Magic Kingdom vs Hollywood Studios: A Look at Rides, Shows and More

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You don’t want to have to pit Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios against each other. In a perfect world, your Disney vacation has enough days for each. 

We, however, don’t live in a perfect world and so sometimes hard decisions have to be made. 

For our family, the decision is generally – do we go to the Magic Kingdom twice or Hollywood Studios twice? 

Our typical Disney vacation includes five park days. One for each park and an extra day as a backup in case we miss something. 

But it doesn’t always work out. For example, we missed Frozen Ever After in EPCOT once, but were unable to circle back because we’d left things we wanted to do in the Magic Kingdom. 

The Magic Kingdom almost always wins out for our second day. It just has the most variety of the things we all love plus the nostalgia factor makes it hard to beat. 

If we only had a single day and had to choose Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios, what would we choose? Well, read further and you’ll find out. 


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Does Magic Kingdom have more rides than Hollywood Studios?

Yes, by a significant number. Magic Kingdom has 23 rides – including the closed for retheming Splash Mountain. Hollywood Studios has 9 rides including the closed-for refurbishment Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. 

However, we shouldn’t simply measure by quantity. While Prince Charming’s Carousel and the Mad Tea Cups are nostalgic fun, they’re not exactly cutting-edge amusement park experiences. 

And while Disney has tried to improve its Magic Kingdom attractions with the additions of Tron and Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, none of them match up with what’s in Galaxy’s Edge or even Toy Story.

After all, how many Haunted Mansion rides does it take to add up to one Twilight Zone Tower of Terror?

a thin crowd at main street usa
Magic Kingdom is the busiest theme park in the world (photo by James Overholt/

Is Hollywood Studios as busy as Magic Kingdom?

No. Nothing is. According to multiple sources, the Magic Kingdom is the busiest theme park in the world based on 2021 attendance numbers.

The Magic Kingdom welcomed nearly 13 million guests in 2021, the absolute top in the world. Hollywood Studios ranked 9th, which is last of the Walt Disney World resorts, with 8.6 million visitors in 2021.

So which is better?

Well, that’s the big question, isn’t it? And while many questions of respective worth are subjective, we believe in applying the scientific method to reach absolute truth.

The only way to do that scientifically is to break things down by category.

In fact, let’s do it:

Hollywood Studios Entrance
Hollywood Studios is larger in acreage than the Magic Kingdom (photo by James Overholt/

1. Which is bigger, Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios?

Magic Kingdom – at a little over 100 acres – is the smallest of the Walt Disney World theme parks. Hollywood Studios is 135 acres. 

I don’t know if it’s the way the lands are laid out around the castle, or what, but without the benefit of Google, I would have told you Magic Kingdom is bigger. 

Maybe the advancement in park design has something to do with it, or maybe it’s because I first experienced the Magic Kingdom as a child. Maybe it’s the impact of having the castle as the spoke in the wheel, but there’s a psychological aspect to this I haven’t cracked. 

I will say in researching this article I saw another poor soul refer to Hollywood Studios as a smaller Disney World park in relation to the Magic Kingdom, so apparently, I’m not the only one that feels this way. 

Point: Hollywood Studios.

Rise of the Resistance Storm Troopers Hollywood Studios Orlando
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is a not to miss ride (photo by James Overholt/

2. Which park has the best rides?

Let’s rank them, starting with the best.

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (Hollywood Studios)

With all due respect to Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in EPCOT, Rise of the Resistance may well be the best ride in Orlando, possibly the world. I love it. 

The Bow of the Millennium Falcon
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is another great ride in Hollywood Studios (photo by James Overholt/

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (Hollywood Studios)

Yes. I’m a Star Wars fan but setting that aside, would I rather ride the Falcon or Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad? Falcon wins by 12 parsecs.

Mickey and Minnies Runaway Railroad
The Runaway Railway is fun and entertaining (photo by James Overholt/

Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (Hollywood Studios)

This is one of the great, underappreciated rides in Walt Disney World. It’s fun and entertaining and the line is never too long. 

Toy Story Mania Entrance Hollywood Studios
Toy Story Mania is still a fantastic ride (photo by James Overholt/

Toy Story Mania (Hollywood Studios)

This is the top Hollywood Studios ride prior to the opening of the three higher on the list. This is still a fantastic ride. 

Tron Cars on Track Magic Kingdom
The Tron Lightcycle is a short, but intense ride (photo by Morgan Overholt/

Tron Lightcycle (Magic Kingdom)

The need for speed wins out. Despite the relatively short ride, I have Tron ranked here in something of an upset.

This may be recency bias speaking, but the ride comes in ahead of Slinky Dog Dash or Rock ‘n’ Roller.

