When you’re visiting Walt Disney World, no park is tougher to conquer than Magic Kingdom. The flagship park of the resort can easily take two full days to see. But the best way to cut down on the time you need is to combine a good Magic Kingdom FastPass+ strategy with a good Magic Kingdom rope drop strategy. This post covers Magic Kingdom rope drop strategy.
Magic Kingdom Rope Drop Strategy — Introduction
Let’s start with what “rope drop” is, why it matters, and the basics of what to expect at Magic Kingdom rope drop.
What is “Rope Drop”?
Rope drop refers to the 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.
Magic Kingdom Rope Drop
The turnstiles to Magic Kingdom typically open 60 minutes before scheduled park open. Between then and the time the park is scheduled to open, guests have access to Main Street U.S.A. and the central plaza in front of the castle. Five points around the plaza are set up to accommodate rope drop to five different areas.
Clockwise from Main Street U.S.A., there is a rope drop at the entrance to Adventureland (for Adventureland and Frontierland), a rope drop at the entrance to Liberty Square (for Liberty Square and Frontierland), a rope drop through the castle to central Fantasyland, a rope drop between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland to eastern Fantasyland (i.e. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train), and a rope drop into Tomorrowland.
These ropes are actually dropped at the end of the welcome show, which starts five minutes before park open. Due to certain guests having access to certain areas of the park early (meal reservations, special tickets, etc.), you may encounter secondary ropes after you’re past the first (these should drop right as you arrive, though).
Extra Magic Hours
When Magic Kingdom has Extra Magic Hours in the morning for resort guests, it’s important that you pay attention to which category you’re in. Resort guests can modify the strategies in this post by planning to head to Tomorrowland or Fantasyland right at the start of Extra Magic Hours and then to Frontierland when the rest of the park opens.
Non-resort guests will need to plan for a Frontierland rope drop on Extra Magic Hour days as Fantasyland and Tomorrowland will be filled with resort guests.
What Our Magic Kingdom Rope Drop Strategy Covers
Our Magic Kingdom Rope Drop Strategy complements our Magic Kingdom FastPass+ strategy (and our Walt Disney World FastPass+ Strategy). Between advance FastPass+ reservations and rope drop, we’re aiming to cover the following rides at Magic Kingdom (in rough order of priority):
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Peter Pan’s Flight
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Pirates of the Caribbean
Why did we choose these rides? First, they’re all popular rides. The first seven are almost always among the longest waits in the park. Second, they can be hard to get same-day FastPass+ for, which makes it more important to get short standby waits.
Third, we include Pirates of the Caribbean for its geographical convenience. It is less popular than Tomorrowland Speedway and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin most days, but its location near four other big-name rides makes it a good choice for rope drop.
Obviously not all families seek to cover these rides. If you have a different set you’d like to cover, you shouldn’t have much trouble modifying these strategies. Big substitutions could be strategies including The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Tomorrowland Speedway, Astro Orbiter, and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.
Typically, we are aiming to cover these rides (that is, to have ridden them or having a FastPass+ for them) by 11AM, or two hours after park open. Park open varies, but everything in this post assumes a 9AM open with no Extra Magic Hours.
The rope drop strategies we cover below are: Frontierland Rope Drop (starting with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad — this is our preferred rope drop), Tomorrowland Rope Drop (starting with Space Mountain), Fantasyland Rope Drop (starting with either Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Peter Pan’s Flight), and Fantasyland Doubleheader (starting with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight).
General Principles of Rope Drop at Walt Disney World
Start with shorter rides. Rides that take a long time (like Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom and Avatar Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom) will allow waits for other rides time to go up. A ten minute wait for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a much better deal than a five minute wait for Splash Mountain.
Try to minimize walking time. This one has many exceptions, but generally you’re looking to minimize walking time by covering the major rides in pairs or groups.
There aren’t lines until there are lines, got it? You should never run in the theme parks, but just because you start at the back of a rope drop pack doesn’t mean you can’t speed-walk your way to the front. Be courteous, don’t push, and always apologize if you step on someone.
