Let's say you have picked your Fastpasses for Magic Kingdom (If you haven't then check out our previous blog post here!), and you got every ride you wanted at the perfect times! Yay you! You can stop reading here and check out our other blog posts! You should also go buy a lottery ticket because you got skills or major luck going for you. Now...if you are like every other Disney planning traveler I know, you maybe got 2 of your top rides or maybe you didn't get any of your top Fastpass choices. Its ok! In this post I'm going to walk you through how to still ride all the top attractions utilizing the worst kept, but under appreciated, secret in Disney planning - ROPE DROP!
What is "Rope Drop"??
So what is "Rope Drop"?? Rope drop is the time at which the Cast Members drop their ropes that block off the attractions and officially begin allowing guests into the line queues. Most of the time this is right on the hour the park opens to the public.
Tip 1: Plan Which Day to Rope Drop
To best utilize Rope Drop and to make sure its worth getting you and your family to the parks early, its best to preplan what day you are going to Rope Drop. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that if you are staying at Adventureland Villa or The Turquoise Palms, you could be lining up to get into a park where on-property guests have already been allowed in for the previous hour or so. You can still get some quality rides in, but it won't be the best use of your time. So take a look on the Disney website for Park Hours and make sure you are not going to be competing with those EMH guests.
Tip 2: Get There 1 Hour Earlier
Above, I mentioned that Rope Drop is the opening hour of the park. This is true, BUT, the act of being at Rope Drop begins earlier than that moment...To Rope Drop a park and best use the low crowd times, you want to make sure you are in a decent spot nearest to the rope as possible. This can mean arriving up to 1 hour before the rope actually drops! The great thing about some of the parks, such as Magic Kingdom, they allow you to enter the park well in advance of this. You can get through bag check, the turnstiles, head up Main Street, get your Starbucks, and THEN find your spot to wait.
Tip 3: Know Where You're Going!
The third tip I have is to make sure you have a plan in place. What ride didn't you get a Fastpass for or do you just have a favorite ride that you need to do to start your day OR are you attempting to get all the attractions done in one day? You really can choose whichever ride/attraction appeals to you and your family. I would recommend not using this time for the rides with short wait times. For example, I wouldn't get to the parks this early to head to the Tea Cups or to Aladdin's Magic Carpets. These are rides that you can easily wait for later in the day OR even better, grab additional fast passes for after you have used your first three. So definitely pick an attraction that your family wants to ride, but know that this strategy yields the best results when aimed at the higher wait time rides.
Tip 4: Know The Route To Get There!
Whatever that first ride you have chosen is, make sure you are at the optimal spot to most efficiently get to attraction's queue. For example, if you couldn't get FP for Seven Drawfs Mine Train, but you just have to ride it, head to the rope that is to the right of the Castle that leads guests between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. From there you will quickly be able to get around the Castle, through the Tea Cups, and land in the queue for Mine Train. (One more quick Mine Train tip here...you may see a HUGE line when this happens. It will look like its going to be an hour wait from rope drop. Most likely this is not the case and that the interior queue areas have just not been fully opened yet. Usually, rope dropping Mine Train means I am on and off within 25 minutes. So don't get thrown off by that line!)
Tip 5: What's Next?
Again, to best utilize Rope Drop, have a set plan of where you want to head next after that first ride. My suggestion is to try and hit all the top priority attractions that are right near you. For example, If you headed first to Thunder Mountain, don't try to go to Space Mountain next! Hit up Splash Mountain or Jungle Cruise, two rides that aren't too far away. You've beat the crowds, don't then waste those precious few hours in the low crowd morning walking around. Have a plan and stick to it. Leave the afternoon for impromptu choices!
