Recently, I wrote a post about the unique rope drop situation at Epcot. I made a mention in there about how Magic Kingdom has its own quirks when it comes to rope drop. I thought I would expand upon that here, and discuss the early entry and rope drop situation from a different perspective.
As a quick refresher, Early Theme Park Entry is available to any guests staying on Disney property. This allows guests to enter any park on any day thirty minutes earlier than non-resort guests. We have debated on vs. off property on this blog before, and I generally fall into the category of "it's worth it" to stay on property. There are fewer perks than before, but any "extra" park time (early entry, extra hours, etc) is often the best time to visit and those perks are available only to resort guests.
Due to early entry, "traditional" rope drop is almost obsolete for those guests staying off property. By the time you would be allowed in, other guests have already flooded the major attractions. That doesn't make normal rope drop worthless - you just need to strategize differently, and be prepared to pivot if a ride you wanted to visit early is backed up due to other guests.
The one park that is least affected by early entry is Magic Kingdom, which we're going to talk about from a few perspectives here. The reason for this is that for early entry, only the "right" side of the park is open - Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. Anything in Frontierland and Adventureland can be rope dropped in the traditional fashion.
In fact, the idea for this post came about from thinking about this very scenario. Early entry is only available to resort guests, as I said. But at the entry tapstile, they don't actually check to see where you are staying. That only comes at a second entry point on the way into Tomorrowland or Fantasyland. In other words, anyone can ENTER the park during this time period - you just won't be able to go to any attractions.
Why would someone want to get up early to enter a park when they can't even ride anything right away? I can think of a couple of reasons. One is that while everyone else is rushing off to those areas of the park, you can line up for traditional rope drop early for the other side of the park. This actually isn't too much of a burden - you'll be there early, but you can probably time it so that you are near the front of that pack and that you aren't fighting crowds on the way in.
Let's look at it this way: say Magic Kingdom opens at 8:00. Early entry would then start at 7:30. But in order to really maximize that window, you'll want to be there earlier. Most people would arrive around 7:00, and no later than 7:15 (this is our recommendation as well). The crowds are held at the entrances to those two lands.
But if you arrive at 7:30, you will likely not see a big crowd at the entrance, since most early entry guests are waiting to be let free. If you show up and go in the other direction, you're not really losing any time compared to those resort guests - they arrived about a half hour before their version of rope drop, and you can do the same for yours. You don't want to arrive TOO much after that, as that's when the regular rope drop crowd will be arriving.
Even more than this, though, it's not a necessity to rope drop Frontierland and Adventureland, and that will become more pronounced once Splash Mountain goes down before its overhaul. But if you arrive early, you get the benefit of something that is a rarity during a Disney vacation - a chance to stop and smell the roses. I wrote that post as sort of a wistful look at what could/would be if only there was just more time.
Here, you HAVE that time. How many other opportunities do you have to see a park that's mostly empty? Late at night, certainly. But there's that lovely time when the sun is just coming up and the day is full of promise. Why rush off to any land when you can enjoy Magic Kingdom in a way that most people don't get to? While crowds are fighting their way to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan, you can see a mostly empty hub in front of the castle.
This park really comes alive in a scenario like this. You can (and should!) take many photos of the castle like this, as you won't have a chance to do so once the crowds really arrive. Get some close ups and some farther away, get some with the Partners statue or from the side arches without people in your way.
How much something like this matters to you is of course subjective. But without the stress of "needing" to take advantage of that extra time, you can use it to go at a more leisurely pace. There is usually a stage show to welcome guests to the park - you can either stay and watch that or use it as your cue to head over and rope drop something on the left side of the park.
I often write from the perspective of a resort guest, since there are the most perks and wrinkles dedicated to that type of guest. But there's nothing wrong with staying off property, and if you can do that and still take some time to enjoy the quiet pleasures of a morning at Magic Kingdom, it doesn't get much better than that.