Animal Kingdom Rope Drop and Early Entry (2023)

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a theme park full of lush nature, amazing animal trails, and thrilling rides. This is the biggest of the Disney World parks and contains a fantastic mixture of rides, shows, and animal encounters.

I recently rope-dropped Animal Kingdom while staying at Caribbean Beach Resort, so today, I want to share my tips on my experience.Everything to know and strategy on rope dropping Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is also home to the spectacular Pandora: The World of Avatar. Become fully immersed in the stunning and otherworldly landscape of Mo’ara Valley. 

Enjoy some of the most popular rides in Animal Kingdom before dining on unique foods and stunning drinks.

I don’t suggest getting in line for Feathered Friends in Flight when you rope drop, but it can be an excellent place to relax during the day with a great show. (Photo by Bayley Clark /

Journey through Africa and Asia and marvel at the sights and sounds of these lands. See The Festival of the Lion King show, and take a safari journey to spot some incredible animals. Be thrilled on Expedition Everest, and prepare to get wet on Kali River Rapids!

Hop abroad on the Wildlife Express Train to get to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. You can learn more about the animals, conservation, and Disney’s animal care program. You can also learn to draw classic Disney characters here at The Animation Experience!

Don’t forget to stop by Dinoland U.S.A. to experience how life was back in prehistoric times! Take a photo with Dino Sue before enjoying a ride on DINOSAUR. This part of the park is slated to close to be reimagined per Disney’s latest announcement.

Proposed Dinoland U.S.A. might look from Disney's concept art.
Proposed Dinoland U.S.A. might look from Disney’s concept art. (Photo Credit Disney)

You also cannot miss the iconic Tree of Life. This gigantic tree sits in the middle of the park, making it a handy point to navigate your way around the park. 

It is also the home to the It’s Tough To Be A Bug! show. Be sure to closely examine The Tree of Life to see all the different animals carved into this impressive work of art.

Tree of Life Garden will show you all the animals that are in the making of the tree if you look closely.
Tree of Life Garden will show you all the animals that are in the making of the tree if you look closely.

With so much to explore to get the most out of your day at Animal Kingdom, you may want to rope drop this park. This will allow you to have extra time in the park that many people don’t know about! 

I am not a morning person and prefer to sleep in. Of course, I married a morning person who can’t wait to get to the parks as early as possible.

My husband convinced me to try rope drop a year and a half ago. It was worth getting up early, even for me. I suggest trying out rope drop, even if you think you will hate getting up early as much as I do.

My usual order from Starbucks, a trenta Vanilla sweet cream cold brew, with an iced water.
My usual order from Starbucks is a Trenta Vanilla sweet cream cold brew with iced water, from Creature Comforts in Animal Kingdom.

We could walk on to a few rides right away, and we rode everything we wanted to by 11 am! It opens the day up and lets you get more out of your vacation. We got to experience a few things we never would have had time for if we were waiting in the long lines.

So what exactly is rope drop, and how can this insider tip help you maximize the magic during your visit?

What is Rope Drop?

Rope drop is a Disney term for being at the park when the gates open. People in the know understand the secret is that the gates usually open before the listed time! 

The official park opening time is when the rides start operating, not when the park opens. Knowing this unpublished information is the best way to maximize your day at Animal Kingdom!

The gates to Animal Kingdom will usually open between 15 to 30 minutes before the listed opening time. This allows people to go through the park to get to the rides when they officially open.

Meeting Mickey and Minnie in their safari outfits is a great way to cool down during a hot day at the park.
Meeting Mickey and Minnie in their safari outfits is a great way to cool down during a hot day at the park.

The term rope drop comes from when guests were allowed into the park. The cast members would hold up a rope to stop guests from entering park areas that weren’t yet open.

Although the rope is now very rarely used, the term has forever become part of Disney’s lexicon.

The opening hours for Animal Kingdom vary throughout the year, but usually, the park opens at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. Check out the Disney World website before your trip to see the opening hours for your visit.

What is Early Entry For Disney World Resort Guests?

In 2021, Disney introduced Early Theme Park Entry for their resort guests. People at a Disney World Resort can enter the parks 30 minutes early. This is available in every park, every day!

This new system has replaced Rope Drop and has become an unofficial version of Rope Drop.

Thirty minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but the benefit to this is being in the park before day guests can enter. This means you can head straight to the rides you want to enjoy first and be some of the first people in the queue before others can enter the park! This gives you a massive advantage.

Rides being open for resort guests only means you may even be able to get on some rides before the park opens to everyone else for the day!

To make the best use of the extra time in Animal Kingdom, arrive 30 to 45 minutes before Early Park Entry. You want to be close to the entrance when the gate opens to be some of the first people in the park for the day.

Can I Rope Drop if I Don’t Stay at a Disney Resort?

With the introduction of Early Park Entry, there is no longer a way for people not staying at a Disney World Resort to rope drop. But you can still get ahead of everyone else by arriving early!

