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  • Everyone has their favorite park, don’t they? So what is yours?

    We ask that because when people take surveys, guess what one park always comes out as No. 1?

    The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

    Year in and year out, it always gets the most visitors. Many millions.

    It also gets the vote when it comes to a different standard that goes above measuring buyers of Disney World Orlando tickets:

    That is how visitors respond when asked about their favorite park.

    Magic Kingdom wins every time.

    The “favorite park” question is often asked without guest’s having to also answer another query:

    Please explain why.

    That raises a question:

    Why is that?

    Why the Magic Kingdom?

    What is it about the Kingdom that not only brings out the highest numbers for Disney World ticket buyers but also makes so many immediately cite it as their favorite park?

    It was the first

    It can’t be nostalgia.

    Though the Kingdom does have that.

    You may recall it opened way back in 1971 as Disney’s Florida project. It was the first park then.

    The only park then as well.

    There were only two hotels on the property then: Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Resort.

    Only two choices of where to stay if you wanted to be right here to catch the new monorail running on tracks right outside your hotel.

    There were then only 23 attractions. And guess what?

    Twenty of them were copies from California’s Disneyland.

    Only three rides/attractions were unique here.

    If you lived in California, you could have stayed there and found just about everything that was here.

    Park-goers then may have voted for the Magic Kingdom as their favorite because it was the only one of its kind in Orlando.

    Choices have grown over the years

    Obviously, there are more choices today. More parks at Disney.

    And more parks elsewhere as well.

    LEGOLAND, Busch, Universal. Ticker buyers have a lot more choices today.

    But after almost a half century, the Magic Kingdom still remains its title:

    No. 1.

    We do have some answers…among them the variety or attractions that cuts across many age groups and appeal to just about everyone at the Kingdom.

    But let’s look at our own top ten reasons for going to theme parks.

    Just to see if these are maybe the same reasons you yourself have when you think about the subject…or when someone asks you about your favorite park.

    So why do we love theme parks?

    Some of our own reasons may surprise you.

    Because we are not saying it is the bright lights or even the thrilling rides that make us come again and again.

    Something to consider

    Modern day parks cater to people in ways that are often more involved than we might think.

    As one psychologist put it:

    "The modern amusement park is, beneath the flash and the chaos, a carefully tuned psychological machine.”

    Why we love them

    In no particular order, here are our reasons for you…and a chance to compare our own thinking with your own:

    No. 1: Photos. Or photo ops.

    Your photo equipment has changed over the years. But not the basics.

    Of course, old fashioned cameras have given up to cell phones. But the principles are the same.

    Getting your picture or your son or daughter or someone in your family standing beside Mickey Mouse

    Don’t we all love photos?

    How many people do you see shooting photos anytime at Disney or elsewhere?

    Positive and obvious proof of its popularity.

    Is it as much fun to look over your pictures back home as it is to actually experience it?

    Or is it as much fun today to post the photos on Facebook for the rest of the world to share with your own family?

    The answer here may very well be yes.

    No.2: Park food.

    In the past, this would hardly quality as a reason go to there.

    Hamburgers and hot dogs only

    The variety today is simply amazing.

    And the freedom to eat whatever you want? Also worth the experience. No one to remind you that large cans of soda pop with unlimited refills are bad for you.

    All you want of Popeye’s spinach (not as healthy as it was for him). Donald Duck waffles. No one to disturb your peace of mind about “empty calories.”

    And think of all those calories you burn up walking endless miles?

    No. 3: A different world…or a getaway from your normal one.

    Face it: if you’re like most of us, getting up to the morning buzz of the alarm clock to look at another day at work is not your main goal in life. But we all dream…of another way of life.

    Theme parks make this dream a reality.

    They create this entire new atmosphere of anticipation, then satisfaction. Sure, it’s escape from the mundane.

    So what?

    A theme park life of fantasy that is all yours.

    You get out of the normal routine of life. Call it escape but it’s more than that. It’s also something we all need.

    Memories also count

    No. 4: Memories. Don’t ever discount them.

    A theme park trip is memorable. For all of us.

    Years from now, you will think back on it. Maybe even look again at your photos.

    Consider this: buying a first-time home or even a used car is something most people remember for life.

    But studies have shown that buying anything pales in comparison to your experiences. Memories, yes.

    They also make you happier than anything you can buy.

    So you load up on them at theme parks. And they are return gifts to be brought out whenever you think about it.

