I got to sleep in an extra half hour today as I would be starting things off at Disney Hollywood Studios and early entry would begin at 7:30am.
I opted against purchasing a Genie+ for the day as Hollywood Studios doesn’t have a lot of rides. Instead, much of its focus is experiencing the world of Hollywood from backstage lots to lavish productions to walking down a replica from Hollywood and Vine. Oh, and a little thing called Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
I knew the crowd would immediately make a beeline to Galaxy’s Edge in order to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance so I purchased a special Lightning Lane pass to ride it at 1:35pm and immediately veered towards Hollywood & Vine to ride two of my favorite rides: Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror and Rock n Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith.
The Tower of Terror is a truly unique experience. You’ll be thrust into a Twilight Zone story that tells the story of the Hollywood Tower Hotel which catered to the rich and famous of the 1930s. One night a bellhop and 4 guests were riding the elevator when it was struck by a bolt of lightning and they were vaporized. Now their ghosts haunt the abandoned hotel and you’ll be exploring it.
It’s a genuinely eerie ride as strange phenomena take place and the ghosts beckon you towards them. The highlight of the ride is the famed drop. Originally, the ride took you to the 13th floor where the doors opened, gave you a view of the park, then dropped you 13 stories. Now it’s a random experience where you could rise and fall up to 5 times. It’s never the same ride twice. And I should know for I rode it twice.
I then made my way towards Rock n Roller Coaster only to find it was down and they didn’t know when, or if, it would come up (it never did). This would set a distressing note for my time at Hollywood Studios.
I decided to explore Galaxy’s Edge myself and was extremely impressed by its attention to detail. I genuinely felt like I was in a Star Wars movie. I walked by the Millennium Falcon and noted it was the entrance to the Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run ride. Even better, I noticed a single rider line.
I went through the special queue and became part of the crew of the Falcon as I took part in a smuggling mission as an engineer along with two pilots, two gunners, and another engineer. It’s an interactive full motion ride and your team is actually scored. You get a share of the profits minus the cost of any repairs required for the Falcon. As an engineer, it was my duty to repair the Falcon, if damaged, as well as launch the grappling hook to snare the item we were trying to swipe. Whenever buttons and switches flashed on my panel, I’d press them and flip them to fix the Falcon. I only missed one repair on the first go round and was perfect on the second mission.
Then I walked past the famed Rise of the Resistance and saw a swarm of people exiting the attraction. It had gone down.
I made my way over to Muppetvision 3D. Now this is a really fun attraction that puts you right in the middle of a The Muppet Show performance. You walk into a perfect replica of the Muppet Theatre, complete with Statler and Waldorf up in the balcony heckling the Muppets as you experience Muppet Labs latest invention: Muppetvision 3D.
Now this is truly impressive 3D as the images really do seem to pop right off the screen and you think you could really interact with them. As is wont to happen, things go to pieces when Sam the Eagle’s “Tribute to all Countries, but mostly America” number goes haywire resulting in the destruction of the theatre. It truly is the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational time.
I wandered back to the front of the park where I saw an electronic billboard and paused to look at ride wait times. All of the big ones were down with the exception of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad. With that being the only working ride, the line was long and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular wasn’t set to start until noon.
I didn’t feel like twiddling my thumbs for an hour so I left the park and took some rides of a different sort.
First, I hopped on the Disney Skyliner. This gondola system connects Hollywood Studios and Epcot with some of the resorts. I was meeting a friend at Epcot at 2pm and wanted to do a dry run to see how long it would take to ride the gondola as I figured it would be more efficient than waiting for a bus. It was a gentle experience and gave me a good view of the parks and resorts. Total time was 20 minutes. That seemed like it would work, provided Resistance came back up.
Then I got a boat which ultimately took me back to Hollywood Studios where I caught a bus back to Coronado Springs and I rested for a bit.
At 12:45pm, I checked My Disney Experience and saw that Rise of the Resistance was back up so off I went to Hollywood Studios. To be safe, I sent a message to my friend letting her know that we should make the meet-up time 2:15pm and she replied that we should make it 3pm as she was stuck in traffic on I-4. Plenty of time to do the ride and then meet up. . .or so I thought.
When I arrived at Hollywood Studios, my eyes popped when I saw the wait time for Rise of the Resistance. 245 minutes!! And people were truly waiting for 4 hours to ride. Thank goodness for my Lightning Lane.
Then again, maybe not.
The catch with Lightning Lane is that if the ride goes down during the period you were supposed to ride it, your pass is still good. I made my way to Lightning Lane and found the wait was an hour!! Clearly the ride had only recently gone up. I couldn’t wait that long as I had to meet my friend so I opted to eat the cost of Lightning Lane.
Then I boarded Skyliner to get to Epcot. About halfway through the ride, I felt the gondola slow down and then it stopped. And it stayed stopped. . .for 45 minutes. While I was just hanging around, I spoke with the older couple sharing my gondola to pass the time. Slowly, but surely, we finally reached solid ground. To my surprise, a Disney rep was waiting with a $25 gift card to make up for being trapped. This covered my cost for Lightning Lane and then some.
Luckily, I managed to arrive at just the same time that my friend, Brenda Elze, was arriving at Epcot.
I’ve known Brenda for nearly 30 years where we were part of the Papillion-LaVista High School band (Go Monarchs!). We met on a band ski trip where, ironically, we got stuck on a stalled ski lift and I was talking to her to keep her mind off the cold and we’ve been friends ever since.
We spent our day hitting up some rides and noshing our way around the world from the various kiosks. We snacked on poutine, smoked salmon potato latkes, cheese fondue, and a chocolate peppermint stout.
We closed the night having dinner at the Rose and Garden in the UK Pavilion. We both had the Shepherd’s Pie. It was tasty, but not quite as good as the one I enjoyed in Ireland.
The day started off rough, but my time with Brenda ended it spectacularly. After sharing a long hug we said our good-byes and I returned to Coronado Springs.
One day left.
Ahh, the Tower of Terror! I have happy memories of us all going on it way back in ’95. I must get back there again one of these years! Interesting to hear that it’s a randomized experience now, rather than a guaranteed 13-story drop. How far did you drop on your two go-arounds??
3 and 5, I believe. Let me know when you want to go. I’ll make it an adventure to remember.