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 Hollywood Studios FastPass+ Strategy post, we cover how to use FastPass+ to skip the lines at Hollywood Studios. In this post, we cover how to handle rope drop—the very beginning hours following opening—at Hollywood Studios.
We have a full, one-day itinerary that covers a full day at Hollywood Studios. We also recommend checking our most recent trip report to see if we’ve provided any updates and just to see how this strategy is holding up. And if you’re more night owl than earlier riser, you might want to consider Hollywood Studios After Hours.
Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge Disclaimer
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge—aka Star Wars Land—will be opening at Hollywood Studios on August 29, 2019 with one operational ride. A second ride is expected to open later in 2019. Until this disclaimer is removed, this post does not include Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at all. We expect to update shortly after the August 29 opening, which we will be present for.
What time does Hollywood Studios open?
Hollywood Studios opening times vary on a day-to-day basis, with openings of 8AM and 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 also 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 Hollywood Studios?
Rope drop at Hollywood Studios often occurs before the scheduled time the park is open. The exact series of events can vary on a day-by-day basis, but typically there are three times to know: turnstile open, rope drop, and scheduled park open.
The earliest time is when the turnstiles open and guests are let into the park. Turnstiles at Hollywood Studios usually open between 30 and 60 minutes prior to the time the park is scheduled to open. Guests are usually let onto Hollywood Boulevard (the main street once you walk in) and held up at the intersection with Sunset Boulevard (by the Starbucks / Trolley Car Cafe).
The next time to know is what is commonly referred to as “rope drop”—this is when guests are first allowed to access select rides, usually the most popular rides at Hollywood Studios—usually all of Toy Story Land, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror. Rope drop usually occurs between 15 and 30 minutes prior to schedule park open. Finally, there is the scheduled park opening time. This is when most operational attractions are scheduled to open.
Once Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge open, we will see all of these times pushed back, with the park having earlier scheduled opens, earlier rope drops, and earlier turnstile openings.
All of these times vary on a day-to-day basis. You may visit one day and not have rope drop until the scheduled park open, and then visit the next and have it dropped 30 minutes early. Procedures may also vary—for example there will be some days where you’re first held up just inside the entrance:
So…when should I arrive at Hollywood Studios?
Our recommendation is to never arrive less than 30 minutes before the scheduled park open. We always try and arrive 45 to 60 minutes early to get on Slinky Dog Dash first or 30 to 45 minutes early if we have a FastPass+ for Slinky Dog Dash. Add 15 minutes on an ordinary weekend and add 15 minutes if you have a stroller.
Keep in mind that it can be okay to be late for the turnstile opening—in the right circumstance. If you have a stroller, wheelchair, or a family that struggles to move quickly and navigate through crowds, you’ll need to arrive as early as possible to position yourself at the very front of the crowds.
But if you can “navigate” your way through the rope drop crowds, it’s okay to miss the turnstile opening. As long as you arrive before rope drop, you can work your way to the front of the crowd.
If you’re visiting on a holiday weekend (other than the last week of the year, which is entirely different altogether), you’ll want to arrive an extra 30 minutes early. Really, rope drop comes down to “better safe than sorry.” Trust me, arriving too early and walking right onto too many rides to start the day is a fine problem to have.
Hollywood Studios Rope Drop Strategy
Your main goal of rope drop at any park is to complement your FastPass+ bookings. Together, you want rope drop and FastPass+ to get you through most of your day. This keeps you out of long standby waits. We’ll also cover visiting Hollywood Studios without FastPass+ below.
Quick Thoughts on Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple
If you’re interested in signing up for Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple, it’s common for signups to begin at Indiana Jones Outpost as soon as guests are allowed in the park. You need to have the child with you at signup.
People often ask whether to go to Jedi Training or Toy Story Land first. If you’re there when the turnstiles open, you shouldn’t have trouble doing both. But maybe you’re a little late, or they change procedures so you have to choose. We’re hesitant, but we do suggest you prioritize Jedi Training if you have to choose.
The reason is simply that if you miss Jedi Training signup, you don’t get to do it. If you miss Slinky Dog Dash at rope drop, you’ll have to wait one to two hours to ride it, but at least you get to ride it. Or you might get lucky with a FastPass+ later in the day.
Toy Story Land Rope Drop Procedure
At Hollywood Studios, your rope drop will mostly come down to which Tier 1 FastPass+ at Toy Story Land you were able to grab:
If you booked Slinky Dog Dash, start with Toy Story Mania and then Alien Swirling Saucers
If you booked Toy Story Mania, start with Slinky Dog Dash and then Alien Swirling Saucers
If you booked Alien Swirling Saucers, start with Slinky Dog Dash and then Toy Story Mania
The most common rope drop procedure at Hollywood Studios is for guests to be let into the park between 30 minutes and an hour prior to the park opening. They’re then held up at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard.
You can access the area around Echo Lake (including Indiana Jones Outpost), and there is a secondary holding area over there. Here’s a picture:
and a map:
If you wait over there you’ll merge with the main group as they pass you.
