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Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA

Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World

Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Orlando

Formerly known as Disney-MGM Studios, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has enough attractions to keep the whole family entertained, as well as a couple of rides which the thrill seekers will love. While there are not a lot of rides for younger kids, there are some great shows that they will really enjoy.

Thrill Rides

There are two main thrill rides at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that are not to be missed.

  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – based around the infamous Hollywood Tower Hotel, this elevator ride is designed so that you never take the same ride twice. This makes it attractive to go on more than once, so even if you have a fast pass we would recommend going here as early as possible before the queues build up too much.

Family Attractions

Our kids were aged 9 & 11 when we visited this park and we found there was plenty of entertainment to keep them busy for the whole day. There may not however be enough attractions for the whole day if you were travelling with small toddlers. Some of our family’s favourite attractions were;

  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular – take a behind-the-scenes look at how Hollywood makes films that are full of explosions, fist-fights and daring stunts. A real-life director is on hand to explain all of the fine details of their movie making magic.
  • Toy Story Mania – score points in this 4D target shooting game. You can also catch some of the Toy Story gang out and about near this attraction.

Other attractions we recommend at Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be the Muppet Vision 4D Stage Show,  The Great Movie Ride, A “Frozen” Sing-Along Celebration, the Disney Junior – Live on Stage dance show and of course the Fantasmic nighttime spectacular which is a combination of pyrotechnics and lasers.

Star Wars

If you are a Stars Wars fan then you will absolutely love Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Be sure to pay a visit to Star Wars Launch Bay where you can get a behind the scenes look at Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. There are also character meet and greets as well as memorabilia and props from all the Star Wars Episodes.

There is also a pretty cool 3D simulation ride called Star Tours – The Adventures Continue. Here you can board a Starspeeder 1000 and launch into hyperspace on your very own mission. Each intergalactic adventure is different so you just never know what planet will be your next destination.

Next to the Star Tours ride is the Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple where youngsters aged from 4 – 12 can learn to become Jedi Knights. Be sure to register early though as availability is limited and spots are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Throughout the day at Center Stage you will find different performance shows including Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away and March of the First Order.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios also now has a nighttime fireworks and lighting show based around Star Wars called Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. It’s a spectacular way to finish off a busy day at this Walt Disney World park.

You can also read our other Disney Park Tips – Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot Guides.

Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA

Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World

Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is totally different from any of the other Disney Parks in Orlando. While there are a few fun rides to enjoy, the stars here are the animals themselves. We visited with our two kids aged 11 and 9 and found this park really easy to navigate around as it’s simply separated into six different sections.

Discovery Island

Once you enter Animal Kingdom and walk through Discovery Island, you will come across the Tree of Life. Standing at 145 feet tall and with a base measuring 50 feet, this man-made tree contains over 300 carvings on its trunk. It’s worth taking a little bit of time to have a close up look at this pretty amazing feature. Located inside the Tree of Life is a 3D show – It’s Tough to be a Bug! This is definitely an experience worth taking the kids to, as they get to embark on a journey of life as a bug.

Africa

The highlight of the whole park is located here in Africa and that’s the Kilimanjaro Safaris. On this adventure you are guided through the savannahs of Africa where a vast array of wild animals roam free. It really is amazing to witness these animals in their natural habitat, especially for those that have never (and may never) get to experience the real beauty of Africa. The helpful guides on board explain a lot about the animals along the way as well.

Another highlight of Africa is the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. This self-guided walking trail takes you through the African forest, looking at various animals such as hippos, gorillas and zebras.

A not to be missed attraction at Animal Kingdom is the Festival of the Lion King. This 30 minute colourful spectacular includes acrobats, singing performers and animal floats. This performance kept our kids mesmerised for the entire time.

All throughout Africa are roving street performers as well as plenty of shops and eateries . Our boys also got taught the African game of Mancala which they absolutely loved!

Rafiki’s Planet Watch

From Africa you can also board the Wildlife Express train for the 7 minute trip to Rafiki’s Planet Watch which highlights the parks commitment to preservation and conservation of animals. Here you will find a petting zoo,  conservation station and the Habitat Habit! exhibit.

Asia

Asia is a really interesting area which showcases countries such as Nepal, Mongolia, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Thailand. There is plenty of live entertainment and food venues as well as four main attractions.

Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain is a rollercoaster ride the kids will love.

Flights of Wonder is a 25 minute bird show which was not only entertaining, but educational as well.

Kali River Rapids is a white water raft ride where you will get wet – quite possibly drenched!

Maharajah Jungle Trek is another walk through animal encounter where you can witness Asian tigers, gibbons, water buffalo, birds and bats.

