5. Kali River Rapids – The most unfortunate thing about Kali River Rapids is the ride itself. While decent by rapids ride standards, the queue is rife with details and arguably gives Expedition Everest a run for its money as the best in Animal Kingdom. The first time through, it sets the bar really high, and you expect that the attraction itself will be similarly detailed.
Afterwards, you’re left wondering, “did they run out of money before they got to the attraction itself?” Between this and our preference not to be soaked, we realized on our last trip that we hadn’t been through the Kali River Rapids queue for several years. We remedied this by walking through one night last trip when there was no wait, and taking the “chicken exit” at the end. Totally worth it, and we’d recommend the “Kali River Rapids Walk-Though” as an experience superior to the ride itself.
4. Star Tours – This ranks higher than it otherwise might because I think the queue at Star Tours really elevates the whole experience to the next level. I don’t think Star Tours can be dismissed as a ‘glorified simulator’, and that’s in large part because so much of the attraction is built around the pre-flight experience. Like so many of the attractions on this list, you buy the premise of the attraction here because the queue helps convey the feeling that you’re a passenger in some sort of spaceport terminal.
This is accomplished via everything from the Starspeeder to the luggage screening to flight status boards. Beyond that, the Star Tours queue is really enjoyable because there are so many nods, homages, and visual gags. It’s self-referential (almost to a fault) in a way that means there’s always something new to spot, and this is another attraction where the queue is almost as compelling as the ride.
3. Avatar Flight of Passage – The longest and no doubt most expensive queue ever built in Walt Disney World has already gained some notoriety for the long lines it has held (and “no restrooms” signs now grace the entrance of this attraction), but it should also be famed for its remarkable attention to detail.
This queue takes guests through multiple different environments from outside through Pandora’s mountain range (a vista that offers the best view of Pandora’s floating mountains) to interior caves to RDA bunkers. There is a ton of beauty in the first several sections of this queue, and it’s interesting to watch how nature has started to reclaim some of the abandoned test facilities.
The RDA bunkers are more of a mixed bag. The main lab here contains one of the coolest effects in all of Pandora – World of Avatar (so cool that I don’t want to spoil it here), but this stretch otherwise feels like a bleak, industrial setting. We understand the why of this, and it’s brilliantly done, but not exactly the most inviting setting for killing ~45 minutes in Animal Kingdom. The pre-show videos are also awful and interminably long, bumping Flight of Passage down a bit.
Still, Avatar Flight of Passage features arguably the best queue at Walt Disney World, and while we don’t agree with that assessment, we can’t fault others who feel that way.
2. Expedition Everest – For a rollercoaster, Expedition Everest does a surprising amount of storytelling. The area starts by introducing guests to Serka Zong, a quaint little village that houses local mom & pop businesses, including Norbu and Bob’s (Norbu being mom, I guess?) Himalayan Escapes travel agency, where guests will start by booking their trip up the Forbidden Mountain. From there, we travel through Tashi’s General Store and Bar, small family home, monastery and shrines, and the converted yeti museum.
The cumulative effect of these spaces on the guest is an understanding of the reverence locals have for the Yeti, and also an understanding of the creature’s significance and strength. It’s established as powerful, but not painted as a villain. You’re given a sense of trepidation about the journey, but also excitement and intrigue. In a way, it’s sort of like getting hyped up for climbing Everest, except your ascent will be much quicker given the whole rollercoaster thing.
It doesn’t hurt that the Expedition Everest queue holds an embarrassment of artifacts (both real and reproduced) from Nepal, meaning you could be stuck in a 2-hour line and could still be captivated without ever embracing the warm glow of your iPhone screen.
1. Tower of Terror – More than any attraction at Walt Disney World–or anywhere else, for that matter–Tower of Terror is a flawlessly executed experience from the moment you first spot the Hollywood Tower Hotel from the end of Sunset Boulevard. The view is the establishing shot, the stroll down Sunset feels like the opening credits scroll, and the outdoor gardens are foreshadowing of what’s to come.
I have distinct memories of visiting Tower of Terror in its first or second year, and actually being spooked by the fog outdoors (an effect that, sadly, no longer works) along with the eerie background music. Then you get to the lobby of the hotel, which is as grand as it is spooky, and furthers the tone for the rest of the attraction, and the brilliantly-integrated Twilight Zone tie-in.
The premise of stepping into an episode of the show is brilliant, and is a wonderful framing device that gives added importance to the queue. It also allows the Imagineers to include a treasure trove of references to classic episodes of the television show, the vast majority of which will be lost on casual guests but are truly appreciated by Twilight Zone fans (a prime example of “Disney Details”). I could gush and gush about the brilliance of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (and have); for me, this is the quintessential queue at Walt Disney World.
That covers our picks for the coolest queues at Walt Disney World. While there are easily another 10 deserving themed queues, we think these are the best of the best!
Do you agree or disagree with our choices for the best queues at Walt Disney World? Any queues you love? Any memories of queues wake you with cold sweats (Soarin’, I’m looking at you!)? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!