Walt Disney World has had a lot of changes in the last year, and one of the biggest ones has been the end of the FastPass system and the beginning of the new Genie, Genie+ and Lightning Lane systems.
As with the FastPass system, not all rides are equal, and guests should think about how they want to use these new systems when they visit the four theme parks. Let’s take a closer look at these new systems and rank the best Lightning Lane rides at Walt Disney World.
What was the FastPass system?
Prior to the pandemic induced closure, Walt Disney World’s FastPass system allowed guests to make timed reservations to ride most of the attractions in each park. Guests could make these reservations up to 60 days before their arrival to the resort, which was highly appealing for those of us who love to plan out our vacations ahead of time.
Three FastPass reservations could be made ahead of time for each day that guests were planning to visit one of Walt Disney World’s four theme parks, and all three of them had to be made in the same park. Once guests had used all three of their FastPass reservations, they could add new ones right on their phones using the My Disney Experience app. As soon as you swiped into an attraction through the designated FastPass lane you could go ahead and book your next Fast Pass reservation.
Our family loved using the FastPass system, as we were able to plan out our vacation time well before we arrived in Orlando. We would have already made our dining reservations (which at the time could be made up to 180 days before your onsite resort reservation), so we knew when we already had something scheduled and could make our FastPass reservations around those reservations.
Genie, Genie+, and Individual Lightning Lane
After operating without any kind of attraction reservation system for more than a year, the Disney World resort rolled out a new three-tiered system in September of 2021. With this new system, guests had the opportunity to make ride reservations again, but not for free. With three moving parts to the system, lots of guests have struggled to understand which system they needed to use, and how to best use the new systems to make the most of their time in the theme parks.
The new base level system is called “Genie,” and operates within the existing My Disney Experience app on smartphones. Think of Genie as a more robust planning tool that allows you to pin your favorite rides and attractions to create tailored recommendations. Based on your preferences, it can recommend both rides and dining experiences that the hidden algorithm thinks you’ll like. You can update your preferences at any time, and the recommendations will change throughout the day as wait times fluctuate.
Genie works with the “My Plans” portion of the My Disney Experience App, incorporating recommendations for attractions and dining into any existing plans you may have. This includes things like Lightning Lane reservations (more on that below), dining reservations, and resort reservations. If there are any rides currently utilizing their virtual queue system, that information will appear as well.
Genie+ is the next level up from the baseline Genie program, and in many ways replaces the old FastPass system. It provides the opportunity to make a Lightning Lane reservation for 46 different rides across the four theme parks, including some of the major attractions in each park.
Genie+ can be purchased ahead of time for the entire duration of your trip as part of a ticket or vacation package.Guests can opt into the Genie+ system for $15/per person for any day of their stay. You can pick and choose which days you want to purchase Genie+, so you don’t have to pay for it when you’re taking a rest day and not planning to enter a theme park.
Onsite resort guests can use Genie+ to make their first Lightning Lane reservations beginning at 7:00am each day, while offsite guests have to wait until each park officially opens. You can only make one Lightning Lane reservation at a time, and it will show you options for each ride that list the “next arrival window.”
Once you’ve selected that first attraction, there are two ways to make your next Genie+ Lightning Lane reservation: swipe into that ride, or wait 120 minutes before booking your next reservation. This means that if the next arrival window is at 5:00pm and it’s only 9:00am, you don’t have to wait the whole day just to use that one reservation. Instead, you just have to wait those two hours and then the system will let you choose an additional Lightning Lane reservation.
In many ways, the new Genie+ system is very similar to how the old MaxPass system worked at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim. You can only make one reservation at a time, but there’s a timed buffer that lets you book the next ride even if you haven’t used that first reservation yet.
One big change from FastPass is that you can only make a Lightning Lane reservation for each ride one time per day. Once you’ve used a Lightning Lane reservation for any ride you can’t book another Lightning Lane for that ride again that day, but do still have the option to enter through the standby line.
Individual Lightning Lanes
Not all of the rides in the parks are available through the Genie+ system. At each park, 1-2 rides have a separate ride reservation system called Individual Lightning Lanes. These select rides are NOT available with Genie+. However, you may not need these extra purchases for all of the available rides, and instead should think about the best ranking Lightning Lanes when planning your day.
With this system, you can purchase a single Lightning Lane reservation for those individual rides. You get to choose your arrival time (as compared to only having access to the next arrival window), and you can have both regular Lightning Lane and Individual Lightning Lane reservations reserved at once.
Unlike the Lightning Lanes through Genie+, there is no set price when purchasing a reservation that requires an Individual Lightning Lane. Instead, Disney World is using a dynamic pricing model which means prices can change over time depending on demand.
Currently, Individual Lightning Lane rides cost anywhere between $7 and $20, per person, per ride. But understand that this price is always subject to change.
Best Individual Lightning Lane Rides at the Magic Kingdom
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Space Mountain
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a rollercoaster ride located in Fantasyland, where guests sit in a carved out log attached to a roaring locomotive. Each log is on its own set of hinges, so you sway back and forth as the train whips along the track and through the jewel mine, where you’ll see the dwarfs hard at work.
There are quite a few curves and drops where you’ll feel the weight of gravity before the train swerves into a new direction. It’s officially listed by Disney as a thrill ride, so it’s not appropriate for those who are pregnant, injured, or have heart conditions. Children need to be at least 38” tall to board the mine train.
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a great ride to purchase Individual Lightning Lane access for, due to its continued popularity and consistent long wait times. Standby wait times are almost always over 45 minutes, no matter what time it is during the day.
Even if you try to enter the Magic Kingdom at Rope Drop (the moment when the park officially opens and Cast Members allow guests to enter ride queues), there is always a mad rush to get into the standby line for this ride. No matter how quickly you move through the park at Rope Drop, there is somehow always a line. If riding the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a “must do” for your day at the Magic Kingdom, it makes sense to purchase an Individual Lightning Lane reservation.
On Space Mountain you’ll board a rocket ship to blast off into space for a fast and furious rollercoaster in the dark! Not being able to see the track ahead of you adds an extra twist of fun as you climb to the top and then twist your way back to the loading bay.
Space Mountain in Disney World has two different tracks, and each one has a slightly different layout, making it a fun attraction to ride multiple times. Riders should be prepared for a fast thrill ride, and shouldn’t ride if pregnant, injured, or have heart conditions. Space traveling children need to be at least 44” tall in order to board their rocket ship.
Space Mountain is a less worthy Individual Lightning Lane Purchase. Although it’s one of the most beloved rides in the park (and a personal favorite in our family), it’s a ride that can still be done through the standby queue. If you’re on a tight time schedule and you know this ride is a must do, then it may be worth it to you to purchase the Individual Lightning Lane, but for a regular park day it’s probably not worth it.
A better way to ride Space Mountain is to either head over right when the park opens or right before it closes when lines tend to be a little shorter. You can also mark it as a top ride inside of Genie and then keep an eye on wait times throughout the day.
Best Individual Lightning Lane Rides at Epcot
There are two Individual Lightning Lane attractions at Epcot:
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
- Frozen Ever After
Shrink down to Remy’s size and go on a fun 3D adventure through Gusteau’s Parisian restaurant in Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. This is a great ride for guests of all ages, and especially those who love Pixar’s Ratatouille. The queue for this line is especially fantastic, and leads you through Paris to the restaurant itself. You’re seated in a car for this whole ride, and there are no drops, twists or turns.
The ride makes great use of special effects to really make you feel like you’re in the kitchen cooking with Remy! Some guests have reported motion sickness after this ride, which is likely an aftereffect of wearing the 3D glasses, so I recommend doing this ride before you stop at the Parisian creperie next door for some delicious food.
Of the two rides, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is the most worthy of an Individual Lightning Lane purchase. As one of the newest rides at Walt Disney World, it has been very popular, leading to long standby wait times. There was originally a virtual queue that you could join for this ride, but currently it’s only available through standby or Individual Lightning Lane.
Purchasing an Individual Lightning Lane reservation for Remy can be especially helpful since Epcot is a pretty big park. It can be hard (and tiring!) to have to run across Epcot chasing down rides with good wait times, so knowing exactly when you need to be back inside of the World Showcase can help you save some time and energy.
If you’ve seen Frozen, Frozen Ever After is the ride for you. In this ride, you’ll hop aboard a boat for a fun ride to meet Elsa, Anna, Sven, Kristof, and of course Olaf! Wave hello to Anna, Kristoff and Olaf as they welcome you to Arendelle, before seeing Elsa work her magical powers to create a wonderful world of ice and snow!
You’ll have a brief plummet backwards in the boat, before roaring past Marshmallow and all of his little snow friends. Guests who are seated in the front of the boat may get a little bit wet as you ride the wave down. This ride is safe for guests of all ages, but it is dark and has a few small drops.
Frozen Ever After is a little bit less valuable as an Individual Lightning Lane purchase, but should still be considered if that ride is a must-do for your day at Epcot. Standby wait times can be very long for this ride, but they do fluctuate throughout the day. If you head straight to Frozen Ever After when Epcot opens you’ll likely have a much shorter wait time. It’s also a great ride to visit during the extra access hours that are available to guess who are staying at certain Disney World resort hotels.
That being said, Epcot is just so spread out that knowing when you need to be in Norway where the ride is can help save some shoe leather and prevent needing to sprint across the park to try and get into a queue. Also, if you have members in your group who are obsessed with Frozen, it might be worth it to purchase the Individual Lightning Lane access and make sure you can get on the ride with minimal waiting time.