You cannot enter the park until the official opening time. You can get through security and start queuing at the gate to make sure you are one of the first people in the park once day guests are allowed in. This is the new way to rope drop if you are staying off-site.

You want to be sure to wear comfortable shoes that can breathe when you hit up the parks.
You want to be sure to wear comfortable shoes that can breathe when you hit up the parks. (Photo by CJ Dee for

This strategy will save you lots of time and get you ahead of other people who plan to arrive once the park opens. This will still help you to avoid long lines later in the day.

What Time is Rope Drop for Animal Kingdom?

This is one of the most common questions in our Walt Disney World Secrets and Tips Facebook group. When should you plan to get to the park for Early Entry or Rope Drop?

If you are staying on the property and are eligible for Early Entry, you will want to arrive at the park about 30-60 minutes before Early Entry begins. If you aren’t staying on property, you must arrive 30-60 minutes before the park opening.

What time you will leave your hotel will depend on what method of transportation you plan to take. Check out more information below based on how you will get to Animal Kingdom.

What is the Best Way to Get to Animal Kingdom for Rope Drop?

Animal Kingdom Bus with Toy Story Characters Buzz, Slinky Dog, Bullseye, Woody, and Jessie.
Animal Kingdom Bus with Toy Story Characters Buzz, Slinky Dog, Bullseye, Woody, and Jessie. (Photo by Bayley Clark for Magical Guides)

If you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, you can use the complimentary transportation and get a bus to Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom has no other transportation options, so taking the bus is the only way. 

This can mean buses are busier than some of the other Disney World parks as there are no other means for people to get to this park from their resort.

Disney buses start around one hour before the park opens. Be sure to arrive at your resort bus stop early as the buses can get full, particularly for people wanting to rope drop Animal Kingdom. Aim to arrive at the bus stop around 20 to 30 minutes before the day’s first bus to ensure you get a spot on it.

If you don’t manage to get the first bus, don’t panic. The buses run quite frequently so it should not be too long until the next one arrives!

If you will be driving to Animal Kingdom, the car park opens around one hour before the park opens. Try not to arrive too early before this as you may have to wait at the booths where you pay.  You could even be turned away and asked to return once the parking lot opens.

If you get a taxi, Uber, or Lyft to Animal Kingdom, you can get dropped off around 45 minutes to 1 hour before the park opens.

Why Should You Rope Drop?

The top reason to rope drop is to be some of the first people to get into the queues for the most popular rides! This can help cut down your queue time and save you money as you may not need to pay for Individual Lightning Lane Passes or Disney Genie+.

Rope Drop also gives you extra time in the park, with the best part being that other people don’t even know this is possible!

Another big reason rope drop is a great strategy is that you can save time. Get ahead of the crowd by walking from the transportation and going through bag checks. This will get you close to the front of the gates ahead of opening time.

Flight of Passage tester seat out front of the ride; Flight of Passage is a ride I'd recommend heading to first if you rope drop.
Flight of Passage tester seat out front of the ride; Flight of Passage is a ride I’d recommend heading to first if you rope drop.

Many people will aim to arrive at the park when the gates open as they believe this is what the opening time means. If they arrive at Animal Kingdom at 9 a.m., they must walk from the transportation and go through security, which can add 20 to 30 minutes.

By arriving early, you can get all this out of the way and be at least 20 minutes ahead of everyone else. This results in you having extra time in the park before it is even officially open!

People will start queuing around 30 minutes to an hour before the official opening. If you want to be some of the first people in the park, factor this in.

Top Tips For Rope Drop at Animal Kingdom!

View of Expedition Everest from Animal Kingdom.
View of Expedition Everest from Animal Kingdom. (Photo by Bayley Clark for Magical Guides)

The ride most people head to first is Avatar Flight of Passage. Flight of Passage will have a long line right from the park opening. If you want to rope drop this ride, make this your first ride and head there quickly. 

Flight of Passage is the most popular ride in Animal Kingdom and one of the most popular in Disney World. It still draws queues that are multiple hours long. If you plan to rope-drop Flight of Passage, knowing how to get there beforehand will help you massively!

Once you enter Animal Kingdom, walk forward until you come to the Tree of Life. You will then want to take the left path leading to Pandora.

Pandora is a breathtaking land to just walk thru and experience.
Pandora is a breathtaking land to walk thru and experience.

Expedition Everest is another super popular ride and is fantastic for rollercoaster enthusiasts! Expedition Everest is opposite from Animal Kingdom Park to Flight of Passage. The best strategy is to choose which of these rides you want to rope drop and head straight for that.

You will want to be at the park entrance about an hour before to make this your first ride. This ride is one of the individual lightning lanes you can purchase by itself, so that is another great option if it fits your budget. Right before the park closes, the end of the day tends to have a short wait for rides, and is a free alternative for your Disney vacation.

Two of the best rides to rope drop are Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safari. These two rides have long daily queues, but most guests will first go to Fight of Passage. 

