Why theme parks are perfect destinations for visiting alone

December 18, 2018, 8:12 PM · People typically associate theme parks with family vacations. But should you visit a theme park on your own?

Of course! Theme parks can accommodate groups from one up to, well, however many were in that small army that I saw blocking about half of Main Street at Disneyland yesterday. Going solo does not diminish the experience at all. In fact, visiting alone might make your theme park visit even better than going with a group.

Almost all of my theme park trips these days are solo visits, so I know what it's like to be in the parks alone... except that I am never alone, being surrounded by thousands of other theme park fans. Because of those crowds, though, visiting solo offers some real advantages. Such as...

Single rider lines

Almost every major park offers single rider lines on select attractions, allowing you to bypass most of the wait before riding. Parks use single rider queues to fill in the empty seats between other parties on roller coasters and other rides, so that they can send every ride vehicle out to maximum capacity.

That reduces overall wait times, but it really cuts the wait for people who go through the single rider line. Always ask about a single rider option when visiting alone and entering a queue with a long wait time. Here is a list of rides with single rider lines at America's most popular theme parks.

Navigating a crowded park

Cutting through the crowds is much easier when you are moving by yourself instead of in a group. How many times have you found your way blocked by a family that has decided to walk through the parks hand-in-hand and side-by-side? It's like walking into a rugby scrum. But as a solo visitor, you can cut around those roadblocks without having to coordinate with anyone else. You're a motorcycle on the 405, cutting through the traffic jam.

Mickey Mouse at Epcot
Retro-future Mickey welcomes you to visit! Photo courtesy the Walt Disney Archives

Going at your own pace

Want to blitz to the other side of the park? Or would you rather meander across a path you've never taken before and enjoy the sights alone the way? You don't need to put that up for a debate or a vote. Just do what you want. Will you cut to the right or the left around the army on Main Street? It's your call. There's no one else in your group to fight with over what to do next, or how to get there.

You almost never have to wait for the next show

When I worked attractions at the Magic Kingdom, part of my job was cutting off the line and making people wait for the next show, raft, etc. When I was asking people near the cut-off point how many people were in their party, I never cut the line in front of someone who answered, "one." In fact, even on rides without official single rider queues, operators often call for parties of one or two to skip ahead in the line so that they can fill a ride vehicle. Visiting solo just gets you on rides faster, all around.

You can go pretty far away when you're paying for just one airfare

It's not just inside the park that visiting solo offers advantages. If you are the one paying for the family vacation, just wait until the kids are grown and you don't have to pay for them to fly to Orlando anymore. Then you can use that money you would have spent on their airline tickets to visit Disney in Paris or Tokyo, instead. Or maybe you can afford to visit Disneyland and Disney World in the same year.

Granted, what you save by buying only one airline ticket, you might give back in value by staying by yourself in a hotel. The good news there is that traveling alone gives you more flexibility in booking rooms, as you only need the one bed. Go for the cheapest acceptable option and rest easy knowing that you've got the whole room to yourself. Which, more importantly, means you have the whole hotel bathroom to yourself, too. No more sharing!

You blend right into that crowd

Theme parks are typically crowded destinations, filled with thousands of separate families, groups, and solo visitors. If you have any level of social anxiety, you can visit a theme park alone in comfort because you'll won't stand out as a solo traveler there.

No one cares if you are visiting a park by yourself. Heck, even if you're waiting in a single rider line or picking up lunch by yourself at a restaurant window, many people will probably assume that you're just part of some other group anyway. People rolling solo are all over the place at any given moment in a park. If you want to blend into the crowd and be anonymous, you can. If you want to be social and try to chat up people around you in line, you can. You can visit a theme park however you want, and no one else will notice or care.

Far from being an inappropriate place to visit alone, theme parks are the perfect destination for solo travel.

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Replies (13)

December 19, 2018 at 12:07 AM

Have to admit, giong around the parks myself is good for all the reasons you mentioned. You can rush about a bit easier but also better to sit and rest, take in the surroundings and such. It really hit me when I got old enough to go on my own rather than with family. Don't get me wrong, love that too yet so much experience on my own at parks and yes, does feel good to be able to command your own way rather than a committee.

December 19, 2018 at 3:07 AM

I traveled a lot solo, theme parks and the rest of the world. It's the best. The most positive thing is that you are not part of a "group bubble". Where you are comes in unobstructed from distractions. Above that I always meet amazing people who share a small or big part of their time and life with me. I'm always very grateful for the interaction.
During my time I met an Egyptian doctor who became a good friend and showed me around in Cairo after I met him in the US.
I met a black professor on a flight from Amsterdam to Washington. He explained why Oprah Winfrey was the worst thing ever happened to the current black population in the US (I was a surprised white dude).
I met a street sweeper at Disney Village Marketplace (good old times) who loved being there. He told me how he ended up there and found himself.
I met an old man who lived trough the second world war serving his country, he told a hart breaking story of a young guy dropped in France and making his way to the Netherlands to liberate my country. He told me about the woman who gave him green pea soup although he saw she was hungry and he told me to be proud to be Dutch (not something the Dutch do very well).
I met a cab driver in a limo in New York. I was his illegal ride back from Newark airport and told me his life story after he asked me how I liked New York and I told him I hated it.
I met a nice girl and what happened is not for this site.
The list goes on and on and these interactions are sometimes better and more cherished by my me than the actual vacation.

December 19, 2018 at 5:32 AM

I used to like going to theme parks on my own. Could always do my own pace rather than worry about the other person with me...

...but there is extra fun when you’re with someone who will let you try to kiss them at the top of each hill.

December 19, 2018 at 7:22 AM

I traveled multiple times solo to DLP, and though I was mostly experience everything by myself I was able to meet new people and cast members there and build connections.

I love being able to just slow down as well. I loved just taking pictures while strolling through the parks without feeling the rush of other people to get on certain attractions.

Though a true Theme Park Fan should consider going to parks with people and solo to get the best experience of a park.

December 19, 2018 at 7:51 AM

For the past 5 years I have primarily traveled solo to fishing and theme park destinations. I much prefer to do it that way, as I have the freedom to do what I want, when I want. Although a couple of years ago my son and his wife came with me to Cedar Point, and we had one of the best times ever. But she is not a coaster rider, so leaving her while we queued and then rode the rides was always a bit of a niggle for me. My friend, her kids and grandkids are not enthusiastic coaster riders either, so days spent with them at SeaWorld or Disney will usually end up with us doing some of the flats and maybe BTMR at the MK, and that’s about it.

My 3 week vacation this year, and again in 2019, saw/will see me ‘flying solo’, but as I’ve mentioned before, it’s never a lonely experience as there are always other coaster enthusiasts to talk to, and share stories with. This is where wearing a specific coaster T-shirt works well. I was stopped plenty of times at CP when wearing my Smiler shirt, and it's the same here in Orlando if I wander around with my Steel Vengeance shirt on. It’s a great community to be part of, that’s for sure. 2020 will be my last planned extended theme park vacation, and again it’s looking very much like I’ll be on my own. After that I’ll be visiting the local parks weekly, maybe daily !! and I know for sure I won’t be on my own then. I’ll have my grandson to take around with me and I’ll be able to introduce him to the wonderful world of theme parks, so really looking forward to that. As he gets older maybe I’ll finally start to add a few of the kiddies rides to my list as well !?!?

As for the single rider lines …. in the right circumstances they work great, but I don’t recollect many rides that I’ve been on of late that actually have single rider lines ?? We have a few in Orlando, but not as many as you would think. Certainly none at SeaWorld or Busch Gardens. Almost every ride in the UK had a single rider line, but not so much here in the US. Does CP have any at all …. ?? I don’t think so ?? You can get stuck in single rider lines as well, as it always seems the vast majority of people are in groups of 2’s and 4’s, but in general you will get on the ride a lot quicker. The Everest single line is good, because they also allow you to wait for the front seat. Obviously that can take a long time to come to fruition, but being solo helps justify that extra single line wait time.

