Sunday, April 10, 2011

To Rope Drop or Not to Rope Drop

What you would get to see at Animal Kingdom rope drop
Throughout my childhood, we weren't rope drop people.  We were the people who strolled into the Magic Kingdom at 11 am and waiting on line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for 90 minutes in the Florida heat.  We were the people you pity if you're a rope drop person.  When my mom planned our August 2009 trip, however, I was ready to do my research.  And if you do your research for one moment on how to tour the Disney parks most efficiently, you will find that the number one tip is to arrive to the park before rope drop.  But how do you decide if you're going to wake up early and make that trek to the parks at an hour you don't want to see when you're on vacation?  Well maybe I can help.

Rope Drop Pros:
  • Each park has its own little rope drop show, unique to which park you're at.  Magic Kingdom's is most people's favorites (including mine), but I also really like the shows at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.  Epcot's doesn't enthuse me.
  • If you want to ride the headliner of the park more than once without waiting more than 45 minutes, rope drop is a must.  Ride Soarin' (or Space Mountain or Toy Story Mania or Expedition Everest) immediately, and then get a Fastpass for later.  Most likely your Fastpass will be good in the very near future, so you're not stuck in the park all night like you may be if you wait until 11 or 12 to get a Fastpass.
  • You will get things done... fast.  On an average day at the Magic Kingdom (let's say crowd levels are around a 5), we have gotten every ride and show we wanted to see plus lunch done by 2 pm or earlier.  I'm talking 10-12 attractions in five hours or less.  When do the majority get done?  In the first hour that the park is open.
Rope Drop Cons:
  • You have to wake up early.  To be at the parks before 9, we usually wake up at 7.  Some people don't want to be up that early on vacation.  I value ride time more than relax time.  But for some people, waking up early is the big deal breaker.
  • You have to wake up really early.  Plan on taking Disney transportation?  To be sure you'll arrive in time for rope drop, especially to the Magic Kingdom, you should get on a bus before 8:30.  Ideally before 8:15.  Heck, once we got on a bus to Animal Kingdom at 8:00.  That means we were done with breakfast by 8.  So we were down at the food court by 7:30.
  • You have to wait on line at the turnstiles.  Unfortunately, even if you arrive to the park at 8, they won't let you in until 8:45 at the earliest.  Yes, that means 45 minutes waiting at the turnstiles, but unless you're visiting at an absolutely crazy time, that's pretty much all you'll be waiting all day.   Plus, the earlier you are, the more likely you are to be picked as Family of the Day, and the more likely you are to not be stuck behind someone who can't remember which finger they used to scan in the previous day.
Other important factors:
  • If you're visiting Walt Disney World at a busy time, you should highly consider getting to the park at rope drop.  That in combination with a touring plan is really the only way you're going to have a successful day.  Trust me, you'll get more done by noon than most families will get done in the entire day.
  • If you're visiting Walt Disney World at a very hot time of year, you should highly consider getting to the park at rope drop.  The early morning is much less hot and humid than mid-afternoon.  Get the bulk of your attractions done early, then go back to the hotel for a nap, go for a swim, or go for a nice, long, air conditioned lunch.  Come back to the park around 5 or 6.  It'll be less crowded than the mid-afternoon, and you can finish up any attractions you didn't get in the morning.  You'll get just as much or more done than if you arrived at 11 or 12, and you'll have missed the hottest (and most likely the rainiest) part of the day.
Okay yes, if you haven't realized yet, I'm biased against rope drop.  I know it's not for everyone, and especially if you've been to the parks many times, you may not feel the need to get there super early.  But if you don't get to the parks that often, and you want to maximize your touring time, rope drop is for you.  Even though James and I have been to Walt Disney World three times in the past two years, we will be arriving at rope drop during our upcoming August trip.  Why?  It's just too darn hot to be there during the afternoon!  It's worth being a little tired to not be melting in mid-afternoon heat.  Plus a nice afternoon nap perks us right up.

Do you arrive at the parks at rope drop?  What do you think about getting there bright and early?  Let me know in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!


  1. My family was just like yours. We were the suckers who waited 2 hours to ride Splash in the middle of the summer. Dumb.

    If you miss your sleep waking up early, shoot. You can always go back to your place at 2 and sleep.

  2. Exactly! Plus there are always those dark, air conditioned shows if you need a power nap lol!

  3. Growing up, I was not a rope-dropper. However, as an adult I like Rope Drop because it affords me more time to do what I want to do on my Disney vacation.

  4. My family are rope-droppers, and not just because it's a MAN LAW to experience rope drop. I have to admit, I really don't understand people who sleep in at WDW. You can sleep in for free at home! Why pay Disney for sleeping in?

    In all seriousness, this post hits all of the important reasons to make rope drop:
    1) Tour headliners before the lines get long
    2) Get the majority of touring done before the hottest part of the day
    3) Take best advantage of Fast Passes (my favorite trick - grab Fast Passes in the morning, stick them in my pocket, go back to the hotel for a nap, return for evening touring with Fast Passes already in-hand!

  5. Agreed! You don't want to be the person who thought they could walk onto Toy Story Mania at 11am, and there's a two hour wait plus no Fastpasses!

  6. We were just at WDW with the Spring Break CROWDS and rope drop was critical!! We also subscribe to so we followed them to the letter. We also had a rental car which we highly recommend so we drove to AK and MK and walked to Epcot and DHS from the Dolphin, avoiding the potentially long bus wait times. We woke up at 7:00 and used the coffee maker to make oatmeal (The Boardwalk store carries individual boxes with different flavours) before we made our Starbucks coffee. Breakfast was a breeze so we were at the parks 60 - 70 minutes before opening without a problem. We were done the touring plans by lunchtime just as the 11:00 am arrivals were lining up for Space, Everest, TSMM and Soarin' and we got to go relax by the pool, swim, play mini-golf, rent Surrey bikes and drive Sea Racers on Bay Lake, with fastpasses in hand for later that evening. BEST TRIP EVER! We will never sleep in at Disney again! Great blog topic! Thanks!

  7. Yay, your story is exactly why people should try rope drop. Once they see how much they can get done, I dare them to try to sleep in again. Why wait on line for rides when you don't have to?

    Plus it's awesome how many other cool non-park things you got to do with all the time you saved!