Editor’s Note: Some of the images that are displayed throughout this article were taken prior to the establishment of any new operational guidelines and health and safety measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic such as the mandatory wearing of face coverings and physical distancing requirements.
Few people travel to Walt Disney World (WDW) without experiencing the bane of most theme park traveler’s existence: the dreaded wait time within the attraction queue. Waiting in line becomes part of every guest’s experience — be it waiting in line for a favorite attraction, waiting in line for bus transportation, or even waiting in line as one seeks out the tasty treats served at one of WDW’s newest counter service spots, Woody’s Lunch Box. Visitors often attempt to make the most efficient use of their time so that they may enjoy more of the magic that only a Disney park provides. Nevertheless, no matter how efficient a meticulously planned schedule appears, guests will wait in line at some point on their adventure. The most common waits at WDW center around the numerous attractions provided by the multiple theme parks.
As I was contemplating my next article, I recalled my family’s recent excursion to Central Florida and the stories I heard about the wait times for both having access to Toy Story Land itself on opening day as well as the queue for one of its cornerstone attraction, Slinky Dog Dash. Social media users posted waits to enter the land upwards of three hours, and then another several hours before arriving to the loading area of the coaster.
This conversation sparked another question. I asked my family, “How long of a wait is too long of a wait?”
This question led to a discussion centering around how long someone was willing to wait for a favorite attraction. This debate led to an intense conversation as well as friendly disagreements regarding the amount of time one was willing to spend to experience a little Disney magic. Some were willing to spend more time in a queue for certain attractions, while others felt those precious minutes were better spent in a different line. We started discussing specific attractions within the Magic Kingdom, but the conversation spread to include multiple other theme parks. I felt that this topic may trigger some good conversation for both you and your own.
For simplicity, I broke the wait times into four generic categories. What ride would I only wait around 15 minutes for? Which ride warranted a 30-minute wait? 45 minutes? An hour?
Starting with the Magic Kingdom, I selected one ride that would fulfill each of those categories. That being said, this is not an all-inclusive list, meaning that the attraction listed would not be the ONLY one I would wait a certain amount of time for. There are times that I may wait longer for a certain ride, depending upon my mood, the crowds, and even the wondrous Central Florida weather. If the attraction has an outside queue, I may wait longer during the winter months as opposed to the warmer, more humid months in the summertime. Several other variables may alter my willingness to wait for a certain attraction, including things such as dining reservations, plans for finding the perfect spot for parades and fireworks, and time constraints such as making it back to the resort in time to catch the Magical Express back to Orlando International Airport.
Upon considering which attraction at the Magic Kingdom warrants only around a 15-minute wait, two come to mind: “it’s a small world” and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The nod goes to Pooh. Small World possesses somewhat of a nostalgic and sentimental value, given the fact that my grandparents made a trip to WDW in the mid-70s and my grandmother specifically remembers this classic attraction. The Pooh attraction, on the other hand, opened in the late 1990s and actually replaced a Disney fan favorite, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Stories of angry fans picketing inside the park due to the closing of Mr. Toad’s sprinkled the local news during this time. Although classified as a typical Disney “dark ride,” some fans found this replacement unacceptable in their eyes. The Walt Disney Company, always a professional to honoring things of the past, sprinkled multiple tributes within the new attraction. In Owl’s house on the Pooh attraction, riders find a portrait of Mr. Toad handing over what appears to be a deed to Owl himself. Furthermore, a picture of Pooh greeting Mr. Moley lies flat on the floor in Owl’s home.
Pooh allows the park-goer to climb aboard a bouncing honey pot and travel through the pages of the A.A. Milne storybook. Many of the friends of Pooh can also be seen, including Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and Rabbit. Tigger makes an appearance and does what Tiggers do best: bounce! Disney added an enhanced ride vehicle to this attraction, allowing the guest to bounce with Pooh’s springy friend. While Disney also added an interactive queue, including a wall of honey, this attraction lacks appeal to many adults. The interactive queue provides games and activities to help pass the time; however, these activities are geared to those with single-digit ages. The ride itself often garners a 30-45 minute wait, which often feels much longer since my spouse and son lack interest in the interactive queue. The park provides other avenues to see Pooh and his friends, including the meet-and-greet next door as well as The Crystal Palace Character Dining experience. Time limit for waiting: 15 minutes.
The attraction that warrants no longer than a 30-minute wait is located toward the second star to the right and straight on till morning. Peter Pan’s Flight opened just a few days after the grand opening of the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. Peter Pan continues to be one of my family’s favorite attractions and we will often schedule a FastPass+ for the ride; however, we rarely join the stand-by line if the time reads greater than half an hour. We often joke that this attraction is a “90-second ride with a 90-minute wait.” In 2015, the Magic Kingdom’s version of Peter Pan’s Flight underwent a refurbishment of the queue and now those in the stand-by line tour Wendy, John, and Michael’s bedroom and even get a closer look at everyone’s favorite pixie, Tinkerbell. Tink prepares you for flight just prior to entering the loading zone as she sprinkles you with pixie dust.