I enjoy my solo days at the parks. Busch Gardens last week was a prime example. I arrived at 10am, and didn’t leave until 6:15pm. I rode Montu 4 times, and the other main rides just once, but I managed to keep myself amused for just over 8hrs !! It’s makes for an awesome experience to drift aimlessly around with absolutely no agenda. Recommended … :)

December 19, 2018 at 8:42 AM

For my 40th birthday I booked a whole week of SoCal amusement/theme park visits and Halloween events (my birthday is mid-October). I gave my friends my itinerary and told them they could join me whenever they wanted. I had a blast with different groups of friends every day or evening.

It just so happened that on my actual 40th - no one joined me at Disneyland so I was solo with a birthday button traipsing through the park. I had the best day ever! All the cast members and other guests wished me happy birthday and engaged me in conversation. I rode Space Mountain 3x in a row, ate and used the restroom whenever I wanted, and went fast or slow depending on what was of interest - and there was no one else to complain about my choices. Many people think it’s sad I spent my 40th birthday alone - but I wasn’t alone - I had a park full of party guests to help me celebrate.

December 19, 2018 at 9:45 AM

Absolutely positively right! Traveling solo is a fun experience that should never discourage anyone from taking on a theme park by themselves. Yeah traveling with family is fun as well but going solo is also a fun experience. I took a trip to Japan, Robert is very correct in which going by oneself you can afford experiences that seem distant otherwise. Amazing trip in which I never felt alone for reasons mentioned in previous comments and posts, but also because I was fully immersed in the setting. Checking out all the details and truly being part of the attraction... it's hard to explain but yeah the theme park is your "companion" if you know what I mean. Same goes for checking out non-theme park sights.

December 19, 2018 at 11:18 AM

I almost always travel to theme parks alone and relish the freedom that that affords me. No compromises to be made, no disagreements about where to sit on a ride, no differences of opinion as to where to eat. On my 60th birthday - 7 years ago, yikes! - I rode the same thing 10 times and probably wouldn't have been able to do that with a companion. I've had experiences similar to Makorider when wearing a specific roller coaster T-shirt. My Smiler tee likewise provoked comment at Cedar Point and my Iron Rattler tee resulted in another park guest approaching me and starting a conversation at Silver Dollar City.

As to single rider lines, there are not enough of them and some fall short of significantly lessening wait times. For instance, to ride either Justice League or The Joker at Six Flags Great Adventure, it is first necessary to stand in the regular queue and work your way up to the point at which it splits into two separate queues. I was unpleasantly surprised, on my 2nd visit to Alton Towers this year, to discover that the single rider queues had been removed. At AT last year I got on everything without a wait due to the single rider queues; this year I had to rely on Fastrack to minimize the wait.

December 19, 2018 at 3:02 PM

Single rider lines aren't as advantageous as they used to be, especially at Disney World and Universal Orlando. There are too many families using them as their "express" pass to avoid the regular lines, which backs up the SR line to unbearable lengths. The worst is when the families reach the actual ride and complain to the OPs that they didn't know what line they were in and they can't possibly ride separately. I've seen this happen way too often and usually the OPs will bow to their crying wishes and therefore encourage them to do it again in the future.

I've seen too many times where rides like Gringotts have a single rider line stretched to the beginning of the queue. Strangely several groups in the line know each other quite well and are using each others phones. You would assume they would have all been by themselves.

Some rides like Hollywood Rip Ride and Rocket and the Aerosmith coaster at DHS are not even worth going through the single rider line. The trains hold two people per a car and most people are already in line as a pair. If the single ride queue has a full line, you're better off going through the regular line.

