Last week, it was fairly easy to choose three Epcot queues that don’t provide a warm experience. There were plenty of solid options, which is a bad sign for one of my favorite places. The good news is that Disney has done better with recent examples. The lines for the Frozen attractions in Norway aren’t the typical switchbacks outside a bland show building. I suspect that Disney has learned its lesson and recognizes the benefit of creating engaging spaces.
It’s trickier to choose what queues are the best since so many are forgettable. I stuck to the rides last week, but I’m expanding to other attractions this time. If I don’t give more options, I’ll be stuck picking Imagination and Test Track. Unfortunately, neither stands out for me despite having some nice touches. They fall into the middle but can be uncomfortable in certain spots. Amazingly, I have spent a decent amount of time waiting for Figment. It was actually the longest wait during our last trip back in May (35 minutes). It was not our best choice of the vacation.
These picks for the best queues are separate from total wait times. It’s mostly about the value of the experience. I’m not expecting games or constant entertainment either. It’s often better to just chill in a comfortable space. The top two picks were obvious, but it was really tough to select the third choice. That isn’t a good sign for Epcot. I’m hopeful this list will change as the park reaches a new phase in the next 4-5 years.
3. Mission: Space
I’m torn on including this pick because the line inside Mission: Space moves quite slowly. The overall wait isn’t bad even without a FastPass, but that first queue tends to get stuck at times. It’s also quite noisy inside the large room, so this isn’t a comforting space before the ride begins. Despite those issues, there’s enough happening near the line to make it engaging. You get the sense that we’re in a working training facility, not just a theme park attraction. The queue also includes clever nods to Horizons on the gravity wheel and during the pre-show.
There’s a real sense of forward momentum as you move through each stage of the Mission: Space queue. By the time we reach the actual vehicles, the build-up promises an intense trip to space. Whether the attraction delivers on that promise is another question. It’s also nice to split up into a small group for the pre-show with Gina Torres (now in place of Gary Sinise). This separation creates the feeling that we’re part of an experience that few will enjoy. The team atmosphere inside the vehicle continues that trend, which permeates all of Mission: Space.
2. Frozen Ever After/Royal Sommerhus
The way that Disney has shoehorned Anna and Elsa into Norway does not excite me. Regardless of how well the Imagineers have designed those areas, they contradict the overriding themes of EPCOT Center. On the other hand, my feelings don’t keep me from appreciating the successes of those areas. When I get beyond how Frozen fits in Norway, the value inside the attractions connects. I nearly listed these as the best queue. I’d rather see Frozen Ever After and the Royal Sommerhus in Fantasyland, but that can still work as individual attractions.
The Frozen Ever After queue nicely presents the transition into the castle in Arendelle. Despite the massive line, this isn’t the typical wait. The Oakens’ Tokens and Sauna area in particular has a lot of fun details, including a video of the guy himself appearing in the sauna window. The boarding area sets the stage for the attraction with the snow and buildings standing right alongside the familiar Viking ships. The Royal Sommerhus creates a similar vibe and is surprisingly complex for a character greeting. There’s quite a lot to see including tapestries and even some intricate statues of Anna and Elsa. Disney also moves this line a lot better than similar locations.
1. The American Adventure
This might seem like an odd choice since there isn’t the standard line, but that’s the reason it’s the best! The waiting area for The American Adventure is a key part of the experience. The transition from the hubbub of World Showcase to the Georgian style of the pavilion is essential. This shift to the feeling of the late 18th century helps set the stage for the feature presentation. Inside the nearby American Heritage Gallery, there’s so much to see while you wait. The historical exhibit (currently a collection of African-American artifacts and art) make this room a cool look at the past.
Another bonus is the Voices of Liberty, which entertain guests with songs inside the massive room. My parents loved watching them, which was not a thrill for me as a kid. Even so, I recognize the value in having quality entertainment inside a queue, though. From the large quotes on the wall to the attractive paintings alongside them, the set-up is just right. Once it’s time for the main event, the trip up the escalator with the flags above you is a grand entrance. It feels like you’re ready for an epic theater show, and that’s exactly what you get with The American Adventure.
Despite opening 35 years ago, The American Adventure remains a technological marvel. My bucket list includes a behind-the-scenes tour to see the “war wagon”. The giant mechanical device moves all the scenes and audio-animatronics to create a seamless presentation. The mix of film, music, physical sets, and animatronics delivers a cool experience. Presenting U.S. history in a half-hour is a tall order, but its feelings are genuine. The queue area creates the right mood to help the main feature succeed.
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