• Animal Kingdom Early Entry & Rope Drop Guide

Animal Kingdom Early Entry & Rope Drop Guide

Luiz Alberto H.

Created: Feb 01, 2024

Last Updated: Apr 25, 2024

Animal Kingdom Early Entry & Rope Drop Guide

Hello and welcome to our special in-depth guide, where Famvia will give hot tips to those that will wake up at 5am just to visit Pandora and say hi to a bunch of cute animals!

Yeah, that wasn’t a typo, you will need to wake up pretty early if you want to be one of the first guests to experience everything Disney World has to offer without spending much (or any) time waiting in the queue.

It’s worth it, trust us, and a very fun experience to do with your friends and your family. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend almost twenty four hours inside the Happiest Place on Earth?

Animal Kingdom entrance 2.webp

What is Early Entry & Rope Drop?

Early Entry and Rope Drop are actually two different terms.

Early Entry is a perk given to every guest that stays in a Disney hotel or one of their partners. It lets you enter most theme parks 30 minutes earlier than everyone else. Disney hotel guests have access to Early Entry on the day of their check-in and also on the day of their check-out.

Rope Drop is more than just saying “it’s when the park opens”. It’s rare that Disney keeps every guest outside the main gates then gives the green light for everyone to come in at once. This would probably look like that scene from The Lion King with Simba and the stampede, phew!

In fact, most parks open one hour before the official time, even if rides are still closed and most areas are off limits. This is called a soft opening, mostly to spread out guests so the entrance doesn’t look too chaotic. For example, at Magic Kingdom guests can enter Main Street USA and have breakfast at the Starbucks there, even if lands like Tomorrowland and Fantasyland are still closed to the public.

In short, every guest has access to what we call a Rope Drop, but only Disney hotel guests can enjoy Early Entry.



It’s important to know that you need to have everything ready for your Early Entry/Rope Drop strategy and not leave important details for the last minute.

  • Check park opening times through the official Disney website or the My Disney Experience App the night before your visit.
  • Get your backpack ready with everything you need already inside: snacks, an extra t-shirt if you want and everything else you might need. Again, do this a night before your visit. Animal Kingdom has Kali River Rapids, a ride that might get you soaked, so it’s a good idea to bring a pair of slippers.
  • Get that alarm clock ready and wake up early! If a park opens at 9am and you don’t have Early Entry, get there at 8am. If you do have Early Entry, this means that the park will officially open at 8:30am, and you need to be there around 7:30am if you want to be one of the first ones in line for the most popular rides. Yes, this means you will need to wake up pretty early. Take into consideration the time to take a shower, eat something and wake up your kids (yeah, this might be tough, but you can do it!).
  • Remember that Virtual Queues and Disney Genie+ open at 7am, and you will probably need to do this while you are already inside the park. Individual Lightning Lanes purchases are also available at 7am for Disney hotel guests. At the time of this writing, Animal Kingdom doesn’t feature any ride with the Virtual Queue system, but it’s a good idea to buy an individual Lightning Lane for Avatar Flight of Passage.
  • Make sure you know how to get to Disney World during that specific day. Driving is probably the easier method. If you are taking a monorail or an Uber, for example, you are going to need more time to reach your destination, so take that into account.

Remember that Early Entry and Rope Drops is just a small part of your park strategy for that day. You will save a lot of time in one popular attraction, maybe save precious minutes on a second ride, and that’s about it. After that, it’s time to follow a traditional ride strategy or a Disney Genie+ strategy.


Early Entry & Rope Drop at Animal Kingdom

As it happens with every theme park, opening hours for Animal Kingdom depends on the day of the week and the Season you are visiting.

Usually, Animal Kingdom opens its doors at 9am, which means that Early Entry is scheduled for 8:30am. As we said above, check the official website or the My Disney Experience app to see at what time Animal Kingdom will open on the day of your visit.

More often than not, all guests are allowed inside Animal Kingdom about 30-45 minutes before Early Entry. Rides still aren’t open, sure, but you can already position yourself to head to the most popular attractions. Onsite guests (the ones staying at Disney hotels and resorts with access to Early Entry) are positioned near the entrance to the World of Pandora, while offsite guests are led to the other side of the park. Depending on the day, there is a chance that offsite guests might be kept near the gates just before the main hub.

So, what are your top priority rides for Animal Kingdom?

There is just one answer, honestly, and it doesn’t matter much if you have access to Early Entry or not. Avatar Flight of Passage is the most popular attraction in Animal Kingdom, and one of the best motion simulators in the world. You should definitely make this one your top priority.

Let’s talk about strategies.

Early Entry

Animal Kingdom Kali River Rapids vehicle 2.webp

As we already told you, you should focus your attention on the World of Pandora and Avatar Flight of Passage. The World of Pandora, which debuted in Animal Kingdom back in 2017, is by far the most popular area of the entire park, so arriving early means that you can scratch this off your list and enjoy everything else Animal Kingdom has to offer at a slower pace.

If you have access to Early Entry and the official park opening time is at 9am, it’s a good idea to arrive in Animal Kingdom around 7:45-8:00 am. If you have Disney Genie+, make sure to book your first ride at 7am and select Kilimanjaro Safaris. As a Disney Hotel guest, you can also buy an individual Lightning Lane for Avatar Flight of Passage at this time.

