Hollywood Studios Rope Drop Strategy [With Galaxy's Edge]

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.

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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.

Note On Galaxy’s Edge Opening

With Galaxy’s Edge opening on August 29 and Extra Extra Magic Hours from September 1 through November 2, Hollywood Studios will not have a normal rope drop until November 3. For visits before November 3, we have a post on Extra Extra Magic Hours at Hollywood Studios you’ll also want to read.

This post currently covers the rope drop procedures being used in the early days of Galaxy’s Edge, but you should be prepared for Disney to tweak these as the weeks go on.

Once Extra Extra Magic Hours end, we’ll update this post to reflect a “normal” rope drop. Then we’ll have about one month of relative calm before the December 5 opening of Rise of the Resistance.

Sometime shortly before that ride opens, you can expect a speculative update to this post. And once it opens, we’ll have more definitive strategies for you.

Important Message For Visits August 29 Through November 2

This post is impacted by changes, some temporary and some permanent, at Walt Disney World beginning August 29. People visiting between August 29 and November 2 are highly encouraged to click here to read our dedicated post especially for those dates.

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.

An actual rope being used at Magic Kingdom (the park no longer follows this protocol)

An actual rope being used at Magic Kingdom (the park no longer follows this protocol)

What time is rope drop at Hollywood Studios?

Rope drop at Hollywood Studios often occurs before the scheduled time the park is open. Park hours vary at Hollywood Studios, and special events may impact whether you (or other guests) can enter the park early or stay late.

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 (this has been 60 to 90 minutes during the early days of Galaxy’s Edge). Guests are usually let onto Hollywood Boulevard (the main street once you walk in) and held up at the end of the street right at “Center Stage.”

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The next time to know is what is commonly referred to as “rope drop”—this is when guests are actually allowed to begin accessing the most popular rides in the park (with all the rides slowly opening by the scheduled park opening time).

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. [Important Note: During Extra Extra Magic Hours at Galaxy’s Edge, rope drop is occurring right at 6AM.]

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?

During Extra Extra Magic Hours (EEMH), we’re advising a 5:15AM arrival for guests with EEMH and an 8AM arrival for guests without EEMH. (If you don’t have EEMH, you won’t get to “rope drop” anything because the park will be filled with other guests when you’re allowed in. We cover this in our Extra Extra Magic Hours post.)

Generally, our recommendation is to never arrive less than 30 minutes before the scheduled park open. Also, add 15 minutes to our recommended time on an ordinary weekend [this doesn’t apply during EEMH] and add 15 minutes if you have a stroller.

As Galaxy’s Edge is currently in the EEMH phase, we don’t really know what these times will look like after EEMH is done. If I had to pick a time to arrive on November 3, I’d say 90 minutes early to rope drop Smugglers Run.

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.

Can you navigate to the front of this rope drop crowd?

Can you navigate to the front of this rope drop crowd?

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.

Never push, never run. Respect the space that people allow you to move up. If people are standing tight, it’s because they’re just as excited as you—and they’ve been waiting even longer.

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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. To us, rope drop comes down to “better safe than sorry.” Arriving too early and walking right onto too many rides to start the day is a fine problem to have.

Oops, you arrived late and now you get to wait 105 minutes for Slinky Dog Dash.

Oops, you arrived late and now you get to wait 105 minutes for Slinky Dog Dash.

Hollywood Studios Rope Drop Strategy

As we said, for visits through November 2, you should also check out our post on Extra Extra Magic Hours at Hollywood Studios.

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

[Note: During EEMH at Hollywood Studios, Jedi Training signups are beginning at roughly 8AM.]

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 their target ride 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.

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run Rope Drop Procedure

With Galaxy’s Edge opening, we’ve finally got a new rope drop to report on. As Smugglers Run doesn’t even have FastPass+ and it’s a new ride, it’s the obvious priority at rope drop.

This example is from a 6AM open. Procedures will probably change a bit over the months the land is open, and we’ll try to keep you apprised of any updates. Here’s a map of the route we experienced:

Original Map Copyright Disney

Original Map Copyright Disney

The route basically passes by the Hyperion Theater (Frozen Sing Along), Star Tours, and Grand Avenue before entering Galaxy’s Edge. From there, it takes the longest, but mostly widest, route to the Falcon.

Of course, at 6AM using my iPhone and navigating crowds, I didn’t get the best pictures. So most of these are going to be from later in the day. They’re just here to document the route, regardless. For the most part, staying center or center right along this path seems to work fine.