    No. 5: Engineering. Or design.

    Modern skyscrapers of 100 stories and flying in airplanes at 30,000 feet in the air are what might be known as “awesome” feats to our distant ancestors. But what might they think of the design loops of a roller coaster?

    Or the marvel of virtual reality rides?

    Or even just to view the evening’s fireworks at Walt Disney World Resort?

    We take these things for granted most of the time.

    But when we visit Disney or Universal, we are reminded of all the scientific achievements that make up today’s parks.

    We get a renewed appreciation of the technology that has defined and enriched our own lives.

    Returning to childhood

    No. 6: At the same time, a park experience for an adult helps remind us of our own childhoods.

    It makes us appreciate that special time when your used crayons to color instead of ink pens to write. Or read comic books instead of the daily newspaper.

    You may still do childish things as an adult. Maybe even read comic books.

    But a theme park lets you recall that child in you. There is no better place to remember it.

    It is the playground for both young and old. Or older, we should say.

    No. 7: The thrills.

    Roller coasters are the best example.

    They are at the same time thrilling. And scary. But deep down, you know you are safe.

    You are afraid. But you get over it.

    The fear builds as you slowly climb the track, knowing you also have to go back down it.

    Your hair whips in the wind as you speed down the hill at what seems to be an impossible speed.

    It’s a rush.

    And then it’s over.

    Rush of roller coasters

    And you are relieved that you survived. And perhaps a little disappointed, too, because that particular thrill is now over.

    No. 8: Down-to-earth fun.

    At the same time, a theme park offers thrills AND sober fun.

    There’s no real adventure in eating an ice cream cone. But doing it at a park surrounded by happy people is a treat in itself.

    They…the others around you…are having fun.

    So are you.

    So even the simplest things you do…eating a slice of pizza or taking a ride on the train at the Magic Kingdom...or just walking around to see the shops at Epcot are shared experiences. Improved because you are not alone.

    No. 9: A good place for a date.

    A theme park is not only good for that, it is great for couples.

    Yes, simple as that.

    You can only be a very lukewarm fanatic to realize a date here is a great way to judge any future relationships.

    And not because you can grab her or his hand during a roller coaster ride.

    Psychologists say studies have shown that couples often first become attracted to each other during unusual situations.

    What could be more abnormal than a trip to a theme park?

    And what better way to determine the chances of your future relationship than a discussion of what to do next while walking through Tomorrowland?

    No. 10: The variety of things to do here.

    A theme park’s unique combination of thrilling options and “tame rides,” a variety of shows and special events such as evening fireworks, varied food offerings and overall pleasure-creating ambiance for all ages.

    Which brings us to the Magic Kingdom. And its popularity.

    It certainly has some of the best known rides offered anywhere.

    Designed for both adults and children

    Old favorites remain here because they stay in style. And don’t get worn out because their level of enjoyment is universal.

    The Magic Kingdom is full of them.

    As one commentator puts it:

    “The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is known more for its boundless charm, immersive themes, and cuddly characters than for white-knuckle, thrill rides.”

    More on coasters later. But first…

    The Magic Kingdom has always resisted its age.

    By that, we mean its rides and attractions have changed in recent times. But many have not.

    They have remained similar to when they started.

    “Pirates of the Caribbean.” A true classic. No thrills. But perhaps the Kingdom’s most beloved attraction and a long-timer. Been here since the park opened in 1971,

    Other well-known non-thrill rides include “The Haunted Mansion.” The common view: more silly than scary. But who cares? Only a few semi-startling “Gotchas.” Pop-Ghouls in the cemetery are a delight. If you haven’t been, it’s worth trying for all ages.

    Restaurants are hardly memorable here unless you love the blandness of the Liberty Tree Tavern or Cinderella’s Royal Table (where the characters may improve the food or at least the general surroundings).

    But “Be Out Guest” is among the most popular places to eat anywhere in Magic Kingdom.

    Not only a restaurant but an attraction in itself. Lunch is the recommended meal. Why? Reservations are needed for dinner, when it is even more crowded than at lunch.

    Coasters not thrill rides

    And “Space Mountain,” of course. Perhaps the most famous indoor roller coaster found anywhere. The surprise is that it is really slow-moving (by coaster standards). The puny top speed is 27 miles an hour. But the effects and the darkness make it seem much faster.

    It’s really faster than a kiddie coaster.

    The lesser known Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is nine miles faster. But to most riders, it seems slower.

