Think Like a Preschooler
Wait – I know what you’re thinking: why would I spend any of my Walt Disney World time with my preschoolers at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Isn’t Magic Kingdom where all the little kid stuff is?
Well, you’re going to have a fan-tas-tic time at Disney World no matter where you spend your time. But if your littles have grown up on a diet of the more modern Disney movies – I’m talking Toy Story, Frozen, and Star Wars – rather than the Disney classics, your three- and four-year-olds are gonna’ get their kicks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
(Plus I’ll share a little secret – I’ve noticed over the course of several visits to all the parks that Disney’s Hollywood Studios seems to be a little less crowded than Magic Kingdom).
I recently visited Walt Disney World on a hosted visit with the happy challenge to find the best preschooler possibilities at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Toy Story Land
What’s the best plan of attack for a preschooler at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? My absolute number one recommendation is to start your visit at the brand new Toy Story Land, located near the now-familiar Pixar Place in Hollywood Studios.
DisneyWorld has seriously upped its game with the unveiling of Toy Story Land, and trust me – it doesn’t get better than this.
Entering the new Toy Story Land is like entering Andy’s backyard – you’re at the same scale of the toys from the Toy Story movies. Adult-sized green toy soldiers march around (they’re happy to pose for pictures), monkeys from the Barrel of Monkeys game are strung across the walkway, and of course, Disney has secured a special spot to meet and get pix with Woody and Buzz Lightyear.
Alien Swirling Saucers
There are so many wonderful details and creations at Toy Story Land — none of which your pre-schooler will notice but all of which will captivate your kiddo no matter how long you hang out with Andy and his toys. For kids of all sizes (by all sizes, I mean 32 inches and up), one of the new rides in Toy Story Land is Alien Swirling Saucers.
The two greatest things for me about Alien Swirling Saucers is that (1) you can feel the swirls but they are medium only as far as spinning rides go, and (2) the individual alien saucers actually change tracks during the ride from one section to another — something entirely new and fun for me. The littles will love this!
Slinky Dog Dash
For pre-schoolers of a taller variety — they must be 38 inches or taller to ride — the new Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster is beyond fun, and not just because of the speed. DisneyWorld outdid itself on this one, combining elements of Andy’s creativity to put together a terrific display of art, design, and speed starring Slinky Dog.
I gotta tell you, I could have stayed on Slinky Dog Dash for hours and not been bored. The detail is incredible, and of course for “older preschoolers” like me, the nostalgia is thick and sweet. As far as roller coasters go, this is not a kiddie coaster by any means, but it’s nowhere near Rock n’ Roll Roller Coaster, Space Mountain, or Expedition Everest. Rather, it’s a nice, medium-speed roller coaster that’s high on the fun meter.
Toy Story Mania
The Toy Story Midway Mania ride is a must-do. While not a new ride, Disney re-configured the entrance to be part of Toy Story Land and gave the ride a make-over. Toy Story Mania is an enlarged version of Andy’s bedroom with games and toys scattered about, reminiscent of old-time county fair midway games. The 3D spinning car ride is hosted by Woody. While traveling down a track the game keeps score of how well you can toss objects by aiming launchers inside the car and pulling a cord. It’s one of our family favorites!
One More Thing About Toy Story Land
As a parent of a boy — who once was a small boy — I know sometimes kids are having too much fun to want to stop and take a break to use the restroom. Except at Toy Story Land, the restroom design is just as fun and clever as everything else. I mean, who wouldn’t want to go into a restroom made up of Scrabble tiles and blocks, with a giant Cootie on top?
But Toy Story Land goes one further. I know that sometimes once inside the restroom, when you have an independent-minded young man, he wants to do what the other men are doing, which means standing at the urinal.
Except in most men’s restrooms there is usually only one urinal placed low enough for a young kiddo to reach. As a public service, I’m happy to report that ALL of the urinals in the boys’ restroom at Toy Story Land are placed “appropriately low” so that the ages of those Toy Story Land is designed for are appropriately accommodated.
(You’ll have to trust me on this one. I wasn’t about to take a photo inside. Well, I was, but I didn’t, even though it was completely empty the night of my hosted visit to Toy Story Land.)
Kudos to DisneyWorld for knowing their Toy Story Land clientele.
Small Kids’ Fun Outside Toy Story Land:
After Pixar Place, pretend you’re a toy soldier, make an about-face, and head out the way you came in. You’ll end up in preschooler paradise, no matter what your preference. Star Wars Launch Bay, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and Disney Junior—Live on Stage! are all right there.
Some preschoolers may be too young for all the Star Wars stuff, and that’s fine. But if they’re familiar enough with the franchise, there are Stormtroopers patrolling the plaza. And Chewbacca and Kylo Ren await inside for a photo inside the Star Wars Launch Bay. They await on separate sides — the Light and Dark Sides, of course — and while you can see and pose with both characters, you’ll have to wait on separate lines for the opportunity.
And don’t forget just about every hour on the hour, from morning to early afternoon, the Stormtroopers perform the “March of the First Order” down Hollywood Boulevard. With an inter-galactic marching tune playing in the background, it’s a can’t-miss for Star Wars fans. It’s completely un-scary for little ones who aren’t too sure yet about this whole Star Wars thing.
Disney Junior Live!
The Little Mermaid
This was my first time seeing the “Voyage of the Little Mermaid” – a condensed 20-minute version of the story featuring Ariel, Eric, Ursula, and other characters from the movie. It’s right across the plaza from Disney Junior. During “Under the Sea,” audible “oohing and aahing” came from the preschoolers when bubbles danced through the theater at the end of the song! (You’re thinking like a kid, right? You love bubbles, right?)
Time for a Warm Frozen Hug
Visiting Hollywood Studios with preschoolers isn’t complete without a visit to see Olaf. After that it’s time to chime in for “For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration”! Hosted by two members of Arendelle (the Frozen kingdom), the sing-along is basically a fast-paced comedy routine rolled up into a family sing-along of Frozen’s greatest hits – and aren’t they all? Best part? When it snows inside the theater during the closing number. The preschoolers in the crowd were squealing with delight (and yeah, I got a kick out of it too).
P.S. – A Confession
Finally, a confession: I’m past the age of preschoolers. And I’m far too young to have pre-school-age grandchildren. But I haven’t forgotten how to see the world through the eyes of a child. And when my three kids were wee, you bet your life their dad took them to see the magic: