How to get the most out of Disney Hollywood Studios with toddlers and little kids

Last updated on June 7, 2024

Hollywood Studios - Toy Story Land

Disney’s Hollywood Studios, like EPCOT, is often seen as more suited to older kids and adults rather than little kids, but that’s not really the case. I mean, it’s the home of Toy Story Land! Sure, there are some attractions that will be better suited to older kids, but our 3-year-old loved Hollywood Studios – in fact it was home to his favourite rides. 

So here’s my guide to visiting Hollywood Studios with toddlers and little kids, including the best rides, shows, food and places to play – plus practical advice on how to make the most of your day.

It’ll be useful even if you’re travelling without kids, especially if you’re nervous about some of the rides (see the detailed section on all the Hollywood Studios rides).

Guide to Disney World with toddlers and little kids

I’ve also written a detailed guide to getting the most out of all of Disney World with toddlers and little kids, which covers things like the best time to go, how to choose which parks to visit, how to avoid the queues (including a guide to using Genie+), and how best to navigate the humungous Disney property. I suggest reading that too to cover all the basics. 

What is Hollywood Studios?

Hollywood Studios entrance.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios (originally known as Disney-MGM Studios) is themed around the golden age of Hollywood with lands, rides and shows, all inspired by movies, TV, music and theatre.

Nowadays, it’s most well-known for its two newest areas – Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land. Galaxy’s Edge is a particularly impressive immersive land that transports guests to the planet Batuu, featuring cool rides, themed dining, shopping and character interactions (it’s the same as the one at Disney California Adventure). If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll be blown away – and even if you’re not, it’s an awesome experience.

Is Disney’s Hollywood Studios good for toddlers and little kids?

Family photo at Ogas Cantina in Hollywood Studios.

We think all the Disney World parks can be good for toddlers and little kids, and it’s hard to choose which one is best. It depends a lot on your priorities and interests. In a way it’s annoying as it’d be good to rule out at least one when visiting with little kids!

Magic Kingdom has the most attractions for little ones, and Animal Kingdom is really toddler and kid-friendly because of all the animals, shows and slower pace. But Hollywood Studios is also a great choice, mainly because of Toy Story Land.

In Toy Story Land, everything is oversized, making guests feel as though they’ve shrunk to the size of a toy. Both our boys (ages 3 and 6) loved it. And it was home to their two favourite rides: Toy Story Mania and Alien Swirling Saucers.

Our kids also loved Galaxy’s Edge. While they’re a little young for the Star Wars films, they’ve watched the Lego version and are big fans of Baby Yoda and the general Star Wars aesthetic. Our 6-year-old loved the Star Wars rides too (he rode them for the first time when he was just 5 in California).

Another great ride for kids/toddlers at Hollywood Studios is Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway (although my littlest one was scared of it). 

How to navigate Hollywood Studios with toddlers and little kids

We have more info on all the different transport available at Disney in our main Disney World guide, but here’s some specific info on Hollywood Studios. 

How to get to Hollywood Studios

You can get to Hollywood Studios via bus, car, boat, Skyliner or by walking the BoardWalk. We especially loved being able to get there via the Skyliner from the Disney Art of Animation resort. And it was also handy to be able to walk there/catch the boat when we stayed at the Dolphin Resort.

Here’s a quick reference guide for how to get to Hollywood Studios from the other Disney parks:

Magic Kingdom: Bus

EPCOT: Disney Skyliner, Friendship boat or walkway

Animal Kingdom: Bus

How to get around Disney Hollywood Studios

Once inside the park, it’s fairly easy to navigate. It takes around 20 minutes to get from one side to the other (e.g. from Hollywood Tower of Terror to Galaxy’s Edge). Here’s a map of the park.

A note on strollers

You can hire strollers and mobility devices at both entrances. In our main Disney World post, we explain that strollers are handy at Disney World, even for slightly older kids as the days are long and little legs can get tired quickly. The same goes for mobility scooters for adults if you have any issues walking long distances.

