Trip Report - AK-Kidani & BLT - Day 5 (3-21-17) HS


#1

Ahh, the Studios. Much discussion on the boards lately of how much time, if any, to spend here. Let me try to give a thorough account of our day here and hopefully help you decide based on our experiences. Let me preface this by saying we didn't even try to ride ToT or RnRC (I toyed with the idea of using our bonus FPP on RnRC but you'll see later what we did instead), which I know are the two highlights for most of you. Even still, with that being said, this is the day of the trip my kids talk about more than any other when people ask them about their trip. THEY LOVED the STUDIOS!

Of course, my two boys (ages 8 and 6) are Stars Wars kids. They've seen all the movies multiple times. They got Ewok Village lego set (1997 pieces) for Christmas. So they probably had a slight bias towards this park. But read my report with an open mind and see what you think.

I was a bit worried in the morning of this trip, as a week before Liners at the Studio were losing their minds posting about the crowds, which turned out to be CL 10. Luckily I don't believe this turned out to be the case a week later, we didn't really have much of a problem with crowds at all, though again we weren't riding the big headliners.

Here's the agenda:

And boy howdy did this plan start out well! We were on the bus to HS at 7:45 am with only a 5 min wait outside of the Contemporary. We were there by 8 am and thru bagcheck to the tapstiles around 8:10 am. This proved to not be as long a wait as you might expect, and we were almost at the front of the line. They let you through the tapstiles around 8:35, and we briskly walked down Hollywood Blvd. left along the lake, to the Jedi Training signups. We got here at 8:40 and they only made us wait barely 5 min before taking us down to start the actual signups. I didn't read about this before the trip - signups started well before the rope dropped in the rest of the park. We had maybe 30 people in front of us - when it was our turn, the only show full was the very first one of the day, which was fine as our first choice was the 6:10 pm show anyway.

So to all those people posting about planning multiple TPs due to not knowing which JT show they'll wind up with, IF you are planning to RD, as long as you don't pick the first show, you'll be fine making a TP for any other show. Generally the later shows are the easiest to count on, but again, we wouldn't have had a problem with any show except the first.

Another old forum thread I can definitively answer - we WERE given a bonus FPP when we signed up for JT. Not sure if they only do this for the first so many people, but it worked in our case!

We were finished signing up by 8:55 and able to go to the front of the lake near the Frozen theater for actual RD. We took a right and made it into GMR on the first car. This ride gets a hard time in some quarters, but I was very impressed with the combination of incredibly detailed recreations of classic movie scenes, witty banter of the host, and the live action scenes like the gunfight. It's a good ride! We were ready for the Alien scene and had warned our kids to keep their eyes closed at that point. The rest of the ride wasn't remotely scary for them. I had watched Raiders and Temple of Doom with my kids before we left, so they loved the Indiana Jones segment in particular.

Exiting the ride at 9:20, I got a little cocky. We were so far ahead of schedule that I decided to call an audible. If you look at the plan, there's no way we could have pulled off the VOTLM show that the plan recommended at 7:05 - that would assume we could run over in 5 minutes from Star Tours and walk right into the show with no line. I didn't think it was likely, so as we were right beside the LM theater, and I knew the first show was about to start at 9:30, I figured we could cross that one off the list and still be at TSMM right on time at 9:50. If you aren't willing to gamble, it's impossible to win, right?

Bad move. The show was fine, enjoyable, no trouble there. But when we made it back to TSMM, there was a huge line. Assuming it was the standby line we walked up to the front, only to discover it was actually the FPP line - only 1 section of the ride was working! This meant that the ride was completely closed to standby, and the only people who could ride were FPPs. We had a FPP, so not a huge deal - except the line wound up being 30 minutes. It was a great ride - the whole family loved the video game aspects - but we didn't exit till 10:40 or so, which means we had missed our next stop - Frozen at 10:30.

So while in line, I did a manual redesign of the entire day. This was pretty difficult, but my hours of research paid off here. I had the data on show/ride times and basic distances, and I wound up planning a really good, maybe even better plan. The only consequence was instead of 100 minutes at Launch Bay, it was cut to about 60. It also improved the other main worry point of the original plan - TP had claimed we could get out of the Indy show at 1:45 and make it into BatB for the 2:00 show. It would probably work with low crowds, but I had heard that BatB in particular could require arriving a bit earlier.

So after TSMM we went right to SW:LB. We watched the movie, but if you weren't into that, you could have just walked right into the museum portion. The kids enjoyed seeing the speeder, the bar with the blue milk, and the Jawas. They traded the Jawas (they had picked out their trinkets months in advance), didn't like what they got the first time, so re-traded again. We then got into the Kylo Ren line, the 6 yr old asked him "Are you going to find Rey and fight her again?" to which Kylo responded, "indeed!". Pretty good Adam Driver voice, is that a recording?

