Magic Kingdom vs Hollywood Studios – Which Park is Better?

The Magic Kingdom vs Hollywood Studios
Holiday Wishes” by HarshLight licensed under CC BY 2.0

Have you ever tried to plan a Walt Disney World vacation for a large family group? I’m talking about a group that might range in age from babies up to grandparents. How can you decide which parks will be enjoyable for everyone? Let’s compare two of the most popular parks: Magic Kingdom vs Hollywood Studios.

Magic Kingdom vs Hollywood Studios (TLDR)

Walt Disney World Railroad” by HarshLight licensed under CC BY 2.0

When comparing Magic Kingdom vs Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom comes out slightly ahead as having the broadest appeal for most age groups. That’s not to say that Hollywood Studios isn’t a great choice, but if you have to choose and want to visit a park that will have something fun for the whole group, Magic Kingdom is the safest bet.

Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios: The Basics

Before digging into details about the pros and cons of these parks for different age groups, here’s some basic information that you’ll find helpful.

Magic Kingdom has 24 rides, vs Hollywood Studios with only 9 rides. If you or your family members focus on rides during your Walt Disney World visit, Magic Kingdom will probably be more fun for you.

Magic Kingdom has 31 restaurants vs 28 restaurants in Hollywood Studios. This includes all restaurants; everything from fine/signature dining to quick service kiosks. If you’re concerned about finding food your picky toddler or child will eat, it should be pointed out that almost every Walt Disney World restaurant in any of the parks has excellent kids’ menu choices. It’s not impossible to find familiar foods like chicken nuggets, Mac-n-cheese, and hot dogs just about anywhere.

Magic Kingdom covers 142 acres vs Hollywood Studios area of 154 acres. That’s really not a huge difference that most guests would notice. Both parks are fairly easy to walk through and navigate.

Magic Kingdom vs Hollywood Studios for Toddlers

Cinderella’s Castle” by HarshLight licensed under CC BY 2.0

When it comes to keeping toddlers at Disney World happy and engaged, Magic Kingdom wins! From the moment you walk into the park entrance, you’re greeted by friendly cast members, bright colors everywhere, and of course, the view of Cinderella’s castle as you look down Main Street.

Rides for Toddlers

Toy Story Midway Mania” by Steven Miller licensed under CC BY 2.0

One of the biggest challenges parents face at the Disney Parks is finding rides that the littlest kids can enjoy. At Magic Kingdom, toddlers can ride the Disney Railroad, Dumbo The Flying Elephant, Under The Sea with the Little Mermaid, Flight of Peter Pan, Prince Charming’s Carousel, Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, It’s A Small World, Jungle Cruise, Liberty Square Steamboat, and so many more!

In fact, there are 17 rides at Magic Kingdom with no height requirements. Most of these rides feature familiar Disney characters that your little ones will be excited to see.

There are plenty of great rides at Hollywood Studios, but not as many are appropriate for toddlers. In fact, there are only two rides without any height requirements: Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Toy Story Mania. Both of these rides are excellent choices for toddlers. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is a delightful experience that transports guests into a cartoon world where all kinds of zany events happen.

The bright colors, music, and characters “talking” to riders are sure to entertain the little ones. Toddlers might not comprehend the interactive games on Toy Story Mania but they’ll definitely have fun playing with the controllers and seeing all the characters from the Toy Story films.

Other than those two rides, the remaining Hollywood Studios rides have height requirements ranging from 32 to 40 inches, depending on the ride. This might be okay for 4 to 5-year-old children, but it greatly limits the number of rides the youngest kids can enjoy.

Shows, Characters, and Entertainment for Toddlers

The shows and entertainment in Magic Kingdom win again, simply because most of it has elements that will appeal to all ages. Also, Magic Kingdom has parades, cavalcades, and the character shows at the castle throughout the day; something that always appeals to little kids and just isn’t found in Hollywood Studios.

