Early Theme Park Entry at Disney World Info & Strategy Guide

Guests staying in on-site Walt Disney World resorts and other select hotels have access to Early Theme Park Entry. This strategy guide covers everything you need to know: eligibility, ride rosters, how the perk works, and tips for best using the time. (Updated March 27, 2022.)

In terms of basics, Early Theme Park Entry replaces morning Extra Magic Hours, or rather, is a spiritual successor to that on-site guest benefit. Whereas morning Extra Magic Hours were offered on select days and at select parks, Early Entry is offered at all 4 theme parks every single day.

Another difference is that Extra Magic Hours lasted for an hour. By contrast, this is 30-minute access to any Walt Disney World theme park. This means that Magic Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios opens daily to resort guests at 8:30 am, Animal Kingdom opens at 7:30 am, and Epcot opens at 9:30 am. It should go without saying, but those times will change with actual operating hours.

March 27, 2022 Update: Walt Disney World has added Drury Plaza Hotel Orlando Lake Buena Vista to the list of hotels eligible for Early Theme Park Entry. This new Disney Springs Area Hotel opens later this fall, and is now accepting reservations for October 27, 2022 and beyond.

Additionally, Walt Disney World continues to extend park hours for the busy spring break season, with Epcot in particular opening much earlier than anytime in recent history. This makes Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, which ended its virtual queue a few months ago, easier to experience. See our recent Early Theme Park Entry at Epcot Photo Report for how to tackle the park’s headliners, and why this on-site perk is better than Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes.

As background, Early Theme Park Entry is an expansion of morning Extra Magic Hours, while also cutting its duration in half. This has pros and cons. The obvious drawback is that it’s 30 minutes shorter than its predecessor, so you have less of a head-start on off-site guests than during Extra Magic Hours.

The upside is that it’s every single park, every single day. This means on-site guests taking advantage of the perk are diluted–spread among all of the parks rather than concentrated in a single one. This itself is a downside for off-site guests, who now cannot avoid Early Entry to strategize around it.

We’ve already had a chance to take advantage of Early Theme Park Entry multiple times, and share some strategy below as a result of our experiences.

Let’s take a look at the eligible hotels for Early Theme Park Entry:

Early Entry Eligible Disney Owned Hotels

  • Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
  • Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
  • Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
  • Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
  • Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  • Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
  • Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort & Gran Destino Tower
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
  • Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Disney’s Beach Club Resort
  • Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
  • Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
  • Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
  • Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
  • Disney’s Beach Club Villas
  • Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
  • Disney’s Old Key West Resort
  • Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
  • Disney’s Riviera Resort
  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  • Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Early Entry Eligible Third Party Hotels

  • Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
  • Waldorf Astoria Orlando
  • B Resort & Spa Lake Buena Vista
  • DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando
  • Drury Plaza Hotel Orlando Lake Buena Vista
  • Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace
  • Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
  • Holiday Inn Orlando
  • Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista
  • Wyndham Lake Buena Vista
  • Four Seasons Resort Orlando
  • Shades of Green
  • Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
  • Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
  • Walt Disney World Swan Reserve

Next, the attractions lineup for Early Theme Park Entry at each of the 4 theme parks…

Early Theme Park Entry Rides – Magic Kingdom

  • “it’s a small world”
  • Astro Orbiter
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Space Mountain
  • The Barnstormer
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
  • Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid
  • Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress

Early Theme Park Entry Rides – Epcot

  • Beauty and The Beast Sing-Along
  • Frozen Ever After
  • Mission: SPACE
  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Test Track
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends

Early Theme Park Entry Rides – Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Alien Swirling Saucers
  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  • Slinky Dog Dash
  • Star Tours — The Adventures Continue
  • Star Wars – Rise of the Resistance
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Toy Story Mania!

Early Theme Park Entry Rides – Disney’s Animal Kingdom

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • DINOSAUR
  • Expedition Everest — Legend of the Forbidden Mountain (currently closed for refurbishment)
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug!
  • Na’vi River Journey
  • TriceraTop Spin

As you can see, not all Walt Disney World attractions are available during Early Theme Park Entry. With minor exceptions, these lists are identical to morning Extra Magic Hours with only certain lands in each park being open to start the morning.

Moreover, the Early Theme Park Entry schedule and available attractions are subject to change without notice. Applicable theme park, days and times of operation, attraction and service availability may vary and are subject to change without notice. Subject to capacity and cancellation. [Insert other boring boilerplate caveats.]

Valid theme park admission and MagicBand, Key to the World Card, or Disney MagicMobile pass is required. Guests without the Park Hopper Option or Park Hopper Plus Option must spend the day at the same park where they’d like to enjoy the Early Theme Park Entry benefit.

This too works the same way as morning Extra Magic Hours, with eligible guests having their MagicBands or park ticket media scanned to gain access either at the turnstiles themselves, or at a certain ‘checkpoint’ within the park to deeper areas while off-site guests await traditional rope drop.