Please note you can’t bring little carts for carrying kids.

How to plan your time at Hollywood Studios with toddlers and little kids

We have general tips on how to plan a Disney World trip with kids in our main Disney post. This includes advice on prioritising rides, being flexible, thinking about naps/break times, and choosing your first ride wisely. 

When making a plan for Hollywood Studios, be sure to consider the layout of the park. Try to group attractions and shows together by location – otherwise you’ll waste time zig-zagging back and forth. 

I also recommend thinking about the pace of your day, alternating rides with shows and allowing time to explore the themed areas like Galaxy’s Edge.

How to reduce your wait times at Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios.

See our main Disney World post for general tips on how to reduce wait times at Disney – including using Genie+, individual lightening lanes, single rider lanes, and doing rope drop – but here are some specific tips for Hollywood Studios. 

Which is the best first ride to choose at Hollywood Studios?

Slinky Dog Dash is the most popular ride at Hollywood Studios and the most popular for rope drop. Our kids are scared of rollercoasters so didn’t want to do this one, but I saw the line build up really quickly at early entry. By park opening, the line was over an hour even on the quieter day we visited. 

If you don’t have Genie+ or early entry, you’ll likely just have to accept that Slinky has a long wait. But if you have Genie+, I recommend making this your first selection. That’s the easiest way to guarantee a shorter line. Plus it’ll allow you to jump on a few of the less popular rides at rope drop (rather than waiting the whole time for Slinky).

Is Genie+ worth it at Hollywood Studios with toddlers and little kids?

Meeting Woody and Jessie at Hollywood Studios

We went to Hollywood Studios twice and the crowds were wildly different on each day: the first was quiet and the second was super busy. On the quieter day, we could have done a lot without Genie+, but on the second, we definitely needed it.

Check the Disney crowd calendar for a rough idea of when is a good time to go. It isn’t 100% accurate (for example, we went to Magic Kingdom on a day when low crowds were predicted, but it was actually very busy), but it’ll serve as a guideline.

deciding if Genie+ is worth it will depend a lot on how many of the Genie+ rides/attractions you and your kids want to do. There are lots that are suitable for little kids, so the likelihood is it’ll be helpful.

I also tend to think Genie+ is always worth having (if you can afford it) so you can minimise your time queuing. Without it, you’d be looking at waits of over an hour for some attractions. Our little ones (age 3 and 6) have almost zero tolerance for any line over 15 minutes, so we found Genie+ to be a sanity saver.

Practically all the rides at Hollywood Studios are included in Genie+. The main exception is Rise of the Resistance, but you can buy a lightening lane for this.

Here’s a full list of the Genie+ attractions at Hollywood Studios in alphabetical order. Remember this is subject to change at any time, so do check the app/website for what’s on offer when you visit. I’ve split them into rides and shows/character meets.

Genie+ rides

Genie+ shows/character meets

Our Genie+ strategy for Hollywood Studios with little kids

The queue for Toy Story Mania.

We bought a lightening lane for Rise of the Resistance because our youngest was too small to ride it, so we didn’t want to be separated for ages while we waited in line. Plus our eldest hates queuing, so we didn’t fancy a long wait.

We were staying at Disney resorts when visiting Hollywood Studios, so we did have early entry.

This was our order of priority for Genie+ selections:

  • Smugglers Run
  • Toy Story Mania
  • Star Tours
  • Olaf
  • Alien Swirling Saucers

And this is how the day panned out…

7am: Book Genie+ for Smugglers Run and individual lightening lane for Rise of the Resistance (if we had wanted to ride Slinky, we’d have booked a Genie+ for this instead)

8:30am: Early entry. Ride Minnie and Mickey’s Runaway Railway (10-minute wait)

8:50am: Check lines for Toy Story Mania and Alien Swirling Saucers and ride these (we did this with only a 5-10-minute wait for each)

11am: All of the Genie+ rides had short wait times, so we rode Star Tours before lunch. Arlo was too small, so Steve and I took turns. We booked our next Genie+ for Olaf, ready for after lunch.

