How long is too long to wait for a theme park ride?

July 3, 2018, 11:55 AM · Five hours for a family coaster? That's the wait time that the Walt Disney World app reported for Slinky Dog Dash on its opening day last weekend. Fans packed Disney's Hollywood Studios for the opening of Toy Story Land last weekend, with people waiting just to get into the land.

While wait times have settled down from the opening-day madness, I am still seeing wait times consistently between an hour and a half and two hours for the Slinky Dog Dash family coaster, with times averaging about 30 minutes less for Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania.

In my Orange County Register column this week, I ask, How long are you willing to wait for a theme park ride? I suspect that everyone has a different number for his or her breaking point, and that it varies depending upon the quality of the ride, the day's weather, and how pleasantly the park's creative team designed the queue.

But let's take it to the extreme here. Given perfect conditions for a ride you really want to experience, what's the maximum time you would be willing to wait before saying, "Oh, forget this. I've got better things to do with my time today"? Is it one hour, two, three, or more?

Many of us have waited for extreme periods to go on rides. But while some people discover that they can handle extreme wait times, other decide that once is enough and that they never will wait that long for a ride again. So it's possible that your maximum wait time breaking point is now actually lower than the longest time you have waited for a ride before.

In my column, I note that wait times might actually be getting worse as parks offer more and more ways to skip their lines. (For a cost, of course — whether that's a direct upcharge or an indirect one through having to stay in one of their on-site hotels to get a preferred reservation time, as is the case with Walt Disney World's Fastpass+.) Ultimately, it's all about capacity, and if an increasing percentage of people riding are using a line-skip, that means less capacity — and longer waits — for those who do not.

So what's your breaking point? As much as I love writing for newspapers, you can't poll readers on a printed page. So I'd like to collect some data here on your ultimate breaking point for theme park wait times.

Please share your favorite wait time horror (or triumph) story in the comments.

Replies (46)

July 3, 2018 at 12:08 PM

I was at Islands of Adventure the day the Wizarding World officially opened for the first time in 2010. We waited 7 hours to enter the land and another 2 hours in the Forbidden Journey queue so a total of 9 hours for that one ride. Was it worth it? Absolutely! As a tourist I don't have the opportunity to visit in the near future so a 9 hour wait is nothing compared to the months or years I would have to wait before visiting Orlando again.

For present day, if people are at Disney World and Slinky Dog Dash is 4 or so hour long wait I can relate to people deciding to wait for it to ride it for the first time before going back home and having that feeling of missing out.

July 3, 2018 at 12:12 PM

For a ride I've been on previously, I think 60 minutes would be my limit.

But for a new ride and if I've traveled 2,000 miles and waited a year to experience something, I could bump that to 2-3 hours, especially if it was Harry Potter related.

July 3, 2018 at 12:18 PM

Recently we waited 90 minutes for the Flight of Passage at Disney's AK....

Wife had a look on her face when we decided to wait in that like.... After we got inside and saw the terrific queue, it want by fairly fast...

After the attraction\ride - she said it was worth every second...

Also Skull Island was a long wait.....Again great ride and worth it...

Remember the long waits when 7 dwarfs Train ride first came out... I think it was like 6 hours... Way too long for me but folks waited...

July 3, 2018 at 12:36 PM

I've got small kids so it totally changes the equation for me but I'm not waiting longer than 30 minutes for anything. This is a shift from my kid free days and now its all about relaxing (or trying to). I'd much rather take another spin on a lower tier attraction, slip into a high capacity show, or grab a drink/snack in the shade than wait in a line for hours just to say I'd been on the latest and greatest ride.

July 3, 2018 at 12:52 PM

Can someone explain the operational workings of Fastpass/Maxpass at Disneyland? I've stood in standby lines that are stopped or crawl because we are waiting for Fastpass holders to go through, sometimes we are held even when no Fastpasses are going through, and that is very frustrating. I understand that rides have only so much capacity, and that causes long lines, but it is very frustrating to be stopped for sometimes 5 minutes to let Fastpasses by. If they are going to have Fastpass/Maxpass, isn't there a more equitable way to move the standby line a little faster? Maybe when the standby line is longer, the Fastpass line should be required to wait proportionately, not get on immediately. If the standby line is, say, two hours, the wait for the Fastpass line should be up to 30 minutes.

