Space attraction with planets

Disney World Early Entry – A Guide to Extra Magic Hours’ Replacement

When we go to Disney World, one of our favorite ways to stay ahead of the crowds is by getting an early start, and the best way to do that is with Early Theme Park Entry. Disney World’s replacement for Extra Magic Hours, this hotel-exclusive perk is a blessing for guests wanting to beat the lines at the theme parks’ most popular rides. 

To get a jump on your Central Florida vacation, keep reading our ultimate guide to Disney World Early Entry, from what rides are open to strategy suggestions. 

What is Disney Early Theme Park Entry?

Disney World‘s newest way to get into the parks before the rest of the crowds, Early Theme Park Entry allows select Walt Disney World resort guests to enter any of the Disney parks 30 minutes before other park visitors seven days a week. 

But, exactly who can enjoy this sprinkling of morning pixie dust? Does it cost anything? And what makes it different from Extra Magic Hours, its confusing yet more generous predecessor? Let’s get into it!

Who can use Disney World Early Entry?

Animal Kingdom trees surrounded by water

Just like Extra Magic Hours, Early Park Entry is exclusively for guests staying at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels, including all those officially operated by Disney. To utilize this benefit once you get to the park, simply use your MagicBand, Key to the World Card or Disney MagicMobile Pass linked to a valid hotel reservation. 

Since lines at the parks can get brutally long fast, it’s one powerful perk and a huge factor to consider when deciding where to stay at Disney World. Best of all, since the benefit extends to some of the third-party hotels near Disney World, too, you don’t need to miss out on this valuable vacation boost if you’d rather stay at the Disney military hotel or book somewhere using credit card or brand loyalty points.

These are the Disney World hotels currently participating in Early Theme Park Entry. 

Disney-Operated Hotels Eligible for Early Park Entry

Value Resorts

Campground

Moderate Resorts

Deluxe Resorts

Hotel and monorail going by

Deluxe Villas

Third-Party Hotels on Disney Property Eligible for Early Park Entry

What’s the difference between Disney World Extra Magic Hours & Early Park Entry?

Star Wars Robot Statues

Disney World‘s early-admission offerings – previously, Extra Magic Hours and now, Early Theme Park Entry – share some similarities while also being quite different. Extra Magic Hours, or EMH, were both surprisingly generous with the time allowed in the parks outside normal operating hours and also tricky to take advantage of due to a confusing schedule. 

On certain days each week, hotel guests were allowed to get into a particular park either one hour early or stay up to two hours past the park’s official closing time. Of course, at first glance, that’s a considerable amount more than the measly 30 minutes allowed with Early Park Entry. 

However, note the phrases “certain days” and “a particular park.” So, if you wanted more time in Magic Kingdom, for example, you’d need to wait until either Wednesday evening or Friday morning rolled around, the theme park’s usual EMH days. 

For early-admission days, this caused a tidal wave of hotel guests to descend on the park of the day, causing problems for any non-hotel guests not in-the-know about the subject-to-change schedule while also creating opportunities for those that did.

 In contrast, Early Theme Park Entry gives Disney World hotel guests a 30-minute head start at any park they choose every day of the week. Not only does this make things infinitely easier for planning purposes, but it also helps to spread out the crowds.  

How much is the Disney Resort Guest Early Entry benefit?

You can’t put a price on this hotel benefit. Early Theme Park Entry is complimentary with your room rate, making it one of the better Disney World freebies. So, if you aren’t planning to stay at one of the hotels above, don’t go looking anywhere on the Disney World website or My Disney Experience app for an opportunity to pay extra for this covetable perk – it doesn’t exist. 

For the cheapest way into the theme parks early, book a stay at one of the Disney World value resorts. Or, for the most time in the Disney Parks outside regular guest hours, make a reservation at a deluxe resort, deluxe villa resort, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels, Swan Reserve or Shades of Green. A bit more on that next. 

So, can you stay late at Disney World, too?

As long as you stay at the right resort. While Early Park Entry is provided to guests of all Disney World resort hotels, value and moderate resorts included, Extended Evening Hours are available exclusively to those staying at either the deluxe resorts or deluxe villas, as well as a few select third-party hotels:

  • Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotels
  • Walt Disney World Swan Reserve
  • Shades of Green

Like Extra Magic Hours, Extended Evening Hours are only offered certain nights of the week, with guests allowed in the parks for up to two hours after “closing” time. 

What’s Open for Disney World Early Theme Park Entry?