11:30am: Early lunch at Sci-Fi Drive-in Theater

12:30: Kids refuse to meet Olaf because they want to ride Toy Story rides again! Cancel Olaf Genie+ and book Toy Story Mania and then Swirling Saucers (both have a 10-minute Genie+ wait).

1:30pm: Ride Smugglers Run and then Rise of the Resistance  (take turns for each of these as Arlo doesn’t want to ride).

2:30pm: Reservation at Oga’s Cantina

4pm: Planned to watch stunt show but kids are exhausted so we go back to hotel. At this stage, we could have easily gone on Tower of Terror or Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway (both had less than a 20-minute wait via Genie+).

Quick guide to the best rides for toddlers and little kids at Hollywood Studios

Toy Story Land Hollywood Studios.

Here’s a quick guide to the rides at Hollywood Studios and their suitability for different ages/fear levels. I have info on other attractions, including shows and animal enclosures in the sections below.

The most gentle rides for toddlers and little kids at Hollywood Studios

  • Toy Story Mania!

Hollywood Studios rides that might be scary for nervous/very little riders

  • Alien Swirling Saucers (32in / 82cm) (Note, this could almost go in the gentle section)
  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (38in / 97cm))
  • Slinky Dog Dash (38in / 97cm)
  • Star Tours (40in / 102cm)

Hollywood Studios rides for more confident and older children

  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (40in / 102cm)
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (currently closed)

Descriptions of all Hollywood Studios rides for kids

Toy Story Land rides

Slinky Dog Dash

Slinky Dog Dash is one of the most fun looking rollercoasters you’ll ever see, and I was gutted not to ride it. But alas, my kids weren’t keen and I wasn’t keen enough to queue by myself. 

It’s one of the most popular rides in Hollywood Studios and is a generally gentle rollercoaster. But it’s quite high up and goes fairly fast, so my kids were scared of it. It’s bigger than the Barnstormer at Magic Kingdom, so a next step up from that. 

Toy Story Mania!

Toy Story Mania was a family favourite for us and the kids wanted to ride it again and again. It’s an interactive 4D shooting game that takes you on a journey through various carnival-style games hosted by the Toy Story characters. You use spring-action shooters to hit targets and score points in a series of fast-paced, colourful scenes. It’s a huge amount of fun and we all loved trying to beat our previous score.

Alien Swirling Saucers

Arlo was scared to ride this at first, but ended up loving it and wanting to ride it repeatedly! It’s similar to Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree in Disney California Adventure. The alien vehicles spin around a central point, taking you through spins and twists. It’s a lot of fun and a good level of thrill for young riders. 

Galaxy’s Edge rides

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

Rise of the Resistance is one of Disney’s most impressive rides. We first rode it in California, and it’s the same in Florida. The immersive, trackless ride puts you in the middle of a battle between the Resistance and the First Order, featuring life-sized AT-ATs, and encounters with characters like Kylo Ren and Rey.

It’s pretty intense, so probably a bit scary for really little kids. But Otis loved it at age 5. The pre-ride experience for Rise of the Resistance is as impressive as the ride itself!

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run

Also in Galaxy’s Edge, Smugglers Run lets you pilot the Millennium Falcon on a smuggling mission. Everyone takes on roles as either a pilot, gunner, or engineer, working together to complete the mission in a flight simulator experience.

Like Rise of the Resistance, this ride will likely be a bit much for really little kids as the simulator can be quite intense. But if they’re generally okay with that sort of ride, they might like it. Otis loved it at age 5, whereas I think Arlo would have been scared at nearly age 4.

More rides at Hollywood Studios

Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway

We first rode Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway in Disneyland California and were wowed by it then. It was the first trackless ride I’d ever been on, and I’m still so impressed with the technology. This one takes place in the Chinese Theatre and takes you on a fast-paced, whimsical journey through the cartoon world of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. 

