One of the most valuable perks of staying at a Disney World Resort is the 30-minute Early Entry to each of the 4 parks: Hollywood Studios, Magic Kindom, Epcot and Animal Kingdom. Having early access to the parks is an awesome experience and we really strive to make the most of our Early Entry.
We often get asked what is the best way to use the Early Entry time at Hollywood Studios. With 9 rides to choose from and 30 minutes to play with, we have a few preferred strategies that always work great for us. For those of you planning your own trip, we’ve included our best early entry strategies for Hollywood Studios and our tips for making the most of your extra 30 minutes in the park!
How Do Early Entry and Rope Drop Work at Hollywood Studios?
Hollywood Studios typically opens at 8.30am:
- Early Entry is 30 minutes prior to opening – so 8am for an 8.30am opening. Early entry guests are typically granted entry in advance of 8am so aim to arrive early – more details below!
- Regular rope drop for non-Disney resort guests is at park opening, so typically 8.30am. Early Entry guests have access to every ride in the park so rope dropping is less effective than say Magic Kingdom where some lands remain closed until the park opens- however, lower crowds mean that rope dropping is still beneficial.
Hollywood Studios Early Entry tip: Hollywood Studios is unique in that early entry guests are typically allowed to enter the park well before the listed Eary Entry Time and have full access to the park. On our most recent visit, we started with Rise of the Resistance and we were off the ride before Early Entry officially started!
What rides are open during Early Entry at Hollywood Studios?
Hollywood Studio is awesome for early entry as every ride is open (assuming there are no operating issues on the day). Typically, there are 9 rides available at Hollywood Studios in the early entry period. The rides, and their minimum height requirements, are:
- Alien Swirling Saucers – 32″/81cm
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway – no height requirement
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run – 38″/97cm
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith – 48″/122cm
- Slinky Dog Dash – 38″/97cm
- Star Tours – The Adventures Continue – 40″/102cm
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance – 40″/102cm
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ™ – 40″/102cm
- Toy Story Mania! – no height requirement
The shows and meet and greets start to operate at, or in the hour after the regular opening.
Early Entry at Hollywood Studios
We change up our early entry strategy depending on whether we have Genie+, if our young kids are with us at the park, if we’re prepared to splash out on an Individual Lightening Lane or even something as simple as what rides we’re in the mood for that morning!
Here’s some info you need to know prior to choosing your early entry strategy:
- Rise of the Resistance is available via standby or Individual Lightening Lane: Hollywood Studio’s most popular ride, Rise of the Resistance, is accessible via a standby line (a regular walk-up line) or a lightning lane by purchasing an Individual Lightening Lane (the Disney equivalent of pay-per-ride) – the Individual Lightening Lane for Rise runs between $15 and $25 depending on the day. It is not included in Genie+.
- Genie+: with the exception of Rise of the Resistance, all the Hollywood Studio rides can be reserved with Genie+. Genie+ is a ticket add-on which costs around $15 to $35 (depending on crowd levels and if you opt for single or all-park) and allows guests to reserve a timed slot to ride a Genie+ ride. Guests can reserve Genie+ ride access at various points through the course of the day – the first ride selection is made at 7am, the second at 2 hours after regular park opening time or when you tap in for your 7am selection if this is earlier. Subsequent rides can then be reserved every 2 hours or after you have tapped in for your existing Genie+ selections. When your ride time slot opens up you can access the ride through the lightning lane (an express line which is separate from the regular walk-up standby lines and provides expedited access to the ride).
- Most popular rides at Hollywood Studios: this is based on our experiences and wait times at Hollywood Studios. Slinky Dog Dash is wildly popular alongside Rise of the Resistance. These are followed by Smugglers Run, Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roll Coaster, Toy Story Mania and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad. Alien Swirling Saucers and Star Tours typically have wait times on the lower end of the Hollywood Studio rides.
