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Hollywood Studios is the biggest crowd draw at Disney World ever since the reopening. In the absence of Fast Passes, a solid strategy for Hollywood Studios rope drop has become essential (updated June 24, 2021).
Keep in mind, Disney is constantly changing up how things are running right now so I will try to keep this post updated.
I also have a guide to Hollywood Studios to give more detailed information about the park and attractions. This also includes a more detailed strategy for the entire day.
What is Hollywood Studios Rope Drop in 2021?
Whenever you see a Disney blogger (or park fanatic) use the phrase “rope drop”, they are referring to being at the park first thing in the morning, prior to park opening.
The last part of that sentence is key: prior to park opening. If the park opens at 9a and you show up at 9a, you already missed rope drop.
As of the beginning of June, Disney has started reverting back to the traditional rope drop procedures at the parks. This means being held like a mass of cattle at stopping points until that rope officially drops.
There’s not actually a rope. Usually.
Typically, where you are held (i.e.Sunset Boulevard) allows guests to get a head start spending their money at the stores.
I can understand why they need to revert back to the old ways as crowds swell, but I mourn the loss of the easy and controlled rope drop experience in the month following the reopening.
There was a lot less stress and pressure that way. Now, rope drop at times is akin to the running of the bulls. Yet I still highly recommend rope drop, so clearly I’m just being a little dramatic.
What is the Point of Rope Drop at Disney World?
The one and only priority of going to a park at rope drop is to get on the rides with minimal lines. This could mean getting on Expedition Everest over and over again by walking on, or getting a head start on the line for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad.
Typically, people head straight for the rides that have the longest lines throughout the day. Often, rope drop produces the shortest wait you’ll have.
But this only works if you have the right rope drop strategy. Showing up even 20 minutes late can drastically change your results.
Essentially, you’re still waiting to get on a ride, you’re just doing it outside the queue. For some reason, it just feels better this way. The wait doesn’t feel as long, there’s more freedom of movement (walking around, bathroom breaks, etc.).
And the biggest factor: you aren’t wasting valuable park time while you wait because the park isn’t even open yet.
Hollywood Studios Rope Drop and Rise of the Resistance
This right here is the wild card. First things first: you cannot rope drop Rise of the Resistance, no matter how hard you try. The only way to get on Rise of the Resistance is with a boarding pass.
Learn all about how to get your Rise of the Resistance boarding group, plus learn tips to improve your chances.
Disney made changes to the boarding group schedule which is designed to help make rope drop even better for the early risers. The boarding group now opens at 7:00a. And clearly, you don’t have to be in the park to get it.
This allows more people to wait until later in the day to show up, which ultimately benefits anyone who wants to rope drop Hollywood Studios.
If a family gets a high number for Rise of the Resistance, they might be more likely to wait until a little later in the day to arrive. This benefits the people who want to take advantage of rope drop.
Factors for a Hollywood Studios Rope Drop Strategy
Now that we know what rope drop at Hollywood Studios entails, let’s start talking turkey. Because simply showing up just won’t cut it.
Best Ways to Get to Hollywood Studios for Rope Drop
The very first thing to consider is the transportation you plan to take to Hollywood Studios. This might seem straightforward, but of course it’s not.
The main reason for this is that many transportation options simply aren’t running early enough. Buses and the Skyliner gondolas don’t start dropping off guests until about an hour before park opening (give or take).
I think this won’t be as big of a deal with traditional rope drop as it was with the modified rope drop experience. But time will tell.
The only group of people who can fully control getting to Hollywood Studios truly early are those staying at BoardWalk Resort, Beach & Yacht Club Resorts, and Swan & Dolphin.
There’s a hand dandy little walking path that takes you right to the park. Plan on it taking you 15-20 minutes, depending on resort and walking pace.
If you have access to a vehicle, either your own or a rental car, driving to Hollywood Studios is another option. Again, this puts you in control a little more.
