Trying to decide between Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios? We can help!
It’s a common issue for Disney World guests to have to choose between these two parks, so we’ve created this big guide comparing all of the rides, attractions, food, and experiences each has to offer.
MAGIC KINGDOM OR HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS? – THE SHORT ANSWER
Magic Kingdom is best for those looking for the full, classic “Disney” theme park experience. Hollywood Studios is best for thrill rides, Star Wars, and other film-centric themes. Overall, Magic Kingdom thrives on traditional fantasy and inspiration and Hollywood Studios feels like you’ve stepped inside a movie set.
That’s the oversimplified answer. The reality is that both parks have so many things that appeal to all ages and preferences.
There is an endless number of things to do at both parks. I’ve broken them up into three sections for you: Rides, Restaurants, and Attractions.
MAGIC KINGDOM VS HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS: RIDES
WINNER: HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios may have roughly the same number of rides, but Hollywood Studios has certainly become the park best known for it’s rides. The overall quality and thrill-level you’ll find at Hollywood Studios is perfect for those whose number one reason for visiting a theme park is to go on rides.
HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS’ BEST RIDES
RISE OF THE RESISTANCE (10/10)
Since its debut in late 2019, Rise of the Resistance has been the top ride in all of Walt Disney World, seeing the longest wait times out of all rides in the park. This one, located in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is one of the hardest passes to get, even if you try purchasing it separately through the new Genie+ service. The special effects and free moving ride vehicle are truly out of this world – a great experience for older kids and adults looking to dive right into the Star Wars franchise.
THE TWILIGHT ZONE TOWER OF TERROR (10/10)
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is always right at the top of my Disney World ride list. I love everything about this one. Disney nailed the aesthetic of an old, paranormal Hollywood Hotel, complete with hotel employees that have some of the best ride-themed outfits. Most importantly, the ride itself is fantastic. After a quick journey through the hotel hallway, you’ll find yourself quickly falling and rising through multiple stories. The beauty of the ride is that it’s programmed to change its sequence which means you can climb aboard the elevator multiple times and have a different experience each time.
ROCK ‘N’ ROLLER COASTER (10/10)
Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster is considered one of the best rides by most guests of Hollywood Studios for it’s intense speed and thrilling maneuvers. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart! Takeoff is 0mph to 57mph in less than 3 seconds. We love the overall theme of the ride with laidback Los Angeles at sunset back alley vibes and a superstretch limo taking you to see Aerosmith in concert.
MILLENNIUM FALCON: SMUGGLER’S RUN (10/10)
This one is also located in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, allowing you to board and pilot the real Millennium Falcon on a Rebel mission to retrieve barrels of contraband for the Resistance. Riders are assigned tasks: Pilot, Engineer and Gunner, placed in flight groups and each flight is unique according to how you operate the spaceship. The objective is to smuggle contraband from enemy ships and bring it back to base.
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (10/10)
This fun ride is great for all ages, especially families with younger kids. Both kids and adults will love the innovative technology used to bring the animation to life. You’ll start by boarding Goofy’s train, which he says will take you on a slow, scenic tour of the park. Instead, the train will bust into individual cars in a “runaway train” style ride. The animation used takes you right into the new Mickey Mouse cartoons, with different scenes taken from several of the popular shows.
STAR TOURS (9/10)
Star Tours is an excellent simulator-style ride that takes you on journeys to different planets. Once you’re loaded up into the ship, an animatronic C3PO serves as your pilot through scenes ranging from Endor to a version of the Death Star. It’s a lot of fun and it also includes a little interactive part where a guest will be singled out on the screen. The best thing about Star Tours is that there are a variety of scenes to mix-and-match for the experience. You can ride it many times without ever seeing the exact same lineup.
TOY STORY MANIA! (9/10)
Toy Story Mania is an interactive video game shooter-style ride. Your ride vehicle takes you through a series of shootable screens with all sorts of targets. The goal is to use the cannon mounted on your vehicle to rack up as high a score as possible. The game itself is surprisingly fun and there are tons of little secrets hidden inside each scene. If you’ve ever been on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin at Magic Kingdom, think of Toy Story Mania as an updated version with 3D screens instead of physical targets.
SLINKY DOG DASH (8/10)
Slinky Dog Dash is one of the newest rides at Hollywood Studios. The roller coaster opened with the Toy Story Land addition to the park and has been really popular with children. It’s considered to be a family-friendly coaster, but it has just enough thrill to make it fun for everyone. Its newness has made it a very popular ride, so try to find a ride pass if you don’t want to deal with long wait times and the ultra hot line queue.
