For a certain subset of Disney fans, including my son, Walt Disney World in Florida cannot be separated from all the different types of transportation one gets to experience. From the monorail to ferries across the Seven Seas Lagoon to the iconic Walt Disney World Railroad, Disney World is heaven for transportation lovers. In 2019, Disney opened its newest form of transportation, the Disney Skyliner, which has become an instant hit with guests. Not only is the Skyliner an efficient means of transportation at Disney World, it’s also a delightful experience.
In this article we’ll discuss what you need to know about the Skyliner. Plus, we’ll explore how you can enhance your Disney World vacation via experiences on and around the Skyliner. The Skyliner is like life: the journey is as important as the destination!
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What is the Disney Skyliner?
What exactly is the Disney Skyliner? The non-technical way to explain it is that it’s a large cable car/gondola system that suspends guests above Walt Disney World property, transporting them between various Disney destinations. Think of gondolas you might see at ski resorts but instead of traveling up a mountain you are traveling from point to point. Some Skyliners are even wrapped in decorations using Disney themed characters, making them a fun, whimsical way to get around Disney World.
The technical version? The Disney Skyliner is a gondola lift system designed by Doppelmayr Garaventa Group. But really all you need to know is it’s a pretty neat way to get around Walt Disney World.
The Skyliner is also of course only one piece in the larger Disney transportation system that includes monorails, boats, and buses. It is free to ride for anyone, regardless of whether the guest is staying on Disney property or elsewhere.
Where can the Skyliner take you at Walt Disney World? Disney Skyliner Routes
The Skyliner connects four different points in Walt Disney World. You can ride the Skyliner to Epcot (with an optional stop en route at Disney’s Riviera Resort station), Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort and Disney’s Pop Century Resort. The latter two are serviced by the same station.
The main Skyliner station resides at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. From there, you can take any one of the three Skyliner services, or lines.
Caribbean Beach to Art of Animation/Pop Century (4 mins): The Art of Animation and Pop Century Line is a direct route between Caribbean Beach Resort and those two resorts which share a Skyliner station. It’s a short four minute ride one way that takes you over Hourglass Lake, ending in the middle of the lake.
Caribbean Beach to Hollywood Studios (5 mins): The second line is the Hollywood Studios line, which takes you directly back and forth between Hollywood Studios and Caribbean Beach. It’s a five minute ride but not as picturesque since you’re mostly soaring over parking lots.
Caribbean Beach to Epcot (12 mins): The third line, the Epcot line, is the only line with a stop. You ride from the Caribbean Beach Station over Caribbean Beach Resort itself before doing a quick stopover at Disney’s Riviera Resort. At the Riviera, you can optionally get off or pick up more passengers. The Skyliner then continues, dropping you off at Epcot’s International Gateway where you enter by the France pavilion. It’s a bit of a longer ride than the other two lines, clocking in at about 12 minutes.
What’s riding the Disney Skyliner like? Does it get hot? Will I get motion sick?
If you’re not afraid of heights, riding the Skyliner is absolutely lovely. The cars board steadily, so even if there is a line it moves quickly. There is a separate loading area for ECVs and wheelchairs, making things run smoothly for everyone.
Seats inside each Skyliner vehicles are on two wooden benches facing a central open space. This space is large enough to accommodate most single strollers (and some doubles that aren’t side-by-side) without collapsing them.
Each Skyliner car can take up to 10 people. If you are in a smaller party, expect to share a car with others. During off peak times, you can ask for a car for your party only and cast members will often accommodate. But at busy times like the end of the night Disney will run each Skyliner vehicle at full capacity.
Once you’re in the actual car and in the skies you’ll feel mild rocking. It’s nothing to worry about although again if you’re afraid of heights it might cause a little concern. Sometimes, the Skyliner stops for one reason or another – that’s when the car rocks a little more due to the halt in momentum. Not our favorite, but again, bearable.
One concern people had about the Skyliner was the fact that it didn’t have any air conditioning. Thankfully, those concerns have been mostly alleviated after the Skyliner started operating. There are air vents at the top of each car which provide a nice airflow through the cabin, even in the summer.
Overall, the Skyliner is one of best ways to get around Walt Disney World property. The views and convenience are sure to delight young and old alike. It’s currently our favorite form of transportation at Walt Disney World.
