The best way to maximize your enjoyment at any Disney World theme park is to combine a good Walt Disney World FastPass+ strategy with a good rope drop strategy.
In our Epcot FastPass+ Strategy post, we cover how to use FastPass+ to skip the lines at Epcot. In this post, we cover how to handle rope drop—the very beginning hours following opening—at Epcot.
What time does Epcot open?
Epcot opening times vary on a day-to-day basis, with opening at 9AM being most common. You should check the Disney World website or My Disney Experience app for the scheduled opening times for your visit. But keep reading…
What Is “Rope Drop”?
Rope drop refers to the actual—as opposed to scheduled—opening of the park. Depending on the precise protocols at a park on a day, Cast Members may actually have a rope up cutting off people from the park which is dropped when the park opens.
What Time Is Rope Drop At Epcot?
Rope drop at Epcot usually begins before the scheduled time the park is open. There are several times to know when it comes to rope drop at Epcot.
Turnstiles typically open about 30 minutes before the scheduled park open. At this point, guests are allowed to tap in and enter the park, but they’re held short of being able to access any rides.
Between 15 and 0 minutes before the scheduled park open, guests will begin to be escorted to attraction queues. (More typical at Epcot is for guests to just be allowed to freely walk to the attractions without Cast Members leading the way.)
So When Should I Arrive At Epcot?
When you arrive at Epcot depends on which rides you don’t have FastPass+ for or otherwise want to get done quickly in the morning. And, obviously, all these suggestions have caveats, so be sure to read on!
If you are only concerned with one of Frozen or Test Track (because you have a FastPass+ for the other), arrive 30 minutes before scheduled park open. You’ll usually be off 0 to 30 minutes after the park opens.
If you need to rope drop both Test Track and Frozen, you’ll want to arrive about 45 to 60 minutes early. Use the Future World (main) entrance of the park so you can be among the first guests on Test Track before heading to Frozen.
If you have to visit both Test Track and Frozen from the World Showcase entrance, arriving 15 minutes early is sufficient because unfortunately from there you’ll have to endure a long Test Track wait regardless.
Notes About Arrival Times
It’s up to you to know how much more safe than sorry you’d like to be. Epcot is generally the most chill park in the mornings, with heavier crowds arriving after the World Showcase opens at 11AM. Here are some suggestions if you want to be cautious with your arrival times.
On ordinary weekends, add 15 minutes to the start of your day. On holiday weekends and Festival weekends, add 30 minutes to the start of your day.
If you’re using the World Showcase entrance (covered more below), you can arrive 15 minutes early regardless of where you’re headed. These crowds don’t get too big, and there’s plenty of time to move past them before you actually arrive at a ride.
General Epcot Rope Drop Strategy
Rope drop at Epcot is generally aimed at complementing FastPass+ so that you have Test Track, Soarin’, and Frozen Ever After covered. These are the three Tier 1 FastPass+ attractions, so you can only have a FastPass+ for one of them—the other two are what you’re most concerned with at rope drop.
Really, though, you should have a FastPass+ for either Frozen Ever After or Test Track. If you have one for Soarin’ that’s okay, but these days we’d taken one of the other two at any time of day over a Soarin’ FastPass+.
Keep in mind that if your group doesn’t meet the 36” height requirement for Test Track you’ll need to skip it or use rider swap. If this impacts you, you may also want to read about the best attractions for toddlers at Epcot.
And so, if you have a Test Track FastPass+, you’ll start your morning with Frozen Ever After. If you have a Frozen FastPass+, you start your day with Test Track. Simple? Sort of. But there’s one complicating factor…
The Two Epcot Rope Drops
Epcot is unique among Disney World parks in having two entrances. The main entrance, in Future World, is used by guests arriving by car, bus, or monorail.
A second entrance, in the World Showcase between France and the United Kingdom, is used by guests arriving by boat, foot (from the Boardwalk area), and the new Disney Skyliner. The below map shows these two entrances, along with the locations of Frozen Ever After and Test Track (the two most important rides at Rope Drop).