Afterwards it was 11:50. We weren't really into the expense of the full HBD experience, so I was really hoping to grab a seat at the HBD Lounge right when it opened at 12. This proved easy - we were there 5 minutes early and grabbed a seat with no trouble. It was a beautiful afternoon and patio dining was extremely pleasant, though I will say the neighboring SW: AGFFA show was very loud. I broke with longstanding tradition and precedent as the beer guy and in deference to the setting ordered a Manhattan, while my wife had a martini. These were good drinks, well made, not like some other park mixed drinks can get. I had the Cobb salad, my wife had the Andouille-crusted shrimp, and from the dessert trio we chose the double vanilla bean creme brulee, the amaretto flan, and the grapefruit cake (natch), which my wife paired with the grapefruit martini. I actually liked the flan the best, followed by the creme brulee. The grapefruit cake was good but just slightly outshone by the other desserts. Overall a very good meal, with excellent service - one of the highlights of the trip.

We had Indy FPPs for the 1:15 show. We sat down front and my wife was chosen as one of the extras - a screamer. My kids could not have loved this show more - they were so impressed with all the stunts and action sequences. Having just seen the movies in the prior weeks, it was all fresh in their minds. They told stories about this show for days.

Afterwards we went right across the street to the SW movie clip show. This one is pretty forgettable, at least to us adults, but the kids will never ever complain about getting to watch a movie, so of course they enjoyed it.

Next up - FROZEN, the 2:30 show. This one did have a fairly long standby wait and I was afraid we might not make it, but luckily we got in. though sitting on the extreme left way up front. Very funny banter at this one, a lot that went right over the kids' heads. Of course the finale was magical and everyone left happy.

Now it was around 3 pm. We were planning on seeing the SW: AGFFA show at 3:30, so we had time for a quick break. We got the kids some Mickey bars, took their picture on the speeder across from Star Tours, and I attempted to answer another hotly debated forum question from before I left - can you carry out drinks from sit-down restaurants? Turns out, the answer is NO! I wanted to try an IPA that is only available at Sci-Fi, so I asked very nicely if I could just order a drink to go. The hostess was pretty flummoxed by this question, and basically said the only way that could happen was if I went on the wait list as a party of one, waited for the table, got the table, ordered the drink, and got it to go. This was way too involved, so I thanked her and went across to the Tune in Lounge instead where I got a Jai Alai IPA.

We headed over to the AGFFA show. Main drawback here is that it's full sun, no shade, but seeing all the characters in the flesh was a nice change, and the use of music was done nicely.

Down Sunset Blvd we strolled for the first time. Quip of the day goes to the 8 yr old, who on spotting the Hollywood Tower Hotel, and knowing its theme was a haunted elevator, asked "Is that where Johnny S Pumpkins lives?"

We went to the 4 pm BatB showing. I think by this point at least me personally was a bit on BatB overload, enough so to finally start questioning the concept itself - a girl gets kidnapped and falls in love with her captor - that's actually a bit icky. I think I'm overthinking it a bit, everyone else loved it.

I had successfully used my browser "refresh" trigger finger the week before to reload enough times to get a Fantasmic dining package at 4:40 pm at Mama Melrose. Another really good, professional, experienced server here who got us in and out as we had to be at Jedi Training practice at 5:40. I had the caprese and the saltimbocca, and my wife had the mussels and the shrimp campanelle. After hearing such horror stories about this place, we had pretty low expectations. It definitely wasn't world-class Italian, but it was decent red sauce joint Italian. I had no complaints. They also throw in the dessert sampler as well - the tiramisu ain't bad. I also had a Racer 5 IPA, an old favorite.

It was off to Jedi Training. The kids got their robes on and took their oaths. Someone in another thread was asking about how young can kids be - we had a screamer in our group. A little boy wasn't too thrilled to be even 10 or so yards removed from his parents, and he didn't shy away from sharing his feelings. We marched over to the temple and the kids did their thing. Our kids both fought the Seventh Sister. The photopass pics are great but you wind up with ALL the photos of the event, not just your own kids, so now I have rando kids with light sabers flashing through my computer slideshow screensaver on occasion. It was good fun, the kids enjoyed it. Afterwards it was up to the Muppets theater for the 3D show.

So then it was time for our Star Tours fastpass. This was the source of some consternation in the planning process. When the 8 yr old discovered what it was and what it was all about, he was obsessed with riding this ride. Trouble is, he gets motion sickness fairly easily, so we were worried how his belly would do. We gave him a little quarter tab of Dramamine in advance just in case. Nothing to worry about, he did fine, and loved it. This was his number one most favorite ride of the trip, and the one he tells everyone about whenever they ask about Disney. He liked it so much he immediately wanted to ride again.

