Guide to Early Entry at Disney World Theme Parks
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.
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 on each morning it was held. By contrast, this is daily 30-minute access to Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.
Speaking of park hours, those can vary depending upon the season and attendance projections. Walt Disney World continues to extend park hours, with opening times moved forward. Typically, Animal Kingdom opens at 8 am, with Hollywood Studios and Epcot following at 8:30 am or 9 am. This is significant, as these earlier official opening times move forward Early Entry, and make that even less busy.
Magic Kingdom’s opening time varies due to party season–or August through December when the park is hosting Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party followed by Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. On days when the park closes early for those events, Magic Kingdom opens at 8 am.
Even outside of Party Season, Magic Kingdom opens at 8 am on certain dates. Most frequently, this occurs during the peak season or on days of Magic Kingdom After Hours. Read our Photo Report & Strategy: Magic Kingdom Early Entry at 7:30 am for a look at why this is so much better than a regular 9 am opening day.
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
- 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 (currently closed for refurbishment)
- 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
- Expedition Everest — Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
- 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 after TRON Lightcycle Run opens in April 2023 as crowd dynamics and park hours continue to change, impacting Early Entry strategy in the process. 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!
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!
I’m curious about transportation to Magic Kingdom for Early Entry for guests staying on resort. We are staying at Boulder Ridge Villas. Would it be better to go by boat or bus? It appears both don’t start until a half hour before the park opens. Which is when I would want to be in like or walking in!
Thanks Tom! Check got back from Disney the first week of May and your tips and tricks were on point. I was able to ride everything I wanted and we only waited in line one time for 35 min all other waits were 15 min to 20 min!
Rope drop Tower terror 20 min
Aerosmith Rockin Roller Coaster – walk on
Toy Story Mania – 35 min
Star Tours – walk on
Muppets 3d walk
Lunch 50 diner
Mickey red carpet dreams walk on
Frozen show walk on
1st genie slinky dogg
2nd genie millennium falcon
3rd genie alien saucers
4th genie Mickey run away train
Lighting lane purchase rise 7pm to 8pm slot
While I do not like paying for it when used correctly genie plus is superior to fast pass.
Next time at Epcot, try TT and head right over Soarin. We’re not huge mission space fans and this strategy has worked really well for us! Thanks as always for your analysis!
Thanks for the tips! We are heading to Disneyland in June 2022 – is there any news on whether Magic Morning or EMH will commence again?
Hi Tom, I’ve found your strategy guides very helpful in planning for our visit in May. As you’ve pointed out, availability of ILL’s and Genie+LL ride reservations is very dependent on crowd size and time of day you attempt to reserve. In preparing my own individualized strategy I logged into MDE Tip Board on several days at various times. What surprised me was the number of rides that had huge time swings (in both directions) throughout the morning. For example, yesterday I noted that Avatar ILL availability times were as follows: at 7.04am-4:05pm, then at 7:10am-1:25pm, and at 7:23am-7:40AM! Similar swings in availability were note for the same times as above or Kil. Safari of 11:20am, 9:10am and 11:30am. I noted swings in all parks. Is there an issue with my app or the reservation system, or have you noticed similar occurrences?? If this is normal, it makes it difficult to assess whether to book asap or take a chance and wait for a better time! Any suggestions?
For early entry people who want to drive in, will they allow us to park an hour before early entry rope drop? Is there a separate parking entrance for those with early entry access?
I am staying at shades of green and was wondering what the best option to make it to HollyWood studio for rope drop in early May 2022!
1. Shades busses ( schedule says they depart at 45 min prior to park opening which would be 715 but early access is 730).
2. Poly busses
3. Monorail to Epcot then skyliner ?
5. Drive rental car
Thanks for the help!
I was able to use the shades of green buses and get to early hours early enough to make it work. Fist bus for shades leaves at 615 for Hollywood studio. I took the second bus at 645 and we were able to ride tower terror and areosmith Rockin roller coaster prior to oral opening.
Hi Tom, can you clarify if Early Park Entrance is allowed on the day guests are checking in to an on-site resort (but prior to check-in time)?
Yes, it is.
I’ve had issues with my MagicBand not scanning in that scenario, but if you pull up My Disney Experience and show your reservation to the Cast Member, you’ll be good to go!
