If you have spent any time doing Disney World vacation planning, then you know the most common advice is to arrive early to the parks, preferably before they even open. Doing so will help you avoid the crowds and spend less time in line. This strategy is referred to as “rope dropping,” and if you’re wondering what it means to rope drop at Disney World, and how to make the most of it, you’ve come to the right place.
Table of contents
- How Does Rope Drop Work at Disney World?
- Why Rope Drop at Disney World?
- Rope Drop at Disney World and Early Theme Park Entry
- Rope Drop at Disney With and Without Genie+
- Not sure what an Individual Lightning Lane is? Be sure to read our blogs on Genie+ and the Individual Lightning Lane.
- How Much Time Can I Really Save by Rope Dropping?
- Do I Really Need to Rope Drop at Disney World?
- What Rides to Rope Drop at Disney World
- Other Reasons to Arrive at Disney World Parks Early
- Recommended Reading
How Does Rope Drop Work at Disney World?
Before park opening, guests tend to line up at the entrances to the various Disney World parks. This human brigade can block the turnstiles and back all the way up to the bus stops at some parks, potentially risking guest safety.
To prevent these issues, Disney allows guests to enter inside the parks prior to opening, as long as they stay behind the “rope gates” that lead to individual lands. When the park officially opens, these ropes are dropped, and guests are allowed admittance into the rest of the park, and the rides. Hence the term “rope drop” at Disney World.
Each park has their own rope drop locations. For example, in Magic Kingdom, guests are allowed rope drop admittance into Main St USA, and the main hub surrounding Cinderella’s Castle. The ropes are located at the entrance to each individual land. A rope can be found at Tomorrowland, Frontierland, and Fantasyland.
Inside Animal Kingdom, guests are allowed pre admittance into the park areas of the Oasis, and sometimes the Tree of Life. The rope can be found either on the bridge prior to the Tree of Life, or on the pathways that lead away from the Tree of Life to the remainder of the park.
Rope Drop at Disney World is the most diverse inside Hollywood Studios. Inside this park, there is no technical rope drop. Instead, guests are allowed to queue up in individual lines for each ride, but admittance onto the ride is not allowed until the park officially opens. This makes for a bit of a smoother experience, as there is no running and rushing to rides when the rope drops.
EPCOT’s rope drop is the shortest, as EPCOT has the most room between the turnstiles and the modes of transportation, so less room is needed inside the parks to hold guests. Additionally, the current construction in the main hub of the park (in 2022) limits the interior areas where guests can fit.
The EPCOT rope drop leaves guests standing directly in front of the park’s icon, Spaceship Earth. Then once the rope is dropped, guests will rush in varying directions around the construction hub to their desired rides.
Why Rope Drop at Disney World?
There are many advantages to using the Disney World rope drop strategy. Guests find that they save time in line and often make better use of their time.
Get Ahead of the Crowds
Many head out on vacation with thoughts of sleeping in and total relaxation. If this is you, you may wonder why people put the effort into the rope drop at Disney World. There are actually quite a few reasons you may want to skip sleeping.
First, many guests, specifically those who are first time Disney visitors, arrive at the parks a few minutes before, or at opening. By planning to rope drop at Disney World, you will automatically be ahead of the lines of this large wave of people.
Get Through Security Faster
Secondly, the Disney World rope drop strategy is great because it gets you through security and potential bag check prior to opening. The line for this can drag on during peak “travel times” to the park and can seriously delay your arrival to the rides.
At all parks, a security screening is required prior to entry, before you even get to the turnstiles. The exception for this is at Magic Kingdom, where monorail and ferry guests will go through this screening at the Transportation and Ticket Center. Resort monorail guests will go through screening prior to boarding the monorail at their resort.
If you arrive at the park 30-40 minutes prior to opening time, you will be through security and the turnstiles, and on and off your first ride before guests who arrived at park opening get inside the park.
Enjoy a Midday Pool Break
By utilizing rope drop at Disney World, you can fit more into your morning, and more into your day, with less wait times. With less wait times you may even find time for that desired relaxation we mentioned earlier.
During many of our trips we begrudgingly roll out of bed very early to make Genie+ reservations and to rope drop our desired park. By lunchtime, we have ridden all the headliner rides in the park and are ready for a rest. We then head back to our Disney resort for the afternoon for some poolside relaxation and naps.
Then, feeling refreshed, we head back to the parks in the early evening after the crowds have dissipated a bit.
