Although this was my first time at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it all felt familiar. All the big soundstages and warehouses with props and movie ad posters reminded me of the handful of years I lived in Los Angeles, covering the movie industry at Premiere Magazine. Even though I was a lowly editorial assistant, the staff in the West Coast bureau was tiny, and there were always a ton of movies in production. So I was often at studios and backlots to visit sets or do interviews. Today’s visit took me back.
There’s not a ton to do at Hollywood Studios, especially for little ones. The 1920s Hollywood, Art Deco style buildings were pretty cool. I also saw two restaurants that looked really fun: the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant where you sit in a dark room in a 1950s-era, Rebel Without a Cause-type convertible and watch Attack of the 50-Foot Woman or some other B-movie; and Mama Melrose’s, which smelled so incredible — like sauteeing garlic and homemade marinara – that even the kids commented on it.
We had ONE reservation today, and that was lunch at Hollywood & Vine, a character lunch that I reserved with Magnus in mind. The kids met Oso the bear, Handy Manny, Jake from the Neverland pirates, and June from Little Einsteins. That’s right in his wheelhouse.
So my big lesson learned during this trip: you do need reservations for the popular character dining restaurants, but do not make more than one reservation a day. You get bookended. Today, after lunch, we were free to do whatever we wanted.
Today was also the first day we got a FastPass for something. As soon as you arrive at Hollywood Studios, you have to hustle over to get a FastPass for the Toy Story ride. Today, wait times were around 140 minutes without a FastPass.
Today, the thing I’ve been fearing happened: I left my iPhone behind at the Muppets 3D movie attraction. I set it next to me in the theater, then got up and left. About 20 minutes later when the kids were about to meet Donald and Daisy, I realized it was gone. In 90 degree heat, I sprinted back, waited for the movie to end again, and burst in looking for it. Luckily a nice southern family had found it.
Here are today’s family favorites:
Magnus: Muppets in 3D (in a dramatic turn of events, he did not appear to care much for the Lightning McQueen & Mater meet n’ greet)
Greta: Muppets in 3D and the Toy Story Mania ride
Barrak: Muppets in 3D, with Toy Story Mania a close second
Me: The Great Movie Ride – you ride through movies of years’ past, including Mary Poppins, Alien, The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
When we got back, Barrak was able to get us in at the Kona Cafe for dinner. Greta had “the best hot dog I’ve ever had.” Magnus also made light work of a sizable cheeseburger. These places are crazy-expensive and the food is always slightly off. You’re never raving about how good something is. But you’re just so grateful to be sitting down, and for the kids to be eating.
Tomorrow, we’re headed back to the Magic Kingdom. Magnus doing a dress-up-like-a-pirate thing, then we’ll ride Pirates of the Caribbean and stalk Merida and Princess Tiana. They’re the only two Greta does not have autographs for. Then the kids are going to The Neverland Club here at the Polynesian, and Barrak and I have a dinner date!