If you’ve ever been to Disneyland, you’ve waited in queues (codeword for a less-pleasant term: lines). Probably for hours. After all, not everything has FastPass or MaxPass. In this post, we offer our a fun post about the best queues at Disney California Adventure and Disneyland. While our goal is something fun, this is also a potential resource, as the lines on this list are not as unpleasant as other attractions, should you have to make tough FastPass decisions.
Some of those queues are elaborately detailed, some are fairly basic. At their best, the elaborate queues make the wait fly by, as you notice the details and start becoming immersed in the experience even before the attraction begins. At their worst, you have nothing but Southern California’s sunshine and perpetually-gorgeous weather.
While we are not going to award points to attractions for the sunshine, it is worth underscoring that the queues at Disneyland are, by and large, inferior to their Walt Disney World counterparts. This is for a number of reasons: differences in weather, space constraints at Disneyland, and many of the attractions being built in an era before well-themed queues were a priority for Imagineering.
In any case, let’s dig into the rankings, and look at the best of what Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have to offer in terms of their queues, and how these queues can make a difference in the guest experience…
10. Jungle Cruise – As you can probably glean from the ranking, I’m not as keen on the Jungle Cruise’s queue as others. It’s very highly regarded due to its collection of props that have been found by the Skippers out in the jungle, and many of said props being self-referential with homages to other attractions, characters, Imagineers, and that sort of thing.
I think a big part of the popularity stems from Disney fans enjoying ‘in jokes’ and hidden references. I get the appeal, and recognize that if this sort of thing works anywhere, it’s on Jungle Cruise. I also appreciate the two-story boathouse in California’s Jungle Cruise, which at least makes things engaging. Most of all, I like the jazz-radio background music, which is a fun touch.
9. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – This one is a lot like Grizzly River Run, making the list thanks to immersing guests in an Imagineered natural environment. In this case, the atmosphere is like the crimson-colored hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah instead California’s of Yosemite National Park.
Big Thunder also scores points for offering a glimpse into the village of Rainbow Ridge, as well as the trains whizzing by overhead. Most of this does not exist for the sake of the queue, specifically, but it still makes for a pleasant experience while waiting in line.
8. Grizzly River Run – This is another one that’s rare for us to experience, mainly because we try to do Grizzly River Run during the off-season months when there’s nearly zero wait. However, it is an incredibly pleasant queue. It’s also the only queue on this list that gets major points for its natural environment.
For large portions of the queue, you’re what feels like a park, with trees around you, the river alongside you, and a mountain towering overhead. While this is “natural,” it’s all Imagineered, so it counts. There are also numerous homages to California State and National Parks, as well as conservation and 1950s Americana, all of which help Grizzly River Run rank highly.
7. Radiator Springs Racers – We actually make a point of doing Radiator Springs Racers via the full standby line about once per year. Since the Grand Opening of Cars Land, we usually have done the attraction via FastPass or the Single Rider line, but the standby line–especially the rooms with the bottles pictured above–is so good that we cannot pass it up.
The queue tells the story of Stanley’s Oasis, which is the setting of the standby queue. Details throughout relay the tale of Stanley, founder of Radiator Springs, and his journey to Ornament Valley. This is apparent as soon as you enter the queue, but venturing deeper reveals additional details, and the little roadside stands in the heart of the queue help inform the story. There’s also a background music loop unique to the queue, which helps it score bonus points from us.
6. Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! – I should probably include the caveat, “rankings do not equal attraction endorsements” here. While I’m reticent to include this attraction, I have to admit that the queue offers a lot in the way of visual interest and…stuff. As was the case with Twilight Zone Tower of Terror before it, you start in the lobby queue, which has fun references, fun graphics, and fun lighting. You continue into the pre-show room, which presents a fun and funny (albeit a bit surly) raccoon, and continue into another into the former boiler room.