Rope Drop at Disney World and Early Theme Park Entry
Many guests wonder if rope dropping at Disney World is still important when they plan to utilize Early Theme Park Entry (ETPE). The answer is yes. The same lines form at the queue ahead of opening for ETPE, so planning to be at the rope when it drops puts you ahead of the many other resort guests who will arrive at ETPE opening.
In this case, you will want to arrive 20 minutes or so before the Early Theme Park Entry opening time, so you can get through security and the turnstiles before the ETPE opening. If you do this, you will be able to ride 1 to 2 rides before the official park opening.
Rope Drop at Disney With and Without Genie+
Rope Dropping Without Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane
It is important to consider if you plan to ride popular attractions that draw high wait times, such as Slinky Dog Dash, Mine Train, Rise of the Resistance, and Flight of Passage, and do not plan to purchase an ILL (individual Lightning Lane,) the Disney World rope drop strategy is the best one to use.
Not sure what an Individual Lightning Lane is? Be sure to read our blogs on Genie+ and the Individual Lightning Lane.
By using the rope drop at Disney World for these popular rides, you can dramatically reduce your wait times. To do so, arrive at each park 30-40 minutes prior to opening. Then, head through security, through the turnstiles, and begin walking to your desired ride.
Here, you will wait until the park officially opens. Often times, they will drop the rope ten minutes or so prior to the park opening, and allow you to walk to your ride and get in line. Occasionally, the rides are already running at this time.
Once the rope drops, be prepared for some hustling to your desired ride. It is not uncommon to see guests sprinting to the rides, though we do not recommend this. You will still have plenty of time to get there and have a low wait time if you walk and will reduce the risk of injury.
Rope Drop with Genie+ and ILL
Genie+ is the new FastPass service and allows you to skip the regular queue for most of the Disney World rides for one fee per guest. Genie+ can save a lot of time, but paired with rope dropping, you can expect minimal wait times all day.
To use the Disney World rope drop strategy and the Lightning Lane together, first, plan on booking one of the most popular rides of the day as soon as the booking window opens for Genie+.
Odds are, the return time for your first ride will not be until late morning. This gives you time to rope drop another one of the long wait time rides as soon as the park opens. It does require a small amount of planning, as you need to book your Genie+ and then be aware of which ride to rope drop.
Many times, you will be able to rope drop one popular ride, and then ride another one with minimal wait before your first genie+ reservation return window is open.
Do I Need to Rope Drop if I Have Early Theme Park Entry?
Even if you have Early Theme Park Entry, it is still a good idea to Rope Drop at Disney World. Early Theme Park Entry is the program that replaced Extra Magic Hours. It allows guests staying onsite at Disney World hotels to enter any Disney World park 30 minutes prior to the scheduled opening.
With this added perk, you may find rope dropping is still a useful strategy to apply. Disney World has a large number of resorts, with an even larger number of rooms in each. Therefore, Early Theme Park Entry is not as exclusive as you would think. It also does not bring low of crowds like you’d expect.
Those who utilize Early Theme Park Entry (ETPE) will swarm the popular rides as soon as they are allowed entrance inside the park, if you do not rope drop this already early time, you will find yourself and your group a bit behind the curve.
Guests who wish to rope drop but do not have ETPE, will be asked to wait in a separate rope drop area, allowing ETPE guests to rope drop 30 minutes prior to park opening.
With the time limit being a short 30 minutes, it is best to optimize your time by being the first person on an attraction. This can be accomplished by arriving even earlier than the ETPE time, and rope dropping.
How Much Time Can I Really Save by Rope Dropping?
We have mentioned many times that by using the Disney World rope drop strategy you can save time. For example, wait times for Slinky Dog Dash average 70 minutes at 1 pm in the afternoon.
By rope dropping this attraction, you can get in line as soon as the park opens, and ride Slinky Dog Dash with less than a 20 minute wait (the wait time spikes to 60 minutes within 30 minutes of opening typically).
This can save you 50 minutes right off the bat and allow you to get in line for the next ride sooner.
Do I Really Need to Rope Drop at Disney World?
The answer to this is simply… “it depends” on how you prefer to run your Disney vacation. When you rope drop at Disney World, you will be required to get up early, and do some planning, but will be rewarded with shorter wait times on the popular rides.
There are a few categories of Disney travelers who may not find rope dropping to be for them:
- The Late sleeper- Guests who prefer to sleep in, awake as they feel like it, and don’t mind waiting in line.
- The Go with the Flow Traveler- guests who don’t like structured vacations or the tedious planning that comes with it. These guests prefer to pick attractions as they feel like it, without worrying about wait times.