EPCOT ball in multicolor

So, what can you do during Early Theme Park Entry? Unfortunately, not every attraction is open and available for Disney hotel guests during early entry. However, with some of the best rides in the parks up and running and only a half-hour head start to take advantage of, you don’t need them to be. Additionally, while there will be some merchandise and dining outlets open, we suggest you save them for later and focus on rides instead. 

Keep reading for all the Disney World rides that should be on offer for Early Park Entry (subject to change, of course), along with the TL;DR version of which attractions we think you should skip or make a beeline for. Just remember that many attractions have height requirements or offer Lightning Lane access through either Disney Genie+ or Individual Attraction Selections. So, this could affect what is best for you and your crew. 

Magic Kingdom Park

Top Picks: Peter Pan’s Flight, Space Mountain

Avoid: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Here’s the complete list, including height restrictions and Lightning Lane access:

  • Astro Orbiter
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – Disney Genie+
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant – Disney Genie+
  • “it’s a small world” – Disney Genie+
  • Mad Tea Party – Disney Genie+
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic – Disney Genie+
  • Peter Pan’s Flight – Disney Genie+
  • Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – 38” (97cm) or taller, Individual Lightning Lane
  • Space Mountain – 44” (112cm) or taller, Disney Genie+
  • The Barnstormer – 35” (89cm) or taller, Disney Genie+
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – Disney Genie+
  • Tomorrowland Speedway – 32” (81cm) or taller, Disney Genie+
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
  • Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid – Disney Genie+
  • Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress

Epcot

French street with fountain and lightpoles

Top Picks: Frozen Ever After, Test Track (with some caveats) plus Mission: Space

Avoid (in Most Cases): Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure  

Here’s the complete list, including height restrictions and Lightning Lane access:

  • Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along
  • Frozen Ever After – Disney Genie+
  • Mission: SPACE – 40” (102cm) or taller, Disney Genie+
  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure – Individual Lightning Lane
  • Soarin’ Around the World – 40” (102cm) or taller, Disney Genie+
  • Spaceship Earth – Disney Genie+
  • Test Track – 40” (102cm) or taller, Disney Genie+
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends – Disney Genie+

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Mickey and Minnie on a ballon

Top Picks: Toy Story Land (Alien Swirling Saucers, Slinky Dog Dash, Toy Story Mania!), Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Avoid: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance  

Here’s the complete list, including height restrictions and Lightning Lane access:

  • Alien Swirling Saucers– 32” (81cm) or taller, Disney Genie+
  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway – Disney Genie+
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run – 38” (97cm) or taller, Disney Genie+
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith – 48” (122cm) or taller, Disney Genie+
  • Slinky Dog Dash – 38” (97cm) or taller, Disney Genie+
  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue  – 40” (102cm) or taller, Disney Genie+
  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance  – 40” (102cm) or taller, Individual Lightning Lane
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror  – 40” (102cm) or taller, Disney Genie+
  • Toy Story Mania! – Disney Genie+

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park

Top Picks: Avatar Flight of Passage followed by Na’vi River Journey

Avoid: None! (Expedition Everest will be closed for refurbishment from January 4 to mid-April 2022)

Here’s the complete list, including height restrictions and Lightning Lane access:

  • Avatar Flight of Passage  – 44” (112cm) or taller, Individual Lightning Lane
  • DINOSAUR  – 40” (102cm) or taller, Disney Genie+
  • Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain – 44” (112cm) or taller, Disney Genie+ 
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug! – Disney Genie+
  • Na’vi River Journey  – Disney Genie+
  • TriceraTop Spin

Disney Early Park Entry – Helpful Tips & Tricks to Jumpstart Your Day

Walt and Mickey Statue

Wondering how to hack this magical Disney hotel benefit? Read on for some things to consider when planning your AM theme park attack, plus our park-by-park strategy breakdown.   

Early Theme Park Entry, Disney Genie+ & the Lightning Lanes

Disney Genie+ and the Lightning Lanes have changed how Disney World guests plan out the days in the parks considerably, including hotel guests trying to take advantage of Early Park Entry. While we recommend you spring for Genie+ at Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios (pass on Individual Lightning Lane Attractions unless you absolutely hate planning), it can certainly put a dent in your travel budget. 

If you want to do Disney World’s most popular rides without paying a pretty penny for an Individual Lightning Lane Attraction, then rides like Magic Kingdom’s Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Hollywood Studios might be the obvious choice. The same goes for attractions like Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot and Animal Kingdom’s Avatar Flight of Passage since they’re parks that don’t necessarily require splurging on Genie+ most days.  

Arrive an Additional 30 Minutes Early for a Real Advantage 

Don’t just show up at Hollywood Studios or one of the other Disney World theme parks 30 minutes before they officially open for the day and expect to waltz right onto your pick of rides. To really kickstart your day at the park, plan to get there at least another 30 minutes before Early Park Entry is meant to start. 