Tip 6: Fastpass Times Begin at 10:30-11am
This is one of my biggest tips for hitting a park and getting as much done in a day as you can. If you rope drop a park, you can easily ride 3-4 top attractions before 10:30 am. Between 10:30 and 11am, is when the parks begin to get a little more crowded as more and more guests arrive for the day. This is when I like to schedule my FP. If you have them starting around 11, that means you have gotten in several major rides before then AND you now don't have to wait around in long queues for your next 3 attractions. By the time early afternoon hits and everyone is cranky and hot, you will have gotten in 6 -8 MAJOR attractions. You can relax. You can grab a Mickey Bar, find a shaded spot, and plan the rest of your day! Trust me when I say this is game changing.
Tip 7: Don't Overtire Yourself
My final tip is that unless you are a super early morning family and just love to go hard core ALL THE TIME, don't try to rope drop every day of your trip. While Rope Dropping can mean really optimizing your time in the parks, if overused, it can be exhausting and leading to complete Disney fatigue. No need for that! Disney World is for fun and vacation...don't overwork yourself by trying to use this every day. (This is a tip I would do well to follow myself some trips....)
Well thats it! Those are our top Tips for how to Rope Drop a park at Walt Disney World. I hope you found them helpful and let me know if you tried them out! We'd love to hear from you in the comments. And if you like reading our tips and tricks for Disney World, check out our blog post on our best tips for Relaxing at Disney World here!
I make no secret of the fact that I do not, in general, love the food at Hollywood Studios. For the most part the whole park seems to rely completely on counter-service, mass produced "theme park" food. This has been amplified by the recent additions and attention paid to the food in the other parks, making me wonder, "Who is in charge of the food at HS??" I am not sure if my prayers have been fully answered, but there has at least been progress! And the progress' name is Baseline Tap House.
First off, what is Baseline? Well Baseline is a counter-service (no surprise) "Tap House" located near the Muppet Show in the area of Hollywood Studios known as "Grand Avenue." The atmosphere of Baseline is geared towards an industrial meets modern pub in Los Angeles. Inside, the tap house is fairly small. The central focus being a long bar with the many craft beers on tap. There are a few spots to sit down at, but by far the most seating is outside on the patio. The patio is full of bar height tables and chairs beneath wide umbrellas. On a beautiful February day, this was a great option! But I must say that the overall lack of indoor seating at HS is just a pet peeve of mine...so this doesn't exactly thrill me. Overall, the ambiance is definitely one that is trendy and current without being overly "themed" like you might think of at Santuli Canteen or some of the other newer restaurants at Disney.
OK, so onto the real reason I go to Disney World at all...the FOOD! Overall the menu at Baseline is pretty straight forward. There are 3 food choices: Bavarian Pretzel, Cheese and Charcuterie Plate, and Spiced Almonds. That's it. And that is because there does not appear to be any real "kitchen" to Baseline. Instead, when you order at the bar, the bartender goes into the back and grabs a pre-made item. And in general thats ok with me if you know this ahead of time and are good with it. I went with the California Cheese and Charcuterie Plate. A good cheese plate is like heaven to me and there is no other casual dining in Hollywood Studios that offers this kind of "snack" that can moonlight as a light but filling meal.
The Board featured three cheeses, two meats, a few other accompaniments. The cheeses were blue cheese, a goat cheese dusted with pistachios and cranberries, and a lighter mild cheese similar to a cheddar. Of the entire board, the cheese were all very good and flavorful without being too overbearing or pungent. They walked a fine line of flavor that was much appreciated!
The meats on the board were a chorizo and a calabrese salami. Both were perfectly fine meats with no complaints, but neither really had that much of a standout flavor. They worked well with the mild cheddar like cheese as well as the stone ground mustard that was also served. The remaining parts of the board included cornichons, grapes, and toasted baguettes. I could have used one or two more baguettes or another cracker type base for the cheese, but I made it just fine.
While I certainly think the small plates of food offer a great snack as lunch option for Hollywood Studios, the biggest draw to Baseline will be their craft beer selections. The offer 9 Californian beers on tap as well as a a hard cider (see left). They also offer a Create Your Own Beer Flight of four beers which sounds like a no brainer! Since I was alone on this trip and didn't think a flight of beer the day before a race was a great idea, I went with the Ace Space Bloody Orange Hard Cider. It was deliciously smooth and fruity. I highly enjoyed it on a fairly warm February day.
