Once upon a time, this park was called MGM Studios, but Disney has since cut their ties with MGM and called it Hollywood Studios. This park is probably my second favorite after Magic Kingdom. It’s home to most of the adult-targeted rides in the whole of Disney World. It’s dedicated to the movies, as it’s name implies, which as a movie geek I love.

You enter the park on Hollywood Boulevard and are greeted by this park’s hub equivalent of Cinderella’s Castle or the geodesic sphere of Epcot – Mickey’s sorcerer hat from Fantasia. I will honestly tell you that I find Hollywood Studios to have the most confusing layout of all the Disney parks, so a map will probably be your best friend. It’s not impossible to navigate, it’s just not as simple as the hub-and-spoke setup in the other parks.

On your right will be Sunset Boulevard, which is where you will find two of the biggest thrills in all of Disney World – Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. If you skip both of these I will hunt you down and kill you. No, I’m just kidding. They really are great rides, so do yourself a favor and get to them first before the lines become impossible. Tower of Terror takes you up to the top of a “haunted” hotel and drops you 13 stories a few times. I have a fear of elevators and free-falling, so this one gives me the chills on a personal level because it’s my worst nightmare come true. Despite that, it’s one of my favorite amusement park rides ever. And Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is your basic indoor roller coaster. They shoot you off at 60 mph into a series of loops and turns in a coaster car shaped like a vintage limousine, all the while having music from Aerosmith playing from speakers by your ears. Also located in this area of the park is a Beauty and the Beast stage show, which is nice if you have time to kill, but not a necessity. This is also where you’ll find Fantasmic, and I’ll come back to that later.

The next logical area is Animation Courtyard, which is dedicated to the Disney animation tradition. This is where you’ll find the stage show for The Little Mermaid. You’ll also find Toy Story Mania in the adjacent Pixar Place. This was only a couple months old when I was last there, so the lines were insane. We did a FastPass and went back and did The Great Movie Ride to bide our time. Toy Story Mania is entirely too much fun. It’s similar to the Buzz Lightyear ride at Magic Kingdom, but they added 3D to it. You board cars and play a bunch of midway games and you compete with those in your car to win. The Great Movie Ride is located inside the replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theater and is actually pretty fun. But this is also a statement coming from a movie buff. They take you through the Golden Age of the movies and show you reproduced sets from classics like Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz. Luckily Disney was able to keep the rights to do this when they split ways with MGM.

Streets of America should be your next stop in the loop around the park. You’ll find the Muppetvision 3D show, the Lights, Motors, Action Stunt Show and the Backlot Tour. Personally, I’d do all three. I grew up on the Muppets, and the show is great. The Backlot Tour is where they stash a lot of props from old movies. Since the 3rd Pirates of the Caribbean was released the year before there were loads of props from that series. As a GIGANTIC Pirates of the Caribbean fan, I squeed like a schoolgirl for quite a bit of the ride. The stunt show is a fun way to relax for a while because you’re sitting and they do a lot of really cool tricks and do a lot of explaining how they do it. Last on the loop around is Star Tours, which has gotten a facelift since I was last there. It now takes place between the old and new Star Wars trilogies. Any self-respecting nerd will not miss it, nor would they likely skip out on the Indiana Jones stunt show that’s nearby as well.

Now, back to Fantasmic. This is quite honestly the best show Disney World does. And in all seriousness, if you want good seats, you will be in the holding area before the 90 minutes they recommend getting there. There’s limited seating, so it’s obviously first-come, first-served. It’s a water/light/laser/fire spectacle. They project movie clips onto water spray, there’s floats with some of the Disney princesses and Mickey fights off the villains. It’s not to be missed.

As the smallest of the four Disney World parks, there isn’t much to it. But overall, it’s really enjoyable. If you’re only here for half of a day, do not miss Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Star Tours or Toy Story Mania. I’d recommend making it an evening half-day so that you can see the Fantasmic show.

And, now we’re onto the final park in Disney World, Animal Kingdom. Grab your safari gear!

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