Dinoland U.S.A.

The kids will love this area of Animal Kingdom. The main ride, DINOSAUR was closed for refurbishment while we were visiting, but it looks pretty good. Other rides include, Primeval Whirl and TriceraTop Spin.

Right in the heart of Dinoland is the Fossil Fun Games area which is home to carnival style games where the kids can try to win prizes.

Another attraction that we highly recommend in Dinoland U.S.A. is Finding Nemo – The Musical. Based on the movie this 40 minute show is a mix of human performers and puppetry. It really is worth watching and our kids just loved it!

Oasis

This is the smallest area here at Animal Kingdom. Its main attraction is the is the tropical forest exhibit – The Oasis Exhibits. There is also a Rainforest Cafe which has an entrance and exit to the park.

Fast-Pass Planning

When doing fast-pass planning prior to arrival at Animal Kingdom we would suggest using them for Kilimanjaro Safaris, Kali River Rapids and DINOSAUR. As DINOSAUR was closed when we visited we used our for Expedition Everest. It is worth noting that Expedition Everest does have a single rider lane so it is always easy to avoid the queues if you are prepared to use it.

Conclusion

While some people will say you don’t need a full day at Animal Kingdom, if you plan on seeing all the shows we would recommend planning a full day here. If you love animals, you will want to take your time and not rush through all the exhibits. There is also a lot of roving entertainment that makes the time fly by as you wander through the park. Disney’s Animal Kingdom really is a place that the kids will enjoy and a must do when visiting Orlando.

You can also read our other Disney Park Tips – Hollywood Studios and Epcot Guides.

Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA

Epcot at Walt Disney World Orlando

Exploring Epcot at Walt Disney World Orlando with Kids

While Epcot is not a theme park that is filled full of thrill rides, it still has a lot to offer for those travelling with younger kids. We travelled with our two boys aged 9 & 11 and with a bit of pre-planning, made our day at Epcot into a fun-filled adventure.

Fastpass Planning

Planning your day needs to start 30 days (or 60 days if you are staying at a Disney Resort) before your visit date. This is when you can make your fast pass selections. If you are not familiar with the fast pass system, it basically means you can pre-book three rides at certain times where you skip the queues. It is best to book the fast passes for as early in the day as possible as once your three selections are exhausted, there are fast pass kiosks at the park where you can get extra fast passes for later in the day.

Epcot works on a fast pass tier system, which means you have groups A & B and you can only make one choice from group A and two choices from group B for your first selections.

Group A

  • Frozen Ever After – all young princesses will love this Frozen journey through the Kingdom of Arendelle, but fast passes go quick for this popular ride and can be hard to get.
  • Soarin’ – this is definitely another favourite of ours where you get to virtual hang glide around famous landmarks from different parts of the world. This is what we used our initial fast pass for.
Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA

Soarin’

  • Test Track – this was our boys favourite attraction at Epcot. On this ride you hop aboard a six-seat vehicle and take it through a series of efficiency tests ending with a high-speed blast around the Test Track facility building. Afterwards you can walk around a showroom featuring the latest Chevrolet cars. We didn’t use fast passes for this ride as there is a single rider option which has virtually no queues. As we weren’t fussed if we didn’t sit together, this was a better option for us and we saved our fast passes for other attractions.

Group B

  • Living with the Land – this is a slow-paced indoor boat ride through Disney’s agriculture farms and laboratories which lasts about 15 minutes. This is interesting if you love gardening but our boys got bored by it pretty quickly so we don’t recommend using a fast pass for this one. Plus there were no queues when we were there anyway.
  • Disney/Pixar Short Film Festival – popular Disney & Pixar short films shown in 4D, this attraction was actually really good and worth going to but you don’t really need to use a fast pass as there were no queues.
  • Journey into Imagination with Figment – travel through Dr. Channing’s sensory labs with Figment the purple dragon to test your five senses and imagination on this carriage ride. Afterwards the kids can enjoy ImageWorks, an interactive play area. There are also some pretty cool jumping water fountains outside the Imagination building, a fun way for the kids to cool off in the Orlando heat!
  • Spaceship Earth – located inside Epcot’s landmark 18 storey silver sphere, this attraction showcases the development of communication technology from caveman paintings to television to computers. This is a good educational slow-paced ride which goes for about 15 minutes. As you exit the ride you walk through Project Tomorrow which is an interactive game and activities area. This attraction can get quite long queues, so a fast pass is a good idea here.
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends – younger kids will love this attraction where you board a “clam-mobile” on a journey under the sea to find Nemo. When you hop off the ride you are located in a pavilion which houses an impressive size aquarium and don’t miss Turtle Talk with Crush (see below). This attraction can also have long queues so try for a fast pass here.
  • Turtle Talk with Crush – the kids absolutely loved this Q & A session with Crush the Turtle from Finding Nemo. A few of Nemo’s friends from the movie also make guest appearances here. This was a really entertaining attraction, there were plenty of laughs for the whole family. There weren’t any queues when we went so wouldn’t recommend using a fast pass.
  • Epcot Character Spot – meet your favourite Disney pals at this character sport located at Future World.
  • Mission: SPACE Green – this is the less intense of the two space simulation rides that take you on a space journey to Mars. This one doesn’t get as busy as the more intense Orange ride so fast passes for this one may not be needed.
  • Mission: SPACE Orange – this is definitely not for those who experience motion sickness but awesome for those that like to experience the G-Forces of a spaceship launch. Would recommend a fast pass as this gets quite busy.

