September 2012: Disney’s Fantasyland expansion and even Harry Potter continue to grab Orlando theme park headlines, but a less-flashy upgrade may actually do more to boost line-ravaged vacationers’ spirits and increase the overall “I had a great time in Orlando” reviews: The queue lines have grown more interesting.
Parks have long stuck a few televisions above waiting crowds to keep them entertained for 15 to 90 minutes, but they’re now doing more. Universal Studios initially led the pack for interesting lines, with The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman at the top. While waiting to ride Spiderman, guests wound through a newspaper office, circa 1950 to 1990, depending on which technology you focused on. (Boxy computers sat beside rotary-dial phones.) Guests walked through darkrooms; through hallways; through file storage; through newsrooms.
The entertain-you-while-you-wait upgrades can now be found in all Orlando parks, however. At the top of the list now, arguable, sits Harry Potter. Guests walking through the queue line see a number of familiar rooms in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, albeit with far too many muggles winding between stanchions.
The latest development: Disney just announced on its blog that the queue for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad will get an upgrade. Currently, guests wind through a line – back and forth, back and forth – in a large open-air room. While Disney has not released details, it’s safe to assume the new queue will fit the theme and have a Western atmosphere.
The line upgrades do more than look pretty. Before arrival in Orlando, most guests don’t focus on the amount of time they’ll spend waiting. At the end of a busy day, however, the thrill of attractions will be tainted a bit by the waits. (Note to parents: Plan ahead. Line-waiting provides a great opportunity to reconnect with your kids.)
The queue upgrades may not be a daily highlight, but as they expand to other rides – Haunted Mansion had an upgrade last year – a day at the parks will become significantly less burdensome.