In the Parks

The Best Queues in Walt Disney World

by on July 1, 2015

Photo by Disney

Photo by Disney

I do not like waiting in lines. I’m an impatient person and I always have been. But I do love Disney World so you can see how this could be a problem for me. Thankfully, Disney is all about making every experience at their parks magical. Yup, even the waiting in long lines part. Over the past several years, I’ve noticed a trend at Disney Parks where many attraction queues have been getting special care and attention to become more immersive and interactive. Of course, not all lines, waiting areas and queues are created equal. Some attraction queues are done so well that they feel like a natural extension of the attraction itself while others are indistinguishable from waiting in line at the bank only if the bank were outside in 90 degree weather and the customers all wore fanny packs and mouse ears. What was my point again? Oh right, the lines. Some Disney World lines are just a cut above the rest. These selected attractions below feature the Cadillacs of queues. They’ll have you saying, “Wow, look at those suckers with Fast Passes. They wish they could experience this line!” In all seriousness, though, I always appreciate excellent Disney Imagineering and I really believe that these queues are representative of that.

At this point, some of you might be thinking, “That introduction paragraph was really long. Why was it so long?!” Well, it is an article about waiting in lines after all…

Without further ado, here, in no particular order, are my personal best queues for attractions at Walt Disney World:

Peter Pan’s Flight

Video by Seth Kubersky

If Disney gave out Most Improved Awards, the queue for Peter Pan’s Flight, which you can view above, would most certainly be a frontrunner. Before the refurbishment, guests simply had to wait in a long line that practically extended into Liberty Square. It’s still a long line but you’ll now get to walk through the Darling children’s nursery with plenty of effects and interactive elements that kids will love. The new queue effectively extends the entire experience and arguably becomes a part of the attraction, which is a trend that I don’t expect Disney to stop anytime soon. Good job, Imagineers.

The Sea with Nemo & Friends

Photo by Claire Natsis

Photo by Claire Natsis

The Sea with Nemo & Friends is a rare inclusion on this list because it not only features a fantastically themed queue but it’s also a regularly short wait as well. What’s better than that? The coolest part about the queue at Nemo is that you actually feel like you’re going on a journey before the ride even begins. When you first enter the indoor portion of the queue, you’re on the shores of an Australian beach but you eventually end up on the ocean floor. What’s really remarkable about this transformation however is that it’s not sudden. Through each of the themed portions of the queue, you’ll slowly go deeper and deeper into the ocean. For example, at one point, you’re just underneath the surface of the water and you know this because you can see the bottom of a fishing boat if you look above you. Coupled with serene music that completely captures the quieter moments of the film, the queue for The Sea with Nemo & Friends is like taking a peaceful walk in the park only if the park was underwater.

 

The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror

Photo by Sarah Graffam

Photo by Sarah Graffam

Confession time: I’ve never been more scared to go on a Disney attraction than I was when I first saw that tall foreboding building almost twenty years ago. I actually chickened out the first time and didn’t go on it until my second trip back there. I think what made it even scarier though was the mood that the queue created leading up to the actual attraction. As you walk through the garden and lobby before eventually making it up to the boiler room area where you’ll enter your service elevator, the one thought going through my mind was just how creepy this whole place was. Disney is really good at making something new look old when they want and the Hollywood Tower Hotel looks like the decrepit remains of a formerly glorious and lavish hotel. I also have to give credit to some of the best cast members in Disney when it comes to staying in character. I love seeing a park guest ask one of the bellhops something only to be greeted with a monotone response that’s both hilarious and a little scary. The actual ride of Tower of Terror may be over in a few short minutes but the tension that builds up as you wait in line makes the entire experience that much better.

 

Haunted Mansion

Photo by Todd Perlmutter

Photo by Todd Perlmutter

I would’ve put the Haunted Mansion on this list even before they added the interactive elements. I love its funny tombstones and arguably the best pre-show in all of Disney World. The room stretches! Unlike the Tower of Terror, the Haunted Mansion skews a little more towards funny than scary so younger kids will probably enjoy it more. Just make sure they don’t look straight up at the end of the pre-show or they’ll be treated to a surprisingly dark side of Disney Parks storytelling that you don’t see too much of anymore.

