How Social Distancing Might Work on Magic Kingdom Attraction Vehicles

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When Walt Disney World eventually reopens, it’s likely that it will follow the model set by Shanghai Disneyland, with an initial phase of attendance caps and social distancing on attractions. There are dozens of different types of vehicles represented in the Disney theme parks, from individual carousel ponies to spaceships, and everything in between.

Let’s talk about how social distancing might work on each of the attraction vehicles in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

[Please note: I have NO inside information about Disney’s reopening plans, timing, or procedures. These are my thoughts only.]

For safety purposes, we’ll assume that guests and cast members are all wearing appropriate face coverings, sanitizer and hand wash stations are readily available, and vehicles are cleaned on a regular, frequent schedule. Another huge area of consideration is the management of queues for rides, which are currently universally configured with guests close together. We’ll assume for now that there will be a virtual queue management system in place, perhaps something like the way Rise of the Resistance boarding was managed prior to closing.

MAIN STREET USA

Walt Disney World Railroad

Prior to the pandemic, the Walt Disney World Railroad was non-operational due to the construction of the new TRON Coaster happening near the tracks. Depending on the timeline of events, the Railroad may or not be open when the parks reopen. If it is running, social distancing might be achieved by only loading one party per row, only loading alternate rows.

ADVENTURELAND

Jungle Cruise

Loading the Jungle Cruise boats with room for six feet between parties would likely result in just 2-3 parties allowed per vehicle, resulting in giant backups even with reduced park capacity. I think it’s more likely that they’ll stop seating guests in the middle “island” of seating, with about a 50% overall reduction in capacity.

Personally, I’m super curious about whether any social-distancing related jokes will be allowed into the spiel. Too soon?

Magic Carpets of Aladdin

The Magic Carpet social distancing is relatively easy if they load only one party per carpet.

Pirates of the Caribbean

The Pirates boats could have one party per row, with rows skipped between parties.

Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room

A 50% reduction in guest admission per show would allow for parties to distance from each other. Perhaps alternate rows could be entirely taped off.

FRONTIERLAND

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Larger parties might have their own mine car. Two parties of two could be loaded into a mine car with the middle seat left open.

Country Bear Jamboree

A 50% reduction in guest admission per show would allow for parties to distance from each other. Perhaps alternate rows could be entirely taped off.

Splash Mountain

Parties of four or more could have their own log. Smaller parties could be loaded with alternating open rows.

Tom Sawyer Island

The rafts to Tom Sawyer Island are typically packed tightly on the way to the Island. Real social distancing might require rafts to be loaded only 1/3 full. The Island itself has lots of open space. The possible issue with the Island is that there are enough hidden nooks and crannies where non-compliant guests will likely remove their face masks.

LIBERTY SQUARE

Hall of Presidents

A 50% reduction in guest admission per show would allow for parties to distance from each other. Perhaps alternate rows could be entirely taped off.

Haunted Mansion

The Doom Buggy cars are typically loaded with only one party, so distance is not a problem on the riding part of the attraction. However, guests are often standing close together in the dark during the Stretching Room preshow. A 50 percent (or more) reduction in Stretching Room loading will allow guests to stand further apart.

Liberty Square Riverboat

Seating is minimal on the Riverboat; however, when the boat is fully loaded guests often stand close together around the railings. A 50 percent reduction in capacity would allow guests to stand further apart.

Additionally, there might need to be modifications to the load/unload procedures to prevent guests from close interaction on the narrow internal staircases between levels.

FANTASYLAND

The Barnstormer

Distancing could be achieved by leaving open rows between parties.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

As with the Magic Carpets, social distancing is easy when only one party is loaded in each elephant, as is typical.

Enchanted Tales with Belle

I’m curious about whether Enchanted Tales with Belle will open during the initial stages of park reopening. The last portion of the attraction has bench seating, which could be moved apart for greater distancing. However, much of the attraction involves audience participation with cast members and, of course, a meet and greet with Belle, a “face character.”

While we don’t know this for sure, it seems unlikely that guests will have close interaction with face characters during the first phases of opening.

It’s a Small World

The It’s a Small World boats are substantially the same as the Pirates of the Caribbean boats, with social distancing achieved by placing guests in alternate rows.

Mad Tea Party

The Mad Tea Party cups are conducive to placing guests in individual parties. The ride could be fully loaded with guests having appropriate social distance.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Social distancing could be achieved by loading individual parties into Hunny Pots.

Mickey’s PhilharMagic

A 50% reduction in guest admission per show would allow for parties to distance from each other. Perhaps alternate rows could be entirely taped off.

Peter Pan’s Flight

Social distancing is easy when only one party is loaded in each ship, as is typical.

Prince Charming Regal Carousel

If guests were only seated on individual horses, social distancing would be easy. However, since many younger children ride the carousel, there are often parents that stand next to them for safety reasons. Therefore, a somewhat reduced capacity loading would be necessary to allow people to keep apart.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Distancing could be achieved by leaving open rows between parties.

Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid

Social distancing could be achieved by loading individual parties into clamshells.

TOMORROWLAND

Astro Orbiter

Social distancing could be achieved by loading individual parties into rockets.

Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin

Social distancing could be achieved by loading individual parties into vehicles.

Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor

A 50% reduction in guest admission per show would allow for parties to distance from each other. Perhaps alternate rows could be entirely taped off.

Space Mountain

Social distancing could be achieved by loading individual parties into rockets.