Overall, I enjoyed Baseline Tap House. Its certainly not a must-do or one that I would recommend to anyone with kids as there were no truly kid-friendly options and the atmosphere was definitely more adult geared. But, the small plates look great and the beer selection was fantastic. This is a perfect snack or light lunch stop for adults. I can certainly see myself and the hubby eating here in the future!
So far this year, I have heard so many guests comment on how cold it is! And its true. The past few weeks have dealt Central Florida some truly cold temperatures. And this can easily come as a surprise since most people escape to Florida for the sun and palm trees. So ok, its cold or raining (or both!) what do you do now?
1. Buy the Right Clothes
One of the first things you can do is make sure you have enough layers. One trip we took in February, we were woefully under-packed. And while it was pricey, we hit up the Gift Shops at the Polynesian and the Emporium at Disney Springs for sweatshirts. My youngest has also been known to buy a blanket which doubles as warm gear at the parks and a great souvenir for home. Another option if you have a car or more time on your trip is to check out the local Walmart and Target. They will have much more affordable options and still have a lot of Disney themed gear if that is what you are looking for. I think the main thing here is, if you are going to go to the parks in the rain/cold, get yourself in the right clothes. If you don't, it can be miserable and you will have spent money and time on a trip that is just not going to live up to your expectation. Do yourself the favor and buy the sweatshirt or the hat or whatever it takes!
2. Stick to the Shows at the Parks
If you are braving the elements (and I mean why wouldn't you? How often are you at Disney?), then I would look for some of the great shows that each park offers. At Magic Kingdom I would look for Country Bear Jamboree or the Carousel of Progress are great options. For Epcot several pavilions have wonderful movies such as China and France. Hollywood Studios has the Launch Bay with a Star Wars Movie and Character Meets plus there is also the Frozen Show. Animal Kingdom has the Festival of the Lion King. All of these shows provide both great entertainment but also a significant respite from the cold and rain.
3. Use the Amenities at Adventureland Villa or your Resort
4. Make Table Service Reservations
This tip comes from personal experience and from Disneyland! If its raining (and even more so if its cold) see what table service restaurant reservation you can grab. Most table service restaurants are indoors and take some time to complete the full meal. These can be a great way to dry off and warm up before heading back out. One of my favorite spots for this is Skipper Canteen in the Magic Kingdom. Usually last minute reservations are available and they even serve beer.
Overall, Disney World (and actually any vacation in my opinion) is what you make of it. Ok, so its cold and/or raining. You can either wait it out in your rooms or complain about it, or you can saddle up and figure out how to best manage the day. With some thought, you can still enjoy the day and hey! Its still Disney World! I'd pick a cold and rainy day near that castle over most any day!
So I hear a lot of guests wanting to know where is the best place to eat in Hollywood Studios. Normally my response is: Grab a snack and heat to Epcot to eat! But that doesn't always work and I know that. Sometimes you need the break from the heat and the walking and just to sit down and eat something good at HS. This brings me to 50's Prime Time Cafe. I won't keep you in suspense. Its Ok. Its nothing great or life changing, but Ive never disliked anything I have eaten here and my kids enjoy it! So Ok. I'll eat here and I don't mind recommending it. Now if you'd actually like to hear what I think about the different aspects: Keep reading.
Prime Time Cafe is located on Echo Lake nestled next two Hollywood & Vine (The Character Meal). One of the best parts of Hollywood Studios is that because of the limited size of the park, it doesn't take too long to get anywhere. Now once Toy Story Land opens later this year in 2018 and Star Wars Land opens in 2019, this could change
The real draw for Prime Time Cafe is the theming and the atmosphere. Imagine walking into your grandmother's kitchen back in the 1950s. The TVs, complete with the old knobs to change the channels, show only black and white TV footage. The shelves are lined with the same kitsch that you either remember from your childhood or at least have seen on TV. The level of detail down the tables and seats, is truly transporting.