MAGIC KINGDOM’S BEST RIDES
SPACE MOUNTAIN (10/10)
Space Mountain is one of the best rides at Disney World and is located inside a super iconic futuristic mountain-like structure. It’s an indoor roller coaster that is almost completely in the dark. It doesn’t invert, but the track is really quick, using gravity’s pull, and there are tons of tight turns. Space Mountain’s popularity makes sure that the wait times stay pretty long, so a ride pass is always well spent on this one.
SPLASH MOUNTAIN (10/10)
Splash Mountain is a prime example of what a Magic Kingdom ride should be. It has a great storyline, great scenes, and a big drop at the end. The ride length is also ideal, lasting for over 10 minutes, allowing to you to float through many scenes at an even pace before coming to the 50ft drop. Everyone knows that you can’t leave Disney World without planning out a good picture for Splash Mountain’s famous drop through the briar patch.
HAUNTED MANSION (9/10)
Haunted Mansion is a dark indoor ride that takes you through a mansion full of “Happy Haunts” aboard a “Doom Buggy”. Everything about Haunted Mansion is classic and it’s a must for anyone. Even though it’s dark and spooky, it’s not too scary for most children and the music is bound to get stuck in your head, just like It’s a Small World.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN (9/10)
Pirates of the Caribbean is another legendary Disney World dark ride that takes guests through a number of elaborate pirate scenes. It does have a couple of small drops, but the real draw to the ride is the set. From the giant ship hurling cannons to shore to the town buildings and scallywag animatronics, it’s all awesome. You’ll also have the added bonus of seeing Captain Jack Sparrow make his way through the scenes as you float along on your small vessel.
BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN RAILROAD (9/10)
Big Thunder Mountain is an outdoor roller coaster in Frontierland, themed after the Gold Rush in the Wild West. It’s pretty fast-paced and exciting for a Magic Kingdom coaster and has a lot of sharp turns. The track has no loops or inversions, it’s just a rickety old train taking you on a fast journey through a gold mine. They don’t call it “The Wildest Ride in the Wiiilderness” for ‘nothin.
SEVEN DWARfs MINE TRAIN (9/10)
Seven Dwarves Mine Train is one of Magic Kingdom’s newer rides. It’s a roller coaster showcasing the Seven Dwarves as ultra high-tech animatronics mining for gems in a cavern. It’s been super popular since it opened and the wait times definitely reflect that. Ride passes for the Mine Train can be hard to come by, but check frequently throughout the day so you don’t have to wait for hours to get on this shorter ride.
MAGIC KINGDOM VS HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS: RESTAURANTS
WINNER: MAGIC KINGDOM
Magic Kingdom is fully stacked with some of the most iconic restaurants like Cinderella’s Royal Table and the Crystal Palace, with new and delicious additions like Be Our Guest and the Skipper Canteen. Unfortunately, Hollywood Studios has no comparable restaurant on par with Magic Kingdom, though the Hollywood Brown Derby has several excellent meal options.
MAGIC KINGDOM’S BEST RESTAURANTS
BE OUR GUEST (10/10)
Be Our Guest is hands down my favorite Magic Kingdom restaurant. The restaurant is themed to be a recreation of the Beauty and the Beast castle, featuring The Ballroom, The West Wing, and The Castle Gallery. The whole design is extremely well-executed and immersive, taking you right into specific scenes from the movie. The food is outstanding with a French themed Prix Fix menu and it’s easily the best you’ll find inside Magic Kingdom. Adults will love Be Our Guest and so will children.
CINDERELLA’S ROYAL TABLE (10/10)
Cinderella’s Royal Table is located inside Magic Kingdom’s legendary castle and is considered a signature fine-dining establishment. During your meal, you’ll be visited by five Disney Princesses for signatures and photos. It’s a really cool experience and it’s worth the money for anyone who loves all things Disney. Even though the food isn’t the main attraction at CRT, I’ve never had a bad meal here.
LIBERTY TREE TAVERN (9/10)
I have a soft spot for Liberty Tree Tavern. The whole restaurant, servers included, is themed to be a Colonial American tavern. I like the theme, but my favorite part is the food. Liberty Tree serves a full Thanksgiving feast year-round. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and all the rest. There are few places you can find this kind of meal outside of November, so this one is always high on my list. You’ll leave absolutely stuffed and thankful.
THE CRYSTAL PALACE (9/10)
The Crystal Palace is a buffet-style restaurant inside a building modeled after a beautiful Victorian greenhouse. It’s one of Magic Kingdom’s classics and the food is always good for a buffet. The restaurant’s big draw is that it features character dining with Winnie the Pooh and the rest of the Hundred Acre Woods gang. It’s always a reliable spot for a meal with the family for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
THE JUNGLE NAVIGATION CO. SKIPPER CANTEEN (7/10)
The Skipper Canteen is one of Magic Kingdom’s newer restaurants with a menu full of uniquely inspired dishes from regions of Asia, India and Africa. It’s located in Adventureland and its theme is an extension of the classic Jungle River Cruise ride. The restaurant’s most notable feature is the “Skippers” that serve you. They incorporate the Jungle River Cruise’s zany, tongue-in-cheek humor into the service. Personally, I think it can get a little old after a while, but I still enjoy it in doses.