Early Theme Park Entry Strategy

Our recommendation is arriving at least 30 minutes before Early Theme Park Entry starts. In other words, an hour before official park opening time. This is nothing new–we offer this same advice for normal days and will continue to advise off-site guests to get to the parks at least 30 minutes early. In reality, you should err on the side of arriving earlier, especially if you’re at the mercy of Walt Disney World’s highly-variable transportation.

Thirty minutes flies by, and you’ll want to be as close to the front of the pack as possible when Early Theme Park Entry begins so that you can (hopefully) experience more than one attraction. It’s also pretty common for parks–especially Disney’s Hollywood Studios–to quietly start Early Entry before its official time.

Note that some of our recommendations depend upon whether you’ll be purchasing Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes for each park. See our Guide to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes FAQ for everything you need to know.

In general, we recommend Genie+ for Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios for most people, most days. Usually, we do not recommend buying Genie+ at Epcot or Animal Kingdom. Personally, we’re against paying extra for Individual Lightning Lanes, with the perspective that savvy strategy can beat long wait times at those attractions.

Let’s start with Magic Kingdom strategy, where Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain offer paid Individual Lightning Lane access. Those thus become the objective best options for Early Theme Park Entry because you can theoretically ride one of those attractions then, the other at the end of the night, and never have to pay the a la carte charge. Depending upon the day, you might actually be able to accomplish both.

Our current rope drop advice is usually to skip Seven Dwarfs Mine Train–zig when others zag–because it’s so popular first thing in the morning and also prone to delayed openings. Knocking out shorter rides, like Peter Pan’s Flight and other Fantasyland classics, might be the better way to go. That’s especially true if you don’t plan on buying Genie+ or if you don’t want to hassle with huge crowds shuffling to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train first thing in the morning. We highly recommend checking out our Magic Kingdom Early Entry Photo Report for what we accomplished.

Next up, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. At this park, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway are the Individual Lightning Lane attractions. Rise of the Resistance is also the most popular ride at Walt Disney World and had standby access added within the last few months. It is the obvious choice for Early Theme Park Entry at DHS.

If it’s the obvious choice, you will not be alone in heading that direction. Popularity coupled with a long attraction duration casts some doubt on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance as being the optimal pick. Additionally, it often has downtime first thing in the morning–or opens late–making it a bit of a gamble. On multiple occasions doing Early Entry at DHS, we’ve managed to accomplish both Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.

Check out our report on Early Entry at Disney’s Hollywood Studios to read how this works. The biggest ‘secret’ to success here is arriving closer to an hour before Early Entry officially starts at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and doing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance first.

On busy days or if you don’t arrive quite that early, you’re better off racing to Slinky Dog Dash, especially if you won’t buy Genie+. Due to that roller coaster’s short duration, it’s entirely possible you could do this twice during Early Entry. Or once and then Toy Story Mania plus Alien Swirling Saucers. Knocking out Toy Story Land during Early Theme Park Entry at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is another option.

Next up, Epcot. As noted up top in this post’s update, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure–Epcot’s newest headliner attraction–is now available during Early Theme Park Entry. However, it’s located in the back of World Showcase and may not be a practical first choice unless you’re arriving via International Gateway.

If you’re coming from the Crescent Lake or Skyliner Resorts and thus entering through International Gateway, you should absolutely start with Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. (As with DHS, arrive more than 30 minutes before the start of Early Entry.) From there, you have a decent shot at doing Frozen Ever After before the wave of people hits it.

Those entering via the front of Epcot should prioritize Frozen Ever After or Test Track. It really depends upon your priorities, and whether you’re buying Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes. Just be aware that if you do Frozen Ever After, you probably won’t have time for a second attraction.

If you do Test Track, head to Mission: Space once finished. Not exactly revolutionary strategy, but Epcot is tough. As with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, it’s also important to note that Test Track frequently has delayed openings.

At Animal Kingdom stick to the tried and true: do Avatar Flight of Passage.

No matter what your plans are with Genie+ or Lightning Lanes, that’s the savviest strategy. All Animal Kingdom attractions that are popular are either long in duration or spaced far apart from one another (or both!), meaning it’ll be virtually impossible to do 2 headliners during Early Theme Park Entry. Just race to Avatar Flight of Passage and follow up with Na’vi River Journey as the park opens to off-site guests if the posted wait time isn’t prohibitive.

Ultimately, that’s everything you need to know about Early Theme Park Entry at Walt Disney World. We will undoubtedly be updating this strategy guide several times in the coming months.

Expect another update in Summer 2022 as Genie+ and Lightning Lanes continue to evolve, things “settle down” and find their groove–and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opens at Epcot. Stay tuned–we’ll continue to cover all of the important planning details and also share Early Entry photo reports from our experiences with this new on-site hotel benefit!

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Thoughts on Early Theme Park Entry at Walt Disney World? Excited to take advantage of the new on-site guest perk or think it’s too short to be useful? Disappointed about the eligibility rules or attraction lineups? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!

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