The holidays are nearly upon us, and while there’s nothing quite so magical as the festive season at Walt Disney World, it does come with one unfortunate by-product: crowds—which, of course, mean long lines.
When you visit Walt Disney World during peak season, you’ll also find that it’s very difficult to score the most highly-coveted FastPasses in advance. Even if you do get the ones you want, you may not be able to pick up many more throughout the day.
So, if you’re hoping to do more than a few attractions, expect to spend some time in line. Fortunately, many of Walt Disney World’s best rides also have the most immersive standby queues, positively bursting with hidden details for you to discover (all of which those lucky ducks in the FastPass line miss out on completely). So, pack your patience and get ready to look on the bright side by heading for these attractions with the best queues at Walt Disney World:
9. Dumbo, the Flying Elephant
Until a few years ago, this would have topped our list of worst queues. Moving through the line at a glacial pace in the blazing sun with screaming toddlers in tow isn’t an experience we’d wish on our worst enemy.
Everything changed in 2012 though, with a refurbishment and expansion that moved that scalding queue indoors—and into an air-conditioned, big top–themed kids’ play area. Parents get a pager and kids get to channel their inner circus performer until it’s time to ride. Kids love this space so much that parents who think they’ve scored by snagging a FastPass (which bypasses the play zone) just might get a scolding from kids who are mad they’re missing the fun.
8. Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid
Prince Eric’s castle is a perfect replica, and we love the spray of the waterfalls and the seashells underfoot that make you feel like you’re near the sea as you wind through the outdoor portion of the queue. Once inside the underground cavern, pass the time in line doing an interactive scavenger hunt with Scuttle. This ride moves a crowd quickly and it’s almost never a terrible wait. The far superior queue is also the reason this ride makes our list of Walt Disney World rides that are better than their Disneyland counterparts.
7. Peter Pan’s Flight
Here’s another recent addition of a slick new queue to a previously painful waiting experience. Consistently one of the most popular attractions at Magic Kingdom, Peter Pan’s flight is one of the tougher advance FastPasses to get and regularly logs wait times of 60-90 minutes.
Mercifully, a new interactive queue, opened in 2015, goes a long way toward helping guests pass the time. Step inside the Darling home and explore Wendy, John, and Michael’s nursery. Keep your eye out for Tinkerbell—she’s always up to something. Pass the time by playing with shadows, “catching” butterflies, and ringing bells overhead. Launch the Play Disney Parks app while you wait and you’ll find even more interactive fun to keep you busy.
6. Pirates of the Caribbean
We love the way this queue really takes you out of the park and immediately into another time and place. Wander through the dimly lit passages of the Castillo del Morro fortress and peek through grates and barred windows at piles of cannonballs, barrels of ammunition and rum, and two skeleton pirates mired in an eternal stalemate. An eerie strain of the attraction’s theme song creates a sense of foreboding that perfectly sets the stage for this iconic ride.
5. Kali River Rapids
This is just an okay ride, but to skip it and miss out on all the incredible details and storytelling contained within the queue would be a crying shame. Set within the fictional kingdom of Anandapur, Kali River Rapids takes you on an expedition along the Chakranadi river, where you’ll witness the ravages of illegal logging.
The story goes that Kali Rapids Expeditions is a business founded by a local woman to generate income for the village through means other than illegal logging. As you wind your way through the queue, you’ll spot gear and supplies for rafting expeditions, a religious temple, statues, and all sorts of religious and cultural artifacts, from artwork and photographs to old movie posters. You’ll see an old computer, telephone, old cameras and even film for sale (they’re a little behind the times in Anandapur).
There’s so much to discover in this queue that even if you’re not interested in the ride or aren’t in the mood to get soaked (you WILL get soaked), it would be worth a walk-through on a low-wait day. You can bail just before boarding a raft!
