Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

**This is NOT a sponsored post. Just sharing our experience!**

We spent a week at Walt Disney World and Universal, thanks to my parents. What an adventure! After scouring Pinterest, I learned that there was no post, anywhere, that could really walk me through planning an entire trip to Disney. Throughout the series, I shared our days at the parks, tips and tricks, taming the souvenir beast, money saving ideas, things we learned and photos we captured. They’re all linked below. Enjoy!

Day 1: HDYDI – Plan a Multi-Generational Disney Vacation
Day 2: What We Wore to Disney 
Day 3: EPCOT: A Mom’s Guide 
Day 4: Magic Kingdom: Plan a Visit That’s Fun for All Ages
Day 5: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal: A Family Guide
Day 6: Animal Kingdom & Hollywood Studios: All in One Day! 
(this post!)
Day 7: Character Meals & Meet/Greets: 13 Tips to Make Them Awesome
Day 8: 10 Things to Buy/Borrow/Make For Your Disney Vacation
Day 9: 6 Tips to Capture Your Disney Vacation on Film
Day 10: Meeting Anna & Elsa: An Honest Account 

This was the day we park hopped, a lot. Initially, the plan was to spend a full day at Animal Kingdom and skip Hollywood Studios completely. But, when my brother mentioned how excited he was about catching some coasters, and my research kept showing all the cool Pixar things at Hollywood Studios, I decided to make it a half day at each, knowing we could park hop. I’ll admit, I was very nervous about moving 14 people, two double strollers and a scooter on the Disney bus system, twice. As it turns out, the busses were the easiest part of our day. Just ask my brother about us singing “Wheels on the Bus” at top pitch, thoroughly embracing the whole parenthood gig. Classic. I think he was less amused.

Fast Passes
Because Disney only lets you reserve FP+ early at just one park, I chose the afternoon park. I figured if we got to Animal Kingdom early enough, we could hit the attractions we really wanted and brave a few lines, saving our FP+ for HS. That strategy totally worked in our favor. If you pressed me about what FP+ I would’ve chosen at AK? Kilimanjaro Safari, Dinosaur and either Expedition Everest or the Character Spot. At Hollywood Studios, our FP+ were Tower of Terror/Disney Jr. Live on Stage (we split this one with bigs/littles), Toy Story Mania and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. If I had it to do over again, I probably would’ve swapped out Tower of Tower for the Rock ‘n Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith. That one seemed to be the family crowd favorite.

Park Crowd Levels
1/10 Animal Kingdom and 2/10 Hollywood Studios. Overall, an extremely low crowd day. It made touring so incredibly lovely.

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Top 5 Animal Kingdom Highlights of the Day

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Kilimanjaro Safari. Like every other day, we arrived at the park about an hour before opening which put us right at the front of the line. About 8:50, in a very anticlimactic opening (unlike Magic Kingdom!), the staff opened the gates and our group made a beeline for the safari. We’d heard the line forms early (and indeed, it did) and your best chance of seeing lots of animals is early in the morning. I think this is my very favorite “ride” because it feels so personal. Our group took up half the jeep – HA! – and because my mom was on a scooter we coasted to the front of the line on this one. The kids absolutely loved it, big and little. The only animal we didn’t see was the lion, but all the others were out in full force. What a fantastic way to start our day! Beware parents with strollers, the cast members take your stroller about halfway through the ride and park it for you. That was the only time we had a hard time finding ours!

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Character Meet & Greet: Pocahontas. Immediately following the safari, we made our way to the Tree of Life for a meet and greet with, arguably, the prettiest princess of the trip. We only had to wait five minutes and around the corner she came. She was telling us about the gooseberry pie Snow White had made her and how horrible it was when I quipped, “Oh, so you had to take a ‘no thank you’ bite.” She looked at me all perplexed. “A bot,” she asked? Oh, Kathryn, your accent. We all got a good laugh about that one.

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Expedition Everest. Here’s where I offer a word of caution: watch the YouTube videos, people! That’s really aimed at yours truly. By the time we made it to Everest, Gianna was hungry and some of the younger ones didn’t want to ride a coaster, so the group split. When it came my turn, I hit the single rider line and made my way to the front within a minute or two. Just as the bar comes down, the lady next to me says, “Oh you’re going to love this coaster!” Except, I didn’t. I can do loops, pitch black, water and big drops. You know what I can’t do? Backwards. EEEK. Pretty sure this picture on the far right says it all. At the end, my seatmate said, “Yeah, I almost told you it went backwards, but then I decided not to.” Gee, thanks ma’am. But may I point out sweet 7o Clare, in the front car, like a boss? She and my niece Ava are the resident adrenaline junkies.

