Walt Disney World - Hollywood Studios, Orlando
Disney's Hollywood Studios was the third theme park to open at Walt Disney World, in 1989 (it was then known as Disney-MGM Studios). A bit like Main Street, U.S.A. at Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Boulevard is where you get your first look at the Studios. At the top of the street you'll find Mickey's sorcerer's hat, which has become the Studios' icon. There are plenty of souvenir shops around, and that's also where most of the street entertainment takes place, with the Block Party Bash parade and the High School Musical show (which my 11-year-old niece really enjoyed!).
Behind Mickey's hat there's a cool reproduction of Grauman's Chinese Theater, in front of which many Disney characters as well as real actors have left their handprints. It's also home to the "Great Movie Ride", which pays tribute to Hollywood classics. There are several that my niece and nephew didn't know about, but as we were waiting in line we got to see clips from all the movies that would be represented during the ride, which helped them appreciate it more.
Around Echo Lake is where you'll find "Star Tours", a Star Wars-inspired experience that takes you on board a spaceship. It's a really fun ride, but it's not for people with motion sickness - of all the rides at Walt Disney World, it's the only one that made me feel a bit queezy. Next to it is the "Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular", a show that recreates some of the most famous scenes from the movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark". It was really well done and highly entertaining, we all enjoyed it very much.
Finally, we went to the "American Idol Experience" show. We weren't necessarily expecting much from it, but we all ended up liking it so much that we went back a second time. It really does make you feel like you're in the real American Idol studio, and the fact that the singers are random visitors who just decided to give it a shot makes it even more fun. The performances were great, and it's possible to watch the day's finale on big screens outside the theatre. With so much to do, it's no wonder we had to go back to the Studios for a second day!
I think the Streets of America section might be part of the reason why so many male visitors love Disney's Hollywood Studios! The "Lights, Motors, Action!" show is filled with amazing vehicle stunts and the really cool part is that after they're done shooting all the different action sequences, they show you what tricks they used to make such stunts possible. The "Studio Backlot Tour" is also very interesting, especially the Harbor Attack and Catastrophe Canyon parts, where you get a first hand look at how movie special effects are made.
To complete the Streets of America section, there's a really funny 3D Muppet movie, and I also very much enjoyed walking around the New York City and San Francisco street sets. So much attention has been paid to details, the visual effect can be quite surprising!
This was our second theme park. We managed to take in most of the shows and rides on offer. Best show for me would have to be the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme stunt show. This showed how the film makers went about their business and included plenty of high speed chases and stunts.
Best ride of the day would have to be the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith which sped off at an incredible 60 miles an hour. A great adrenalin rush. This is worth trying to do a couple of times if the queues aren't too long.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror came a close second. In this ride they put you in a lift and drop you up and down floors in the dark!
Other Show Reviews
Muppet Vision 3D - Now this was really fun! You're in an inide theatre being entertained by kermit and his friendss. Fun for young and old alike.
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular - A live show which was packed out. It was reasonable although it did look a bit dated.
Jedi Training Academy - Another one for the kids but if the adults hang about then there's always the appearance of Darth Vader to liven things up.
Beauty and the Beast - A live stage show full of characters from the Disney film. This one is strictly for the kids but it does give you a chance to get out of the heat and take a rest.
Gobble like a turkey for half price lunch!
One of the things that you must have a go at is the eating of the turkey legs from Toluca Legs Turkey Co. We went to buy two for lunch. At the counter we were asked if we would like one free. We of course said "yes okay". All we had to do was look into the cashiers camera and gobble like a turkey! Well we had to do it twice to convince him of our turkey worth. Great fun.
This, I thought, was actually one of the better parks at Disneyworld, especially for an older audience. Most Disney parks and attractions are definitely geared towards kids, but I would say Hollywood Studios provides more fun for teenagers/adults as well as for kids.
First of all, the rides. It took some convincing for me to go on the Aerosmith ride (I don't like going upside down) but it was really fun! It's in the dark, which is kind of a unique experience, and the music enhances the ride. We liked the Tower of Terror so much we rode it twice in a row--that one definitely gets your heart racing! Then I really liked their "Great Movie Ride". If you love old movies (like me) or maybe even want to learn more about movie history, I definitely recommend this one. They have displays of scenes from different classics and different "characters" from movies guide your tour as well.
We didn't stay for the American Idol show at night, but I'm sure it was great. Two of my friends, however, did try out for it, which was fun in itself. They didn't make it, but the judges are very friendly (no Simon Cowells there!) and they were both glad they did it. I served as their 'agent' since I was 18 and neither of them were, and it was fun for me to see how the process worked as well.
Then, there are shows put on there as well. The Beauty and the Beast show was my favorite! The singers were absolutely fantastic, the actor playing Gaston was hilarious, and it's always been one of my favorite Disney movies so it was very enjoyable. They also had a Little Mermaid show playing, but it was indoors and only featured a few actors, so it wasn't as exciting as the Beauty and the Beast one.
Last of all--my favorites--were the two stunt shows. There is one featuring stunt cars, motorcycles, and even a jet ski scene, which is just amazing to watch and also interesting because they show you how some of the stunts are done in movies. Be sure to get there early because the seats fill up fast! There is also an Indiana Jones stunt show which features more acrobatic stunts. I absolutely love Indiana Jones, but even if you don't, it's really entertaining to watch. I've heard it's also really fun to participate, so when they ask for volunteers be sure to put your hand up!
On our visit to WDW, we budgeted a day each for Magic Kingdom and Epcot, but in looking at the other two parks, it was questionable that we would need a full day. Our first day, we bussed it over to Hollywood Studios, and walked into the park right as it opened. We made a beeline for the Toy Story ride, which can get tremendous lines due to its popularity. Even though we made it our first stop, we still had a half hour wait to get to the ride. It's a fun experience, but I'm not sure I would put much longer of a wait into it.
From there, we cut across to Star Tours, which is a flight simulator based on Star Wars. If you enjoy the movies at all, this is a cool ride, which takes you though many of the locales from the movies.
After that, we cut over to the Muppets theater - a nifty 3-D experience with a lot of humorous warm-up, and a pretty funny show as well.
The problem was, with our younger kids, that was it for our time. Too small for Tower of Terror or Aerosmith, and not interested in any of the other shows. We were basically done before lunchtime. Thankfully we had the park hopper to try something else, or this would have been a very disappointing day.