Walt Disney World is always changing, but the theme park with the most changes in the course of its history is Hollywood Studios! It originally opened a MGM Studios in 1989, and only had a few rides on opening day. Now, it’s expanded with new lands, new rides, and new shows to delight guests of all ages!
With so many new rides, it’s a great park to make use of Disney World’s new Genie+ ride reservation system.
Disney Genie+ vs FastPass
There have been a lot of changes at Walt Disney World since the beginning of the global pandemic in 2020. Many of these changes occurred after the resort reopened in July of 2020 following the unprecedented fourth month closure. One thing that changed right when the parks reopened was the elimination of the FastPass system.
Prior to the pandemic, the FastPass system allowed all guests to schedule time-specific ride reservations for up to three rides each day. All three of these initial FastPass bookings had to be in the same park. After a guest had utilized their third FastPass, another one could be booked immediately using the My Disney Experience app. This cycle could continue until the park closed for the night, as you could immediately book the next FastPass as soon as you’d scanned into the FastPass queue for the current ride reservation.
One of the best things about the old FastPass system is that you could do the bulk of your planning well before you headed to Orlando. For people who love to plan, this planning was an integral part of the experience and key to making the most of the time spent inside of the theme parks. For people who prefer to be a little more spontaneous during the day, having to plan individual ride times up to 90 days before you actually arrived in Orlando took away a little bit of the magic.
When the parks reopened, they did so without any kind of FastPass system. Other than Rise of the Resistance which utilized the virtual queue system, all other rides were only available through the standby queue.
This was a huge change for those of us who were used to planning out our days in more detail, and it really changed how our family managed our time in the parks. Where before we were constantly going back and forth across the theme park to chase our FastPass reservations, we were now more likely to ride everything within a single land or section of the theme park before moving on.
In the fall of 2021, Disney World introduced a new system that is really three different subsystems: Genie, Genie+, and Lightning Lanes. Unfortunately, they chose to use some of the same terms to mean different things within the different systems, causing a lot of initial confusion. Before we go any further, let’s break down these three systems.
Genie is basically an overlay to the existing My Disney Experience app. With Genie you can make your own tip board by pinning your favorite rides and experiences, making it easier to see wait times and ride closures. The system also recommends rides and dining, based on what it thinks your preferences are, and what it knows about your existing schedule.
Genie is free to use.
Genie+, sometimes written as Genie Plus, allows guests to book ride reservations at most of the rides throughout each of the theme parks. Guests can only book one ride at a time, and are only shown the “next available time” when selecting which ride to book. Once a ride reservation is booked with Genie+, the guest must wait until they’ve either scanned into that ride or until 120 minutes have passed before they can make their next reservation.
Guests with a Genie+ reservation will access the ride through the marked Lightning Lane. As with FastPass, the ride reservation windows are one hour long, although you can usually scan in up to five minute before and ten minutes after your formal reservation time. Unlike the old system, guests can only use one Genie+ reservation per ride each day. This means if you’ve already ridden a specific attraction using Genie+, the only other way to ride again is through the standby line.
Guests can choose to purchase Genie+ either for the entire duration of their trip, or on a day-to-day basis. Booking day-to-day allows guests to build in rest days where they won’t need any ride reservations as they won’t be entering a theme park. Guests can only book rides the day of, beginning at 7:00am for guests staying on property at Walt Disney World, and at park open for guests staying offsite.
Genie+ costs $15/person per day.
Lightning Lanes (or Individual Lightning Lanes) are available for only one to two rides in each park. These are typically the most popular or newest rides. Individual Lightning Lane ride reservations are available at 7:00am to Walt Disney World resort guests, and at park open for all other guests. For these select rides, guests can choose a return time from any of the time windows that are still available.
When the ride return time is open, guests will enter the queue under the Lightning Lane sign to scan into the ride. Only one Individual Lightning Lane ride is available for each ride, but guests can hold multiple Individual Lightning Lane reservations at the same time. Guests can also have Genie+ reservations on the same day. The ride reservation for Individual Lightning Lane reservations is also one hour, with a five minute before and ten minute after grace periods.
Individual Lightning Lane access is only available by purchasing it for each ride included in this system. Disney is using a dynamic pricing system, and prices can range from $7 to $20 per person, per ride. Only one Individual Lightning Lane reservation can be purchased for each ride, per day.
Best Rides at Hollywood Studios
At Hollywood Studios, Genie+ allows access to rides, shows, and some character experiences. Most of the time, a Genie+ reservation is best used on an actual ride, especially those that have traditionally had longer standby times. Many of the shows have extremely large capacity, which allows guests to still be able to find an empty seat even right before the show begins.