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Character Meet & Greet: Russell and Dug. Our time was running short because we had lunch reservations, so we sent the boys off to Tusker House (more on that in a moment) while we waited in line to see Russell and Dug. About two minutes in, I get a text. Ten, actually. “ALERT. ALERT. ALERT. Daisy Duck missing!” Evidently, we’d sent the boys off to the lunch without all the required autograph pages. I know, the horror. Situation remedied. Russell and Dug were hilarious. While Dug was signing Clare’s page, I told Clare to keep an eye out so he didn’t slobber on it. What did he do? He licked that page, nice and sloooow. All of them, actually. So funny. Russell played a great game of peek-a-boo with Gianna and coaxed a smile out of her, even. The girls loved them.

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Character Meal: Tusker House and The Rainforest Cafe. The girls had enjoyed the princess lunch at Akershus a few days earlier, so this day it was the boys’ turn. They dined with Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy. The boys tell me their lunch was less about eating and more about not trying to have your mouth full when the characters came by to wave hello. Luke and my nephew Jack were pretty much in character heaven. They all reported a great menu, too. The girls enjoyed a fun lunch at Rainforest. Of all the meals we ate, I think this one had the best food. Or, at least my coconut shrimp was pretty fantastic and our waiter was outstanding. Really excellent service all around.

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Insider Tips

  1. Do the safari early or book a FP+. Your best bet of seeing the animals is before it gets too hot and they retreat for the shade.
  2. Speaking of shade, this park has a ton of it. It’s divine!
  3. Refrain from bringing in outside lunches, because of the animals, they aren’t allowed.
  4. Line too long? Try the single rider!
  5. This park always closes earlier than the rest, either 6 or 7pm. Many consider it a half-day park, but because the crowds were so low when we went, we really could’ve stayed all day. There are tons of things to do we missed this time around!

After a spectacular morning, we loaded up the troops, headed to the bus stop and pointed the driver to Hollywood Studios.

Top 8 Hollywood Studios Highlights of the Day

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages! Tower of Terror. Since {ahem} some of us were still finding our legs, we sent a few to the Tower of Tower and the rest meandered down Sunset Boulevard to the Animation area. General consensus from our crew is that ToT was good, but not nearly as good as the Rock ‘n Roller Coaster.

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Disney Jr. Live on Stage. If you have a Doc McStuffins, Jake and the Neverland Pirate or Sofia the First fan on your hands, this one is a must-do. I’ll freely admit my kids don’t know these characters since we don’t have cable, but even they adored the show. Our FP+ put us at the front of the theatre (air-conditioned, I might add). It was funny, interactive and just the right amount of time.

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Character Meet & Greet: Lightning McQueen and Mater. It’s possible we have the BIGGEST Cars fan on the planet at our house. Wait, we DO. No one loves Mater and McQueen as much as Luke. After brain surgery a few years ago, 12 showings of Cars 2 powered us through. Not. Even. Kidding. When Luke spied Mater and McQueen, he immediately crossed his arms with an air of pride and broke out in a huge grin. I mean, y’all. This. As we walked away, I glanced over at Scott and realized we had both teared up. Prematurity is like that sometimes. It just hits you, at the most unexpected moment. Thank you, Disney, for a moment I won’t soon forget.

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. Here’s where the wheels started to fall off. It was combination heat, weariness and a little attitude. We had some kids not cooperating, that’s the politically-correct term, right? Most of us went into the arena and enjoyed the Indiana Jones show. It was cheesy in some parts, but really well done and had tons of action. My kids were mesmerized. And it was in the shade, so high-five for that. Our FP+ weren’t really necessary, but HS is pretty limited on which ones they offer and this one seemed the most likely. In hindsight, I might’ve selected something else.

Character Meet & Greet: Phineas and Ferb. These two were AWESOME. They were super stoked to see themselves on the autograph pages. There was some serious high-fiving going on during this meet and greet. If you don’t know of the greatness of Agent P, Phineas and Ferb then I’m not sure we can be friends. Those two are always into trouble. It’s the kind of cartoon you might catch me watching, even when the kids aren’t around. It’s that good. You should go see these two!Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Toy Story Mania + Character Meet & Greet: Green Army Men. The hype is real. This ride is fabulous. Whenever your FP+ window opens, book this one FIRST. It was great fun to sport our Toy Story shirts on this one. Our cast member flipped when he saw all the sayings. Toy Story is highly interactive and brought out the competitive streak in my boys. Doesn’t take much! Even on a slow crowd day, the posted wait was 70 minutes. The green army men were a hoot. They kept doing recon all along the street, motioning for people to walk or stop walking. Such great fun. Our biggest bummer was not getting a photo with Woody and Buzz in those shirts.