- Early Entry guest entry time: if you haven’t experienced Hollywood Studios Early Entry before, there’s one huge thing you need to know – guests are typically allowed to enter the park up to 45 minutes before the official Early Entry time. So for an 8am Early Entry, you might be in the park at 7:15am or 7.30am and, if you’re really lucky, some of the rides might run early – we once rode and had exited Rise of the Resistance 10 minutes prior to the scheduled Early Entry time!
- Crowds: like any park, crowds at Hollywood Studios vary depending on events, time of year and even the day of the week. If you are lucky you might hit Hollywood Studios on a slower day but we’ve found it consistently busy on the days we’ve visited in 2023 – we’ve definitely had a few lower-crowd days which are a bonus but it’s never been ‘quiet’ for us. We always find it a little random in that it can be crowded on days when it is predicted to be quiet and vice versa. Our strategies and recommendations will help you navigate either way.
Early Entry Strategies at Hollywood Studios
Here are some of our favorite Early Entry Strategies and our ride priorities for Hollywood Studios:
Early Entry Strategy 1: Rise of the Resistance
Prioritise for Early Entry: Star Wars fans/ you don’t want to wait in a long line/ you don’t want to purchase an Individual Lightening Lane/ if you have Genie+ (all the other Hollywood Studio rides can be easily covered by Genie+ so you can focus on riding those later)/ your party are over 40″
With an average wait time of over 60 minutes and the only alternative an Individual Lightening Lane, Rise of the Resistance is one of the best rides to tick off during Early Entry – it’s also one of the best rides in Hollywood Studios and Disney World, period!
Make sure you are through security and ready to enter at least 45 minutes before Early Entry if you want to be close to the top of the Rise of the Resistance line – Hollywood Studios often admits guests to the park around 45 minutes prior to Early Entry. You will likely be held on Grand Avenue (adjacent to Muppets Vision 3D) until around 15/20 minutes before the official Early Entry time and, if the ride is opening as scheduled, you will then move to the line with the first guests boarding immediately – all before the park even officially opens for Early Entry!
What to Ride Next
If you have Genie+: opt for Slinky Dog Dash as your first selection at 7am. We’ve always managed a return time in the first 90 minutes after park opening but it’s the by far the most competitive Genie+ in Hollywood Studios (and the whole of Disney World) so there are no guarantees – you might even be waiting to the afternoon for your slot. With Slinky Dog waiting and Rise of the Resistance completed, we’d go for Smugglers Run or Tower of Terror – Smuggler’s Run is usually a late morning/early afternoon Genie+ return by the time you get to your second selection so it’s nice to ride it early on. Tower of Terror is quite a time-consuming ride (the lightning lane meets the regular lane at the preshow and then you need to wait in line for the actual ride) so it’s another one that’s nice to ride early.
If you don’t have Genie+: The next obvious choice is Slinky Dog but the wait time is probably already edging towards 60 minutes by this time so we’d avoid skipping unless it is a must-ride now for you. Tower of Terror, Smuggler’s Run and Mickey and Minnie’s Railway are all good options. If you’re a Star Wars fan it is fun to explore Galaxy’s Edge and grab some photos when crowds are low.
How to get to Rise of the Resistance: Walk down Hollywood Boulevard, take a left on Commissary Lane (this is in line with Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad) and a right onto Grand Avenue at Baseline Tap House. You’ll pass through a tunnel which marks the entry to Star Wars: Galaxy Edge and Rise of the Resistance is on the left just through the tunnel – there are often Cast Members directing guests or you can ask a Cast Member directions as you walk. Note, you can’t access Galaxy’s Edge through Toy Story land until the regular park opening time.
What if Rise of the Resistance is down at Early Entry?
Rise of the Resistance is a complex ride and can often experience periods of downtime so there is a chance it might not be up and running on the morning you want to ride it.
You have a few options if Cast Members announce Rise is down:
- you can wait it out but it’s a lottery. We’ve waited and been on in 15 minutes but we’ve also waited and had to admit defeat! We’d probably give it at least 15/20 minutes grace and hope that it opens but it does leave you open to disappointment and wasting valuable Early Entry time.