TONY’S TOWN SQUARE (7/10)
Tony’s Town Square isn’t anything groundbreaking, but it’s a reliably good, moderately-priced Italian restaurant at the front of Magic Kingdom. It’s themed after the little Italian restaurant from Lady and the Tramp and you’ll find some cues inside (like the central fountain) that point to this. The menu is pretty large and the food is definitely a bump up from standard theme park fare. It’s pretty reliable for lunch or dinner.
MAGIC KINGDOM QUICK-SERVICE RESTAURANTS (8/10)
The quick-service restaurants at Magic Kingdom are a bit top-heavy. On one hand, you have scrumptious options like Sleepy Hollow or the Friar’s Nook. On the other hand, you have some spots that serve some pretty bland theme park food. All-in-all, there are some good restaurants for quick food at Magic Kingdom, but there’s an equal number of lackluster ones.
HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS’ BEST RESTAURANTS
THE HOLLYWOOD BROWN DERBY (8/10)
The Hollywood Brown Derby pretty much stands in a league of its own as far as Hollywood Studios dining goes. It’s the parks’ only real signature-level restaurant and features a menu that is markedly more upscale than what you’ll find anywhere else in the park. It’s good, but it’s probably not going to rock your world.
The most buzzworthy menu item is the Cobb Salad. The original Brown Derby restaurant was famous for pioneering the original Cobb salad. It’s a good restaurant for adults, but it’s not particularly interesting for kids.
OGA’S CANTINA (8/10)
Oga’s Cantina is the long-awaited “Star Wars bar”, taking inspiration from the alien bar from the very first Star Wars film. While we highly recommend going here for a drink and the experience (complete with out-of-this-world alcoholic concoctions, a track-spinning droid and must-have souvenir cups), it has pretty much no food.
You’ll only be able to find snacks here including the Happabore Sampler and Batuu Bits. However, it does make up for the lack of meals with a huge list of cocktails, beer and wine.
SCI-FI DINE-IN THEATER RESTAURANT (7/10)
The Sci Fi Dine-In isn’t really a restaurant you choose for the food alone. The real draw is that it’s an indoor restaurant that simulates the experience of an outdoor drive-in movie theater. The tables are shaped like cars and there is a big screen that plays a series of classic science fiction thrillers and old tv commercials while you eat. It’s cool for anyone who likes that idea of experiencing an old-school drive-in theater in the modern era.
50’S PRIME TIME CAFE (7/10)
50’s Prime Time is a throwback restaurant set in a 1950’s family home. Upon entering the restaurant, you’ll find yourself in the family living room with tv’s playing old, black and white after-school shows. This is the height of comfort food in Hollywood Studios, serving up dishes like meatloaf, fried chicken and chicken pot pie.
HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS QUICK SERVICE RESTAURANTS (6/10)
Most of the quick-service options (and other table-service locations for that matter) are simply standard park food. With the exception of the newest Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge stands and Woody’s Lunchbox in Toy Story Land, the rest are sub-par. Compared to other Disney World parks, this is one area where Hollywood Studios falls way short.
MAGIC KINGDOM VS HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS: ENTERTAINMENT & ATTRACTIONS
WINNER: MAGIC KINGDOM
Magic Kingdom wins out with it’s iconic fantastically themed fireworks, parades, performances and stage shows. Hollywood Studios offers similar experiences, but don’t quite match the quality of Magic Kingdom’s newest and most exciting attractions.
MAGIC KINGDOM’S BEST ENTERTAINMENT & ATTRACTIONS
Disney Enchantment (9/10)
We’ve seen it from inside the park and I’ve seen it from above the park. Disney Enchantment is much more momentous than Hollywood Studios’ Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. It pulls in music from a ton of Disney’s most beloved films and perfectly incorporates it into the fireworks show with projections on the castle and on Main Street, U.S.A. Disney Enchantment is really popular, so viewing space is at a premium. Get a spot an hour beforehand if you care about your viewing location or splurge on a fireworks dining or dessert package to guarantee the best spot.
ENCHANTED TALES WITH BELLE (9/10)
Enchanted Tales with Belle is a great example of an attraction blending animatronic characters with live actors. During the show, Belle tells stories with the help of characters like the wardrobe and Lumiere from the Beauty and the Beast movie. Audience members will also be chosen to participate in the story; adults and children. The show’s seating area isn’t huge, so it’s a much more personal experience without a bad seat in the house. You may also get the opportunity to take a picture with Belle after the performance.
