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Friday, December 28, 2018

how i toured toy story land during thanksgiving week

happy fri-YAY, toys!  thanks for coming back to my virtual toy box.  today's post is all about my super fun day in andy's backyard!  read on to find out how i was able to conquer lunch at woody's lunchbox, a meet & greet, and all 3 rides before 2:00.

Despite the crowds, my family and I made a lot of fun memories at Walt Disney World this year.  This year, I was determined to have the best time ever at the newly opened Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and that's just what I did.

When Toy Story Land first opened in July, I was immediately shook at the coverage.  Everything about TSL was perfect, from the intricate detailing to the most fun looking roller coaster ever: slinky dog dash!  I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I was genuinely choked up from excitement when I watched the opening/dedication ceremony.  I couldn't stop talking (or posting) about how happy I was to be able to visit this adorable, perfect little slice of heaven during our Thanksgiving trip.

I also knew that because Toy Story Land was going to be the most popular land, and we were going to be visiting it during one of the most popular times to visit the Disney Parks, it'd be wise to plan our visit to the backyard as well as I could.  The plan was to visit TSL in the morning/afternoon and head back to the resort for dinner.  While I couldn't get a FP+ for Slinky Dog Dash, I was able to get us a FP+ for Alien Swirling Saucers at 1:30!  Mom, dad, and Grace wouldn't be in the mood to rope drop that morning, but I knew that I absolutely would be, so I planned to rope drop Slinky and leave the rest of my plans up to what was possible with the current crowd levels.

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I woke up at 6:30 in the morning the day we were meant to visit Disney's Hollywood Studios.  It was Tuesday, November 20, and Kenny the Pirate predicted that it would be the best day to visit DHS that week because of the relatively low crowd levels.  At around 7:30, I hopped on the first bus to Hollywood and was pleasantly surprised to be alone on the bus!  Being alone on a bus during rope drop always puts me at ease, especially since I had just seen a huge crowd get on an Animal Kingdom-bound bus.

After going through bag check, I arrived at the ticket touch points at around 8:00, about an hour before the park was set to open.  Even though the park didn't open for another hour, there was a decent sized crowd ahead of me, so I was a little nervous.

I was pleasantly surprised when they let us in and walk up to about where Hollywood Boulevard meets Sunset Boulevard at 8:20.  At 8:30, I was even more pleasantly surprised when an announcement was made that Andy's backyard was open and ready for playtime!

If you are planning to tour a popular area of the park, like Pandora or Toy Story Land, it pays to get to the park as early as possible!  In order to accommodate the large crowds, I found that both of these areas opened 30 minutes before the rest of their parks did.  Early risers got rewarded with low wait times, and were able to get more, less-busy attractions around the park done at the time the actual rope drop was set to start.

With the rest of the crowd, I headed to SDD first.  I was nervous, but I was all alone which meant I was able to easily zoom past the sea of moms and dads desperately trying to keep their families together on their mad dash to dog dash.  I got in line for SDD without stopping to take photos... although I did get serious chills when I sped past this guy as he said "hey, hey!  come on in and play!"

So: Slinky Dog Dash.  I got in the official line at about 8:30.  Even though the line seemed really long, it's important to remember that when you get in line for a ride before the park opens, there are no FP+ guests to inflate the wait time.  If everyone keeps moving forward, the line rarely stops.  I was on the ride at about 8:50-- that's before the park was supposed to open!  

Of course SDD was an incredible ride, and in the moment I was just happy to be zooming up and down past over-sized blocks and Lincoln Logs, but I was absolutely floored when I got off the coaster and realized the rest of the park was still closed!

The next thing I did was head to the souvenir cart and grab a souvenir I really wanted.  Spoiler alert: it was the alien headband with the eyes that light up and move back and forth, and I absolutely had to have it.  A really kind mother took my photo in front of this guy, and I have never felt more true to myself in my entire life.