July 3, 2018 at 12:42 PM

My first visit to a theme park, in 2010, was a comedy of errors as well as a horror story. I knew nothing about theme park etiquette; for instance I didn't know that I couldn't take a shoulder bag on a roller coaster; that's how naive I was. So the only option was to rent a ride locker before getting into the ride queue. I had driven to the park in a Zipcar (ride share program) and due to the length of the wait to ride El Toro I realized that I was going to run over my Zipcar reservation time. Zipcar imposes a $50 penalty for returning a car late and the only way to avoid that is to extend the reservation. Well, I couldn't call Zipcar to extend b/c my phone was in a ride locker! By this time I was freaking out. Fortunately I did find someone in the queue who had a cellphone and was willing to let me use it but how could I call Zipcar when I didn't even know the number? Help!!! The owner of the phone had to look up the number for me b/c I was new to cellphones and didn't know how to use the internet to look anything up. Well, eventually everything got sorted out but I was stressed to the max.

The 2nd time I experienced a lengthy wait was at Cedar Point, where I had to wait 2 1/2 hrs. to ride Millennium Force. I was having back issues at the time and in a lot of pain from the extended wait. This would be my 1st giga coaster and while I was more than a little nervous about going down a 300-foot drop, by the time I got to the head of the queue I would have ridden almost anything - even a coaster with a 500-foot drop and 10 inversions if one existed - just to have the opportunity to sit down.

The 3rd time was the worst horror story of my theme park career. I waited about 2 1/2 hours to ride Diamondback and another 2 1/2 to ride The Beast. Two rides were all I managed to get on my 1st visit to Kings Island. Taking into account the cost of airfare/hotel/park admission, I calculated that I paid $250 per ride!!! Never again. (I revisited KI a couple of months ago, got Fast Lane Plus and had the time of my life.)

Next month I'll be 67 and I've had it with waiting in queues. Younger people seem to handle this much better; I find it both exhausting and boring. If something has a long queue, I will either purchase Fast Lane/Flash Pass or whatever, or not ride. I've heard stories about people waiting 4 hours to ride Steel Vengeance and as far as I'm concerned that's for the birds. NOTHING is worth that kind of wait.

July 3, 2018 at 12:47 PM

It depends on the quality of the ride and the experiance in the queue but not longer than 1 hour.

July 3, 2018 at 12:47 PM

If I have a cell phone or people to talk to then the time goes up.... if it's something like Hulk or Rip Ride Rocket where they have a metal detector... 20 min max...

July 3, 2018 at 12:52 PM

When I was younger I was much more tolerant of long waits. These days an hour is really pushing it. If it's a brand new ride that I'm super excited about I might make an exception, but that is really rare.

July 3, 2018 at 12:55 PM

I can't wait longer than 1 hour for any ride especially with the family in tow. They'll melt down. I'm more willing to wait a few years after the latest and greatest attractions opened so I can get a Fastpass or when lines shortened significantly. I just returned from Universal Orlando. Waited 45 mintues for Escape from Gringotts and waited 10 minutes in the single rider line for Forbidden Journey. Well worth the shorter wait times. Kong took 60 minutes so that's the longest wait.

July 3, 2018 at 12:57 PM

I've admitted before that I'm spoiled by Universal's express pass system, so my tolerance for lines is almost non-existent these days. That said, I'm willing to do up to 30-45 minutes, depending on the ride.

I got suckered into waiting for more than an hour for Space Mountain at WDW about 5 years ago because I kept thinking there'd be a single-rider break-off somewhere inside the queue.... won't make that mistake again.

I'm amazed at the families that will wait for hours for things like 7 Dwarfs or Slinky Dog.... seems like it'd be torture for the kids... and the parents!

July 3, 2018 at 2:09 PM

Boy, there are so many variables here. Not only is it the quality and uniqueness of the ride and queue, but it can also depend on how often I visit a given park and its proximity to where I live. My all-time record is over 4 hours to ride Top Thrill Dragster. However, that was during the coaster's first year of operation where it was down more often than it ran, and despite having 3 days planned for our trip to Cedar Point that summer, TTD only ran for 1 of the days we were there. So it was either bear the line (as the coaster broke and rolled back multiple time, including on our ride), or not ride it at all, which was the whole point of making that trip to CP.

So, if we're talking about an average ride that is less than 2 hours from my house and/or a place I visit almost every year (like Cedar Point and Six Flags Great Adventure), I would probably not ever wait longer than an hour for a single ride.

