Alright, we have OFFICIALLY been to all four Disney World parks BUT…one of these things is not like the others. While other Disney World parks seem to have smooth sailing with their reopenings, Hollywood Studios is struggling with crowds, pinch points, wait times, and ride breakdowns.
Disney Park Pass reservations are slim when it comes to getting into Disney’s Hollywood Studios — which means it, and its headliner attractions like Rise of the Resistance, the brand new Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and Slinky Dog Dash, have been a serious draw for guests since the park reopened on Wednesday. It’s absolutely Disney World’s hottest ticket right now, and that means — despite Disney lowering capacity in the parks — it’s BUSY.
We compared Disney World’s glitziest park’s opening day with all three of the other parks and crowds were definitely heavier. We even went back the next day to see if crowds and pinch points lightened up. Spoiler alert: They didn’t.
With a smaller footprint, fewer open rides, and Disney World’s most popular attraction by far, Hollywood Studios has struggled to reach the same equilibrium the other parks achieved relatively quickly.
We’ve covered Disney’s Hollywood Studios during Cast Member previews, on reopening day, and on Thursday. Here are our thoughts on crowding in the park — and what you can do to have a good day AND stay safe and socially distanced.
Hollywood Studios is by FAR Disney World’s most crowded park.
With social distancing a priority, we’re definitely looking to avoid crowds in a reopened Disney World. That goal is a whole lot easier said than done in Hollywood Studios. Crowds in this park can get a little overwhelming at times, especially in the morning. There are a few reasons for this and understanding why can help you to avoid the relative crazy!
‘it’s a small park’
Hollywood Studios is a pretty small park at 135 acres (the only smaller park is Magic Kingdom at 107 acres). And where Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and even Magic Kingdom give guests a chance to spread out; you’ll FEEL the crowds in Hollywood Studios, even if they are limited.
And the attractions are limited as well. Hollywood Studios has 11 “wait time” attractions right now; Magic Kingdom, for comparison, has 21. Pre-closure, this park relied on a variety of large, sit-down shows it presented throughout the day to help suck up guests and break up crowds. All of those are closed for now. Many experiences around the park are also closed down or altered (like Savi’s Workshop Lightsaber experience transitioning to just selling premade Legacy sabers). On top of that, the park has several not-so-popular attractions along with three mega-hits. That’s a recipe for crowded walkways, specific pinch points, and lengthy waits.
The Design Is Choppy
This park also has a less effective crowd flow than the others. All of the other parks have some sort of circular or wheel-and-spoke layout. Hollywood Studios doesn’t have such an intuitive design. There are a good number of bottlenecks, pinch points, and (worst of all) dead ends! These spaces make it difficult to navigate, especially when everyone is trying to keep their distance.
Disney World’s MOST Popular Rides Are Here
Still, the size and wonky layout aren’t the only things causing crowd pile-ups. Many of Disney World’s MOST popular attractions are in this park! Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway opened just weeks before the parks closed, Slinky Dog Dash has been one of the most popular rides in Disney World for a few years now, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Rise of the Resistance have been UBER packed since they debuted last year.
That means that instead of spreading out across an entire park like guests can do with Magic Kingdom’s 21 attractions, the majority of park guests are going to three specific points in the park. We’ve seen significant crowds in Galaxy’s Edge, at Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and in Toy Story Land. The other side of this is that folks FLOCKING to the big lands leaves some areas, like Sunset Boulevard, pretty vacant first thing in the morning.
All this is to say if you’re not ok with the occasional lapse in social distancing, Hollywood Studios might not be the park for you.
We’ve even seen this crowding when the park isn’t even at capacity! At the end of the day Thursday, there were still Disney Park Passes available for Resort guests, meaning even MORE people could be in the park if they chose to do so. A capacity day could get a little overwhelming here.
It’s not any easier to ride Rise of the Resistance.
Plus, much to our chagrin, it’s not any easier to ride Rise of the Resistance. Prior to the parks closing, riding the crazy popular ride was SUPER tricky. It required an extremely early morning, some quick tapping on your phone, AND reliable cell service (not to mention a massive dose of luck). We thought things might be a little easier when we heard that Disney would be limiting capacities AND not using Virtual Queues.
Unfortunately, we were wrong. First of all, Disney swung a u-turn and announced a NEW Virtual Queue process for Rise of the Resistance just days before reopening. The new queue has three separate time windows where you can attempt to snag a boarding group. In theory, this sounded great! No more early mornings and if you don’t get lucky first thing, try again at the next boarding group window.