If you don’t have a vehicle at your disposal, I highly recommend using a ride share service such as Uber or Lyft. They don’t cost very much and drop you off right in front of the park.
The latest in the parking lot situation is that they aren’t letting any cars into the lot until a specific time. This is of course not a formally announced time, so it could change at will.
At this point, assume you can get into the parking lot around an hour before park opening. Prior to that time they will likely allow the cars to line up outside the parking booths.
However, if you arrive too early you might be turned around and told to come back.
Ride share cars won’t be allowed in the lot until they are ready so don’t get there too early.
My Lyft was turned away when we were there sooner than an hour before park opening. At that point the sheriff’s officer told us the lot didn’t open until 8a on a 9a opening day.
You can *try* getting dropped off at Boardwalk Resort to walk, but there’s no guarantee security will let you in. They allowed us to do it, but things always change.
I lately heard this suggestion, but haven’t tried it, so take it with a grain of salt: Ask your ride share driver to take you to the Speedway Gas Station (300 E Buena Vista Dr.). From there you can walk to the walking path to Hollywood Studios.
Again, I haven’t tried this. I did go on Google Maps and look at the satellite view, and I can see what look like sidewalks connecting the Speedway to the walking path.
In fact, you can get walking directions and it shows exactly how you can hook up with the Hollywood Studios walking path. Because I’m a geek, I did a bit more satellite level exploration, and there appears to be a sidewalk from the front entrance of Speedway all the way to where it connects to the walking path.
I might have to give this a try when I go next time since I’m staying at All Star Movies Resort. Anything to avoid the bus…
What time is rope drop at Hollywood Studios?
Disney park hours have been screwy ever since the reopening. The later a park opens, the harder it is to have a successful rope drop. More people are will to rope drop at 10a than 9a.
But now that the crowds have returned, the park hours are slowly becoming more normal. This is probably one of the biggest benefits to come along with the high crowd levels.
At the time of this update (June 2021), the posted hours for Hollywood Studios are 9:00a-8:00p. This is excellent and is a trend that should continue from this point on.
The park hours have consistently been posted as 9a-8p for month now, so this is the new normal. Just be aware that Disney can change the park hours at any given time, even the same day!
Always check the park opening times directly from Disney just before and during your trip! It would be very unfortunate if the park opened an hour earlier than you thought.
However, the general rule of thumb and pattern should be the same no matter what the opening time is. So if the park opens at 9:00a plan for rope drop to start about an hour early. Not the rides, just the line process.
As of now, guests are allowed entry into the park at around an hour before official opening time. From that point on, consider yourself as being in a holding pen. You’re waiting to be allowed access to the depths of the park.
The sweet spot for an arrival window seems to be just before 8:00a (for a 9:00a opening). This will put you well towards the front of the line. I’d shoot for 7:45a.
As I mentioned, the only people who can guarantee an arrival before 8:00a are the walkers. However, if you’re coming via other transportation, set yourself up so you’re arrival is as close to 8:00a as possible.
The Line Process at Hollywood Studios Rope Drop
So, I just deleted a massive amount of detailed text describing the temporary rope drop process that existed since reopening.
That process had multiple steps and holding points. It was orderly and fairly predictable. Too bad that’s no more.
The return to “normal” rope drop is still in early days yet, and could change at any point in time.
In fact, all of this WILL change as soon as Disney releases their new Early Theme Park Entry benefit to Disney Resort guests. At that point in time, only Disney resort guests will ever be able to rope drop a Disney park.
We don’t know what this will be, but assume it will be in place by October 1, 2021 at the latest. My guess is closer to end of August/beginning of September.
But for now, here’s what to expect. Honestly, I expect it to look almost identical during Early Theme Park Entry, just for Disney resort guests only.
An Hour Before Park Opening Time
By an hour before park opening, they should allow guests through security and then through the tapstiles. This is around the time that buses arrive, the Skyliner guests arrive, and the parking lot is opened.
This is why walkers have the upper hand. They can already be in place near security before everyone else even sets foot on Hollywood Studios property.
