Wonderful Disney Hollywood Studios and the perfect family hotel

ORLANDO – A timeless Disney classic. And a wonderful place to stay just minutes away.

I recently had a chance to spend a day at Disney Hollywood Studios, where I hadn’t been in at least 12 or 15 years. It’s a delightful spot, with a great mix of scary rides (alas, I didn’t do any this time) and fun, family attractions. Best of all for a guy who fell in love with Princess Leia, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker in 1979 are the Star Wars bits.

Disney Hollywood Studios is a fun theme park for all ages. – JIM BYERS PHOTO

One of the first things we heard upon entering the park were the ominous “Dah, dah, dah, dah-dah-dah, dah-dah-dah” sounds of the Imperial Stormtroopers walk through the park. Awesome.

I’d been on the Star Tours ride before but I believe it’s been updated and modernized. Either way, I loved crashing through the galaxy and rocking and rolling as we made the jump to hyperspace. I also caught a 10-minute film that combined action from all the various Star Wars movies. I quite enjoyed seeing parts of the various movies spliced together into one segment. Other folks went even further, loudly applauding at the end of the show.

The Star Wars’ Stormtroopers march at Disney Hollywood Studios.

I’d seen the Raiders of the Lost Ark/Indiana Jones show a couple times so we skipped that. But my fellow visitors love old movies so we made a beeline to the All-Star Classics movie bit. It’s different from before. We sat in a boat and floated past cool scenes from John Wayne movies, Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, Aliens and much more. It’s a fun ride for all ages.

My daughter’s favourite movie when she was little, or one her faves, was The Little Mermaid. When she was young we used to sing the “Part of Your World” song together, and it always brings a tear to me eye when I hear it. So, yes, I adored the Little Mermaid attraction. It’s a sentimental favourite, sure, but I also think it has the best, catchiest music of any recent Disney film. And marvellous, colourful and creative “under the sea” illustrations.

A tale as old as time: The Beauty and the Beast live performance at Disney Hollywood Studios.

I don’t recall my daughter being into Beauty and the Beast as much as Little Mermaid or maybe it’s just that I liked Mermaid more. But there are some lovely and fun parts of the live Beauty and the Beast Show, especially Chip and his Mom and the Candelabra guy, Lumiere. So it was fun to see the live show, which was packed and quite well done. No doubt the release of the new live movie with Emma Watson had something to do with the crowds.

Oh, and the Muppets 3-D film is still a hoot, with choice appearances and wisecracks from Kermit, Miss Piggy and the other stars of the show. There’s plenty of humour for both adults and kids when you’re talking about the Muppets.

The Aerosmith Rock ‘n Roller Coaster at Disney Hollywood Studios.

It’s fun to wander the old-style streets and poke your head into the stores at Disney Hollywood Studios even if you’re not a rides person. But if you like a good scare, I’d think the fast drop at the Tower of Terror would suit you nicely. Not to mention the Aerosmith roller coaster.

I’ve stayed at a few great properties in and around Orlando in the past. But I think the Doubletree Suites Disney Springs Area we parked ourselves at for a couple nights is the best I’ve seen for families.

The Doubletree Suites Disney Springs Area is a great family hotel in Orlando.

It’s a lovely spot that’s just inside Disney’s property. Which means easy, quick access to the main parks on a comfortable shuttle bus. Better than that, it’s a large property with a good-sized lawn area out back, a large pool, a pool bar, a kids’ playground, a children’s pool,
a business centre and a tennis court.

It’s great for families from a recreational standpoint. It’s also ideal in that the suites are huge; with a large living room and sofa bed for the kids and a comfortable bed for Mom and Dad (or, hey, Mom and Mom/Dad and Dad). We had a microwave and a small fridge and a coffee maker; all essentials to families on the road. And plenty of space to spread out.

The rooms at Doubletree Suites Disney Springs area are massive, with plenty of space for a family to spread out.

It also worked nicely for me in terms of getting my work done on the road. With two TV’s, one in the main room and one in the bedroom, I could watch something different than my wife or keep mine off while I worked and she watched what she wanted.

On top of that, we had a great view of the fireworks from, I believe, either Epcot or Disney Hollywood Studios.

There’s a fine breakfast buffet and restaurant. We didn’t have dinner at the hotel, choosing instead to dine on massive pizzas one night at Flipper’s Pizzeria and on surprisingly good pasta the other night at Olive Garden. Both were a short walk and a very short drive from the hotel, which is just a minute or two off Interstate 4 for easy access.

All in all, an outstanding Disney and Doubletree visit.

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