As one of the health safety precautions for resuming operations, Walt Disney World has modified all ride and attraction queues in Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. Here, we’ll share photos of the physical or social distancing measures, including plexiglass barriers & ground markers that have been installed in lines. We’ll also cover our experiences and how guests have adapted to the changes.
Walt Disney World’s official “Returning to a World of Magic” page covers the three guiding principles of the modified operational guidelines and health safety measures: enhanced cleaning, reduced contact, and physical distancing. That same page touches upon temporary adjustments are in place to promote physical distancing.
Most significantly for attractions, there are signage and ground markings. In the lines for rides, “please wait here” strips have been installed. Additionally, physical barriers have been added in select places where it is difficult to maintain strict physical distancing guidelines. As DisneyWorld.com doesn’t show examples of either, that’s what we’ll be doing here, plus detailing our extensive experiences with these in the parks…
This post is one of many to come that will form the basis of our forthcoming modified 2020 Walt Disney World planning guide. This series is aimed at helping you determine both whether you’d feel safe visiting Walt Disney World later this year or early next, and whether it’s worth visiting WDW with so many modifications in place.
Let’s get started with a look around some of the queues at Walt Disney World while also offering some random commentary that hopefully you’ll find helpful in assessing your own comfort levels…
To begin, perceptions of safety are a personal matter, which is important to underscore. We have felt comfortable in every modified queue at Walt Disney World, but that’s predicated upon our risk tolerances and personal experiences thus far.
We’ve found that the “please wait here” markers are installed at appropriate distances, plexiglass barriers exist in virtually all switchback locations, and guest adherence to rules has been exceptional in our experiences.
While we don’t carry a tape measure with us to the theme parks, the “please wait here” markers are easily 8 or more feet apart, with greater distance when it comes to indoor queues.
In some cases, these markers are significantly more than 8 feet apart, as Walt Disney World has accounted for proper distance in all directions. Meaning that if the queue winds around or doubles back, the markers account for this.
This has actually resulted in some minor challenges for us.
There are locations where the physical distancing markers are at the edge of a blind corner, and it’s difficult to tell whether the party ahead of us has moved forward to the next marker, or has just started to “drift” forward.
The latter is actually fairly common, especially as many guests are glued to their phones while waiting in line.
To remedy this “problem,” one of us moves forward to scout the next marker while the other holds the previous spot. This is an approach we recommend, as it prevents the party behind you from moving to your slot…and you being left without a marker, and (potentially) inadequately distanced.
While a lot of people are preoccupied with their phones, we haven’t had any real issues (beyond the minor drifting) with this while waiting in line.
Most guests have enough peripheral vision and situational awareness to stand on a marker and play on their phones. Multi-tasking at its finest!
The bigger issue with guests on phones is while navigating walkways. It takes some time to unlearn old habits, and many people don’t account for the extra space for physical distancing while walking around in “autopilot” mode.
Fortunately, the parks are veritable ghost towns, so there’s sufficient space pretty much everywhere in open areas to avoid others. It just requires that you be more mindful in some areas, as not all guests will be.
In general, we’ve felt safest in the outdoor queues. This is in large part because they have the best air flow and are more open.
Slinky Dog Dash is a great example of this–we’d do that attraction again and again because the main queue is covered but outdoors, with plenty of airflow, thoughtful spacing, and plexiglass barriers.
However, we’ve also noticed that once outdoor queues get into overflow territory, with markers beyond their permanent infrastructure, distancing is not quite as good.
The best example of this is another attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. There are tape markers in the park’s central courtyard to accommodate hour-plus waits, and we’ve seen some cases of guests being a bit too lax with spacing.
Another example of this is Frozen Ever After at Epcot, which has a relatively short indoor queue but overflow that extends pretty far beyond Norway’s border.
In both cases, nothing we’ve observed has been major or egregious (and this occurring in outdoor settings gives us less pause), but it’s still worth pointing out. We’ve seen enough to say with confidence that guests “perform” better within the confines of the structured queues.
