Disney World Eliminates Rope Drop With New Social Distancing Procedures

Walt Disney World opened two of the four theme parks this weekend to very low crowds, new safety procedures, and social distancing protocols. Instead of swinging open the doors to the masses, Disney is implementing strict capacity limitations via the Disney Park Pass reservation system. Disney is not only controlling how many guests get into the theme parks on any given day, but also controlling how they get to the theme parks to begin their day. Before we jump into the new procedure, lets take a look back at what the traditional rope drop experience was like earlier this year.

At all four Walt Disney World theme parks, guests used to be able to meander through a portion of the theme park before the official opening. Whether that meant strolling down Main Street USA to grab a coffee, or lining up to make a dash for Test Track at EPCOT, we dedicated a few articles to try and help you get your day started on the right foot.

In a new world that not only puts a premium on personal space, but now demands a 6′ radius called “social distancing”, it’s not hard to see why these types of scenarios would be catastrophic to a safe reopening plan. Here are a few articles and photos of what rope drop looked like at all four theme parks before they closed.

We spent many mornings at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, helping you plan on how to best time the start to your day to ensure you’d have a shot at getting a coveted Rise of the Resistance boarding group. Guests would flood in by the thousands before the sun came up in order to try and get one of the required boarding groups for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

Masses of crowds that would make Disney execs anxious today were commonplace earlier this year. Boarding Groups eventually become so competitive to secure that they began filling up for the entire day within seconds of park open, leading us to pen an opinion piece simply titled: Don’t Visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios Right Now. Little did anyone know how the world would change, including Disney World.

Over at EPCOT, Disney was (and still is) in the middle of an overhaul of the center of Future World. Often dubbed the EPCOT spine overhaul project, the future of the project may be up for debate, but the construction walls and piles of rubble remain. In February, EPCOT debuted an all-new split rope drop procedure thanks to the massive demolition project taking place in the middle of Future World.

Guests would split off to the right or left of Spaceship Earth depending on which side of Future World they would like to start their day. Whichever way guests went, the theme of large crowds in confined spaces continued.

In February, we decided to write an updated Flight of Passage rope drop guide to help our readers navigate what looked to be a very busy 2020 at Walt Disney World.

Again, we would start our day over an hour before park opening to try and become one of the first few hundred guests on the ride, which would then free up the rest of our day to enjoy lower waits elsewhere. Who could have predicted that we would ride Flight of Passage five times over the course of just a few hours in July 2020 when we stood amongst a sea of guests in February?

And yes, there were masses at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the same time that thousands of phones refreshed in unison for a Rise of the Resistance Boarding Group less than 2 miles away at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Here is a brief look at the sea of guests slowly flowing towards Flight of Passage.

In the photo below, two lanes of traffic are attempting to navigate a single walkway that sits bare today. On the right, guests are heading towards Flight of Passage, while on the left, guests are walking towards a u-turn further down the path before joining the guests on the right.

Now, social distancing markers line the same path, but haven’t been put to use as park capacity limitations are in place that make the 3+ hour queue seen above something that we likely won’t see return for months, maybe years, maybe never again.

Disney World Eliminates Rope Drop

That brings us to today, and a new normal that demands the typical rope drop experience of the past be left in the past.

Instead of lining up at bag check 2 hours before the theme parks open, guests are turned away at the parking plazas. The parking plazas won’t open until the theme parks are ready to accept guests, or in the case of Magic Kingdom, the theme park and transportation methods are ready to accept guests.

Once guests have passed the parking plaza, Cast Members will pulse groups of cars into the parking lanes and socially distance the cars. By only allowing a few cars through at a time, Cast Members can better control the parking process, and everything “downstream” is controlled as well such as temperature checks, bag check, and transportation. Also, Disney will not be utilizing the parking lot trams for the foreseeable future. While there are probably a few different reasons as to why they aren’t using them, dumping dozens of guests off at the same time likely wouldn’t help the concept of social distancing.

As a result of not opening the parking plaza before the theme park is ready to welcome guests, rope drop as we knew it earlier this year is completely eliminated. No more waiting at the Tomorrowland bridge to “race to Space”, and no more massive crowds flowing through Pandora – The World of Avatar.

In this new normal, rope drop has been eliminated and the attractions are ready for you when you arrive!

Mike is the owner and writer for BlogMickey.com. Visiting the parks daily allows him to keep up with the latest Disney news, reviews, and photos from around the Disney Parks. You can reach him at [email protected]

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  1. We never felt the need to do that anyway. Careful planning with FPs let us enjoy the parks with minimal line waits after arriving comfortably after opening times.

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