Animal Kingdom vs Hollywood Studios: Which Disney Park Is Best?

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When folks think of a day at a Disney World theme park, they often picture Mickey Mouse and Cinderella Castle. Magic Kingdom was the original park at Disney World, so it makes sense. And it’s also the world’s most popular theme park. Magic Kingdom opened in 1971 and Epcot followed next in 1982.

But what about Disney’s two newest theme parks? Namely, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom Park. Hollywood Studios first opened as Disney-MGM Studios in 1989. It was, in fact, the first theme park with a working movie studio. Therefore, many of the original attractions offered park visitors a behind-the-scenes look at movie-making magic. The park was re-branded in 2008 as Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The Slinky Dog Dash at Hollywood Studios
Slinky Dog Dash debuted in 2018 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (media photo courtesy of Disney World)

What is Hollywood Studios known for?

Hollywood Studios has been described as “a half-day park” in recent years as a result of a series of construction projects and expansions over the last decade. However, those projects are now complete. Therefore, it is easy to spend an entire day at this incredible park.

On a trip celebrating my 30th birthday, we were there on the opening day of Toy Story Land. We both remember watching and loving the original “Toy Story” as kids. Now parents ourselves, we felt a powerful sense of nostalgia. We also marveled at the amazing detail that went into the queue as well as the surrounding area. We’d left our kids with grandparents for the trip. As a result, we were probably the happiest people to ever wait 4 hours for a roller coaster.

Additional rides and attractions have since been added to Hollywood Studios. And the extremely long lines are mostly a thing of the past.

What’s new at Hollywood Studios?

The Toy Story Land expansion opened in 2018. Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers were added to the pre-existing Toy Story Midway Mania ride. The Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge expansion opened the following year in 2019. Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run was added along with several restaurants, including Oga’s Cantina.

At Milk Stand, you can sample the iconic Blue Milk that Luke drinks in “Episode IV: A New Hope. You can also try the reportedly highly nutritious Green Milk that Luke harvests and drinks in “Episode VIII: The Last Jedi”. My entire family agreed that Blue Milk was better.

In late 2019, Rise of the Resistance debuted. In my opinion, this immersive experience is the best ride in Walt Disney World. Finally, in 2020, the park expansions and construction projects were completed at Hollywood Studios. And Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway opened in the Chinese Theater near the center of the park.

The Millennium Falcon inside Hollywood Studios
The Star Wars expansion is one of the more recent additions to Disney World Orlando (photo by James Overholt/

Animal Kingdom vs Hollywood Studios, which one is better?

Animal Kingdom is the better park for animal lovers. Hollywood Studios will appeal more to those seeking high-thrill rides and attractions. Star Wars and Toy Story fans especially will not want to pass up a visit to Hollywood Studios. My husband’s favorite park is Animal Kingdom. Hollywood Studios, however, has some of my favorite attractions in the Walt Disney World Resort.

Disney fans will have to decide which of these Disney parks is their personal favorite. With that in mind, here’s some helpful information to consider when comparing Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. And you will be better prepared for your next Disney vacation.

Which Disney Park is the least popular?

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the least popular Disney park. Despite the new rides and multiple park expansions, Hollywood Studios has the lowest average daily attendance of the Disney World theme parks.

The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom
The iconic Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (media photo courtesy of Disney World)

What is Animal Kingdom known for?

Animal Kingdom is first and foremost a zoo. There are a lot of popular rides throughout the park. Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids and Avatar: Flight of Passage in particular. If you’re a thrill seeker, you’ll have the best time prioritizing these attractions. In between these man-made marvels are habitats of some of the most exotic animals on Earth.

Near the park entrance, there is a cool shady area called The Oasis. It features several animal viewing locations, waterfalls, caves and even a swinging bridge. My young kids and toddlers have always loved this quieter part of the park that a lot of people with older kids quickly bypass.

Animal Kingdom is Disney’s largest theme park. Those willing to take a slower pace will discover the many quiet corners tucked away there. On Discovery Island near the Tree of Life, there are several small Animal Viewing Locations. Guests can see flamingos, vultures, cotton-top tamarins, otters and kangaroos.

In Asia, the Maharajah Jungle Trek has tigers, a variety of birds, and even a flying fox and Komodo Dragon. And finally, near the exit of Kilimanjaro Safaris is the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. The trail has multiple locations from which to catch some incredible views of Animal Kingdom’s troop of gorillas. In addition, each of these areas is accessible and stroller-friendly. And they are great options for families with toddlers.

Which is better for toddlers? Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios?

Disney’s Animal Kingdom probably has more to offer toddlers than Hollywood Studios. Disney’s Hollywood Studios has some outstanding rides like Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Roller Coaster. That being said, Disney knows that each of their parks must appeal to kids of all ages and adults. In truth, there will be attractions for toddlers at any Disney Park. The best way to determine what rides are available for toddlers is to check for height requirements in the My Disney Experience app.

A baby elephant makes an appearance during the Kilimanjaro Safari experience (photo by Kirby Russell/

What can toddlers do at Animal Kingdom?

Toddlers and kids of all ages will love the universally appealing Kilimanjaro Safaris ride. There’s no height requirement or restraints for this ride. So babies and toddlers can sit on a parent’s lap in the ride vehicle. The family will enjoy looking for animals in the different African habitats featured in this immersive experience. Each vehicle seats up to 36 passengers with 9 rows of 4 passengers. As a result, it’s easy for families to sit together. The ride takes 20-25 minutes and my toddlers have been known to take a power nap on this ride.

Toddlers and parents alike will also love the familiar music and bright colors of the Festival of the Lion King show in Africa. Keep in mind that you’ll have to park your stroller and either carry your little one or let them walk into the arena. Historically there has also been a similar “Finding Nemo” live show across the park in between Asia and Dinoland, U.S.A. However, this fan favorite has not returned as part of Disney’s phased reopening so far.

In Dinoland, U.S.A. there are several attractions for toddlers. The Boneyard is a huge playground that has long been a favorite attraction for my young kids. TriceraTop Spin is a Dumbo-like ride with no height requirement and typically short waits that toddlers will love to ride again and again. And in Pandora, toddlers can enjoy The Na’vi River Journey ride with their families. This boat ride features bright colors and bioluminescent animal and plant life native to the planet of Pandora.

Disney World's Pandora
Disney offers an immersive experience with Avatar’s Pandora in Animal Kingdom (photo by Morgan Overholt/

Where does the train in Animal Kingdom go?

Another cool attraction in the Africa section of the park is the Wildlife Express Train. The train departs every few minutes from the Harambe Station for a 1.2-mile trip to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Here you will find opportunities for several unique animal encounters. Namely a small petting zoo and outdoor animal viewing locations.

Step inside the Conservation Station to see the nutrition center. This is where meals are prepared for the park’s animals. There are also indoor small animal exhibits and a veterinary treatment room. Guests are sometimes allowed to watch procedures.

What can toddlers do at Hollywood Studios?

Little “Frozen” fans will enjoy seeing their favorite snowman Olaf at Celebrity Spotlight. They will also enjoy seeing Anna, Elsa and Kristoff live on stage in For the First Time in Forever: a Frozen Sing-Along Celebration. Disney Junior Play and Dance! is an interactive show. Disney Junior friends like Doc McStuffins, Vampirina, and Mickey and the Roadster Racers are featured there.

Have you been to Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom? Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.

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Kirby Russell

Kirby Russell is a freelance contributor for LLC – the parent company of and

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