Do you want to beat the crowds to the most popular Disney World attractions?
Want to enjoy the shortest lines of the day at Disney World?
Then, let me introduce you to rope drop at Disney, my friend.
“Rope drop” is when a Disney World park opens in the morning and crowd levels are lowest, but “rope dropping” a park is not just arriving AT opening time and expecting all lines to be short.
Continue reading for rope drop tips at each of the four parks and how you can start your Disney World days off early without the large crowds!
[The Basics] What is rope drop at Disney World?
Rope drop is the time a Disney World park opens for the day.
Where does the term originate? Well, security bag check and park entry touch points open before the posted park opening time and the entering crowds are then corralled by Disney cast members inside the park where a rope or ropes will prevent guests from proceeding further. These ropes are removed (“dropped”) when the park officially opens for the day and attractions begin operating.
The advantage of being at a park for rope drop is shorter attraction lines as crowd levels grow throughout the day.
Rope drop does not mean arriving at park opening time. Crowds begin forming well before then.
The time that you should arrive at a park depends on the attraction you want to “rope drop” and ride first. The most popular rides require an earlier arrival to be near the front of the crowd and take advantage of the shortest line possible.
A general recommendation is to arrive 30-45 minutes before the posted park opening time to rope drop most attractions. Arrive 1-2 hours early for the most popular ones.
Disney World parks allow guests to enter before park opening time, allowing you to go through security bag check and park entry touch points early. Once you’re in, you won’t have access to all areas of the park until opening time and most attractions will not begin running yet, although some may begin loading 10-15 minutes early. However, you’ll be able to begin lining up near the attraction you want to ride first and be near the front of that crowd.
After going through security and park entry, rope drop procedures differ at each park.
At Magic Kingdom, Main Street USA opens one hour before park opening time. There are four ropes at the entrances to each land from the hub so wait at the rope closest to the attraction you want to visit first. You should arrive earliest to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, about an hour before park opening, and wait at the Fantasyland rope to be close to the front of that crowd for the shortest wait. For all other Magic Kingdom attractions, begin waiting at the land’s rope 10-15 minutes before park opening.
Epcot has two park entrances at the front of the park and the International Gateway. Arrive an hour early to rope drop Test Track or Frozen Ever After. Optimally, use Epcot’s main front entrance to rope drop Test Track and the International Gateway to rope drop Frozen Ever After although you can access both attractions from both entrances. For all other attractions, arrive at Epcot a half hour early for rope drop.
At Hollywood Studios, for as long as the Rise of the Resistance boarding group process is in use, security bag check will open 2 hours before park opening and park entry touchpoints open 1 hour early. If you want to rope drop Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run, or Slinky Dog Dash, arrive 1.5-2 hours early. For all other rides, arriving 45 minutes before park opening is plenty of time.
When rope dropping Animal Kingdom, plan on arriving 1-1.5 hours before park opening to rope drop Flight of Passage and proceed directly to the rope to Pandora to wait. For all other attractions, use the usual 30-45 minute recommendation.
[Beyond the Basics] What does it mean to rope drop at Disney World?
There are three steps to every Disney World park’s morning opening procedures:
- Security bag check,
- Park entrance touch points, and
- Park areas and lands open with rope drop.
This entry sequence begins before the posted park opening time to allow guests to filter into the front areas of the park, avoiding a single, huge crowd at the park entrance. At all parks, bag check will open first, typically one hour or more early. The park entry touch points (where you will tap your MagicBand or ticket card) open next, still before park opening time. Then, guests will be stopped by cast members guarding ropes draped across walkways to various areas and lands of the park. When the park opens for the day, those ropes are “dropped” and attractions begin operating.
Rope dropping a Disney World park by arriving before opening time can save you lots of valuable park time waiting in lines later in the day since crowds are lowest at the beginning of the day. A good general guideline is to arrive 45 minutes before park opening. This will give you time to get through security, park entry, and be near the front of the morning crowd for a short wait time at most attractions. If you are expecting to ride one of the most popular headliner attractions, you need to arrive earlier and those will be discussed here one at a time.
Do NOT arrive at a Disney World theme park precisely at the park opening time expecting to ride one of the popular headliners (think Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom) with a short wait. Since park opening procedures begin at least one hour early, those rides are staked out by the early birds so you won’t be near the front of the crowd with those enjoying a shorter wait.
So, does it really save time to rope drop? If you’re arriving so much earlier, that means you’re still going to wait a while, so what’s the difference? This is somewhat true, but when you rope drop, most of your wait time will be outside of park hours.
For example, you want to rope drop Flight of Passage so you arrive at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at 7:45 AM on a day the park opens at 9:00 AM. You proceed through security bag check and park entrance touch points, walk to Pandora, and wait for the rope to drop. This ride typically starts running a little early around 8:45 AM so you could be finished by 9:15 AM. Your entire experience from park arrival to exiting the ride is an hour and a half. However, since you’re walking out of the ride exit around 9:15 AM, you’ve only used 15 minutes of open park time. You can still enjoy another ride or two with shorter lines before the crowds begin to build and you have the entire day ahead of you for the rest of your itinerary. Had you arrived at the Animal Kingdom park entrance right at 9:00 AM instead of over an hour earlier, you’d be much farther back in the Flight of Passage line and should expect at least at a 2 hour wait from that point. If you’re lucky, you’ll be out at 11:00 AM, but probably closer to 11:30. By then, you’ve consumed two and a half hours of open park time, crowds are soon reaching their mid-day peak, and you’ve also missed out on shorter morning lines at other attractions. By arriving over an hour earlier, you save more than twice that amount of time overall!
Now, let’s take a look at rope drop recommendations at each of the four Disney World theme parks.