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Above is a crowd at 5:18AM. The new rope drop takes place farther into the park than the old one. To visit Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror, you’d walk peacefully to the right down Sunset Boulevard at 6AM. Everyone else goes straight at 6AM.

Guests heading to Toy Story Land can join up with these Toy Story Land Cast Members (pictured below, center) to the right just after you start walking. I’ve never done this, but presumably it’s quite chill.

hollywood studios rope drop 02 toy story.jpeg

Everyone else will be going left. You’ll want to be positioned in the middle right of the crowd to avoid any tightness at the turn.

The walk continues between the Hyperion Theater and Echo Lake. Cast Members create barriers on the right and left where there are none. Also mind the indicated wall.

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Heading past Star Tours, there’s a water fountain on the right you don’t want to get stuck at. There were also some temporary planters a little ahead, so just don’t hang out hard right in this area.

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Passing through the gate and into Galaxy’s Edge is straightforward. The umbrellas on the right may have Cast Members blocking access, but if the other side is open it can be a good opportunity to pass a few people.

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Walking into the below area next to Droid Depot is the only real chokepoint along this route. Bring your elbows in, maybe pick up your kids, and push through this short, tight space.

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At the other end of this area, you’ll see the TIE Echelon on your right and you’ll turn left. It’s probably good to be on the right here (I think) because it’s typically better to be on the outside of the turns. But I haven’t tried the left.

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From there, it’s a pretty straight shot to Smugglers Run. The line will snake around the outside of the area just outside the ride. and you’ll pass into the queue!

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Once you’re done with Smugglers Run, you’ll head back past the TIE Echelon and through the exit into Toy Story Land. From there, your ride order should be: Slinky Dog Dash, Alien Swirling Saucers, Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, Star Tours.

We do want to add one caveat to this order—don’t wait more than five minutes for Alien Swirling Saucers in the morning. This is a really conservative tip, but the ride isn’t great or too popular, you should be able to get a FastPass+ for it later, and it’s simply not worth risking other waits going up.

Toy Story Land Rope Drop Procedure [Pre Galaxy’s Edge]

Note: With Galaxy’s Edge opening, Toy Story Land is presumably not going to be a rope drop priority going forward. However, it’s possible that the crowds wind up disfavoring Smugglers Run at some point, so we are keeping this here until December 5 when Rise of the Resistance opens. Click here to skip this section.

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. For this reason, people often wonder when to head to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster if they don’t have a FastPass+.

With the opening of Galaxy’s Edge, the geography of the park highly disfavors starting with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Guests are going to flood Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge, driving up all the waits in those areas.

It makes most sense to visit Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster after Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land, with the above-noted exception that you may choose to delay Alien Swirling Saucers if its wait is above 5 minutes.

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 if you delayed Alien Swirling Saucers).

Summary: Our Hollywood Studios Rope Drop Priority List:

Here’s our suggested “no FastPass+” Hollywood Studios rope drop ride order:

  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run

  • Slinky Dog Dash

  • Alien Swirling Saucers [only if wait five minutes or less]

  • Toy Story Mania

  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster

  • Tower of Terror

  • Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

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)

[Note: The current version of this post is already about the 6AM to 9AM Extra Magic Hours happening daily at Hollywood Studios through November 2. This section will be updated once the park resumes regular operations on November 3.]

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 [again, no Galaxy’s Edge here]:

  • 6:57AM Arrive

  • 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

  • 9AM Breakfast

  • 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

Note: Early Morning Magic has not occurred since the opening of Galaxy’s Edge.

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.

Guests with Early Morning Magic (left) are happier to take pictures of rope drop than to participate in it.

Guests with Early Morning Magic (left) are happier to take pictures of rope drop than to participate in it.

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 four example rope drop schedules for Hollywood Studios. The first covers a 6AM open. The remaining three are examples from before Galaxy’s Edge opened. They are maybe useful if you are pushing Smugglers Run into the afternoon, but we expect to replace them as the months go on.

Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run Rope Drop

Here’s an example of a very smooth morning starting with Smugglers Run:

  • 5:16AM Arrive

  • 6:39 Smugglers Run

  • 6:52 Slinky Dog Dash

  • 6:58 Alien Swirling Saucers

  • 7:07 Toy Story Mania

  • 7:23 Rock n Roller Coaster

  • 7:38 Tower of Terror

  • 7:55AM Star Tours

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 [Excludes Galaxy’s Edge]

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.

Morning at Hollywood Studios [Excludes Galaxy’s Edge]

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)

  • Coffee Break

  • 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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