If you get there super early, plan to hang out outside the security stations. If the crowds there start to swell, there is the possibility that the initial wave of people will be let through security and up to the closed tapstiles.
This is purely to minimize the crowd standing outside security. But again, this demonstrates the importance of being towards the front of the line. It just puts you one step ahead of everyone else.
Around an hour before park opening time, the tapstiles will open and guests are allowed entry into the park. At this point, head in the general direction of the ride you want to rope drop first.
There should be Cast Members holding signs directing you to which holding area goes to which section of the park. For example, if you plan to rope drop Rock n Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror, you’ll want to be held on Sunset Boulevard.
When we were last there, people who wanted Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge were directed to the left of the Chinese Theater. Meanwhile guests going to Toy Story Land were directed to the right of the theater.
And clearly, anyone going to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad stayed straight ahead on Hollywood Boulevard.
How far your allowed in these directions may vary depending on how they adjust the procedure, but this should be the general pattern.
At this point, hunker down in place, shoulder to shoulder with the other guests. It’s a waiting game until they release the bulls…I mean guests.
Thirty Minutes Before Park Opening
The exact time of this might vary by about 5 minutes or so, but in general, around 30 minutes before the official park opening, Cast Members stationed at the front of each group walk guests into the area they are headed.
The Cast Members walk the herd in order to try to keep things relatively controlled. At least it’s a controlled running of the bulls…
In all seriousness, it’s really not that bad. With the exception of one experience we had at Animal Kingdom a few years ago, it’s been pretty controlled. Disney knows what they’re doing.
As you approach the rides in your appointed area (i.e. Toy Story Mania, Slinky Dog Dash, and Alien Swirling Saucers in Toy Story Land) the line will start to break apart in those directions.
From there you’ll be walked directly into the queue of your choice.
Again, Disney has this down to a science so be prepared for Cast Members with signs to direct the flow of traffic exactly where you want to go.
Once you get into the queue, the top tier rides should start loading and running immediately. However, be prepared that rides sometimes break down.
If a ride you get in line for isn’t running due to a breakdown, it’s better to abandon ship and go to another ride. Cast Members do not always communicate this information until the last minute though and by that time you might be too committed.
Best Rides for Rope Drop at Hollywood Studios
All rides are not created equal when it comes to rope drop at any Disney park. This is especially true when it comes to Hollywood Studios.
Since there are no FastPasses, your only option is to wait in the standby line. And let me tell you, some of those lines can get LONG.
Hollywood Studios went through quite the transformation over the past few years. It went from being only half a park with hardly anything to do, to the park with some of the most sought after rides in all of Disney World.
The bad news is that the lines get so long on ALL the rides by late morning it leaves you with nothing left to do. Because I refuse to wait in line for longer than 30 minutes.
That’s why rope drop is so important at Hollywood Studios. In this window of time you can knock out some hard to get on rides.
Rides to Rope Drop
Clearly, you won’t be able to do each and every one of these rides at rope drop. It’s up to you to prioritize which of these rides is the priority for your family.
- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
- Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
- Tower of Terror
In terms of rope drop, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Slinky Dog Dash seem to be the most popular rides to head to first.
If you miss the initial rope drop window and arrive even 20 minutes later, you’ll find yourself waiting in a VERY long line.
The other rides are a little more forgiving and have a bigger window to play with. Millennium Falcon is deeper into the park and seems to be more popular later in the rope drop window.
DON’T Rope Drop These Rides (Unless you get there late)
This isn’t because these particular rides aren’t worthy. It’s solely due to the fact that the lines for these attractions just don’t get as long (or simply won’t be open before park hours).
- Star Tours
- Toy Story Mania
- Alien Swirling Saucers
However, if you’re running late that day, these are definitely a better choice than an already 60 minute wait.
How to Create YOUR Perfect Hollywood Studios Rope Drop Strategy
Here’s the part where you need to think about your own priorities and determine your own course of action. Here are some questions I’d like you ask yourself:
- How many days will you spend at Hollywood Studios?
