Traveling to Florida in a Pandemic – Part Two – Hollywood Studios

Okay, the Quiet Cruiser has to travel, and travel we did one week in August 2020.  And it was so nice to get out and do something halfway “normal”.  So…what did we do? We went to Florida and DisneyWorld! And here’s what we thought of the “temporary abnormal” at the parks.

Part Two: Hollywood Studios

We were supposed to have gone to Disneyland in California in April just to see the new Rise of the Resistance ride in the Star Wars area.  Well, as everyone knows, that trip was cancelled.  We had scheduled again for September this year, but it doesn’t seem like Disneyland is going to open anytime soon.  So, we decided to go to Hollywood Studios at DisneyWorld instead and try our luck at getting a pass to ride Rise of the Resistance. 

You need both tickets and reservations

Be aware that you need to buy your tickets to the parks ahead of time, and that you need to then make a reservation at the specific park you want to go to.  I found that for ticket buyers, every day had room at every park, but if you were an annual pass holder, not every day was open.  I guess that they are trying to get ticket sales, and since annual pass holders have already paid and they have their money, they get the short shrift.  And once you get your ticket you can link it to any old cardpass or wristband that you have, or you can print the ticket out and use that.

Masks…

Also be aware that you have to wear a mask in the park and on park property including the parking lot at all times except for when you are actively eating and drinking.  They expect you to move aside and stand still when eating or drinking.  I bought a small fan that you wear around your neck at one of the local Kissimmee Walmarts, which helped immensely.  I’m not a mask fan and wear one as little as possible…but I needed a vacation and that was the only way I could get one.  

Get there early…but not too early

From what we’d heard, we wanted to get to Hollywood Studios before opening so we could be in place ahead of time to try to get a pass to Rise of the Resistance (ROTR), the new Star Wars ride.  Disney uses an electronic lottery system to distribute the limited passes to the ride.  And even if you get a pass, there is no guarantee of riding if the ride goes down, as it often does. 

The park opened at 10 am. We got to the parking lot at 8:50 am, but they would not let us into the lot and had us turn around.  That was a mistake because it’s hard to find your way back in the maze of roads surrounding Disney.  We did find our way back just after 9 am, and parked behind a line of cars waiting on the shoulder.  Soon they let us pull up to the parking toll booths, but we had to sit there until 9:15 am before we were allowed to proceed to parking. Parking is now $25 a car, and they will ask if you have a reservation.  There was plenty of parking and we parked very close to the park.  When you get to the park, the first thing they do is take your temperature under a tent, then you go through security.  If you have an umbrella with you have it out.  You have to hold it in front of you going through security.  However, they don’t go through your bag anymore. 

Time to get a pass to Rise of the Resistance!

Once we got into Hollywood Studios at about 9:30 am we went down a side street, found a bench in the shade, and made sure the Disney app on our phones was ready to go.  From advice that I’d heard, use your data instead of the park’s free wi-fi.  The wi-fi was hit and miss, but our data was good.  As soon as 10 am hit, we started pushing the Rise of the Resistance “join” button on the app, then made sure that both of us were checked off, then hit the button again.  Lo and behold, the first time we ever tried we got a boarding pass!  Number 33!  You could hear the yells of excitement as others got them, but not everyone got one, so there was sadness too.  But they could try again at 2 pm. 

Rides and low wait times

And then off to ride some rides before our boarding group was called.  My daughter and I were at Hollywood Studios last summer before the new rides opened.  Our first ride was Star Tours.  It has been updated to reflect scenes from the newer Star Wars movies.  It’s an old ride, but still enjoyable.  Then to Toy Story Land to see what was there.  My favorite ride there is Toy Story Mania, which we managed to ride three times with zero wait time.  One of the things about Hollywood Studios that I have to say is that you’re going to hear the announcement about masks, washing your hands, and keeping your distance a LOT of times.  Seemed like every 15 minutes or so.  My opinion is that if they’re not doing it by announcement number 30, they’re not going to do it.  But seriously, it seemed like people were doing well at keeping the rules.

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Lunch at Backlot Express

We got lunch at the Backlot Express.  Right now to order you have to use the Disney app, wait till it’s ready, and then go in and pick it up.  It was actually a pretty good system, and seemed to work better than it used to.  But I somehow managed to leave my backpack unzipped, and lost everything on the floor while I was trying to hold the tray.  Just a bit frustrating.  I need to find a more organized way to hold my items at the parks.

We both had the Backlot Burger, which is topped with BBQ pork, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, and pickles, and included fries.  Actually, it was a very tasty burger, much better than the burger that we got at Universal Studios.  Plus, the had glasses of iced water sitting on a table, and you could just go and grab what you wanted. We had brought in a bottle of Gatorade, so we refilled that with ice water when it was empty.  There is indoor seating at Backlot Express.