4. Expedition Everest
This one was neck and neck with the five spot, but we give it the edge for having the far superior ride at the end of an excellent queue. Joe Rohde’s Imagineering shines throughout the attraction—everyone’s favorite “nondescript named coaster” (if you don’t get that reference, read this).
Easily Disney’s best roller coaster, Expedition Everest takes you on a high-speed runaway train-type journey through the Forbidden Mountain, home to a mythical (maybe?) Yeti. The immersive queue sets the stage for your expedition, taking you through the region’s tourism office, past shrines to the Yeti, and museum displays where you’ll see photos, footprints, and newspaper articles documenting sightings and run-ins with the fearsome creature. Read more about the inspiration behind the attraction from Joe Rohde himself.
3. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
You’ll get your first hints of foreboding when you glance up at the spooky tower from Sunset Boulevard, and as soon as you wander into The Hollywood Tower Hotel’s overgrown gardens, you know something’s not right about this place.
Enter the hotel’s once-grand, now cobweb-draped main lobby and check out all the hidden details, left untouched since that fateful night in 1939—from room keys and newspapers to a coffee cup and a Mahjong game abruptly abandoned. Learn from the ominous preshow that you’ve entered your very own episode of “The Twilight Zone,” move on to the boiler room, then to your elevator, and let the terror ensue.
2. AVATAR Flight of Passage
Thank goodness this queue is epic because so are Flight of Passage wait times. We recently arrived at 7 a.m. for Extra, Extra Magic Hours rope drop at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and within 10 minutes, this ride already had a posted wait time of 110 minutes. Later in the day that will easily creep up to 140-180 minutes or more. Our tip is to get that FastPass, but if you can’t, this ride is still a can’t miss, so line up.
Weave through caves, an RDA bunker, and a bioluminescent forest. Enter an ACE research laboratory where you’ll observe a number of studies and experiments in progress, including a life-size Avatar moving inside a tank. The details here really are staggering and go a long way toward immersing you in the story, particularly if you’re merely a casual “Avatar” fan. Once you know how much there is to see within the standby queue, the FastPass ride experience can feel rather abrupt (albeit worth it to not waste three hours of your vacation in line).
1. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
Just barely edging out AVATAR Flight of Passage for the top spot, Walt Disney World’s newest queue is also its best. At the time of this publishing, FastPass+ is still not available for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, but that’s not even a bad thing because this queue is a must-do.
There are so many Easter eggs scattered throughout that you could never spot them all in one pass. Blink and you’ll miss the abandoned game of sabacc, an R-Series droid repurposed as a trash can, DJ REX churning out tunes on a radio, porg nests, and some notable weapons—from the Falcon’s cannon undergoing repair to Jyn Erso’s blaster.
Get your marching orders from the incredible audio-animatronic Hondo Ohnaka before the queue culminates with the opportunity to explore the Falcon’s iconic chess room. Belly up to the Dejarik table, then steal a moment in the spot where Han and Leia had their first kiss.
We’ll go ahead and say it: this queue is better than the ride itself, and really is the only spot within Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge where you can imagine you’ve walked into a scene from the original trilogy (just ignore those porg nests).
Like all things Disney, this ranking is subjective, and it was hard to choose. Here are a few more awesome queues that just missed the cut:
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – This one wins in the nostalgia department all day, every day—especially that iconic “Hold on to your hats and glasses…” sendoff.
- Haunted Mansion – Many people love the new interactive queue, opened in 2015. We find it a little too hokey.
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – This is another great one for the littles. Similar to Dumbo, there’s a little play zone to keep kids occupied while parents hold their place in line.
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – This is a pretty solid interactive queue, but it didn’t make our list because it’s definitely not worth a 90-120 minute wait to experience it. Get that FastPass at all costs.
- Jungle Cruise – Another big winner for nostalgia, we love this queue for its stage-setting.
- Space Mountain – Nostalgia? All day long. The interactive games? Meh.
What do you think of our ranking? Is your favorite Walt Disney World queue on the list? Let us know in the comments!