It’s also worth noting that attendance is really low at Walt Disney World right now, with most parks not filling to even their reduced capacity.
Consequently, few full queues (let alone overflow areas) are being used right now.
Posted wait times are down considerably across the board, and even those are dramatically inflated. Right now, the longest wait you’ll have is likely Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and even that could be only a 20-30 minute line if you do it first thing in the morning or at the end of the night.
Come October through December (and beyond), things could be different. (Although that feels increasingly unlikely given Florida’s rising case numbers, which are causing many guests to push this year’s trips into 2021.)
Avatar Flight of Passage is a good example here.
To our knowledge, this is the longest queue at Walt Disney World–to the point that the posted wait time is 10 minutes simply because it’ll take you that long to walk the line.
We’ve yet to see 95% of this line in use. Despite that, Walt Disney World has added “please wait here” markers on both sides of the bridge to Africa.
This means there’s the expectation that–at some point–waits for Avatar Flight of Passage will be significantly longer than their current 10-30 minutes.
Sticking with Avatar Flight of Passage, it’s a queue where physical distancing has been done really well, with an abundance of markers plus plexiglass barriers.
We felt safe throughout the queue, including the pre-show rooms (the more annoying of which is not currently running, with two rooms instead running the safety spiel).
However, we felt less safe on the attraction itself, as each party is only separated by one banshee. That’s at least 6′ of distance, but it still made us uncomfortable.
Again, it’s worth underscoring that perceptions of safety are personal. We’ve spoken with friends who also rode Avatar Flight of Passage and didn’t think anything of this until we mentioned it (and even then, weren’t bothered). We aren’t claiming to be “right” and them “wrong.” It is what it is–your mileage may vary.
If there’s an attraction you want to do that potentially concerns you, the best option is doing it right at rope drop, or the last hour the park is open.
It’s always true that wait times are shortest at park opening and closing, but we’re seeing particularly short waits the last hour of operations. Due to the summer heat, limited attraction lineup, and having to wear face masks all day, most guests are leaving well before park closing.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is another attraction that’s both really well done and also potentially problematic. We cover this at length in our Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Ride Report: Struggles & Success!
Our experience with this attraction was flawless–absolutely zero complaints. However, this attraction has been plagued by breakdowns, and if you’re in line when this occurs, it could mean a 30 to 90 minute wait standing or sitting in the same spot.
Again, your mileage (and personal comfort levels) may vary, but our recommendation would be to exit the queue in the event of any attraction breakdown. In the case of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, speak with a Cast Member on the way out about re-entry.
In the case of literally any other attraction, the time you’ll waste by waiting out a breakdown is more than the currently low posted wait times. You come out ahead by bailing.
Prior to Walt Disney World reopening, there were some attractions we had reticence about doing. High on that list was Haunted Mansion due to its confined pre-show spaces.
However, Walt Disney World obviated our concerns by eliminating the pre-show and making this section part of the queue. While it might hurt the attraction experience, in this time of temporary abnormal, it’s a necessary measure to ensure safety.
Overall, this about sums up the modified queues and temporary safety measures that Walt Disney World–what’s necessary to ensure guest safety. Without exception, the altered queues have been exceptional and made us feel comfortable in every line. Guests also deserve a lot of credit, as the vast majority have been following the rules and standing on the markers.
Even though ride capacity has been reduced, our waits in line have been incredibly short due to dramatically reduced attendance. It also helps that FastPass+ has been eliminated, so lines are constantly moving. That may seem insignificant, but it both helps make the wait pass quicker and minimizes the time you’re spending in any given spot. All things considered, we give high marks to Disney on the modified queues!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Have you been to Walt Disney World since the parks reopened? What did you think of the modified queues? Did you feel safe? Anywhere you felt unsafe? Other thoughts, tips, or unique lines we didn’t address? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!