A term that is loosely defined as “when a park opens for the day,” rope drop is arguably one of the most heavily debated topics among Walt Disney World fans. Early risers swear by it, pointing out the advantages of touring the parks before most guests are out of bed. It is true that only a surprisingly low percentage of park visitors arrive at or before opening, making rope drop an excellent strategy to maximize your Fast Pass Pluses. Make your three ride reservations for early in the day, and then you can obtain more one at a time. In addition, many Standby lines are walk-on or very short during the first two to three hours of the morning. You can easily get headline attractions done early using Standby queues, and then ride them again with your Fast Pass Pluses later on.
Yet night owls counter with the equally true argument that most rope-droppers can’t make it till the wee hours of the morning, making the evening hours equally valuable. Late at night, especially during evening Extra Magic Hours on a night when they last until 2 a.m., you will experience wait times that are roughly equal to those experienced by rope droppers in the early mornings.
Whichever side of the debate you fall on, however, there is no denying that Walt Disney World throws in special treats for those who make it to the parks before they officially open for the day. Even the most ardent night owls might find it worthwhile to experience each of these festivities once during their vacation.
1. Magic Kingdom Welcome Show
A cute song and dance extravaganza with a lot of heart, the Magic Kingdom Welcome Show is a must-see for many Walt Disney World visitors. This 8-minute show starts roughly 10 minutes before the Magic Kingdom officially opens for the day. Guests are allowed through the turnstiles ahead of the show, which is performed on the Main Street Train Station platform. If you are extremely lucky, your family might be chosen to help the characters open the park!
Note that on Extra Magic Hours mornings, the show may be cut in length or not performed at all. To be sure you see the entire performance, choose a non-Extra Magic Hours morning instead.
2. Pre-opening breakfast
If you have ever dreamed of having one of the Walt Disney World parks to yourself, consider booking a breakfast reservation before park opening at one of the character meals, such as the Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom or the Tusker House at Animal Kingdom. Breakfast reservations can be made for as early as 8 a.m. and, while a character meal can easily last a full hour, many people choose to cut it slightly short.
If you time your breakfast to last 45 minutes or so, you will have the opportunity to interact with most or all of the characters, and still slip out into the park before rope drop. You can take those precious few minutes to snap photos in front of Cinderella’s Castle or other icons without competing with thousands of other guests to line up your shot. Then you can head straight for the headliner attractions as soon as you are allowed, getting a major jump start on those who are just coming through the entrance gates.