Luckily I had those bonus FPPs from Jedi Training, so this was no problem. The 6 yr old in fact, didn't want to ride gain - so we child swapped it and the 8 year old was able to ride it 3 times in a row! Combined with some gift shop time though, this put us leaving Star Tours at 8:07 pm. Whoops. We sprinted across the park, weaving thru the crowds, and got to Fantasmic around 8:11. The tickets said be there by 8:10, but it didn't seem to matter, they let us in with no trouble and we were able to easily find a spot in the Mickey section halfway up dead center. I tried a Sam Adams Hopscape here - I'm not generally a huge wheat beer fan but turns out hopping the hell out of it can make any style palatable for me, so it was a win.

Post Fantasmic as you walk back down Sunset Blvd, there are cast members with big signs saying "Fireworks viewing -->", so they know that many people will strive to see Fantasmic and SW: AGS in the same night. Following the signs and the cast members brought us to a viewing area right by the HBDL on the extreme right side of the central viewing area. Not completely unobstructed - you couldn't really see the central projection screen, but you could see the side projection screens and the fireworks easily.

And with that, the day was over- it was the kids' favorite day of the trip. This was EASILY a full day park for us, and remember, we didn't even do ToT or RnRC. Even if you don't like Star Wars that much, all the shows can easily fill up a day. So maybe don't reflexively skip this park, it's a treasure.

And did you know the Electrical Water Parade even runs on Monday nights? It certainly does!! :astonished:


#2

We adore HS, we did 2.5 days last trip so I dread to think how long we'll spend there once TS and SW lands are open!

Nice job with the on-the-go planning.


#3

Great report! I am always shocked by how much I enjoy HBD.


#4

We like HS too, my boys are big SW fans tho!
Great report :grinning:


#5

We were at BLT & Hollywood Studios the same day, though we didn't make it to Hollywood until lunch time. (We decided we needed a sleep in day.) Hollywood Studios was our second favorite park, and Toy Story Midway Mania was our favorite ride; the backlog on standby cleared up in the afternoon, and we rode it a second time with a 15 minute wait around 5:30.

I'm pretty sure my kids would have voted to spend two days at Hollywood Studios and skip Animal Kingdom...and they aren't Star Wars fans, either.


#6

Loving following along with your touring...and you all are some touring warriors...just reading your report makes me tired...no way I could keep up with your plans...but it sounds like you had an amazing trip...and thanks for the great photos...


#7

Were we perhaps on the bus together home?? :grinning: That's awesome you got to do TSMM a second time - that's the one thing they told us about the bonus FPP- it was good for anything BUT TSMM. We would have loved to do it again.


#8

As this trip report was percolating in my head, before I started putting it to paper - there were a few threads/posts on the board from people talking about HS regarding how they didn't care for it or were thinking of skipping it. I desperately wanted to chime in "Wait, read my trip report first!" :smile:

Everyone has different priorities, but for us with the Star Wars stuff and the great shows, HS was a winner.


#9

Another great trip report, highly entertaining. Dramamine- adding it to my list of things to bring, great tip!Also, my husband would like to invite you to swap places with him on our trip. Disney is not his thing, and I would love a planner to take charge. Let me know. :joy:


#10

Thanks for the compliment! I have to say that I was quite impressed with my family's stamina - I made the plans thinking I had a good idea of their touring preferences and energy levels, but still, you worry that perhaps you don't know them as well as you think. But there was no trouble at all in following the plans. I didn't see how to avoid long days at Epcot and HS as they were far from the hotel. Those were the only 2 sunrise to sunset days we did. Though we did RD 3 days in a row - but that's really the key to making these things work, right? :smirk:


#11

While it's hard to pass up an all-expense paid trip back to Disney, I'm not sure if my wife would be as excited about this situation, unless perhaps you're volunteering your husband to come watch our kids while she gets some spa days or something?? :wink:


#12

I always stick up for it!


#13

What a great report. I loved the way you called the audible..hahaha...and the kids looked like they had a great time. I'm printing out your notes for our next trip to HS.

I wish my youngsters were as good SW fans as I am but nooooo...they rather spend the day on Toy Mania...bummer about the ride half closing...but it's better than getting stuck on the monorail for 20 minutes like us...hahaha


#14

If you went straight from Fantasmic to the bus as the Star Wars fireworks were wrapping up, then I'm sure we were on the bus to BLT together. (We ended up in the back of the bus)

All told, Hollywood Studio was easily our second favorite park...and we're not even Star Wars fans. (My son did a couple of Star Wars attractions and now could still turn into one.) We have a world-class zoo at home, so Animal Kingdom seemed awfully meh to us. The shows (and Flame Tree BBQ) were the only things that kept the day from being a waste of a day.


#15

We stopped to watch the SW fireworks first, then left immediately on their conclusion.

We thought AK was great - even though we've been to the National Zoo in DC and the Philly Zoo multiple times, animals are always fun to see - they're always doing something different. I thought the underwater view of the hippo and the dragons in particular were things I hadn't seen before. Mix in earning the WE badges, the shows, and Everest and we were able to fill 2 half days pretty easily. There were definitely people there skipping the trails, though. :frowning: