As long as I can remember, I have been a coaster nut. I love going fast and feeling the wind in my hair. I love twists, turns, and twirls while screaming and becoming completely discombobulated. I understand this is not everyone’s idea of a great time, but I adore coasters and the feeling of wildness while being strapped (safely and securely) into one.
So, when I heard Walt Disney World was building a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed coaster at EPCOT, I was instantly all in. When we visited the last few years during the course of construction, we’d take a look at the giant building going up and daydream about what the magical result would be.
At the same time, I was also worried about accessibility. While I love coasters, they have not always been easy for me to board with my disability, and some of the newer attractions in the Parks have been surprisingly difficult and more inaccessible than I would have anticipated. (See this article for more.)
My accessibility experience with coasters at WDW is varied from the spectrum of cannot ride at all (Space Mountain), to a very difficult boarding and deboarding process (Rockin’ Roller Coaster), to a very easy transfer (Expedition Everest). Space Mountain is impossible for me to transfer into from my wheelchair, and I can’t bend my knees enough to sit comfortably. And the last couple of trips, I have skipped Rockin’ Roller Coaster (despite it being a personal favorite) because even with the transfer bench, the ride is very low, and it’s a challenging lift to get out and back into my wheelchair. For me, Expedition Everest is the ideal design because I can pull my wheelchair right up and slide transfer in and out by myself.
Considering this wide variation of design and that news about Guardians revealed they had developed and patented a brand new vehicle design, I had no idea what to expect for accessibility and transferring from my wheelchair. The only way to find out, for sure, was to give it a try. So, it was game on during our last visit. Thankfully, we spent two days at EPCOT during our trip and had two opportunities to ride Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
The first test for entry was to pass through the virtual queue process. We had experience with this relatively new system when we used it for Rise of the Resistance at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. In this case, the queue opens on the MyDisneyExperience app at 7:00 am and 1:00 pm. Guests must have reservations for EPCOT that day and can only access the virtual queue once. This means if you get in for the morning queue, you can’t re-enter in the afternoon.
A few minutes before 7:00 am, we ensured we had good WiFi or cell signal, signed into the app, and were prepared to hit the “Join the Virtual Queue” button. When we visit WDW, we are early-morning birds, so on both days, we were either already on a bus to the Park or waiting to board one.
I had very good queue luck on both days we visited EPCOT, and I was able to get us into the 7:00 am queue each time. Then during the day, we monitored our expected boarding time and prepared to return at the appointed hour.
On the first day, our predicted queue time coincided with a lunch reservation, so we checked with a cast member and learned it wouldn’t be a problem to just come back afterward. That day the boarding time moved backwards, and on the second day, the boarding time moved quickly, so it just depends on what group you end up in and how quickly the attraction is moving the crowd that particular day.
Even with the virtual queue, on our first time, the physical queue wait after the initial scan in was about an hour. The second time it moved faster, but it still was at least 40 minutes. But on the plus side, this means we had the whole standby line experience!
The physical queue was completely accessible, with areas of ramping and wide turns. The story of the Nova Prime civilization and their interactions with the Guardians of the Galaxy are told throughout the line. It really feels like going through a cool, futuristic museum!
As space fans, we loved the visuals of galaxies and star systems. And the storytelling about Nova Prime technologies was fascinating. Of course, the laughter comes in when the Guardians make their appearance, and the story of the coaster starts to build.
As we neared the boarding area, I became increasingly anxious because all I could see were people climbing up and over a small gap into a coaster car. I couldn’t imagine how this would be doable for me to transfer from my wheelchair. Thankfully, I was very wrong!
When we approached a Cast Member organizing groups, we were separated and placed at the back of the boarding area. We explained we were first-time riders and didn’t know how boarding would work for us but would appreciate any accessible accommodations. Although we had checked the website before our trip, there was pretty much no information about vehicle accessibility except that it is labeled a “must transfer” type of ride.
We waited behind a wider boarding gate marked with a wheelchair and waited for our car to arrive. The last vehicle of each group has a door that opens wider (on other attractions, this is called the “tab door”). This made boarding very easy and accessible as my husband helped me transfer (stand and pivot) to the edge, then helped me slide over and move my legs in. The Cast Member then took my wheelchair to meet me at the deboarding area. Before taking off, the door is closed back, and the lap bar is pulled down tightly to secure us for the ride.
This ride will blow your mind if you’re a coaster fanatic like me! First, the story continues seamlessly through the coaster in a way I’ve never experienced. Second, the vehicle and the track design is an innovative, one-of-a-kind coaster spectacular. I don’t want to give it away, but I’ve never had such fun on a coaster. This is saying a lot because (have I mentioned?): I love coasters. This is one very unique and special experience.
For folks with sensitivities, I would say the ride is very smooth and not jerky. I have sensitive joints and live with chronic pain, so this is a concern for me on coasters. Another reason I can’t ride Space Mountain is that, for me, the movements are too abrupt and can hurt my bones (my neck in particular). On Guardians, I felt that my body was comfortable and well-supported and that the smooth motion of the ride kept me in a place of fun enjoyment the whole time.
When we returned from saving the galaxy, my wheelchair was waiting for me, and the Cast Member helped to open the special vehicle door. It was simple for me to swing my legs back out and do a transfer pivot back to my wheelchair. From there, we were directed to an elevator to exit the attraction.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind not only jumped to the top of my list of favorite coasters but also the most accessible. It took me a little bit more effort to transfer than Expedition Everest, but I wouldn’t say significantly more. And the experience was absolutely out of this world!
WDW wins a billion gold stars not only for an amazing coaster but for amping up the accessibility. Every group of ride vehicles has an accessible car, meaning the attraction is constantly accessible without an extra long wait. It is quite an achievement to think so creatively to make such an innovative vehicle while also improving the accessibility for people with mobility disabilities. Extra kudos go to the Imagineers for this fantastic coaster experience!