Ahhh Rope Drop.
Sweet, sweet, Rope Drop.
Rope Drop happens every morning at all of the parks at Walt Disney World and although it sounds fancy, all Rope Drop means is the time of morning when Cast Members officially begin to allow guests onto the attractions – not when they let people into the park.
Here’s how that works…
How arriving early can make your morning (and day!) go easier
Even though lots of things have changed, 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 down to a fast walk.
And while the current environment doesn’t always allow for that procedure, we still use the term “Rope Drop” to describe being at the parks before the official opening time.
Here’s how it works right now:
All of the parks still have the possibility to open in 2 parts.
First, they open up the turnstiles and let people into the park. This typically happens around 30 minutes or so before the park opens. If the crowds are lower, it could be later. If the crowds are heavier, it could be earlier – but 30 minutes is a good average.
In the past, after guests would go through the turnstiles they would be held together in a group somewhere inside the park (like on Main Street of Magic Kingdom or in front of the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom).
However, with current social distancing guidelines, that isn’t possible. So, now when guests are allowed into the parks they can proceed to their first attraction of the day.
In some instances, guests may find that even though it is before the official park opening, some attractions (typically the headliners) will be open and running.
That means you can knock out 1 (or even 2) major attractions before the park officially opens (and before many guests even arrive).
It isn’t an exaggeration that a few minutes can make all the difference.
Even showing up a few minutes later can mean 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?
Since its reopening, Disney has been controlling the flow of guests to the park through transportation.
Basically, they are trying to avoid large crowds of guests gathered in tight spaces for extended periods of time.
That means that while, in the past, you may have been able to show up to the front gates of Hollywood Studios 3 hours before it opened, you won’t be able to do that now.
Want to make it for Rope Drop? Here’s what we recommend:
Plan be at the bus stop 90 minutes before park opening. With bus capacity reduced, long lines for the buses form fast. Expect the first bus of the day to arrive between 45 minutes to 1 hour before the official park opening.
90 minutes is a good rule of thumb for the 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. With capacity limits, it can take longer especially if you are the last stop. For reference, the Resort Monorail Loop goes:
- Transporation and Ticket Center
- Polynesian Resort
- Grand Floridian Resort
- Magic Kingdom
- Contemporary Resort
If traveling by boat, 45 minutes before park opening is probably good, 60 if it is during a busy time of the year.
Guests that walk are typically allowed to line up at the tapstiles around 45 minutes before the park opens. If you want to be at the front of the pack of the walkers, plan to arrive about 60 minutes before the park opens.
If traveling by car, plan to arrive to the parking lot entrance about 45 minutes before the park opens. Any earlier than that and they may not let you wait for the booths to open (which typically happens about 30 minutes before the park opens).
Read more about how Disney transportation works right now.
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 first 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 where we could sleep in and start off slower really helped.
You don’t need to have any special reason why you are scheduling a late start day. But, here is a list of some of the 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.
We recommend people getting a late start use the My Disney Experience App to prioritize must-do attractions with the shortest waits, and then fill in your day with some of the other attractions that don’t typically have long lines.
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!