Keeping Cool on Attractions in the Summer Heatby Mark Goldhaber, staff writer
It’s that season again. Summer. The time when the Walt Disney World Resort theme parks are packed with vacationers; the weather is hot, humid, sweaty, and otherwise draining; the daily afternoon thunderstorm soaks everyone and everything; and guests are tired and frustrated by the crowds, get dehydrated, suffer heat exhaustion, and otherwise have the enjoyment of their Disney parks experience lessened.
How can you survive these conditions without just hiding away in your air-conditioned Walt Disney World resort room?
Well, there are the easy answers, such as taking mid-day breaks back at your resort pool, drinking lots of water, making sure to eat at indoor dining locations, and spending a lot of time in air-conditioned shops. But you want to see attractions, as well. Here’s a look at which attractions will give you a good chance to cool down while waiting and/or enjoying the attraction itself.
While Walt Disney World's original park often has very long lines for short attractions (such as the lengthy outdoor queue for a two-minute ride on Peter Pan’s Flight), there are also a number of attractions that will give you either a cool wait indoors or a long air-conditioned attraction, or both.
While Space Mountain is the second-shortest indoor attraction, at two-and-a-half minutes, once you get to the indoor queue you’ll be able to enjoy the cool air for quite a while before you finally load into your ride vehicle.
In addition to Peter Pan’s Flight, many of the other Fantasyland rides have outdoor queues and short ride times, such as Snow White’s Scary Adventures and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, both only three minutes long—barely enough to start cooling down. Instead, head for “it’s a small world,” with its semi-cooled queue and its 11-minute ride time, or Mickey’s PhilharMagic, with its 11-minute show time and the likelihood that you’ll be standing in the indoor queue for an additional two cycles or so.
The Haunted Mansion, while having an outdoor queue, will let you get chills for eight minutes as you ride your Doom Buggy, and Pirates of the Caribbean—in addition to having a wonderful, lengthy, air-conditioned queue – will let you float along for nine minutes of cool enjoyment.
If you’re willing to get wet to cool down, don’t forget Splash Mountain. While the wait will be long and hot, you’ll replace your hot sweat with cool splash when you take the plunge.
But if you want an extended cool-down, head for the shows. Country Bear Jamboree and Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor are good for 15-minute shows each, with an indoor wait cycle (or two or three in the case of Laugh Floor). While the longest show experience at the Magic Kingdom is Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress at 21 minutes, the wait is entirely outdoors. For a longer cool-down, try the Hall of Presidents, where you can relax in the air-conditioned lobby while waiting for the next 20-minute show.
While Disney’s "Discovery Park" has a smaller number of attractions, a much higher percentage of them are lengthy indoor experiences. Some of the exhibits can be viewed at your own pace, allowing you to spend as long as you like in the coolness. Innoventions, The Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion, the Animales Fantasticos exhibit at the Mexico pavilion, the China pavilion exhibition space, and the Bijutsu-kan Gallery at the Japan pavilion all allow you to spend as much time as you’d like in their cool spaces.
In addition, there are nine attractions of 10 minutes or longer in the park, the most of any of the Walt Disney World theme parks.
While Soarin’ is only 10 minutes on the attraction itself, with a queue that rarely gets below 60 minutes during the summer (and is frequently longer), you’ll have plenty of time to cool down. There are even games to play in the queue to keep you entertained. Test Track is also 10 minutes long, with most of that time indoors and the rest whipping around an outdoor track at 65 mph, guaranteed to cool you off.
Back at The Land pavilion, if you’ve gotten a Fastpass for Soarin’ and are looking for something else to do, Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable is a 13-minute movie with an air-conditioned wait, and Living with the Land is a 14-minute boat ride, also with an indoor wait. Elsewhere in Future World, Spaceship Earth is 14 minutes long, with an indoor post-show area that will also allow you to spend as much time as you’d like playing and cooling off. Captain EO, starring Michael Jackson, is a 17-minute experience, with an indoor wait of at least one cycle.
Over in World Showcase, Maelstrom in the Norway pavilion is a 14-minute ride with a portion of the queue in air conditioning, but the big cool-down is the American Adventure at 28 minutes. If you combine viewing the exhibits in the gallery off of the pavilion’s lobby and waiting for a performance of the Voices of Liberty with the American Adventure show, you can easily be entertained for an hour or more.
The longest show at Epcot, though, is back in Future World, as Ellen’s Energy Adventure runs for 40 minutes—from Jeopardy to dinosaurs and back.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
At the Studios, you’ve got three indoor flexible experiences where you can spend as much time as you’d like: Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream, The Magic of Disney Animation, and Journey Into Narnia: Prince Caspian.
While Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and Toy Story Midway Mania all are short rides (1.5, 3.5, and 5.5 minutes, respectively), the indoor wait can let you cool down a bit. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror will have you waiting outside longer than you wait inside, but the Tower has a nice long wait in the lobby, library, and basement before you go up. The standby line under Andy’s bed at Toy Story Mania can be somewhat lengthy, giving you a nice chance to cool down. Star Tours is a seven-minute ride that has a somewhat lengthy indoor queue once you get inside, as well.
Where the Studios excels, though, is the indoor shows. Sounds Dangerous Starring Drew Carey (when it’s running) lasts 13 minutes, Voyage of The Little Mermaid is 17-minutes long, and Playhouse Disney: Live on Stage is a 20-minute show. Those don’t give you much of an indoor wait, though. The Great Movie Ride (with a lengthy indoor queue) lasts 22 minutes, and MuppetVision 3-D is a 25-minute movie with an air-conditioned full-cycle preshow that may be more entertaining than the main movie itself.
By far the longest indoor attraction at the Studios, though, is The American Idol Experience, which clocks in at around 45 minutes (or a full hour for the final show of the day).
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Arguably the hottest of the Walt Disney World parks, by virtue of its heavy foliage and paucity of air-conditioned locations, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park also has the fewest indoor attractions. There’s only one flexible experience. If you take the Wilderness Express to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, you can stay in Conservation Station as long as you like, perhaps watching surgery on one of the park’s animal population.
To forcibly cool off, you can always bear the long, outdoor wait for a ride on Kali River Rapids, which will soak you and cool you down. Bring an extra pair of socks, though, as wet socks in the heat will eventually cause great discomfort.
Dinosaur, while it clocks in at only three-and-a-half minutes, will give you a bit of a cool indoor wait before you board. It’s Tough to Be a Bug is an eight-minute movie, though the waiting area is not very cool.
The two longest cool-downs are also perhaps the two best live shows at Disney parks. The Festival of The Lion King clocks in at 30 air-conditioned minutes, while Finding Nemo-The Musical runs 35 minutes.
Of course, you’ll want to visit the outdoor attractions, as well. Your best strategy there would be to visit them early in the morning, before it gets too hot, or to wait until the evening, when things cool down. Since the parks will empty out a bit during and after the afternoon rainstorms, you should have a nice shot at them in the evening. You may not want to ride them right after the storms, though, as the heat and especially the humidity will still be high.
What do you do to cool down when you’re in the Walt Disney World Resort theme parks during the hot and muggy season? Share your strategies in the comments below!