- switch to our Early Entry Strategy 2 and take a brisk walk to Toy Story Land for Slinky Dog Dash. You’ll have lost some time in the line but, if it’s still early (pre-Early Entry official opening) you still have a chance of a shorter line.
- go to Tower of Terror or Smugglers Run. Our preference is Tower of Terror as you can aim for Rock ‘n’ Roll Coaster after while Smugglers Run will leave you at the very back of the park.
Early Entry Strategy 2: Slinky Dog Dash
Prioritise for Early Entry: Toy Story fans/ families with younger kids (2/3+)/ if you don’t have Genie+/ if your party are over 38″
Slinky Dog Dash is wildly popular in part because of Toy Story, in part because it’s a rollercoaster accessible to kids from around age 3 and in part because it’s a really wholesome and fun ride! Our entire family are huge fans and we all really love starting the day with Slinky Dog Dash.
Again, the best strategy is to be ready to enter the park 45 minutes before Early Entry. You will be held outside the Slinky Dog Dash entrance until the Cast Members are ready to start boarding the ride.
How to get to Slinky Dog Dash: Walk down Hollywood Boulevard and take a right at the raised area in front of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad. Go straight on past the theater for Walt Disney Presents and The Market Kiosk then keep right for Toy Story Land – the giant Woody at the entrance will give it away! You will see Slinky Dog Dash straight ahead but you’ll need to walk along its perimeter (left at the giant Woody and take the next right).
What to ride after Slinky Dog Dash
Toy Story Mania or Alien Swirling Saucers are nice add-ons to Slinky Dog.
The Toy Story Meet and Greets typically start 1 hour after the regular park opening so sometimes we go over to see Mickey and Minnie at the Meet Disney Stars at Red Carpet Dreams or join the line for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway- if you have Genie+ then it’s nice to focus on meet and greets and use your Genie+ for the ride.
Early Entry Strategy 3: Tower of Terror or Smugglers Run
Prioritise for Early Entry: ride preference/ you have purchased an Individual Lightning Lane for Rise of the Resistance and you have a reserved Genie+ return time for Slinky Dog Dash/ you arrive after Early Entry has started and lines are long for Slinky Dog Dash and Rise
Tower of Terror and Smugglers Run are popular Hollywood Studio rides and both typically take around 25 minutes to ride even when the line is short – both have preshows and, after the preshow is over, it takes a bit of time to board and ride – so it is great to ride one of them during early entry.
We prefer Tower of Terror for Early Entry due to its location – Smugglers Run is tucked down at the very end of Galaxy’s Edge so you likely won’t have time to take advantage of a second ride during Early Entry. With Tower of Terror, it’s relatively easy to do both it and the nearby Aerosmith Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with minimal queueing.
What to ride after Tower of Terror/Smugglers Run: if you opt for Tower of Terror, our next choice is the nearby Aerosmith Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or try and catch Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway if the wait time is low. For Smugglers Run, Star Wars fans could try Star Tours (although it generally has relatively short wait times throughout the day) or make their way to the Star Wars Launch Bay for the Star Wars Meets and Greets which typically start at 9am – Darth Vader, Chewbacca and BB-8 all hold meet and greets (you need to wait in line for each separately) most days. If it’s past 9 you can enter Toy Story Land directly from Galaxy’s Edge so Alien Swirling Saucers or Toy Story Mania are a good choice if the wait times are low.
How to get to Tower of Terror/Smugglers Run: head down Hollywood Boulevard for both rides. For Tower of Terror, take a right at Sunset Boulevard and walk back to Tower of Terror which is in line with the entrance. For Smugglers Run, take a left on Commissary Lane (this is in line with Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad) and a right onto Grand Avenue at Baseline Tap House. You’ll pass through a tunnel which marks the entry to Star Wars: Galaxy Edge and Smugglers Run is right at the back behind the Millenium Falcon.