Don’t get too clever. Every rope drop you see someone who tries some weird alternative path and winds up getting redirected by a Cast Member. Besides certain routes not being open, as soon as the “official” rope drop crowd hits a ride queue, it becomes the queue. In particular at Magic Kingdom, if you come at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train from the castle, you’ll just have to walk all the way to the end of the queue that is arriving from the other side.
This is not the time for Magic. Look, I could spend an entire day at any Disney theme park (except maybe Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris) without rides just taking in the scenery. Well, you don’t wake up at 6AM to take in scenery and wait 45 minutes in a queue.
If you want a relaxing morning, this post isn’t for you. This post is about exhausting yourself for the first few hours of your day so you can relax and take in the park in the afternoon while everyone else is waiting 120 minutes for a ride you walked onto in the morning.
The Rough Strategy
All our Magic Kingdom rope drop strategies follow a similar pattern. Step 1 will be to secure advance FastPass+ reservations for three of the top five rides. You’ll want to have your first one set around the 11AM (starting or finishing at 11AM is fine). Step 2 will be to arrive early. We give suggested arrival times for average days with each strategy.
Step 3 will be to rope drop through the two major rides you didn’t grab advance FastPass+ for. The most challenging pair is Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight, which is why we give that pair its own strategy (“Fantasyland Doubleheader”).
Step 4 is to navigate waits at the last three rides by 11AM, when you start using your FastPass+ reservations.
After 11AM, we suggest you check out our Magic Kingdom One-Day Itinerary. That covers how to spend the remainder of a day at Magic Kingdom.
Guess what, nothing you read in this post, or really anywhere on this site, applies on Christmas Day! Okay, some of the general strategies and principles apply, but if you’re at the parks during a really crowded time, you can’t expect things to go as smoothly. And you’ll have to arrive early. How early? If you’re expecting such bad crowds that you have to ask, don’t be there later than an hour before the park opens.
Similarly, on any day, rides will break down. Lines will get weirdly long. You won’t be able to get an “easy” FastPass+ same-day.
There’s really nothing we can do to cover things like this, other than to write really long posts with needless explanation. The reason our posts can be annoyingly long is because we try to explain our reasoning so that when things go off the rails you’ll have some background to fall back on.
Finally, this post is pretty repetitive because the rope drop strategies mostly converge after one or two rides. Nonetheless, we’re putting them in their complete forms here for reference.
Choosing Your Rope Drop
This post contains five Magic Kingdom rope drop strategies. Your choice of rope drop strategy depends on what advance FastPass+ reservations you have (as that determines what rides you need to head to first).
Our ideal FastPass+ setup for Magic Kingdom is to have Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Space Mountain. If you have that setup, you’ll use a Frontierland Rope Drop, our favorite rope drop.
If you get Seven Dwarfs and Peter Pan but not Space Mountain, you’ll do a Tomorrowland Rope Drop.
If you don’t get one of Seven Dwarfs or Peter Pan, you’ll be starting with the one you didn’t get as a Fantasyland Rope Drop. If you didn’t get either, you’ll start with Seven Dwarfs and then Peter Pan, covered in our “Fantasyland Doubleheader.”
Frontierland Rope Drop
The Frontierland Rope Drop is the ideal rope drop. If you have FastPass+ reservations for Space Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Peter Pan’s Flight, you’ll want to do a Frontierland rope drop.
Because most people head right to Tomorrowland or to the Fantasyland rides, this is by far the least stressful rope drop. It also has the benefit of keeping you on one side of the park for the first few hours of the day.
Again, this strategy requires advance reservations for Space Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Peter Pan’s Flight. If you’re missing one of those, you’ll be heading there first and then amending this strategy. We cover those options more below.
Arrival at Magic Kingdom
Arrive no later than 15 minutes before open, and you’ll be fine most days.
