Because planning a Walt Disney World vacation can be overwhelming for those not familiar with all of the ins and outs of the happiest place on earth, I am starting a blog series over the next few weeks where I’ll be talking about all things Disney. I’ll be giving you my best Disney tips and sharing the things I’ve learned during our 4 recent trips – all in the past 18 months. Yes, you read that right – I may or may not have a slight Disney obsession. So, if you have a topic or a question you want me to answer, please feel free to comment here or reach out to me on social media. I’d love to chat with you!
I’m kicking off the series with the best rides & attractions for the toddler/preschool age group at all 4 of Walt Disney World’s theme parks. This week we are starting things off with Hollywood Studios. Hollywood Studios is less about the rides and more about the live shows, so do keep that in mind when planning your Disney World itinerary.
Throughout all of our past Disney World trips (there have been a lot) we haven’t spent very much time at Hollywood Studios. During our trip last spring I think we spent a grand total of about 3 hours there at night, and sadly missed a lot of the shows and attractions we wanted to see. Side note: Hollywood Studios closes on the earlier side (usually between 8:00 – 9:00 PM, depending upon the day/time of year when you visit), and many of the shows run their last performance between 6:00 – 6:30 PM. If you are visiting this park with little ones, I recommend visiting during the first part of the day.
During our most recent trip to Disney World (early March), we made it a priority to spend more time at Hollywood Studios, and I’m so glad we did! There is SO much to do here for toddlers & preschoolers, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
We arrived at the park shortly before it opened, which I always recommend doing. Since we have little ones (ages 4 and 2) who can’t yet ride some of the bigger rides at Hollywood Studios (i.e. Tower of Terror, Rock n’ Roller Coaster), we decided to take advantage of the short wait times at a few of the character meet & greets. We met Olaf first, and only waited about 5 minutes to do so (score!). Then we headed over to meet Mickey and Minnie, and had a wait time of less than 10 minutes there.
In addition to short wait times, meeting characters during the first part of the day increases the likelihood that your child will be in a good mood when they meet their favorite character. If you’ve been to Disney World before, I’m sure you’ve witnessed the “over-tired, I’ve-had-way-too-much-Disney-magic-for-one-day” meltdown that inevitably happens at one point during the trip. If this is your 1st visit, I’m giving you fair warning that it will happen. Sorry to be a buzz kill, but we all go through it. My best advice is to just accept it, and know that it will pass after a nap break at the hotel or afternoon dip in the pool.
After our character meet & greets, the first show on our agenda was the Disney Jr. Live on Stage show, and trust me when I say this, your toddler will not be disappointed with this show! This live puppet show is a huge hit with the 5 & under crowd. One heads up about the show – you will be sitting on the floor for this one. This allows the kids to see everything with no one blocking their view and gives them the freedom to stand up and dance throughout the show. And I promise you’re going to want to see them dance – it is too, too cute!
Next, it was time for my favorite live show at Hollywood Studios, the Frozen Sing-Along Celebration! If you have ever wanted to sing “Let it Go” at the top of your lungs without worrying about anyone judging you, this show is for you! I won’t spoil the show for you, but I will say that the actors are hilarious and the show is very well done. Definitely a must-see show if you are a Frozen fan!
After our shows, we headed over to Hollywood & Vine for our character lunch reservation. Here you can enjoy a breakfast or lunch buffet with Disney Jr. characters – Doc McStuffins, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Sofia the First, and Handy Manny. My 4 year old was a huge fan of this character meal! He loved getting to meet all of the characters from his favorite Disney Jr. shows, especially Jake! My husband and I enjoyed the food choices on the buffet, and the kids buffet here was one of Noah’s favorites (he gave it extra bonus points for the mini corn dogs)!
We finished the afternoon with one of my absolute favorite rides, Toy Story Mania! This is a must-do ride, and if you can snag a FastPass + for this one, definitely do so! Wait times can get crazy long for this ride, so if you aren’t able to get a FastPass+ then I recommend riding it first thing when the park opens, as the wait time then will be the lowest of the day.
If you decide to visit the park at night, you will definitely want to stay for the Fantasmic Show! Fantasmic is an outdoor show that takes place in an outdoor theater, so you will want to arrive early to get a seat.
And of course I can’t write a post about Hollywood Studios without mentioning Star Wars. As you have probably heard, Hollywood Studios is currently in the middle of a huge expansion project making way for the highly anticipated, Star Wars Land. While Star Wars Land isn’t set to open until 2019, Hollywood Studios still has plenty to offer to the Star Wars fan, including the popular Jedi Training (participants must be between 4-12 years of age), Star Wars Launch Bay, and Star Tours (children must be 40″ or taller to ride). To see everything Star Wars that Hollywood Studios has to offer, click here.
Right now you might be asking yourself – how long should I plan to visit Hollywood Studios? Well, if you are visiting Walt Disney World for more than a few days, I’d recommend 1 full day at Hollywood Studios; however, if you have a shorter visit, you can still accomplish quite a bit in a 1/2 day. Epcot is close by, so if you’re only looking at a 1/2 day at Hollywood Studios, I recommend spending the other 1/2 at Epcot in order to get the most out of your trip.
In summary, my favorite rides & attractions for toddlers/preschoolers at Hollywood Studios:
Disney Jr. – Live on Stage (live show)
Frozen Sing-Along Celebration (live show)
Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage (live show)
Meet Olaf at the Celebrity Spotlight (character experience)
Mickey and Minnie Starring in Red Carpet Dreams (character experience)
Meet Disney Jr. Characters – Doc McStuffins, Jake (Never Land Pirate), and Sofia the First (character experience)
Toy Story Mania! (ride)
Next week I’ll be sharing my fave rides & attractions at Epcot. In the meantime, if you’re looking for more Disney planning tips you can check out my previous Disney blog series, How to Do Disney World with a 3 Year Old!