There’s a lot to see and do during your Walt Disney World vacation. In fact, there’s more than is humanly possible to get to in a basic week-long stay. Maximizing your park time by arriving before opening (or what’s known as Rope Drop) can be one of the best ways to ensure you get to experience everything on your “must-do” list. Being at the gates this early can allow you to get on headliner attractions with little wait, explore areas of the park with low crowds and even do some shopping.
Rope Drop is a common term used to indicate when a Walt Disney World theme park opens to guests for the day. It refers to Cast Members holding crowds back from entering with a rope until time. An actual rope may or may not be used, and it isn’t as if this rope is dramatically dropped to the ground, releasing a horde of frantically running park guests. The term is a bit more figurative and the process far more orderly than it implies. While rope drop is handled much the same in all of Walt Disney World theme parks, there are a few procedural differences. Whichever park you are visiting, The Professor recommends getting there at least 30 minutes to an hour before opening.
Magic Kingdom Rope Drop
Arriving at the Magic Kingdom early is essential for guests wishing to experience all of the parks main attractions. This park has more rides than any of the resort’s other locations and can build up some of the longest lines later in the day. The Magic Kingdom begins allowing guests to enter the park an hour before posted opening time. Guests proceed through the security checkpoints either outside the gates, at a resort, or at the Transportation and Ticket Center and scan their ticket or MagicBand at the turnstiles. They are then free to explore the Main Street U.S.A. section of the park until the Magic Kingdom Welcome Show at Cinderella Castle. Cast Members limit entrance to the rest of the park’s lands unless a guest has a dining reservation in that area. Disney PhotoPass photographers are available and the relatively low crowd makes for some of the best castle family photos. Most shops along Main Street and the Main Street Bakery (Starbucks) are open at this time to all guests as well.
Epcot Rope Drop
Epcot has a rope drop procedure unique in comparison to the resort’s other parks. Currently, Epcot is split between two sections: Future World at the front, and World Showcase at the back. This division extends to its opening process with World Showcase opening much later than Future World. World Showcase usually has a scheduled opening of 11 a.m. no matter when the park is listed as opening. This means that the official park rope drop will only allow guests to experience Future World before that time. Epcot will usually allow guests through security checkpoints and turnstiles roughly 30 minutes prior to park opening. Guests are then held back by Cast Members just before passing under Spaceship Earth unless they have an early dining reservation. For World Showcase, Frozen Ever After is the only attraction in this area to open at the same time as Future World. All other World Showcase offerings will open at 11 a.m. Epcot is currently a park undergoing major change with a massive overhaul to Futureworld that has already begun. This means that the process could change at any time to accommodate construction.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Rope Drop
Disney’s Hollywood Studios has seen a recent increase in early morning attendance due to the inclusions of Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to the park. Guests wishing to experience Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run with as little wait as possible will want to make rope drop a priority since this headliner is currently operating without FastPass access. Guests are allowed through security checkpoints and turnstiles roughly 30 minutes prior to the scheduled opening and are able to explore the Hollywood Boulevard section with access to shops and the Trolley Car Cafe (Starbucks). Cast Members hold guests without early morning dining reservations back at the end of Hollywood Boulevard, right before the Chinese Theater until scheduled opening. Guests wishing to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge first will want to stay to the left of the crowd.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Rope Drop
Disney’s Animal Kingdom rope drop usually begins 30 minutes prior to scheduled opening, but can sometimes extend to an hour before, depending on the time of the year. Guests are allowed through security checkpoints and turnstiles where they are free to explore the Oasis section of the park. This is a great chance to see some of the animals on display that can easily be missed by guests hurriedly on their way to an attraction. Cast Members hold guests without dining reservations back at the entrance to Discovery Island, just beyond the bridge. Guests wishing to experience the park’s most popular attraction, Avatar Flight of Passage, will want to line up to the left of the Tree of Life to make a direct walk to the ride. Those wishing to ride Expedition Everest will want to head to the right.
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