Rope Drop - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
You can get into Frontierland through either Adventureland or Liberty Square. We prefer to use the Liberty Square entrance because people move more directly toward Frontierland without getting held up at Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean. Plus it’s a little shorter, and it’s generally wider (i.e. better for passing).
Head straight to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Do not start with Splash Mountain. Splash is a long ride, and you risk letting the Big Thunder waits increasing too much. After Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, then go to Splash Mountain. You hope to be off these rides just after 9:30AM.
Wrapping Up Your Morning
Now you’ll want to cover Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, and Haunted Mansion. We typically start with, and recommend starting with, Jungle Cruise.
FastPass+ waits for Jungle Cruise can get particularly awful, so we don’t like to risk having to count on grabbing one later. Also, posted wait times for Jungle Cruise are often exaggerated in the morning. It’s not uncommon to see them overshoot it by 15 to 20 minutes.
Finishing all three of these by 11AM can be a tall order, but you should be able to be on the last one around 11AM. You might have to push one to later in the day, though, if your first FastPass+ is too early.
Tomorrowland Rope Drop
Tomorrowland Rope Drop is our least favorite rope drop. There’s really only one “major” ride in Tomorrowland, Space Mountain, and you’re positioned all the way across the park from a host of other major rides in Frontierland and Adventureland.
Tomorrowland Speedway and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin rank somewhere just higher than Pirates of the Caribbean as far as waits go, which puts them pretty low on our priority list. That’s why our Tomorrowland Rope Drop is really just a “Space Mountain Rope Drop.”
A Tomorrowland Rope drop is for people who have FastPass+ reservations for both Peter Pan’s Flight and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train but not Space Mountain. Essentially it is Frontierland Rope Drop but substituting Space Mountain for one of the Frontierland mountains.
Preferably, you’ll have a FastPass+ for Splash Mountain. Splash may have a shorter wait than Big Thunder early in the morning, but the difference should be less than 15 minutes, and Splash is a much longer ride.
Arrival at Magic Kingdom
On most days, arrive no later than 15 minutes before park open for a Tomorrowland Rope Drop.
Rope Drop To Space Mountain
Space Mountain is a straight shot from the central plaza, and you should be off it between 9:15AM to 9:30AM.
Wrapping Up Your Morning
You’ll next head over to Frontierland, preferably hopping on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, skipping Splash Mountain (assuming your have a FastPass+ for it), and then heading to Jungle Cruise.
Another View on Tomorrowland Rope Drop
If you have a slower group and aren’t as picky about your rides, you could conceivably spend your morning hitting the four big Tomorrowland rides—Space Mountain then Tomorrowland Speedway then Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin then Astro Orbiter.
I did this on a day with relatively low crowds (6 out of 10 on a Touring Plans metric) and finished all four by 10AM (one hour into my day). Four rides by 10AM is a great result, but obviously it means I still had a lot of big rides left to cover. Really the “risk” here is that you’ll have to skip a ride like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean, or Haunted Mansion if you don’t get lucky with a same-day FastPass+ and don’t want to wait an hour or more in line.
Fantasyland Rope Drop
There are two versions of the Fantasyland Rope Drop — Seven Dwarfs Mine Train rope drop and Peter Pan’s Flight rope drop.
Version 1 - Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Rope Drop
This rope drop is for people who have a Peter Pan’s Flight FastPass+ but not a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
You’ll want to aim for Peter Pan’s Flight, Space Mountain, and Splash Mountain FastPass+ for this rope drop. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is an okay alternative to Space Mountain, but Splash Mountain is a long ride so you’d rather not have to go there too early (and hence you prefer a later FastPass+ for it).
Arrival At Magic Kingdom
Since you don’t have to double dip with Peter Pan’s Flight (that’s below), you don’t have to push this one as early. A comfortable arrival 30 minutes prior to park opening is sufficient on most days. The times in this post assume a 9AM open, in which case you’d want to arrive at 8:30AM.