However, if we're talking about a ride that's not like anything else in the world (at the time), and is located at a park that I'm taking a special trip to visit or somewhere I only visit every 5-8 years, I would probably be willing to wait just over 4 hours for a single ride (like for the attractions at Galaxy's Edge when we go to DL next August - we only travel to SoCal every 5 years or so compared to every 2-3 years to WDW).

July 3, 2018 at 2:00 PM

You got a rollback on TTD? I think some fans would wait extra for a guarantee of that!

July 3, 2018 at 2:00 PM

I guess it does depend on line and such. In the days of the early '90s, before Fast Pass and such, common to have hour plus waits for the big ones at Disney like the Mountains and such so used to that. I think it does depend on quality and such. I can wait an hour for, say, Tower of Terror or Radiator Springs, great rides. But 85 minutes for Toy Story Mania has always struck me as a bit much.

Again, it just depends on how willing you are for that ride and why the fastpass system was such a smart boon to parks.

July 3, 2018 at 2:05 PM

I do remember my utterly ridiculous luck when I hit Islands of Adventure in 2012. I don't know if just a lull early November or it was a weekday but almost no lines, even Potter was just 15 minutes. Again, no idea how I lucked out that much but was happy as not having to wait so long was an unexpected bonus to the fun.

July 3, 2018 at 2:21 PM

"You got a rollback on TTD?"

Yeah, I always tell friends that we waited over 4 hours, but at least we got one and a half rides. What's funny is that the ride ops walked down the launch track after the rollback to make sure everyone wanted to try again. Like anyone on our train who waited over 4 hours or more to ride was going to say no.

As for FP, we don't even bother getting in standby lines at WDW that are over 30 minutes anymore because of FP. If it's a ride we really want to experience (like FoP), we'll get a FP and/or do it at rope drop or near park closing. We also try to build in a buffer when new attractions open to ensure that they are running reliably at optimal capacity, and the initial surge of crowds has died down. We thought we were doing that for TTD back in 2003 by visiting in July, but the park was still working out the kinks throughout that summer. That's why I've abandoned our WDW trip for next fall since it's looking like Galaxy's Edge won't be open until November/December. Even if the new land is soft open in late October (our typical WDW travel window), the crowds will be unbearable for that first month or so. It's just not worth it, even for the highly anticipated attractions. We'll see them in DL instead, where it's more likely the rides will have been open for a month or two before we visit in mid-late August.

July 3, 2018 at 2:22 PM

My dream come true would be a rollback on TTD .... every time I'm on it, it goes over the darn hill !! I've seen rollbacks, and spoken to people who have been on rollbacks, but I'm SOL so far. Maybe 2020 will be my time ... :) ... and waiting for hours and hours knowing I'd get one just wouldn't be the same.
My one hate (big hate) at theme parks are the lines. That's why I always go off peak and in mid week. The longest ever, was the scenario most people so far have related to ..... we went to CA in May 1990 and the Viper at 6 flags had just opened. I knew it was a one-off chance, so I waited almost 3 hrs. Never been back, so after all these years it was worth it. It takes so much time out of a day, but for 1 off visits, what are people going to do ?

July 3, 2018 at 2:44 PM

First time riding an attraction will wait I hour to 1.30 max but once ridden will only do 45 minutes or less .
As a Disney annual pass holder , usually fast pass 3 rides , go for dinner and leave , Halloween Horror nights always get express .

July 3, 2018 at 3:23 PM

30 to 45 minutes max. If the wait is longer, we'll go on another ride and come back to the busy attraction later - or use Fastpass/Maxpass.

July 3, 2018 at 3:52 PM

These days I max out at 90 minutes. But back in the day I once waited 3+ hours for Star Tours (opening weekend, end of the line was half way down Main Street). And I've spent the equivalent of a year of my life waiting in lines at Magic Mountain.

July 3, 2018 at 4:08 PM

Since it was opening week, 4 hours for Escape from Gringotts at US. Apparently the ride kept breaking down but we had no idea. After that I stuffed my stomach with plenty of sticky toffee pudding ice cream from Florean Fortescue's. We then caught a ride on the Hogwarts Express to IoA, got on the Incredible Hulk and left. I visit Orlando at least 5x a year so to leave after that wasn't a big deal. Luckily I'm in the middle of so many parks since I live in Maryland with having a few parks less than 3 hours away (Hershey, Great Adventure, Busch Gardens, Dorney Park and Kings Dominion) so I wouldn't wait any more than 30 minutes for them. Now Cedar Point, Magic Mountain and Canada's Wonderland, after an hour and thirty I'm over it.

