Welcome to “Thrifty Theme Park Adventures!” As an ardent theme park lover, I understand that fun-filled theme park adventures can sometimes be a strain on your wallet. That’s why I’ve created this column to help you navigate exhilarating theme park lands without burning a hole in your pocket. Each column will unravel a world of budget-friendly secrets, free activities, and smart spending strategies specifically tailored for different theme parks around the globe. Read a new “Thrifty Theme Park Adventures” every other Thursday. The goal is to make every penny count while ensuring your theme park experience is as enchanting and unforgettable as ever. ~ Samantha
When you visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you will be immersed in a world filled with Hollywood fantasy and classic Disney magic.
Originally named Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park, it is the third of four Disney theme parks that were created to show the ins and outs of show business to the general public.
Today, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is in the top ten of the most visited theme parks in the world, and for good reason! With high-concept rides, attractions, and dining options, Hollywood Studios has become a favorite amongst film and movie enthusiasts.
Like the other Disney parks, there is an admission fee to enter the park, as well as separate costs for food and souvenirs, which can add to the tab quickly. Fortunately, there are lots of free things to do and see at Hollywood Studios aside from waiting in line for one of the many marvelous rides.
Let’s find out what you can experience at Hollywood Studios without dipping into your budget.
Soaring Above the Magic: Disney’s Skyliner Experience
Transportation to and from a park doesn’t seem like it would be that exciting, but even mundane activities like getting from one theme park to the next are done whimsically at Disney.
Seasoned guests of Disney theme parks know that the monorail or Disney World bus is typically the go-to option for traveling between parks. The fairly-new Disney Skyliner gives guests a more exciting way to get to Hollywood Studios from EPCOT or vice versa.
Board the themed gondolas at EPCOT or Hollywood Studios, and you’ll stop at five stations, including Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Riviera Resort, and between Disney’s Art of Animation Resort and Disney’s Pop Century Resort.
Even if you’re not staying at any of these resorts, it will still give you a chance to check them out from a bird’s eye view. The best part is that this mode of transportation is entirely free for guests visiting Disney World and staying at their hotels.
Move and Groove: Dance Time with Your Favorite Characters
If you or your little one are itching to show off your dance moves, Disney Junior Play and Dance! has you covered.
Located in the Animation Courtyard in Hollywood Studios, you’ll find beloved Disney characters like Timon, Doc McStuffins, and the one and only Mickey Mouse getting down to songs from fan-favorite Disney television shows.
A DJ keeps the party going on stage while you and the kids dance along or break out your own choreography underneath the Mickey Mouse-shaped disco ball.
Disney Junior Play and Dance! puts on a great show that you can appreciate even if dancing isn’t your thing.
Behind the Castle Walls: A Broadway-Caliber Performance at Hollywood Studios
If you love a Broadway show but loathe the price of admission, then you’re going to love Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage.
For no extra charge, you can head to Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood Studios and see the classic Disney film Beauty and the Beast reimagined for live audiences.
This isn’t like your local school play. Disney pulls out all the stops to make this production fit for the Broadway stage, as the “tale as old as time” follows Belle as she falls in love with the Beast, all the while familiar fan favorites like Lumière, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts help them along.
Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage features all the songs you have come to know and love, and you will gain a new appreciation for them when they are performed live.
Beyond the Whip and Fedora: The Stunt Magic of Indiana Jones
This is a must-see if you’re a fan of the Indiana Jones franchise or you want to pull back the curtain on Hollywood magic.
Make your way to the theater at Echo Lake in Hollywood Studios and catch the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!
Inside the two-thousand-seat theater, you will get to watch a live-action performance featuring our hero, Indiana Jones, and other stuntmen and stuntwomen as they perform unbelievable stunts and fight off the bad guys right before your very eyes.
This show isn’t purely entertaining; it’s also educational. The performers will show you how Hollywood pulls off these epic stunts, all the while ensuring the safety of the performers and crew.
You’ll learn how they safely jump from a building, crack a whip, and even set off crazy explosions, all while making sure everyone walks away unscathed.
A few lucky audience members even get to be part of the show. If you’re hoping to get picked as an “extra,” nab a seat as close to the front as possible. When the casting director asks for volunteers, smile and wave your arms with as much enthusiasm as you can muster.
Who knows? It could be your big break!
This fun and fast-paced show fills up quickly, so get in line early to make sure you don’t miss out on the action!
Walt Disney: The Visionary Behind the Magic
It is hard to imagine that some of the most loved films, television shows, and theme parks all originated from the mind of one man.
With money borrowed from his brother, Roy and an idea that would change the world of entertainment as we know it, Walt Disney created an empire that is universally recognized.
Despite his name being synonymous with classic films and popular theme parks, Walt Disney’s life and career are chock full of fascinating and surprising details that you may have never heard before.
You can learn more about Disney at Walt Disney Presents, a mini-museum located in the Animation Courtyard at Hollywood Studios. This free self-guided museum chronicles Disney’s journey from growing up in a small town in Illinois to making it big in Hollywood.
On your tour, you will see artifacts, scaled models, photos, and more before being treated to a brief film called Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream. The documentary features historical footage and audio recordings that are not widely available to the general public.
Visiting Walt Disney Presents gives you a further appreciation for the man who used his perseverance and imagination to make all of his wildest dreams come true. It’s equal parts informative and inspirational.
Hollywood Studios’ Grand Finale – Fantasmic! is a Show Not to Miss
When the sun starts to set on Hollywood Studios, head over to Sunset Boulevard for a genuinely breathtaking nighttime show.
Fantasmic! is an open-air musical that takes you through Mickey Mouse’s dream where our favorite mouse becomes a sorcerer’s apprentice and learns that he has magical powers to control water and colors.
Anyone sitting in the front row may get wet, as Mickey’s powers to control water sometimes get a bit out of hand. With twists and turns, Mickey must face some famous Disney villains, which quickly turns his dream into a real nightmare.
This one-of-a-kind show features stunts, music, special effects, pyrotechnics, and characters from films such as Moana, The Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and more.
Seeing Fantasmic! is the perfect way to end your day at Hollywood Studios, as it combines so much of what Hollywood Studios is about: fun, adventure, and spectacle.
That’s a Wrap!
Hollywood Studios is perfect for those who love nonstop fun while reminiscing about the television shows and films that made their childhoods special.
There’s plenty to do inside this action-packed theme park, and luckily there’s a lot that won’t have you constantly opening your wallet.
Pencil in some of our premium picks to create a unique and amazing experience that won’t break the bank next time you’re at Hollywood Studios!
What theme parks would you like to see me offer free and thrifty activities for next? Let me know in the comments below.
Explore More: Videos
Beauty and The Beast Live on Stage
Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream
Explore More: Resources
Feature image – Matt Stroshane, Photographer ©Disney