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Character Meet & Greet: Mr. Incredible and Frozone. We ended the characters with a bang. We are big Incredibles fans so there was lots of muscle flexing going on with these two. Best part? Air-conditioning! I would expect nothing less of Frozone. We laughed when we looked at his hands, though. Covered in Sharpie markers!Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Rock ‘n Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith. Out with an awesome band.  Most of our crew rode this one. But, my Dad and I were content to hang back with some of the littles and just “be.” I nursed Gianna, Luke conned Papa into some Buzz Lightyear mouse ears, the kids threw pennies in the fountain and traded pins. Just as the rest of our group met up with us, we felt the sprinkles come down. That’s right. In five days at the parks, it didn’t rain one single day. I know my Florida readers must be in awe! Also, I have no idea how my brother can do this while on a coaster. I’m like my sister-in-law, just keep me alive!

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

Tight on time at Walt Disney World? Hit the highlights at two of Disney's best parks - Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. From dining suggestions to attractions to visit, this is sure to be fun for a group of all ages!

The one glaring error from our trip to Hollywood Studios? No Star Wars! Hey, you can only squeeze in so much during a half day. The park was preparing for the start of Star Wars Weekends, so maybe someday we can join in the fun. I will share that Hollywood Studios was the most surprising park of the trip. Once we arrived we all said, “Man, this is a great park!” And, to think we almost skipped it! The best way to describe it may be that it’s like Universal for kids. It has a great vibe, lots of fun attractions, easy navigation and the people there were just a total joy. I’ll probably still put Magic Kingdom as my most favorite park, but the quaintness of this one sure makes it a close second.

As my daily recaps of the parks come to a close (don’t worry, there’s more!), I want to say one very important thing: this trip was not perfect. No family vacation is. We had our fair share of whiny kids, grumpy adults, tears, blisters, hungry bellies and the like. But those moments of frustration were far outweighed by the beauty of being together in a pretty amazing place. No matter where you go, or how you spend your vacation, lean in to the beautiful moments. We had so many and I hope you do, too!

14 Comments

  1. Lynn A. on June 3, 2015 at 8:09 am

    Y’all did have a great week to be here. Our rainy season just started.

  2. Megan on June 3, 2015 at 11:14 am

    No Star Wars?! My son wouldn’t have let us get away with that! We spent nearly our whole time at HS in the Star Wars area! Looks like you guys had a blast. Oh, and Everest is our favorite coaster!

    • Kathryn on June 4, 2015 at 9:32 pm

      I know! Next time – if there is one 🙂

  3. Emily on June 3, 2015 at 11:18 am

    This is great! We are thinking about Orlando next May, so I have been reading every post!! we have two littles 3&1, so I’m not sure what they would be up for. Its a free trip, so we can’t pass that up tho. Thanks & blessings, Emily

    • Kathryn on June 4, 2015 at 9:32 pm

      Would they be 4 and 2 on the trip? You know, there aren’t too many things they can’t ride. And for the things they can’t, you get to score rider swap which is awesome. I found our littlest ones were more adaptable than our big kids!

  4. Elizabeth on June 3, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    Hollywood Studios is my favorite ‘other’ park- so glad you didn’t miss it!

    • Kathryn on June 4, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      Me too, because it was awesome!

  5. Blair on June 4, 2015 at 8:22 am

    We almost skipped Hollywood too, and were so glad we didn’t! We realized it was only $50 for us all to go that day (just adding one more park day to our 4-day package), so we also did a half day and went there Sunday afternoon after Mass, around 3pm. The Beauty and the Beast show, and Fantasmic show that night were awesome! We also really enjoyed the Kali River Rapids and Lion King and Nemo shows at Animal Kingdom. We did a short day there too, leaving around 3. I’m really enjoying all your posts, hoping our family will go back again in a couple years!

    • Kathryn on June 4, 2015 at 9:30 pm

      Yes, we were sad to miss Kali and a couple of the shows. Just not enough time!

  6. […] Fun for All Ages Day 5: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal: A Family Guide Day 6: Animal Kingdom & Hollywood Studios: All in One Day! Day 7: Character Meals & Meet/Greets: 13 Tips to Make Them Awesome Day 8: 10 Things to […]

  7. […] Fun for All Ages Day 5: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal: A Family Guide Day 6: Animal Kingdom & Hollywood Studios: All in One Day! Day 7: Character Meals & Meet/Greets: 13 Tips to Make Them Awesome Day 8: 10 Things to […]

  8. Alana on November 10, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    We are going to do a “Double Park Day”, with AK in the am and HWS in the pm, and I cannot find anywhere how long it takes to get from one park to the other… How long did it take to get from Animal Kingdom to Hollywood Studios for your family? Oh, we also have a lunch reservation at 1:30 at Hollywood and Vine to keep in mind.

    • Kathryn on November 11, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      I would budget about 30 minutes (we did it in 15 with a scooter, wheelchair and 14 people). But, because you have lunch reservations, I would probably hop out of AK by 12:30 to give yourself enough time to get to the buses (not far from the entrance), load up and get back through the lines at HS to walk to the restaurant. That way, you aren’t rushed! Have a blast. I’m so jealous!

      • Alana on November 11, 2016 at 9:18 pm

        Thanks! That will help me budget our time!

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