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3. Lines are staying long throughout the day (with rare exceptions)

Crowds around Millennium Falcon
Image: Jett Farrell-Vega

Long waits are once again becoming an unavoidable part of the Walt Disney World experience—it feels a bit like being launched back into the 90’s when veteran parkgoers would skillfully strategize how to hit the lowest lines. The tradeoff is that the parks are ultimately less crowded-feeling, which is good, but it does mean a lot more standing in queues than some longtime guests might be used to.

It remains challenging to identify a specific strategy for reducing waits at Disney’s Hollywood Studios--I was rather surprised to see wait times for Slinky Dog Dash blast up to 75 minutes as soon as the park opened at 9AM. While guests who arrive well before opening gate are able to enjoy very short waits for major rides like Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, other rides like Slinky Dog Dash and Tower of Terror draw crowds quickly, blowing up to long waits within the first ten minutes of the park opening.

In short, if hitting opening gate to reduce waits is a high priority for you, you’ll need to arrive earlier than you probably think to completely reduce wait times.

Slinky Dog Dash track with Jesse and Rex tugging Christmas Lights
Image: Jett Farrell-Vega

The park continues to follow a fairly predictable curve for queue times--most attractions peak between 10 and 11AM. Slinky Dog Dash and Tower of Terror clocked in with the longest waits of the day at 80 minutes—both tend to stay busy all day, only slightly tapering off as the hours pass.

Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster tend to fluctuate times throughout the day, usually starting to taper off in the evening. The one ride that seems to consistently see lower waits the longer the day goes is Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway—this trend has been so consistent that we personally recommend waiting until later in the day to hit this one. So many families head straight for it when the park opens that it just isn’t worth it if you can wait until 5 or 6 PM and enjoy a 25 minute queue.

Here’s a glimpse at some actual wait times from throughout the day—note that we supplemented this list with data from TouringPlans.com due to a bug with some of our My Disney Experience screenshots:

 

9:10

10:00

10:30

11:00

12:30

2:00

5:00

6:00

7:00

7:30

Slinky Dog Dash

80

70

80

80

70

60

60

50

60

40

Tower of Terror

65

80

70

65

55

50

55

50

40

35

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster

30

45

Closed

60

50

40

55

35

30

20

Millennium Falcon

35

65

70

65

60

55

60

40

55

45

Mickie & Minnie’s RR

35

65

65

55

45

40

25

35

20

25

Star Tours

10

50

40

50

25

20

30

20

15

10

Toy Story Mania

20

40

40

50

30

30

25

20

15

15

 

All in all, the park followed predictable patterns—lines go up quickly after opening, peak around 10-11 AM, and stay moderately high until an hour or so before closing. If you can’t arrive well before opening gate, the best strategy for E-Ticket rides might be to wait until later in the day.

4. It’s starting to get hot in Florida. Be prepared!

Tower of Terror avenue and light crowds
Image: Jett Farrell-Vega

Florida can be a hot, sticky place, and steamy weather is on the rise.

You will definitely want to wear the right clothing and stay hydrated during upcoming trips to Walt Disney World—Spring is here, and it’s getting warmer. Disney’s Hollywood Studios is one of the easiest parks to do this at since Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has multiple water bottle filling stations. You can see some good choices for portable bottles over at our exploration of unusual tips and hacks to beat the heat on your next Disney vacation. Also remember that you can get water for free at any counter service location that serves fountain drinks, or ask for a drink to go from any sit-down restaurant.

The other factor to keep in mind as the weather heats up is to be mindful of your mask. I could not believe what a positive difference having the right mask made on enjoying my Disney days. Early in the pandemic, I used a DIY mask made from a bandana or a paper medical mask, and both options were miserable at Disney.

Woman in Batuu-bounding outfit with hood, goggles, and Under Armour mask
Image: Jett Farrell-Vega

Things improved immediately when I opted for a simple multi-layer cotton mask. I recommend keeping a spare on hand in case your mask gets dirty or wet. I changed gears on this last trip and have been fairly impressed with Under Armour’s sports mask (see above) thanks to its breathability and the way the design keeps the mask off your mouth. You can pick them up online or even at any Outlet mall with an Under Armour factory store.

In short, be smart what mask you pick, and don’t hesitate to use the park’s relaxation zones at The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and Star Wars Launch Bay (where you can take off your mask while stationary/distanced). Both are great choices, but Star Wars Launch Bay is our favorite in all of Walt Disney World.

5. Merchandise locations are still hit-or-miss for being open

Sorry We Are Closed sign
Image: Jett Farrell-Vega

One confusing trend we’ve noticed since reopening is that it is really hard to tell which DHS merch locations will be open at any given time. Keystone Clothiers, for example, was previously really difficult to catch open on weekdays—a problem since that’s the park’s top location for general Star Wars merch.

While more shops are staying open consistently, we did notice some locations are either still closed or only open intermittently. Indiana Jones fans are unfortunately out of luck as the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost is still closed (likely due to the continued closure of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular). While the store seems to indicate Indy merch is available elsewhere, this only applies to toys—we couldn’t find Indy fedoras, for example, anywhere in the park.

In Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, we noticed that First Order Cargo was not open at all the day of our visit. This may have been because it was a weekday, but that’s a rather strange policy considering DHS is always at max capacity these days.

A final note to keep in mind: while we were unable to confirm if this is still taking place, in recent months, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been closing many shops an hour before the park closes—especially in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, including popular stops like Dok Ondar’s Den of Antiquities. Until there is some consistent proof Disney is leaving all shops open, we wouldn’t recommend waiting until the end of the day to grab any merch in DHS.

6. Lightning might shut down attractions, the Skyliner, and friendship boats

Disney's Hollywood Studios entrance
Image: Jett Farrell-Vega

We’re creeping into that “April showers bring May flowers” time of year…

While getting ready to depart from a park hop over to Epcot during this visit, I noticed the sky growing dark late in the afternoon. I kept hearing a phrase pass among cast members throughout World Showcase—“Have they called 101 yet?”. Within the minute, I heard a follow-up, “They’ve called 101.”

All around me, booths and outdoor shops immediately started shutting down. For those who keep up with cast member lingo, 101 usually indicates attraction or shop closures—in this case due to nearby lightning strikes. I sped up, trying to exit the park quickly as I was trying to get back to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but as I approached the International Gateway, a crowd of guests appeared headed my way. The Skyliner and Friendship Boats had been shut down and all guests looking for transportation were being diverted onto busses at the front of the park.

Let’s just say that getting back to Disney’s Hollywood Studios proved interesting...

We are getting into the time of year when Florida starts getting a little more temperamental with its weather. While lightning doesn’t have quite as exasperating effects at Walt Disney World as it does at Universal Orlando Resort (the latter has more rides with outdoor components), storms can still throw off carefully laid plans at Disney.

In the case of park hopping, it can leave you stuck at a particular park with few options but long waits for busses.

In my case, I took the risky route and speed-walked the whole distance from Epcot to Disney’s Hollywood Studios with one stop at the Yacht & Beach Club to wait for the worst of the storm to pass. I would not recommend that tactic—if you see lightning on the way, adjust plans accordingly and be aware that busses may become your only option if you don’t want to risk walking under dubious conditions.

In conclusion, Disney’s Hollywood Studios remains a solid park to visit right now thanks to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. You will likely face some semi-long queues, but the worst of the waits can be avoided if you arrive early and stay late.

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