Early Entry Strategy 4: Toy Story Mania/ Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Prioritise for Early Entry: no height requirement (suitable for babies)/ride preference/ you have purchased an Individual Lightning Lane for Rise of the Resistance and you have a reserved Genie+ return time for Slinky Dog Dash/ you arrive after Early Entry has started and lines are long for Slinky Dog Dash and Rise
Toy Story Mania and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway are the only two rides in Hollywood Studios that have no height requirement – they are both suitable for lap babies and those who prefer a gentle ride with no drops. They are fantastic rides and there’s a good chance you will be able to ride both during Early Entry!
I like to start with Toy Story Mania as it can get busy with the early Slinky Dash riders and then head to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
What to Ride Next
If you have a baby in your party then Toy Story Mania and Runaway Railway are the only two rides they can go on in Hollywood Studios. However, there’s still plenty to do – we love the Frozen Sing Along so tend to head there next (it typically starts bout 30 minutes after park opening) and, later in the day, Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage. The Lightening McQueen’s Racing Academy, a fantastic fast pace show, also starts early and is another great option.
We also love the meet and greets so take advantage of the low wait times early on – Mickey and Minnie at the Meet Disney Stars at Red Carpet Dreams is a great next stop as is Meet Olaf at Celebrity Spotlight. Doc McStuffics, Fancy Nancy, Vamperina and Pluto meet in Animation Courtyard and Goofy and Max are on Grand Avenue close to Muppets Vision 3D – all these start around 30 minutes after park open.
Early Entry Hollywood Studios tip: we have a 1, 4 and 5 year old so David and I often split for Early Entry – one of us takes the older kids on their ride of choice (usually Slinky Dog Dash or Rise) and the other rides Toy Story Mania with our youngest. Our 4 and 5 year old can’t ride Slinky Dog alone so Toy Story Mania also works great in this case – it’s next to Slinky Dog Dash so they can ride with the youngest and then do a rider swap onto Slinky Dog Dash.
How to get to Toy Story Mania: Walk down Hollywood Boulevard and take a right at the raised area in front of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad. Go straight on past the theater for Walt Disney Presents and The Market Kiosk then keep right for Toy Story Land marked by the giant Woody at the entrance will give it away! Toy Story Mania is just around the corner to the left.
Since you are going to need to fuel up after all the early entry fun, check out our guide to the best snacks at Hollywood Studios!
What time do I need to arrive for Early Entry at Hollywood Studios?
If you are planning to ride Slinky Dog Dash or Rise of the Resistance then we recommend arriving at the park an hour before the listed Early Entry entry time. This means you will be at the front of the line, among the first to tap into the park, and will be close to the front of the line for your preferred ride.
If you opt for Early Entry Strategy 3 or 4 or choose another first ride, then you can arrive a little later – it’s always best to arrive around 30 minutes prior to Early Entry but it’s still worth getting into the park any time before the regular opening time so you beat the rope drop crowds.
After arriving at the park via your chosen means of transport (see below for the Early Entry transport options) you will need to allow time for:
- Security: the security checkpoint is located adjacent to the entrance at Hollywood Studios. We’ve always found it relatively quick – guests walk through a metal detector with their backpacks and a bag search is typically only required if the metal detector alarm sounds. Guests with strollers are directed to a separate line where the stroller is checked and then the same process applies. The stroller line can take an extra 10/15 minutes depending on how many strollers are passing through.
- Park entrance: after you pass through security you will then make your way across the courtyard to the Hollywood Studios entrance. There are signs above each line indicating if it is for hotel guests (and therefore Early Entry) or general entry (and therefore rope drop). The first guests are usually scanned up to 45 minutes prior to the park opening, so at around 7.15am for an 8am Early Entry. You can tap in with your Disney ticket card, a Magic Band or a ticket saved to your cell phone wallet and then verify your fingerprint. Your Resort stay should be linked to the My Disney Experience App – if the Cast Member can’t see you will be asked to show your reservation/room key to confirm Early Entry eligibility.
- Early Entry: once you are scanned in you will then walk down Hollywood Boulevard and towards your ride of choice.
How to get to Hollywood Studios for Early Entry?
