When we got an invitation to my nephew’s wedding in Tampa, of course my first thought was Walt Disney World is right on the way! Well….not quite….but it worked for me. So, I got my daughter on board, let her pick the park (she chose Hollywood Studios), and we headed to Orlando for a long weekend.
I can’t say that the drive was an easy one. We sat in stopped traffic, had a semi-truck blow a tire right beside us, and drove through heavy rain. But it was all worth it for a Disney trip. First place we went was the Disney Outlet on Vineland Drive. I have to say that I expected more of this outlet. It was far smaller than I had expected, and didn’t really have any merchandise that I thought was really worth buying. We did see some things there that were still being sold at the Disney Parks though, and they had really good prices on Disney T-shirts. Most were $9.99 to 15.99. I ended up with one Storm Trooper polo shirt for my husband. So, after a short time there, we headed to Disney Springs.
Disney Springs (AKA Downtown Disney)
Disney Springs, if you haven’t been there, is a humongous shopping / dining / entertainment area in the Lake Buena Vista area. It used to be called Downtown Disney, but it definitely outgrew the name. You can still see a few remnants of Downtown Disney, but it is now much larger.
Parking is normally pretty easy. They have at least two large parking decks, an orange one, and a lime one. And the great part is that at the end of each row, there is a lit up sign telling you how many spaces are available in that lane. Also, there is a small light lit over an empty parking spot. Disney couldn’t have made it any easier for you.
Once in Disney Springs we headed to Guest Services to get the Park Tickets that we had ordered online. (Tickets were $125 for adults for one day.) They had changed how this was done since the last time we were there, so the guest services representative took our name, and sent us across the way to the new ticket shop. Once in there we were immediately shown to a representative who got our tickets for us. This was a much quicker process than it used to be.
Disney Store with lots of merchandise!
Next in line was the huge Disney Store. You can find just about anything that you want at this large store. They have changed the look of it in the past couple of years. I do have to say that I like the old look better. Now it looks like a huge lodge, but I liked seeing all of the Disney characters instead. Be alert that it would be easy to get lost at this store, so hold onto your children. I didn’t buy anything here, but my daughter ended up with two different pairs of Mickey Ears for $27.99 each.
We stayed offsite
Since it was getting late, we headed out to our motel. We didn’t stay onsite. We’ve found in the past that the Baymont Inn and Suites on Black Lake Drive in Kissimmee is very close and convenient to the parks, but a whole lot cheaper. They were doing some work on the grounds, but the room was clean and updated, the pool was open, and they had a large breakfast area and an adequate breakfast. Breakfast consisted of toaster waffles, eggs, sausage, potatoes, cereal, and pastries. Since it’s hard to find free breakfast at any of the motels around the area, this was good enough for a day at the park. I think that they have a shuttle, but it’s more convenient to drive. I’m not fond of the $25 parking fee, but it’s a necessary evil.
And then it was time for Hollywood Studios! We’ve been there before when it was called Disney MGM Studios, but I knew that it had changed a lot in the past few years. We got up early and got ready, ran down to get breakfast, and headed to the park before 8 am. It’s about a ten minute drive to Hollywood Studios from the motel, so we got there plenty early to park close to the entrance. The new entrance area is open, and you can see the new gondolas from the skyride that goes from Pop Century Motel to Hollywood Studios. There are also new restrooms right outside the entrance. (See my views on Hollywood Studios at the bottom of this page.)
Even though the park didn’t open until 9 am, they let us into the main street area, and we could shop or get something to eat. The main park area was still roped off. We stood in line, and they did let us head to Toy Story Land at 8:45 am. We weren’t allowed to visit anywhere else until 9, but just about everyone wanted Toy Story Land anyway.
Toy Story Land
I loved the welcome area of Toy Story Land. There’s a gigantic Woody actually greeting you as you enter. And it feels like you’re back to your childhood, with all the Christmas lights and toys around. Let me warn you though. I was told to go to Slinky Dog Dash Coaster first, but so was everyone else. The line was immediately well over an hour long. So, unless you’re first in line or have a fast pass, you might not want to do that. That was the longest that I saw the line all day.
Instead of getting in line for Slinky Dog, we got in line for Toy Story Mania, and pretty much walked right onto the ride. After that, we got in line for the Alien Swirling Saucers, and once again, walked right up and onto the ride. I really liked both of these rides.
Toy Story Mania
On Toy Story Mania, you have “guns” with rope pulls that you use to compete in carnival type games on the screen. Your car will move to a screen, and then you’ll pull that rope like crazy trying to hit the targets, or put rings around cartoon animals. The car will move to multiple screens, and you’ll do different things at each screen. I lost…both times…but I had fun too. I think that was my favorite ride at Hollywood Studios. I think that the talking Mr. Potato head can see the queue line, because he was commenting on specific people and what they were wearing. Must be a camera in him somewhere.
Alien Swirling Saucers
Alien Swirling Saucers is more like the old fashioned Whip rides. If you’ve ever been to Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh, you know what I mean. Alien Saucers whips you around more, and in different directions though. The second time we rode it was rougher than the first. But it is a really fun ride.
