The Disney Skyliner
Disney’s newest form of transportation is an attraction unto itself. The Skyliner is a fun and exciting experience for guests. And guess what? Anyone can ride, you do not have to be staying at a Disney Resort!
In 1955, soon after Disneyland first opened, the Skyway opened. This was an open-air gondola that connected Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. When Walt Disney World opened in 1971 the same attraction could be found in the Magic Kingdom, and in 1983 Tokyo Disney opened with a Skyway in place.
Sadly, 1999 saw the Skyway at Disney’s Magic Kingdom closed forever. But this year, on September 29, Walt Disney World saw the opening of a new gondola ride named Skyliner. Although it had a bit of a rocky start, breaking down and stranding guests (who had to be evacuated) after less than a week of opening, it seems the problems have been ironed out, and things have run smoothly since then.
I gave Skyliner a try for the first time recently, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. The views are awesome, the cars clean and spacious, and the breeze up there is delightful. I rode the entire way, which includes a total of three separate Gondola lines. This meant I had to get on and off a number of times, but it takes just a few minutes to switch. Let’s talk about how it all works.
First, the basics. The Skyliner, as I mentioned above, has three lines. The various routes connect Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios to Disney’s Epcot Resorts: Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, and the new Disney’s Riviera Resort, a Disney Vacation Club property that is slated to open next month. Some, but not all, destinations require a transfer from one gondola to another.
The Disney Skyliner station located at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is the Skyliner Hub. All 3 lines originate at Caribbean Beach Resort’s station.
From the Caribbean Beach Resort Skyliner station, you can take the line to Disney’s Riviera Resort and then on to Epcot, or you can take the line to Art of Animation/Pop Century Resort; or you can take the line to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
When you arrive at an end-of-the-line station (Art of Animation/Pop Century or Epcot), you must exit the gondola. You must also exit at Caribbean Beach. If you want to continue on to another Skyliner destination, or turn around and go back where you started, it’s easy. When you exit, you just follow the signs to get to the entrance to another Gondola station, which will be steps away. The signs are very clear, and Cast Members are there to help you if you do happen to get confused.
The views from the Disney Skyliner are terrific. Depending on which line you are on you can see a number of countries in Epcot’s World Showcase, as well as Spaceship Earth. The Tower of Terror is visible as you near Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Seeing the Resort Hotels and their respective themes from above is also a lot of fun. I have only been on during the day so far, but I bet at night it’s great to see everything all lit up below you as you ride.
Most of the routes are relatively short rides between stations, averaging 4-5 minutes. If you want a longer ride without getting off, the Epcot line is 11 minutes in total, by far the longest. If you get on at the Caribbean Beach hub, after passing over that resort you will arrive at the new DVC Resort, which is slated to open soon, Disney’s Riviera Resort. Once the resort is open to the public, guests can disembark here, but right now you must stay on the gondola. Soon you will find yourself flying over Buena Vista Drive, and then Disney’s Boardwalk Villas, Epcot Resorts Blvd, and behind World Showcase in Epcot, with Spaceship Earth clearly visible in the distance. Finally, you will arrive at the International Gateway, the “back door” to World Showcase, where you must disembark (but, as noted earlier, you can get right back on and go back the other way if you so desire).
The Hollywood Studios line gives you views of the entrance to the Studios as well as the Tower of Terror. You’ll also pass some forest land and the bus stop area for the Park. The Art of Animation and Pop Century line goes over those resorts, and you get a great view of the resort icons as well as Hourglass Lake, the water between the resorts.
What else should you know about the Skyliner?
- The cars slow to almost a stop when guests board or disembark. For those who need the gondola to stop completely (either due to mobility issues or for guests using strollers or wheelchairs), there is a separate entrance where the gondola will come to a complete stop. As an FYI there is only one wheelchair and one stroller allowed per gondola as of this writing
- There is a maximum of ten guests per gondola. I rode at a very slow time, and my friend and I had the car to ourselves, as did everyone else traveling when we did. You may be asked to share during busy times. No standing, all guests must remain seated while riding
- There is an emergency kit located underneath each bench, which is only to be opened for true emergencies. Each kit contains: cool packs, water, bathroom and nausea bags, a light stick, notepad with pen.
- Almost half of the Gondolas are decorated with a number of Disney attraction and movie themes, the other half are not. The ones that are decorated are awesome to see from the outside, but make it difficult to get good pictures or even to see clearly when you ride. If you so desire you can request a decorated car or a clear one. Both types have reflective glass to keep the cars cool, and although neither is air-conditioned, I did not feel warm even on a relatively hot day (low 80s). The Gondolas are well ventilated.
- Kids under 14 must be accompanied by an adult to ride the Skyliner
- There are a total of about 300 cars. During slow times the wait is non-existent. During busier times, such as near park opening or closing, you may have to wait a short while to board your gondola
I had a great time experiencing the Gondolas. The views are great, the
feeling of soaring through the skies was exhilarating, and seeing the cool designs on the cars is a lot of fun.
I am not one who loves heights, but I did not feel anxious or nervous at all while riding, and I look forward to going on again soon. If you’re staying at or visiting an Epcot Resort it’s a great alternative to buses. But as I mentioned earlier, anyone can ride, so if you just feel like checking it out, hop on at one of the many stations and enjoy your flight!