    Disney has also done well with more modern coasters.

    No better example than the very popular “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

    Before starting your journey here, you wash and sort newly discovered “jewels” while waiting in line. Makes the line a lot easier, too.

    Visitors sit in mine cars that sway on a twisting track in this musical roller coaster adventure. You see the dwarfs working in their jewel mine. “Heigh ho.” The adventure begins. Snow White and the Wicked Witch plays out.

    Not just on our own list of favorites but also from others.

    Says one blogger:

    “This ride is wonderful. The landscaping is gorgeous, and the ride is smooth and fun. It's also not some fast made coaster. It shows that they took time, and it paid off. A classic.”

    Don’t believe us…ask bloggers

    Writes another:

    “While not the most exciting coaster, this ride will make you feel like a kid again and leave you with a smile on your face.”

    And one more:

    “The animatronics are amazing and the ride is beautiful...it just left me wanting more.”

    But one blogger summed it all up:

    “There's not much new to say about the ride, because the consensus is exactly right: Good ride, great theming, lines too long, ride too short. The animatronics are what makes this ride so worth seeing - they make you feel like you've actually taken the ride into the classic cartoon.”

    The ride only lasts three minutes. But it can enjoyed by all ages.

    And the only real “magic” here is this:

    It’s only one reason why the Kingdom remains No. 1.

    ###

    Tap to read full stIf you’re at all like us…and we suspect you are…you skipped attending the last Disney stockholders meeting. Somewhat boring, we have to admit.

    You also missed recent happenings at the world’s largest shopping mall.

    Boring….unless you absolutely adore exploring hundreds of places to buy things.

    But you might want to pay attention to both of those.

    Why?

    Because they offered a look into the future.

    People are experiencing rides like never before.

    This all might be of interest to future Disney World Orlando ticket buyers. But let’s not leave out Universal Studios Orlando ticket buyers or anyone else interested in the future of theme parks anywhere else.

    More specifically, we refer to the future of VR at theme parks.

    In case you missed it, VR is short for virtual reality.

    That was not a subject directly addressed by Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger at their stockholders meeting.

    He did talk a little about the coming attraction “Star Wars.”

    Virtual Reality is expected to be a star attraction there.

    But his remarks generally were more about new Disney Cruise Line ships,

    Two more new ships on the way.

    One area of technology he commented on:

    The future of MyMagic+.

    No surprise that it was successful.

    More applications are expected.

    In a very much separate event, the Mall of America also was looking to the future.

    Its flight simulator is being described as a “ride like no other.”

    That mall in far away and often frigid Minnesota is the nation’s largest shopping and entertainment destination.

    It’s “Fly Over America” ride lets you sit in a suspended chair, feet dangling free, in front of a gigantic screen.

    Rides are not the only new thing

    You literally fly over America.

    While this is described by mall people as “awe-inspiring,” it is hardly new at Disney and other theme parks.

    You, the riders, feel the wind. You travel through misty vistas. Smell the flowers.

    You soar. Just as you do at Epcot’s own version.

    Plunging into deep valleys. Seeing rushing rivers. Snow-capped mountains.

    Coast to coast in the US.

    It’s a VR journey of more than 10,000 miles.

    Without getting into a car or airplane or anything else.

    While sitting in a comfortable chair.

    It’s not new but it is what virtual reality is all about.

    From theme parks rides to video games -- numerous applications of VR were given at a recent tech conference.

    Mary Jesse, chief strategy officer of VRstudios in Bellevue, said the tech industry is in the middle of a big change.

    She predicts that the projections experts are making about virtual reality are underestimating what will actually happen.

    She suggested that the same thing happened when mobile phones first became popular.

    "You will see virtual reality everywhere," she said.

    This was the year for virtual reality.

    VR’s time has come

    Earlier this year, a newspaper wrote:

    “The New Revolution will go boldly where no roller coaster in Los Angeles has gone before: into the realm of virtual reality.”

    It was referring to Samsung’s partnership to pair its VR with technology with several roller coasters at Six Flags.

    “The goal is to transport users, who will wear a virtual reality headset while they're strapped into the stomach-churning coaster, to another world,” the newspaper said.

    What this effectively does: merge roller coaster action and movement baked into an entire experience.

    If you wonder where this is happening, and why, we have some answers.

    The why is that it can.

    Can be done, we mean.

    Or now it can. Due to new technology. Advances in technology, we mean.

    This may be a surprise to some.

