The Best Rides Left at Hollywood Studios!
Okay, let’s call a spade a spade. A few years ago, people derisively referred to Disney’s Hollywood Studios as a half-day park. That was about eight attraction closures ago. Now, it’s probably closer to a quarter-day park. What’s strange about the situation, however, is that ALL the major rides at this park are great. Even after Disney shuttered so many fun attractions (RIP, Great Movie Ride!), there are still four amazing rides at the park. So, let’s rank them and give each one a letter grade! Here’s one person’s opinion about the current rides at Hollywood Studios!
4) Star Tours – The Adventure Continues
With only four rides in operation right now, this will probably be the shortest listicle that I ever write. There’s a purpose to it, though. I want to emphasize that even as we await the impending arrivals of Toy Story Land and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, Hollywood Studios is still worth your time and effort.
In terms of signal to noise ratio, it’s got the largest number of great rides in the shortest walking distance. For guests who find crisscrossing the parks inconvenient at best and physically challenging at worst, this park is ideal. You can do more in two hours here than at any other Walt Disney World gate.
To prove this point, think about the best rides at Epcot. There’s Frozen Ever After, all the way at the back of the World Showcase and Spaceship Earth, the first thing you see at the front of the park. Those two rides are roughly 2.3 miles apart according to Google Maps! Meanwhile, Star Tours and the top two attractions on this list are a leisurely ten-minute walk away from one another. And the third best attraction is conveniently along the way! You can go east to west and then back east again on a constant loop to enjoy the best that Hollywood Studios has to offer!
As for Star Tours, it was once the most revolutionary ride at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. The genesis of the motion simulation ride that has since become a staple at Universal Studios, Star Tours has remained fresh over the years thanks to a couple of innovative updates. First, Disney threw out the original version of the attraction and made a sequel, The Adventures Continue. When they did, Imagineers had the forethought to future-proof their attraction.
Thanks to this futuristic thought process, Star Tours is more current than ever these days. The ride has a randomness factor to it with more than 50 potential variations. You may get Storm Troopers on one ride and Darth Vader the next. More impressively, you will also have some run-ins with characters from the current films such as BB-8. That’s possible because Star Tours can add new digital clips whenever a movie gets released, meaning that The Last Jedi should bring additional updates to the ride, too!
Star Tours perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the Star Wars universe. It also offers enough jostling that you’ll definitely feel like you were doing more than watching a movie while you ride it, even though that’s basically all you do. I’m ranking it as the “worst” ride at Hollywood Studios, but it’s still worthy of an A- grade. That proves the point about spending time at this park. Every remaining ride is terrific!
3) Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
For the love of God, pay careful attention to the instructions when you board Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster! The digital sign clearly says to put your head back against safety cushion. Your enjoyment of this roller coaster likely depends on how closely you follow that instruction. Guests who don’t wind up getting whacked in the brain at the start of the ride. And it’s hard to recover from as you hurtle through the darkness on a disorienting series of roller coaster tracks while Aerosmith music blasts in your ears. I speak from experience on this. Be smarter than me when you ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
As long as you follow the instruction at the start, you’ll adore the most kickass roller coaster at Walt Disney World (sorry, Expedition Everest!). Imagineers took the core concept of Space Mountain, a roller coaster that runs in the dark, and dialed it up to 11 by building a much faster vehicle. Space Mountain only goes 28 miles per hour. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster zooms through the darkness at 57 miles per hour! It’s more than twice as fast!
My only real complaint about the ride is its length. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster lasts 85 seconds, which is barely enough time to get through the chorus of an Aerosmith song. That’s all that keeps it from getting a higher grade than A-. I like this ride slightly more than Star Tours, but Hollywood Studios definitely has better.
2) Toy Story Midway Mania!
Who doesn’t love Toy Story? Judging by the box office of the three movies thus far and pop culture status of Woody and Buzz, the answer is nobody. The entire world loves these toys, and that’s why Midway Mania! is such a genius concept. It celebrates the underlying premise of the film franchise, which is that we’re all just kids at heart. We have fond memories of our childhood, we miss the toys we played with back then, and we never grow too old to play games.
Toy Story Midway Mania! is a dazzling concoction of all these things. Riders become players in a carnival game. Guests board four-person ride carts divided into two-player sections and head to a series of digital display screens. Here, you pull a cord to “shoot” at the screen, although in some instances you’re popping balloons or throwing rings around hoops. Along the way, you interact with many of your favorite Toy Story characters, who provide guidance on how to play each round of the game.
Once you’re done, you get the joy of comparing your score to the other people in your vehicle. You also get to see the best hourly and daily scores so that you have something to aim for (sorry for the pun) the next time you play. The entire experience is pure joy, which explains why Midway Mania has been so popular for so long that Disney had to add a third track at Hollywood Studios. It’s one of the best rides at Walt Disney World and a clear A+ attraction. Even with this grade, it’s still not THE best at the park, though!
1) The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
In the immortal words of Highlander, there can be only one. Even at a park with a quartet of E Ticket attractions, one stands above the rest as the best of the best. At Hollywood Studios, that ride is The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, the most thematic attraction Imagineers have ever constructed from a non-Disney property.
You of course know that The Twilight Zone was a popular 1960s television series that has stood the test of time as sublime science fiction programming. As influential as Game of Thrones is today, that was Twilight Zone more than 50 years ago. Tower of Terror uses a digital recreation of Rod Serling to tell an original but thematically apt Twilight Zone story about an abandoned hotel. The Hollywood Tower Hotel was once where the celebrity elite stayed when they visited Tinsel Town during the golden age of cinema. Then, a supernatural event led to the ghosting of several guests whose spirits chose to haunt an elevator shaft. Okay, it sounds a bit strange to describe, but you know the deal.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is an electric combination of brilliant story and joyous ride experience. You enter an elevator shaft, strap on your much-needed seatbelt, and feel the odd sensation of getting lifted to the top of the elevator…only you’re not sure how high up you’ve gone. Like Star Tours, Tower of Terror has variables in play, so there’s no way to know for sure which ride experience you’ll get each time.
You may go straight up and straight down or you may bounce up and down several times. This randomness adds an added depth to the excitement. Rod Serling would approve of the chaotic nature of the ride based on his iconic television series. Due to its complexity, variability, and intensity, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is THE best attraction at Hollywood Studios. It’s also in the conversation for best overall ride at Walt Disney World.
PS: If you were wondering, I would have ranked The Great Movie Ride fifth and given it a B. It was once a great attraction, but it had run its course. I totally understand and approve of Disney’s decision to replace it with something more modern. Around 1990, however, it was *totally* an A+ attraction.
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