While everyone else runs to Flight of Passage, you can ride both quickly. You can get ahead of the crowd and queue for these attractions with a shorter queue time. Kilimanjaro Safari is also a great ride in the morning when the animals are the most active before the day gets too hot.

If Expedition Everest is the one for you, when you get to The Tree Of Life, take the right path to Dinoland U.S.A. You will follow this path, keeping the lake and Kite Tails theatre on your left side. If you follow this path, you will come to Expedition Everest!

Before you go on your Kilimanjaro Safari, you are reminded of a few dos and don'ts while visiting.
Before you go on your Kilimanjaro Safari, you are reminded of a few dos and don’ts while visiting.

Kilimanjaro Safari is a highlight of most people’s visit to Animal Kingdom and is not to be missed! It is recommended to take a trip on this safari early in the day when the park first opens or later in the day as the sunsets are the cooler parts of the day so the animals tend to be more active. This will mean you get the best safari experience as there will be so many animals to see roaming around!

Kilimanjaro Safari is located right at the back of the park. When you get to The Tree Of Life follow the path that leads to the left-hand side of this landmark and continue walking forward towards the back of the park. This is where you will find the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safari.

In Fall 2021 Disney World introduced Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane Passes. These two new systems allow you to pay to skip the queue.

Rafiki's Planet Watch sign in Animal Kingdom. Open your eyes to the World Around You.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch sign in Animal Kingdom. Open your eyes to the World Around You. (Photo by Bayley Clark for Magical Guides)

Genie+ starts at $15 a day, per person to join the shorter Lightning Lane queue for up to 40 attractions across all four Disney World parks. Disney Genie seems to be getting more and more expensive. The rides and attractions in Animal Kingdom that are included in Genie+ are:

  • Celebration of the Festival of the Lion King
  • Feathered Friends in Flight!
  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug!
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Na’vi River Journey 
  • The Animation Experience

Purchasing Genie+ may change your rope drop plan. If you have managed to get a return time for one of the rides listed above, you will want to head to a different ride to take advantage of the shorter wait time at rope drop. It’s a win-win situation and can help you get the most out of your day!

If you have bought Genie+, Kilimanjaro Safari is one of the most popular attractions to try to get your first pass. If you can get a reservation for this, head to Flight of Passage, Expedition Everest, Na’vi River Journey, Kali River Rapids, or DINOSAUR during rope drop to get on these rides with shorter queue times.

Flight of passage theming is top-notch when walking through the queue before boarding.

Some people will purchase an Individual Lightning Lane Pass to cut the long wait times. The individual lightning lane passes can change and are often the most popular rides for Disney Parks.

Individual Lightning Lane Selections can be purchased per ride on the My Disney Experience App at 7 a.m. It is a good idea to purchase right at 7 a.m. for these as they tend to book up fast. You do not need Genie+ to buy these passes; you can buy them independently.

Individual Lightning Lane Passes are great for your ‘must-do’ rides. Purchasing one of these will ensure you can ride your favorite ride without needing to queue for hours to do so.

If you have purchased Individual Lightning Lane Passes for Flight of Passage or Expedition Everest, the best rope drop strategy is to use your extra time in the park to head for other popular attractions such as Kilimanjaro Safari, Navi River Journey, Kali River Rapids, and DINOSAUR.

You do not need to buy Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane Passes to have a fantastic time at Animal Kingdom! These are optional extras for people who want a shorter queuing experience. One of the big benefits of rope drop is that you can head to the rides that draw the biggest wait times and be one of the first people in the queue, which reduces the time you spend waiting. This can mean you do not need to spend money on these features.  Not only can rope drop save you time, but it can also save you money! 

If rides aren’t your thing, then visit the animal trails during your bonus rope drop time to see the animals on the cooler day. This is when they are more active and easier to spot! Just like humans, when the Florida sun is at its hottest, they like to retreat to shadier and cooler areas, so early in the morning is a great time to be a wilderness explorer and see the awesome animals at Animal Kingdom!

If you get to the park for rope drop first thing in the morning, this is also a great time to take photos when the parks are quiet. Animal Kingdom is a beautiful Disney Park with many amazing photo spots to take photos to keep as memories of your visit.

Kevin from Disney movie UP walking around meeting guests.
Kevin from Disney movie UP is walking around meeting guests. (Photo by CJ Dee)

To start your day off the Disney way, consider booking one of the early breakfast dining reservations nearby. You can fuel up at the incredible Boma in Animal Kingdom Lodge.
This resort is just a bus ride from Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Boma is a buffet packed full of incredible African and American fare.
The less popular Rainforest Café is located right at the entrance to Animal Kingdom! These locations are close to the park and a great way to start your day!

Animal Kingdom is one of the most unique and spectacular parks at Disney World. Now you know all about these insider tips, the best way to rope drop, and how to get the most out of your day at Animal Kingdom, you can experience your best day ever!

If you’re looking for other Rope Drop Strategies for Early Entry to other Disney Parks, check out the guide I put together below:

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