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How Early Theme Park Entry Works

September 29, 2021

Early Theme Park Entry has arrived at Walt Disney World. Here’s how the process will work during your next visit.

Arrive Early

Early Theme Park Entry is an amenity available only to guests staying at official Disney resorts.

Theoretically, you will arrive at a Disney park 30 minutes before it opens. You’ll get to go inside, unlike others who aren’t staying at Disney properties.

In execution, the practice has worked somewhat differently. Many guests are arriving 30-45 minutes early, and they DO get an advantage by doing so.

Disney groups guests into areas outside the park. For example, at Magic Kingdom, you’ll notice two lines forming on many mornings.

They’ll snake through the far left and far right side, near the monorail and ferryboat stations, respectively.

Guests enter one of these two lines and stand there until cast members wave you through to the next checkpoint.

So far, that has happened around 7:45 a.m. At this point, you head through Disney security. Unfortunately, the lines tend to fall apart a bit in the section.

Cast members will start scanning Magic Bands and phones to verify park admission. You won’t prove that you’re staying at a Disney resort yet.

At around 8:00 a.m., you’ll enter Main Street at the park. Then, you’ll enter the final line where cast members will hold signs.

At this point, you’ll prove that you’re staying at an official Disney hotel, either with a Magic Band or your smartphone/Apple Watch.

Once you’ve done so, you’ll enjoy a view of Cinderella Castle while you wait. Finally, at 8:30 a.m., the cast members will drop the rope and allow you to enter.

The Attractions to Choose

Photo courtesy Tom Bricker

Based on what I’ve seen, most people at Magic Kingdom head straight to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. It’ll vary by park, though.

At EPCOT, the two attractions with the longest waits are Test Track and Frozen Ever After.

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, most go to Pandora: The World of Avatar for Avatar Flight of Passage. Some choose Na’vi River Journey instead.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios doesn’t carry much intrigue at the moment. Everyone follows the crowd here, and it’s heading in one direction.

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is available at Early Theme Park Entry. So, that’s where the overwhelming majority of people go.

If you want to go against the grain, Slinky Dog Dash is another good choice there, though.

In fact, fans of Twilight Zone of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith can ride both during this 30-minute window, maybe even multiple times.

Let’s be honest, though. You’re going to Rise of the Resistance.

Thoughts on Early Theme Park Entry

Overall, the debate about Early Theme Park Entry comes down to how you like to wait.

You’ll need to catch a bus early enough in the morning that you’re at the park by an hour before it officially opens.

Otherwise, you’re falling behind the guests who got there super-early. That can be the difference in virtually no wait versus a 20-minute wait.

Does that matter to you? As a DVC member, you’ll feel your way around the subject during your next few visits.

I won’t undersell the situation, though. So far, the lines have been surprisingly long for Early Theme Park Entry. That might be initial curiosity, though.

One final tip for Magic Kingdom: there’s still a rope drop. So, you can be ready at 9 a.m. to enter other themed lands.

Theoretically, you could be among the first to ride Haunted Mansion when it opens, as it’s not a participant in Early Theme Park Entry. Take advantage of that!

About the Dining Plan…

Photo Courtesy; Tom Bricker

Finally, since people keep asking this, I only have a partial update on the status of the Disney Dining Plan.

When Disney made other recent announcements about Disney Genie and annual passes, it chose not to reveal a return date for the dining plan.

However, Disney explicitly stated that the various dining plans WILL return at some point.

Realistically, Disney probably doesn’t want them available during the early days of the 50th-anniversary celebration at Walt Disney World.

The company will earn more revenue by selling its meals at full prices rather than dining plan entitlements.

This is pure speculation on my part, but I recently told a friend traveling to Disney in October that I don’t expect the dining plan to return until 2022.

That statement isn’t based on any rumor I’ve heard. It’s mere supposition based on what I would do as a park planner to maximize profit.

Guests renting a DVC Villa will also enjoy the perk of early entrance.  Head over to the DVC Rental Store Confirmed Reservations page and view available reservations that can save you up to 65% off regular Disney room rates!

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