If you’re coming by car, monorail, or bus, including bus from any of the resorts that have other modes of transportation (e.g. if you’re taking the bus instead of Skyliner from Pop Century), you’ll use the Main Entrance.
We’ll cover the difference between rope drop from these two entrances more below, but we wanted to give some quick guidance for some common questions.
First, if you’re starting with Frozen Ever After, it doesn’t really matter which entrance you use because waits for Frozen Ever After don’t tend to spike right in the morning. World Showcase entrance is the better one for this, but it’s not a huge difference.
But, if you’re starting with Test Track, it’s really preferable to use the main entrance. It is a long walk from the World Showcase to Test Track and you’ll have a much longer wait from that entrance regardless of when you arrive.
Guests coming from the Boardwalk area hotels can’t really choose their entrance (unless they drive or Uber to the main entrance). So these guests really just need to focus on getting a Test Track FastPass+ (or else just deal with the longer waits). Guests coming via Skyliner can choose, as their hotels also offer buses to the Main Entrance.
Now we’ll cover each of these rope drops in more detail.
Epcot Rope Drop (Main Entrance)
Before we go on, I want to note that there’s a ton of construction going on in this area of the park in 2019 and 2020. This means the exact procedures used will change, probably more frequently than we visit Epcot.
We’ll do our best to update this post, and our trip reports typically reflect the most recent details. The most important thing, though, is that Epcot rope drop isn’t really much of a challenge except on the busiest days of the year.
And one last time—guests arriving by foot, Skyliner, and boat will use the World Showcase entrance (scroll down for that). Now, here’s an example of rope drop from the Main Entrance.
On this particular non-Festival day, I arrived at 8:11AM for a 9AM opening to rope drop Test Track. The crowds in front of me are pretty small.
You can see the construction wall just inside the park. Keep in mind that once we’re let inside we’ll be filling in “all available space,” so I’ll be even closer to the front.
Yes—we say 30 minutes is enough if you have a Frozen FastPass+, but you can still cut down on your morning waits by arriving even earlier. I typically target 45 minutes.
At 8:28AM the begin letting guests into the park. With things going slowly in front of me, I’m not in the park until 8:31AM. But I’m in basically the fourth row of people when we’re corralled inside the park.
The rope is dropped right at 8:54AM, and I’m at the Test Track entrance at 8:56AM. At 9:15AM, when I’m off Test Track, posted waits for the three Tier 1 rides look like this:
Frozen Ever After — 5 minutes
Soarin’ — 15 minutes
Test Track — 35 minutes
Assuming you have a Frozen FastPass+, Soarin’ is the obvious next choice.
A few weeks later, we visited from the Main Entrance arriving at 8:32AM and were off Test Track at 9:13AM. Wait times looked like this:
Frozen Ever After — 35 minutes
Soarin’ — 15 minutes
Test Track — 40 minutes
What changed to boost the Frozen wait? The Skyliner opened in between those visits. While it used to be easier to cover both Test Track and Frozen, you’re really going to need to be near the front of the Main Entrance crowds to get right on Test Track in order to do this now that the Skyliner has opened.
The alternative is just to delay Frozen Ever After until you’re done in Future World, accepting you might have a 60+ minute wait around 11AM.
Here’s what my schedule for the morning wound up looking like (ride times are when I boarded):
8:28AM Tapstiles Open
8:54AM Rope Drop
9AM Scheduled Park Open
9:08AM Test Track
9:44AM Living With The Land
10:08AM The Seas With Nemo and Friends
10:18AM Turtle Talk With Crush
10:38AM Journey Into Imagination With Figment
11:05AM Spaceship Earth
For a full itinerary at Epcot, check out our one day Epcot itinerary post.
Rope Drop to Frozen from the Main Entrance
If you have a Test Track FastPass+ but no Frozen Ever After, you’re probably best to start your day with Frozen. Crowds starting at Frozen Ever After are generally light immediately to start the day, so you can just arrive about 15 minutes before the park is scheduled to open.
