I’m a rope drop believer during any theme park vacation.
Usually, I’m a night owl. I don’t like getting up early. But on a theme park vacation? I’m Ben Franklin. In fact, I’m up earlier than the milkman.
It’s a great way to get ahead of the crowds. Certainly, it’s the best way to beat the heat and the Florida late-afternoon thunderstorms that come with it. And also, you can get a lot done.
Plus, at a park like Animal Kingdom – which is also a zoo – you get great animal encounters in the morning. So, I’m pro rope drop.
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What time is rope drop for Animal Kingdom?
There are two rope drops per morning at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Currently, the early entry for Disney World resort guests is at 7:30 am and the actual park opening is at 8 am.
However, park hours change depending on the season. It’s best to check the Disney website or the My Disney Experience app to be sure.
Is it necessary to rope drop Animal Kingdom?
Not to go to all Chicago, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is” on you, but is anything in a theme park necessary? No. People come in at all hours of the park day.
But do I prefer to rope drop every Disney resort? Yes.
That being said, Animal Kingdom is manageable whenever you get there. Honestly, Animal Kingdom is often the park where I shave a little time at the end of the day for the hotel pool. We get there early and can usually be done in the late afternoon.
But there’s no reason that strategy couldn’t work in reverse where you enjoy the evening hours in the park.
I think Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the most essential Walt Disney World resort park to rope drop. The Magic Kingdom is next because of Fantasyland and that march up Main Street to the Cinderella Castle.
Where do you enter Animal Kingdom?
There’s a main entrance. It’s obvious from the parking lot whether you arrive by private car or Disney bus. You walk under the big roof that says “Animal Kingdom” and past the people selling and taking tickets. You can see it from the bus stop.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: Follow all the other people to the park entrance.
Here’s another one: If you’re trying to get into the park and you find yourself making your way through Central Florida shrubbery or hit some fencing, that’s probably not the entrance.
Should I buy Lightning Lanes for the Animal Kingdom attractions?
I would absolutely pay for the purchases of Individual Lightning Lanes for Avatar Flight of Passage in the world of Pandora. You can’t say you’ve really done the park if you miss that ride, but the wait times can be gigantic.
If you have it in the budget, I think it’s a no-brainer. Now, the regular Disney Genie+ Lightning Lanes? I would not.
You’re not guaranteed to get the rides you want. And Animal Kingdom – as currently configured – doesn’t have enough backup rides to make it worth the gamble.
Honestly, Animal Kingdom is probably the least essential of the Disney parks to get the Disney Genie+ through the My Disney Experience app.
What’s the difference between an Individual Lightning Lane and the regular Lightning Lane?
The regular Lightning Lane gives you the opportunity to skip two or three lines on most of the attractions in whichever Disney park you are visiting that day.
However, the most popular attractions in each park are set up for Individual Lightning Lane access, which you pay for separately.
Why the most popular ride in each park? That’s where the money is.
Are there any attractions I should avoid targeting at rope drop?
Certainly, don’t bother with the TriceraTop Spin. The kids can get on that fairly quickly almost at any point.
And I wouldn’t rush straight to DINOSAUR – but I’m on the record as not liking that one, so I may be biased.
I also wouldn’t do Kali River Rapids for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t want to be wet all day and secondly, I’d wait until the heat of the day is up.
Also, just for the record, you can’t rope drop Festival of the Lion King because the park is usually open a couple of hours before the first show.
Can I get an early character breakfast at the Tusker House and still make rope drop?
Apparently not. One of our best rope drops at Disney came when we booked a pre-park opening character breakfast at the Tusker House.
We timed it perfectly. We had a fantastic buffet with African-inspired flavors while meeting Donald, Mickey, Minnie and Goofy in their safari gear. Afterward, we walked right out into the mini rope drop that allowed us to be first on Kilimanjaro Safaris that day.
However, Tusker House currently opens at 8 am at the time of this writing. That’s a half-hour after early entry and in line with regular rope drop. I hope they go back to opening earlier. It was fun to feel like you’re beating the system.
What rides should I target at rope drop for Animal Kingdom?
Let’s take a look at the best choices for rides you should prioritize:
4. Expedition Everest
If you’re willing to use the single rider availability, this is clearly the fourth of the top four attractions to target at rope drop. If not, the ride wait times can get longer throughout the day.
When Animal Kingdom expands again, this ride will become a lot more accessible. Anything under 45 minutes is acceptable. Anything under 30 is pretty good.
3. Na’vi River Journey
Na’vi River is a great ride. Also, the World of Avatar is a popular destination at rope drop.
I’m not sure this is a must-rope drop. However, if you’re looking to check something off your list quickly, this might be the one.
What usually happens is people try to get to Flight of Passage, see the wait times jump over 100 minutes and fall back here, which drives the wait times up. Anything under 30 minutes is good.
2. Kilimanjaro Safaris
I like rope-dropping this ride, though the march from the front of the park to the back can be a little grueling.
On our most recent trip, I think they overestimated the size of the rope drop queue. As a result, we were quick-stepping all over the park before we ever reached the ride’s entrance.
For example, at one point we were in Africa, Pandora, in the backlot, and in Asia before we ever actually got in line.
But animal viewing in the morning, I think, is among the best. We saw so many of the animals out and up.
1. Avatar Flight of Passage
If you don’t have early theme park entry, it may not be prudent to try to rope drop this Pandora ride. However, if you don’t have a Lightning Lane, I’m not sure the wait times are gonna get a lot better.
Animal Kingdom is – I believe – in a similar situation to Hollywood Studios five years ago. It’s a park in transition.
There is something coming over near Dinoland, U.S.A. that will change the balance of the park. But until it does, this is the best ride in the park, one of the best in Orlando and one of the best in the world. Whether it’s rope drop, a Lightning Lane or bribery, figure out a way to get on it.
Have you rope dropped at the Animal Kingdom? Do you have tips to share? Let us know in the comments!