There is absolutely no mistaking the charm of this ride, but riders should be ready to experience an extended wait for this brief attraction. Some of the animatronics appear dated and I can’t help but believe that a decent percentage of riders leave Peter Pan feeling, “Wow, I waited an hour for that?” While an excellent attraction for children and those seeking a bit of classic Disney magic, thrill-seekers will find this attraction disappointing. Some will feel that Peter Pan’s Flight lacks the feel of a modern-era attraction, but that becomes part of its charm. Overall, guests should prioritize this ride early in the morning (or reserve a FastPass+) so that they can experience Neverland on this classic Disney attraction without spending more than a half an hour waiting to fly with Peter, the Darlings, and Tinker Bell. Time limit for waiting: 30 minutes.
As we increase the wait time for attractions, unfortunately, the list of rides worth those waits begins to shorten. While many of the rides in Fantasyland provide the Disney fan with a sense of nostalgia, few warrant more than a 30-minute wait.
After more than 40 years, no one bid high enough to win the companionship of the Redhead. This, of course, refers to the attraction deserving of a 45-minute wait, Pirates of the Caribbean (POTC). Dead men tell no tales in this Disney park classic. First-timers and Disney veterans alike will both adore this timeless attraction. The Disney company again demonstrates its masterful skill of storytelling as the rider enters the world of the swashbuckling pirate’s life. The story starts even prior to entering the loading area, as the park-goer explores the queue which resembles a dungeon and extends beyond the ride as one exits through a large gift shop filled with pirate “booty.” Disney makes waiting for this attraction easy as the excitement builds throughout its exquisitely-themed queue. Disney incorporated characters from the film series — including Barbosa, Davey Jones, Blackbeard, and the ever-popular Captain Jack Sparrow — back into the very ride that inspired the worldwide blockbuster movie series.
Traditional Disney fans often share their love of this timeless, mythical, three-dimensional representation of the pirate’s life as the theme park world seems to be traveling closer and closer to a world filled with screens and virtual reality. We will continue to make this attraction a priority on our WDW trips and we hope, one day, those poor fellows will eventually get the key away from that dog. Disney created POTC as an immersive experience and it has evolved into one of their best and most popular attractions. Time limit for waiting: 45 minutes (but maybe more, at times).
This leaves the attraction worth a 60-minute wait. Granted, at times, POTC would rest on this list as well — especially on a hot and humid Florida day when the park-goer seeks an immersive queue with air conditioning. Sitting in my office at home are statuettes of Bertie, Aunt Florence, Uncle Jacob, Cousin Maude, and the twins. Of course, the Haunted Mansion deserves the wait lasting upwards of 60 minutes.
The home of the "999 happy haunts” provides the rider with a creepy yet entertaining tour of this Gothic New England abode. Both the casual and dedicated Disney fan alike typically rank this attraction as one of their favorites. An extended wait in the outside queue of this ride provides the guest with both interactive and immersive elements. Tombstones within the queue loosely reference some of Disney's creative geniuses — their Imagineers. Just prior to entering the mansion itself sits a gravestone for a very important character, Madame Leota. As a word of advice, one should keep an eye on this specific tombstone. The attraction provides the guest the opportunity to help perform the tune “Grim, Grinning Ghosts” via an interactive musical instrument panel. Even the busts of the family members mentioned above provide a mystery for those in line to solve.
Once inside the mansion, riders notice the Disney Imagineers' attention to detail and theming. While in the “stretching room,” the Ghost Host seems to circle above the guests. Marble busts in the library follow the guests as they travel deeper into the bowels of this haunted home. The ballroom scene, depicting the ghost’s “swinging wake,” continues to baffle many and impress the rider as they observe translucent spirits enjoying their ghostly gathering. Even the cast members themselves add to the theming of this attraction. Gone is the bright, cheery typical cast member behavior that one finds in the remainder of the park. Their demeanor may even be grim at times. This simply adds to the immersion of this beloved attraction. Time limit for waiting: 60 minutes. As a confession, my family and I actually waited double this time for the Haunted Mansion attraction in 2003, just shortly after the release of the dreadful Disney movie of the same name.
As stated before, the Disney queue wait time continues to serve as almost a rite of passage into the magic that can be experienced upon many of the Disney attractions. With the invention of the FastPass+, Disney does provide the park guest with the opportunity to manage their time within the parks much more concisely; however, those passes are often limited and the wait for certain attractions becomes inevitable. Some travelers to WDW feel their vacation lacks completion without a ride upon certain favorite attractions. For my family, rarely does a trip conclude without a voyage through the Caribbean with our favorite pirates as well as a tour of a creepy mansion filled with fun-seeking spirits. For others, the necessary rides may include a visit to the Hundred Acre Wood and a flight to Neverland. Regardless of the attraction, the queue wait sometimes becomes a factor in arranging the park day in a way to maximize ride efficiency and attraction enjoyment. What are your 15:30:45:60-minute attractions?