For many visitors, a trip to the Disney theme parks is a vacation. And who wants to wake up early on vacation? Well, maybe after reading this article you might change your mind. In Disney lingo, park opening time is called Rope Drop. Anyone who has participated in Rope Drop at Disney parks before, myself included, will probably rave to you about its benefits. Keep reading to understand what Rope Drop is, why it is so valuable, and what you can do to make the most of it!
What Is Rope Drop
Rope Drop is a term that refers to the park opening time at Disney theme parks. The term is derived from the opening procedures in the park, which involve ropes strung across land entrances keeping guests out until official opening time. Once official opening time hits, Cast Members remove the ropes and guests set off to enjoy their day in the parks.
An important note is that rope drop typically happens within the park, rather than at the park front gates. Disney allows you to enter the park earlier than actual opening time. And then blocks guests with ropes from going too far into the park before officially opening. This allows you to get some coffee, go to the bathroom, etc. without using up actual park time.
When To Arrive For Rope Drop At Disney Parks
Rope Drop happens exactly at park opening time each day. However, you do not want to show up for Rope Drop at the scheduled park opening time – you want to be there EARLY. How early I would say depends on the season. In busy seasons, like spring break or during holidays, I would recommend aiming to get to the park an hour before Rope Drop. In slower times of the year, arriving about 45-30 minutes before Rope Drop is perfectly acceptable.
Arriving early for Rope Drop is almost as important, if not more important, as actually attending Rope Drop. This is because you don’t just get to walk into the park when you arrive. Instead, you need to go through bag check, wait in a line at the turnstiles, scan your park tickets at the gate, and then walk further into the park to the actual Rope Drop location. All of this takes a lot of time and is usually forgotten about, or underestimated, by Disney park go-ers who aren’t as fanatical as you and I.
So yes, it is a commitment to get up early and arrive at the parks a full hour or more before they actually open. I totally understand that. But, the bliss of an uncrowded Disney theme park can not be overstated. Those first few hours are really stress free and allow you to experience so much more than you could have if you slept in. Just plan to take a midday break when the crowds are thick and you can rest then instead.
Why Arriving For Rope Drop At Disney Parks Is So Valuable
I always recommend to arrive early for Rope Drop to anyone who will listen to me. In my past experiences I have been able to accomplish more rides in the first opening hour than I have in four hours combined in the evening. If you still are not convinced, take a look at this chart below that lists the wait times for Space Mountain by hour based on wait time data collected and analyzed over the years. Space Mountain is arguably one of the most popular rides at any Disney theme park, so this is a good example.
In addition to shorter wait times and less crowds, arriving early for Rope Drop is especially imperative if you want to ride the newest ride at Hollywood Studios – Rise of the Resistance. As of December 2019, Rise of the Resistance is operating on a virtual queue system. Meaning that you use your My Disney Experience App to get a boarding pass for the ride to come back at a certain time and ride.
I have been following the boarding pass distribution and every day since its opening, boarding passes have “sold out” for the day within about an hour or less of park opening time. So to ride Rise of the Resistance especially, you NEED to be at the park for Rope Drop in order to get your boarding pass. If you arrive too late, you won’t be able to ride it at all because there is no stand-by queue currently.
Save Your FastPasses!
Arriving for Rope Drop is also especially valuable in Walt Disney World because you can hit several FastPass attractions with waits so low you don’t even need a FastPass. Which saves you from using up any of the three coveted pre-planned FastPasses. So you are able to do many more FastPass rides in total by arriving for Rope Drop. Then you can use those FastPasses later in the day when the park starts to get crowded.
Develop A Strategy For Rope Drop At Disney Parks
So if you’re going to commit and wake up early for Rope Drop, then I would recommend that you go in with a plan. There’s nothing worse than waking up early for Rope Drop and then not being able to take advantage of the empty parks because you’re too busy arguing with your family about what you want to do. Take it from someone who has been on countless family trips to Disney theme parks… a happy (and successful) day always starts with a plan.
To make your touring plan, I recommend that you have each of your travelling party members specify a few of their must-do attractions for that day/trip. Once you have an idea of what you need to get done, start developing your plan. I like to start my day with my first ride being a FastPass ride. BUT this is specifically a ride that I do NOT have a FastPass for. Then after I’ve completed my first FastPass ride, I will either choose to ride some of the rides nearby or if wait times are still low, I will find another FastPass ride that we don’t have booked and will ride that.
Essentially, you want to make your plan so that you are riding things in the morning that require FastPasses later in the day. This will save you FastPasses so that you don’t have to use them up when wait times are low.
Help With Determining Your Touring Plan for Rope Drop at Disney Parks
My General Advice
I always suggest to start your general Disney trip planning with having each person travelling choose three items they REALLY want to get done on the trip. What I suggest then, is see if you can get these items done for everyone at Rope Drop without using a Fast Pass, if possible.
For example, let’s say my family was going to the Magic Kingdom for just one day, here is a list of what our top three items would be and our touring plan…
- Me (Allison): 1. Splash Mountain, 2. Space Mountain, 3. Big Thunder Mountain
- Mark: 1. Space Mountain, 2. Pirates of the Caribbean, 3. People Mover
- Mom: 1. People Mover, 2. Splash Mountain, 3. Peter Pan
So from this list you can see that all of these rides except People Mover offer Fast Pass reservations. But there are more than three Fast Pass rides on our list here so we would already be over our daily advanced allotment – UNLESS we utilize Rope Drop.
For example, our touring plan might look like this:
- 0. Arrive for Rope Drop 45 minutes at least before park open
- 1. Big Thunder Mountain standy – no Fast Pass
- 2. Splash Mountain standy – no Fast Pass
- 3. Pirates of the Caribbean standy – no Fast Pass
- 4. People Mover standy – no Fast Pass
- 5. 1st Fast Pass: Space Mountain
- 6. Treats, Other Rides with Short Waits, Food, Etc.
- 7. 2nd Fast Pass: Peter Pan
So this plan allows all three of us to each hit our top picks for the day, and we would still have one Fast Pass leftover to use for something else we haven’t done yet or to ride one of our favorites again! It takes a bit of practice, planning, and forethought to make a touring plan so don’t wait until the day before your trip. Stay tuned to the blog and I will post more touring plan tips in the near future. Or you can check out my favorite touring plan company below.
Try a Subscription with Touring Plans
If you need some help with your touring plan, there are a lot of great resources online. The first I always recommend is the company Touring Plans. They are a team of mathematicians and engineers who love Disney just like you and I. Here is an example video of the Touring Plans team testing out one of their plans at the Magic Kingdom:
Touring Plans has created a program online that allows you to choose the attractions you want to do, what FastPass reservations you already have, and what dining or breaks you want to include. Then they create a personalized strategic touring plan for you based on your interests. I personally use this service for ALL of my Disney trips and I can wholeheartedly recommend them for your trips as well.
Touring Plans offers their planning services through a yearly subscription for a small fee – about $10.00 per year. I personally think it is well worth it to have their expertise at your disposal.