Magic Kingdom Rope Drop Strategy

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.

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.

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 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.

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. You can read more about the park hours at Magic Kingdom—including special access to the park early and late—here.

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, Frontierland, and sort of Fantasyland), 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.

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The lands are opened 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 just about 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.

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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. Read on to see what these strategies cover and how to use them to build the perfect morning…

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):

  1. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

  2. Peter Pan’s Flight

  3. Space Mountain

  4. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

  5. Splash Mountain

  6. Jungle Cruise

  7. Haunted Mansion

  8. 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. Our Tomorrowland Rope Drop (below) does visit those other two rides, though.

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.

magic kingdom rope drop astro orbiter 1.jpg

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).

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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.

magic kingdom rope drop splash mountain 2.jpg

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.

Pay attention to height requirements. This post assume you’re not restricted by any of the height requirements at Walt Disney World. If you are, you’ll need to adjust your plans accordingly. You might find our post on the best rides for toddlers / small children at Magic Kingdom to be helpful.

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. If you’re driving to Magic Kingdom (or otherwise passing through Transportation and Ticket Center), you’ll need to account for the extra time to get to TTC (5 to 15 minutes from the parking lot) and the time to get from TTC to the park (average 15 minutes).

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.

What’s Next?

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.

Final Caveats

Guess what, nothing you read in this post, or really anywhere on this site, applies on Christmas Day (or other really crowded days)! 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.

Advance FastPass+

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 in their own detail below.

Example Schedule for Frontierland Rope Drop

We’ll take you through the details of this rope drop, but if you’re just looking for an example schedule for a 9AM open (time are when you enter the queue):

  • 8:30AM - Inside Magic Kingdom

  • 9AM - Rope Drop

  • 9:03AM - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

  • 9:15AM - Splash Mountain

  • 9:38AM - Jungle Cruise

  • 10:02AM - Pirates of the Caribbean

  • 10:30AM - Haunted Mansion

Arrival at Magic Kingdom

Remember to account for transportation time to Magic Kingdom from Transportation and Ticket Center if you’re passing through there. Plan for 20 minutes from when you arrive at the main TTC buildings to when you’re in Magic Kingdom. Try to be inside Magic Kingdom 30 minutes before the park opens.

Rope Drop - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

You can get into Frontierland through either Adventureland (green path below) or Liberty Square (purple path below). Regardless of which route you take, the first thing you’ll encounter are the Frontierland Cast Members forming a wall (red line below) where these two groups merge.

magic kingdom rope drop options.png

Usually we go through the Liberty Square entrance. It’s the more direct route and no one will get into Frontierland before them.

magic kingdom rope drop liberty square 2.jpg

But if it’s packed you might have more success with Adventureland. As you can see in the poorly drawn map above, you break off of the main Adventureland crowd by making your first right (before the Sunglass Hut) and going through the covered area into Liberty Square where you’ll all merge in front of the Frontierland Cast Members.

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Mosey 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.

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On cool days (anything under 60 degrees at rope drop), feel free to postpone Splash Mountain a bit. Keep an eye on the wait times, but it will usually make sense to ride it after Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion because people won’t be piling in to get wet in the cold.

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.

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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.

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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.”

Advance FastPass+

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.

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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 to 30 minutes before park open for a Tomorrowland Rope Drop.

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Example Schedules for Tomorrowland Rope Drop

We’ll take you through the details of this rope drop, but if you’re just looking for an example schedule for a 9AM open (time are when you enter the queue):

  • 8:30AM - Inside Magic Kingdom

  • 9AM - Rope Drop

  • 9:03AM - Space Mountain

  • 9:20AM - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

  • 9:45AM - Jungle Cruise

  • 10:15AM - Pirates of the Caribbean

  • 10:45AM - Haunted Mansion

And, an alternative schedule if you’d like to get more of Tomorrowland done first:

  • 8:30AM - Inside Magic Kingdom

  • 9AM - Rope Drop

  • 9:03AM - Space Mountain

  • 9:17AM - Tomorrowland Speedway

  • 9:33AM - Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

  • 9:45AM - Astro Orbiter

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 - Option 1

As we’ve made clear, we think the other side of the park is the place to be in the mornings, so our strategy is to head over to Frontierland, preferably hopping on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, skipping Splash Mountain (assuming you have a FastPass+ for it), and then heading to Jungle Cruise.

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Wrapping Up Your Morning - Option 2

The alternative is to stick around Tomorrowland. This is particularly a good strategy for slower parties or parties just looking to get on as many rides as possible. You want to hit 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.

Example Schedule for Fantasyland Rope Drop

We’ll take you through the details of this rope drop, but if you’re just looking for an example schedule for a 9AM open (time are when you enter the queue):

  • 8:30AM - Inside Magic Kingdom

  • 9AM - Rope Drop

  • 9:02AM - Seven Dwarfs Mine Train / Peter Pan’s Flight

  • 9:30AM - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad / Space Mountain / Splash Mountain

  • 9:51AM - Jungle Cruise

  • 10:17AM - Pirates of the Caribbean

  • 10:40AM - Haunted Mansion

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.

Advance FastPass+

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 assumes 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.

Some days this pathway is cut off. This is common when morning events are held at the park, but I’ve seen access limited other days as well.

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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 rope drops we covered above.

Wrapping Up Your Morning

Hopefully you have FastPass+ for two of the following three: Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain. If that’s the case, head to the one you don’t have a FastPass+ for.

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 Mountain 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.

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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 (pink route below), or you can go across the bridge into Liberty Square and go from there (yellow and blue paths). As of mid-2019, the blue path is under construction, so the Liberty Square route has to take you the “long way” past Haunted Mansion.

magic kingdom rope drop fanytasyland peter pan paths.png

We favor the latter approach, as it can take a moment or two for the route through the castle to open. You can also arrive a tad later than for Seven Dwarfs, maybe by 8:45AM instead of 8:30AM.

Wrapping Up Your Morning

Follow the same plan we outlined in the Seven Dwarfs Rope Drop for the rest of your day.

Fantasyland Doubleheader

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.

Example Schedule for Fantasyland Doubleheader Rope Drop

We’ll take you through the details of this rope drop, but if you’re just looking for an example schedule for a 9AM open (time are when you enter the queue):

  • 8:15AM - Inside Magic Kingdom

  • 9AM - Rope Drop

  • 9:02AM - Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

  • 9:12AM - Peter Pan’s Flight

  • 9:34AM - Haunted Mansion

  • 9:55AM - Jungle Cruise

  • 10:26AM - Pirates of the Caribbean

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.

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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.

magic kingdom rope drop seven dwarfs mine train 1.jpg

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.

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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.

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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.

Do you have questions or tips for Magic Kingdom rope drop?

All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered

Don't be overwhelmed by Disney World planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way.

Just starting out? Check out our Walt Disney World planning guide! If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.

When it comes time to book, we've got you covered with posts on how to book cheap flights, how to get the best deal on your Disney hotel, and where to find discount Disney World tickets. And of course everyone wants to know whether or not they should get a dining plan—check out our Complete Guide to Disney World Dining Plans!

Don't forget to master your Disney World FastPass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks! We've got park-specific guides as well: Magic Kingdom FastPass, Epcot FastPass, Animal Kingdom FastPass, and Hollywood Studios FastPass.

Know what to ride with our guides to: Magic Kingdom rides, Hollywood Studios rides, Epcot rides, and Animal Kingdom rides! Plus learn about the water parks with our guide to Blizzard Beach and our guide to Typhoon Lagoon!

Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.