The restaurant is separated into three areas: The Living Room (waiting area), Dad's Liquor Cabinet (the bar), and the Kitchen (the main restaurant). If you don't have reservations, the bar will serve you food as well. But to me the area gets a bit crowded and hectic during the prime lunch time. The restaurant is much more calm and enjoyable.
In addition to the theming of the restaurant itself, the atmosphere is further amped up by the servers. They interact with guests under the same theme of this being your Mom's kitchen. And they take it seriously! So no elbows on the table, no chewing gum, no leaving the veggies on your plate, and my number one transgression, no cell phones on the table! The fun banter is amusing to me and I love to see my kids faces! I have seen some servers make you stand in the corner, or sing a song to the restaurant. However, you can easily let your server know that you just want to watch the fun and they will take it easy it on you!
The Food and Drinks
We have eaten at Prime Time Cafe twice now and both times are satisfied not only by the quality of the food, but also the portions are huge! You really could share an entree...if you could both decide on one thing to get! My husband loves the meatloaf dish while I prefer the fried chicken and alas we will never share... But they are good!
We have also heard numerous rave reviews of the onion rings, chicken and dumplings, and of course the MILKSHAKES! I always order the Peanut Butter and Jelly and am never disappointed.
Overall, 50s Prime Time Cafe is a fun, satisfying restaurant at Hollywood Studios. If you want a cool, place to eat and have a little fun, I recommend this whole heartedly. Between it and Sci-Fi Diner, I probably prefer Sci-Fi just a but more, but would have no problems by-passing it and eating here instead!
Its very clear that in the past few years food has become such an integral part of the Disney experience. From the ever-growing Food and Wine Festival at Epcot to the rotating menus at the other parks, Disney and Great Food are becoming synonymous. Then you get to Hollywood Studios...While the food here is not bad by any means, this park has been very neglected by the Disney/Food Revolution. Because of this it can be difficult to find great food here. There are signs that this is beginning to change with the addition of Baseline, the charcuterie focused tap room. However, if you want to make sure you continue to eat really great food even at Hollywood Studios, you better check out our 4 top recommendations for where to eat at Hollywood Studios:
1. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant
First up is Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. It can be very difficult to get a reservation here, but it is worth the struggle! First off, the theming is spot on fun. Once through the door you emerge "outside" at the Drive-In. Some people are seated in picnic style tables and others in cars. While you are dining, you get to enjoy throw back black and white sci-fi movies on the big screen.
The food is also delicious here. Nothing gourmet or truly inventive, but just very good. I highly recommend the onion rings, burgers, and a milkshake.
Sci-Fi Dine-In is my number 1 recommendation because the food is good and the atmosphere is great!
2. 50's Prime Time Cafe
50's Prime Time Cafe is another great choice for a sit down meal because the food again is solidly good and the atmosphere is fun. Imagine walking into your grandmother's kitchen back in the 50s with the same level of detail in the theming to truly transport you. The waitresses will admonish you for putting your elbows on the table and not eating your vegetables, but its all in the fun of the place!
The food here, while maybe not as good as Sci-Fi Dine-In, is solidly good. We've had both the friend chicken and the meatloaf and had zero problems finishing our meal! This is also a great place to pick up a milkshake! Their signature one is Peanut Butter and Jelly!
3. The Hollywood Brown Derby
The Hollywood Brown Derby is a bit more upscale than our other choices and so where is gets bonus points for the inventive menu, it lacks the fun in the theming. Designed after the original Brown Derby, a restaurant made famous in the heyday of old Hollywood, this has an authentic feel to it, but just isn't very fun. So if you have kids with you, I might skip this one for that reason and the price tag!