 

Star Tours—The Adventures Continue

Photo by Disney

Photo by Disney

Admittedly, I’m a big Star Wars fan so your mileage may vary on this queue depending on whether or not you love the galaxy far, far away. With the new attraction revamp a few years ago also came a new attraction queue. The outside portion is the same with the AT-AT Walker in Endor but the inside has been completely redone. It features some of the saga’s most well-known characters like C-3PO and R2-D2 but there are nods to the earlier attractions as well(bird droids!). Since this is a prequel to the former attraction, you can also spot an earlier model of Captain Rex, the prior attraction’s pilot. Since this is a tour after all, the queue is supposed to feel like you’re going through an airport of sorts except it’s actually fun. I also like the pre-show video because it makes it seem like your shuttle is being prepared in a much larger loading area complete with droids and pilots before being elevated up to where you’ll enter the vehicle. I’m always a fan of immersion at Disney and the queue for Star Tours does it excellently.

 

Expedition Everest

Photo by Disney

Photo by Disney

It’s hard to imagine Animal Kingdom before Everest. The attraction not only added a much needed thrill boost to the park but it’s also one of the most well themed areas of the park. The queue of Everest is also an excellent example of historical fiction. If you weren’t paying close attention, it might feel like you’re just walking through a ragged museum or exhibit around the Himalayas. Look closer though and you start to notice more and more details of the elusive Yeti amongst the historical “artifacts.” My favorite in particular is a display of an earlier expedition with a tent that features large rips and tears in the tent. Mysterious! If you love urban legends or historical fiction, you’ll definitely appreciate the lengths Disney went to with the queue of Expedition Everest.

 

It’s Tough to be a Bug

Tree of Life

It’s Tough to be a Bug is on here for one reason and one reason only and it has nothing to do with the Pixar film. I really enjoy the line here, which is almost always a straight walk on, because it gives you an extremely up close view of the Tree of Life. The centerpiece of the Animal Kingdom features hundreds of different animal carvings and many of them aren’t even visible from the main hub of the park. Going on It’s Tough to be a Bug, which is located inside the Tree of Life, gets you an intimate look at some of the carvings that aren’t visible from the outside. It may not be technologically impressive or feature interactive elements but whenever I see It’s Tough to be a Bug, I usually remember the walk through the Tree of Life more than the show itself.

 

Under the Sea~Journey of the Little Mermaid and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Photo by Disney

Photo by Disney

Photo by Disney

Photo by Disney

I know it’s kind of cheating to combine our final two attractions into one entry but they’re both a part of New Fantasyland and feature similar approaches to their queues so I figured it made sense to combine them. My article, my rules! The queues for Under the Sea and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train are the closest you can get to actually being in a Disney animated film as far as line going experiences are concerned. They both feature a bevy of interactive elements to keep children (or easily distracted adults) entertained. The interactive elements themselves are similar too in that they involve one of the main characters from the respective films writing a note asking for the guests assistance with a task that takes the form of different games. Personally, I’d say that Seven Dwarfs Mine Train features the better queue because of the wider variety of interactive games along with more entertaining contextual based animations. This shouldn’t be surprising though considering Seven Dwarfs is the centerpiece of New Fantasyland and regularly features wait times of two plus hours. You have to keep those patient guests entertained somehow, I suppose.

Those are my personal top queues at Walt Disney World. Honorable mentions also go to Space Mountain, The Jungle Cruise, Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean, Toy Story Midway Mania, Test Track and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Let me know what your favorite queues, lines or pre-shows are in the comments below and thanks for reading.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Once Upon a Time Materializes in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

by on June 17, 2015

Mr. Gold is back in New York! No, this isn’t a spoiler for the upcoming season of Once Upon a Time, and it isn’t real New York. But if you walk New York Street in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you’ll find a storefront for a very intriguing shop.

ouatSign

Unfortunately, it seems that ol’ Rumplestiltskin is out for the day, as there’s no way to get into the shop, but he’s left some interesting pieces of his collection in plain view in the front and side window.

