We are morning people, especially on vacation. It’s so much easier to get my kids up early than to expect them to stay out late. Magic Kingdom rope drop is always on our itinerary.
Even if your family doesn’t usually get out of bed easily in the morning, you should strongly consider a few early mornings during your Disney vacation to take advantage of the lowest crowd levels of the day.
Rope drop at Disney World refers to opening time at the parks, when a rope separating waiting guests from the park is removed (“dropped,” in more dramatic speak) by cast members and guests may enter. The term is used both as a noun and a verb: “My family is going to Magic Kingdom at rope drop.” and “We’re going to rope drop Magic Kingdom tomorrow.”
English class over.
So, let me paint a little picture of our perfect Magic Kingdom rope drop morning. Then, I’ll give you options for the attractions you should head to first. This is how we ease our way into a busy, crowded Magic Kingdom park day. Instead of arriving mid-morning when the park is already hectic, we get there early and enjoy a peaceful park before crowds start to build.
Don’t the follow photos show such a lovely, stress-free start to a day at the Magic Kingdom?
A Perfect Magic Kingdom Rope Drop Morning
We board the bus at our hotel and arrive at Magic Kingdom shortly before 8:00 AM. The park officially opens at 9:00 AM. At this early bonus hour, we breeze right through security and enter a quiet park. The Main Street Vehicles are already running so we hop on the omnibus in Town Square and ride up Main Street to the castle in style.
Few guests have made it to the hub yet. Disney’s PhotoPass photographers are plentiful yet so un-busy that they are looking for potential guests to photograph (yet, shortly, every one of them will have a line waiting for a picture!). We have a family photo taken in front of the castle with no one else around.
We leisurely make our way back to Main Street and stop in the Main Street Bakery (Magic Kingdom’s Starbucks) for breakfast. We bring our drinks and food to one of several quaint tables at the end of nearby Center Street, a persistently unbusy alleyway just off bustling Main Street. Unless you’re looking for it, you probably walk right by without noticing this delightful space.
We enjoy our breakfast in peace and quiet, listening to Main Street USA’s ambient music, and the “businesses” in the surrounding buildings. One window advertises a singing studio so we occasionally hear a vocal lesson underway. A piano lesson is heard from another window. From this peaceful vantage point, we watch a constant stream of guests flowing down Main Street towards the hub.
Around ten minutes before rope drop, we make our way to the hub and wait at the Tomorrowland bridge where a crowd is only just beginning to form. Most guests are in the hub center for the best view of the castle welcome show and at the Fantasyland bridge to head straight to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Unlike the crowd waiting to enter Fantasyland, we can still catch glimpses of the show in the distance from the Tomorrowland bridge.
When the rope drops, we casually make our way into Tomorrowland, stopping at the Astro Orbiter first. Along with four other guests, we’re the first to fly that morning and with so few guests in line, the boys and I each get our own spaceship. After the first flight, only two new guests step off the elevator so we stay to ride again. This happens again and we ride a third time … each in our own spaceships all three times before a line begins to form.
After a relaxing, nearly crowd-free start to our day, we continue enjoying Tomorrowland attractions for the rest of the morning and spend the remainder of the day in the Magic Kingdom.
Now, if you’re sleeping in or eating a big breakfast to start your day, you miss out on leisurely, stress-free park mornings like this. And maybe that’s fine for your family. Maybe character breakfasts are an important Disney tradition or you just don’t want to set an alarm while on vacation. However, if you want a stress-free and relaxing start to your day in the parks, keep reading.
Here are the takeaways from this picture perfect Magic Kingdom morning…
Rope Drop to Avoid Crowds
The advantage of being at any Disney park at rope drop is that this is when crowds will be the shortest of the day so you can ride the most popular attractions with a short wait even without a FastPass. If rides and attractions are your family’s priority, skip the big breakfast and get to the parks when they open!
When you visit Magic Kingdom, there are crowds at transportation. Crowds at security. Crowds just walking down Main Street. All of these are avoided when you rope drop Magic Kingdom.
Take the Bus
Unlike the other three parks, the Magic Kingdom parking lot is separated from the main park entrance by the Seven Seas Lagoon which requires a ferry or monorail ride from the parking lot to the main entrance.
The bus terminal, however, is right beside the entrance so Magic Kingdom is the one park that I always recommend taking the free bus from your Disney hotel. The direct route will almost always be faster than parking and taking additional transportation to the entrance.
Magic Kingdom Rope Drop Procedures
At Magic Kingdom, where standard opening time is 9:00 AM (always check calendars to verify the opening times during your vacation dates), guests are able to begin entering the park as early as 7:45 AM.