Rope Drop Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom has an opening character show at the castle and sticks pretty close to that posted park opening time. Magic Kingdom allows guests onto Main Street USA and the castle hub one hour early to help disperse the crowd. Main Street Bakery (Starbucks) is open during this early hour and Main Street Vehicles (a double decker bus, fire truck, and more) are already running. I highly recommend arriving at the beginning of this “bonus” hour as it’s a lovely time to be in the park, enjoy leisurely time for castle photos, and stroll Main Street USA.
There are four rope drop areas at Magic Kingdom around the hub in front of the castle – Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Liberty Square, and Adventureland. You’ll want to eventually wait at the land with the attraction you want to “rope drop” first, but it’s only necessary to start lining up early if you want to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Wait at the Fantasyland rope to the right of the castle about an hour before park opening (as soon as guests are allowed into Main Street USA) to be near the front of the Mine Train line. For all other attractions, feel free to enjoy Starbucks on the hub grass, ride the Main Street Vehicles, take pictures at the castle, and walk over to the land’s rope to wait about 10-15 minutes before the park opening time.
Besides Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, other popular Magic Kingdom attractions you may want to rope drop are Peter Pan’s Flight (use the Liberty Square rope), Space Mountain (Tomorrowland), Jungle Cruise (Adventureland), and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain (Liberty Square). The lines for these rides will grow quickly once the park opens and typically post 60-minute wait times just an hour after the park opens. Still, they don’t require arriving too early most times of the year so just be inside the hub and waiting at the appropriate land’s rope 10-15 minutes early.
How to Rope Drop Epcot
Your rope drop goals at Epcot should be Frozen Ever After or Test Track, both of which post the longest average wait times throughout the day. Soarin’ is also an advantageous one to ride early, but it can still have a reasonably short line when it’s your second ride of the day.
Epcot has two park entrances: the front of the park (where buses, cars, and the monorail will drop you) and the International Gateway (where the Skyliner and Crescent Lake hotels are). You’ll walk to Frozen Ever After sooner from the International Gateway while you should use the main entrance for Test Track. Of course, you can get to either attraction from both entrances, but these are the rope drop recommendations to be closest to the front of the crowds.
At both entrances, bag check and the entry touch points will open around a half hour before park opening time.
After entering at the International Gateway, you’ll be able to then walk past the United Kingdom and be stopped at a rope in front of Canada before the pathway splits left for Soarin’ at The Land or straight for Frozen Ever After in Norway. From the International Gateway, you may also rope drop the Les Halles Boulangerie in France, my personal choice, by waiting at the rope before the bridge to France.
At the front of the park, the rope will stop you somewhere inside the park. With extensive Epcot construction currently underway, the exact location has been fluid. However, if the crowd is split soon after the park entrance and you are given an option, go left for Test Track, Mission: Space, and Frozen Ever After. Go right for Soarin’ and attractions on the west side of the park.
Plan on arriving at your park entrance of choice one hour early to be near the front of Test Track or Frozen Ever After rope drop crowds. For all other attractions, there’s no need to arrive more than a half hour before park opening to still have very short rope drop wait times.
How to Rope Drop Animal Kingdom
You need to arrive very early if you want to rope drop Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Plan on arriving at the bag check lines over one hour early with 75-90 minutes early being a goal. This will put you near the front of the group heading to Flight of Passage so you’re making the most of your early morning. Flight of Passage usually begins operating 15 minutes before the park opening time.
All other rides at Animal Kingdom don’t require such an early arrival. Na’vi River Journey is a great choice to start. It’s a complete walk-on and a quick ride. Like it’s neighbor, Flight of Passage, it usually begins operating 15 minutes before park opening. Get in line and be done with your first ride before the park officially opens!
Kilimanjaro Safari is a huge rope drop destination with wait times that grow quickly once the park opens. Dinosaur and Expedition Everest will also be walk-ons at rope drop with Everest likely post a 60+ minute wait time just an hour into the day. You may even get more than one ride in while it’s short!
Still, for any Animal Kingdom ride other than Flight of Passage, use the standard 30-45 minute advance arrival time recommendation and be ready at bag check at 8:15 AM on a typical 9:00 AM park opening day.
Rope Drop Hollywood Studios
As long as the boarding group system is in place for riding Rise of the Resistance and you want to ride that attraction, you’re going to have to rope drop Hollywood Studios. Entry procedures begin earliest at this park!
Bag check lines open two hours before park opening time and the entry touch points open one hour early. With several new, popular attractions at Hollywood Studios, crowds arrive early and the touchpoint lines can already be very long over an hour and a half before the park opens.
However, you should only arrive this early if you want to ride one of the three most popular Hollywood Studios attractions: Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, or Slinky Dog Dash.
If you want to ride anything else first, you don’t need to arrive until less than an hour early. On a typical 8:00 AM park opening day, arriving at 7:15 AM is fine. The large early bird crowd will already make their way through the entry touch points and you’ll still be inside the park in plenty of time to get your Rise of the Resistance boarding pass and be in line for your first attraction of the day.
Arrive 45 minutes early to rope drop Alien Swirling Saucers or Toy Story Mania in Toy Story Land. I recommend riding Alien Swirling Saucers first as it’s a shorter ride so you’ll be finished with your first ride of the day sooner, allowing you to get to nearby Toy Story Mania before the line gets very long (or breakfast at Woody’s Lunchbox!).
Outside of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Star Tours lines remain short so you don’t need to arrive extra early to walk on and then head into Galaxy’s Edge. Star Tours lines there should remain under a half hour for the first hour of the day.
Down Sunset Boulevard, Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n Roller Coaster lines build quickly once the park opens. Expect to arrive the standard 30-45 minutes early to be near the front of those lines.
Do you get up early to rope drop the Disney World parks?