Guide to Disney MGM Studios - Best Rides
Universal Studios has always been a competitor with Disneyworld for Florida tourists, and their collection of movie related rides, special effect, and stunt shows have drawn millions of visitors every year. To compete, Disney opened Disney MGM Studios in 1989. This is the smallest of the theme parks at Disney World, only 140 acres, and pretty easy to see in a single day. The iconic symbol of the park is the big blue sorcerer's hat replete with golden moon and stars - it stands tall over the central courtyard of the park. The park itself is wedged in between real live working sound stages and studios that are part of the Disney and ABC entertainment network. And let's get to the point here about MGM Studios -- this park is more about movies and entertainment than it is about thrill rides. The park has exactly 2 "real" moving rides - Rock 'n' Roll Roller Coaster and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Everything else is theater shows, simulators, and movie magic kind of exhibits.
That doesn't mean you should skip this park -- it just means you can effectively see just about everything worthwhile in half a day if you plan your visit properly. Our list of the top attractions at Disney MGM Studios is as follows:
- Fantasmic - nightly extravaganza, this outdoor live action show is NOT to be missed. With fireworks, music, laser lights, water and fire, and a huge cast of characters, this is the favorite part of many visitors trip to Disney World. There is a 6000+ seat amphitheater built to hold the crowds, but it still gets crowded up to 90 minutes before the show starts.
- Tower of Terror - great thrill ride that takes you into a haunted old hotel, then into a problematic elevator that rise and plunges and makes you think it might drop right out of the building.
- Rock 'n' Roll Roller Coaster - Disney's fastest, wildest roller coaster, this thing blasts you UPHILL at almost 60MPH, where you then proceed to experience hills, drops, loops, and corkscrews with rock music setting the mood - like we said, this is no Space Mountain. If you are not a coaster fan, it probably is not for you.
- Star Tours - this Star Wars themed ride is actually a motion simulator - you sit in a "spaceship" and watch a movie on the screen in front, as the "ship" tilts and moves in synchronization with the movie, making it seem as if you are moving. This ride is beginning to feel old - we wish Disney would update it with some new movies -- but kids still love it, as well as most adults.
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular - a live stunt show with explosions, gun fire, people flying through the air, etc. This is a fun show, but not something you'd stand in line to see a second time.
- The Great Movie Ride - this moving tram ride takes you right into movies sets, from Aliens to Wizard of Oz. Scenes come alive with animatronic characters and LIVE actors who sneak in and out of scenes. With just enough thrills and fun, almost everyone enjoys this attraction.
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid - this combination live actor theater/movie/special effects show is sweet and simple, with a little extra excitement thrown in by the menacing Ursula the Sea Witch.
- Muppet Vision 3-D - another theater show, this 3-D movie requires you to where polarized glasses to see the 3-D effects. The show is light and fun, kids especially enjoy it. It is a nice break on a hot Florida day.
- Beauty and the Beast - another live stage show, this one features scenes, costumes, and music from the popular Disney movie and Broadway show. Good effects, good music, an enjoyable attraction.
- Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show - more stunts and explosions, fun to see how those movie and TV effects are created right before your eyes.
Tips for Visiting Disney MGM Studios - Secrets for having the best visit
Since MGM Studios is small and does not have a lot of attractions, one trick we like to do is go to Magic Kingdom on a extended magic hours morning day and knock off 15 rides there by noon. As the crowds start to build, take the bus over to MGM Studios for the afternoon. Using Fastpass to get tickets for Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Roll Roller Coaster, you can squeeze in most of the other shows before dinner, and still have time to see Fantasmic. FANTASMIC TIPS
- Fantasmic normally draws a huge crowd and all seats are filled. This means getting there early is important. They allow people to keep drifting in until close to show time, as there is standing room in the back. It is possible for one person from your group to go 60-90 minutes early and "hold" 3 or 4 seats with sweatshirts and bags - then the rest of your group can show up 30 minutes early and not have to wait the entire time. Disney also offers Fantasmic dining programs, where you can reserve a spot at one of several restaurants, pay a fixed price for a meal, and get a pass to get into a reserved section of the Fantasmic theater (the far right side, seats and views are fine though throughout the theater). To avoid the HUGE crowds that try to exit the park simultaneously upon the completion of the show, sit on the edge of an aisle and stand up as Mickey battles the dragon towards the end of the show. Make your way towards the exit - you will still be able to see the fireworks finale as you walk along the top of the theater towards the exit, but you will be the first one out when the fireworks end, and the first one to the buses to get back to your hotel. Trust me, the fireworks look no better when you are seated vs. standing at the top of the theater, but the bus line is INFINITELY better when you are on the first bus and don't have to wait 45 minutes for the 6th bus to come around!
Map of Disney MGM Studios
Where can I see a map of MGM Studios? This is a common question. Disney posts maps on their Disneyworld website that show you where the various attractions, restaurants, bathrooms, etc., are located throughout the park. Go here
, then click on the MAP item at the bottom right of the animated picture greeting you. You can zoom in and out on the map and drag it around to see whatever you want to see. You can also see a large labeled map of MGM Studios here
What rides at MGM Studios can you use Fastpass on? Star Tours, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Rock 'n' Roll Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror are the rides that offer FastPass at this park. The Fastpass system is pretty simple. You go to the automated machines near the front of these rides, insert your park ticket, and you are issued Fastpass tickets with a return time window (if there are 4 people in your group, you need to insert all 4 park tickets, so one person should be responsible for carrying all tickets and getting all Fastpasses). The signs above the Fastpass machines tell you what the current return time is - it could be 1 hour or 5 hours from the time you get your passes, but you can then return anytime during that window (printed on your pass, like "1:45 - 2:45") or later (ie, any time after 2:45, this is a little known secret, but the passes are really valid the rest of the day after your time as well). When you return to the ride, go to the Fastpass line and avoid the crowd waiting in the Standby line - you will usually get on your ride in about 5-15 minutes instead of an hour or more waiting in line. You can get a new Fastpass as soon as the first time appearing on your window occurs. In the case of our example, this means you can get a Fastpass for another ride at 1:45. In this way, you can hold multiple Fastpasses at once and use them later in the day when you are near those attractions. So think of FastPasss as reservations to ride at a particular time, with a shorter line. If you get to the park to late in the day, all the FastPasses may be used up, so that is a risk you take. But using FastPasses and getting them as often as possible is one of the keys to seeing as many of the popular attractions at DIsney World as possible.