At this early “bonus” hour, Main Street USA and the castle hub are open, and there are ropes closing off each of the four lands that connect to the hub – Adventureland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland.
While rides don’t open until the posted park opening time, central Magic Kingdom is very much open and active beforehand.
About five minutes before the park officially opens, there is a welcome show at the castle stage. Many characters walk on the stage while Mickey Mouse and the Fairy Godmother open the park. Unless you’re a huge character fan, don’t feel the need to watch the castle show from a prime viewing area. It’s brief and there is another longer castle stage show that takes place multiple times during the day.
Bonus Hour Shopping and Dining
During this pre-opening hour, several locations on Main Street are open to guests including gift shops and Main Street Bakery (Starbucks). The Plaza Restaurant, Be Our Guest, and The Crystal Palace are also open before park opening time, but you’ll need reservations for those.
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast from Main Street Bakery and either eat at Center Street or one of the numerous tables on the edge of the hub in front of Casey’s Corner (red umbrella tables) or the Plaza Restaurant (yellow umbrella tables). Or sit in the hub grass!
Bonus Hour Activities
Main Street vehicles will also usually be running. These include the omnibus, fire truck, and old timey car. The trolley show singers will occasionally be performing as well.
This is also a great time to get a photo in front of Cinderella castle without many people around. PhotoPass photographers are already lining Main Street and the hub remains pretty empty until around 8:30.
OK, after the lovely bonus hour at Magic Kingdom is over and the park opens, which way to you head first? Here are your best options for your first attraction of the day. The goal here is to go on the rides that will be crowded later in the day.
above – Peter Pan Flight’s 5-minute wait right after rope drop.
below – Already a 40-minute wait just minutes later! (note the clock isn’t even 9:10 yet!)
*Don’t* Rope Drop Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
I don’t recommend rope dropping Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. It’s by far the most stressful option when rope dropping Magic Kingdom and you miss out on enjoying the magical early bonus hour along Main Street by just standing at the rope.
If you want to be at the front of the line for Magic Kingdom’s most popular attraction, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, you really need to stand at that Fantasyland rope (to the right of the castle) as early as possible. If you arrive at 9:00 AM for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, you’ll already be in line behind hundreds of guests who arrived already. Be in line by 8:15 AM at the latest to be among the first wave of guests on the ride and make the early morning wake up call worthwhile.
If you’re tempted to rope drop Seven Dwarfs Mine Train because you can’t get a FastPass, follow my recommended from Magic Kingdom FastPass Tips and try it at night instead.
Rope Drop Peter Pan’s Flight
Peter Pan’s Flight is another popular ride to rope drop as it posts hour-plus wait times most of the day and is one of the most difficult Magic Kingdom FastPasses to reserve. You will want to wait at the Liberty Square rope for Peter Pan’s Flight. While you don’t need to be in line quite as early as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, you also can’t expect to watch the castle welcome show from the center of the hub and still make it to Peter Pan’s Flight with no line.
During my Peter Pan’s Flight rope drop experience, I arrived at the Liberty Square rope (to the left of the castle) around 8:50 AM with few guests waiting already. Some of the guests at this rope are heading to Frontierland anyway, so stay to the right to veer off into Fantasyland. As soon as the rope dropped, I proceeded directly to Peter Pan’s Flight, walked straight through the queue and boarded my pirate ship barely slowing my walking speed. When I exited this brief ride just minutes later, the guests who had watched the welcome show were still arriving and the posted wait time was already 40 minutes.
above – Even after riding Peter Pan’s Flight first, Frontierland is still EMPTY around 9:15!
below – Big Thunder Mountain is still a complete walk-on at 9:15 AM
Rope Drop Adventureland and Frontierland
Rope dropping the left/west side of the park is always a great choice. This area of the park features some of the Magic Kingdom’s most popular rides yet wait times remain brief for the first hour of the day while the majority of guests head straight to Fantasyland so you can knock out quite a few headliners.
With Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain side by side, Frontierland is great choice. Head to Big Thunder first since it’s a shorter ride so you’ll still get to Splash Mountain with minimal wait.
In Adventureland, Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean are two more headliners that often post hour-long wait times later in the day. You’ll be able to finish both of these in under an hour during the first hour of the day.
Rope Drop Tomorrowland
We love rope dropping Tomorrowland. It’s easy to finish the entire land during the first two hours of the day and then move on to Fantasyland with FastPasses. Most guests waiting in the hub at the Tomorrowland rope will head straight to Space Mountain so follow along if Space is your speed, or walk on any other attraction with no wait.
Are you willing to set an alarm clock on vacation if it means fewer crowds?