And time for Star Wars!

After lunch we headed over to the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge area to ride Smugglers Run, the other new ride.  The line was only maybe 20 minutes long.  All of the lines look longer, but because you are socially distanced, it’s really not that bad.  When we got up to the front of the line and the cast member asked where we were from, it turned out that she’s from where we live right now.  Each party gets their own “space capsule”, and can do whichever job they request.  We were both pilots, and did a great job, I must say.  That is a fun ride, and we did go on again later.  When we got off it looked like rain so we found a spot to sit and stay dry.  And it poured!

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Rise of the Resistance

And while it was still raining our passport number to Rise of the Resistance came up. Luckily we had umbrellas so we went to the front of the queue and showed him our boarding pass.  However, we didn’t know this, but you also need your ticket.  I don’t have a MagicBand, and I had put my ticket away, so I had to stand there in the rain and dig for it.  But that only took a couple of minutes, and we were in line.  This was another almost walk on line, so it didn’t take long to get to the front.  And we absolutely loved the ride!  You can find point of view vlogs on YouTube vlogs, but they doesn’t do it justice.  You have to ride it!

A fun ride!

I really don’t remember the ride queue at all, we walked through so quickly.  But after the line, first you go into a space shuttle, which gets captured by the First Order, who take you first into a huge room filled with a battalion of Storm Troopers.  That’s kind of cool. A General then comes to tell you that you’re a prisoner and you’ll be stamped out, and he’s joined by Kylo Ren. Then you’re taken into a hallway where an Imperial office interrogates you. Our officer wasn’t exactly intimidating, though, and I have to admit, the mask and shield takes something away from the magic. 

A door opens, a resistance workers comes to rescue you, and you hurriedly get onto your own ride vehicle, and try to escape.  I just love how the ride vehicles separate and go their own ways.  You’ve got to view a video to understand what it’s like. I wish we could have ridden again and again, because there’s so much going on that you can’t take it all in.  There is a small drop in one scene, but it’s really not that bad.  One ride per day though.  And one family in a ride vehicle.  

It cooled down! And Minnie’s Runaway Railway

When we came out of ROTR the rain had stopped and the weather was so much more pleasant the rest of the day.  We couldn’t have asked for better in mid-August.  We went over and got in line for the new Minnie’s Runaway Railway, a new adventure through a cartoon universe.  That was probably the longest line of the day, maybe about 40 minutes.  But it used to be that the line was much longer, so it wasn’t a problem.  That is a fun ride, although they were not showing the pre-show, but hold onto your hat, you go through a tornado.  I like here also how the train cars separate and go their own way.  We came back in a train car in a different position on the train than we left on.  Once again they are using social distancing, you stand on a circle in the queue, and then they one family on each train car on the train itself. Each car is a separate vehicle.  I want to ride again, there’s far too much to see to just ride once and take it all in.

In Mickey’s Runaway Railway

Rosie’s All-American Cafe for dinner

We went and repeated some rides, then stopped for dinner at Rosie’s All-American Café.  He got a cheeseburger and I got a foot long hot dog.  If you’re not a big eater, I’d recommend getting the hot dog and some extra fries, and splitting the hot dog.  The bun is huge, and the hot dog is huge.  Too much for one regular eater in my opinion.  I didn’t eat the bun, and not all of the dog.  This is outdoor dining under a roof, but it had cooled down enough by then. Then he went to ride Tower of Terror, and I sat there eating very slowly as to keep the mask off for a while.  He said that Tower of Terror isn’t as good as it used to be, the ride part is a lot shorter.He rode Star Tours again and I sat with a drink and watched a small parade go by.  I actually like these small impromptu parades better, not as much of a crowd to fight.  

What did I think about going to Hollywood Studios?

My thoughts on Hollywood Studios during this pandemic are that it’s way better than last time we went last year. There is more to do and you can do more even with a shorter day right now.   The new Star Wars land is wonderfully themed, and the rides are great.  The characters are still there, but in places where you can’t get up close to them.  They do try to interact with you as best they can. 

The down side is that you have to wear the mask in the heat and humidity.  I would advise a light mask, and a neck fan that you can buy at Walmart.  Take Gatorade or drinks, and you can get free ice water at any restaurant.  Keep hydrated. Dress cool, but bring sunscreen. They have plenty of hand sanitizer everywhere.  I really hate masks, but it’s the only way right now to have any fun at all right now, and we needed some fun. 

Tiresome reminders

The constant reminders to wash your hands, wear your mask, and social distance are annoying and do take away some of the magic.  I think of most of us know the drill by now. But we managed to have a great time in spite of all the craziness of the world right now.  I’m ready to go back!

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