The closer you are to the front of the pack, the easier it will be to pack two or more attractions into that half hour – particularly since it’s not unheard of for the theme parks, namely Hollywood Studios, to casually start letting hotel guests in before Early Entry officially kicks off. 

Skip the Most Obvious Choice (Usually) & Rides with Frequent Delayed Openings

Unless you follow our advice above and manage to make it near the front of the Early Entry crowd when they start letting people in, avoid going to Disney World’s newest and most in-demand rides (i.e., the most obvious). Instead, take the path less traveled and choose a slightly less popular ride. You’ll miss the crowds and possibly have time to do more things. 

You’ll also want to steer clear of attractions that have a tendency to open late or experience frequent technical difficulties, such as Epcot’s Test Track or Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Hollywood Studios. It will save you the heartache of wasting your half-hour head start while waiting for the ride to open.  

Choose a Land & Stay There – And a Park, Too, If You Don’t Have a Park Hopper

Two Walt Disney World FastPass+ Cards

The easiest way to do two or more attractions in those first 30 minutes is accomplishing the main ride you want to do first, then knocking out other Early Entry rides nearby. Since you won’t have as much ground to cover, as long as the rides are on the short side, you’ll have a better chance of experiencing more than one ride. 

Additionally, if you won’t have a Park Hopper ticket, keep in mind that the theme park you go to for Disney World Early Entry will be the park you’ll have to stay at for the rest of the day. This is especially the case if you have a dining reservation for a restaurant in one of the parks.  

Park-by-Park Early Theme Park Entry Strategy Suggestions

Hoping to make the most of those first 30 minutes? Here’s our advice for maximizing your half-hour lead for each of the Disney World theme parks: 

Magic Kingdom & Early Entry

The only rides open for Early Entry at Magic Kingdom are located in Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, including arguably the most in-demand ride in the park (and its only Individual Lightning Lane Attraction): Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. So naturally, after rope drop, it’s the first place many people rush to. 

Rather than joining the mad dash there, consider accomplishing Peter Pan’s Flight or Space Mountain first. Then, if you have time, make your way to one of the other Early Entry rides nearby in Fantasyland or Tomorrowland, respectively. Think, “it’s a small world” or Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

Epcot & Early Entry

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is the newest ride at Epcot (for now, anyway), making it a great pick for Early Park Entry. However, located at the back of the park in World Showcase’s France Pavilion, it doesn’t really make sense unless you plan to enter through International Gateway rather than the main entrance. 

Frozen Ever After or Test Track are better bets, although they both have their downsides. As we mentioned earlier, Test Track is notorious for its rocky starts and operational glitches. But, if you do head that direction, follow up your driving adventures with a trip to Mars on nearby Mission: SPACE.

Hollywood Studios & Early Entry

Boardwalk hotel with string lights

Instead of following the sea of hotel guests to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to go on Rise of the Resistance, the only Individual Lightning Lane Attraction at Hollywood Studios, or Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, make your way towards Sunset Boulevard or Toy Story Land or go straight up Hollywood Boulevard instead. 

For adrenaline junkies, head on down Sunset Boulevard and go on your favorite between either Tower of Terror or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster first, then take on the other thrill ride afterward if you have time. Alternatively, for families with younger kids, consider starting out in Toy Story Land. 

Since the rides there are relatively short, it’s actually possible to squeeze in all three Pixar-inspired attractions in the land. Start with Slinky Dog Dash, then tackle Toy Story Mania followed by Alien Swirling Saucers, if you’d like and there’s time. Or, you could also do Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway – but remember, it’s so far away from any other rides that you probably won’t have time to go on anything else. 

Animal Kingdom & Early Entry

When it comes to a plan of attack for Disney Resort Guest Early Entry, it doesn’t get any easier than at Animal Kingdom. Avatar Flight of Passage is the park’s Individual Lightning Lane Attraction and, arguably, its best ride, too. 

While we normally suggest you avoid the most popular ride in the park, in this case, we’ll make an exception because it’s the easiest way to accomplish two (fingers crossed) really great attractions. Plus, since Animal Kingdom’s other in-demand rides can take quite a while and aren’t exactly close by, you don’t have time to go anywhere else. Once you finish up on Flight of Passage, race over to Na’vi River Journey if the wait time isn’t too bad. 

Have you gone to Early Theme Park Entry at Disney World? What tips or tricks did we miss? Let us know in the comments! Wish you could splurge on Genie+ too but don’t have room in your budget? Save some cash and maximize your day with our Disney World discount tickets