Tomorrowland Speedway

Social distancing could be achieved by loading individual parties into cars.

Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover

Social distancing could be achieved by loading individual parties into cars.

Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress

A 50% reduction in guest admission per show would allow for parties to distance from each other. Perhaps alternate rows could be entirely taped off.

Of course, even if methods like these do take place, we have countless other questions about character greetings, castle stage shows, parades, fireworks, shopping, dining, and more. We’re looking forward to seeing what happens. Do you have any theories or predictions? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel at DisneyWorldMoms.com, a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater. Erin can be reached on Twitter @MsErinFoster.

15 thoughts on “How Social Distancing Might Work on Magic Kingdom Attraction Vehicles

  • May 20, 2020 at 11:33 am
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    Very interesting. I agree with your ideas. Now to social distancing blog for the lines for each queue! 🙂 You will have it all planned out for them ! lol

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  • May 20, 2020 at 12:26 pm
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    Any queue with a switchback is going to be a problem. They are going to have to spread them out.

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  • May 20, 2020 at 12:52 pm
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    In theory, they could put markers on the floor indicating where to stand. It would be a little tricky, but it would still be doable. They can place the markers in a way that people will still be distanced when in the “rows” that are next to other “rows” (switchback portion of the line).

    The grocery stores here have markers throughout the store so it should be doable.

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  • May 20, 2020 at 3:33 pm
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    Might have to completely eliminate standby lines on most of the popular attractions and instead offer lots of same day FastPasses. You simply can’t have a 120 minute wait on rides in this world.

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  • May 20, 2020 at 3:40 pm
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    For some weird reason this gives me hope :). I’m not sure if I’ll plan a visit any time soon, but I can picture the distancing idea a lot better now. Also call me crazy but I love the washing and sanitizing stations – saves me from carrying my own wipes (which I always did!).

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  • May 20, 2020 at 3:59 pm
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    I’m curious how they will handle Buzz Lightyear blasters. Are they really going to wipe down each blaster after every rider exits, or would it be sufficient to have guests use hand sanitizer before and/or after riding?

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  • May 20, 2020 at 5:14 pm
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    I think Shanghai is doing disposable gloves

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  • May 20, 2020 at 6:16 pm
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    UV lights could be really helpful too. Overall this article makes me optimistic – most MK rides seem in good shape. My personal preference for controlling lines is to have set entry/exit times. Three hours of 7am opening crowds would be great.

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  • May 20, 2020 at 9:45 pm
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    Thanks for an interesting article on how this could work. Seems quite feasible. However, I don’t think you could have 50% capacity if alternate rows are taped off, given that you’d need space between groups in the same row. Maybe closer to one-third capacity?

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  • May 21, 2020 at 8:15 am
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    Disney is one of the best at moving people, so I am certain they will have a plan in place that will work. Hopefully the mask provision will soon be dropped!

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  • May 21, 2020 at 8:31 am
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    The CDC is now reversing course and stating that surface transition of the virus is not likely. This could be used to help popular rides like Pirates or any Disney rollercoaster load faster as a thorough wipe down of all surfaces would not need to be made. Disney (and other parks) could alternate the rows the cars and boats are loaded, giving surfaces contacted with hands, backs, and butts time to “air out”.

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  • May 21, 2020 at 8:54 pm
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    The CDC is, unfortunately, now politicized by folks I do not trust my life with. Better to follow sources like Johns Hopkins. If credible medical/science sources outside the political bubble say transmission by physical residue is unlikely, I’ll consider it.

    The NIH (not seemingly under a political microscope like the CDC) recently reported that viral particles emitted while talking travel up to 13 feet and remain viable in the air for up to 14 minutes. (In some conditions, viral particles remain viable in air for 3 hours.) So, 6 feet is not a reliable protection.

    And compliance with even the minimal measures likely to be mandated will be sketchy. You _have_ been around some of the folks who go to WDW, right? Many will be the type who think this is all a hoax, or overblown, or an assault on their freedom, and will do their best to flout the rules. You can’t even get people to stop running you over with strollers! Thoughtful consideration is sorely lacking among many WDW guests.

    A theme park is simply not a place to be in during a pandemic of a very serious pathogen. If you “exercise your rights” and go anyway, and become infected, you then are a vector for wherever you go home to, possibly causing serious illness or death in others.

    I am a huge fan of WDW, but am frustrated and concerned by how many people want to get back in there as soon as possible. The health of _all_ is so much more important than _your_ vacation!

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  • May 21, 2020 at 10:36 pm
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    How dangerous the virus is depends on who you believe and what your politics are. While the liberal Johns Hopkins researchers ate claiming 6 feet of social distancing isn’t enough, nearly 600 likely conservative doctors have signed a letter to President Trump stating that we are currently having a mass casualty event due not directly to Covid-19, but to early detection of health problems by delaying doctor appointments, unhealthy eating and drinking while staying at home, and depression.

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  • May 22, 2020 at 7:22 am
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    A lot of these would put people much closer than the recommended 6 ft. apart, particularly in the theaters.

    Everyone is eager for things to get back to some version of normal and that’s totally understandable, but it seems like we’re setting ourselves up for a massive second wave of infections.

    Reply
  • May 23, 2020 at 12:10 pm
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    Has anyone heard rumors or speculated about WDW resort hotels? I’m wondering how food courts will change, gift shops, maid service etc.

    Reply

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