- The Travelers Who Don’t Care About Lines- Guests who don’t fret about wait times have no need to rope drop.
- Take Me to the Shows- Guests who prefer to spend their time watching shows, parades, and maybe even shopping, do not need to rope drop as crowds for these activities remain fairly manageable throughout the day.
If you fit into one of these four categories, you will probably want to skip the hassle of the rope drop at Disney World, and just enjoy your Disney vacation as you see fit.
What Rides to Rope Drop at Disney World
Since you are still reading, you are probably searching for rope drop strategies for each park. Below, we will discuss our tried and true methods for a flawless rope drop.
What Rides to Rope Drop at Magic Kingdom
If you are not using an induvial Lightning Lane for Mine Train, you should make a beeline there immediately at rope drop.
If you are using Genie+, we recommend making your first pass Genie+ for Jungle Cruise, and rope dropping either Peter Pan or Space Mountain, whichever you prefer. Lines for the rest of the popular rides, such as Thunder Mountain, or Splash Mountain will not peak until midday, so you still should have time to ride them after your initial rope drop ride.
What Rides to Rope Drop at Animal Kingdom
When it comes to rope drop at Disney World, Animal Kingdom is one of the easiest to strategize for. Flight of Passage (FOP) is the obvious rope drop choice. But, be aware you will be racing to the ride with a decent sized group at rope drop.
If Individual Lightning Lanes are in your budget, we highly recommend purchasing the one for Flight of Passage, and rope dropping Expedition Everest instead, then heading to the safari before your FOP Lightning Lane return time.
Many guests rope drop Flight of Passage, and then ride Na’vi River Journey while they are there. If you can avoid this section of the park in the morning and head to Expedition Everest first, you can usually ride the coaster 2-3 times in a row with virtually no wait.
What Rides to Rope Drop at EPCOT
EPCOT is a bit tricky when it comes to rope drop at Disney World. EPCOT has a couple new attractions that draw long lines.
If you are not purchasing an Individual Lightning Lane for Guardians of the Galaxy, you need to head there first. (Currently, in September 2022, Guardians of the Galaxy does not have a standby queue, only a virtual queue, but rumors suggest that will change soon. These plans below are for Guardians of the Galaxy as a standby queue.)
Even when rope dropping the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster, the line will be a bit long, but much shorter than any other time in the day.
If you are purchasing an ILL for Guardians of the Galaxy, and using Genie+, then make your first genie+ reservation for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, or Frozen Ever After, and plan to rope drop Test Track.
If you are not using Genie+ in EPCOT, you will want to rope drop either Remy’s, or Frozen, and then rush to Test Track immediately after.
What Rides to Rope Drop at Hollywood Studios
Generally, if you plan to rope drop at Disney World inside Hollywood Studios without using Individual Lightning Lanes or Genie+, you will want to start with Rise of the Resistance or Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster.
Slinky Dog Dash will also be on this list if you are not staying in the park all day. If you are staying in the park all day, we tend to ride Slinky Dog Dash immediately before park closing. The line is very short at this time, and riding Slinky at night is a fun experience.
If you are using an ILL for Rise of the Resistance, then we suggest Rope Dropping Rock ‘n’Rollercoaster, Tower of Terror or Slinky Dog Dash.
Typically, if you rope drop either Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster or Tower of Terror first, you can teasily ride one after the other with minimal wait, due to their proximity and the fact that many guests will be in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.
Other Reasons to Arrive at Disney World Parks Early
If you are planning to grab a cup of coffee inside the parks first thing from either Starbucks or Jeoffrey’s, then plan to arrive early. First thing in the morning, it is not uncommon for the coffee lines to reach 10-15 minutes or even up to an hour during peak travel times!
Another reason you may want to set an early alarm while on your Disney World vacation is for the photo ops. Early in the morning crowds are quieter at the main Disney PhotoPass sites. With all the guests rushing to the rides, the Photopass photographers also have shorter lines. This might be especially important if you purchase Memory Maker.
We also love heading to the Disney parks early to explore the park “streets” with less people. One particular morning we arrived at Animal Kingdom for an ETPE rope drop and perused the paths of Dinoland USA, and Asia with almost no one in sight.
Lastly, we find arriving at the parks early allow for a crowd free shopping experience, particularly in Magic Kingdom. Many popular Disney stores inside the parks are full of wall to wall crowds by midday, especially the Emporium.
Early in the mornings, the shops are open and practically empty.
3 thoughts on “What is Rope Dropping at Disney World?”