The menu offers an incredible array of beef, duck, and seafood dishes. The food here is more appealing to the foodie in me, but service can be slow. Be sure you are ready for a long leisurely lunch. For some it is an oasis from the heat and crowds.
4. Hollywood & Vine
OK, so just a disclaimer: The food at Hollywood & Vine is nothing spectacular. Its a Disney World buffet. It could be worse, but it could be a whole lot better! But what has me even including Hollywood & Vine in the top place I would eat is purely because my young children love it. This is where pre-schoolers and younger tots can meet their favorite Disney Junior friends such as Princess Sofia and Doc McStuffins during the day, and seasonally can meet Minnie and Mickey in seasonal costumes at night.
Again, the food here is nothing exciting, but its a great place to sit and take a break if you have those young ones in tow, and I will say the dessert spread is pretty fantastic!
What about Quick Service?
If you are not looking for a table service restaurant and just want something quick before you head to your next fast pass, then there are a few quick service spots that will fill you up, but in general do nothing for me in terms of food. However, I feel I would be remiss in not mentioning them.
The first is Min and Bill's Dockside Diner. It features hot dogs, cheese nachos and pulled pork sandwiches. The real draw here for me is the rotating featured cocktail. When I was there last it was a Kahlua and Cream Milkshake! Yum!
Updated: Newest Spots to Grab a Bite!
Since originally writing this article back in 2017, I have gotten to try both of the two newest quick service offerings at Hollywood Studios: Baseline and Woody's Lunch Box. While adding more dining options is certainly a plus for Hollywood Studios, I don't know that I would rank either as being better than the ones listed above. But they are new and well themed. So I thought I would give them a quick review below!
Baseline Tap House: Since visiting Baseline back in February 2018, I have written a full review you can check out here. For a quick recap: Baseline is a small counter service "tap house" that serves several types of beer a long with a few small plates of food. I really hesitate to include this as a dining option as the food choices are extremely limited. But they are tasty! I greatly enjoyed the charcuterie and cheese plate with the Ace Space Bloody Orange Hard Cider. We will definitely eat here again (but probably not with the kids...)
A well known "Challenge" among Disney lovers is to see if you can visit and "enjoy" the four main parks at Walt Disney World in one day. There are many variations on what "enjoy" means ranging from 3 - 5 rides, eating a meal, seeing a character, etc...My husband and I are always up for a Disney challenge and were excited to give this one a go. With the advent of the Magic Express Transportation that allows you to travel directly between parks, bypassing the bag checks and security, we wanted to make sure we still gave ourselves a bit of challenge, so here were our rules:
1. Ride 3 rides in each park
2. Eat a sizable snack/sit down meal in each park
3. Take a picture at the entrance.
Well, here's how we did it:
First thing: PLAN
I am always a huge advocate of being on top of Disney Trip Planning. Whether it is booking your dining at the180 day mark, or your fast passes, or just having an idea of what parks are the best to go to which days, having a plan and sticking to it (with some moderation of flexibility) can alleviate much stress from the crowds and heat and help any family enjoy their trip so much more. Well if you are thinking about doing the challenge, that is even more true! Check out calendars for ride closures, park hours, and estimated crowd levels. Then use that information to craft a plan that takes you to the park that opens first, through the day and ending at the park with the latest operating hours. Give yourself time to enjoy this!
Third: BE THERE EARLY
I cannot stress this enough. I suggest being at your first park, well before rope drop (when the park officially opens), for several reasons. First, you can use that time to get ready. Get your sunscreen on, check the maps and use the bathrooms! Second, the parks can open a few minutes early sometimes even if it is to just move you to a second rope. You are just that much closer to your first ride! Third, the crowd levels are always ridiculously low first thing in the morning. Walk (don't run) quickly and efficiently to your first attraction and you'll be on and off in under 10 minutes!
Finally: Have Fun and Check the App!
Once you've started, just enjoy it. Its crazy, yes, but if its not fun, then its not worth it. Be flexible if a ride's wait time is too long or you get hungry at an unexpected time. But also remember to keep checking that Disney Experience App for wait times and closures.