Let’s take a look into which are the 5 best Genie+ rides at Hollywood Studios.
#1 – Slinky Dog Dash
Slinky Dog Dash is one definitely one of the best rides at Hollywood Studios, and it’s popularity is always reflected by a lengthy standby line! Located in Toy Story Land, guests will hop aboard their very own Slinky Dog before soaring and twisting over Andy’s overgrown backyard on this fast paced roller coaster.
You’ll soar by many of the characters from the beloved Toy Story movies, before ending the ride with a special rendition of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” sung by the one and only Mr. Wheezy. As a roller coaster thrill ride, Slinky Dog Dash should only be enjoyed by guests who are in good health and are not pregnant. All toys must be at least 38” tall to ride.
Slinky Dog Dash is my number one pick for a Genie+ ride at Hollywood Studios due to its extreme popularity and corresponding standby line. Even though it’s been open since 2018, this ride remains a fan favorite because it is such a great roller coaster.
In addition to always being long, the other challenge with the Slinky Dog Dash standby line is that it’s completely outside with very little shelter from the sun or rain. Although they do have some shade umbrellas along the line queue, they’re insufficient to protect all the guests in that line. These two factors make Slinky Dog Dash either a priority for Genie+.
If you’re skipping Genie+, this is definitely a ride to head for right when the park opens. It’s a bit of a jaunt to get all the way back to Toy Story Land, but it will be worth it to beat the crowd and avoid the standby queue that’s completely unprotected from the elements.
Next up on the list is another thrill ride, this time located across the park on Sunset Boulevard. At the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, guests will step into a hotel lobby frozen in time to 1939. During the pre-show, Rod Sterling of the Twilight Zone appears on a television screen to tell the story of how guests disappeared while riding the elevator in that very hotel. The hotel was struck by lightning, and the guests within the elevator were never seen again!
Guests will then board an elevator and are strapped into seats before being propelled up and down that infamous elevator shaft. The sounds of snapping cables can be heard over the screams as the elevator seems to go up and down with abandon. This ride doubles down on scary as a thrill ride in the dark, and as such shouldn’t be ridden by pregnant women, or those with serious health or heart concerns. All hotel guests need to be at least 40” to board the elevator.
This ride takes the number two spot on our list of best Genie+ rides in Hollywood Studios due to its popularity and thus lengthy standby time. Although the ride has multiple elevator shafts running at the same time, it’s not uncommon for one or more of them to shut down temporarily. These shutdowns drive the wait times up dramatically, and can make it a challenge to have an accurate understanding of how long the wait might be.
Next up on our list is Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. This ride is located over in Galaxy’s Edge, often just referred to as Star Wars Land. It was the first Star Wars ride to open in the Star Wars Land expansion, and has remained a popular ride for those Star Wars fans visiting the park. In this ride, guests head into the cockpit of the infamous Millennium Falcon on a daring flight for the resistance. Each guest will be assigned a different role, and could ride as a gunner, engineer, or pilot! Everyone has a job to do, and the resistance is depending on you to succeed in their mission.
This ride is listed as a thrill ride, as it has sudden drops and is overall a dark, loud ride. As such, the usual warnings indicate that expectant mothers and guests with health concerns should skip this ride. Additionally, all rebels must be at least 38” tall before climbing on board.
The main reason that this ride takes the number three spot on this list of best Genie+ rides is due to its continued popularity amongst Star Wars fans. This may not be the best ride in the park, but guests who grew up with Star Wars are usually enthralled by the opportunity to not only board, but also fly, the great ship herself. Due to this fan popularity, this ride always has a long standby line, with the wait often running over an hour.
One other thing to consider for Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run is that the standby line itself is often touted as the best part of this ride’s experience. This ride has one of the best pre-show experiences across all the parks, as guests literally walk around and through the ship itself before boarding. My husband is a HUGE Star Wars fan, and he loves the queue more than the ride itself. If you’ve never ridden this ride before, it might be worth skipping Genie+ to get that full pre-show experience at least once.
If you’ve already enjoyed the full standby queue and want to ride again without using Genie+, try using the single rider lane. This special queue won’t guarantee that you’ll be with your party when it’s your turn to fly in the Millenium Falcon, but since each person is seated individually with their own role to play, it doesn’t really matter.
You may also get lucky and end up in the same boarding group, as it just depends on how many empty seats they need to fill in. They always fly with a full ship, so utilizing the single rider lane for this ride can be a great way to get flying quickly.
If you love roller coasters then you’ll for sure want to prioritize a ride on Hollywood Studio’s Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith! Join the members of the band as they race across the streets of LA to make it to their concert on time! You’ll whiz past Hollywood landmarks and past iconic LA traffic jams, all while rocking out to music from Aerosmith.
