Soarin’ is my favorite ride at Walt Disney World. There, I said it. It feels good to get that out in the open. For many years now, a trip has not felt complete without a trip to The Land to hang glide over California. Unfortunately for me, it also seems to be the favorite of many an Epcot guest. In the Unofficial Guide, readers of all ages rank it 4 or above out of 5, with all but two age groups giving it a perfect score. So, how do you make the most of your time at Soarin’?
Tip: Visit Soarin’ early. I’m talking first thing early. To ride, I strongly recommend you get in line or obtain FASTPASS within the first 30 minutes the park is open.
If you have never been to Epcot to experience this magnificent ride, you might think it would be easy to grab a FASTPASS and see it during the day. You would be wrong about that. FASTPASS tickets for this ride can be gone as at noon or sometimes earlier. We advise getting your FASTPASS early in the day if you plan to use that method to ride Soarin’. This leads me to the infamous Soarin’ Stampede.
Since Soarin’ is good for kids of all ages (over 40″), it tends to be the first ride many families go to in the morning. As with most Disney procedures, opening time at Epcot can vary depending on the day. In the past, Epcot would allow guests in from 15-20 minutes early and hold at the Innoventions Plaza leading into the breezeway that leads directly to the Land. Currently, they will open the gates without a rope drop at Innoventions on most days and you will be free to head to the Land, but be prepared for either procedure depending on the crowds. Regardless, make Soarin’ your first stop.
Tip: To be among the first in line, arrive at Epcot at least 30 minutes prior to the official opening time. Once through the turnstiles, take the right fork around Spaceship Earth and head to the right to the passage through Innoventions West. This leads directly to The Land Pavilion. Strollers are not allowed inside the pavilion, and stroller parking is to the right, towards The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion. Either park your stroller before the lines surge to the ride or park quickly to the right. Once you are rid of the stroller or if you didn’t have one, you’ll want to enter on the doors to the right.
During busy times, cast members lead the guests around to the right, past The Circle of Life film, in front of the Garden Grill, and down a staircase towards the Living With The Land ride. Then guests proceed through the seating area for the Sunshine Seasons food court and to the entrance for the ride. Once there, you have a choice of getting in line to ride immediately or getting a FASTPASS.
Tip: If you are right at the head of the crowd, go ahead and get in line; otherwise, go for FASTPASS. Or, if you don’t want kids trampled in this crowd (it can get quite crazy), then send one member of your party to get the FASTPASSes.
Knowing this pattern of how the crowd flows going into Soarin’ in the morning is half the battle. The second half is knowing what to do if you must ride Soarin’ but can’t make it to the park early. As mentioned, FASTPASS may be available if you are there before noon, but if not, you’ll have to figure out how to wait in line. Waits at Soarin’ are regularly between 60-120 minutes depending on the crowds. Fortunately, Disney has provided video games to play while in line.
Tip: If you end up being forced to wait for Soarin’, try to wait until the line is 60 minutes or less, because you will be right at the games. That way the wait will be more tolerable.
The games in this line were among the first of Disney’s new interactive queues. Through technology very similar to that of a Microsoft Kinect sensor, guests wave their arms, jump up and down, or do other motions to affect objects on a large video screen on the wall. The games change from time to time, but I’ve played games where we had to knock balloons around, build earth formations, and grow plants.
Once you reach head of the line, either through FASTPASS or the regular line, you’ll be sent to the right or left to join a line for the ride boarding area. You’re not quite done waiting yet. Once in this line, you’ll be held until the cast member at the bottom of the ramp starts loading you into three separate stalls for boarding the attraction. These stalls correspond to the three sections of the ride vehicle. The cast member loading will place you in a line numbered 1, 2, or 3, where you will wait facing a TV screen running the names of California towns.
Tip: If it’s your first time, ask the cast member if it’s possible to wait for the top row. When the ride becomes airborne, you won’t have other guests’ feet hanging over you.
While you are riding, enjoy the easygoing gliding and the scent of oranges that is pumped into the ride, look for a hidden Mickey on the golf ball that screams past your head, and take a good look at Disneyland at Christmas in the last scene.
Personally, I like to get a FASTPASS for Soarin’ first thing in the morning, ride in the standby line, and grab some breakfast at Sunshine Seasons before using the FASTPASS. I just love it that much, plus the food at Sunshine Seasons is that good!
What about you? What are your tips for taking on Soarin’?