From the dagger that causes so much trouble (or is it a clever fake?) to the book that ties the series together, there are items to draw the interest of fans of all ages. Since the window display debuted, there hasn’t been a time when people aren’t peering in to see what they can find.

Perhaps even hidden in the display are clues for next season. Only time will tell.

daggerandbook

(Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

SATURDAY SIX: The Six Most Interesting, Most Unusual, and Strangest Souvenirs in EPCOT’s World Showcase

by on June 13, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Most Interesting, Most Unusual, and Strangest Souvenirs in Epcot’s World Showcase. After last week’s article on the Six Best Snacks in World Showcase, we’re going stay in the same area and look at another underrated part of Epcot; all the unique gift shops. This is the one theme park in Orlando, if not the world, where you will not find the same old stuff. Outside of the Norway Pavilion, it’s pretty much impossible to find any Frozen merchandise and you will have to go to Future World if you want the Disney Parks merchandise you will usually see at the other parks, Disney resorts, or Disney Springs. It’s a breath of fresh air and there are so many incredible items throughout World Showcase. However today we are not going to look at those. Instead we are going to look in the nooks and crannies and find the six most interesting, unusual, and strangest items starting with….

# 6 – Panda Sitting On a Toilet (China Pavilion)

While World Showcase is filled my with great shopping experiences, by far and away my favorite area to browse is at the Yong Feng Shangdian Department Store in the China Pavilion. It is a gigantic store packed with some of the coolest and most unusual in all of WDW. Wall of actual swords? CHECK. Intricately designed wooden ships? CHECK. Jade sculptures? Gorgeous Chinese dresses? Paper fans and chop sticks? All here. This is a store you could spend the better part of an hour just walking through and checking everything out. It also may contain the most amount of panda related items in Florida. Panda stuffed animals, keychains, coffee mugs, earmuffs… you name it, this store has it. The greatest of all panda items is this Panda Siting on a Toilet toy. Who knows why it could possibly exist, but aren’t you glad it does?

EPCOTSTRANGE_PandaToilet

Panda has to be reading a collection of the SATURDAY SIX, right? Only thing that makes sense.

EPCOTSTRANGE_pandatoilet2

Wait a second. SOLAR POWERED?! Now I’m going to have to buy this to see exactly what it does. Will report back Dear Readers.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

A Star Wars Weekends Experience Without a Plan

by on June 10, 2015

©Disney

©Disney

One of my favorite annual events at Walt Disney World is Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Star Wars Weekends takes place Fridays through Sundays from mid-May to mid-June and has only expanded over the years.

Today fellow fans of the force can get autographs and photos with Star Wars characters and celebrities, watch the Legends of the Force: Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade and the Symphony in the Stars fireworks display, take in the Stars of the Saga Star Wars Celebrity Talk Show, and, for the kids, participate in the Padawan Mind Challenge and Jedi Training Academy.

There’s also Star Wars themed dining and shopping and even more events for the major fans! Clearly, Star Wars Weekends is true to its name as you need weekends to do it all; but what if, like me, you really don’t want to spend hours in line or have to live by your times guide. What if you just want to check out the event? Sure there are touring plans that work great, but is it actually possible to enjoy a day at Star Wars Weekends by flying casual? Last week, I decided to find out and went to the event on a whim with no plan, no FastPass+, and absolutely no agenda. As it turns out, I was still able to see and do quite a bit. So for today, I’m going to share with you Padawans how I had A Star Wars Weekends Experience Without a Plan.