World Showcase

If you have ever wanted to eat and drink your way around the world, this is the place for you. World Showcase at Epcot consists of 11 pavilions attributed to different countries located around a large lagoon, so be prepared for a bit of walking. While a lot of the focus of the pavilions is to showcase the food and culture of that particular country, there are still quite a few attractions for the kids to enjoy.

Some things the kids will love about the countries featured in pavilions at Epcot’s World Showcase are;

  • China – there is a 14 minute film called Reflections of China shown here which highlights the natural beauty of China, but it may not hold the attention of younger kids for that long. They will however enjoy the amazing performance by the Jeweled Dragon Acrobats.
Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA

Chinese Pavilion

  • Germany – our boys really enjoyed this pavilion which included a Garden Railway Miniature Train and Der Teddybar where you can shop for teddy bears, toys and gifts. Snow White also has a meet and greet in Germany at select times.
  • Italy – the only real attraction for kids here is Sergio the juggler and mime who performs at certain times throughout the day.
  • United States – The American Adventure is a 30 minute show which explores key moments in the history of the United States.
Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA

American Pavilion

  • Japan – experience the amazing performance of the Matsuriza who will captivate the whole family with their Taiko drumming abilities.
  • Morocco – kids can have fun meetings with Princess Jasmine, Aladdin and Genie.
  • Canada – O Canada! is a 14 minute film which showcases the beautiful country of Canada and screens continuously throughout the day.
  • United Kingdom – inside a quaint English garden, kids can work their way through Tiggers Maze. There are also scheduled appearances by Mary Poppins and Alice in Wonderland.
Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA

English Pub

Special Events at Epcot

Epcot plays host to different special events throughout the year. We were lucky enough to visit during the International Food & Wine Festival which is a celebration of food and drink from all around the world. During the festival you will find a lot more food and drink stalls from all different parts of the world, as well as more roving entertainment. In 2017 the festival will run from August 31st until November 13th.

Another popular attraction at Epcot is the International Flower & Garden Festival which in 2017 will run from March 1st until May 29th.

Epcot Conclusion

While Epcot was probably the least favourite of all the Disney Parks for the kids, we still had a really fun day out here. There is more than enough to keep the kids busy for a full day if you want to explore the whole park. However if it’s only the rides that you are interested in at Epcot, then make sure you have a park hopper pass as you won’t need a full day here – you can just catch the mono-rail and finish your day off at another park.

You can also read our other Disney Park Tips – Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios Guides.

Waldorf Astoria Orlando Resort in Orlando, Florida, USA

Waldorf Astoria Orlando Review

Hotel Review of the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, Florida, USA

Situated in the Bonnet Creek resort area near Walt Disney World, the Waldorf Astoria Orlando is the perfect choice for families who like to indulge in a little luxury travel as well as enjoying all that the Disney Theme Parks have to offer. We stayed here in September for five nights with our two boys aged 9 & 11.

Upon arrival the first thing you notice is the famous Waldorf Astoria Clock in the lobby area which is truly a stunning feature. We checked in early (around 10.00am) as we had just transferred from another hotel and while our room was not ready, our bags were stored and we were able to use the complimentary shuttle bus and head straight over to the Disney Parks.

Disney Shuttle Transportation

One of the great things about staying at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando or the neighbouring Hilton Bonnet Creek is that you are able to use the complimentary shuttle bus transportation provided by Mears Transport to all the Disney Parks including Downtown Disney. The bus picks up first at the Hilton and then five minutes later at the Waldorf. The Waldorf pick-up is in the driveway so you can wait just outside the Lobby while the Hilton has a bus shelter outside the hotel. You can access the shuttle times here.