The daily parades at Magic Kingdom are especially fun for toddlers. Characters in the parades always seem to take time to wave, smile, and greet the littlest kids along the parade routes who are in strollers or being held by their oh-so-patient parents. 

Magic Kingdom has stage shows, such as The Country Bear Jamboree and Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, that are fun choices with humor that appeal to little kids and grownups.  The Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire show in front of Cinderella’s castle features music and a large number of characters, and for sheer spectacle, nothing matches the nightly fireworks show at Magic Kingdom! Hollywood Studios has great entertainment as well.

The only reason I’d give an edge to Magic Kingdom in this category is because Hollywood Studios doesn’t have the parades and cavalcade. However, the Beauty and The Beast Stage Show and Frozen Sing-A-Long Show in Hollywood Studios are both great choices to entertain little kids. The familiar stories and characters on stage are sure to keep the preschoolers entertained!

For nighttime entertainment, Fantasmic is Hollywood Studios’ signature spectacle. However, it’s often difficult to get seats for this amazing show. The Wonderful World of Animation Show projected on the facade of The Chinese Theater each night is impressive and fun, but not as over-the-top as Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks.

One area that Hollywood Studios has an advantage over Magic Kingdom when it comes to entertainment for toddlers is that Hollywood Studios is the only park where you can meet characters from Disney Junior TV shows!

The Disney Junior Play and Dance show is an energetic, interactive show specifically aimed at toddlers. The little ones can meet Disney Junior characters for photos in the Animation Courtyard area. There is also a Disney Junior character breakfast, served buffet style, at the Hollywood and Vine restaurant. 

Over in Toy Story Land, there are meet-and-greets with Buzz, Woody, and Jessie, as well as occasional entertainment from the Green Army Men.

Magic Kingdom vs Hollywood Studios for Kids

Magic Kingdom was created with children in mind, and I think it has the most appeal to children and preteens out of any of the Disney theme parks. Whether your kids are into princesses or pirates, thrilling or calm rides, spooky or silly fun, there is something at Magic Kingdom they’ll love. In fact, I think each of the “lands” in Magic Kingdom can be seen to represent what goes on in a child’s imagination.

Hollywood Studios still has a lot of good options for kids, but the overall appeal might be more focused on older kids as opposed to the very youngest. While Magic Kingdom is all about imaginative storytelling, the theme of Hollywood Studios has a focus specifically on movies, TV shows, and animated features. The park does a wonderful job of celebrating Disney productions, but for kids, I think the storytelling ambiance of Magic Kingdom is more attractive.

Rides for Kids

Barnstormer” by HarshLight licensed under CC BY 2.0

In Magic Kingdom, you can find rides to appeal to kids who want a thrill (like on Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, or Goofy’s Barnstormer), or who prefer slower rides featuring fun characters (such as Dumbo The Flying Elephant or Pirates of the Caribbean). While rides like The Haunted Mansion and even the beginning of Pirates Of The Caribbean have a “scare factor”, they’re not too terrifying for children.

In Hollywood Studios, there are fewer rides in the park overall, and a good number of them might be a little intense for smaller children. The rides in Hollywood Studios that are probably the most appropriate for kids are Slinky Dog Dash, Alien Swirling Saucers, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and the ever-popular Toy Story Mania.

While Millennium Falcon: Smugglers’ Run and Rise of the Resistance are the newest, most popular rides right now, kids might not be as crazy about them unless they’re big Star Wars fans.  Tower of Terror and Rock-n-Roller Coaster are great thrill rides but can be pretty intense for some kids.

Shows, Characters, Entertainment for Kids

Muppet Vision 3D
This photo was taken by Michael for Countdown to Magic

When it comes to entertainment for kids, it’s tough to pick one of these two parks over the other. There are a lot of great stage or theater shows at both Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.

While Magic Kingdom has Mickey’s Philharmagic, The Enchanted Tiki Room, and Enchanted Tales with Belle, Hollywood Studios has Beauty and the Beast Live, The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, and Muppet Vision 3D.