It’s super fun and is theoretically suitable for all ages, but there are some bits, like a mock hurricane, that Arlo at age 3 found really scary. He refused to ride it at Disney World, but Otis counts it as one of his favourite rides. This is a good example of how it’s not just about age, but also your kids’ sensitivity to different things.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Ah, this one is so scary! It’s an old classic with multiple free-fall drops in a dark elevator shaft – you get flung up and down at a frenetic pace. It’s the same as the Guardians of the Galaxy ride at Disney California Adventure, and definitely not one for nervous riders. It’s one of the most thrilling rides in Disney World.

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

This indoor roller coaster features a high-speed launch and inversions, all set to the music of Aerosmith. The ride takes guests on a wild car ride through the streets of Los Angeles to get to a concert. This was closed for refurbishment while we were there, but it’s definitely not one for nervous riders or toddlers.

Star Tours – The Adventures Continue

Steve and I rode this separately and were confused to find we’d seen different things – but this is all part of it. The ride features multiple storylines and destinations, providing a different experience each time. 

It’s a 3D motion simulator ride that takes you on a journey through various locations in the Star Wars universe. Confusingly, it’s not in Galaxy’s Edge, but just outside it. 

Like the other Star Wars rides, it might be scary for kids who find simulators a bit much (it has some pretty intense action scenes), but it isn’t fast so that isn’t a concern. Otis (age 6) loved it.

Best shows for toddlers and kids at Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios has some fantastic shows, including singalongs, stunt shows and nighttime spectaculars.

Here are some of the show highlights at Hollywood Studios.


Fantasmic is one of Disney’s most impressive nighttime shows. It combines fireworks, water projections, live actors, pyrotechnics, and music to tell the story of Mickey Mouse’s battle against Disney villains. It’s pretty epic, but it’s on really after dark at around 9pm so might be too late for little ones.

Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage

This Broadway-style musical production is a 25-minute re-telling of Beauty and the Beast. I’d have loved to see it as it’s one of my favourite Disney films, but the boys don’t know the film, so we gave it a miss.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!

I love a stunt show and this one is fantastic – an action-packed adventure, featuring scenes from the Indiana Jones films. See live stunts, special effects, and behind-the-scenes insights into how action sequences are created for movies. The show includes daring feats, explosions, and fight scenes, so might be a bit frightening for some kids.

For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration

Frozen fans, this is for you! It’s an interactive show featuring the royal historians of Arendelle recounting the story of Frozen. There are sing-along sections with popular songs from the movie, and characters like Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff make special appearances. It’s good for kids of all ages, especially Frozen fans.

Muppet*Vision 3D

Muppet*Vision 3D is a 3D film experience featuring the Muppets. The show combines film with live-action elements, special effects, and the classic madcap humour of the Muppets as they attempt to present a variety show. It’s good for all ages.

Disney Junior Dance Party!

If you’re kids are fans of the Disney Junior characters like Doc McStuffins and Vampirina, this is a great opportunity to see them live. It’s an interactive dance show where kids can sing, dance and play along. I think Arlo would have loved it, but he wasn’t in the mood, so we didn’t go (kids!). I think Disney Junior is much bigger in America than the UK, so my kids weren’t overly familiar with all the characters.

Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy

This show-style attraction features a high-tech simulator where Lightning McQueen shares racing tips and tricks. The experience includes animatronics, video screens, and special effects to create an immersive environment. Cars fans are going to love it.

Walt Disney Presents

We didn’t go to this because the kids were low energy that day, but it’s a gallery and show celebrating the legacy of Walt Disney. Probably better for older kids who might appreciate the history more.

How to meet characters at Hollywood Studios

There are some fun opportunities to meet characters at Hollywood Studios, but the lines can be long for the ‘big hitters’ like Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Olaf is the only character available via Genie+ so it’s worth booking that in if your kids are Frozen fans.

There are lots of Star Wars characters who wander around Galaxy’s Edge, so that’s a good spot for simply walking around and seeing who you can spot. Our kids especially loved seeing Chewie and BB-8!

Here’s a full list of the characters you could meet when we visited Hollywood Studios, but do check the website before you visit as these are all subject to change.