I Visited on a Friday – I decided to check out the event on a Friday; and as Friday is still a work day, I found that the crowds and wait times weren’t quite as bad as what I could have experienced on a Saturday or Sunday. For example, The Great Movie Ride had only a 30 minute wait time on Friday while on Sunday, the posted wait time on My Disney Experience was 60 minutes.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Typhoon Lagoon Cabanas: Mixing Luxury and Fun

by on June 9, 2015

© Sarah GraffamNow that Disney World has kicked off the Coolest Summer Ever, what better way to join in the fun than by cooling off at a Disney water park? And if you are looking to take a day of fun to the next level, what better way to experience the ultimate in cool than by renting a water park cabana? My family recently spent a day in a cabana, or “Beachcomber Shack,” at Typhoon Lagoon. If you are considering taking the same plunge, here’s what you need to know.

What You Get

A Typhoon Lagoon Beachcomber Shack provides your party with a comfortable place to call your own for the day, plus plenty of amenities. Upon check in, everyone receives a wrist band that allows access into the private area for cabanas. A Disney Cast Member then walks you to your shack, explains the amenities, and answers any questions about attractions and activities in the park.© Sarah Graffam

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Disney World Attractions in Need of a Revamp

by on June 3, 2015

Escape the heat by enjoying the Carousel of Progress.

One of the aspects that I feel truly separates Disney Parks from other theme parks is the presence of “classic” attractions. By classic attractions, I mean those that might not have state of the art technology by today’s standards, or cost the size of a small island, but remain relevant, charming, and downright fun years or even decades later. Attractions like Splash Mountain, The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean are just a few examples of these that come to mind. As brilliant as Disney Imagineers are, there is an occasional attraction misstep from time to time, which is inevitable.

It’s incredibly difficult to determine what’s going to resonate with audiences at any one moment, let alone ten, twenty, or fifty years from now. For a variety of reasons, some attractions just don’t age well and feel outdated rather than classic. Most of the time those attractions are replaced (see most of Disney’s California Adventure) but other times, they remain. Below, I’ve listed some attractions that I believe fit this description. These aren’t outright bad attractions per se, but they are ones that have the potential to be really fantastic with a revamp or retheming.

Without further ado, here are some attractions in need of a “tune up” along with what could be done to make them better and my suggestions for what attractions to go on instead.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Best Magic Kingdom Attractions for Teen Boys

by on June 2, 2015

The Disney Parks were designed with families in mind, to serve as escapes from the real world; where parents and kids can have fun together. But have you ever noticed that a certain element of the family tends to be overlooked? Do you know what it is? It’s the demographic Disney forgot: Teen Boys.

Now, I’m not a teenage boy, but I do have a teenage brother who loves Disney World, despite the lack of commercials and ads directed toward his age group: So I sat down with him for the scoop on what Disney World has to offer teen boys like himself. In the past I’ve covered the Best Disney World Restaurants for Teen Boys and Best Disney World Resorts for Teen Boys, but for today I’m focusing on the Magic Kingdom in this installment of The Demographic Disney Forgot: Best Magic Kingdom Attractions for Teen Boys.

10. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

One of the Magic Kingdom’s newest additions, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is very popular (and known for its lengthy wait times). This gentle coaster focuses on the Seven Dwarfs from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as guests ride in swinging mine carts in and out of the mine where a million diamonds shine! I consider it to be the perfect family ride in that it’s gentle enough for little ones, but still manages to entertain older kids. My teen Disney Bro admits that the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is rather tame, but the ride experience is smooth and a lot of more fun than just passing by scenes on a slow moving track. Also, the audio-animatronic dwarfs inside the mine are really impressive and worth seeing!

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

SATURDAY SIX: How To Survive Disney’s STAR WARS WEEKENDS In Six Easy Steps

by on May 30, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a special one for you, Dear Reader, as it is an invaluable guide that will show you How to Survive Star Wars Weekends in Six Easy Steps. Now of course we are huge fans of the various events at Walt Disney World including Flower & Garden and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, but Star Wars Weekends is close to our heart because of how much we love those films. In fact, the greatest Christmas gift Your Humble Author ever received was Han Solo’s blaster. However, this annual event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios can be challenging if you don’t know what you are getting into ahead of time. So today we are going to give you the road map to success in navigating Star Wars Weekends in six easy steps, starting with…

# 6 – Watch the original Star Wars films before Disney adds even more stuff to them

Not surprisingly, Star Wars Weekends is filled with references from the original Star Wars trilogy, the three prequels, and even the Clone Wars cartoons (which has actually had six seasons of episodes despite the fact we don’t know anyone who has watched it.) You’ll want to watch the movies so you are familiar with the main characters, but also get a chance to see the films before Disney makes even more changes to them.

