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Magic Kingdom vs Hollywood Studios: Theme Park Showdown

Disney World in Florida is a popular vacation destination for people around the world. It’s best done with some planning to help ensure everything goes smooth and there are no disappointments.

If you’re planning a trip to Disney World, you’re probably debating which park to visit first: Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios.

Well, I’m here to help you settle the debate!

In this blog post, I’ll compare and contrast both parks, covering topics such as:

  • transportation options
  • early entry and rope drop experience
  • rides and attractions
  • food and drink
  • character experiences
  • parades
  • souvenirs
  • nighttime shows
  • special events

Alright, let’s jump in to compare Magic Kingdom vs Hollywood Studios so you can decide which park to visit!

Transportation & parking

Both parks offer a variety of options when it comes to free transportation to and from resorts and parks.

There’s bus transportation and ferry boats available at both parks. Magic Kingdom also has the monorail and Hollywood Studios has the Skyliner.

Personally I prefer the Skyliner over the monorail and I hope Disney will expand the routes in the future.

Up to this point, I’d say it’s a tie between the two. But there’s 1 sticking point: parking!

While there is ample parking at both spots, parking at Magic Kingdom is an experience and not in a good way. There’s no way to park close up to the park entrance, so you’re either walking a long way, taking a tram, or even taking the monorail.

For that reason, Hollywood Studios takes the edge for this category.

Early entry & rope drop

Both parks offer early entry for guests staying at Disney resorts, as well as select neighboring hotels.

The scene is a bit chaotic at both, but for a big reason – both parks have a handful of big ticket rides that often have lines averaging an hour or more.

Early entry can help you knock off a few rides or at least get your top ride to start your day off right.

That said, I have had better luck with early entry at Hollywood Studios in terms of actually getting to the ride I want, such as Rise of the Resistance or Slinky Dog Dash, without much of a wait.

Whereas at Magic Kingdom, no matter how early I show up before they open the gates for resort guests, the lines are still too long for my liking. Perhaps I need to work out a better strategy for Magic Kingdom, though!

Rides & attractions

This one is tough because both parks offer amazing rides and attractions that are must-dos (at least in my opinion!).

Magic Kingdom has classics such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain, while Hollywood Studios has thrilling rides such as Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Ultimately, it depends on your preference!

If you love Star Wars or Toy Story, definitely check out Hollywood Studios, as they have lands dedicated to each of these franchises.

On the other hand, if you’re more interested in princesses or have younger kids with you, Magic Kingdom might be a better fit when it comes to rides.

That said, I think Magic Kingdom has a better balance of rides that appeal to a wider variety of guests, so I am going to give the win to Magic Kingdom!

Food & drink

I know I’ve ragged on the food at Magic Kingdom in previous theme park showdown posts. But honestly all the other parks do better when it comes to a variety of food, Hollywood Studios included.

There’s nothing wrong with chicken nuggies or a hot dog every now and then, but it’s not easy to find interesting or better quality food at Magic Kingdom.

It’s far easier to find something tasty or inventive to try at Hollywood Studios, especially at Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land. Therefore, the win goes to Hollywood Studios!

Character experiences

Both parks offer excellent character experiences, but it all boils down to which characters you want to meet.

The Magic Kingdom wins when it comes to princesses, such as Cinderella, Tiana, and Mirabel, as well as classic characters like Mickey Mouse.

Plus there’s a princess character meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table, as well as a Winnie-the-Pooh character meal at the Crystal Palace.

Hollywood Studios has lots of Star Wars and Toy Story character meet-and-greets, as well as random encounters (I’m lookin’ at you, Mando!). Plus they have a Disney Junior character breakfast at Hollywood & Vine.

Since the groups of characters at each are so different, I’m going to call this one a tie – especially since it can definitely make or break which park is best for you.


Photo of a large float of a purple metal dragon breathing that is breathing fire.
Photo by Meg Frost, all rights reserved.

