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Jolene goes to Disney's Hollywood Studios

Perhaps I've been clinging onto the last bit of pixie dust in my Disney trip, but I am unreasonably late in this write-up on the last park of my Disney World adventure.

During my research period, I read countless posts deeming Disney's Hollywood Studios as a "half-day park," with very little to do compared to the other Disney Parks. However, like the rest of my trip, I was pleasantly surprised at my positive experience, and hold a different opinion from most of what I read. I do have to admit, I knew ahead of time that I would not be getting on two of the most iconic and popular rides in the park: Rockin' Rollercoaster and Tower of Terror. I'm not a fan of intense rides, rides with big drops, etc. Please take that into consideration as you read my experience.

First thing first: We had to address the ever-looming, grossly popular, newly opened Toy Story Land, which opened in Summer of 2018, right before our visit. I'd read the horror stories documenting insane wait times and overcrowding, so I anticipated a pretty terrible experience, similar to the madness I expected related to Flight of Passage. The good news? We never waited more than 30 minutes for anything.

Friday morning, we arrived for our extra magic hour, the extra hour offered to hotel guests, and we headed straight for Slinky Dog Dash, notorious for its long wait times. Upon entering the park, I was already pretty infatuated with its charming decor and Hollywood-theme. The Disney magic was absolutely present in that park, and I was already loving it. I was SO looking forward to exploring it all after conquering Toy Story Land.

Toy Story Land is strategically placed and nowhere near the front of the park. We followed the masses (Flight of Passage deja vu, much?) and arrived in Andy's backyard. While Toy Story Land is no Pandora, it isn't disappointing either. I'm not sure if it's the overwhelming nostalgia connected to the well-loved Toy Story franchise, or the fact that Disney desperately needed a stronger Pixar presence, but I thoroughly enjoyed Toy Story Land as a feast for the eyes.

Toy Story Land is full of charming details, ushering guests straight into what looks to truly be Andy's backyard. Giant building blocks, childlike scribbles and K'NEX successfully bring guests right back into their childhood.

We were able to get a FastPass+ for Toy Story Mania, so we headed there first. Equipped with 3D glasses, guests are whisked away into a whirlwind carnival-themed, 4D game hosted by their favorite Toy Story characters. From breaking plates to popping balloons, Toy Story Mania is a fun challenge for all ages.

Next, we headed toward the notoriously popular Slinky Dog Dash, only to find it wasn't running! Not wanting to waste time, we decided to get on the Alien Swirling Saucers, a ride pretty much identical to Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, one of my favorite rides in Disney's California Adventure. The theming was adorable, but nothing terribly exciting to me, as it wasn't a new experience to me.

Once we got off that ride, Slinky Dog Dash coincidentally just opened, so we rushed into the line. Twenty minutes later and we were cruising over Toy Story Land! The coaster is by no means an intense one, but it's not a kiddie ride either. It is a decent length and gives gorgeous views of the park and surrounding areas. I absolutely loved it!

After our Pixar adventure, we took it easy - we stopped at Starbucks for a mid-morning coffee break. We found a shady area to sit and enjoy the beautiful weather and our coffee. I was admiring the buildings when all of a sudden an army of storm troopers marched down the street! It was quite a sight, and I fell in love with the magic of Hollywood Studios all over again.

We made our way through the attractions and shows - Star Tours, Muppets 3D, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and more. I learned why most people overlook this park. The rides are scarce and there are a lot of shows. The park is small and I could see where most guests would find it boring. However, it was absolutely perfect for us - it was the end of a long, exciting week, and Hollywood Studios had just enough for us to enjoy with the energy we had left. Being able to sit back, relax and enjoy so many shows was actually very refreshing. Voyage of the Little Mermaid was extremely charming, the Indiana Jones Stunt Show was exciting and informative, and

I particularly enjoyed the Beauty and the Beast musical. I'm a sucker for anything BATB (Belle was my favorite princess growing up), but I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. The singing and dancing was authentic, and Disney has a way of making something simple seem extravagant. The musical had all of our favorite movie moments, as well as some additional parts that added more magic to the story.

I struggled through the Frozen sing-a-long, which was absolutely nothing like what I had expected. The two castmembers that host it had me belly laughing until it hurt! Even though I'm not a fan of Frozen, they still made the experience really fun. If you are a fan of Frozen and/or have younger guests with you, this is the perfect activity.

Another honorable mention goes to Walt Disney Presents, part gallery, part short film. The gallery portion was full of fun facts about Walt Disney's personal history, a glimpse into his life, plenty of his personal items, and the history about Disney World. One of my favorite items was the famous Mr. Lincoln animatronic - they removed his clothing and left all of his hardware exposed, which is something we don't normally see. It was amazing to be able to admire these kinds of details. The last part of this attraction shows a short film about Disney's creation of Disney World. Needless to say, Jennifer and I were both bawling by the end of it.

We had some time to wander around, since we had used our FastPasses and were doing very well on our attraction itinerary. It was the perfect opportunity to soak up even more of the landscape. We even watched the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular a second time, since the first time they stopped it early due to a thunderstorm. Compared to the hustle and bustle of the entire week, it was refreshing to take a leisurely stroll around the park and not have to stress about anything until our dinner reservation.

The sun was just beginning to set, and we sensed that our last Disney day was starting to wind down. A soft twilight fell over the park, and brought out a different kind of Hollywood magic.

We planned to end the day with my favorite Disney show - Fantasmic! Fantasmic is a show for the senses, complete with Disney characters, beautifully engineered lighting, water projections, and a heartwarming story. To avoid having to camp out for good seats, we chose a dining package. We did a dining/show packaging in every park, and they saved us both time and money. In this case, we ate at the Brown Derby, a replication of the famous Brown Derby that used to be on Hollywood and Vine. The Brown Derby is by no means a budget meal, but the menu items meet the standards set by the pricing.

After our meal, we received our show tickets and headed over to the amphitheater. Unlike Disneyland, Hollywood Studios has its own lagoon/stage/amphitheater specifically for Fantasmic. Seating is still first come first serve, but I can't imagine there is a terrible seat anywhere. We were able to get very good seats by doing the dining package, and we didn't rush whatsoever.

Drinks and food were available nearby, and suddenly it felt like I was no longer at a Disney park, but like I was at an actual ticketed event. When the lights dimmed and the music began, I was reminded once again of where I was.

Fantasmic music always gives me goosebumps and I felt the overwhelming nostalgia start to creep in. My castmember friend warned me that the Orlando version of the show "isn't as good" as Anaheim, and I'm not sure I can wholeheartedly agree. There are some different scenes, some weaker than others, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the show. It was the perfect ending to a very Disney-filled week.

Overall, I can see why there are so many negative reviews of Hollywood Studios, but my experience was nothing but positive. The food and drinks were great, the shows were entertaining, and the general vibe was pretty relaxed, maybe with the exception of Toy Story Land. Between its absolutely charming decor and clever shows, I found myself drinking in that Disney allure, even in this "half-day park." I recommend this park toward the end/at the end of your Disney vacation. I hope to go back one day once Galaxy's Edge is open!

Until next time,

Happy wandering!

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