    VR?

    No longer just fun and games

    We associate it with games. The gaming world.

    But in reality, it is graduating from the gaming world.

    Into travel, movies, live events. And theme parks.

    And based on current consumer interests, gaming is actually at the bottom of the list.

    Internet-connected headsets are expanding in the IoT world as technology finally catches up with the promise of virtual reality, which has been kicking around for years.

    Consumers do like it, studies show.

    Of consumers who have used virtual reality, 86% rate their experience as positive.

    They say they are highly likely to try it again, based on a new study

    Virtual reality or VR is coming to all phases of our lives.

    The sales of VR devices worldwide are expected to increase by 24 times in 2016.

    This is creating opportunities for consumer, gaming, entertainment and business applications providers to ride this wave, said the International Data Corp, a US-based IT research firm.

    VR has “infinite opportunities.”

    Disney has long been a pioneer in virtual reality.

    Its IT and interactive media arm, Disney Interactive, this year launched its first VR software. It’s called Disney Movies VR.

    The app itself does not allow you to watch full-length Disney films. But instead shows you how to select scenes from more recent Disney releases such as “Star Wars” and “The Jungle Book.”

    Here’s the official description from Disney:

    Disney pioneered VR

    “Transport yourself into the wonderful world of Disney from your very own living room with Disney Movies VR. This app is a fully-immersive experience where you visit themed worlds, including Disney, Marvel and Lucasfilm, and interact with some of your favorite characters in their natural environments. Choose from multiple scenes in Disney movies, including The Jungle Book, Captain America and Star Wars and be a part of the action! Disney Movies VR is your ticket to full immersion into the many Disney experiences optimized for virtual reality. Brought to you by the imaginative minds at Disney.”

    Predictions are it will become the most influential technology in the next decade after micro-processors, personal computers and mobile Internet.

    In fact, predictions are it is leaving the so-called limited “niche market” to branch out into widespread consumer usage.

    Games and films are among its best applications.

    And theme parks are not far behind.

    This is not just our opinion.

    Changing the nature of theme parks

    Virtual reality and augmented reality will one day change the very concept of a theme park and attractions, according to Tony Christopher, CEO and founder of Landmark Entertainment Group.

    Major companies such as Facebook and Google have led the way.

    A recent example is Shanghai.

    Disney’s first theme park in mainland China is divided into six lands:

    ‘Fantasyland, Treasure Cove, Tomorrowland, Gardens of Imagination, Adventure Isle,” and “Mickey Avenue.”

    Towering 196.8 feet above Fantasyland is the park’s Enchanted Storybook Castle, which includes retail, dining, and theatrical spaces, as well as two attractions.

    It’s home to “Once Upon a Time,” an indoor, walk-through exhibit of all the Disney Princesses that blends dioramas with screens displaying classic Disney animation.

    There are various elements of VR everywhere.

    But the most dramatic and perhaps most popular is the TRON Lightcycle Power Run.

    Riders enter the neon blue-glowing world of TRON and board a train of two-wheeled Lightcycles.

    You, the riders, hunch forward as if you’re piloting the speedy bikes.

    There’s a brief stretch outdoors.

    But then the ride immerses you the riders inside at speeds of 62 miles-per-hour. You race to capture eight energy gates.

    Another company known for its VR besides Disney is Landmark.

    It’s perhaps best known for creating Universal Studios theme park attractions like “Kongfrontation, Terminator 2 3D, and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man 5D.”

    All have a lot in common.

    Using tech to improve thrill rides

    They use the latest technology to improve immersive thrill ride experiences.

    Landmark executives say they have long been exploring how virtual reality and augmented reality can be added to traditional entertainment like 3D, projection, surround sound, and special effects.

    “We’re already thinking about how VR and alternate reality can create the theme park of the future,” one executive says.

    He adds:

    “We spend a lot of time creating environments and characters and today we have to use light systems, projection systems, and animatronics and ultimately it doesn’t create a true virtual reality.”

    “With the Spider-Man 5D ride you couldn’t tell the reality from the 3D film and Spider-Man does fly over your head and land on your vehicle. In VR we could put it all in a headset and people could ride through and the buildings could be smaller and you could feel like you’re there. With VR we could put you on a real adventure like you’ve never seen before.”

    Shanghai represents the new technology. And that is coming to Disney’s other properties as well as other theme parks.

    “Disney’s new park relies on technology the company hopes will augment all its parks,” writes Time Magazine.

