more time waiting in standby lines without Early Entry or Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, and you’ll need/want to stay later in the day.
This post continues our series of Walt Disney World Park Itineraries & Touring Plans designed to answer the frequently asked question, “what would you do in an ideal day at the park?” With Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway plus all of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge now open, including both Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, there’s more to do here, and we once again recommend spending a full day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
However, it also can be a very challenging and frustrating day because the attraction lineup is very top heavy right now, consisting almost entirely of rides, many of which are incredibly popular. Unlike virtually every other park at Walt Disney World, DHS is lacking in the “supporting players” department. Which is to say there are very few low hassle attractions and shows that are easy to do with minimal wait to round out your day or kill time.
Unlike all of our other WDW touring plans, our strategy for Disney’s Hollywood Studios starts prior to the day of your visit…
DHS Rope Drop – For an ideal experience at DHS, we recommend arriving to the park about 30 before official opening time, and picking up this itinerary from there.
If you’re staying on-site and are eligible for Early Entry, we’d strongly recommend arriving 45 minutes before the official start time of that.
ROCK AND ROLL! – Unfortunately, if you’re staying off-site and are arriving for official park opening, you’re going to be behind the crowd, making both Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance bad options for starting the day.
Instead, head all the way to the other end of the park for the Sunset Boulevard attractions. During the first hour, wait times for Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror should be relatively low.
If you arrive early enough here (or it’s a slow day), you might also be able to do Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster a couple of times via standby with short waits. Follow that by doing the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror while you’re in the neighborhood. Our actual waits for these rides early in the day have been under 20 minutes regardless of posted wait times.
Go See A Star War: Episode I – Once you’re finished with Sunset Boulevard, bounce to the other side of the park and do Star Tours: the Adventures Continue and see Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Don’t be afraid to slow down and enjoy some of the atmosphere on Batuu–it’s the least crowded Galaxy’s Edge will be until the evening hours.
It may seem like you’re “wasting” valuable time in the morning by perusing Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge especially after only doing a few rides, but that’s not true. These shops and marketplace stalls will all have lines later in the day.
Early Lunch – During the middle of the day, you’re going to have some time to kill while waiting for wait times to drop. Fortunately, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is home to two of the Best Themed Restaurants at Walt Disney World.
Definitely book Advance Dining Reservations for right around noon at 50’s Prime Time Cafe or Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. Disregard the negative reviews, as the experience at both restaurants is the star of the show. Personally, I think both serve pretty good food, too. (Note that both are incredibly hard Advance Dining Reservations to score right now; Hollywood Brown Derby is also a great pick if you can’t book either of the other two.)
Shows & Stuff – Disney’s Hollywood Studios has a bunch of shows that are worth seeing. These include the Frozen Sing-along, Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (returning in December 2021), and MuppetVision 3D.
No strategy is required for seeing these, just do them at your leisure around their scheduled showtimes. They seldom have actual waits or lines, and are a good way to fill the middle of the day while the rides have long standby queues. In particular, we highly recommend MuppetVision 3D–to skip it would be distinctly unpatriotic. Consider spending some time in the pre-show area and overflow queue at MuppetVision, as there are some hilarious Easter Eggs all around.
Midday Break – In every touring scenario we’ve run for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it doesn’t take a full day to finish the park. That’s true even on busier days. However, rather than leaving early, we recommend a midday break–whether that means going back to your hotel for a swim or staying in the park and perusing the gift shops is up to you.
Another option is to caffeinate by heading to Trolley Car Cafe (the Starbucks location at Disney’s Hollywood Studios) for coffee. Oh, and while you’re there, grab one of the two Best Snacks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Dinner – If you’ve somehow already worked up an appetite and still have time to kill, consider doing another meal. Ideally, whichever of the two table service restaurants you didn’t do above. If you’re more in a drinking and snacking mood, give BaseLine Tap House a try (food spreads pictured above).
Another option is Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. That’s currently one of the best counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World.
Late Train to Runnamuck Park – While it might be tempting to run(away) to the newest headliner attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios to start your day, the better option is doing Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway about 3 hours before park closing.
There are three benefits to this approach. First, that’s when its line is shortest, so you’re waiting the least amount of time. Second, the queue is mostly outdoors, and the sun can be brutal earlier in the day. Finally, this attraction is at the front of the park, and has the longest lines while guests are arriving or leaving. The sweet spot for short lines is a few hours before park closing.
Go See A Star War: Episode II – With about 2.5 hours left in the day, we recommend blasting off to Batuu once again. It’s better to spend the bulk of your time in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge later in the day rather than in the morning for a couple of reasons. First, crowds are actually worst in the morning and get progressively better as the day wears on.
Second, because Star Wars Land is simply better as the day goes on (ideally after sunset, but that option is off the table right now). The lighting adds a lot to the moody off-planet atmosphere, and makes the experience even more immersive.
While you’re in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, be sure to do Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run followed by Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance via the standby line. Do the attractions in that order, and expect Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance to take about an hour, even if the posted wait time for the standby line is 90 minutes or longer. (Barring a breakdown, it’ll take far less time than the posted wait time suggests.)
Toy Story Land Mania – After finishing up Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, you should have about an hour–maybe less–left in the day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Once you’re in Toy Story Land, start with Toy Story Mania, which should have a 30 minute or less actual wait. (Skip Alien Swirling Saucers.) Then bounce to Slinky Dog Dash with however much time is left in the evening, for its shortest line of the day. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to do it more than once–but don’t hold your breath on that!
After that, take the time for a slow stroll out of the park upon exiting, taking your time to look at and photograph all the beautiful neon signs. The good news here is that even though it’ll be dark out, the neon is so bright that it’s easy to photograph at night.
All in all, it should conclude a pretty satisfying day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This park is so much better than it was just a few years ago–it’s now unquestionably a full day park and one that is free of visible construction. The added good news is that Disney’s Hollywood Studios should further improve once more of the stage shows start to return. That has already happened with the Frozen Sing-Along, so hopefully the others will follow suit soon!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? If you’re interested in learning more about hotels, our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page is a good place to start. For where to eat, try out our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews page. If you want to save money on tickets or determine which type you should get, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at unconventional things you should take on your trip. Once you arrive at the parks, our Walt Disney World “Ride Guides” are great for determining what to do and when to do it. For overviews of all of these topics and so much more, the best place to start is our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!
What would you include in your ideal day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Would you recommend visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios to a first-timer? If you haven’t visited Walt Disney World, what do you plan on doing? Do you agree or disagree with our strategy or plan of attack? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!