When it comes to conquering Disney World and making the most of your day in the parks, many guests would traditionally take advantage of “rope drop.” Not familiar? Each park previously would handle rope drop a bit differently, but basically it is the process of first opening the parks each day to guests or, for guests, the process of getting there EARLY to be one of the first people in the park.
The name is based on a literal rope being draped across the front of land entrances before they opened for the day. Sometimes Cast Members would stretch a rope in front of the park opening crowd and walk them back to the most popular ride, reduing the ability of guests to run to the most popular attraction, which is obviously dangerous for other guests and Cast Members.
But now, in a reopened Disney World, is rope drop still even a thing? Is it still worth it to wake up SUPER early and be among the first guests to enter the parks each day? Let’s take a look at what our experience has been like since the parks reopened and share our thoughts!
Why did rope drop matter pre-closure?
Before the parks closed, most guests would not arrive the moment a park opened each morning. In fact, the average guest would typically arrive a few hours AFTER park opening, whether that is because they had a breakfast reservation or they simply wanted a few extra hours of snoozing. This meant that the early guests got the chance to ride the most popular ride a time or two before the huge crowds arrived!
Each park handled rope drop a bit differently. Magic Kingdom had a welcome show at the castle and guests could linger on Main Street, U.S.A. for some time before official park open for the day. Other parks would have ropes blocking off entrance to certain lands, or even the whole park.
Those who frequently conquer rope drop know that they can typically score a few hours in the parks with lower crowds, meaning that those popular attractions can be checked off of those “to do” lists earlier.
What have our rope drop experiences been like since the parks began reopening?
From what we have experienced thus far, we have gotten the feeling that Disney is discouraging guests from congregating at the front of the parks like they used to when experiencing rope drop. Disney’s transportation hours have been limited, and guests have not been allowed to park in parking lots until right before park opening times.
On a morning where Magic Kingdom opened at 9AM, the monorail began operation at 8:30AM, which doesn’t leave you with a whole lot of time to get inside the park early in the first place! And on a morning where Animal Kingdom opened at 8AM, we were not allowed into the parking lot until 7:40AM! Those parking lot hours also create a backlog of cars trying to enter at the same time, as we saw at EPCOT.
When you factor in steps like walking from your car to the park, and going through security screenings, odds are high that you may NOT make it into the park in time for rope drop right now. This may be intentional in an effort to reduce crowding and large groups at the gates.
So is rope drop still a thing? Well, yeah, they still open the parks. But Disney is definitely discouraging the crowds gathering early — sometimes hours early — for park opening.
Is rope drop still worth waking up for?
In our experience since the parks reopened, being the FIRST guest in the most parks doesn’t have a lot of benefit. With limited capacity in the parks, it’s not difficult to experience every ride in a day; and most rides you’ll be able to ride multiple times in your day. Wait times across the board have been SIGNIFICANTLY lower on many popular attractions due to the limited capacity, including Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom, which we have regularly seen at a FIVE MINUTE WAIT!
With parking lots opening later, and Disney transportation running at limited capacity, rushing to be first in the park could be a much bigger hassle than waiting an hour and arriving a bit later.
Plus being at the park first thing could actually be less than ideal since that initial rush of guests getting in first thing in the morning can cause crowding and backups. If you want to avoid crowds as much as possible, we recommend arriving around one hour or later after the parks open. You should still have plenty of time to ride everything you want to ride, even at Magic Kingdom!
Keep in mind that Disney has suspended any morning shows that typically take place at park opening. Specifically at Magic Kingdom, there are no morning castle shows to welcome guests in the park, making “rope drop” much less of an event than it was prior.
What about Hollywood Studios?
Does it make sense to skip rope drop every day? We have one BIG exception to this rule. If you are visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we STILL recommend you try to make it into the park for rope drop. This is for a couple of reasons.
First, in our experience visiting the theme parks, Hollywood Studios felt very different than the other three parks. In fact, Hollywood Studios felt more like it did pre-closure than any of the other theme parks we’ve visited. This may be because of the number of sought-after rides AND various pinch points throughout the park where crowding can occur, but it definitely FELT more crowded.
With no shows or entertainment available at Hollywood Studios for the time being, that leaves only the rides for guests to check out. With fewer rides and shows to occupy guests, we saw significantly longer wait times at Hollywood Studios, especially for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, which we’ve seen fill up its queue and have to turn guests away!
Then there’s Rise of the Resistance. This is still the most popular attraction at Disney World, with those coveted Boarding Groups back and up for grabs.
And they are just as coveted as they were pre-closure. Those Boarding Groups are STILL being snatched up like hotcakes at Hollywood Studios, with each of the distribution times filling up in a matter of minutes (or less!).
If you want to increase your chances of riding Rise of the Resistance, then it would behoove you to be at Disney’s Hollywood Studios BEFORE the official park opening time so that once 10AM on the dot hits, you’ll be INSIDE the park and can try for your first of two attempts at the elusive boarding groups (if you don’t get one, you can try again at 2PM!).
Overall, Disney World is certainly treating rope drop a little differently than it has in the past. Once a challenging yet fun way to kick off your day, it’s now almost not worth it unless you want to try your luck at a 10AM Boarding Group for Rise of the Resistance.
But overall, due to limited capacity in the parks, it is generally VERY easy to ride every ride you want on a given day, so don’t stress if you can’t make it inside the gates at opening!
Do you typically take advantage of rope drop when you visit Disney World? Do you think you’ll continue to do so while capacity is limited? Let us know in the comments!