Ahhh Rope Drop.
Sweet, sweet, Rope Drop.
Rope Drop happens every morning at all the parks at Walt Disney World and although it sounds fancy, all we are talking about when we say “Rope Drop” is the time of morning when Cast Members officially begin to allow guests onto the attractions.
Here’s how that works…
How arriving early can help you ride more attractions
Even though lots of things have changed over the years, arriving early to the parks is still key to maximizing your day.
In the past, there literally was a velvet rope that the Cast Members would carry to control the speed of guests at park opening. And when they didn’t have a rope, the Cast Members would form a line and walk at the front of the pack of people.
Basically, their job was to protect everyone by keeping the pace of the crowd down to a fast walk.
And while they don’t always use the magical velvet rope these days, we still use the term “Rope Drop” to describe that moment when you’re officially allowed on the attractions.
The goal is to be at the FRONT of the crowds when it is time for Rope Drop.
All the parks open in multiple parts, with Early Theme Park Entry participants gaining access to the attractions first, followed by offsite guests.
Rope Drop and Early Theme Park Entry (Onsite Guests)
The procedure for Early Theme Park Entry varies a bit from park-to-park, and procedures can even vary from day-to-day. But, with that in mind, here are some basics that you can expect:
- At Magic Kingdom, all guests (both onsite and offsite) are allowed into the park about 30 minutes before Early Theme Park entry starts. However, offsite guests will be stopped at the Hub (the area around Cinderella Castle), while guests eligible for Early Theme Park Entry will be held on the bridge to Fantasyland until the official start of Early Theme Park Entry.
- At Epcot, guests eligible for Early Theme Park Entry are typically directed to specific tapstiles. At some point, if the lines grow long enough, they will often let onsite guests into the park to be staged until the official start of Early Theme Park Entry. Guests entering at the International Gateway are typically held near the bridge to France, while the exact spot(s) where guests are held at the front of the park can vary due to all the construction. If there are multiple places where guests are headed, make sure you go towards the one that is on the path to whatever attraction you are heading to first.
- Hollywood Studios has a similar procedure. There are specific tapstiles for onsite guests to use, and guests will often be let into the park around 25-30 minutes before the start of Early Theme Park Entry. At that point, depending on which attraction you are heading to first, you’ll be held back near there until the official opening for Early Theme Park Entry. EXCEPTION: although most of the attractions here don’t open until the official start of Early Theme Park Entry, Rise of the Resistance often does open before Rope Drop.
- At Animal Kingdom, oftentimes all guests are typically allowed in early; however, onsite guests will be directed towards the left side of the Tree of Life (towards Pandora), while offsite guests will be directed to the other side to wait until regular park opening.
It isn’t an exaggeration that a few minutes can make all the difference.
We highly recommend you take advantage of Early Theme Park Entry – but if you do plan to do it, don’t be late, or you’ll lose any advantage this extra 30 minutes will give you.
Even showing up a few minutes later can mean missing the first bus of the day or longer lines to park (if you are driving), longer lines at security, longer lines at the turnstiles – and all those long lines outside the park mean you’ll be standing in long lines inside the park.
So, that begs the question, when should you arrive?
Want to make it for Rope Drop? Here’s what we recommend:
Plan to be at the bus stop 90 minutes before Early Theme Park Entry. Expect the first bus of the day to arrive between 45 minutes to 1 hour before Early Theme Park Entry starts. The goal is to be on the first bus of the day, and the lines for the buses will get very long, very fast. Arriving 90 minutes before Early Theme Park Entry will get you to the front of the pack, and likely on that first bus.
90 minutes is a good rule of thumb for the Disney Skyliner, too. Especially if your trip will require you to transfer Skyliner lines. The Hollywood Studios line typically starts up about 1 hour before the park opens, and the Epcot line is between 30 minutes to 1 hour before that park opens.
45 minutes to 1 hour. For reference, the Resort Monorail Loop goes:
- Transportation and Ticket Center
- Polynesian Resort
- Grand Floridian Resort
- Magic Kingdom
- Contemporary Resort
If traveling by boat, 60 minutes before Early Theme Park Entry is probably good.
Walking? You’ll have it the easiest!
Guests that walk are typically allowed to line up at the tapstiles around 60 minutes before the park opens. If you want to be at the front of the pack of the walkers, plan to arrive ahead of that. (If you arrive before they begin allowing people to line up at the tapstiles, you’ll be held back by security.)
When traveling by car, plan to arrive to the parking lot entrance about 70 minutes before Early Theme Park Entry. If the parking lot booths are not open at that time, you should be able to just wait for them to officially open up. But, don’t show up too early because they may not let you wait for the booths to open and instead will force you to turn around.
Rope Drop for Offsite Guests
Guests who are visiting from a resort not included in the Early Theme Park Entry benefit, will participate in what is basically the 2nd Rope Drop of the day.
Does that mean you can arrive to the park later?
We don’t recommend it.
Even if you can’t participate in Early Theme Park Entry, we still recommend you get to the park around 60 minutes before Early Theme Park Entry (or around 90 minutes before the park opens to all guests).
Yes, you will have a wait before you are allowed in, but being at the front of the offsite pack is your best bet to keep your waits during the morning hours low.
Should you Rope Drop every day? (Probably not.)
Although arriving before Rope Drop is hands-down one of the best things you can do to maximize your mornings at Disney World, sometimes those early mornings can be hard to keep up with.
If you are planning any super late nights or if your trip is 5 or more days, you may find yourself craving some extra sleep.
And that is okay! Not every single day HAS to be a Rope Drop day, and in fact, we don’t recommend that it is.
Tired travelers aren’t likely to have magical times, so making sure that everybody in your group is getting enough rest is important. But, if Rope Drop is so important, how do you tour if you skip it?
First of all, you know your family and traveling companions best. There is no absolute right or wrong way to tour. So, think of the recommendations below as general guidelines and then adjust them to fit your situation.
When we started traveling to Disney World, it was really hard for us to justify break days or even sleep-in days. After all, we were paying all that money for the vacation, shouldn’t we be spending it in the parks?
But, after a couple of meltdowns (by the adults, not the kids!) we learned that adding in some laid-back days when we could sleep in and start off slower really helped everyone have a better vacation.
You don’t need to have any special reason why you are scheduling a late start day. However, here is a list of some times when we really think it is important to at least consider adding one in:
- the morning after a special event or party (like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party)
- the morning after you’ve stayed late
- on days you plan to not leave for a break
- on days you plan to stay late
- in the middle of a trip if your trip is more than a few days long
So – you’ve decided you are going to sleep in and start your day late. How do you adjust your touring strategy?
The downside to sleeping in is that you likely won’t get to ride all the most popular rides.
But, that doesn’t mean the day will be a bust.
If you plan to purchase Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane Selections, you can do those from outside the park and if you are strategic, you can stack them for later in the day.
In addition to using Genie+ or purchasing Individual Lightning Lane Selections, the end of the day is going to be key.
The later in the day you go, you’ll typically see the wait times start to taper off. BUT, Disney is also pretty infamous for inflating wait times, too. So, if there is something that you really want to ride, we recommend jumping in line in the last 15-30 minutes of the day even if the wait time seems unreasonably long.
In many instances, the wait will be much shorter, and as long as you are in line before the park closes, you’ll get to ride!
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