Monday, January 21, 2013

"It's Go-Time, Grandma!"

"Come on, Grandma!" yelled my 7-year-old son Jack, as we rushed to our first attraction at Hollywood Studios.  "It's go-time!"

Although I normally would not allow my child to shame my 65-year-old mother into quickening her pace, I made an exception this time.  If we didn't keep up with other competitors in the "post-rope drop" speed-walking contest that occurs daily at Hollywood Studios, we would lose a ton of time.

Fortunately for my son, my mother is in great physical shape, so we arrived at our first attraction quickly, and we walked right on to the popular ride.  While we were strolling through an empty queue to board the attraction, I thought back fondly to the beginning of the morning.

About 45 minutes earlier, we'd arrived at the gates of Disney's Hollywood Studios with an arsenal of activities to keep the kids occupied.  Although some people balk at arriving early to Disney's theme parks, it is an extremely important element to a successful day, and it can actually be quite fun!  On this particular morning, we packed up some breakfast food and a few games, and we staked out a little spot in line where we could spread out on the ground and enjoy some time together.  Within a few minutes, my daughter had invited a little girl over to play a game with her, and my mom had struck up a conversation with another grandmother in line.  Everyone was excited and happy; it was truly a magical atmosphere, and the park hadn't even opened yet!

Tip Time: Although I recommend arriving before "rope drop" (Disney-speak for "park opening") at every Disney theme park, an early start is especially crucial at Hollywood Studios.  Hollywood Studios is smaller than the other Disney theme parks.  Because it has fewer attractions, crowds are more concentrated and therefore build more rapidly throughout the day.

No waiting in line...again!!
Guests are usually allowed into Hollywood Studios about fifteen minutes prior to the official opening time, so we began packing up at around 8:40am in anticipation of the daily speed-walking race that is unique to the Studios.  While visitors tend to spread out in the other parks, the vast majority of guests initially head to one of only two locations in Hollywood Studios.  This creates a bit of a traffic jam, and since Cast Members prevent guests from running to an attraction, visitors walk as fast as they can to their first ride, causing a fairly humorous speed-walking exhibition down Hollywood Boulevard every morning. 

Before we knew it, the gates were opening, and we were on our first ride!  We knew that we wanted to ride this particular attraction a second time that day, so we picked up a FASTPASS for later (while we were on the ride, the wait time had already become prohibitively long).

Tip Time: The key to a successful Disney World vacation is to follow a good touring plan.  And the key to a good touring plan is to visit the right attractions first.  Start by experiencing attractions that typically build long waits quickly, and learn how to use the FASTPASS system.  If you become overwhelmed, you can always turn to a Disney travel specialist, like me, who would be happy to handcraft personalized touring plans for you.

Hollywood Studios at midday.  No crowds!!
After grabbing our FASTPASSES, we headed off to the next attraction on our list, working in Hollywood Studios' stellar live stage shows according to performance times.  By mid-afternoon, we'd once again experienced everything on our "wish list", and we never waited in line for more than five minutes.  We always seemed to be where the crowds weren't!

Tip Time: Some of Disney's attractions and shows tend to appeal more to certain age brackets and genders.  I find this to be especially true at Hollywood Studios, where shows run the gamut from Disney Jr. Live  to Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage to the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.  If you have multiple children who have wildly different interests, don't be afraid to "divide and conquer" for a little while at the Studios.  Meet back up for meals and attractions that appeal to everyone.  

We'd had such a pleasant day, in fact, that my kids did not want to leave! Our plan was to hop over to Magic Kingdom in the evening to see the Main Street Electrical Parade, though, and I knew from experience that we would need some serious downtime if we were going to make that happen. Consequently, at about 2:30pm, we departed Hollywood Studios and retreated back to our resort for a rest.

Next Up: The Main Street Electrical Parade

Meredith McCutcheon
Personalized Disney Itineraries and Touring Plans
Disney Specialist at Ginger's Getaways
Find me on Facebook or on The Patch

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