Disney World Hollywood Studios for Toddlers
Once a working movie studio, this park has always relied heavily on shows over rides, which may grow a bit tiresome for toddlers. Then again, several of the shows are aimed directly at children, though a full day of these may grow tedious for adults. Clearly, the trick is finding the right balance for your family. Most find they can see everything they desired on the first day, without needing to return.
Tip – Hollywood Studios is a great park to visit during the middle part of your Disney vacation. Since this park is much smaller than the other three it will only take you a little more than half a day to see everything. We suggest allowing your toddler to sleep in and show up to the park around mid-day. Most of the parades are scheduled in the afternoon.
An unnumbered list of “don’t miss” attractions might seem to make the most sense, since people differ so radically from each other that my experiences may not match your particular child’s preferences. But that would also neuter the utility of any list at all. Thus, here is my (admittedly highly subjective) list of rides for toddlers at Disney-HOLLYWOOD Studios, presented in order of importance.
- The Great Movie Ride – a traveling theater passes musical performances by animatronics, with some live-action mixed. A gunfight with percussive caps may be a touch loud for the unaware.
- MuppetVision 3D – technically a show, this attraction features only a 3D movie and robotic performers. Many kids these days don’t know the Muppets, but that probably won’t decrease their enjoyment of this solid offering.
- Backlot Tour – a studio tram tour with few studio sights to see, but a fun “catastrophe canyon” with flood and fire effects that will wow your kids.
- Disney Animation – a short film precedes an interactive area that toddlers will like, with the ability to “paint” by touch screen or record a sing-along with Disney characters.
- One Man’s Dream – a walkthrough exhibit on the life and work of Walt Disney, with some scale models and a short film at the end. Toddler will find it an interesting diversion for a few minutes, but for them it’s not as engrossing as it is for adults.
Older preschoolers may desire to take on the thrill rides: Star Tours (40 inches), Tower of Terror (40 inches), and Rock ‘n Roller Coaster (48 inches). If so, move these rides to the top of the list. Star Tours is a flight simulator based on the Star Wars universe, and while its technology is aging, it’s still a thrill, especially for very young kids. Tower of Terror is almost certainly too intense for young kids. In fact, the height requirement would make more sense at 42 or even 44 inches. This free-fall drop while sitting in an “elevator” is preceded by spooky effects and the gloomy overtones of a Twilight Zone theme. Rock ‘n Roller Coaster is a traditional coaster that performs loops and corkscrews in a darkened building, accompanied by rock music played inside the car.
The thrill rides are the only attractions to generate any real lines (with the exception of Star Tours, which never has much of a wait). Rock ‘n Roller Coaster tends to have slightly longer wait times than Tower of Terror, so if you’re visiting early and before the crowds arrive, ride Rock ‘n Roller Coaster first and then Tower of Terror. It may also make sense to FASTPASS these two attractions, one after the other. On very busy days, however, the Return Time for the first attraction is so many hours later in the day that you won’t be able to FASTPASS the second one, and will have to stand in the standby line.
At Disney-HOLLYWOOD Studios, the live shows are so prolific, they outnumber the rides. Here is my list of shows at this park, ranked in order of importance for toddlers:
- Playhouse Disney – costumed characters on stage are accompanied by puppets to bring life to the creations normally seen on the television shows of Playhouse Disney. For young toddlers, this is nirvana.
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid – a puppet stage show with a really neat visual twist: the stage is dark but the puppets are lit by black light. Combined with rousing musical numbers and frenetic choreography, this action leads to a fun time that all toddlers will enjoy.
- Fantasmic! – the signature nighttime fireworks display is heavy on characters and craft that float by the moat around a central island. It takes place after dark, though, by which time many toddlers could be overtired. For prime seating, arrive at least a half hour before the show—which means more time entertaining the bored children sitting on the hard benches!
- Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular – a stuntman show themed to the Indiana Jones movies, this show keeps the action coming so consistently that kids will find it irresistible.
- Lights, Motors, Action! – a car stunt show themed to mimic a movie shoot, this offering includes some tricky driving and interesting effects that will have toddlers engaged. Beware, though, the sometimes tedious set-up times between scenes, during which kids may become restless.
- Beauty and the Beast – a traditional stage show and scaled-down version of what has played on Broadway, this classic story unfolds with a peppy musical score.
There are some good choices at Disney-HOLLYWOOD Studios for every kind of dining need. Traditional fast food is easily obtained from a number of booths at the Farmer’s Market area near Tower of Terror, but don’t bypass too quickly the less-busy Backlot Express for similar fare. If you’re in the mood for something different, drop by the ABC Commissary or the Flatbread Grill for tasty, quick, and cheap meals.
For the truly hungry, the all-you-can-eat buffet at Hollywood and Vine is tempting (during some meals, this is a character dining location). In terms of table service restaurants, you have excellent choices. The Dine-In Sci-Fi Theater has theming both cute and immersive, while the 50s Primetime Café also does a great job in the theme department. Meanwhile, the signature dining facility is the Hollywood Brown Derby, with exquisite food and prices to match.
Reservations for all table service restaurants are a must, and are available on a rolling 180-day basis (simply call 407-WDW-DINE). Many of these restaurants fill up their available seats weeks before the date.
In addition to the Character Dining mentioned above, you can find costumed characters that simply walk around (check with a Cast Member to locate the schedule for any particular character). Additionally, there are some structured character meeting areas:
– Meet Mickey – near the Backlot Tour is a facility dedicated entirely to meet and greet opportunities for Mickey Mouse, with only short lines customary.
– Classic Disney characters and Disney movie characters – the circular plaza around the central hub (with the giant sorcerer hat) provides plenty of space for the Disney characters to appear and sign autograph books. Because they are so visible, however, they tend to attract long lines.
– Disney television characters – the long stretch of Mickey Blvd often sees characters from JoJo’s Circus, Little Einsteins, or Kim Possible standing in front of actors’ trailers. Classic Disney characters also make an appearance here sometimes.
At all the character interactions, as well as key photogenic locations, you may run across park workers offering to take your picture and “put it on a card.” This is a free service and ideal for vacationers. On your first such encounter, you’ll get a card. On all future encounters, hand over the card and they’ll swipe it, making sure that whatever photos are taken get added to your account. When you return home after your vacation, you can view the pictures online, and order prints of any that you desire, with no pressure whatsoever.
Not a park geared toward shopping in the first place, Disney-HOLLYWOOD Studios offers a few specific zones for shops rather than interspersing many everywhere: the main streets of Hollywood Blvd and Sunset Blvd provide the most shops, of which the primary interest for children will be the candy store on Sunset. Tucked in a corner by the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular is adventure-type gear and paraphernalia, which boys may find intriguing. Or they may ogle the Star Wars merchandise at the shop found by the exit to Star Tours. Girls will revel in the princess wares by the Voyage of the Little Mermaid.
Here are a few experiences that don’t draw nearly as many crowds, but may be of paramount importance to your particular toddler (pick and choose as your preferences dictate):
– Honey I Shrunk the Kids Play Set – kids will encounter objects around them built to supersize, implying that we have been shrunk down to tiny proportions. Even beyond the visuals, this playground is fun, with slides and nets making for one of Disney’s most active playgrounds.