If you’re planning your first Disney World vacation, then you’ve likely seen the term “rope drop” thrown around quite a bit. Rope drop refers to the literal dropping of the rope at entrances to Disney World’s theme parks at opening time. In most instances, cast members (Disney employees) walk along the entry paths with the rope to keep eager guests from racing to the rides. At Magic Kingdom, thought, it’s much more of an event.
Now, whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned Disney World veteran like myself, you need know the new rope drop process at Magic Kingdom. In early 2017, the basic opening procedure underwent a major overhaul, and I think it was for the better.
The traditional opening procedure at Magic Kingdom was to pack guests into the space in front of the entrance train station to wait for the welcome show. The old steam train would come chugging into and stop for a musical performance with Main Street characters and other Disney personalities. It was a fun event. Well, if you were lucky enough to be in the front. The combination of security checkpoints and more people showing up early resulted in larger crowds and a lot less fun. Ironically, it became a queue for people who wanted to race off to one of the prized attractions before lines formed. The only thing I think people will miss is the Family of the Day, which has gone away with the new routine.
The New Rope Drop Routine
The new opening procedure is much more relaxed. Guests are now allowed into the Main Street and Castle Hub sections of Magic Kingdom an hour or more before rope drop. There they can grab a coffee and something to eat or stroll through the shops until the new welcome show hits the stage in the Castle Forecourt. A much more relaxing was to kick off the day in my opinion. Now, let’s look at the new rope drop in a little more detail and fill in what you need to know to make the most of your time.
Magic Kingdom cast members will begin letting guests in through security and MagicBand scanners between 7:45 to 8:00am for a 9:00am opening time. Guests are then free to explore Main Street and the Hub. The Main Street Bakery (Starbucks) and the Emporium stores are open for business at this time. Initially, Casey’s Corner and The Plaza Ice Cream Counter were serving breakfast items, but this no longer is the case. They may reopen during busy times, such as for Christmas and Spring Break crowds. Three table service dining options are also open early, which I’ll get back to in a minute.
The new opening show, Let the Magic Begin, takes place on the Cinderella Castle forecourt stage. It doesn’t have the nostalgic feel of the old show’s Main Street performers, but does feature plenty of Disney characters. The best part is it is much more accessible for viewing. The show runs for about five minutes, then the ropes drop on all of the pathways leading out of the Hub and Main Street. It’s a little less congested than before, unless you’re heading to one of the prime attractions.
Rope Drop to Avoid Long Ride Lines
Where to go after rope drop is a matter of person opinion. Many guests try to score an early spot in the Peter Pan’s Flight or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which fill up fast and stay packed all day. Others choose to enjoy the lower morning crowds in other areas of the Park. My best bet is booking a FastPass+ for the Mine Train as soon at my reservation window is open, then using rope drop time to ride Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad before that area becomes congested. The key is deciding which attractions or Park areas are your priority and deciding if it’s the first thing your want to tackle in the day. Space Mountain and the Jungle Cruise are two other popular attractions to consider for the rope drop.
Should You Make Dining Reservations to beat Rope Drop Time?
Now, back to table service restaurants. Back in the day, Crystal Palace would open before the Park and scoring an early reservation became highly sought after. Now, Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest also open early. So, are any of these reservations worth the effort and are there any benefits under the new rope drop system? For me, the Crystal Palace reservation was always questionable. It’s a character meal and do you really want to rush through an expensive breakfast just to get one or two extra rides into your day without waiting? I have a feeling the timing didn’t work out for many people, especially those with young children. With the new rope drop and the Hub being open to everyone, Crystal Palace lost any early reservation benefits other than getting a character meal in to start your day.
Cinderella’s Royal Table also gets a thumbs down from me on rope drop benefits. It is both expensive and a very enjoyable character dining experience. There’s no reason to rush through that just for an early ride. Be Our Guest depends on your priorities. If being one of the first guests on the Mine Train is your plan, an early reservation will help you out. Otherwise, $25 for breakfast is overrated for minimal gain.
Rope Drop Tips
- Gates open 60 to 75 minutes before official Park opening time. For a 9:00am open, plan on arriving by 8:00.
- Don’t forget to factor in transportation times to get to the Park.
- Plan on picking up breakfast at the Main Street Bakery or bring along something to save time getting ready in the morning.
- Have a plan! Decide before you go what you will do when the rope drop.
- Enjoy the extra time to explore Main Street while it’s not as busy as other times of the day.
- Disney Resort guests can have purchases sent back to their hotel rooms, which makes morning shopping a breeze. Time varies by resort class, so check to make sure you have enough time before leaving for home.
- For the Mine Train, head down the pathway to the right of the Castle.
- For Peter Pan’s Flight, head up the left ramp and through the castle.