  • Woody and Jessie
  • Buzz Lightyear
  • Ariel (from live action story)
  • Doc McStuffins
  • Edna Mode
  • Fancy Nancy
  • Frozone
  • Goofy
  • Sulley
  • Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse
  • Mr and Mrs Incredible
  • Donald and Daisy Duck
  • Olaf
  • Pluto
  • Vi Moardi, Rey, The Mandalorian, Kylo Ren, Stromtrooper, Darth Vader, Chewbacca and BB-8

Another way to guarantee a character meet is to book some character dining. The only option at Hollywood Studios is Hollywood & Vine where you can eat with Minnie Mouse and Disney Junior stars. 

Where to eat in Hollywood Studios with toddlers and little kids

Hollywood Studios has both quick-service and table-service restaurants that are good for all ages. And they also have some really fun dining experiences, like the Sci-Fi Dine-in Movie Theater and Oga’s Cantina. 

We generally prefer the quick-service options when eating with kids at Disney as it means you have more flexibility and don’t have to book a table. But at Hollywood Studios, we did book both Oga’s Cantina and the Sci-Fi Dine-in, which were both well worth it.

Some of our favourite food at Disney Hollywood Studios:

  • Sci-Fi Dine-In Movie Theater – sit in a car and watch old sci-fi movies while eating diner-style food at this re-creation of a drive-in movie theatre. This was my favourite dining experience in all of Disney. 
  • Oga’s Cantina – this is an absolute must for Star Wars fans! Have a drink in the iconic Oga’s Cantina where they’re serving all sorts of fun, themed cocktails and snacks. Kids are welcome and ours loved the whole experience. They have some fun sweet deserts with popping candy that the boys loved.
  • Round-up Rodeo – this table service restaurant in Toy Story Land has a BBQ focus so isn’t ideal for vegetarians, but the theming is brilliant with lots of toy playsets and fun mini desserts (love the Forky cupcake!). It’s perfect for Toy Story fans.
  • One of the best meals I had in Disney World was at the quick-service Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo in Galaxy’s Edge where they serve a good falafel and salad. The kids option is also healthy – look at our boys munching on broccoli (honestly such a relief amid the mac and cheese fest of our time at Disney!). Plus I loved my bright green cocktail!
  • The Backlot Express is another good quick-service option with meals that are easy for pleasing kids
  • Hollywood Studios also has two of my favourite Disney snacks: the giant Num Num cookies at Neighbourhood Bakery, and the pop tarts at Woody’s Lunch Box (this is also a good spot for savoury snacks like loaded totchos (similar to tater tots).
  • For character dining, you can book Hollywood & Vine, a table service restaurant where Minnie and Disney Junior stars make an appearance. 

Best places to stay near Hollywood Studios with kids

Art of Animation Little Mermaid hotel.

My advice for where to stay for Hollywood Studios is the same as Epcot. First of all, the key thing to consider is how you’ll get to and from the park each day. 

The most convenient options are the Disney resorts that have access to Hollywood Studios via the Skyliner, Friendship Boat, Boardwalk and Disney Monorail. 

We stayed at the Art of Animation Disney resort, which meant we could get the Skyliner to Hollywood Studios. This was really convenient and the kids loved it (Arlo still calls it one of his favourite “rides” in all of Disney World!). 

This is a value resort at Disney World, meaning it’s a little more expensive than the Disney motels, but not nearly as expensive as the moderate or deluxe levels.

Pop Century is another value resort right next to Art of Animation. Both have amazing theming, but Art of Animation is particularly good for kids with Lion King, Cars, Nemo and Little Mermaid themed rooms. Our kids adored it and say it’s the best hotel they’ve ever stayed in.

The hotels on the Disney Boardwalk, including the Swan and Dolphin Hotels, are also great options as you can either walk or get the Friendship Boat to the entrance of the park.

Buy your Disney World tickets now

Check the Disney website (USA and UK), as well as Undercover Tourist and Get Away Today for the latest deals on Disney tickets.

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