In practice, things don’t feel all that different. Even with two separate windows (this is a recent change) — at 10AM and 2PM — boarding groups are gone in under a minute when they open up. We’ve even run into a glitch that’s gotten in the way of our chances at a group!
Plus, with the return window when your group is called going from two hours to one hour, you’ll be stuck if you’ve jumped in a long line at the wrong time elsewhere. Make sure you keep an eye on the newly-introduced estimated wait time to avoid missing your chance to ride!
Rise of the Resistance has also been struggling with breakdowns, giving similar vibes to its opening weeks. This is hopefully not a systemic issue and ideally won’t affect your experience, but it’s something to note.
The fact of the matter is that even with limited capacity in the park, there may not be as many slots to ride Rise of the Resistance as there are people in the park. And since this is the ONE attraction that everyone — pretty universally — wants to ride, a number of guests are left disappointed.
Click here to learn more about what happens when you MISS your Rise of the Resistance return window!
Wait times are long.
Rise of the Resistance aside, wait times for big-ticket attractions in Hollywood Studios are significantly higher compared to the other parks. In Animal Kingdom, waits have been sitting between 5 and 15 minutes; and most popular rides at Magic Kingdom are comfortably hovering around 5-10 minutes. Hollywood Studios has seen waits spike over two hours. It definitely feels the MOST like a pre-closure park. And with no FastPass+ operating right now, that rush to get to attractions is on in the morning.
Remember how we said that there are three mega-hits in Hollywood Studios? That’s reflected in the wait times. Yesterday morning (the park’s second day open to the public) the Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway queue FILLED UP with a wait over two hours RIGHT when the park opened. They cut off the line and weren’t permitting guests to queue up when we first checked it out! Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Slinky Dog Dash, and Tower of Terror have all seen high wait times too throughout the days.
In the other parks, we haven’t had too much trouble with the fact that FastPass+ is suspended, but you definitely feel that absence in Hollywood Studios. Much of your time really will be spent waiting in line if you’re looking to ride those popular attractions.
But, there are SOME things you can do to work around these problems!
All is not lost if you DO want to head to Hollywood Studios! We’ve already figured out a few ways you can solve some of these pain points.
Take A Different Route
If you’re nervous about crowds, keep a map handy and be prepared to be flexible! It’s always a good idea to have a back-up plan or route if you see that some areas are packed with people. It is hard to predict! Wednesday, Galaxy’s Edge was SLAMMED at park open, but Thursday it was relatively empty while Toy Story Land took the brunt of things in the early hours. Be ready to pivot if you get where you’re going and things look wild. Like we mentioned, Sunset Boulevard might be the place to be in the mornings (even though this street does lead to a dead end!).
Wait Times May Wane At the End of the Day
In general, we’ve noticed that wait times decline throughout the day. This is due to that no park-hopping rule right now. Guests flood those popular ride lines first thing in the morning, but since the park isn’t getting a fresh influx of guests throughout the day, everyone’s pretty much ridden what they want to (except for, possibly, Rise of the Resistance) by the end of the day. So wait times go down.
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway definitely has long lines consistently, but the difference between a two-hour wait at park open and a 50-minute wait at park close can be pretty significant. If you see that an attraction has a crazy wait, give it some time and come back later.
As for Rise of the Resistance, don’t set the expectation that you WILL get on the ride. Unfortunately, you might not. Try your best by being ready to pounce on that boarding group the second each time window opens. If you run into any glitches, take screenshots of the situation — showing that you were trying to get that group the minute it came available and the app kicked you out, or wouldn’t recognize you were in the park, etc — and reach out to a Guest Relations Cast Member. They might be able to help you.
And if crowds make you anxious right now, consider holding off on heading to Hollywood Studios. We’ve had pretty “magical” days in the other three parks. In Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Magic Kingdom, many times you don’t see anyone around you and wait times are low. But if crowds are a concern or if low wait times are a big factor in coming to Disney World right now, you’ll have to re-work your expectations for Hollywood Studios at the moment.
Things WILL Change; So Stay Tuned
But remember, these are just our observations so far, and during the first days the park has been open! Wait times and crowds might lighten up once the novelty of being back in the parks wears off and the initial rush of people slows. If you’re flexible with when you can visit, it may make sense to wait a few weeks until things stabilize — which we anticipate they will.
We’ll be sure to share updates and more tips as we learn them, so keep an eye on DFB for the latest.
Will you be going to a reopened Hollywood Studios, or skipping out? Tell us in the comments!