July 3, 2018 at 3:57 PM

I love rides when my kids were very young we took them to walt Disney world. One morning the rains came and i ventured out by myself and had a blast did space mountain 12 times and alot others

July 3, 2018 at 5:31 PM

The queue theming definitely makes a difference for me, but it's the movement speed of the queue that will allow me to tolerate a longer queue. I can tolerate an hour long queue if it is readily moving. Unfortunately, Fastpass killed that for a lot of rides. I've given up on standby queues for Star Tours, Roger Rabbit, and Splash Mountain because I often stand in the exact same spot for 5-10 minutes before barely inching forward. Even a smartphone packed with movies and games can't offset that boredom factor.

July 3, 2018 at 5:43 PM

I wonder how many people would pay (and how much) for a hard-ticket Walt Disney World event where all rides and restaurants were open, but there were no Fastpass or ADR. Everything's first-come, first-served.

In other words, an old-school day at the park.

July 3, 2018 at 5:48 PM

"how many people would pay (and how much) for a hard-ticket Walt Disney World event where all rides and restaurants were open, but there were no Fastpass or ADR. Everything's first-come, first-served."
Sounds like IAAPA event, so, $100.
You can't answer that without knowing how many tickets they're selling. If it is 35,000, then $0. If it is 3,500, different story.

July 3, 2018 at 6:30 PM

Robert, is the Dining Plan in effect with the first come first serve package?

I'm trying to think of the longest wait I occurred at Shanghai Disneyland, because that's the only place I can think where I had the mentality of "I'm probably not going to visit this park again anytime soon." it was probably Pirates, but it wasn't more than 90minutes.

July 3, 2018 at 7:11 PM

I would love a day without Fastpass!

July 3, 2018 at 7:48 PM

I think my wait time depends on how quickly the line moves. I've waited in a 3 hour line, where it was moving consistently, and that wasn't too bad. On the other hand, I waited in a three hour line that *crawled* never again. Soarin's line in Florida is particularly atrocious. But, assuming the line moves, 3 hours is my max.

July 3, 2018 at 7:55 PM

@ Robert -- ME, ME, ME!!!! I'd love a day at Disney like that! I was a pro at navigating the parks old-school style. Personal best was arriving at WDW after 5:00 p.m. circa 1998 and doing EVERYTHING we wanted to do before the park kicked us out at 1:00 a.m..... And I think the longest line that day was for the just-opened Pooh :-)

July 3, 2018 at 10:36 PM

I have adhd, which makes it harder for me to be patient. I would prefer to have no weight, or a few minute wait over a couple of hours of waiting.

July 4, 2018 at 3:13 AM

If it's a brand new ride that I haven't ridden yet, and it's unique and engaging, then I'll wait 3 hours max. If it's an IP or idea that's personal to me, then I'll wait as long as I need to.

On a regular day, the max for an E-Ticket attraction is 1 hour. 30 minutes for everything else. I tend to plan out my theme park days on days that are supposed to be less busy.

The longest I've waited ever for a ride was for Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage back in 2007. We waited until the end of the night to enter the line, but it turned out that we weren't the only ones with that idea. The line was almost 4 1/2 hours long. Was it worth it? Yes and no. The ride was fine, but my family was extremely tired during the ride (it's a slow and dark ride, so it's easy to sleep on).

July 4, 2018 at 6:19 AM

20min max

July 4, 2018 at 7:59 AM

I was at Cedar Point in Ohio. I was waiting for 3 hours to ride the Top Thrill Dragster. I was to get on the next car when the ride broke down. I waited another 1/2 hour to see if it got fixed to no avail. An hour later it was running again. I waited in line another hour for it to shut down again . Never got to ride and spent a 1/4 of my day in sweltering heat standing in that line. I buy speed pass now.

July 4, 2018 at 8:07 AM

I'm in the less than a hour category which you haven't included Robert.
Half an hour to 45minutes is my max no matter how good the ride is. A point being missed here is that most of the rides on any day are at least that not just one or two of them.