Rope Drop To Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Begin by heading to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train immediately at rope drop. The group heading there departs from the northeast corner of the central plaza. If you arrive later than planned but before rope drop, consider using the bridge that connects this pathway to the Tomorrowland entrance. You’ll have to merge, but it might be better than being at the back of the pack to start.
You’ll be aiming to be out of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train around 9:30AM, at which point you’re basically playing catch-up to the Frontierland rope drop we covered above.
Wrapping Up Your Morning
If you have Splash and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad FastPass+, head to Space Mountain. If you have Splash and Space, head to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
If you have none of these, head to Space Mountain if its wait is 20 minutes or less (then to Big Thunder). If it is more than 20 minutes, you’ll go to Big Thunder and have to fit Space in later. Ideally, you’re off your second ride by about 9:50AM.
Then you’re left with just over an hour to navigate Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion. Typically, you can easily get two of these done by 11AM, sometimes you’ll be able to do all three.
Version 2 - Peter Pan’s Flight Rope Drop
Peter Pan’s Flight rope drop is for people who have a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FastPass+ but not a Peter Pan’s Flight FastPass+. It’s actually the same as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train rope drop, just with a different starting point.
Well, two starting points, actually. You can either wait for the show to clear and go through Cinderella Castle, or you can go across the bridge into Liberty Square and take an immediate right into Fantasyland. We favor the latter approach, as it takes a moment or two for the route through the castle to open
You can also arrive a tad later, maybe by 8:45AM instead of 8:30AM.
This rope drop is for people who can’t get either a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or a Peter Pan’s Flight FastPass+.
Advance FastPass+ Reservations
Ideally, you have FastPass+ for Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Splash Mountain.
Arrive at Magic Kingdom Early
You’ll want to be a Magic Kingdom no later than 30 minutes before park opening. Forty-five minutes is preferred, especially if your group isn’t going to be able to navigate your way to the front of the rope drop crowd.
Rope Drop To Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Begin by heading to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train immediately at rope drop. The group heading there departs from the northeast corner of the central plaza. If you arrive later than planned, consider using the bridge that connects this pathway to the Tomorrowland entrance. You’ll have to merge, but it might be better than being at the back of the pack to start.
This rope drop strategy works best if you can find your way to the front of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train pack. If you do make it to the front, you’ll be on around 9:05AM and off at 9:10AM.
Standby For Peter Pan’s Flight
Next up is Peter Pan’s Flight. Ideally, you’ll be on it by 9:15AM when it should have a posted wait of 15 to 45 minutes. If it’s around 45 minutes and you’re missing one of the “Mountain” FastPass+ reservations, consider aborting this plan and heading over there if waits are low. If Peter Pan’s Flight is absolutely essential, though, you’ll probably just want to enjoy some time in the queue.
On an ideal morning, you can be off Peter Pan’s Flight by about 9:35AM. If you pushed it and don’t get off until 10AM, you’re still in good shape.
Wrapping Up Your Morning
This nice thing about this rope drop is that you can move right around the corner to Haunted Mansion, then Jungle Cruise, then Pirates of the Caribbean, finishing those by 11AM.
If you don’t have those Big Thunder and Splash FastPass+ slots, you’ll want to head straight there from Peter Pan’s Flight before navigating through the waits for Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion.
Likewise, if you don’t have a Space Mountain FastPass+, you’ll want to head there after Peter Pan’s Flight.
Alternative Rope Drops
If you have different FastPass+ combinations of the eight rides we highlight, you shouldn’t have much trouble tweaking the above strategies to fit your needs.
What if, though, you chose a FastPass+ for a character greeting or some other attraction that doesn’t make our list? Then our suggestion boils down to two points. First, prioritize Seven Dwarfs and Peter Pan’s Flight. If you had absolutely no FastPass+ reservations, that would be where you’d start your day. Second, prioritize Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Splash Mountain in that order.
If you started your day with waits on those five rides, they should take you to your first FastPass+ time. From there, you’ll need to tap / grab / modify to fill out the rest of your day.