This is a ride for true thrill seekers as it contains two rollover loops and a dazzling corkscrew! Only guests who want to experience the thrill of big drops, upside down fun, and loud music should hop on board this ride. It’s not a ride for anyone with health conditions or who may be pregnant, and all rockstars need to be at least 48” tall before boarding.
This ride takes the number four spot as it’s arguably the most intense roller coaster experience that Walt Disney World has to offer, and as such is incredibly popular with adult guests at Hollywood Studios. It features a take-off sequence that goes from 0 to 57 miles, meeting anyone’s need for speed. Add in the inversions and corkscrews, this ride is not for guests who don’t love the thrill of adrenaline.
#5 – Toy Story Mania!
Climb aboard Toy Story Mania to join Woody and the whole Toy Story gang in this interactive carnival-inspired ride! You’ll get an inside peek of Andy’s room as you play different carnival games with the on-board, spring action shooter. Do your very best shooting, as you’ll be competing with the other riders in your same car!
Toys of all sizes can join in the fun, as well as the rest of the family. There is some spinning in the ride as your car turns so you can play different games, so anyone who gets motion sickness easily may want to skip this ride.
Toy Story Mania remains a favorite ride for our family, but demand has decreased slightly as Hollywood Studios has opened more attractions. Guests are more likely to rush to ride Slinky Dog Dash, which leaves fewer people in line for Toy Story Mania. This is a great ride to grab a reservation for later in the day after you’ve already used Genie+ to ride some of the other rides in Hollywood Studios.
Using Genie+ for Shows and Character Experiences
In addition to the rides and attractions, Genie+ is also available for most of the shows and some of the character experiences inside of Hollywood Studios. In most cases, however, you do NOT need a Genie+ reservation to enjoy these experiences.
For all of the live action shows, a Genie+ reservation will allow you to enter an area for priority seating for that show. This typically means you’ll be seated closer to the performance stage, or in the middle of the arena in an area that has the best views.
If the show you’re seeing is extremely important to you or your family, then it might be worth it to gain access to this priority seating using a Genie+ reservation. For most people however, the experience simply isn’t that much better. Disney does a great job making sure the stage is visible from all parts of the auditorium or theater, so you should have a pretty good view from any seat.
Although these shows can occasionally fill to capacity, there are multiple showings each day Hollywood Studios is open. We’ve never had a problem gaining entrance and finding a seat even when we’ve walked into one of the live action shows minutes before showtime.
If you see a Genie+ reservation that’s about to start (especially if you need a break from the sun or from walking), grab it and then look for your next reservation as soon as you’ve scanned into the show. Otherwise, I’d recommend saving your Genie+ reservations for the actual rides and using the standby queue for these shows.
One show that I do not recommend using Genie+ to enjoy is Muppet*Vision 3D. This is actually one of my favorite shows in the park, but using Genie+ gives you no special access as there is no priority seating. Guests who use a Genie+ reservation for this ride will go through the Lightning Lane right into the only pre-show area, right along any guests who walk through the standby line.
There is absolutely no advantage for guests who use the Lightning Lane. This show runs continuously throughout the day, as it’s a 3D muppet movie experience, with a few small live action sections. There is almost always still room in the theater right up to the moment they close the doors. The pre-show is almost as fun as the show itself, so do show up a little early to enjoy that; just don’t waste a Genie+ time slot for this attraction!
Although Hollywood Studios is a popular destination for guests of all ages, it also offers something special for adults who are seeking out those thrill ride experiences. If riding fast and dropping hard is what you’re looking for, you have three great thrill rides to choose from.
Slinky Dog Dash is one of the most enjoyable roller coasters across all of Walt Disney World. It doesn’t have any inversions or corkscrews, so it’s a nice entry level roller coaster. It’s location and theme in Toy Story land makes it an extra special experience for guests who have seen any of the four Toy Story movies.
If you want a more hardcore roller coaster experience then you should head over to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. Featuring two inversions, one corkscrew, and lots of loud music, this ride will give any thrill seeker the adrenaline rush they’re looking for! There have also been rumors that this ride could be rethemed in the future, so hop aboard now to make sure you don’t miss out on the Aerosmith experience!
Finally, although not a roller coaster, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is definitely not for the faint of heart! The unexpected and unpredictable drops in the dark will kick your brain into gear, even as you’re safely strapped into your seat. The ride at Walt Disney World has kept the original theme, while the similar ride at Disney’s California Adventure has been re-themed as Guardians of the Galaxy—Mission: Breakout! Be sure to check into the Hotel of Terror in Hollywood Studios to enjoy that classic Twilight Zone theme.
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