Surviving New Year’s Eve at Hollywood Studios

We spent our first few years going to Hollywood Studios for New Year’s Eve. Frankly, I’m not sure exactly how or why we chose to ring in the New Year there. I think we opted to spend December 30th at Magic Kingdom and were afraid of the crowds at EPCOT, so we went with Hollywood Studios. Regardless, it led to a few memorable years.
Hollywood Studios has two Extra Magic Hours on New Year’s Eve, making it an attractive option. While Magic Kingdom and EPCOT are closed to all guests by 1am, Hollywood Studios remains open to resort guests from 12am to 2am. My sister and I used to ring in the New Year by riding Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. The Extra Magic Hours don’t just pay off in rides, it provides a decent strategy to avoiding traffic. You see – right after the clock strikes 12, many guests head towards the exit. Between off-site guests in cars and the hike in demand for resort buses, you’re bound to spend the first two hours of the new year waiting in line and sitting on the bus. As a resort guest, would you rather spend that time sitting in traffic or on a ride?

I remember one year my parents were tired and decided to brave the crowds and head back. My sister and I couldn’t break tradition, so we hung at the park and waited to ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. We finally left the park around 1:15am and got back to the room right around 2. To our surprise, our parents had only gotten back 10-15 minutes before us. They waited around 45 minutes to board the bus and sat in traffic the entire way back to the resort. Lesson learned: stay at the park and let the traffic dissipate.

Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios are two of the less-popular parks on New Year’s Eve. Animal Kingdom closes shortly after dusk and guests would rather spend the New Year at Magic Kingdom or EPCOT. Believe me, Hollywood Studios will be packed, but nowhere near Magic Kingdom or EPCOT. Like EPCOT, Hollywood Studios does a great job of absorbing the crowds, although it’s nowhere near as big.

Editor’s Note: after heading to Hollywood Studios yesterday, I can honestly say it’s far more packed than I expected. Between The Osborne Lights and the boost in popularity from the new Star Wars movie, Hollywood Studios has seen a solid boost in crowds. I still don’t think Hollywood Studios will be anywhere near EPCOT or Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Eve, but expect higher crowd than I initially predicted. 

We always avoided the parks during the day and never had a problem entering the park around 7pm. In fact, I’ve rarely heard of Hollywood Studios experiencing phased closures due to capacity on New Year’s Eve, but with the Osborne Lights ending in 2016, I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

Because Hollywood Studios only has a few rides, the wait times are sure to be astronomical. The standby time for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror will be at least 90-120 minutes, and Toy Story Midway Mania will see wait times of 3 hours or more. I’d even go as far as predicting that The Great Movie Ride will see a wait time of 60 minutes! Unless you have a FP+ or a ton of patience, I wouldn’t recommend waiting or planning on going on these rides.

If you’re staying off-site or looking to play it safe, arrive early. Rope Drop isn’t a necessity the way it is at Magic Kingdom or EPCOT, but I’d recommend arriving early in the day. During the daytime, the Streets of America are a great spot to avoid the crowds. There’s no real draw when the lights aren’t on, so there should be plenty of space to walk around should you feel a bit claustrophobic.

At night, you can head over to the Osborne Lights if you’d like. It’s usually extremely crowded and I’m sure it’ll be even more so this year; but if you’re looking to kill some time, I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

In past years, there was a live band interspersed with a DJ and emcee in front of the Sorcerer’s Hat. I think they replaced the hat with a stage, so I’d imagine that shouldn’t change too much. People usually dance around there, as the band and DJ play family friendly party songs. The fireworks at midnight used to be set off behind the hat. I’d assume they won’t change that much this year – they’ll probably be right behind The Great Movie Ride. The best view for the fireworks is from Hollywood Boulevard, which is sure to draw a massive crowd. My go-to is right in front of 50’s Prime Time Cafe and the Tune-In lounge. There’s an area by Echo Lake that provides a great view of the fireworks with a lighter crowd. There may be a few branches from the surrounding trees impairing your view, but it’s a lesser-known area that has a few makeshift seats. Plus, it’s right by the Tune-In Lounge, which serves drinks inside and has a pop-up bar outside. Try the Electric Lemonade!

Overall, I’d recommend Hollywood Studios for younger families trying to escape the crowds. It’s a less-crowded Magic Kingdom, and a toned-down EPCOT.

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