Read Also: TRON Magic Kingdom: What I Wish I Knew Before I Rode [2023]

Slinky Dog Dash Coaster in Toy Story Land
Slinky Dog Dash is a great coaster for the kids and young at heart (photo by James Overholt/

Slinky Dog Dash (Hollywood Studios)

A great, kid friendly coaster. 

Star Tours Entrance at Hollywood Studios Orlando
Star Tours is a 3D motion ride that is still a lot of fun (photo by James Overholt/

Star Tours (Hollywood Studios)

There have been a lot of 3D motion rides popping up since Star Tours first started taking guests to a galaxy far, far away, but few have kept up with the original.

This is a fun ride and with the advent of other Star Wars rides in the park, it frequently has a very manageable wait time.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Hollywood Studios Exterior
The Tower of Terror is a classic drop ride (photo by James Overholt/

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios)

This is a classic drop ride with great theming that’s buoyed by the fact that its counterpart in California has been rethemed, making it a little more exclusive. 

I think the point is if you’re coming to Disney for the attractions, seek out the park with Echo Lake. 

Point: Hollywood Studios. 

Young Child at Magic Kingdom's Many Adventures of Winnie the Poo
This little one looks forward to visiting The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in The Magic Kingdom (photo by Elizabeth Cooper/

3. Which park is better for toddlers?

I think pretty clearly that the Magic Kingdom is better for toddlers than Hollywood Studios. However, there are parts of Hollywood Studios that make it an interesting discussion. 

Fantasyland is pretty well Nirvana for toddlers. First, you walk through Cinderella’s Castle and are met with the Carousel, It’s a Small World, Peter Pan’s Flight, the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid.

And that’s before you get to Storybook Circus with the classic Dumbo ride and the Goofy Barnstormer. Throw in the Magic Carpets of Aladdin and the kid-friendly rides in Tomorrowland, and you’ve got more kid-friendly rides in the Magic Kingdom than you do total rides in Hollywood Studios. 

However, what Hollywood Studios lacks in kids’ ride attractions, it makes up a little with shows

Sure, the Magic Kingdom has Mickey’s Philharmagic – but that pales in comparison to For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along, Muppet Vision 3D and the Disney Junior Play and Dance!

The Disney Junior area really earns Disney’s Hollywood Studios bonus toddler points. Doc McStuffins, Fancy Nancy and Vampirina are many kids’ gateway into the magic, and Hollywood Studios is the only place they can meet them. 

Character dining for toddlers is also better in the Magic Kingdom and so is the meet-and-greet potential. Specifically, the best place to meet Mickey Mouse is in the Magic Kingdom, and that’s impossible to beat. 

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

Point: Magic Kingdom.

4. Which park has the best young kids’ attractions?

Do we even have to discuss it? No. We do not. 

Point: Magic Kingdom.

5. Which park has the best roller coasters? 

There was a time this would have gone to Hollywood Studios by default.

But since the addition of Tron and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain, the Magic Kingdom pulls it out. 

Point: Magic Kingdom.

PizzeRizzo Hollywood Studios Outdoor Seating
Rizzo’s Pizza at Hollywood Studios (photo by James Overholt/

6. What about Muppet theming?

The Muppets in the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square are fun, but you just get more of the gang in Hollywood Studios – plus you get Rizzo’s Pizza.

You ever wonder between Rizzo, Remy and Mickey why the number of rodents in the culinary game at Disney is especially high? 

Point: Hollywood Studios.

Buzz Lightyear ride at Disney World
Buzz Lightyear in the Magic Kingdom is somewhat inferior to Toy Story Mania (photo by James Overholt/

7. What about the Pixar theming?

I like the Buzz Lightyear ride in the Magic Kingdom. It’s fun. But it is inferior in just about every way to Toy Story Mania.

It might be unfair to rate a park without a designated Pixar land against a park with a designated Pixar land, but them’s the breaks in the science game. 

In addition to Mania and Slinky Dog, the Alien Swirling Saucers ride is fine. And frankly, the type of ride Hollywood Studios desperately needs more of. These are quick, easy rides with shorter queues that allow ways to disperse the crowd more effectively. 

Pixar feels like the arm of Disney’s conglomerate that will most change the parks moving forward. There’s a little Pixar in the Magic Kingdom with Buzz Lightyear and the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor.

There’s Toy Story Land as well as the Cars-themed Lightning McQueen Racing Academy in Hollywood Studios. Disney’s Animal Kingdom has Bug’s Life and some UP! while EPCOT has Nemo and Remy. 

What Disney chooses to do with its Pixar properties like Coco, the Incredibles – which you can see at Hollywood Studios – and newer movies like Turning Red or Luca may very well change the face of the parks in the coming years. 

Anyway, Pixar theming? It’s Hollywood Studios, at least for now. 