COUNTRY BEAR JAMBOREE (9/10)
Country Bear Jamboree is 100% classic Disney World kitsch, but in a good way. It has withstood the test of time, humoring audiences for generations. It’s an audio-animatronic show that features a band of musical bears performing a live concert. It’s got music, it’s got jokes, it’s got goofy singing bears. This is one of those attractions that you’ve got to do at least once when you go to Disney World, no exceptions.
MONSTER’S INC. LAUGH FLOOR (8/10)
Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor is an unassuming interactive comedy show that pulls guests into the act. The monsters perform on a big screen at the front and are voiced in real-time. Throughout the show, they’ll single out individual crowd members with jokes. Don’t be surprised if you see yourself up on one of the secondary screens while being harassed by a Pixar character. The jokes are good, but the brilliance of the attraction is definitely the audience interactions and makes each experience different.
MICKEY’S PHILHARMAGIC (7/10)
Mickey’s Philharmagic is a short 3D film that focuses on some of the best music from some of the best Disney animated films. Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Peter Pan, and Aladdin are all visited with scenes and music. It’s a great show, especially if you love those films and have spare time as this sees little to no wait per showing.
HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS’ BEST ENTERTAINMENT & ATTRACTIONS
Fantasmic! is a big outdoor show that takes place after sundown in Hollywood Studios. There’s a lot going on- fireworks, performers, water floats, light, etc. A lot of the show takes place on the stage with a giant rock formation, but there’s also a waterway that wraps around the stage. The floats are one of the coolest parts of the show in my opinion, along with the music. If you have to choose between Fantasmic! and Hollywood Studios’ Galactic Spectacular fireworks show, go with Fantasmic! for the longer and more interesting experience.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: LIVE ON STAGE (9/10)
Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage is an abbreviated retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast film’s story. It’s got broadway caliber performers who sing and dance to the most popular musical numbers from the movie. The costumes are one of the highlights, with characters like Lumiere and Mrs. Potts. Seating typically isn’t a big problem with the show’s large, covered outdoor amphitheater.
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FOREVER: FROZEN SING-ALONG CELEBRATION (8/10)
This indoor stage show is extremely popular for children and adults should enjoy the humor of the Royal Historians, along with the opportunity to see Elsa, Anna and Kristoff all together on stage. The experience tells the entire story from the first Frozen movie, taking the audience through each song. At the end, Elsa will use her magical powers to make it snow over the whole auditorium.
MUPPETVISION 3D (8/10)
Muppetvision 3D is a 3D film that takes place inside a theater. True to Muppet form, it’s a well-executed comedy show featuring all the muppets in song, dance and narration. The jokes are clever and it has an altogether good pace. Wait times are never a problem here, so this one is a good option any time.
INDIANA JONES EPIC STUNT SPECTACULAR (7/10)
The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is an action stage show. It features all sorts of stunts, from fiery explosions to fights. A director explains how it’s all pulled off as it happens, using stunt techniques from real Hollywood movies. This one has been around for a while and it’s always entertaining.
STAR WARS: A GALACTIC SPECTACULAR (7/10)
Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is Hollywood Studios’ new-ish nightly fireworks show. As the name implies, it’s all themed around Star Wars. Music and lights accompany the fireworks to make for a good show, but it’s not quite as spectacular as the nightly shows at Magic Kingdom or Epcot. It’s still a good display, but I prefer to watch Fantasmic if I’m at Hollywood Studios after sundown.
Magic Kingdom has a clear rival with Hollywood Studios who has added lots of new and exciting attractions over the last several years, specifically with the addition of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Both parks offer such drastically different experiences that it’s hard to compare, but guests should be able to determine if Rides, Restaurants or Attractions are most important for their trip and choose based on those factors.
Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios have excellent rides, and while Magic Kingdom excels in family-friendly rides suitable for a younger audience, Hollywood Studios just has more high-caliber ride experiences for thrill-seekers and anyone who’s looking for fun rides in general.
As far as restaurants goes, we sincerely hope that Hollywood Studios improves it’s quality, though the additions of quick-service locations in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge have helped their cause. Magic Kingdom simply wins out in this category for the number of high quality restaurants and quick-service locations.
For entertainment, Magic Kingdom has unrivaled attractions in the Disney Enchantment fireworks display and other beloved shows, parades and performances. Those are hard to beat, but Hollywood Studios has the popular Fantasmic! show and great stage shows for guests to enjoy.
Ultimately, each traveling party will determine which park is best for their needs – but we hope that everyone gets the chance to experience both of these parks as both are worth spending a full day inside!
LOOKING FOR MORE PARK COMPARISONS?
We also have comparisons for some of the other parks. Each one goes into the same detail that this guide has.
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