A funny thing happened at Disney's Hollywood Studios over the holiday weekend. The parking lot at Disney's (NYSE:DIS) least visited theme park in Florida filled to capacity on Saturday night according to social media reports, forcing guests to leave their cars at the nearby Epcot parking lot and take a boat or bus over to Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Thanksgiving week is one of the busiest travel windows at Disney World. When the wait to ride the Magic Kingdom's iconic It's a Small World stretches to 75 minutes -- for a fast-loading boat ride that typically has negligible queue lengths -- you know that Central Florida is a hotbed of turkey-chomping and cranberry-chugging tourism.
This still doesn't mean that a jam-packed parking lot at Disney's Hollywood Studios was a given. The park has gone from being Disney World's third most popular park to dead last at fourth a couple of years ago, and that was before it started gutting attractions to make room for eventual additions. The Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land expansions that were announced this summer will make Disney's Hollywood Studio magnetic again, but those ambitious 14-acre additions are at least two to three years away.
With fewer available attractions and crowds divided into fewer rides creating longer lines one may wonder why the parking lot is full to capacity, even on a holiday weekend. Thankfully there's a seasonal attraction and a new tweak to one of the park's remaining rides to drum up renewed interest in visiting Disney's Hollywood Studios now.
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is a nightly event that features illuminated holiday decorations that come alive to synchronized seasonal tunes. This will be the last year for the event as Disney will begin using some of that space to begin building out Star Wars Land in a few months. The end of the long-running park tradition is going to draw more guests than usual in the coming weeks, and it explains why the parking lot was filled to capacity shortly after sunset on Saturday. The big influx of drivers arriving late suggests that they were there for the primary purpose of enjoying the holiday event.
The other thing that's making Disney's Hollywood Studios magnetic is that Star Tours -- the park's Star Wars-themed motion simulator ride -- just added Star Wars: The Force Awakens footage to the attraction.
Things will get even more compelling tomorrow when Star Wars Launch Bay opens. The new exhibit will feature movie props, interactive kiosks, and meet-and-greet opportunities with costumed Chewbacca and Darth Vader characters. A kid-friendly Jedi training experience will also return in a few days in its updated form. A nightly Star Wars-themed fireworks show is slated to kick off in January. The attractions are coming, but park guests apparently are already there.
Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.