Depending on where you are staying there are a few options for getting to Hollywood Studios in advance for Early Entry:
Bus: buses start running around 45 to 60 minutes prior to Early Entry. We recommend arriving at the bus stop prior to this (up to 30 minutes) so you are towards the front of the line.
Skyliner: Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, Pop Century and the Rivieria are all on the Skyliner. The Skyliner starts operating around 60 minutes prior to Early Entry. We recommend arriving at the Skyliner station prior to this (up to 30 minutes) so you are towards the front of the line.
Driving: the parking lot at Hollywood Studios opens 60 minutes prior to Early Entry. Hollywood Studios can be really strict with cars arriving prior to opening – if you arrive even 1 minute before this you can be instructed to turn your car do a loop around to reenter.
Boat: a small ferry operates between Hollywood Studios, Epcot, the Beach Club, the Yacht Club, the Boardwalk, the Swan and Dolphin and the Swan Reserve. The hours are dependent on park hours and it began operating at 7am on our most recent visit – make sure to check with your hotel for the current hours when you arrive. Guests at the Boardwalk Inn are the first to board, then those at the Beach and Yacht Club followed by the Swan and Dolphin. Allow plenty of time (it took us over 30 minutes to travel from the Boardwalk Inn to Hollywood Studios) and be prepared to collapse your stroller (unless tagged).
Walk: Epcot and Hollywood Studios can be reached by walking from the Beach Club, the Yacht Club, the Boardwalk and the Swan and Dolphin and the Swan Reserve. Allow around 20 to 30 minutes depending on your resort.
Minnie Van/Uber/Lyft: you can also use the Minnie Van (a ride service for Resort Guests) or a regular Uber or Lyft.
Is Early Entry Worth it at Hollywood Studios?
We often get asked if Early Entry is Worth it at Disney parks. Personally, we rarely miss an early entry opportunity and we love the quieter mornings in the parks. Here are some thoughts on Early Entry:
- crowds are lower: crowds are generally lower during Early Entry and in the couple of hours following. However, don’t expect to have the park to yourself – there are over 35,000 resort rooms at Disney, all of which benefit from Early Entry. We came to Walt Disney World having visited Disneyland Paris with 6 hotels granted Early Entry) and Disneyland California where 3 hotels benefit – it was a surprise to realise that it was possible over 100,000 guests have access to Early Entry across the 4 parks!
- save on Individual Lightning Lanes (ILL)/Genie+: park tickets, Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes can really add up so we like to focus on covering the ILL rides at rope drop to save the extra expense/likely long lines. We have 3 kids under 6 so often purchase Genie+ to save on waiting in line but Early Entry definitely reduces the need for it especially in Animal Kingdom, Epcot and, to a lesser extent, Hollywood Studios. So, on a busy day, you might save $50 per person by not needing an ILL or Genie+ and still be able to ride everything you want.
- ‘Why bother getting up early and having to wait in line for an hour before the park opens? Why not just stay in bed and wait in line for the rides when you have to?’: we were asked this before and I thought it was a fantastic and accurate question! For us, we’re up way before Early Entry anyway (special shout out to our 1-year-old!) and we love being able to use that time to our advantage – it also means we can bail out of the park before the temperatures peak or we can take an extended afternoon break and enjoy the resort facilities because we’ve done most of what we wanted early in the morning.
So here’s when we think Early Entry is/isn’t worth it at Hollywood Studios:
- you have 1 day to cover Hollywood Studios
- you want to do a mix of rides, shows and meet and greets and need the extra time in the park
- you are up early anyway
- you want to ride Rise of the Resistance or Slinky Dog Dash during Early Entry
Consider if it is worth it
- you have Genie+: you can stay in bed or hang by the pool and easily stack rides for later if you have Genie+ – only Rise of the Resistance is excluded from Genie+ in Hollywood Studios so you can certainly cover everything.
- you don’t mind purchasing an ILL or waiting in line for Rise of the Resistance
- you have more than 1 day in Hollywood Studios
For more on Early Entry at Walt Disney World
- Our guide to Early Entry at Animal Kingdom