Another day, another closure. The Magic of Disney Animation has seen its last pen stroke, adding it to the ever-lengthening list of attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that have been shuttered without any replacements announced. Indeed, in the time it’s taken you to read this opening paragraph, Disney has probably closed 3 more attractions. With this being the state of affairs, you may be thinking that there’s no good reason to bother with Hollywood Studios in its current form and that you should cross it off your list until some time in the 2020’s — and that seems to be a popular refrain within the Disney fan community.
This perception notwithstanding, however, the reality is that most of the closures were of attractions that were already waning in popularity, while the things that have served as the backbone of the park over recent years are still alive and well. While it would be tough to argue that Hollywood Studios is a “must-do” or that you should build a vacation around it at this point in its life cycle, there remain plenty of good reasons to pay it a visit:
Top Tier Attractions
While Hollywood Studios may not have many attractions at the moment, the attractions they do have are some of the most sought after experiences on Disney property. First and foremost, it is the home to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which was recently ranked by a panel of experts as the single best attraction at Walt Disney World. Family-friendly line-filler Toy Story Midway Mania also calls it home, as does the only roller coaster in Walt Disney World that contains any inversions: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. Finally, the park hosts Fantasmic!, a not-to-be-missed nighttime spectacular that continues to fill the amphitheater every time it runs. Simply put, skipping Hollywood Studios means skipping some of the best attractions Walt Disney World has to offer.
What Hollywood Studios lacks in volume of attractions, it makes up for in gravitas of its properties. The Disney Junior characters have a small — pun very much intended –but rabid following; and unlike Mickey and the ubiquitous Princesses that can be found in multiple locations, if your little one wants to see them, Hollywood Studios is your only option to make that happen. Whether it’s character dining at Hollywood & Vine, enjoying/enduring Disney Junior – Live on Stage!, or just meeting Doc McStuffins, Sophia the First, and Handy Manny at the Animation Courtyard, the Studios is the only place to give your child this experience.
Oh yeah, and there’s also this little thing called Star Wars that only maintains a presence at the Studios. Setting aside Star Wars Weekends when the Force is exceptionally strong with this park, guests can experience Star Tours – The Adventure Continues, watch their little Padawans in the Jedi Training Academy, and take advantage of several great photo opportunities every day at Hollywood Studios. Perhaps more importantly, it’s the only park at Walt Disney World with any meaningful Star Wars presence at all, so if you’re a fan and you’re looking to get your fix, it’s the Studios or nowhere.
While not an “exclusive” on account of Anna and Elsa still holding court at Princess Fairytale Hall, Hollywood Studios is the primary steward of the Frozen brand until the Maelstrom makeover and the Arendelle-ification of Norway in Epcot that is scheduled to launch in 2016. As of this writing, Frozen Summer Fun is in full swing, and that means that in addition to Frozen-themed parades and dance parties, the Frozen Fireworks Spectacular is happening most nights — that makes two, count ‘em, two nighttime spectaculars at Hollywood Studios, and the Frozen fireworks are truly exceptional. Even if you’re not able to make it in time for Frozen Summer Fun, you can still experience For the First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration. Two things are undeniably true about this show:
There’s nothing groundbreaking about it. The show is basically clips from the movie overlaid with live actors to retell the Frozen story. In my experience, the performers are talented and entertaining, but objectively speaking, there’s just not too much to the show.
- Your Frozen-crazy kids will love it anyway. Every time I looked over at my daughter during the show, she was either singing at the top of her lungs or smiling ear to ear. It may not be a technological marvel, but it’s pretty effective for its intended audience.
Moreover, the Frozen Sing-a-Long can usually be experienced without expending a FastPass+ reservation, as most shows can be experienced stand-by without an issue.
Unique Dining Opportunities
Hollywood Studios contains several table service dining experiences that are wholly unlike anything that you can find elsewhere at Walt Disney World. The Hollywood Brown Derby delivers consistently excellent food and is routinely ranked as one of the best restaurants by our readers — plus, it provides an opportunity to try the original version of the now-classic Cobb Salad. For those who put more emphasis upon atmosphere than haute cuisine, both 50’s Prime Time Cafe and the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant provide the opportunity to dine in fun, highly themed environments that can’t be found elsewhere.
The Citizens of Hollywood, a roving band of improv performers that pop up along Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards at the Studios, do a fantastic job of setting an “old Hollywood” mood and giving the park a lively, fun atmosphere. If ever you’re walking into the park and hear a large group of guests laughing, there is a very good chance the Citizens of Hollywood are in the midst of a show. The performers are highly skilled, the shows are always entertaining, and because the show is driven by the interactions they have with the crowd, you’ll see a different show pretty much every time. Other parks have their own version of streetmosphere as well, but the Citizens of Hollywood are the gold standard for this sort of spontaneous entertainment.
If You’ve Never Seen It, It’s New To You
One of the common complaints about Hollywood Studios is that it is largely show driven and once you’ve seen those shows — many of which are quite lengthy — there’s not a lot of incentive to expend the time and effort to see them again. If you’ve never been to Hollywood Studios before, however, this is obviously not an impediment, and indeed, there are several classic, high quality shows such as Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage and Muppet*Vision 3D that are most definitely worth experiencing. In fact, if you’re visiting the Studios for the first time, you could very easily piece together an entire days worth of activity with the numerous shows to experience.
So, Are You Ready To Book a Weeklong Trip Dedicated to Hollywood Studios Yet?
It is no secret at this point that Hollywood Studios is poised for a significant overhaul, and that the park is going to be in a state of flux for some time. With this being the case, it would be tough to make a full-throated argument that you should plan your trip around Hollywood Studios, or that it will be on par with the other parks any time soon. It clearly needs some love.
To borrow from Mark Twain, however, the reports of the Studios’ death have been greatly exaggerated, and there are still plenty of good reasons to pay it a visit on your next trip. The thrill rides, shows and characters that have been the primary draws to Hollywood Studios are still there, and it is also home to several unique experiences that can’t be found elsewhere at Walt Disney World. The point is, if you otherwise have time in your vacation, don’t be dissuaded by the doomsayers that suggest that it isn’t worth your time!
I’m very curious to hear your take on the state of Hollywood Studios. Do you still plan to visit on your next trip, and where does it fall on your list of priorities? I look forward to your feedback in the comments!