Our Room – Deluxe Suite 

Upon check-in we were upgraded to a Deluxe Suite (we are HHonors Diamond). The suite was a good size, it consisted of a big living area with dining table, kitchenette (complete with espresso machine) as well as a couch that was made into a bed by housekeeping at night. We also had a fold away bed in the living area so our boys had separate sleeping beds.

There was a separate bedroom with king bed for the adults and a very good-sized bathroom complete with separate bath and shower as well as Salvatore Ferragamo bathroom amenities.

The suite also had a balcony with view overlooking the golf course. There are rooms available on the other side of the resort which have a view looking towards Disney’s Epcot where you can watch the nightly fireworks show.

We loved the little cards left on our bed each night during turn down service, it’s one of those fine touches that truly luxurious hotels provide.

Watch our Waldorf Astoria Orlando Suite YouTube Video here.

Dining at the Waldorf

There are quite a few dining and bar options at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando and as we were travelling with kids we chose the more casual ones to dine at. Our favourites included;

  • Oscars Brasserie – serves a Buffet or A La Carte Breakfast. This was one of the most extensive and delicious buffet breakfasts that we have ever had at any hotel. If you have a sweet tooth you will love all the pasties and cakes, they were divine!
  • Peacock Alley – stop by for a refreshing cocktail or something light to eat. In the mornings they offer a croissant and coffee bar for something to grab and go on your way to the parks. You can also watch the nightly fireworks show from Epcot at this bar.
  • Aquamarine – for poolside drinks & snacks, we found ourselves grabbing a meal here after the parks while the kids cooled off in the pool. Loved their Prosecco Popsicle drinks! Be aware though, Aquamarine can suddenly close if the weather becomes inclement or if they are not busy enough.
  • In-Room Dining – we tried room service one night after we came back from the parks and were exhausted, have to say we were all very impressed with our meals.

Staying at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando also gives you access to dining & bar outlets at the Hilton Bonnet Creek next door, we only tried the poolside dining area called Beech for snacks and drinks – the kids loved the ice-cream sandwiches there!

Pool Areas at the Waldorf and Hilton Bonnet Creek

Guests have the choice of the two Waldorf swimming pools or the more family friendly Hilton Bonnet Creek pool which comes complete with water slide and lazy river.

Waldorf Pool Area

There is the Cabana Pool which is perfect for relaxing and swimming laps. This pool has quite a number of cabanas available for daily rental. The main pool is more family friendly with a zero entry point making it suitable for toddlers to splash around in. A jacuzzi sits in-between the two pools and there are plenty of sun lounges in the pool area. The pool temperature is really nice and warm which makes going for a swim bearable for those that do like cold pools!

The kids also enjoyed some lawns games and chess by the pool.

Watch our YouTube video of the Waldorf Pool area here.

Hilton Bonnet Creek Pool Area

Kids will love this lagoon style pool with its lazy river and water slide (slide open daily from 10.00am to 5.00pm). This pool also has a zero entry point for the toddlers.

Watch our YouTube video of the Hilton Bonnet Creek Pool Area here.

Fitness Center

The Waldorf Astoria Orlando has a good-sized fitness center with plenty of cardio machines and weight-bearing equipment available. 24 hour access is included in the daily resort charge for hotel guests. They also have a fridge stocked with bottled water if you ever need to stop by and grab one to take out and about with you.

Waldorf Astoria Spa

If some pampering and rejuvenation is in order, the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Spa has treatments to suit. Here you can enjoy one or more of the following;

  • Facial Therapies
  • Body Therapies
  • Massage Therapies
  • Hand & Foot Therapies
  • Salon Services
  • Tea Lounge
  • Steam Room
  • Jacuzzi

Waldorf Astoria Golf Club

The Waldorf Astoria Golf Club comes complete with 18 hole golf course, pro shop, practice range and putting green. If you want to stop by for a bite to eat try out the Clubhouse Grille which has a modern pub lunch menu.

Conclusion

While we didn’t try it on this trip there is a WA Kids Club which provides plenty of activities for kids.

If you are looking for a family friendly resort which is in the Disney area but away from all the Disney hustle and bustle, then the Waldorf Astoria Orlando is a great choice. At about half the cost of a similar on-site Disney hotel such as the Grand Floridian, it is also a more economical option. We got a great nightly rate and found it easy to get to the parks so we were glad we gave it a try!

Just don’t forget to include the daily resort charge ($30 USD) plus tax not included in advertised pricing) in your total price when comparing hotels.

For more information on the Waldorf Astoria Orlando go to: www.waldorfastoriaorlando.com