NOTE: Given the MASSIVE changes currently in process at DHS, I’m holding off on providing current updates to this page. AllEars.net and various Disney fan sites are covering the almost daily updates involved in reporting on the process. Suffice it to say, the information below is only for those attractions that haven’t yet been removed or shut down in preparation for the Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land updates.
As the title implies, DHS is movie-and-TV themed. Attractions are almost entirely based on entertainment properties: Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Power Rangers, Twilight Zone, Little Mermaid, Toy Story and typically a temporary attraction related to whatever Disney studio movie is “hot” at that moment. Many of the attractions here might have height limits that would exclude younger kids (but it’s noted in all of the park maps you can find).
The “big” attraction here is Toy Story Mania (TSM). It’s pretty cool – a ride with 3D effects. I love doing it, and so do most others, as evidenced by the long standby lines. Never fear though, get a FP and then only wait in the short line. They’ve now moved the entrance to TSM to the rear of the building to be part of Toy Story Land. And across from TSM is now the Slinky Dog Dash rollercoaster. Totally worth every minute of wait necessary, this coaster is the perfect combination of tame and thrilling, especially for the littlest riders.
One thing that most people used to miss, however, was a special appearance OUTSIDE the ride (across the “street”, actually) by Luxo, Jr., the little desk lamp that starts every Pixar movie. He would come out every 10-15 minutes, did a little musical dance thing and then went back behind louvered doors. It was even cooler at night when he controled lights in the trees around TSM. Update: Due to intellectual property rights, Luxo, Jr. doesn’t appear anymore. Serious bummer.
Your daughter(s), if any, will love Voyage of the Little Mermaid – she’s actually live and performing. It’s also a dark, cool, indoor attraction – great to break the heat. The same used to be true for “The Great Movie Ride” – it was one of those slow-moving things like Ellen’s Energy Adventure at Epcot. As of August 2017, it was removed in favor of a massive overhaul of this park.
On the other hand, virtually all school-aged kids will probably love Indiana Jones Stunt Show Spectacular. And if you show up early enough, you (or they) could be selected to join the “cast” during the show. It’s rare, but it can happen.
I really love Rock’n’Roller Coaster, starring Aerosmith. I won’t say too much, as it’s my favorite ride in the entire property – but if you like roller coasters, this one will knock your socks off. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is also really cool. It’s not a roller coaster… more of a lift and drop you several times (actually, it’s 100% controlled, so you get PULLED down faster than gravity would take you), type of ride. Lots of fun, scary as all get out the first time you do it. And the theming is, of course, off the charts, which adds to the freakiness of the ride. As of 2017, TZToT in Disneyland (but not WDW as a result of contractual exclusivity clauses that pre-dated Disney’s purchase of Marvel characters) has been re-themed based on the movie and characters of Guardians of the Galaxy.
Girls will probably like the Beauty and the Beast show. It’s outdoors, but covered/shaded from the sun. It’s actually not bad, as far as shows go. A musical group called Return2Zero used to perform a pre-show, but as of late 2015, they’re no longer contracted by Disney.
Kids love finding Lighting McQueen and Mater near the old Streets of America (which have been shut down, along with Lights, Motors, Action! in preparation for a new Star Wars-themed land) as well. They also like the large “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” play area near the Backlot Tour (2016 Update: this is also closed for Star Wars land). Kids and adults like the Muppets in 3-D show – Waldorf and Statler are even in attendance.
The icon for this park was affectionately known as the Big Ass Hat (BAH) – it’s totally removed as of late February, 2015. It was in the center of the park (right in front of the replica to The Kodak Theatre) and this is still where you can find many of the various character meet/greets throughout the day. It was also the epicenter for the High School Musical live performance. And the old location is still a pretty good place to see the Stars and Motorcars parade in the middle of the day. At night, the fireworks show here is called Fantasmic! It’s a little more involved and centralized than the other parks… you actually have to go sit in a theatre-style setting. It’s also the only show where there are actual characters involved…. and the ONLY place where you can get a photograph of Steamboat Willie as a walk-around character. Given the seating, though, you need to arrive relatively early if you want a good seat. There are dinner and a show options, too, though with kids, I’m not sure that’s of benefit.
Special events at DHS include the Star Wars Weekends. It seems pretty self-explanatory to me, but again, go to the Disney Parks website for specifics and timing.