What time do the parks REALLY open?

by Mel
(Annapolis, MD)

 44  3  13  68  0


Hey there! We’re heading to Disney in March and I had a question about the parks opening. I read everything you said about park hours but I was curious… Say a park opens at 9am. Do the gates open before 9am and the rides/etc..start running at 9am or do the gates themselves not open until 9am? Love all of your stuff and have found all of your links extremely helpful! Thanks!

Dad’s Efficiency is Key Answer

Mel, I’m so glad you’ve found the site helping in planning your family’s Perfect vacation to WDW. Each park is a little different in their opening procedures, and they can even change based on crowds. So let’s look at some of the options (all based on a 9am opening time, but adjust to whatever the listed time is).

rope drop

You may be allowed onto Main Street for the rope drop – Photo by Laurie Sapp


The absolute worst case scenario the you can expect with park opening is to show up and stand in line at the gates, with the gate themselves opening at 9am. At that point, guest enter in a somewhat orderly fashion and can proceed directly to their attraction of choice (walking, not running – they’ll hold you back if you run, it’s not safe or polite). That’s what’s guaranteed every day. But…


That doesn’t often happen. Usually they’ll start letting some guests into the park up to a certain point (often this does not apply during mornings with Extra Magic Hours – unless you’re at the Magic Kingdom in which case, this may apply if the crowds are heavy). Here’s how that works:


At Magic Kingdom, you may be allowed into the immediate holding area past the gates, but not through to Main Street. Just before 9am a cute opening show happens, and you can enter. Sometimes when crowds are extreme, they will let you into Main Street to shop and eat but stop you at the hub until 9am. If you are stopped at the hub, generally Cast Members will lead you to “the big rides” and you are follow along instead of passing them. Either of these options may happen 15 mins prior to 9am.


At EPCOT, guests may be admitted 15-30 mins prior to 9am and held in the plaza between Innoventions. Sometimes the cast members will lead pre-formed lines of guests to headliner attractions like Soarin’ or Test Track.


At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, guest may be allowed to enter Hollywood Boulevard up to 30 mins in advance of opening. At 9am, cast members will walk you to the most popular attractions – Toy Story Midway Mania has a special protocol where the first guests follow a Cast Member all the way to the loading area so there are no fights in the queue.


Animal Kingdom allows guests to enter up to 30 mins before 9am and holds them at Discovery Island. This is the best park to get into early since the Oasis is a beautiful attraction in an of itself which you can enjoy before lining up to head to your first ride.



FastPass+ can help with managing your day – Photo by Laurie Sapp


Extremely popular attractions (like the Frozen meet and greet) sometimes have unique protocols and may form pre-rope-drop lines. Cast members and/or signage will indicate this to you.


Once in a while, guests may be allowed to board attractions a few minutes before 9am – but never on an Early Magic Hours morning (unless you are a resort guest, that is!).


Destinations to Travel


Dad’s Bottom Line

Mel, it’s well worth it to get to the parks 30-60 minutes before the posted opening time to ensure you are at the front of the pack to the attractions and to avoid getting stuck at the crowded gates past the official opening time. You can use this time to use the washroom, apply sunscreen, or even have a coffee and a muffin – it’s all about efficiency!

disney world parks

disney world parks


disney hotels

disney hotels


the fire pit at 'Ohana




Comments for

Jun 10, 2019 Early access to Main Street USA
by: Anonymous When the Magic Kingdom is scheduled to open at 9 a.m. what time can we access Main Street Use? Can we get onto Main Street and get a coffee before rope drop?

Dad Answers

Usually you are allowed onto Main Street at 8:30 ish.

Jun 07, 2019 Avatar
by: Anonymous Wednesday June 5th I was at the Avatar flight of passage ride 30 min prior to the park opening, and there was already a 90 min wait. I chose to skip it, and they allowed us to ride the other Avatar ride at 8:30. The park was already relatively crowded at this time, and wasn’t even supposed to be open yet!

Feb 12, 2019 Early Magic hour
by: Anonymous Hi,We are going to magic kingdom on Friday March 1 and they have early magic hour but we don’t have access as not leaving on property. Does this affect normal rope Drop as already people must be already inside .. so how does this work and what time we should reach there.

Dad Answers

Morning Extra Magic Hours doesn’t affect rope drop. Everything still works as normal. You should arrive at the park about 30 minutes before scheduled opening time.

Jan 24, 2019 How much can i squeeze
by: IL mom So…I was hoping to get to Animal Kingdom about 45 minutes before actual opening, do BOTH Pandora rides and get to lion king show at 10…am I crazy?

Dad Answers

Maybe, maybe not. It kind of depends on the day you are going and the crowds. If the crowds are light to moderate, you might make it. Any more than that, Ozzy Osborne is warming up.

Jan 20, 2019 Jan 26 opening of AK?
by: Aly Hi Dad,
We couldn’t get FP for Flight of Passage & would prefer not to wait in a 3+ hour line. We can arrive as early as necessary, but we aren’t resort guests and it is an extra magic hours day. Opening time is 9 for non-resort guests. When would you suggest we arrive to be at the front of the line? Thank you!

Dad Answers

I would suggest between 8 and 8:30.

May 29, 2018 Character Breakfast
by: Missyb We were able to get character breakfast reservations at each park at 8A….is it still worth doing this to get into the park before everyone else in order to be the first in line for the rides? Or is this pointless to do anymore? Thank you so much for your help! Love your blogs and read all of them at least twice!

Dad Answers

While you might get into the park for the Dining Reservation, you won’t be able to get to any rides before the park opens. The rides won’t be operating, and Cast Members will keep you away.

With an 8 AM reservation you might not even get done with your meal until after 9.

If you want to do a character breakfast in the parks 8 AM is the best option because you don’t have to take touring time away from the day.

May 27, 2018 Early magic hours
by: Anonymous The day we are planning Magic Kingdom
They are having a special ticketed early magic hour event.
Will this affect the amount of time they allow non ticket holders in? Park opens at 9, still hoping to enter at 8.

Dad Answers

Early Morning Magic at the Magic Kingdom really doesn’t affect the regular opening routine. You’ll be able to enter the park early. I’m not sure about 8, but you’ll be able to get in before 9.

May 12, 2018 Animal Kingdom June
by: Mary Going to AK in June. Staying off site. What time should we arrive at AK when everyday has extra morning hour? If we arrive early, will we not be allowed through gate until 9:00 am on the dot? Trying to ride FoP without a FastPass. Thank you for all your advice.

Dad Answers

You should arrive at least 20 (I would recommend more the 30) minutes before official opening time. You will be let in around 8:45 (sometimes earlier) and allowed up to the Tree of Life Area. Rope drop will be at 9 but you will already be in the park.

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