Monday, February 18, 2013

Hollywood Studios: Movie Making Magic

Living up to its name, Hollywood Studios is more of a 'show' park. There are a few rides to enjoy, but it definitely offers a lot of spectacle appeal. Popular attractions include the Tower of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania, and the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster with Aerosmith. If any of these three are of interest, I recommend getting fast passes for them early. Toy Story is usually the one that runs out of fast passes by lunch, and the standby line is rarely shorter than 2 hours once the park has been open for at least an hour, so plan accordingly.

Since the park offers many shows, your plan will be made based on the daily schedule. If you are trying to hit all of the shows, you will most likely be in the park for 3-4 days, because some shows may only have 3 showings. Obviously, Fantasmic, their big night-time show, is a strong recommendation. Some nights they offer two shows, but most of the time it is just one show per day. The venue is large, holding about 10,000 people. Most of what I can say is be patient and move with the herd. Don't bother trying to get concessions inside, it is much easier if you bring your own snacks. We usually have waited about 30-40 minutes from when we got our seats to when the show starts, so a snack is a great way to keep the kids calm and happy. It is outdoor benches, so if you need some padding bring a sweatshirt or something to sit on that you don't mind carrying around (strollers are great for this). If you opt for a Fantasmic dining experience at one of the select restaurants within the park that offers a meal and reserved seats, be advised that the reserved area is off to the side, not any where prime. I haven't seen a bad seat, but some do prefer to have the front and center view.

Other hands-on show experiences include auditioning for or participating in the audience of the American Idol Experience. Your children between the ages of 4-12 can sign up to participate in the Jedi Apprentice Academy where they can battle Darth Vader and become young Jedis. The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular is another show to see at least once and involves audience members in each show.

Breaks are easy to come by, since most activities at Hollywood Studios are sit and watch, but if you are needing a place for the little ones to climb and wiggle, head over to Honey I Shrunk the Playground by the Backlot food court. Try to not hit it in the middle of the day when it is busiest, because then you may have a wait to get in, and once you do, it is so crowded that it becomes not fun. If the kids are a little more independent, it is good to post one parent by the entrance/exit and the other to run around and herd the kids. There are some water features inside, so cooling off is not a worry.

Sporadically during the day there are some street shows. These impromptu sessions offer a great diversion. Usually I am against these and recommend avoiding the diversions, but these can be fun entertainment and some require audience participation. I have found these to be very helpful when some of the party is riding something that the rest does not want to, and the time passes quickly while waiting. Don't miss walking through the Streets of America, where you never know who or what you'll find!

Finally, Hollywood Studios has several great options for table-service dining at reasonable prices. The Sci-Fi Drive-In restaurant serves your dinner to you at booths in a 50's-style car with servers on roller-skates, while you are watching B-movies on the big screen. Another fun dining experience is at the 50s Prime Time Cafe where you are seated at a kitchen table straight out of the 1950s, with a server who is named "Cousin Jack" or "Aunt Sally" and you'll be served up hearty portions of comfort food favorites. Just be careful to set the table, keep your elbows off the table, and leave your smart phones in your pocket, lest you be scolded by your server! If you finish all of your dinner you'll even be awarded a membership into the "Clean Plate Club".

While a smaller park than the other three, Disney's Hollywood Studios is full of magic, mystery and excitement around every corner, just as you would expect from Disney.

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