How theme parks make long lines less painful

If you dread waiting with a cranky kid for hours in a queue, fear not -- major venues are coming up with distractions for adults and children.

By Bruce Kennedy Aug 9, 2013 3:34PM

People stand in line to ride The Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom on November 11, 2001 in Orlando, Florida (© Joe Raedle/Getty Images)Like the song says, the waiting is the hardest part. That can be especially true if you're an adult who has shelled out a lot of cash for a family day at a theme park, only to find yourself standing in line with a cranky kid for what seems like an eternity for some ride that will last only minutes.

And those lines are likely to get worse. The Los Angeles Times quotes Aecom, an engineering and consulting firm, which estimates attendance at the top 20 theme parks in North America grew by 7% between 2007 and last year. "Theme park insiders" told the Times the average visitor has time for only 9 or 10 rides per day, due to the long lines.

Of course, if you want to spend even more money, a lot of parks now have VIP passes that will take you to the front of the line. Fortunately for the rest of us, the big theme park companies are now coming up with distractions for both adults and kids who have to wait.

At Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., would-be passengers on the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride no longer have to bake in the sun as they wait. As the L.A. Times reports, those riders "are now ushered into an air-conditioned tent, where kids can play on slides, a climbing tower and a toy fire engine while parents wait for the buzz of a pager telling them it's time to ride the attraction."

Disney (DIS) executives say they're trying to keep the sense of waiting down to a minimum, even if, in reality, that's exactly what you're doing. The same idea goes for people wanting to go on the new "Transformers: The Ride-3D" at Universal Studios Hollywood. They can watch videos explaining their upcoming "mission" in a holding area that resembles a military compound.

"Guest satisfaction is very important to us," Larry Kurzweil, president of Universal Studios, a part of Comcast (CMCSA), told the newspaper, "And we want to entertain our guests from the moment they enter the ride queue."

That entertainment can also come in the form of jugglers, costumed entertainers and other employees called into action to keep people calm and happy when the lines get too long.

Legoland even an area where kids can play -- with Legos, of course -- while their parents wait in line.

And if you're techno-savvy, you can launch a preemptive strike against long lines by using Disney's MouseWait, a smartphone app that lets you check on wait times at the rides and attractions at all of The Mouse's theme parks.

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Aug 9, 2013 6:37PM

Here's an idea... guaranteed lower attendance days!  Put a cap on guests allowed into the park one day per week, first come first served.  They could charge more in attendance for that day but the added benefit of lower line times may be worth it (AND without paying for the stupid speed passes).


Or hire a handicapped individual to be your "relative" for the day! 

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