Once Early Entry begins, this should be your strategy:

  1. Avatar Flight of Passage (regular queue)
  2. Avatar Flight of Passage/Na’vi River Journey (regular queue)
  3. Expedition Everest (regular queue)
  4. Kilimanjaro Safaris (Disney Genie+)

The strategy above makes sure that you visit the best and most popular attractions in Animal Kingdom. It even gives you the chance to ride Avatar Flight of Passage twice, if you wish to do so. Sure, lines will be longer than usual, but it might still be worth it. You can also go to Na’vi River Journey instead of re-riding Avatar Flight of Passage.

Animal Kingdom Navi River Standby lane.webp

Na’vi River Journey is one of the most popular Disney Genie+ picks in the entire park, with regular queues reaching 45-60 minutes, so it might be a good idea to go there early on. You might also need to swap Kilimanjaro Safaris with Expedition Everest, depending on your Disney Genie+ time slot.  

If you don’t want to spend any additional money with Disney Genie+, your strategy won’t change much. You should go with this:

  1. Avatar Flight of Passage (regular queue)
  2. Avatar Flight of Passage/Na’vi River Journey (regular queue)
  3. Kilimanjaro Safaris (regular queue)
  4. Expedition Everest (regular queue)

Now, how about a strategy where you can have fun with your toddlers and just chill? The following strategy is for families with little children that are looking for rides without any sort of height requirement:

  1. Na’vi River Journey (regular queue)
  2. Na’vi River Journey (regular queue)
  3. Kilimanjaro Safaris (regular queue/Disney Genie+)
  4. Festival of the Lion King (regular queue)
  5. Meet Favorite Disney Pals (Disney Genie+)

The strategy above lets you ride Na’vi River Journey twice, so you and your family can enjoy the high quality animatronics and visuals. Kilimanjaro Safaris can also be a regular queue or you can use Disney Genie+ for it. You won’t be able to go to Avatar Flight of Passage or Expedition Everest, but there will be plenty of time to just walk around and take pictures. You can also grab a Disney Genie+ to take pictures with Mickey & friends in Safari gear, which is always cute.

Disney animal kingdom kali river rapids.jpg

Rope Drop without Early Entry

Did you arrive early in Animal Kingdom but you are not staying at a Disney Hotel? It’s fine, you can still save a lot of time on most rides.

Your top priority should still be Avatar Flight of Passage. Queue times will of course be longer than if you had access to Early Entry, but guess what? The line will only get longer and longer as the hours go by.

With that in mind, here is a solid strategy you could use:

  1. Avatar Flight of Passage (regular queue)
  2. Kilimanjaro Safaris (Disney Genie+)
  3. Expedition Everest (regular queue)
  4. Avatar Flight of Passage (individual Lightning Lane)
  5. Na’vi River Journey (Disney Genie+)

For the strategy listed above, you need to book your first Disney Genie+ for Kilimanjaro Safaris as soon as the clock hits 7am, and then book Na’vi River Journey. Those are by far the most popular Disney Genie+ in the entire park. Your third selection could be Expedition Everest.

Animal Kingdom Dinsey world (2).webp

What if you don’t want to spend any money on additional services like Disney Genie+? Here is a strategy you could follow:

  1. Avatar Flight of Passage (regular queue)
  2. Kilimanjaro Safaris (regular queue)
  3. Festival of the Lion King (regular queue)
  4. Expedition Everest (regular queue)

The strategy above works, but you need to pay attention to one thing: almost always, you want to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris before noon, since that’s when most animals are wandering around. If you arrive in Animal Kingdom a little bit after Rope Drop or the lines for Flight of Passage are just way too long, you might want to swap Avatar Flight of Passage with Kilimanjaro Safaris.

If you are looking for rides without any sort of height requirements, your strategy will be similar to the Early Entry one, although you will probably only ride Na’vi River Journey once. Your itinerary should look like this:

  1. Na’vi River Journey (regular queue)
  2. Kilimanjaro Safaris (regular queue/Disney Genie+)
  3. Festival of the Lion King (regular queue)
  4. Meet Favorite Disney Pals (Disney Genie+)

As it also happened with the Early Entry strategy, it’s fine to enter the regular queue or use Disney Genie+ for Kilimanjaro Safaris. In fact, you won’t be using Disney Genie+ a lot in Animal Kingdom if you are not looking for rides with height requirements, so you can always spend it on Kilimanjaro Safaris and shows like Festival of the Lion King and Feathered Friends in Flight. The good news is that Disney Genie+ in Animal Kingdom is the cheapest one in Disney World, usually priced around $20. 

Pandora ride Disney AK 5 (2).webp

That’s it!

We hope you had fun learning a bit more about Rope Drop and Early Entry at Animal Kingdom. Remember, these strategies will save you some time but, after riding two or three rides, it’s back to a traditional guide to optimize your time.

Animal Kingdom doesn’t have a lot of thrilling rides, but Early Entry is still extremely important just so you can experience Avatar Flight of Passage before everyone else. Keep one thing in mind, though: don’t get too attached to an itinerary that you must follow all the time. Visit the rides you want to visit and have fun. Try to not stress out if a ride has queue times bigger than usual and enjoy the moment.

If you got to Animal Kingdom early, there is a very, very good chance that you will go to the best rides (even more than once) even if you don’t min-max your strategy.

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