With California fully reopening, Disneyland has returned to normal park opening procedures for Summer 2021. In this rope drop report, we’ll walk you through the line for security on Harbor Blvd and to enter the park, plus our step by step morning in Fantasyland and beyond.
Staying a short walk from the parks, we actually rope dropped Disneyland and Disney California Adventure several mornings. Much like our recent Rocky Rope Drop at Magic Kingdom, the first morning was a bit rough–but Disney adjusted its crowd control procedures and things got progressively better each day of our trip.
We also tweaked our approach, arriving earlier each morning. That made a big difference, as did some other changes we made (not rope dropping DCA also helped!). This Disneyland rope drop report is the culmination of Disney’s improvements and our adjustments…
Before we get going, there are a couple of things we should note. First, this is all subject to change. Disneyland’s “phased reopening” is still very much a work in progress. As such, this may not reflect what you’ll experience if you visit in July, September, etc. With that said, this is pretty much on par with the normal rope drop as described in our Disneyland Park Opening Strategy & Rope Drop Tips, which was written pre-closure.
Second, these were far and away the largest crowds we’ve ever seen arriving from Harbor Boulevard. This is what we expected when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened two summers ago. We have extensive experience entering Disneyland from this direction, and we’ve never seen it this busy.
Our guess is that in-state tourists (that or a lot of Giants fans suddenly moved to SoCal) who would normally be more laid back Annual Passholders are now booking nearby hotels and arriving early to get the most bang for buck from their tickets. Additionally, having to pay for parking in Mickey & Friends is undoubtedly changing the hotel equation for a lot of Californians.
With that said, this is also the most efficient we’ve ever seen the arrival experience (at least, it was after June 15). It’s like Disneyland dusted off the Galaxy’s Edge plans and deployed them this summer. While there are staffing woes inside the parks, it’s a total nonissue outside the parks.
With that out of the way, let’s move on to our morning at Disneyland…
We left the Anaheim Hotel at exactly 7:30 am, entering Disneyland Resort via Harbor Boulevard just before 7:40 am.
On previous mornings, we had encountered a line before this point, but this was a weekend. I think that’s significant because locals would be more likely to visit on weekends, which would mean a greater proportion of guests arriving via the Mickey & Friends parking structure and Downtown Disney side.
Here’s where we met up with the line. This might look like a modest crowd, but it’s not bad at all.
Note all of the cones to the right–and no one over there.
At 8 am exactly, security opened and we started moving.
Now look at the crowd to the right. This still isn’t even as remotely busy as it gets–by 8:30 am, this area would fill up.
Security was a breeze, with every single station being staffed and relatively efficient. Still not as good as Walt Disney World’s new contact-less scanners, but good by Disneyland standards.
From there, we’d wait at the turnstiles until those opened at around 8:10 am. (It was some random time; I don’t recall exactly.)
Now we head up Main Street, where guests are held in front of Partners, and to the left and right sides that lead to Adventureland/Frontierland and Tomorrowland.
We would be held in these spots until security dropped a rope (hence the name, for those who have asked!) 15 minutes before official park opening time.
This security Cast Member really ought to hold a rodent in the other hand to complete the paralleled look! 😉
Once he gave the signal, we were allowed to proceed to our first destination of the day. If there’s one thing at which I excel (and there’s probably just one), it’s speed walking. Know that the line between walking briskly and running calmly is a fine one, but Cast Members do try to enforce it.
All told, it took roughly 60 minutes from the time we arrived until the time we started doing attractions.
We would caution against arriving much earlier than we did, as so much comes down to luck with efficiency in each stage of the process. (It’s also a bit of an art–we know to choose the turnstile lines close to trees, for example.)
Here was a look back at the crowd behind us.
Guests who arrived 30 minutes before us might’ve been back there simply by virtue of choosing slower bag check or turnstile lines. Or, they might’ve been among the many who stopped for Starbucks, which always sees its longest line of the day pre-park opening. That’s a bit of a head-scratcher to us, but the more people in front of us who stop at Starbucks, the better. (On second thought, everyone should stop at Starbucks!)
Our mantra with Disneyland rope drop is Fantasyland First. That has always been true, but is doubly so now as other headliners are seeing their wait times subside in the evening hours. We did Space Mountain and Indiana Jones Adventure are near walk-ons several times in the last hour of the day. Conversely, the lines remain long behind the castle. (That will likely change to some degree with later park closing times.)
Our first stop of the day was Peter Pan’s Flight, followed immediately thereafter by Snow White’s Enchanted Wish. If you’re not at the front of the pack, you’ll want to skip Peter Pan’s Flight. Remember, the goal is to always ride the wave of crowds.
As we headed to Alice in Wonderland, here’s a look back at the line for Peter Pan’s Flight.
This is still before official park opening time. Everyone jumping into line for Peter Pan’s Flight is already wasting their time. It’ll have shorter lines in the afternoon.
The line for Dumbo was also deceptively long, but that’s because the queue was stacked outside the entrance. This should still be a fairly reasonable wait, but not the best first choice.
Following Alice in Wonderland, we did Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride as a walk-on. Had we wanted to do them, continuing with other core Fantasyland attractions would’ve been a good idea. That’s objectively true, but also subjectively. The midday sun and hotter temperatures makes those cramped, outdoor queues far less pleasant later in the day.
Instead, we bounced to Frontierland doing both Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain as walk-ons.
Objectively, we did this “too early.” There would’ve been no or minimal lines for either for the next half-hour. However, we were pretty satisfied with the start to our morning and these are the attractions that we wanted to do. The alternative, whenever it opens, would be to do Storybook Land Canal Boats–or Dumbo.
Up next was the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which was also a walk-on.
On an unrelated note, this attraction is looking fantastic. Not visiting any other parks for the last year, we’ve gotten used to Walt Disney World maintenance. This trip was a reminder of the gap between the Florida parks and the California ones.
Heading back through the hub, we stopped at Jolly Holiday for a Matterhorn Macaroon. Again, not the best choice from an objective perspective, but we were hungry and there was absolutely no wait for this iconic snack.
While rope dropping Starbucks might raise some eyebrows, a midmorning stop for a Matterhorn Macaroon will only earn you street cred with the Disneyland diehards. When we start our social club, you better believe the logo will include one of these puppies. (Specifically, a Matterhorn Macaroon and an Award Wiener driving a Superstar Limo through Nature’s Wonderland…not that I’ve been mocking up designs or anything.)
Back to Fantasyland for no wait on Casey Jr. Circus Train.
At this point, the core area of Fantasyland behind Sleeping Beauty Castle was getting busy, so we headed deeper into Disneyland.
The next stop was for a half-dozen characters who were appearing at the “it’s a small world” mall. This was a pretty normal occurrence during our days in Disneyland, with the difference this particular morning being the lack of other guests around.
After that, it was on to “it’s a small world” followed by Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin. Both walk-ons.
We had an early lunch reservation at the Grand Californian, so we started making our way back to the front of Disneyland after that. Before 11 am–two hours after official park opening time–we had accomplished a lot, and positioned ourselves well for the afternoon and evening.
It entailed a lot of criss-crossing the park, which could’ve easily been avoided with some slight tweaks to the plan. (We offer exactly that in our 1-Day Disneyland Itinerary.) Given everything we ate during our trip to California, all of those extra steps were definitely for the best, though. All in all, a great and efficient morning at Disneyland!
Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!
Have you done rope drop at Disneyland since June 15? When did you arrive, get through security, into the park, and onto your first attraction? What was your strategy? Did you have a more or less “successful” morning? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!