We invited distinguished scientists from all over the world to test rope dropping two parks at Walt Disney World in a single day. Unfortunately, none of them showed up. So instead, I’d like to invite you on our ‘experiment’ to determine whether doing two park openings is possible, pragmatic, and fit for human consumption. (Updated December 29, 2019.)
As a fair warning, you won’t be able to reproduce the results of our experiment most days of the year. On a random morning, you might find Magic Kingdom opens at 8 am and Epcot has a regular opening at 9 am. That hour gap is insufficient for rope dropping both, unless you’re merely doing it to say you did. From a practical touring perspective, doing both serves no real purpose and actually puts you at a disadvantage. It’s like 4 parks in one day–a fun thing to say you’ve done (I guess?), but totally counterproductive.
However, there are some times of year when the gap between openings is larger. During busier weeks like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or spring break, you might find a two-hour window between opening times. This starts to open more possibilities, especially if you’re aggressive. Right now, there’s a threehour daily gap on many mornings, which is very advantageous…
When we first tested this strategy, it was possible due to Extra, Extra Magic Hours for the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Now, this is thanks to extended hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios thanks to the debut of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Through early 2020, Disney’s Hollywood Studios opens at 6 or 7 am. Meanwhile, Epcot is opening at 9 am most mornings.
This is huge, especially during the peak season between now and New Year’s Eve. It’s pretty significant even up until the 2020 Walt Disney World Marathon on January 12, 2020, as crowds will remain very high until then, and with this approach it’s possible to knock out several headliners with minimal waits before 10 am on the busiest days of the year.
If you’re visiting through (at least) February 2020, you’ll want to arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Studios before park opening in order to score a boarding pass for the new Star Wars attraction. This is a complex and unprecedented system, but most questions you have are likely answered by our Ride Guide & FAQ for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, so consult that for everything you need to know.
After grabbing your place in the virtual queue and potentially doing Slinky Dog Dash, Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror, consider hopping over to Epcot to rope drop that park’s headliners before returning to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for your boarding group to be called.
We tested this approach while staying at the Swan & Dolphin, and walked over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for park opening. Rather than arriving super early and being in an unpleasant sea of humanity, we decided to roll up shortly after the park had opened.
We probably scored a later boarding group and maybe missed out on a loop of Slinky Dog Dash with this approach, but avoiding the congestion on Hollywood Boulevard was worth it to us. We’ve done Slinky Dog Dash a ton, so skipping it once is not a huge deal for us. If it’s your first visit or you’re doing a once-annual trip, we’d still recommend arriving to Disney’s Hollywood Studios at around 5:30 am.
I’m not going to fixate too much on the particulars of the morning, as we already offer the “optimal” strategy in our FAQ and Ride Guide for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
We stand by all of the tips & plan of attack there, plus the emphatic recommendation to not miss out on this limited time offering.
Moreover, as more strategy has emerged, people have learned that Toy Story Land was devoid of guests for the first hour or so of the day. By contrast, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run actually has its wait time peak shortly after park opening, with wait times for that ride typically dropping after 9 am.
Accordingly, our recommended strategy is still to prioritize Toy Story Land after scoring your boarding pass for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. It’s the smarter bet–just don’t expect to loop Slinky Dog Dash multiple times as a walk-on. You’ll probably get one or maybe two rides on that coaster before the wait times balloon. Other Toy Story Land attractions maintain near walk-on status.
Sunset Boulevard is a ghost town for most of the morning, as is everywhere outside of the two new lands.
Ride-wise, it’s incredibly easy to have everything done in Disney’s Hollywood Studios two hours into the day. Which is exactly what we’ve been doing. We sometimes push it a bit further than that, leaving Disney’s Hollywood Studios as late as 8:30 am.
Recently, we left Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 8:25 am. We hopped aboard the Skyliner, which had no line whatsoever (we even waited for an unwrapped cabin) and transferred at Caribbean Beach Resort to the Epcot line.
Again, there was no wait at the Caribbean Beach Resort hub station–no one else was even in line. This came as a mild surprise since this would’ve been prime rope drop time. Thankfully, the Skyliner is a people-eater from a capacity perspective…when it’s operating smoothly.
If you don’t want to chance it with a Skyliner stoppage, the next-fastest option for park hopping between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the pathway via the Crescent Lake resorts. Depending upon your walking pace, this will take around 17-25 minutes entrance to entrance. Walking is unquestionably faster than the FriendShips, but it’s less pleasant.
With the expanded security and bag check area at Epcot’s International Gateway, it took roughly 5 minutes from stepping off the Skyliner until we were inside the park, at almost 8:45 am on the dot. Your mileage may vary here–I’m a bit surprised by the lack of morning crowds at International Gateway. We experienced worse rope drop crowds here pre-expansion and pre-Skyliner, so I think this is partly luck.
From there, it was onward to the United Kingdom, where the rope drop arrivals from International Gateway are held. We were pretty much at the back of the pack here, but it was a small crowd by October standards. Within seconds of arrival, we were released and could’ve made our way towards Test Track or Frozen Ever After to experience either as a near walk-on.
Those two attractions would serve as a great starting point for following our Epcot Morning Touring Strategy & Rope Drop Tips. You could then follow-up with Soarin’ Around the World, and (hopefully) a FastPass or the Single Rider line for the other headliner attraction.
In actuality, we just wandered around Epcot to take photos of an ominous-yet-lovely morning. (You can’t tell from the photos, but it was actually sprinkling on and off throughout the morning.)
Future World is difficult to experience devoid of crowds at night, so we enjoy strolling around here in the early hours. There are a lot of walls right now, but also plenty of pockets of serenity and beauty.
One thing to note here is that our margins for error are slim. In other strategy posts, we frequently recommend arriving for rope drop at least 30 minutes in advance (if not earlier). The thinking with normal strategy is that there’s only upside to arriving earlier–no opportunity and little downside (aside from less sleep).
Here, that’s clearly not the case. Arriving far in advance for Epcot’s rope drop means sacrificing time and rides at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As such, we think it’s savvier to cut things more down to the wire with your Epcot arrival.
Overall, this is a solid morning strategy that should allow you to do literally all of the headliners (some potentially multiple times) in both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot before noon, plus a ride on the Skyliner…if you want. From there, you have the rest of the day to enjoy Walt Disney World at a more leisurely pace, doing shows, air-conditioned offerings, or simply soaking up the ambiance of the two parks.
Despite it being a pretty packed morning, doing this double rope drop plan is surprisingly easy and doesn’t require too much racing around (aside from the early wake-up call). From a strategic perspective, this is one of the of the most time-saving mornings you’ll ever have at Walt Disney World. Enjoy it while you still can!
Have you rope dropped two parks at Walt Disney World in the same morning? Followed a variation of this strategy? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? 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!