    A VR oriented style, 3D model-based process of designing everything from the Steamboat Willie entrance fountain to Roarin Mountain. Imagineers is represented in Shanghai.

    Disney Imagineers working in Orlando, California and Shanghai were able in separate areas to work with projectors and 3D glasses to experiment how guests would experience rides and other attractions.

    For its creators, Disney and Universal here in Orlando are hardly the only parks seeing a rise in VR.

    Seeing VR at Six Flags’ coasters

    The increasingly competitive Six Flags chain of theme parks is equipping its rollercoasters with virtual reality headsets.

    What they do: let you imagine or pretend you’re flying with Superman.

    Or fighting aliens.

    No secret here when you ask why this is happening.

    The cost has gone way down.

    From a practical standpoint, executives there say they are embracing the potential of VR largely because of its reduced cost.

    From riders’ standpoint, it allows them to see things flown at them in virtual reality.

    The technology reduces a lot of labor costs that used to involve human beings.

    But that’s only the beginning as VR technology starts to let you, the rider, choose alternatives of what you want to face. Or see.

    Six Flags isn’t the only theme park company adding a virtual element to existing rides.

    The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this year that about two dozen virtual reality roller coasters were expected to be ready by this summer at locations around the world.

    If you’ve been in Orlando recently, you’re starting to see it.

    Seeing it in Orlando

    Visitors to Universal Orlando recently lined up for the debut of one of their most anticipated rides ever: Skull Island: Reign of Kong.

    The 30-foot-tall, 18-foot-wide Kong is brought to life by 3-D technology and animatronics.

    Earlier this summer, SeaWorld Orlando’s shark-themed Mako started to dazzle riders with its 73 mile an hour speeds during a mile long tract.

    Its own VR style makes it a hypercoaster. Which means not just speed, but tight turns.

    But even more: a weightless feeling.

    Disney has its own Norway Pavilion at Epcot.

    A boat takes riders into the kingdom of “Arendelle” during the winter festival, where you encounter characters from the megahit “Frozen.” Music is from the movie, with voices from the original cast.

    At Universal Studios Hollywood, 3-D technology is evident in rides like “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.”

    Here’s a spoiler alert:

    For some other rides, you will need to go outside Orlando.

    Seeing it outside Orlando

    At Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, “The Joker,” a hybrid steel and wooden coaster is yet another example of a hypercoaster. If you dare to ride it, you will have 15 different moments of “airtime.”

    Legoland California in Carlsbad joined the interactive fray when it debuted Ninjago last May.

    This has taken VR to its next level:

    Riders actually influence the outcome of the battle by using hand gestures to shoot, rather than laser guns, to help fight off evil during the experience.

    If all this VR gets to you, you can always unwind with alternatives.

    Disney offers a “Wishing Star Park,” for example. It is described as a 2.5 mile walk in the woods. Along a lake with birds and butterflies.

    It’s described this way:

    “You’re sure to find a setting which will bring your inner child to live –as only Disney can.”

    The only thing is you have to go to Disney’s Shanghai to find it. ###

    Splash Mountain Line

    Learning to Love Long Lines

    A real timely or timeless question: does anyone love long lines?

    No, of course not.

    Can you learn to…perhaps not love them…but accept them?

    And we have looked at this subject before…including valuable (we think) advice on ways to “beat” the lines.

    But listen here, you really can’t “beat” them….or maybe you knew that already.

    Whenever you buy your Disney World Orlando tickets. Or Universal Studios Orlando tickets or Busch Gardens Tampa tickets…or any other theme park admission tickets, you will find something else.

    Lines.

    Some short ones. Or it used to be.

    But more likely:

    Some longer than others.

    Much longer.

    What we’ve done in the past is to suggest ways of handling those lines.

    The point is not to let them ruin your trip.

    We keep returning to this subject for a reason.

    Because amusement park fans like you in recent times have rated long lines as their biggest pet peeve (in case, you wondered, that was followed by complaints of line jumping and rude employees).

    Biggest pet peeve

    Because of growing crowds in recent years, the average visitor has time for only nine or 10 rides per day, according to recent surveys.

    That means a lot of time is spent standing in lines.

    The reason is simple: you can’t avoid them entirely.

    No matter what you do.

    So today we’re going to tell you the 14 best ways to avoid lines.

    We’ll also tell you what the parks are doing about it.

    But more importantly, we’re going to tell you what to do while you’re waiting.