Disney Skyliner Resorts: What Hotels Have Skyliner Service?
Officially, there are dedicated stations for the Skyliner at 4 different Disney hotels. But there are also 3 additional Disney-owned hotels and 3 partner hotels on Disney property that are within easy walking distance of the Disney Skyliner. These 10 Disney Skyliner resorts are:
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort (served by Art of Animation/Pop Century station)
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (served by Art of Animation/Pop Century station)
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort (served by Caribbean Beach station)
- Disney’s Riviera Resort (served by Riviera station)
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort (<5 mins walking distance to Epcot Station)
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort (<5 mins walking distance to Epcot Station)
- Disney’s Boardwalk Inn (<5 mins walking distance to Epcot Station)
- Walt Disney World Swan (approx. 15 minutes walking distance to either Epcot or Hollywood Studios stations)
- Walt Disney World Dolphin (approx. 15 minutes walking distance to either Epcot or Hollywood Studios stations)
- Walt Disney World Swan Reserve (approx. 15 minutes walking distance to either Epcot or Hollywood Studios stations)
As you might imagine, the gravitational pull of the Skyliner has moved a lot of guests away from the monorail resorts near the Magic Kingdom to the resorts that the Skyliner services – including the deluxe resorts on Crescent Lake: Beach Club, Yacht Club, and Boardwalk Inn.
And for the first time moderate and value Disney resorts have non-bus options to get to some of the theme parks. This has made Art of Animation, Pop Century, and especially Caribbean Beach (at the hub of the Skyliner system) incredibly popular.
We are regularly seeing standard rooms at both those hotels selling out before other on property hotels. So if you want to book a Skyliner hotel, you should book sooner rather than later (remember you can always make changes for free if you change your mind- 30 days in advance of your trip for package bookings and 5 days in advance for hotel-only bookings).
In addition, the Skyliner has definitely driven prices up at Pop, Art of Animation, and Caribbean Beach Resort. You can expect equivalent rooms at Pop and Art of Animation to be at least $30-$40 more per night on average than any of the All Star Resorts (which are also considered Value resorts). You’ll see a similar markup when comparing Caribbean Beach Resort to the other moderate hotels, like Coronado Springs and the two Port Orleans resorts.
Will there still be bus service to hotels that use the Skyliner?
Buses still run regularly (at an average wait time of 15 minutes) between Skyliner resorts, Magic Kingdom, and Animal Kingdom. Although buses also used to run occasionally from some Skyliner resorts to Epcot and Hollywood Studios as well, that is no longer the case unless there is bad weather or other special circumstances.
If you plan to stay at a Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, Art of Animation, or the Riviera and want to use Disney transportation to get to Epcot or Hollywood Studios, the Skyliner is usually your only choice. If you have anyone in your party for whom this may be a problem, you may want to consider staying elsewhere. (Note that the resorts along Crescent Lake have boat service as an alternative and are also close enough potentially to walk to either Hollywood Studios or Epcot).
What happens to the Skyliner during bad weather?
The Skyliner has one big disadvantage compared to other forms of Disney transportation. When bad weather rolls in or is scheduled to roll in, the Skyliner shuts down completely. Light or even medium rain won’t stop operations, but if there is lightning, high winds, or other adverse weather in the area, Disney cast members completely empty the Skyliner – every guest is dropped off at the next station but nobody is allowed to get on. The Skyliner won’t start running again until the all clear.
This can be very frustrating if you’re relying on the Skyliner for transportation, so be aware if you’re staying at one of the Skyliner hotels – especially in the summer. Disney will still get you where you need to go via bus, but it’s just not as efficient. As always, touring early morning and late night will minimize your chances of weather disruption in the summer.
What are the operating hours of the Disney Skyliner? Can I use it for rope drop?
Disney’s Skyliner operates daily except during periods of refurbishment. Unfortunately, Disney World doesn’t post Skyliner operating hours online or in the Disney World app. The only way to know the Disney Skyliner hours is to check the A-Frame boards Disney posts outside of Skyliner stations every day. If you see a picture of one of these schedules a few days before your trip, they’re likely accurate, but Disney ramps up/down its schedule depending on projected crowds.