That 15 minutes is important—Skyliner crowds will bump up the wait (as discussed above) by 15 minutes into the morning. It’s a long-ish walk to Frozen Ever After and then back, but it’s still the best option if you have a Test track FastPass+.
EPCOT ROPE DROP (WORLD SHOWCASE ENTRANCE)
Keep in mind this section only applies to guests arriving by foot (from the BoardWalk area), boat, or Skyliner.
On this example day, I took the Skyliner from Caribbean Beach. For a 9AM Epcot open, the Skyliner was scheduled to begin operations at 8AM. It started a tad late, at 8:05AM, and I was on at 8:06AM, arriving at Epcot at 8:19AM.
Interestingly, everyone in front of me on the Skyliner must have been going to breakfast, because I was the first to line up for the park opening. At 8:27AM, they began letting us in the park, and a Cast Member walked us over to the UK Pavilion.
She did discuss with another CM whether to hold at the top of the bridge before the UK Pavilion, so its possible that spot will still occasionally be used.
We’re held just outside Rose & Crown (the pub and restaurant in the UK Pavilion). The group stays pretty loose, so if you wanted to move up in it you probably could, but it doesn’t much matter—you’ve got a long, spacious walk to any ride.
Even being in the back of this pack isn’t the worst thing if you can speed walk a bit once it’s time to start moving. Guests with breakfast reservations are allowed to walk to those (just show proof of the reservation).
At about 8:53AM, we were allowed into the rest of the park. If you were heading to Frozen Ever After, you’d have no problem. Basically anyone coming from this entrance at 9AM will walk right on most days.
More interesting, and the route we’re taking for this example, is to Test Track. By the time we got over to Mouse Gear at 8:57AM, we were near the back of the Test Track rush (this picture is from a pre-Skyliner rope drop, but is still accurate).
I was in line at 8:58AM and off the ride at 9:28AM, when Soarin’ had a posted 15 minute wait, Test Track was at 30 minutes, and Frozen Ever After was at 45 minutes.
Here’s where things get interesting. I had Emily come to Epcot with me this day, but she took the bus—instead of the Skyliner—from Caribbean Beach to Epcot. This meant she used the Main Entrance.
Even though she wasn’t at the gate until 8:32AM (5 minutes after I was let into the park), she still got to the Test Track entrance 2-3 minutes before me and boarded 15 minutes before me.
I’ll wrap up below showing that my morning wound up mostly fine (Epcot still isn’t a challenging park), but the extra 15 minutes did matter. I’ll explain why next, but first, here’s how my morning went:
8:27AM Inside park, held at UK Pavilion
8:53AM Rope Drop, walk to Test Track
9:22AM Test Track
10:06AM Living with the Land
10:34AM Journey Into Imagination with Figment
You can compare this itinerary to the one above (from the main entrance), and you see that the 15 minutes you save using the Main Entrance roughly allows you to fit in Turtle Talk and The Seas with Nemo and Friends before Journey Into Imagination.
I skipped them because The Seas wait was posted at 20 minutes. Honestly—this one is overstated a lot in the morning, but there was also no need to force it in.
Skipping these before 11AM also isn’t a huge deal. The Seas regularly has FastPass+ space same-day and rarely has significant waits. Likewise for Turtle Talk.
For a full itinerary at Epcot, check out our one day Epcot itinerary post.
World Showcase Entrance Without A Good FastPass+
The worst case scenario is visiting Epcot from the World Showcase entrance and without a FastPass+ for either Frozen or Test Track. There’s no good way to do this, but we do have some tips.
First, if you have a Soarin’ FastPass+, start with Frozen Ever After and then Test Track. You’ll have a long-ish wait for Test Track, but your Soarin’ FastPass+ at least buys you some morning time.
Second, if you’re willing to use the single rider line, then start with Frozen Ever After, planning to ride Single Rider on Test Track toward the end of your morning.
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