Skip the bus ride and fly around Disney World on new Skyliner gondolas

Jul 25, 2020

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With four theme parks, two waterparks and over 20 hotels, Disney World is just as much in the logistics business as it is the entertainment business. There never seem to be quite enough buses, taxis or monorails for all the different places you’ll want to go during a Disney World vacation. Disney World’s latest addition, Skyliner, adds a fair amount of whimsy to a mostly boring topic, transportation.

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What is Disney Skyliner?

Disney Skyliner is some of the most fun you can have getting from here to there at Disney World. With plenty of surface transportation (buses, taxis, boats) Disney World decided to go up with their most recent addition. Rivaling the heights of the monorail, Skyliner is a series of gondola lines connecting a handful of resorts with two theme parks, ECPOT and Hollywood Studios.

Each gondola has a theme centered around popular Disney characters.  The gondola is wrapped with graphics that also serve as a sun shade to keep it from getting too hot as you whisk your way over the tree tops. You’ll also find some passive air vents to keep you cool. Disney Skyliner combines some of the magic of Minnie Vans with the affordable nature of the Disney World bus network.

(Photo courtesy of Disney Parks / Kent Phillips, Photographer) 
(Photo courtesy of Kent Phillips/Disney Parks)

Is Disney Skyliner Free?

Disney Skyliner is completely free.  Disney World advertises this as a service for resort guests, but it’s also available for folks who want to connect between EPCOT and Hollywood Studios and those that just feel like an overhead view of Disney World. You can also consider it the newest activity in a fun-filled day at Disney without theme park tickets.

Where does Disney Skyliner Go?

Boy, do we wish it went everywhere — but Skyliner does cover quite a bit of ground. There are stations at Disney’s Art of Animation, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and the brand new Disney’s Riviera Resort.

Caribbean Beach Resort is the “hub” for Skyliner. Depending on your final destination, you’ll likely be boarding/changing gondolas at the hub. From Caribbean Beach, it’s a direct shot to Hollywood Studios. If you’re on the way to EPCOT, you’ll have a brief stop at Riviera Resort (though you can stay onboard your Skyliner gondola).

As an example, a resort guest at Art of Animation would board the Skyliner on the back side of that property. From there, the guest would “transfer” at the Caribbean Beach Resort stop, where he or she would disembark their gondola and board another bound for Hollywood Studios (the hottest theme park at Disney World right now) or EPCOT.

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Skyliner station at Hollywood Studios. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Can I use Skyliner if I’m in a wheelchair or ECV?

Skyliner is probably the easiest method of transportation for Disney World guests in wheelchairs or an ECV (an Electric Conveyance Vehicle, commonly referred to as a motorized scooter). Disney obviously learned lessons from other methods of transportation and came up with a design for those in a wheelchair or ECV who need more time to board.

Each boarding station has a separate “lane” for specific gondolas that will wait as long as you need to board. With the ability to move gondolas to this separate loading area, the regular line keeps moving people to their destination. Inside the gondola, a cast member will help secure the wheelchair or ECV for transport. Upon arrival, there’s a separate lane for disembarking, which also allows plenty of time. There’s no need to climb out of a wheelchair or ECV when riding Skyliner, and there’s always capacity for folks using assistive transportation methods.

Related: Ultimate guide to visiting Disney World

When should you use Skyliner?

One thing all four resorts on the Skyliner track have in common is no access to a free secondary transportation option beyond buses. During the busiest times of year, you can easily wait in line for 15 minutes only to watch a bus fill up without enough space for your family. Disney’s Pop Century Resort has a whopping 2,800+ hotel rooms. With an average of more than one person in each room, it’s easy to fill up a bus.

If you’re staying at Art of Animation or Pop Century and are in one of the rooms far from the front desk (which also puts you closer to Skyliner) you’re almost always going to be better off taking Skyliner. If you’re already in the central hall of each property and the bus line isn’t massive, then it may be quicker to hop a bus to EPCOT or Hollywood Studios.

At Caribbean Beach Resort, you’re only one stop from both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. As long as it’s not too far a walk to Skyliner, it’ll be your best bet. Buses can take quite a bit of time to meander through the property and get to the parks. Riviera Resort is an easy jaunt on the Skyliner to EPCOT, whereas the trip from Riviera to Hollywood Studios may be a bit quicker via bus. Riviera Resort is a smaller resort than most and has a dedicated bus stop for most destinations, which also helps avoid overcrowding issues.

If you brought a stroller for your little ones on your Disney World vacation, Skyliner may be your best choice. Unlike the buses, you won’t be required to fold up the majority of strollers when boarding Skyliner.

There’s one time it’s almost always a bad idea to ride Skyliner, and that’s when there’s thunder or lightning in the area — which is pretty much a daily occurrence in the summer and shoulder months. Skyliner doesn’t operate when lightning is in the area, though it can operate in the rain. In cases where Skyliner gets shut down, the hub at Caribbean Beach Resort will offload any passengers on their way to that station. There’s a very small bus stop outside the station where you’re pretty much guaranteed to get drenched while waiting for a bus to take you to your destination.

Related: Best restaurants at Disney World

Can i choose my Skyliner character?

There are a number of different themes for Skyliner gondolas. Each features one or two characters that are part of the same theme (Haunted mansion, Mickey & Minnie, etc). Generally speaking, there are multiple gondolas with the same characters on them. However, given the sheer number of gondolas, Disney has done a good job spacing out ones with the same characters. Chances are if you just saw your favorite character it’ll be a while before you see it again.

That said, Disney World has no formal policy on choosing which gondola you get in — but with a quick-moving line it’s easy to step aside and let a group pass you by while you wait for a ride with your favorite character.

Bottom line

Disney Skyliner is a welcome addition to four hotels with very limited free transportation options. Magic Kingdom is the park generally in highest demand, thus those buses are most congested. But, the buses to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios can be equally bad at certain times of day. Sitting down while being whisked over the tree tops can be a much better solution than standing in line and then standing for a 10- or 15-minute bus ride.

Skyliner does have some downsides, notably when weather causes the system to shut down. But the rest of the time it’s a consistent transportation option with a lot of capacity and the occasional cool breeze blowing through a gondola — with your favorite characters along for the ride.

Featured image by David Roark/Walt Disney World

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