July 4, 2018 at 9:58 AM

I remember going to Cedar Point in 2015 and went crazy because the lines could go over an hour! I'm spoiled by CW lines, havinga season pass every year. And I asked some employee in the Town Hall fast lane booth why they had it. I can clearly remember the answer;

" Say somebody is coming from Michigan to enjoy a day here. Now, it would be a busy day, and they would spend 10 hours here. They would wait 2 hours per ride. That meant that they had traveled all the way to CP to ride 5 rides. Fast Lane and Fast Lane Plus give them that opportunity to get in more rides, andactually enjoy their time at the park"

I got walkons to Gatekeeper, Rougarou, Magnum, and Iron Dragon, but rides like Mav and Millie had some pretty bad wait times over an hour. I found Millie with a 45 min wait and rode, but Maverick was too big. I swear that when I go this summer for Steel Vengeance, I will find it under 40 min! ( Steel Ven, however, may not be an easy one)

July 4, 2018 at 10:56 AM

I'm with you Del69 ... 30-45 mins is my limit these days. I'll give a pass to any line over 5 mins at SeaWorld, but then again I do go twice a week. If I do find myself at a park in peak or at weekends that's when I'll buy the fastpass. Back in the days before the fastpasses the lines were rarely that terrible ... it's a system that naturally evolved because of the mass of humanity that now frequents the parks. I'd definitely buy a 'hard-ticket' at Disney ... how much ?? Hmmm ... maybe $150 at DAK, but less at the other parks. Although with Star Wars land at DHS maybe the same just for a one off.

July 4, 2018 at 12:49 PM

Count me among those spoiled by Fastpass or express pass or whatever you want to call a system to bypass lines on top attractions. Since these innovations have come into effect, combined with the knowledge that I've learned about how to prioritize rides and attractions thanks to recommendations made here on Theme Park Insider, I cannot justify to myself waiting more than 45 minutes for any ride, since that really shouldn't be the case with me using the Fastpass system judiciously and arriving early at the park. And since I know about pent-up demand for newly opened sections like Toy Story Land, I try to wait and give them at least a six-month shakedown to lessen the crowds when I do visit them the first time. It doesn't always work, but the last time I went to Disney World, I don't recall needing more than 30 minutes to get on anything, and that was at this time of year (the July 4 holiday).

July 4, 2018 at 4:33 PM

I wouldn't wait more than 15-30 mins for a common flat ride, 60 mins for a unique ride (like a coaster) or 90 minutes for a headliner, in a physical queue at least.

If I had a Qbot or similar system and could go do something else whilst waiting in a virtual line then I might be more tolerant, given what is available for me to do in that time.

July 4, 2018 at 9:00 PM

I waited three hours for splash mountain at Tokyo Disney, which beat my old time of two hours and thirty minutes waiting for Space Mountain during it's first month at Disneyland California. Splash mountain in Tokyo is different and has three hills and a different ride track than Anaheim. Since it was so hot and humid that day, it was worth the wait, because I felt you got a lot more drenched than the ride at Anaheim. I don't think that record will ever be broken again. Usually a little over an hour is now my limit due to my age.

July 5, 2018 at 1:06 PM

We waited 4 hours for The Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland during its opening week. I was about 10 years old, and literally thought I was going to die. Literally. Staring at the Dole Whip cart for an hour was brutal, too!

July 5, 2018 at 1:09 PM

Anything longer than 30 minutes is too long, no matter what the ride. I'd rather just grab a drink and people watch.

July 5, 2018 at 6:18 PM

I have ADHD so waiting for anything longer than about 45 minutes is pretty much torture for me. If it's a really great ride and/or there is a lot of things to keep me entertained in the queue then maaaaybe I can stretch it to an hour. I avoid Disney and Universal Parks at peak periods now, for this reason.

July 6, 2018 at 4:29 AM

You need to add the less than an hour to your options Robert.

July 6, 2018 at 1:34 PM

I waited 110 mins for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at WDW. While I enjoyed the ride, I will never wait that long again for anything. I'm a pass holder so I have all the time in the world. But more than 45 mins is all I can do anymore. I do feel bad for people that just vacation there. If you don't plan way in advance it can be stressful. I'd be cranky too if I spent all that money and had to wait hours+ for new rides or popular rides.

July 6, 2018 at 4:56 PM

Generally I steer clear of anything over an hour. If it was something that normally had a stupidly long wait time, was really good, new, and it was a little bit longer than an hour then I'd do it. Case in point being Harry Potter Forbidden Journey where the wait time was consistently several hours on whatever day we visited and one evening it was down to just over an hour so we waited for it.

It does vary though, if I was at a park where there was nothing else to see/do and all the wait times were longer then I'd be pretty much committed to waiting in line. Although, that would be an extremely poorly designed park :D

July 9, 2018 at 4:26 PM

30-40 minutes is my max.

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