Recently, a family member went on a Disney vacation and did something shocking to my sensibilities. They skipped the Magic Kingdom.
Now, on paper, it makes sense. They’re huge Star Wars fans, and the father is a professional chef. Of course, they’d want to do EPCOT and Hollywood Studios, right?
What really upped the chaos factor was they went to Animal Kingdom on the last day.
I often find these choices fascinating.
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Which one is better, EPCOT or Hollywood Studios?
Obviously, both have their charms. I’ve consistently ranked Hollywood Studios higher because I’m a Star Wars guy and a Toy Story fan. The rides at Hollywood Studios have been stronger in recent years.
But that’s not to say I’m not an EPCOT guy. I love the work they’re doing at the park and the addition of the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind roller coaster and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure have really livened up the park and closed the gap.
Which park do I prefer? That answer might change given the day and my mood.
So there’s only one real way to get to the bottom of this: Scientifically. It’s time for a tale of the tape.
1. Which one offers better transportation?
Hollywood Studios and EPCOT each have access to the Disney Skyliner – Disney’s Gondola system – as well as the bus transportation system.
EPCOT has the monorail. Hollywood Studios does not.
Point: Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
2. Which is the better land?
EPCOT has World Discovery, World Nature, World Celebration, World Nature and World Showcase – which is separated into 11 different pavilions.
If you take World Showcase as a whole, it might be the winner. Paris has fantastic food and theming, but it also has the still pretty new Remy ride.
Norway has the Akershus dining experience and the Frozen Ever After ride. There are great, good and just okay shows throughout the various 11 worlds.
Minuses? The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros ride in the otherwise great Mexico Pavilion leaves a little something to be desired.
In Hollywood Studios, with all due respect to Toy Story Land, Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge is the undisputed king. It has two great thrill rides in Smuggler’s Run and Rise and it has excellent food and shopping, but not to the level of World Showcase.
It feels a little unfair to have the World Showcase as a single land. I mean the France Pavilion – or Morocco or Italy or Germany or Canada – isn’t better than Batuu on their own. But Disney says it’s one world. I don’t make the rules, I just follow them.
3. Which park has better thrill rides?
Even with Test Track and Mission: SPACE, EPCOT was never the Disney park for thrill rides. Now, adding Guardians to the mix, it changes the equation.
Hollywood Studios has the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Slinky Dog Dash and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I suppose it depends on how you count Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run and Star Tours.
Both are immersive 3D simulator rides in the vein of EPCOT’s Soarin’, but both are significantly more thrilling.
I love them and do find them thrilling, but I can’t call them thrill rides.
Point: EPCOT, the land of innovation.
4. Which park has better overall rides?
In addition to the ones we’ve mentioned, EPCOT has Spaceship Earth, Journey into the Imagination with Figment, the Seas with Nemo and Friends and, I suppose, Living with the Land.
I like Nemo but the rest of those would rank among the bottom of Disney’s ride offerings if I’m being honest.
In addition to the ones we’ve mentioned, Hollywood Studios has Toy Story Mania!, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Alien Swirling Saucers. Two of those three are among the best rides Disney offers.
As good as Guardians is – and it’s great – and as much as I like Remy, the overall ride category clearly goes to Hollywood Studios.
Point: Hollywood Studios.
5. Which park has better entertainment?
If I’m being honest, I think the shows are probably the weakest link in EPCOT’s World Showcase. I find most of them fine, but I am often ready to move on quickly. I don’t count the animals in the aquarium at The Seas with Nemo and Friends as a show, but Turtle Talk with Crush is pretty cool.
At Hollywood Studios, I’ve never been blown away by the Beauty & the Beast Live on Stage Show, but the Muppets 3D is fun as is the Disney Jr. Play and Dance. For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-a-Long was well-liked and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular almost lives up to its name.
If I’m being honest, though, none of them live up to the Festival of the Lion King in Animal Kingdom.
Point: Hollywood Studios.
6. Which one has better dining options?
Hollywood Studios has a lot of cool places to eat and cool things to try. I’ll cape for the Ronto Wrap and Blue Milk and the Brown Derby all day.
However, the best thing about EPCOT is the food, both the festival offerings and all the everyday stuff in the restaurants.
Animal Kingdom has made a charge on the food front, but EPCOT remains at the top of the mountain.
7. Which park has better character meet and greets?
When evaluating character meet and greets, I like to look at the characters you can’t see in every park. Sure the outfits change, but the big six Disney characters of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto and Daisy are in every park.
Hollywood Studios doesn’t have a lot of princess action, but it does have Toy Story and Star Wars characters as well as Olaf from “Frozen” and some others like Sully from “Monsters, Inc”.
EPCOT has unique characters like Joy from “Inside Out” and Vellenope Von Schweetz from the “Wreck-it Ralph” movies. It’s also cool to meet the various characters in their home countries. Anna and Elsa in Norway, Mulan in China, Snow White in Germany and Belle in France.
Honestly, a month ago this point would have gone to EPCOT, but they’ve very recently released the Mandalorian and Baby Grogu in Galaxy’s Edge in Hollywood Studios. And nothing beats Grogu.
Point: Hollywood Studios.
And there you have it. As the great Nick Bakay always said, it’s so easy when you break things down scientifically.
Which is better? In something of a shocking upset, EPCOT takes the crown.
Should I go to EPCOT or Hollywood Studios first?
The only time I’d have a preference is if it’s your first trip. Your first trip should start with the Magic Kingdom, especially if you have a kid.
Otherwise, as long as we put it on the itinerary, it’s fine. You may want to prioritize your must-dos.
For example, I try to pick whichever park has the attractions I must absolutely ride on this trip.
Is Star Wars Rise of the Resistance an absolute must? Then hit Disney’s Hollywood Studios first. That way, if something goes wrong and the ride goes down, you can adjust your reservation, get a park hopper or whatever you need to do to make sure you get to ride.
What if I’m going to Universal Studios as well?
Some people do this. A little bit of Disney. A little bit of Universal. You’re in Magic Kingdom one day with Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Small World, Peter Pan’s Flight, Dumbo and more.
The next day, it’s Islands of Adventure with Hulk and Potter and Suess.
I can see the appeal, but I couldn’t do it. I guess my brain is linear in that way.
There’s an old line from the classic movie “The Quiet Man” that comes to mind when one character is asked if he wants water for his whiskey.
“Thank ye, no. When I drink water, I drink water. When I drink whiskey, I drink whiskey.”
I feel the same but with Disney and Universal. But again, you have to ask yourself what your musts are and what you want to get out of your trip.
Which park would you choose first, EPCOT or Hollywood Studios? Let us know in the comments.