How To Rope Drop Universal Studios, Tips From a Park Pro

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I’m not a morning person. I prefer the nightlife. I’m the reason the snooze button was invented. But on vacation, things change. Give me park tickets to a place like Walt Disney World or Universal and I’m a completely different person. Sunrise? Get me a front-row ticket. There’s a rope drop to be met. Let’s go!

Does Universal Studios do rope drop?

Yep, and essentially there are two. The first is for guests at the Universal Resort hotels who get early park admission as part of their stay. The second is when the park opens for the day to the public. 

entrance sign for islands of adventure in orlando with coaster in background
Islands of Adventure along with Universal Studios typically opens at 9 am (photo by James Overholt/

What time is rope drop at Universal Studios Florida?

Both Universal’s Islands of Adventure and the Universal Studios Orlando parks generally open at 9 am. Early Admission is usually an hour before the park opens. Since opening times may vary, be sure to check the park’s calendar when making plans.

The Universal Studios Globe with the Mist
Try to arrive about 45 minutes before rope drop (photo by Morgan Overholt/

What time should you arrive at Universal Studios?

A decent rule of thumb, if you’re not determined to be among the first to set foot in the park that day, be at the entrance about 30 minutes early. However, nearly everyone else doing rope drop aims for about half an hour early, so you might be better off trying to be there 45 minutes early. 

By the way, if you rope drop Islands of Adventure, consider the pass holder entrance to the right. If it is open to the general public, there’s some shade and some walls where you can sit or take turns sitting while someone in your party holds your place in line. Also, keep in mind, that it takes a good 15 minutes to walk from the transport center through Universal CityWalk to the park entrances. Plan that time into your schedule. 

Figure Tipping a Top Hat Wizarding World Universal
Areas of Universal that open at Early Admission include some of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions (photo by Morgan Overholt/

If we rope drop at Early Admission, is the entire park open?

No. In general terms, Early Admission includes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions and maybe one other big attraction. However, that can change. Currently, Universal Studios Florida has Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem open during the early hours in addition to the Harry Potter stuff. In Islands of Adventure, the VelociCoaster is part of Early Admission. 

Hagrid Ride Entrance Sign at Universal's Harry Potter Park
Rope drop strategy depends on the individual and may include heading for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbikes for some (photo by James Overholt/

What’s the best strategy to rope drop Universal Studios? 

On the surface, there’s not a lot of strategy. At the park opening, get to the most popular attractions with the shortest wait times first. But there are levels to this stuff. First, you must know if are you doing an Early Admission rope drop or park opening time rope drop. If it’s Early Admission, your choices are limited. The basic goal is to get to the Wizarding World as quickly as possible. 

In Islands of Adventure, this is easy. There’s only one route available at the early rope drop. It’s through Seuss Landing and into the Lost Continent, where you will meet the line for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. If you’re not targeting the most popular roller coaster in the park, then you’re heading to whatever Hogsmeade experiences suit you the best. I suggest Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. If Jurassic World VelociCoaster is open and that’s something you want to do, head that way. 

In Universal Studios Florida, it’s more complicated. There are several routes you can take. I don’t think there’s a big-time difference if you cut up by Transformers on Sunset or take 7th Avenue, but a sharp route plan can get you to the Wizarding World earlier. I think the longest route would be to take Rodeo over to Universal Studios Hollywood Boulevard and then cut over.

If you want to ride Minion Mayhem, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to knock it out in early admission hours unless there’s something you just MUST do in the Wizarding World. We usually opt to not do Minions and get a couple of rides of Escape from Gringotts in – plus a visit with no wait to Ollivanders in Diagon Alley before the crowds jumped up. If you have a kid – or kids – with their heart set on getting chosen for the wand ceremony, early admission hours are a great time to get in with little wait. Alternatively, you can go straight to Minions. Once, we tried this only to have it close down while we were next in line, basically ruining our rope drop mojo. 

The Incredible Hulk coaster at Universal Studios Florida
The Incredible Hulk Coaster in Islands of Adventure could have long lines later in the day (photo by James Overholt/

Strategy tips for rope drop without Early Admission

There are two versions of regular admission rope drop. On days with Early Admission for other guests, some people have been in the park an hour before you. Therefore, the rides that open early already have a wait time that can eliminate any advantages you get from rope drop. In this version, you must access the other rides and decide which ones you want to try to get to before the people who got into the Wizarding World early are unleashed upon the rest of the park. 

In Islands of Adventure, the Incredible Hulk Coaster and Reign of Kong: Skull Island are good options. I would not rope drop the Spider-Man ride if I could help it. First of all, the queue is mostly shaded so it’s not a bad spot to wait. Secondly, the rope drop should be reserved for top-tier attractions only and the Spider-Man ride is, as the kids would say, mid. 

In Universal Florida, try the Simpsons ride or Revenge of the Mummy. If you rope drop on a day that does not offer Early Admission, it’s a free-for-all to every ride in the park. In this scenario, you’ve got two kinds of folks: Potterheads who immediately make the long walk to the back of the park or opportunists who seek out the shortest ride times in the park and go get theirs. 

If you’re looking to get on something quickly that will have a longer wait time later in the day, target the Hulk ride in Islands and Minion Mayhem in Universal Studios. They’re closest to the entrances. It is important to note that both parks do not offer Early Admission every day. Also of note, the Hogwarts Express won’t start running until both parks are open.

I’ve experimented with rope dropping at the park that doesn’t have Early Admission, thinking that the crowds would go to the Early Admission park and there may be an advantage. However, if there was a difference, it didn’t manifest in a way that I would notice.

The Streets of Universal Studios
To get everything done, head to the park in the morning (photo by Daniel Munson/

Is it better to go to Universal in the morning or evening?

I’ve always been a theme park-in-the-morning guy. But I’ve always had smaller kids. Now that they’re growing up, they don’t pop out of bed as easily and they don’t tire out so much at night. Still, if you think about theme parks in terms of getting things done, which I do, I think early is the way to go

Families with older kids or more leisurely intentions won’t arrive until later, meaning there’s theoretically a little less competition. The heat of the day isn’t up. You’re relatively fresh and ready to go. Whether it’s Walt Disney World, Universal, Cedar Point, King’s Island, Dollywood or Six Flags, just being there when the park opens is the right call. If you need a break, take it midday and come back for the evening festivities.

However, I do like Universal in the evenings. It has a lot to offer. But I can’t imagine not getting into the park until the afternoon. It just doesn’t compute for me. 

An Express Pass Sign Universal
The Express Pass is a good idea whether you are rope dropping or not (photo by James Overholt/

If I’m going to rope drop, do I still need a Universal Express Pass? 

Perhaps. You don’t have to have an Express Pass to enjoy the parks. After all, it’s pretty expensive. But if you would use it when you’re not rope dropping, you should use it when you do.

Gilly Water and Butterbeer Universal
Take extra time to enjoy your vacation at Universal (photo by Morgan Overholt/

So should you rope drop Universal? 

You absolutely should. First, you paid a lot of money for this experience, if the park is open, be in it. Enjoy every moment, even if you’re just having a leisurely Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks. All this time, all this planning, all this money and you’re going to do what? Lay in the hotel bed and sleep? This is vacation. If you want time to relax, build a non-theme park day into the schedule and spend the day at the pool. Otherwise, put a helmet on, get in there, and for the love of Pete, vacate.

What is your Universal rope drop strategy? Let us know in the comments!

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John Gullion

John Gullion, Managing Editor at the Citizen Tribune, is a freelance contributor for LLC – the parent company of and

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