my favorite theme park queues
Easily the worst parts about visiting a theme are the food, the crowds, the price, and the lines. But theme parks go out of their way to make the lines as un-boring as possible for visiting guests. Here’s a list of six queues that I don’t mind waiting in:
6 - DINOSAUR - Disney’s Animal Kingdom
I’m hesistant to include this one on the list because I’m not a fan of the ride at all. But, I am a sucker for museums and that’s exactly what the queue for DINOSAUR is. Unfortunately, the ride usually isn’t busy, which means you probably won’t have time to see everything that this queue has to offer. But if you have a chance to take it slow, you can find information plaquards and fossils and bones all labelled and all informative, just like a real museum. The pre-show videos are long and outdated, but they get the story across and introduce the ride vehicle. Then you transition into an industrial area that looks a lot like the back of a museum, but has enough sci-fi elements to sell the ride’s story.
5 - Na’vi River Journey - Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Of course this ride should have an interesting queue: I’ve never seen a wait shorter than an hour! But, matching with the newest land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the line is heavy with detail and theming. The line starts with a peaceful stroll through a deep jungle. The mix of real, tropical plants and artificial, alien plants really pulls you into the natural feel. Later on, you find yourself under a canopy made of twisting branches. The detail of this canopy is absolutely amazing, with all the vines and branches intertwines, looking like a hand woven structure in some places and natural overgrowth in others. The canopy is dotted with woven lanterns, lighting your way. The queue itself wraps around a number of woven statues, that look like shaman religious altars. Along the rickety fence there are a few plaques with information about various plant and animal species found on Pandora.
The line then cuts through some caves, and into an old ACE Facility. The story behind Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom takes place years after the events of James Cameron’s Avatar the planet has had time to naturally reclaim the industry and this section of the queue balances perfectly the steel walls of ACE and the bioluminescent plants of Pandora.
The ride itself isn’t nearly as exciting as Avatar Flight of Passage, and the queues of both are equally detailed. While Na’vi River Journey doesn’t feature the amazing underwater avatar animatronic, I think overall it’s a better queue.
I’m grouping the next two together because they’re on the list for the same reason: theming. Both rides have a Single Rider Line, which I definitely encourage anyone to take, even if you’re visiting in a group because the line can take forever. Not only are both rides popular, but the amount of scenery makes everyone stop and take photos. If you’re planning on riding more than once, go through the full queue when the line is short, and take Single Rider every other time.
4 - Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts - Universal Studios
Escape from Gringotts takes you through the entirety of Gringotts Bank. You start in the main lobby, flanked on both sides by diligent goblins who look up from their work to sneer at you. The marble floors and the chandeliers in this room are jaw-dropping even without the fully built animatronic goblins (you know they’re fully built because the Single Rider line goes behind them). If the line’s too long, you have to wait in a small hallway for a bit, but it still keeps the asthetic of the lobby. Then you go down to the offices to have your photo taken (or skip past the people who want to have their photo taken). There are plenty of easter eggs in the office hallway, from names of familiar goblins on doors to newspapers with animated photos. This is also where you can see an important element of the ride’s story, the main trio taking polyjuice potion with Griphook, of course this is through the frosted glass of the office windows. As long as you’re paying attention there always something to see. Then there’s a pre-show, featuring Bill Weasley and Blordak. Hint: if you can get to the opposite side of the room during the show, you can easily skip almost 30 people in line. Then you go into a pair of elevators while a goblin explains the safety information from a portrait. The rest of the line is less than enjoyable. You’re crammed inside a tiny space and then you have to walk up almost three stories of stairs to get to the ride itself.
3 - Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey - Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Forbidden Journey is equally immersive, except you’re exploring Hogwarts school. This line starts in the dungeons of Hogwarts and goes outside, through the greenhouses where you can hear the distant screaming of mandrakes. You then go into a hallway where you can see the house points. For some reason, Ravenclaw is losing, which is honestly the worst part of this ride queue. You then sidestep the entrance to Dumbledore’s office. The hallways of Hogwarts are filled with animated portraits, some going about their own business, others explaining the backstory of the ride. Once room in particular has large portraits of the Hogwarts founders arguing. These are the same portaits you’ll find in the chocolate frogs, if you choose to collect those. You then find yourself in Dumbledore’s office: glass cabinets filled with lots of trinkets line one of the walls. You can also find the pensieve. If the line is moving slow enough, you’ll have time to examine the cabinet and listen to a hologram of Dumbledore explaining a safety announcement (not for the ride, but for life). Then you walk into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom where there are even more artifacts, my favourite of which is a dragon skeleton hanging from the ceiling. Behind the dragon, there’s a hologram of Hermione, Harry, and Ron explaining the backstory of the ride. You pass through more hallways with talking portraits, some of which introduce the ride vehicle (as is typical in many rides such as Avatar Flight of Passage and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man). Lastly the Sorting Hat explains the ride safety and then you’re off.
2 - The Haunted Mansion - Disney’s Magic Kingdom
There’s two main reasons The Haunted Mansion has made this list. One is the sheer number of easter eggs in this queue: there’s a wedding ring stuck in the pavement, many of the tombstones outside reference ghosts inside. The second reason is the tech behind it. Not only are there talking statues, but there’s also a number of interactive tombs. If you touch the instruments carved into the musicians tomb, they actually play. If you mess with the seaman’s tomb, it might squirt you. And the librarian’s tomb, the books slide in and out. And who could forget the iconic stretching room? Technology Connections did a whole video just on those. And there’s always a group of teenagers reciting the Ghost Host’s monologue.
1 - Jungle Cruise: Disney’s Magic Kingdom
This queue is my favourite just for the soundtrack. You’ll have to ride it multiple times to hear the hour-long audio loop, but that’s not a problem because the Jungle Cruise is also my favourite ride at any theme park. The soundtrack features a number of hit songs from the 1920s, interrupted by a radio host who pokes fun at the ride and makes jungle related puns. If you listen closely, the narrative of the radio host ties directly into the story of the ride itself, including mentions of the overturned Jeep and the temple ruins that are only in the Florida version of the ride. The soundtrack is so fun that I often listen to it on YouTube while working. Other than that, the line is fairly standard. Although when I go, it’s usually less than a ten minute wait and you don’t get to explore too much of it. I also enjoy the personal connection because near the end of the queue, they display a Kenyan shield and have a box ready for shipment to Stanleyville, Congo (the city where my mom was born).