    And we’re turning to experts to do that.

    But don’t be concerned about our “experts.”

    That’s because they are other theme park-goers…and ticket buyers to Busch Gardens Tampa, and yes, Disney as well.

    Does Disney and other park gurus really care about the lines?

    No real question there.

    But more importantly, what are they doing about it?

    There are improvements. Or so the parks say.

    Perhaps the first issue to look at is this:

    Why do people like yourself hate these lines?

    We have some answers there, too.

    Let’s take another look at lines.

    You wait in line for practically anything you buy.

    Even when you go to the open all-day, all-night grocery store at 3 a.m. You might find a person or two standing in front of you.

    Some lines are better than others

    But somehow lines at pleasant places…where you are looking just to have fun…seem longer and more disturbing, don’t they?

    Surveys show that theme park goers don’t mind waits of five or ten minutes or even a half hour.

    But when it gets to hours, instead of minutes, patience flies out the window.

    And with all the instant gratification of today's world, people still have to endure waiting in lines.

    Sure, we’re all used to instant gratification. It’s a common term.

    But psychologists say that may be a primary reason why we hate lines.

    It’s a form of imprisonment, in fact.

    And not the willing, “we volunteer” kind.

    "Once you get it into your head, you see them everywhere," psychologist Dr. Richard Larson said about long lines.

    But the good news is that theme parks are making efforts here.

    And no one does managing lines better than Disney, according to some experts.

    "We want you to have so much to look at or do or entertain your kids," Kathy Mangum, creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, told "20/20."

    “Cause kids aren't the best line waiters, right? They're a little impatient … If your kid's having fun, you're a lot more patient."

    He didn’t say it but adults also have little patience for lines.

    Disney is not the only one aware of them.

    Park officials know you hate waiting

    In Southern California, riders of the “Transformers: The Ride-3D at Universal Studios Hollywood” line up in an indoor area that resembles a military compound.

    They watch videos that explain their mission during the ride. Guests are told they must keep the powerful "AllSpark" from falling into the hands of the evil “Decepticons.”

    "Guest satisfaction is very important to us and we want to entertain our guests from the moment they enter the ride queue," said Larry Kurzweil, president of Universal Studios Hollywood.

    At Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, the park installed a 16-by-9-foot screen over the queuing area of the ride, “Full Throttle.”

    Visitors see a 25-minute video of extreme sports, such as bungee jumping and mountain biking.

    Six Flags Entertainment Corp. offers an interactive game similar to “Whac-A-Mole” that visitors can play on television screens. They use their cellphones as game controllers.

    The game is available at all of its 16 parks in the U.S., including Six Flags Magic Mountain.

    Park officials have even tried to make jokes about the waiting time.

    At Disney's California Adventure Park, visitors to the “Toy Story Midway Mania” are entertained in line by an animatronic “Mr. Potato Head.” He sings and tells jokes to the crowd.

    The voice was recorded by venerable comedian Don Rickles.

    "I'm going to guess your weight," Mr. Potato Head tells guests. "I'd say you wait about 15, 20, 25 minutes, tops."

    Ha, ha…maybe

    One of the first efforts by theme parks to address long lines came as early as 1999 when Disney parks introduced the FASTPASS. Others have followed.

    For everyone else, the lines are still long but, in some cases, more entertaining.

    In the case of Disney, entertainment before rides is an extension of their entertainment philosophy.

    Which is good.

    Disney sets up play areas for those waiting in lines.

    Disney's theme parks try to cope or manage lines with interactive technology. Or with games and touch screens.

    Well-placed fans sometimes help. A little shade seems to be carved out at times. That also helps.

    Theme parks also have posted wait times.

    Single rider only lines.

    Disney has also been an innovator in making the queue line an interactive experience itself.

    For example, at “Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid” (Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort) there are a multitude of interactive spaces throughout the queue. They help keep long lines of guests’ active and engaged.

    In the line for the “Haunted Mansion,” guests can touch gravestones that play music or squirt water.

    Disney has been a pioneer in using theming not only in rides but in waiting for rides.

    This type of theming really fleshes out the storytelling for the attraction and provides a better option than staring at a sea of people. No question there.

    Disney’s pricing patterns (mainly in raising them) has also been aimed at least partly to stretch out the crowds.

    One area to expect in the future: that initiative will be more common at other parks,

    Technology should also increasingly be expected to help you cope with lines.