You can count on the Skyliner opening at least one hour before park opening and at least one hour after park closing most times. Typically, this means the Skyliner begins running around 7:00am-8:00am daily and stops around 10:00pm-11:00pm. On nights when Epcot has Extended Evening Hours for deluxe resort guests (often until 11:00pm), the Skyliner will run even later.
In the mornings, a one hour early start time sometimes not early enough to truly rope drop the parks. If you want to be at the very front of the rope drop line – especially during the extra half hour of early theme park entry for resort guests – the Skyliner can sometimes be a bit of a gamble.
If you decide to take your chances with the Skyliner for rope drop, aim to line up at Caribbean Beach Resort station about 20-30 minutes before the Skyliner’s starting operating time that day. Guests coming from the Pop Century/Art of Animation station should line up even earlier. You really want to be one of the first to board the Skyliner because you must transfer at Caribbean Beach.
But the real way to ensure you’re at the front of the line for early entry and rope drop at Hollywood Studios or Epcot is to stay at one of the Crescent Lake hotels and walk if you can afford it. From the non-walking distance hotels, Uber or Lyft may be the quicker option for an extra early arrival.
How crowded is the Skyliner at the end of the night?
If you want to avoid long lines, you might not want to ride the Skyliner back home at the end of the night. Now that fireworks and evening shows are back at Epcot and Hollywood Studios, a lot of people pour out of the Skyliner parks at the end of the evening. We’ve seen lines running all the way to the Beach Club Resort for the Skyliner at park closing time.
Our recommendation? Wait it out. If you can hang out in the parks, shopping, people watching, etc. for 20-30 minutes after park closing you will find the lines pretty much gone. Or if you’re at Epcot, walk around Crescent Lake or explore some of the shops and restaurants on the Boardwalk. You can return to the Skyliner when the lines have died down.
Should you ride a regular or “wrapped” Skyliner car?
As mentioned above, a lot of the Skyliner cars have cute Disney characters wrapping them. The mixing and matching of different colored Skyliner cars and decorations makes watching the Skyliner a visual treat. But there is a difference between riding a decorated or non-decorated Skyliner car.
Unfortunately, the Skyliner cars with wrapped decorations make it harder to see out of the Skyliner windows. If you want to get the best views of Disney World from up high, ask a cast member if you can wait for a non-decorated gondola. Of course, your kids might want the fun of riding in the Elsa or Goofy gondola, so in that case the trade-off might be worth it!
How can you best use the Skyliner on a non-park day?
Regardless of whether you are staying at a Skyliner hotel, if you’re taking a non-park day, cruising the Skyliner is a great way to pass the time. If you’re into eating, you might want to check out the Landscape of Flavors food court at Art of Animation, Sebastian’s at Caribbean Beach Resort, or Topolino’s at the Riviera Resort.
You can also take the Skyliner to the Epcot station. From there, explore the boardwalk around Crescent Lake and the hotels there as well. This area has great places to eat like Cape May Cafe, Ale & Compass, and Beaches & Cream. Best of all, you can ride the Skyliner at off-peak times and just enjoy the views high above Disney World by yourself!
Disney’s Skyliner continues the long tradition of magical transportation options at the Walt Disney World resort. The main drawback is how bad weather can throw a real monkey wrench in operations. Other than that, however, it’s a convenient and fun way to get around Disney World. There are rumors that Disney will be expanding Skyliner service in the future – we can’t wait!
Where to Book Your Walt Disney World Vacation
Planning a visit to Walt Disney World? Book your Disney vacation with trusted Trips with Tykes partner, Get Away Today. Get Away Today sells park tickets at a discount, helps you find great deals at both on-property and off-property hotels, assists with all the logistics of a Disney World vacation with its free concierge service, and provides complimentary price monitoring so you can lock in newly-released discounts.
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About the author: Contributing writer Joe Cheung loves traveling with his wife and three children. He has been writing about using miles and points to reduce the cost of family travel since his wife was pregnant with their first child. He loves traveling all around the world with a special place in his heart for travel to Asia and all things Disney. When he’s not writing, you can find Joe chatting about Disney World on the Disney planning podcast Disney Deciphered that he and Leslie co-host or working as a travel agent specializing in Disney destinations. You can contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.