There was a time not long ago or that far away that your Disney’s Hollywood Studios rope drop strategy was binary – not unlike the Twin Suns of Tatooine.
When cast members performed the literal rope drop – signifying the Walt Disney World park was open for the day – you essentially had two choices.
Star Wars fans with kids headed right to sign up for the Jedi Training Academy.
Nearly everyone else made a beeline for Toy Story Mania! which was once the best ride in the park.
Then, Toy Story Land opened in July 2018. Our Disney vacation that year missed it by a day. Galaxy’s Edge opened a year later, completely changing the face of the park.
The Jedi Training Academy is gone, as are the Early Magic Hours and the FastPass System.
Today we have early theme park entry for Walt Disney World Resort guests, the Disney Skyliner, Disney Genie+ Lightning Lanes and also a reservation system that may not be around much longer.
In just five years, it’s funny to think about how much more you get for your Hollywood Studios ticket.
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What time is the rope drop at Hollywood Studios?
There are two rope drops per morning at Hollywood Studios. Currently, early entry for a Disney World Resort guest is 8 am and the actual park opening is at 8:30 am.
However, that changes depending on the season. It’s best to check the Disney website or the My Disney Experience app for the official park opening time to be sure.
What does rope drop mean at Hollywood Studios?
There is literally a rope drop. A large crowd usually gathers at the entrance of the park, and they start letting people through the turnstiles and onto Hollywood Boulevard.
Cast members spread a rope out across the road to keep the surging crowd back. They drop the rope and people lose their minds.
What is a good Hollywood Studios rope drop strategy?
To strategize properly, you have a lot to consider. Are you interested in using single rider lines to save time? Are you willing to pay for Lightning Lane access? What are the rides you absolutely can’t miss?
In fact, I think more than any other Disney park – which include EPCOT, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom – the rope drop strategy is key to a successful day at Hollywood Studios.
Should I pay for Lightning Lanes?
I would certainly pay for the Individual Lightning Lane for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Look, planning your day at the park is a balance of time and money. Rise of the Resistance is an absolute must ride and the wait time can be massive.
Two hours in line represents about a tenth of your day in the park. For about $20, you can cut that by 75% or more and buy yourself that time to do things other than standing in line.
If you have it in the budget, I think it’s a no-brainer.
Now, the regular Disney Genie+ Lightning Lanes is a tougher call. You’re not guaranteed to get the rides you want, but you can save time on two to three other rides throughout the course of your day.
It’s recommended to get your purchases as early as you can. Disney Resort guests can make their first purchase at 7 am on the day of their visit, while other guests can make their first purchase during normal opening hours.
If you play your cards right, it can really cut down your waiting time in the park.
What is 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? Of course, that’s where the money is.
Are there any rides I shouldn’t target at rope drop?
Yes. I would say neither Alien Swirling Saucers nor Star Tours are worth your rope drop attention. Wait times for Star Tours generally stay quite reasonable through the day and Alien’s wait times are – in my experience – frequently exaggerated.
I wouldn’t do the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, either.
I don’t think the Aerosmith ride is worth it and we like to wait until right before the park closes to jump in the Tower of Terror line.
As long as you’re in it before the park closes, you get to ride and I like the view over Sunset Boulevard at dusk or nighttime. Plus, the wait is usually not that bad and the ride provides an emphatic exclamation point.
The rope drop strategy is all about getting to rides that will have long wait times later in the day.
What attractions should I target for the rope drop?
Certainly, some strategy remains here when rope dropping Hollywood Studios.
My general philosophy is not to be greedy. One ride per attraction per visit. Under this idea, if you made Lightning Lane selections for these rides, just move everything else up one spot.
However, Rise of the Resistance is so good, I might try to rope drop it even if I had a Lightning Lane for later in the day.
Here are some of the top attractions you should target for rope drop:
5. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
This is a great little ride whose queue moves fairly well. But it does go down frequently.
If you’re in the park early and you see a wait time of under 20 minutes or so, go ahead and ride. This is one worthy of multiple rides in a day.
4. Toy Story Mania!
Toy Story Mania! used to be the King Daddy of Hollywood Studios rides.
It’s been usurped, but it’s still a lot of fun. Any wait time under 30 minutes is good. If the other rides higher on this list are taken, this is a good fallback rope drop option.
3. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
This is an excellent opportunity to use the single rider line and save time. Smugglers Run is a great ride, but the wait times can be a bear.
However, with six slots in the Falcon’s cockpit, there are opportunities for single riders to slide in. You’re probably not going to get the pilot’s seat as a single rider, but it’s still a great time.
2. Slinky Dog Dash
This ride is actually better at night. If you can get a light wait time in the morning, less than 30 minutes, go ahead and grab it.
Try for a second ride once the sun has gone down.
1. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Rides like this are the reason rope drops exist. Look, if you don’t have early access, I’m not sure rope drop Rise of the Resistance is a great idea. That extra half-hour start really gives resort guests a leg up.
In fact, an hour’s wait for Rise is reasonable. 45 minutes or less is good. 30 minutes or fewer means running your butt to the front of the queue and saying a prayer of thanks.
On our most recent trip, we didn’t have the Lightning Lane and didn’t like the wait times early in the day. We waited to see if they would drop. They never did.
Eventually, we got in line back by the Muppets Theater with a wait time in excess of 120 minutes. It was a long, slow painful slog to the front of that line.
At my weight, the standing is brutal. Tom Petty was correct: Waiting is the hardest part. Still, the ride was worth every second of it. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
But, if you plan your rope drop strategy effectively – which means staying at a Disney resort and buying an Individual Lightning Lane – you won’t have to.
What is your Hollywood Studios rope drop strategy? Let us know in the comments!