Disney Hollywood Studios evokes the look and spirit of Hollywood’s 1930s and ’40s hey day with large sound stages, lots of chrome and neon and plenty of shows and thrill rides to entertain teens and tweens. For our teen and tween the first (and last) stop is often the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror that features multiple drops in a eerie elevator from as high as 13 stories. If your tribe is into roller coasters the Rock ‘n Roller Coaster featuring Aerosmith is located in this area. Keep the thrills going by following these with a ride in the Star Wars Star Tours Starspeeder simulator for an out of control trip through an asteroid belt. The entry way for this ride is particularly fun with lots of droids busy at work.
Outside, check the show schedule and catch the Jedi Training Academy, a 30-minute live show featuring lightsaber duels. At every show about 25 audience members are selected as Padawans to wear a brown robe, pledge the sacred Jedi Oath and grab a lightsaber to learn from a Jedi Master. Star Wars is so popular at the Studios that it hosts several Star Wars Weekends each year. In 2010 these will be May 21 – 23, May 28 – 30, June 4 – 6, and June 11 – 13. These weekends feature lots of extras including special shows, autograph opportunities and plenty of Ewoks, Wookiees, Jawas and Stormtroopers.
From there, its on to Toy Story Mania and the Studio Backlot Tour. The 35 minute tour is part walking and part tram ride. It provides an opportunity to see how water, earthquake and fire effects are executed. If you are at the front of the line and they ask for adult volunteers mom or dad may get to be one of the actors in the Harbor Attack water scene. Sit near the left side of the tram for good views of Catastrophe Canyon, where an earthquake, a flash flood and explosions feel almost real.
If you are a fan of shows, there are plenty more explosions and stunts available at the Indiana Jones Stunt Show and the Lights, Motors, Action stunt car show. If possible try to get fast passes for these so you don’t have to waste too much time standing in line.
Beyond the thrills and chills, the Studios also offer some fun side diversions. There are many opportunities to learn about Disney animation, sound effects and optical illusions. The Streets of America area uses forced perspective and streetscape facades to portay the illusion of being on the streets of New York, San Francisco and even London. This area makes for great photo opportunities.
During the Christmas Holidays, the Streets of America are transformed into the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights . This event is definitely a one-of-a-kind Disney event featuring thousands of lights covering blocks of facades and artificial snow wafting through the air. We still talk about this one. Additional animated lighting displays include twirling carousels, soaring angels, and even Santa and his reindeer.
Although parents with younger children may find a half day at the Studios is enough, the older kids really enjoy the mix of rides, shows and attractions. Be prepared for a long day as many shows and rides can last 30 minutes or more, in addition to the time spent filling and exiting the theater. Take advantage of the fastpass program as much as possible. If you are staying for the Fantasmic fireworks show in the evening look into dinner packages that provide preferred access to the show following your dinner at one of the Studios’ sit down restaurants. Fantasmic is not offered every night so if you want to see the show be sure to check schedules ahead of time. Seating opens 90 minutes prior to the show and it is usually full well before show time.