Next, I decided that I should meet Buzz Lightyear.  The rest of the TSL wait times had skyrocketed, but my family texted me saying that they were on a bus to DHS, so we would be able to get in those lines together.  Besides, I knew they wouldn't want to wait in line to meet any characters today, and I really wanted some pics with Buzz while I had all my alien gear on!  I also knew he had a Santa Hat on, which I thought was very cute and festive.

I waited about 15 minutes to meet Buzz, and then, confession time: I left TSL for about half an hour!  I needed coffee after a hectic morning, so I grabbed an iced latte at the Joffrey's kiosk outside of Toy Story Land and met with my family at the front of the park so I could bring them back to TSL together.

When we got to Toy Story Land, we decided that we would get in the standby line for Toy Story Mania.  The wait time was posted at 90 minutes.  We waited about 100 minutes.

On our walk back into TSL, we stopped for some pics in front of the Popsicle Wall!

When we got off of TSM, everyone was ready for lunch at Woody's Lunch Box.  It was around 12:30 at this point, so the lunch crowd was beginning to make their way towards the restaurant.  Even though the line was long and we could tell getting a table would be a battle, dad had his heart set on the cranberry-apple lunch box tart.  After waiting in line with some friendly CM, mom was miraculously able to find a table while we waited to pick up our food.  Everyone got a sandwich, some tater tots, a lunch box tart and a drink.  I ordered the grilled cheese with the chocolate-hazelnut tart, and I really liked both!  But this isn't a review post, so maybe we can talk more about that another time.  If that's a post you'd be interested in, be sure to tell me in the comments below.

We finished lunch just in time to catch our FP+ for Alien Swirling Saucers.  AS2 is just across the way from Woody's Lunch Box, so we didn't have to walk far.  Swirling Saucers was so much fun!  We especially loved the holiday overlay effects, like the Christmas music and holiday goodbye message!

When we got off of AS2, it was about 1:30 and the crowds were really picking up, so we decided we'd head back to the resort for some pool time before dinner.  We got one last picture in:

Then we headed to the toy cart by Slinky Dog Dash one last time so that we could purchase more TSL souvenirs.  Everyone got the Alien tumbler and a headband, and we bought a few more souvenirs for the house-- like the Slinky Dog toy sitting on our holiday mantle!

After a super fun few hours in Toy Story Land, we headed back to the bus stop.  On our way back, I realized I had done all of the attractions in Toy Story Land that day-- I went on all three rides, ate at Woody's Lunch Box, met Buzz Lightyear, and emerged with souvenirs and photos to boot!  While it required a lot of patience on our family's part, with the right planning and early morning rising, we were more successful than I hoped we'd be!  I'll leave you with the two biggest takeaways for crafting your perfect plan to tackle the backyard:

  • Make the most out of your FP+ choice.  Wake up early the morning your FP+ window opens and book your DHS day selections first.  The DHS FP+ are tiered, so you get to choose one Toy Story Land ride to make a FP+ for.  I will always, always recommend making a FP+ selection for Slinky Dog Dash, but sometimes, that's not possible!  If you can't snag a SDD FP+, book one for Alien Swirling Saucers and plan to rope drop SDD.  I recommend making your first FP+ of the day in TSL, preferably as early as possible.  Remember: the earlier your FP+ are, the faster you get them done and can start making more FP+ choices!
  • Get to Hollywood Studios as early as possible.  If I got to the park even half an hour later than I did, I doubt I would have been able to go on Slinky Dog Dash that day.  Nobody likes a 6:00 AM wake-up call, but I promise it pays off.  Even if Disney doesn't open up TSL 30 minutes early for you, you'll still enjoy TSL during it's quietest time and you'll have a better chance at a successful day in Andy's backyard!

I loved visiting Andy's backyard for the first time, and I can't wait to go back again in August!  For those of you who have visited Toy Story Land-- what are your favorite details?  What's one tip you want to share with first-time toys?  Let me know in the comment section below and I'll feature you next week!


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