Depending on just how packed the main area is, it might be better to start in the secondary area if heading to Toy Story Land. We recommend sending one person from your party over to this section to see how close to the front they can get. You’d rather be here:
Than here (yes, these photos were taken a minute apart, and yes, the very fronts of the groups will merge at rope drop):
Typically 15 to 30 minutes before the park is scheduled to open, guests will be escorted to Toy Story Land (or down Sunset Boulevard if you’re going to those rides).
This sounds simple, but on crowded days the difference between staying near the front of this chaotic group and falling back in it can be the difference between a five minute wait for Slinky Dog Dash and an 85-minute wait. Here’s the map of the route that’s being followed as of May 2019:
Here’s how we recommend you approach rope drop. First, avoid the righthand side. The first turn is right, and if you get stuck at the corner you’ll lose precious seconds. Don’t go too far left, because the next step requires you to cross the crowds.
There is a “hack” here, and it’s to go up the path on the right past Hollywood Brown Derby. We don’t do this for two reasons. First, Cast Members sometimes block off the path entirely. Second, it usually only runners who are able to go that way and catch up to the front.
After the first turn, make your way through the crowd to get to the righthand side and go through the big gate or even the small gate on the right. Do not go through the small gate on the left even if you are attached to the Cast Member who goes through that gate! That is a major chokepoint, and you will fall far back.
Once through the gate, stay in the middle or on the right into Toy Story Land. On the right, you’ll have to navigate around a few obstacles—an ice cream stand and the entry to Walt Disney Presents—but can be worth it because of the space around these obstacles.
The Walt Disney Presents entrance creates a ton of space, and you can then zip right along the fence and through the DVC booth.
Around the corner, you’ll encounter the Cast Members who will take people to the ride queues.
Slinky Dog Dash is on the right. The other two don’t really matter, but Toy Story Mania is on the left, and Alien Swirling Saucers (when it has its own Cast Member) is in the middle. Realistically, the lines break up when you actually get to Woody at the entrance to Toy Story Land.
Some people will try and “beat the system” by going around the Slinky Dog Dash group on the left until the last possible moment. I wouldn’t call this unethical per se, but I will say you may get blocked by Cast Members, chains, and other guests if you try and merge right too late for Slinky Dog Dash.
Toy Story Land Ride Priority
We covered this above, but we’ll quickly rehash. The priority for Toy Story Land rides at rope drop is: Slinky Dog Dash, Toy Story Mania, and Alien Swirling Saucers.
If you had no Tier 1 FastPass+ and were focused on Toy Story Land, you would start your day with these three rides in that order. If you have a FastPass+ for one of them, you’ll start with the other two in the given order, as mentioned above.
Every so often we go to Alien Swirling Saucers before Toy Story Mania, and it has mixed results. Sometimes you walk right onto the ride, which works out well. But sometimes you’ll waste over 15 minutes there, which is really bad. On balance, we just don’t think Alien Swirling Saucers is a great ride, and the wait maxes out at an hour most days, so we just don’t prioritize it.
Rope Dropping Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
It’s common for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster to have the longest waits at Hollywood Studios, even longer than Slinky Dog Dash. For this reason, people often wonder when to head to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster if they don’t have a FastPass+.
Part of this is about how much you mind walking and how fast your group is. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is not close to Toy Story Land, so ideally you won’t be running back and forth between the two unless you’re really comfortable doing that. Conversely, the Toy Story Land rides are all really close, so it’s easy to get between them to start your day.
With no FastPass+ reservations, the best strategy is going to be to start with Slinky Dog Dash, then Toy Story Mania, and then check the Alien Swirling Saucers wait time on your phone as you exit Toy Story Mania. If it is 10 minutes, ride Alien Swirling Saucers. Otherwise, head to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. If you have a Toy Story Land FastPass+, start with the other two rides and then head to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
Realistically, if you don’t have any FastPass+ reservations at Hollywood Studios, you should be prioritizing the highlights of the park regardless, in which case you should definitely head to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror before Alien Swirling Saucers.
Tower of Terror and Star Tours
The only two rides we haven’t discussed are Tower of Terror and Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. Hopefully you have a FastPass+ for one of these, but maybe you’re park hopping today and don’t have a FastPass+.
Basically, we recommend pairing Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with Tower of Terror, and riding Tower of Terror right after you’re done with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Save Star Tours for last or second-to-last (before Alien Swirling Saucers).
Summary: Our Hollywood Studios Rope Drop Priority List:
Here’s our suggested “no FastPass+” Hollywood Studios rope drop ride order:
Slinky Dog Dash
Toy Story Mania
Alien Swirling Saucers (if wait is 10 minutes)
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
Tower of Terror
Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
Alien Swirling Saucers (if wait was more than 10 minutes earlier)
Hollywood Studios Rope Drop — Special Cases
There are a few special instances of rope drop that need to be covered.