So how did we do?
First stop was Animal Kingdom and was there for rope drop! Headed straight for Kilamanjaro Safaris, then Mt. Everest, and finally Dinosaur. We grabbed a cinnamon roll from the stand in Africa and boarded the Magical Express. We were at Hollywood Studios by 9:45! From there, we did Aerosmith's Rock n' Roller Coaster, Tower of Tower and Star Tours. We grabbed a light lunch there and made our way to Magic Kingdom! We had plenty of time arriving there at approximately 2:30pm. This is where those Fastpasses kicked in! We were able to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Thunder Mountain, and Space Mountain. For our snack we grabbed a Nutella and Fruit Waffle from Sleepy Hollow and relaxingly headed to Epcot. Since we had plenty of time and could book more Fastpasses, we choose Spaceship Earth, Soarin, and Test Track. To end our eating, we enjoyed some of the booths still out at the World Showcase from the Flower and Garden Festival. We were done by 7pm! If planned well, the challenge is easy!
Have you ever done the 4 park challenge? What are your tips?!?
If you have read any of our other posts, you have likely realized that I almost never (ok, like really have not) talk about Hollywood Studios. I certainly have nothing against Hollywood Studios. We have just generally not prioritized at as a park since my children are younger and tend to prefer Magic and Animal Kingdom. In fact, even when we do come to HS, we only do a half day, usually leaving right after lunch.
However, the landscape of Hollywood Studios is about to change BIG TIME. The new Star Wars land, "Galaxy's Edge" is set to open summer of 2018 and the new Toy Story land will open in 2019. These are huge additions that are very much needed to appeal to families with younger children (and my husband is pretty excited about them too!)
But what about now? Hollywood Studios is still a fun 1/2 day park, if you are looking to go before next summer. You just got to know what to do!
As always my motto is, "Get there before rope drop!" And Hollywood Studios is no exception. Be there early. Be the first in line (ok, don't get there that early!) but HS has some really neat and well themed 20s Californian architecture, that is fun and transporting to a different era.
Toy Story Mania
Aerosmith's Rock'n' Roller Coaster
Arguably, the second most popular attraction in HS is the roller coaster themed to Aerosmith's music. This is a fast coaster that does go upside down in the dark, so be prepared before you get in line. As a coaster fan, I love this ride! And if you don't have a Fastpass they do have a Singer Rider Line to help cut the wait time if you are ok with being separated from your party. Because of its design and intensity, the height requirement is 48".
Tower of Terror
I have to admit that I had completely forgotten that this ride was so much fun! I hadn't gone on it years, and I kind of love it again now. The anticipation of climbing up in an elevator that you know is only going to go down is exhilarating. Now, kids can go either way with this one. My 4 yo LOVES it, but my 7 yo will NOT go on this (despite the fact that he talks about this nonstop...). If you are unfamiliar with this ride, you are boarding an out of service elevator to the Twilight Zone which then drops and raises you at random intervals. This ride is centered around the anticipation of the drops and the flip-flop stomach feels when you are dropping. I say give this a shot!
Other Character Meets
Hollywood Studios does have quite a bit of character meet and greets, which we like, but can also skip without feeling like we missed out on too much. You can meet Mickey as the Sorcerer's Apprentice from Fantasia and Minnie her 20s fashion. You can also meet Star Lord and Groot from Guardian's of Galaxy (1 and 2). My son loved this! There are also characters from Disney Junior such as Princess Sofia and Doc McStuffins and frequently you will bump into Goofy, Chip n Dale, Daisy or Donald along the paths.
Overall, I would say if you have time, yes, Hollywood Studios can be a fun 1/2 day park. Unless you just love thrill rides, however, you don't need to fit this in. All that said, the game is going to change come May 4th, 2018! Book your trips now! Its going to be popular and crazy and I can't wait!
Tara is a Disney-obsessed Mom of two active boys!