Ah, the monorail: the unofficial, official transportation of Walt Disney World. The monorail system first opened up at Disney World in 1971 with two routes: one to Magic Kingdom and an express route. In the years since, this amazing “Highway in the Sky” went from being a prototype thought in Walt Disney’s head to one of the most popular forms of transportation around Disney property, connecting several deluxe resorts, Magic Kingdom, and Epcot.
What is the Monorail?
The monorail at Disney World is a public transit monorail system that transports guests to various areas around the property. While the monorail has become synonymous with Walt Disney World, the monorail system as a whole has been around since the 1800s. Henry Robinson Palmer, an inventor popular in the 1900s, filed a patent dated November 22, 1821, for “a single line of rail, supported at such height from the ground as to allow the center of gravity of the carriages to be below the upper surface of the rail.”
This patent is often cited as the first idea for a monorail system, however, it wouldn’t be until the 1950s that a popular animator and visionary by the name of Walt Disney would literally and figuratively take the ball and run with it. Walt was obsessed with the idea of progress and in 1957, started talking about an innovative way to bring excitement to the newly opened Disneyland. Thus the Viewliner was born.
The Viewliner was not a monorail system, but rather a train designed by legendary Imagineer Bob Gurr. The sight-seeing train was built from a mishmash of salvaged and repurposed auto parts, which honestly just goes to show the innovation the Imagineers had at that time (and still do, of course!) It debuted on June 26, 1957, and had two routes through Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.
About a year later, Walt and his wife Lillian came face-to-face with an actual monorail while traveling through Germany. The rest, as they say, is history.
How Does the Monorail Work?
The monorail operates completely on electricity. It travels on a 2-3’ beam and reaches speeds up to 40mph. While the monorail runs on an automatic system, each train has a pilot to supervise in case of an emergency.
Where Are the Disney World Monorail Stations?
The monorail system at Disney is made up of three separate lines: the Epcot line, the Express line, and the Resort line. Regardless of their final destination, all three lines run in a continuous loop. The Epcot monorail travels continuously between the park and the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). The Express line travels directly between the TTC and Magic Kingdom.
The Resort line runs in a continuous loop and has five stops:
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Transportation and Ticket Center
- Magic Kingdom
When Does the Monorail Run?
The monorail usually starts running approximately 30 minutes before the earliest park opens. Like the buses, the monorail stops an hour after the last park closes for the night.
These monorails usually run every 10-15 minutes, so you’ll usually have quicker transportation than you would be taking the bus to and from your destination.
Rules for Riding the Monorail at Disney World
As with everything at Walt Disney World, riding the monorail does have rules. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, guests are required to wear face masks while riding the monorail, regardless of their vaccination status. This also applies to every other form of Disney transportation.
Just like the parks, guests are not permitted to bring any type of glass bottle or container with them if they’re riding the monorail. If you possess one, you will either be turned away to put the item back in your car or throw it out before boarding. While you can bring food and drinks with you, you will not be allowed to bring alcohol with you. So, if you’re at Epcot, it’s best to finish your Avocado Margarita or Oktoberfest beer in the World Showcase before exiting. Also, food and drinks should not be consumed while the monorail is in motion.
Guests should also refrain from smoking, shouting, and engaging in public displays of affection while aboard the monorail. Depending on the time of day you hop on, it may be tempting to do these things since you may be the only one in the tram, but they need to be avoided.
Perhaps one of the most important rules of riding the monorail is that you shouldn’t lean on the doors. Doing this is a huge safety issue as the weight pressure can cause the doors to open while the monorail is in motion. If you ride, please be cognizant of this and remind your children to stand in the center. If a tram is too crowded and leaning up against the door looks like your only option, just wait for another monorail.
Can You Sit at the front of the Monorail with the Operator?
I was fortunate enough to experience this treat as a kid, but unfortunately, it’s not something you’ll be able to do anymore. According to Disney’s website, they went away with this feature due to safety concerns. However, you can get similar views by sitting in the front car of the tram. Though, if I’m being honest – every view you get on the monorail is enjoyable!
Disney Monorail Map
The monorail drops you off at the entrance to Epcot, but not before it takes you around the park to capture all the sights. Here is the monorail route map in Epcot:
The monorail route for the Magic Kingdom resort area will take you to some of the most popular deluxe resorts on property. From Magic Kingdom, it’ll take you to the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, then the Polynesian, and then finally the Contemporary. Here is the monorail route map for the Magic Kingdom resort area:
The Express route takes guests from Magic Kingdom to the Transportation and Ticket Center. Here’s a map of the monorail route:
The monorail is one of my husband and I’s favorite things to do while visiting Walt Disney World. In fact, the Contemporary is one of our favorite resorts because the monorail drives straight through it. Even if you’re not staying at a resort on the monorail route, I highly recommend taking a ride on it, even if it’s at the end of your night. It’s a great way to get beautiful views of Disney property and it makes you feel like you’re on a ride (that you didn’t have to wait long in line for).
Do you always ride the Monorail when you visit? Let us know your favorite thing about it in the comments and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for all the latest Disney World tips and tricks.
As a self-proclaimed Mouseketeer, Courtney Dercqu is a fan of all things Disney. Between decorating her desk with souvenirs from the park, to making unique mouse ears and having a dedicated Disney Instagram, Courtney is a true believer in the magic of a Walt Disney World vacation. Having had more than 200 articles published on various content, Courtney’s excited to share her knowledge and experience with everyone! Be sure to follow her on Instagram for all the Disney magic.