Again, Magic Kingdom comes out ahead with entertainment simply because it has parades, cavalcades, and entertainment around Cinderella’s castle. The big shows that occur out in the open generate a lot of excitement, especially with kids!

Hollywood Studios does have some great entertainment and character interactions for kids that can’t be found anywhere else, though. In Toy Story Land, the Green Army Drum Corps show up a few times a day with musical, funny entertainment. Hollywood Studios is the only park you can meet Pixar characters such as Woody and Buzz from Toy Story, and Sully from Monsters, Inc.

Let’s “talk” for a minute about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. This amazing, immersive section of the park is a Star Wars fan’s dream! The theming is impressive, and the rides are incredible. However, unless your kids are big Star Wars fans, I’m not sure they’ll enjoy it as much as the grownups will.

Just walking around in this area you might be confronted by Stormtroopers who are suspicious of anyone who might be a rebel sympathizer, and they don’t hesitate to “question” guests about their actions. It’s a lot of fun but might be unsettling for little kids.  Rise of the Resistance is a fantastic ride experience, but the beginning of the ride when the guests are being “interrogated” by the First Order might be intimidating or even a little bit scary for children.

Magic Kingdom vs Hollywood Studios for Teenagers

Tower of Terror” by HarshLight licensed under CC BY 2.0

Who knows what appeals to teenagers? They can be moody and so unpredictable. Something they thought was cool one day (Do teens still say “cool”?) might be the absolute worst the next day. But even though it’s a challenge to figure them out, I’m giving Hollywood Studios the win for having the most appeal for teenagers.

The simple reason I think Hollywood Studios has an edge here is that teens are more likely to be interested in the thrill rides and movie-themed areas of Hollywood Studios. Magic Kingdom truly does have something for everyone, but teens are in that awkward stage of life between childhood and adulthood, and given a choice I think they’d lean more towards attractions with grown-up appeal. Maybe? As I said, who can really tell what teens like? 

Rides for Teens

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad” by HarshLight licensed under CC BY 2.0

Magic Kingdom has more rides, but I think the rides at Hollywood Studios have more appeal to teenagers. I’m going with the assumption that teens will be more interested in rides with a little bit of a thrill-factor, as opposed to slow-moving or relaxing rides.

The Tower of Terror and Rock and Roller Coaster in Hollywood Studios have reputations as being some of the most thrilling rides at Walt Disney World. The theming for both is pretty different than what is found on the roller coasters at Magic Kingdom, with a spooky dark vibe at the Tower of Terror and the edgy rocking theme of the Rock and Roller Coaster.

Magic Kingdom has a good selection of thrill rides with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, and the new Tron Lightcycle rides. However, I think the theming on the thrill rides at Hollywood Studios is more interesting for teenagers.

Over in Galaxy’s Edge, you’ll find Millennium Falcon: Smugglers’ Run and Rise of the Resistance. Both of these rides have an immersive, exciting story and are interactive. If the teens in your family are Star Wars fans, or even if they are just into role-playing or adventure gaming, they’ll probably enjoy these rides.

With the Play Disney phone app, you can play several interactive augmented reality games in the Galaxy’s Edge area. Have you ever met a teenager who didn’t love to play games on their phone? 

Shows, Characters, Entertainment for Teens

This photo was taken by Michael for Countdown to Magic

Again, it’s challenging to know what teenagers will like or dislike. I’ve seen teens happily singing along at the Frozen Sing-A-Long, and I’ve seen teens looking positively bored during the fireworks at Magic Kingdom. Overall, I think that the entertainment at Hollywood Studios will be more enjoyable for teens than some of the attractions at Magic Kingdom.

Movie-oriented attractions like the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and Star Wars Launch Bay might interest a teenager more than (for example) meeting princesses or watching animated stories on a stage. That’s not to say even the moodiest teenager won’t enjoy the entertainment in Magic Kingdom, but it seems more likely that they’ll enjoy the more “grown up” attractions found in Hollywood Studios.