The Magic Kingdom automatically wins this category once again, as Hollywood Studios does not have a parade.

Magic Kingdom, on the other hand, has two parades: the Festival of Fantasy Parade and the Adventure Friends Cavalcade.

So if you’re a fan of parades, Magic Kingdom is clearly the park to prioritize!

Nighttime show & fireworks

This one is super hard, as both parks offer amazing nighttime shows. Magic Kingdom’s Happily Ever After fireworks show is a fan favorite, while Hollywood Studios has the popular Fantasmic! and Wonderful World of Animation shows.

Personally I prefer Fantasmic! as it has stadium seating (not a bad seat in the house!) and features tons of characters.

Happily Ever After is more of a fireworks show, which is great, but it’s not always easy to find a good viewing spot and sometimes I can’t quite make out the projections on the castle. Maybe that’s a me problem though, haha!

I’m giving the win to Hollywood Studios since it has two options, one of which has seating.

Souvenirs & gift shops

Photo of a young boy building a blue light saber with an adult woman.
Photo by Matt Stroshane, courtesy of Disney.

Both parks have good gift shops where you can get your typical souvenirs, like hats, stuffed animals, trading pins, or t-shirts.

However, Hollywood Studios has 2 interactive souvenir experiences at Galaxy’s Edge that take the cake. Guests can build their own droid at Droid Depot or build their own lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop.

If you’re a Star Wars fan, Hollywood Studios has better souvenirs. But when it comes to classic souvenirs like Minnie ears, t-shirts, bags, trading pins, and toys, Magic Kingdom wins. Plus they have an entire shop dedicated to Christmas ornaments that’s open year-round.

Since more people gravitate toward the classic type of souvenirs, Magic Kingdom wins this round.

Special events

Photo of a faux scarecrow built out of pumpkins at Magic Kingdom.
Photo by Meg Frost, all rights reserved.

Magic Kingdom takes the cake on this category, with Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

Both of these extra ticketed events come with low crowds and holiday fun.

At the moment, the only special events at Hollywood Studios are Jollywood Nights and a non-themed After Hours event.

Jollywood Nights is new and didn’t go over all too well in its first year – so it’s not even confirmed that it will be back in 2024. Even if it does, Hollywood Studios needs to step it up in this category!

When it comes to Magic Kingdom vs Hollywood Studios, which park will you choose?

Let’s recap my comparison of Magic Kingdom vs Hollywood Studios:

  • Transportation: Hollywood Studios
  • Early entry & rope drop: Hollywood Studios
  • Rides & attractions: Magic Kingdom
  • Food & drink: Hollywood Studios
  • Character experiences: TIE
  • Parades: Magic Kingdom
  • Souvenirs & gift shops: Magic Kingdom
  • Nighttime shows & fireworks: Hollywood Studios
  • Special events: Magic Kingdom

With both parks scoring 5/9, it’s a tie!

If you haven’t made a decision yet on which park to go to between these 2, I highly recommend going back over the categories that mean the most to you to help you make your decision.

For example, while I think Magic Kingdom has the best souvenirs and gift shops, Hollywood Studios has two cool Star Wars interactive souvenir-building options.

At the end of the day, no matter which park you choose, you’re guaranteed to have a magical time!

Next up, check out my other theme park showdown posts for more help planning your Disney World trip.

  1. Animal Kingdom vs Magic Kingdom
  2. Epcot vs Animal Kingdom
  3. Hollywood Studios vs Epcot
  4. Epcot vs Magic Kingdom
  5. Hollywood Studios vs Animal Kingdom

About the author

Photo of Meg Frost on Buzz Lightyear: Space Ranger Blast at Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

Meg Frost is the creator of The Park Pixie, where she covers Disney World, Disney+, and Disney fandom.

She holds an M.A. in Journalism from Northeastern University and B.S. in Communication & American Studies from University of Miami in Florida.

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This post was originally published May 15, 2023. It was last updated March 3, 2024.