I was wondering, when doing early entry is there a different line for guests that have early entry from guests who don’t? Like when you arrive how do you know you’re not in line behind a ton of people that can’t even get in early?
There are signs around the turnstiles that make it clear.
Tom I know you are busy and cranking out useful articles but if you could do one on transportation options with start times for each early entry for the parks that would be awesome. Boats, cars, monorails, skylines, buses, feet: hard to decide which is most efficient esp when you want to save money and your legs. I experienced delays for the monorail for example early in the am whereas always seem to have the earliest bus show up.
With all the non-Disney resorts being added for early entry, pretty soon, the only people who won’t be able to enter early will be Florida residents/annual passholders. I’m wondering what the point or advantage to this is if pretty much anyone can get in the parks early.
The latest addition is part of the Disney Springs Resort Area–previously the Best Western, which was also included in EMH before.
Adding too many hotels definitely played into “ruining” Extra Magic Hours (IMO), but with Early Entry at every park every day, I don’t think that’s an immediate danger here. Now, if they start adding Flamingo Crossings and another dozen off-site hotels, I might feel very differently!
Are the parking lots difficult and time consuming to park in for early them park entry? Is it better to take the bus or drive?
What’s the best way to get to the parks if you are staying in an early-entry eligible 3rd party hotel? Hotel shuttle? UBER? I assume UBER but have read that you might not be able to get in, or be in line with guests trying to park? Can you get in (to the ride share drop off) 60 or 90 minutes ahead of park opening or only 30?
Can you tell me if you need a hotel reservation for the night before AND after your park day to get early entry?
For instance could I stay at a qualifying resort the night before and get early entry but stay elsewhere that night?
Love the site/blog. Thanks for all the good info over the years.
I can confirm you only need a reservation for the evening before your park visit. Make sure your reservation is registered in the Disney app.
We r book for next week and so disappointed that all rides that we are interesting (of course the famous rides) are not offering LL. So, what is the point we are paying for genie plus? I still my hope here that it will not stress me out on my vacation waiting for a ride for 2 hours. Thanks for the tips its very helpful.
If you are staying at a non-Disney owned property that has early entry (ie the Doubletree at Disney Springs), how do you get this linked to your tickets to allow for early entry?
In your Disney account go to link hotel and provide the eligible 3rd party hotel confirmation number and name and it should link it in for you. Make sure to select everyone in your party or you’ll need to call Disney to fix that.
It sounds like to me that Disney has taken the “magic” out of vacationing there. We are DVC members since 2005 and have enjoyed our trips. However, now we have to pay extra just to get on rides. The costs to vacation there are out of control. We are fortunate that we can go twice a year but for some families they save up for years just to go there. Disney is out pricing itself and more people will start to look for other options. Being a DVC member we have the option to use our points at other vacation spots.
Myself included, I hope we realize while the advice is good, this is ridiculous for a vacation. We stayed on property, as we have for the past 20 years, early December (8-15). It was the most money we have ever spent for the least amount of magic. Dirty bathrooms, extremely long lines, difficulty shopping or dining due to long waits, sold out food and merchandise. I do not blame the cast members, they are doing their best. There are too many people in the parks for the amount of staffing. I knew things would be different this past Dec, however, we were not prepared for what we encountered. Up early each morning(6;30 with rides sold out by 07:03)) to book rides, paying extra for LL so we could free up our ‘vacation’ hours instead of spending our vacation waiting in long lines. I would rather pull out my tonsils than say this but it’s just too much for too little. You think you will be ready for the changes and we all want to go to Disney so much, just be sure you are ready for a different Disney experience. In an effort to help others make the best decision when spending their money I have been very truthful about our visit. Before my next trip I will pay more attention to the comments on these post rather than the advice on how to work around the problems.
Well said! We are going in Oct ’22. Shortest stay only 4 nights at a value resort for the first time. Only three days in parks, spent countless hours doing research on best plans that we can anticipate. Limiting our dinner reservations to one vs. we have always had one each day. So we will pay $60 per day for Geniue+ then roughly another $50 to $60 on ILL per day. Also, first time for paying for parking at resorts which is another $60 and that is low because we are staying at a value resort. Can believe it’s been 4 years since last visit.
Going to make it a greate time for the family!
Is early entry possible for off site guests with a meal reservation?
Hi! Great Guide!
You mention these are 2 of the 5 busiest weeks of the year. What are the other 3 busiest weeks?