Morning Extra Magic Hours (EMH)
One of the perks of staying at a Disney hotel is access to Extra Magic Hours (EMH). That means there is usually one day a week where Disney hotel guests will have an hour (or more) of exclusive access to Hollywood Studios before other guests can access the park.
If you have access to Morning EMH, just follow this strategy using the start of EMH as the park opening time. You can push our times by about 15 or even 30 minutes because things don’t move as quickly before EMH, but we usually stick with our strategy.
Here’s an itinerary from a morning with extra Magic Hours from our May 2019 visit:
7:35AM Rope Drop
7:46AM Slinky Dog Dash
7:52AM Alien Swirling Saucers
8AM Extra Magic Hour officially begins
8:12AM Toy Story Mania
8:28AM Meet Mickey & Minnie
8:38AM Star Tours
9:30AM Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy
9:58AM Tower of Terror (FastPass+)
10:17AM Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (FastPass+)
10:59AM Muppet Vision 3D
If you do not have Morning EMH, you should not be planning on using rope drop as part of your Hollywood Studios strategy. Waits will be too long for rope drop to be of any real use. Generally, we recommend guests without EMH do not visit Hollywood Studios on a morning EMH day.
Early Morning Magic
Early Morning Magic is a paid event that allows guests access to Toy Story Land before the park opens (it typically comes with breakfast at one of Hollywood Studios’ quick service restaurants). If you have Early Morning Magic, just arrive at the start of the event or 15 minutes early. Your rope drop won’t really matter, and you’ll want to head to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror when regular rope drop occurs.
If you do not have Early Morning Magic, you can still visit Hollywood Studios for rope drop, but you’ll have some challenges. The guests already in the park aren’t the problem—there’s actually very few of them and they’ll want nothing to do with rope drop.
The problem is the delay in rope drop. Because guests of Early Morning Magic are paying for exclusive access to Toy Story Land, rope drop occurs very close to the scheduled park opening. This means there will be more people in the park (because most people arrive around the time the park is scheduled to open) for rope drop.
As an example, I recently visited for rope drop on an Early Morning Magic day. I was one of the first regular guests on Slinky Dog Dash at 8:59AM for a 9AM open, but I wasn’t able to get on to Toy Story Mania until 9:29AM. By the time I was off Toy Story Mania, all the remaining major waits were 40 to 50 minutes.
Example Rope Drop Schedules for Hollywood Studios
We’ll provide three example rope drop schedules for Hollywood Studios. The first is for guests who want to see all of Toy Story Land without FastPass+. The second is for those wishing to see all the rides without FastPass+. The third is for those with FastPass+ who want to experience all the rides in a single morning.
Toy Story Land Rope Drop
This is what a typical schedule for someone whose top priority is getting through Toy Story Land might look like:
8:00AM - Arrive at Hollywood Studios
8:15AM - Turnstiles Open
8:45AM - Rope Drop
9:00AM - On Slinky Dog Dash
9:20AM - On Toy Story Mania
9:35AM - On Alien Swirling Saucers
No FastPass+ Rope Drop
If you had no FastPass+ reservations at Hollywood Studios and wanted to cover the highlights as quickly as possible, your schedule might look like (these times are from an actual day we did this):
7:55AM - Arrive at Hollywood Studios
7:57AM - Turnstiles Open
8:40AM - Rope Drop
8:51AM - On Slinky Dog Dash
9:05AM - On Toy Story Mania
9:46AM - On Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
10:37AM - On Tower of Terror
11:15AM - On Star Tours
12:16AM - On Alien Swirling Saucers
As discussed above, there could be some debate about the order of Toy Story Mania, Alien Swirling Saucers, and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. We would do the above order every single time without FastPass+ because Alien Swirling Saucers is just such a lower priority than Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror.
A Complete Morning at Hollywood Studios
An ideal morning at Hollywood Studios involves FastPass+ reservations. In particular, you’ll want reservations for Slinky Dog Dash, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror. Then you’ll proceed through the remaining rides in the following order: Toy Story Mania, Alien Swirling Saucers, Star Tours.
As it happens, we recently had a morning where we had FastPass+ reservations for Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror. These were less than ideal—we would have preferred Slinky Dog Dash to Toy Story Mania—but our schedule is obviously still informative.
This was Presidents’ Day weekend, on a beautiful Saturday when Touring Plans said crowds were a 10/10 (and wait times reflected that). With some modifying of our FastPass+ reservations, we put together the following schedule:
8:25AM Arrive at Hollywood Studios, turnstiles already open
8:36AM Rope Drop
8:49AM on Slinky Dog Dash
8:59AM on Alien Swirling Saucers
9AM Scheduled Park Open
9:12AM on Star Tours
9:40AM on Tower of Terror (FastPass+, posted wait was 45 minutes)
10:59AM on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (FastPass+, posted wait was 205 minutes)
11:40AM on Toy Story Mania (FastPass+, posted wait was 90 minutes)
As you can see, whether you have FastPass+ or not at Hollywood Studios, it isn’t hard to put together a great morning with good rope drop strategy!
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