Throughout, there is a lot of stuff to see. There’s the good, like the items the Collector has on display in the lobby and the Rocket Audio Animatronics figure; then there’s the bad: random wiring, cans of paint, and blinking lights. The existence of many of these things doesn’t make sense nor is it in service of a greater plot, which is true of the attraction as a whole. It’s basically a rave in theme park attraction form, with Chris Pratt and a raccoon.
5. Splash Mountain – The various versions of this attraction’s queue all differ from one another in specifics, but each offer the same underlying allure: authentic Southern charm. In the case of the Disneyland version of Splash Mountain, this is achieved via the quaint barn and its various machinations inside, in addition to the folksy wisdom painted on the walls.
Ultimately, you get the sense right away from Splash Mountain’s queue that this is a lived-in environment. For me, the charming little features exemplify why Splash Mountain is such a beloved attraction. It has a lot of heart, which is evident even in the “basic” areas of the queue—and then even moreso in the barn and mountain itself. Even before you’ve boarded your log, you’ve begun to suspend disbelief thanks to all of this.
4. Star Tours: the Adventures Continue – The queue for Star Tours is basically all of the chaos and crowds of LAX, but with 10000% more awesomeness. The conceit is that it’s a spaceport in the Star Wars universe, and this is pretty believable. In the early portion of the queue, you encounter cool Audio Animatronics of C-3PO and R2-D2, at work on a StarSpeeder 3000.
Beyond that, there are security screening robots, that simultaneously spoof TSA and make Disney/Lucas in-jokes. in the second room spout side-splitting inside jokes about Lucas and Disney characters. The whole thing abounds with detail and humorous references, and while there are borderline too many in-jokes, the way it deftly balances these with the authenticity of what could pass for a real starport makes it all come together incredibly well.
3. Haunted Mansion – Unlike Walt Disney World’s version of Haunted Mansion, which received an interactive queue (to mixed reception), Disneyland retains its original queue, which subtly hints at what’s to come while winding guests alongside and through the front doors of this antebellum manor.
The suspense arises out of the small details, such as the hearse, pet cemetery, overgrown flora, and ominous architecture. For an astute guest, there’s an aura of foreboding even before stepping foot into the Stretching Room. The Disneyland version of Haunted Mansion also scores points because its portrait corridor is part of the queue, rather than being the first scene your Doombuggies encounter.
2. Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin – Winding through the seedy back-alleys of Toontown, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin has a queue that is often overlooked. Part of this is because the FastPass line bypasses the vast majority of the queue. Another part is also due to FastPass: because of its existence, the lengthy standby line is seldom more than 10% full, meaning guests usually snake through the queue quickly, rushing past the clever details.
And, oh, are the details clever. It’s a lot like the outside of Toontown, with plenty of gags, details hidden in plain sight, funny businesses, and more. Some of my favorites include the Ink & Paint Club, the weasels’ hideout, and room (I cannot recall the name) with Baby Herman. Beyond being jam-packed with details, it’s an intimate environment that does an exceptional job of transporting you into Toontown.
1. Indiana Jones Adventure – This entire list is obviously subjective, but if anyone tells you the best queue in Disneyland is anything other than Indiana Jones Adventure, you should be weary of anything else they might tell you. This is the best queue at Disneyland by such a wide margin, that if you added up all the ‘points’ I’ve given to other queues on this list, their total would not add up to Indiana Jones Adventure’s. (Okay, maybe a bit of a stretch.)
These are strong words, but I absolutely love the queue for Indiana Jones Adventure. From the interactive booby traps to the Maraglyphics guests can decode, everything about this queue showcases Imagineering at its peak. Each room offers something different, and vastly different scenery makes this engaging no matter how long the wait. My favorite aspect of the queue is the projection room and its pre-show video, which I find subtly hilarious. Honestly, I would wait in line to do this queue as a walk-through attraction.
Do you agree or disagree with our picks for the best queues in Disney California Adventure and Disneyland? What would be your choices? Any questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!