    Interaction through augmented reality with head worn mobile devices that will let you interact not only with rides but while standing in line are other innovations that will help.

    And the best ways to beat the lines?

    There are what we call “windows” of opportunity to experience shorter lines.

    When you can avoid them

    No, not no lines at all. But shorter.

    1. Get there early. At least an hour before opening, preferably two hours. Consider this: At Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park, every minute you arrive after the park opens is two extra minutes of waiting in line.

    2. Stay late. Just before the park closes is a good time to get in line as many guests are on their way out the door or heading that way.

    3. Skip one line by not buying your tickets at the park. Get your Disney Orlando tickets or Universal Orlando tickets from other sources.

    4. Whenever you can, go the single rider line. These are often there and not always well marked. But they can reduce wait time by a third, according to some estimates.

    5. Everyone will tell you don’t go during busy times such as Christmas or Easter or in the summer months when the kids are out of school. Yes, lines tend to be longer. But there are a few windows such as early June, when schools are still in session. Barely. Look for these windows.

    6. Weekdays are invariably better than weekends. A Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday is far better than weekends.

    7. Skip the fireworks or other special events. Lines are usually shorter during those times.

    8. Don’t be afraid of some lines. Roller coasters are good example. Lines often seem much longer than they are.

    9. Join lines during normal lunch or dinner times. Many guests are then dining. So it’s another window of opportunity for you.

    10. If you have choices of when to go, consult sites such as ours that tells you when crowds are at their shortest. One hint: late August is often a far better time to visit than earlier that month or the previous month.

    11. Another good time to visit is when all America and the world are busy elsewhere. You already know when. Think ” Super Bowl.

    12. Don’t start at the front of the park where you enter Go to the back. Go as far back as you can. Select the most popular rides there before the crowd gets to them.

    13. If you have a choice, pick the line farther to the left. You may know where most people do: to the right.

    14. FastPasses are usually worth the added cost. But that is up to you.

    How to cope with…sigh…long lines

    As for what to do when…face it.,..there is a long line in front of you.

    Here’s what our own experts tell us:

    Prepare yourself in advance. You know there are going to be lines. So get used to it. Bring things to help you wait.

    In that preparation area, bring a hat and other comfort accessories.

    Brings things…and we mean anything at all… to help you wait. Books, mp3 players, magazines and of course, cell phones. What better time to catch up on what old friends are doing?

    Be judgmental. If your preferred ride has a long line, consider skipping it or waiting to try again later. It’s ok to be choosey.

    Again, use your good judgment whether it’s worth your time. Is it really something you want to do? You decide.

    Some riders tell us they love to play games while in line. The alphabet game is a common one. Very simple. Find the letters of the alphabet from A-Z around you. Great for children. But also works for adults.

    Use this time to plan the rest of your day. Even if you don’t get to do all that you envision, it distracts your mind to imagine what other rides and shows you might be seeing.

    Look around you…be aware…talk to others

    Talk to people around you. You might even make a few friends this way.

    Look for Hidden Mickeys.

    Whistle songs for others to guess the name.

    Wave at strangers to see who will wave back.

    Challenge another person or someone with you to thumb wrestling.

    Eating snacks always helps pass the time (hopefully, you’re not in a diet or can put it off for a few hours).

    Take a good look at people around you. See how they’re dressed and what they’re carrying. Then make up stories where they’re from or why they’re here.

    Take breaks. If you know a line is going to be long, say more than an hour, take some time away to relax. Have a meal or a drink. Buy an ice cream cone. Walk around and people watch. Get your mind off the wait itself.

    One of the best things to do while standing in line is to think of everything or anything else but the line. Imagine your next vacation, for example. Think about where you might have lunch or dinner. Anything that will take you away from the line.

    Study the park map. This is a good distraction.

    People watch. For some reason, a lot of us are good at this, while others find it hard to imagine. But it really takes only a little imagination to see what people are wearing. Fashion trends such as baseball caps or hatless? Who is wearing sunglasses (“See that two-year-old. Isn’t he a little young for shades”). You get the point.

    Make a conscious effort to relax. You may be excited about the prospect of the coaster there, but slip on headphones and listen to a slow song or try to find another way to relax. Music almost always helps. You will enjoy the ride more if you can do that.

    Songwriter Tom Petty once sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

    Did he go to theme parks? Could that have been an inspiration?

    We don’t know. But it’s something to consider…perhaps to even get your mind in another direction the next time you’re standing in yet another line. ###