- Are there any rides you absolutely MUST get on?
- How do you plan to travel to Hollywood Studios?
- Do you hope to have a boarding pass for Rise of the Resistance?
- Will you still rope drop even if you have a boarding group that is called later in the day?
The answers to these questions will help you refine your strategy and help you understand what to expect.
Let’s go through this exercise. I’ll explain some of my thought process for how we developed our Hollywood Studios rope drop strategy for our most recent trip.
Multiple Days at Hollywood Studios
This gives you the ultimate flexibility to focus on primarily rope dropping different rides. If this is the case for you, you’re sitting pretty in terms of your rope drop strategy.
I recommend picking different rides to focus on each morning you’ll be in Hollywood Studios, unless you have a family favorite you want to prioritize each time.
Whichever is your #1 ride, make sure that’s the first ride you head to on your first day there. That way, if something goes wrong, you have your second day to play with if necessary.
Prioritizing the Rides
Turn dinner time one night into Disney strategy night and talk about what rides everyone in the family really wants to get on. This can be your starting point.
For my family, every single one of the rides is a priority. However, Slinky Dog is a family favorite and for this trip, we’d never been on Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
Since we had 2 days at Hollywood Studios, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway was the priority for the first day while Slinky Dog was the priority for the second day.
Transportation to the Park
As I mentioned above, this is a huge consideration in terms of timing. If you have no options other than either a bus or the Skyliner, you won’t be at the front of the line.
However, all is not lost. You’ll still be there before most other park goers that day. So while you might not walk onto Slinky Dog, you should only have to wait a relatively short amount of time.
If you arrive to the park between 8:15a and 8:30a (for a 9a opening), you might be too far behind the crowd. The paradox of rope drop is that if you don’t arrive in a specific pocket of time, the lines suddenly become some of the longest of the day.
If you get to a ride and the line has built up to a posted time of 45+ minutes, abandon ship. You’ll wait too long and then you won’t have a chance to get on other rides.
Slinky Dog Dash and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway are the most likely culprits for this to happen. The lines can very rapidly climb to a posted time of over 60 minutes.
However, Millennium Falcon, Tower of Terror, and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster are probably pretty doable still with shorter lines. Or there’s always Star Tours, Alien Swirling Saucers, and Toy Story Mania at this point if all else fails.
For our trip, we stayed at Beach Club and were able to walk to Hollywood Studios. This allowed us to shoot for the stars in our desire to get on Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
Rise of the Resistance Boarding Pass
Now that the first boarding pass grab happens at 7:00a, you can plan your day ahead a little bit better. Before you had to already be there and cross your fingers.
The higher the boarding group number, the later in the day you’ll get on the ride. Your boarding pass gives you an estimated amount of time before the number is called, so you have a basic idea.
Decide before you go how your boarding group impacts your rope drop plans. Do you still plan to go for rope drop if you have boarding group 100?
Or boarding group might not factor into your day at all. It didn’t for us. We knew we planned to rope drop the park regardless of the boarding group we achieved.
A Final Tip…
I hope this post lets you see that rope drop is still alive and well at Hollywood Studios. Once you’ve figured out your rope drop plan for Hollywood Studios, I have one final tip:
Be prepared to think on your feet on the big day.
As you can see from our first rope drop attempt, you never know what might happen. I certainly didn’t think the entire ride would go down for an extended period of time.
If something goes wrong with your first desired ride, don’t wait too long to bail and head to the second. If you get there later than you hoped, switch your plan to easier to get on rides. Both Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Slinky Dog Dash get long lines quite quickly.
Rope drop only works on the e-ticket rides if you are towards the front of the pack. If you aren’t, you’ll wait a very long time still. But if you change plans and head to Tower of Terror instead, you’ll still get on that real quick.
Remember, flexibility is key!
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Do you plan to try to rope drop Hollywood Studios? Have you had a different rope drop experience? Let us know in the comments below.