And lunch at the ABC Commissary
We went to the ABC Commissary for lunch. What I liked about this restaurant is that it’s fast serve, has air conditioning, and has a lot of tables. My daughter had a Mediterranean chicken salad and I had chicken fingers with fries. If you don’t have a huge appetite, you can easily share a meal. They will give you an extra plate if you ask. We wished that we had shared because we could not finish our meals. Prices are at the bottom range for a Disney restaurant. Around $9.99 to $18.99.
We were not particularly pleased with the lunch customer service at ABC Commissary though. We could see that there were plenty of tables, but when we had our trays, they had the area blocked. They were letting some people in, but with no explanation as to why, they let us stand there holding our trays. I told her we only had two people, but she ignored us and let someone with more people in that came up behind us. There were plenty of empty two person tables. I finally insisted and she let us in, but there was no reason that I could think of that we were ignored. There were empty tables everywhere the whole time we were there. The best thing about ABC Commissary is that if you buy a drink for $3.99, it has free refills at the machine while you’re eating. We even refilled our cup before we left and went out and poured it into our water bottles. Very refreshing on a hot day.
Slinky Dog Dash
After lunch we headed back over to Toy Story Land to see how long the line to Slinky Dog Dash was. The coaster was broken down and not running, and the line was much shorter because people had given up waiting. But…while we were getting ready to leave, the ride started back up and we ran to the line. We were in line for about an hour still, but it was still shorter than it had been. As for the ride, it was a very fun coaster. I wouldn’t stand in line again for it, but I’m glad we did ride it. In hindsight, maybe it wasn’t the best ride for me. It has a spot where it stops, then they count down and it blasts off very quickly. The day after the park my left eye had a hemorrhage, most likely from the pressure of that blast off.
My daughter wanted a picture with Buzz Lightyear so we stood in line. It was a very funny moment because he went in for a hug. She had no idea of what he was doing and her expression was priceless. They will scan the picture to your DisneyWorld app, but it comes out with watermark writing all over it. You have to pay for the original picture. I’m sure it’s not cheap. You can take your own pictures though. We also saw the other characters in line…Sheriff Woody…BoPeep…Jessie…and the toy soldiers. They stand around in different spots for photo opportunities.
Our favorite snack at the park was the non-alcoholic pina colada over near The Incredibles area near Toy Story Land. It was only $4.99, and delicious. They had an alcoholic version also, for a higher cost. It was a nice break and cool down mid-day.
We rode Star Tours twice and both times had a different scenario. I hadn’t realized that they had different shows on the ride. My favorite was the one with Chewbacca. Be careful, because I somehow managed to leave my phone in the bin under my seat. I realized it pretty quickly, and ran back. I had to go in the back way through the gift shop, and they had found my phone, thank goodness. We also saw a squadron of Storm Troopers march by.
Muppet Vision 3D
As it started to rain a bit we went over to see Muppet Vision 3D. No line, AC, and someplace to sit! I really did enjoy the show. I watched my kids grow up with the Muppets, so it was great to see the old school ones. The area around the Muppets show has a pizza restaurant, and a Christmas shop. It’s a nice quiet place to take a break. The only other show that we saw was The Little Mermaid show. It combines live action with puppets, and was an enjoyable place to take a break also.
Back to ABC Commissary for dinner
Neither of us is a huge adrenaline junkie, so we chose not to go on the Aerosmith Coaster or Tower of Terror. By that time it was pretty hot and we were getting tired. We walked around a while, rode our last few rides, and headed back to ABC Commissary for an early dinner. I had made reservations online, but I don’t think that I really needed to. There seemed to be plenty of empty tables. But I could not cancel the reservation without paying $10 a person. There was a different menu for dinner than lunch, and the customer service was much better than lunchtime. We were told which side of the restaurant to sit in, and then we ordered at the register. This time we got smart and shared a meal. We got a veggie teriyaki bowl, which was pretty good. We got a pager to put on our table, and a very nice older gentleman soon brought our food to us. He even went back to get us an extra bowl.
Hot and ready to leave
I wanted to try and ride Toy Story Mania again. We got in line, but the line did not move at all, so we finally gave up and left. We were both hot and tired and had a wedding to attend in Tampa the next day, so we left early. I would have liked to stay to see the nighttime show, but we just didn’t want to deal with all the crowds leaving the park. Baymont Inn and Suites was very easy to find. We just hopped onto Osceola Parkway and took it past Animal Kingdom to Sherberth Road. About a ten minute ride.
My views on Hollywood Studios
My take on Hollywood Studios 2019: It’s a small park, and I don’t think I’d recommend it to someone with very little children. There really aren’t any good rides for small children, just shows. And there really aren’t a lot of rides at all. I’d say that if you have children 5 and up, they may enjoy Toy Story Land and the rides. They will enjoy the shows. The older children may enjoy Star Tours, Arrowsmith Coaster, and Tower of Terror.
I miss the Great Movie Ride of the past, and the Indiana Jones show should have been gone a long time ago because it’s getting old. They really should replace it with the Indiana Jones ride like at Disneyland. Later this year there will be a Mickey Mouse Runaway Railway ride, and the new Star Wars area like they just got in Disneyland, but that will make it much more crowded for a while. It’s a small park, so I don’t know if it will be able to handle the crowds. Time will tell. I think that of all four Disney parks, I’d rate this one number 4. Right now it’s good to go to for a day if you want few rides and a shorter day.