Magic Kingdom vs Hollywood Studios for Adults

I think there are plenty of adults who love Magic Kingdom, but between the two parks, I think Hollywood Studios is the more “grown-up” of the pair.

While both parks are beautiful, I think the overall style of Hollywood Studios is more appreciated by adults. The nostalgic “old Hollywood” and art-deco motifs when you first enter the park probably don’t get the attention of children and teenagers much at all.

Even the decor in Toy Story Land is filled with toys that most adults played with as a child. Tinkertoys, Mr. Potato Head, green army men, etc are all toys that most Gen-X “kids” played with when they were young.

Another reason that Hollywood Studios seems better suited to adults is that you can walk around with an adult beverage in this park, but not in Magic Kingdom. Table service restaurants in Magic Kingdom will serve alcohol with meals, but you can’t walk through the park with a beer or glass of wine. At Hollywood Studios, there are plenty of places you can grab a beer, wine, or even cocktail to enjoy while you stroll around the park. 

Rides for Adults

The nice thing about being an adult at Walt Disney World is that you have the option to ride just about any ride. Even though there are more rides in Magic Kingdom, and they’re all wonderful, there are rides in Hollywood Studios where adult guests seem to be the main targeted demographic.

The Tower of Terror has a theme from “The Twilight Zone” TV series, which is definitely going to be watched by more adults than children! Kids might still love the ride, but they might not have the full appreciation of all the details in the ride decor and story.

Galaxy’s Edge is fun for everyone, but I think adults (especially us adults who saw the first Star Wars movie in theaters!) might enjoy the rides in this area more than children do.

Shows, Characters, Entertainment for Adults

Almost everyone loves character photo opportunities at Walt Disney World, right? There are plenty of meet-and-greets with characters at both Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, but Hollywood Studios is the only place you can meet characters from Star Wars. Some kids will love this, but I’ve seen more adults waiting to get a pic with Chewbacca than little children.

Even the Muppet 3D show at Hollywood Studios is, I think, more popular with adults than with kids. This silly 3D show is modeled after the original Muppets Show that was on TV in the 1970s and early 1980s. Kids will enjoy it, but adults will “get” more of the humor that evokes the fun of the original TV show.

Magic Kingdom vs Hollywood Studios for Seniors

Someone once told me that senior citizens were simply children with lots of years of experience and disposable income! When it comes to choosing which of the two parks is more appealing to seniors, I’m going to call it a tie.

I think seniors will love Hollywood Studios for all the reasons I think the average adult will. But I also think Magic Kingdom is popular with senior citizens for the way it makes everyone, at any age, feel like a happy kid again.

From a more practical standpoint, seniors might have more physical limitations and mobility issues than other adult guests. Both of these parks are fairly easy to navigate, whether you spend the day walking at a leisurely pace or rent a mobility device.

Rides for Seniors

Under the Sea” by HarshLight licensed under CC BY 2.0

A big issue for senior citizens when it comes to amusement park rides is accessibility. Everyone is different, but there are plenty of fun rides that seniors can enjoy comfortably. Even if one is using a wheelchair or mobility device, both parks have rides that can accommodate those needs.

There are guidelines regarding physical limitations at some of the thrill rides, but there are still rides at both parks senior citizens will love. Even rides that utilize a moving walkway for boarding (Haunted Mansion, Voyage of the Little Mermaid) can be slowed or stopped to accommodate those who need easier boarding.

Shows, Characters, Entertainment for Seniors

Entertainment choices for seniors can be as varied as the senior citizens themselves! At Magic Kingdom, some may prefer to visit attractions that have been there for decades; maybe ones that they enjoyed with their children and now with grandchildren.

Other seniors might be more excited to explore the newer attractions at Hollywood Studios. Everyone’s preferences might be different, but both of these parks have something that the “senior kids” will love.

Most stage/seated shows have special sections to accommodate guests who use wheelchairs or mobility devices, so everyone can enjoy the fabulous Disney entertainment.

This article was written by Kimberly and edited by Michael.

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