Point: Hollywood Studios. 

Mickey Mouse in the Magic Kingdom Parade
Mickey Mouse is one of many favorites to see in the Magic Kingdom parades (photo by James Overholt/

8. Which has the best shows and parades?

We’re going to call the fireworks spectaculars a wash. It’s hard to beat the closing show at Magic Kingdom, but Fantasmic! comes close. 

The Magic Kingdom has the classics like the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Country Bears Jamboree, but Hollywood Studios has the aforementioned Frozen Sing-Along and also the Disney Jr. show. 

I’ve never been enamored of Beauty & the Beast, Live on Stage. However, I do wish they’d bring back the Star Wars show they used to do in the middle of the park with characters from across the timeline. Darth Maul Squad stand up!

I guess we’re counting the Hall of Presidents as a show, but it doesn’t help the Magic Kingdom. What does help the Magic Kingdom are the spectacular parades that put the current Hollywood Studios offerings to shame.

Ultimately, the parades and the shows at the castle, give the Magic Kingdom an almost overwhelming lead in this category. 

The only possible saving grace for Hollywood Studios is the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.

As a close personal friend of Harrison Ford – who met him once and spoke to him for about 45 seconds – I feel qualified to say this. I wish they found Indy a proper home in the Disney parks.

They couldn’t find something for him in Africa or Asia in Animal Kingdom or among the neighborhoods of the World Showcase at EPCOT?

They could update Soarin’ and fly to all the places Indy has to return stuff he took. 

World Discovery or World Nature could be a decent home for the world’s preeminent archeologist. 

Heck, send him to Pandora and the World of Avatar. He’s already dealt with aliens. Surely a new planet couldn’t be that big of a shocker. 

Anyway, the stunt spectacular, as fun as it is, isn’t enough to sway the parade tide. 

Point: Magic Kingdom.

Babies Dining with Donald Duck
Adorable babies dine with Donald Duck (photo by Kirby Russell/

9. Which park has the best character dining? 

I assume at some point Disney will have a Star Wars character dining experience that will sway the course of theme park history, but until then the Magic Kingdom has the two castle experiences and the Winnie the Pooh characters.

Point: Magic Kingdom.

Casey's Corner on Main Street
Casey’s Corner wins for the best hot dog (photo by James Overholt/

10. Which park has the best hot dogs?

In one corner you’ve got Casey’s, which is a venerable institution.

On the other, you’ve got the Ronto Wrap. I’m a Ronto Wrap advocate. I stand hard for the Ronto Wrap, but Casey’s can’t be beat.

Point: Magic Kingdom.

main street in lights at disney
Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom at night (photo by James Overholt/

11. Which park has the best shopping? 

As much as I enjoy the shops along Hollywood Boulevard, nothing is topping Main Street U.S.A. for a Disney shopping experience.

Point Magic Kingdom. 

hollywood brown derby
The Hollywood Brown Derby is arguably the most high-end restaurant in any of the Disney parks. And it’s well worth the price tag (photo by James Overholt/

12. Which park has the best dining?

EPCOT with its garden festival and wine festival would sweep the category but if we’re limiting ourselves to Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, it’s a closer race. 

At this point, I’ve eaten at almost all of the major Magic Kingdom restaurants and I think Tony’s Town Square Restaurant is one of the most underrated in the parks. Also, the way they attended to my son’s allergy needs was so far above and beyond, it will always hold a special place for our family. 

However, if we’re going by overall food quality, I think we’ve got to go with Hollywood Studios. The Brown Derby is a fantastic dining experience and there are so many interesting options including the stands along Sunset Boulevard. 

Point: Hollywood Studios.

13. Which park offers the best overall experience?

This is the catch-all category where we try to consider all of the little elements that go into a great Disney vacation. Look, I love Star Wars. I love Hollywood Studios, but it just isn’t the Magic Kingdom. 

The Magic Kingdom is the place I first went with my mom and grandparents back in 1979. It’s the place my grandparents took my brother and me in the 90s. 

In fact, it’s the place touched by Walt and possessed of generations’ worth of Disney Magic. 

When we first dreamed of taking our own kids to Disney, it wasn’t the Chinese Theater or the giant golf ball. It was Cinderella’s Castle. It was Small World and Peter Pan. 

Look, if those things don’t hold any magic for you and you have older kids – or no kids – I get why you might prefer one of the other parks.

But for us, the Magic Kingdom stands alone carrying the family tradition and love and nostalgia and memories so thick you have to wipe them away from your faces. 

How do you compete with that?

Winner? Magic Kingdom in a landslide. 

Which is your favorite? Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios? Let us know in the comments!

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John Gullion

John Gullion, Managing Editor at the Citizen Tribune, is a freelance contributor for LLC – the parent company of and

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