STARWARSWEEKENDS_JackSparrow

Jack Sparrow added into Return of the Jedi. (photo by Matt Cleary)

You see, Star Wars fans have had to watch their beloved films be tinkered with for years, and almost always in a frustrating way (Greedo shoots first in A New Hope, young Annakin added to end of Jedi.) However Disney fans have had to sit by as their company became the worldwide leader in unwatchable sequels (we’re still waiting to see if anyone can explain the plot to Pirates of the Caribbean At World’s End or tell us why Little Mermaid 3 and Brother Bear 2 exist.) Now that Disney has bought Star Wars we may see the darkest of all timelines come true, Disney changing the original films.

STARWARSWEEKENDS_JabbaHan

Disney plans on being as subtle as possible with it’s changes, including the Olaf MagicBand worn by Han Solo. (photo by Matt Cleary)

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

The Epcot That Never Was

by on May 28, 2015

(c) Walt Disney Company

Model of EPCOT, (c) Walt Disney Company

Epcot is one of my favorite parks at Walt Disney World. I never get tired of seeing Spaceship Earth, or watching the dancing Fountain of Nations in Future World, or doing a little shopping in World Showcase; but what I’ve recently discovered is that the Epcot that I know isn’t exactly what Walt Disney had in mind when planning Disney World. You see, back in the 1960s when Disney World was being planned, the Magic Kingdom wasn’t what Walt was most excited about. In fact, when Walt introduced television viewers to his plans for Florida, he said that EPCOT would be the “heart of everything we will be doing at Disney World.” Walt also said that it wouldn’t be a park at all, but rather a community of the future where you could live! So what was the Epcot supposed to be like? What happened along the way? Well, keep reading because for today, I’m here to tell you all about The Epcot That Never Was.

Walt’s Original Vision for EPCOT

One of Walt’s many interests was city planning and finding solutions to the everyday problems of the cities of the day, such as traffic, slums, pollution, and crowded conditions. He had learned a lot about planning, building, and construction when creating Disneyland, and he now felt that he could provide some solutions to the problems he saw in the real world in the form of a working community called EPCOT.

EPCOT stood for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, and it would be an example to the country and the world for how to build and run better cities. It would also serve as a sort of testing ground for new technology, products, materials, and ideas from America’s industries and corporations that would serve to improve our lives.

EPCOT wasn’t just some idea or possible plan for the distant future of Disney World. Walt fully intended to build it, had many plans and diagrams, and intended it to be the focus of his Disney World on the East Coast where 20,000 residents would live and work. Pretty cool, huh?

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Lombard’s Seafood Grille: The Best Food at Universal Orlando

by on May 25, 2015

When discussing dining at Universal’s Islands of AdventureMythos typically steals the culinary spotlight. Even Finnegan’s tends to get lots of love within Universal Studios Florida itself, but it’s actually Lombard’s Seafood Grille where a great deal of Universal’s gastronomical delights are to be found. When its top-notch offerings and ideal location on the park’s waterfront are combined with its low profile, an unexpected bonus pops up: lower wait times (on average, at least) and a quieter, more relaxed ambiance. The result is that Lombard’s is not to be missed.

Lombard's Seafood Grille -- exterior.

Image © Chuck Plagmann

Is that a hyperbolic statement, given the totality of the resort’s high-class dining offerings? In a word, no. While it’s true that Mama Della’s is the best overall full-service restaurant at Universal Orlando, and The Three Broomsticks is the highest quality quick-service location – and let’s not forget Mythos itself, which has to easily take the crown for the best-themed eatery – Lombard’s has some of, if not the, best meals around, coupled with an atmosphere that is subtly themed but nevertheless sublime.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print