I think the parks should require single riders to carry a card (like an express pass) with them for the day. The patrons can pick them up in guest services when they enter the park and by taking one they indicate they understand the rules regarding single rider lines. This would cut down on families trying to cheat the system and use the line as a free express lane.

December 20, 2018 at 7:23 AM

I've used single rider lines with my family quite frequently. However, I don't condone their use to bypass the standby line if you're going to get to the load platform and play dumb. When we enter the single rider line as a family, we frequently try to limit our contact with each other so as to not appear like we're skirting the rules, and when we reach the front of the line, we always follow the ride op's instructions. However, in our experience, we frequently find ourselves in the same train/car anyways without any effort on our own, which is attributable to overall poor operations and loading of many attractions. In fact, Gringott's is one of the biggest offenders, where ride ops seem to be trained to occasionally peek at the single rider line, and if it's down to the bottom of the stairs, fill an entire train with single riders, because they're too lazy/slow to integrate single riders into the standby line at the load platform. MIB and TestTrack are similar, primarily because of their vehicle design and queue designs that can occasionally cause the standby line to pause near the load platform, forcing ride ops to tap the single rider line to fill entire cars because guests in the standby line are not paying attention and moving up.

I don't think requiring guests to carry a card will change anything, because most people using the single rider line are keenly aware of the rules, and simply try to get ride ops to bend them. Having a card won't change the behavior, because guests will still ask, and ride ops will oblige so as to not make a scene and delay queuing.

There are definitely some single rider lines that are not worth the effort depending on crowd levels, but trying to more strictly enforce the rules won't change anything. In the end, the efficiency of a single rider line comes down to the vehicle design (any attraction with a 3-across or 4-across seating arrangement is going to have a faster single rider line), design of the load platform and queue leading up to it, and the efficiency of the ride ops (I don't know how many times I've seen seats go empty on an attraction with a single rider line because ride ops are too slow to fill them - sometimes as a single rider you have to help things along by asking or reminding them that there is a single rider line that needs to be integrated). The efficiency of a single rider line can also be dependent upon the ride itself. Coasters are always going to have a longer single rider line because coaster fans are willing to ride alone, and typically want to ride multiple times without waiting. Dark rides tend to have shorter/faster single rider lines because the demand is not nearly as high from single riders.

December 20, 2018 at 11:14 AM

At times I feel that the ride ops are ignoring the single rider queue. This is especially true of Zumanjaro at Great Adventure. At Lagoon the single rider queues do not move quickly at all because of the park's unusual policy of prohibiting single riders from sitting in the first or last row. For attractions without single rider queues, the ride ops would do well to ask whether there are any single riders when coveted seats are empty. While the best airtime on coasters is usually experienced from the back of the train, the front seats on giga coasters offer thrilling experiences. I've seen Intimidator 305 and Millennium Force trains being dispatched with only one rider in the front row and this strikes me as a real waste.

December 20, 2018 at 12:06 PM

FWIW, single rider lines at our home park, SFOG, are pretty much nonexistent. They were implemented on some of the coasters a few years ago. But only set up at the point of row queing and now seem to be ignored by ride ops. As Bobbie pointed out, even our Justice League single rider line only becomes available after you have already gone through the first section of the main line.

Mako Rider...If you end up visiting SFOG in 2019, please let me know what date(s) and maybe I can join you. Of course, I would want to follow your preferences and itinerary while there.

December 20, 2018 at 2:23 PM

Sounds like a dastardly plan Ed ... :)
Once the park opening schedules are released I'll let you know.

Mako should still be running 2 trains when you're there, so wait time will be pretty short. The Falls have been down for 3 days, not quite sure what's going on but it was drained dry on Monday. Water was flowing Wednesday night, but no rafts.

Bobbie .... I'm surprised to hear that AT has removed their single rider lines. It would be interesting to know their reasoning behind the decision. Good to hear you get over to the UK on a regular basis ... It'll be a few years before I return, but by then I'm hoping AT will have another new coaster for me to ride on.

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