Best Lightning Lane Rides at Hollywood Studios
There are two Individual Lightning Lane attractions at Hollywood Studios:
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance lets you experience the thrill of the Resistance as you go into battle against the First Order! You’ll help Rey and BB-8 avoid the Stormtroopers and even go up against Kylo Ren! Even though it’s not a rollercoaster, there are enough spins and drops that Disney World classifies it as a thrill ride, meaning it’s not safe for expectant mothers or those with heart conditions. All rebels need to be at least 40” to board this ride.
Of these two Individual Lightning Lane rides, Rise of the Resistance is by far the more worthy Individual Lightning Lane purchase. As one of the newest rides at Walt Disney World, the standby line for this ride is always packed. Until recently, this ride could only be accessed by gaining a spot in a virtual queue: there was no standby line. The virtual queue opened up twice a day (7:00am and 1:00pm), and it could be a real challenge to obtain a position in this queue. You could tell when it was almost 1:00pm, as guests all over Hollywood Studios would literally stop in their tracts to try and get that coveted queue spot through the My Disney Experience app.
Without the virtual queue, there is a crazy rush when the park opens and people run toward the entrance to the standby line. The standby line gets long very quickly, and this problem is frequently exacerbated when Rise of the Resistance fails to open with the rest of the park. This ride suffers from frequent shutdowns, which can make that standby line move even more slowly or even be evacuated completely! If you have early access as part of your select Disney Resort hotel experience, this is a great ride to head towards before the park opens to the general public.
On Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway you’ll climb aboard a train with engineer Goofy, which suddenly hops off the tracks for some wacky adventures with Mickey and Minnie as they try to have a nice picnic outing! The ride is based on a new set of cartoons featuring our good friends Mickey and Minnie, and has a slightly different style of animation than many of Disney’s other cartoons. No drops or twists on this ride, so it’s perfect for friends of all ages
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is also one of the newer rides and utilizes some of the same technology used in Rise of the Resistance. Although it’s a super cute and fun ride, it seems to have less appeal than Rise of the Resistance, and thus a less worthy candidate for purchasing an Individual Lightning Lane reservation.
This is a ride that you can try to do either at park open or close, often with a minimal wait in the standby line (or, of course during extra hours if you’re staying onsite at certain resort hotels). It’s centrally located within Hollywood Studios, so it’s easy to get back to if you see a low wait time listed inside of Genie. It also seems to have a lower rate of shutdown than Rise of the Resistance, which means you’re less likely to experience a wait or evacuation while waiting in the standby queue.
Best Individual Lightning Lane Rides at Animal Kingdom
There is currently only one Individual Lightning Lane attraction at Animal Kingdom:
- Avatar Flight of Passage, which makes it the most worthy at this park!
Located inside Pandora – The World of Avatar, Avatar Flight of Passage has been a fan favorite ride at Animal Kingdom since it first opened in 2017. On this ride you’ll get to board your own Banshee and soar over the world of Pandora. You’ll be able to feel the wind on your face as your Banshee soars and dives amongst the trees, and you can even feel it breathing as you sit astride it’s back!
As another thrill ride, it’s unsafe for pregnant women, or people with heart conditions to ride. All riders must be at least 44” tall. This is another ride where some guests have reported motion sickness, so plan your day and your meals accordingly.
The standby lines for this attraction can be insanely long. Guests will literally sprint through the park at Rope Drop to get into the queue before it gets too long. If you want to ride Avatar Flight of Passage without wasting half of your park day in a line then you should absolutely purchase the Individual Lightning Lane.
Rankings for All Individual Lightning Lane Rides
Every guest will have their own priorities when they visit the theme parks at Walt Disney World, so you’ll want to do some planning ahead of time to make sure you’ve prioritized the rides you want to enjoy each day.
Disney World is already an expensive adventure, and the extra fees from these Individual Lightning Lane purchases can really add up. Unless this is a once in a lifetime trip, you will probably want to purchase Individual Lightning Lanes for a few of the available rides, but not all of them.
Here’s my family’s ranking of the best Disney Lightning Lanes from top to bottom:
7) Avatar Flight of Passage
This ride gets last place for us simply because we’re not big Animal Kingdom fans, and a member of our family gets motion sickness easily. We’ve done this ride before, but we don’t need to do it every trip. If you love Avatar, this might move up higher on the list just because the lines tend to be lengthy all day.
6) Space Mountain
We absolutely love this ride, and always ride it multiple times per trip. But we don’t think it’s worth the additional purchase and will try to hit it during those extra hours (available to us as guests at a deluxe resort), or whenever Genie indicates a tolerable wait time.
5) Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
While we really like this ride, we think we can probably do this during extra hours or during the day. It’s centrally located, which makes it easy to get to when listed standby times are low.
4) Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
This ride is just too cute, but we rode it three times during a special Squeak Peak event that was part of the soft opening for Disney Vacation Club members and Annual Passholders. We’d love to ride it again, but aren’t sure we’ll pay extra to do it.
3) Frozen Ever After
We are HUGE Frozen fans, and this ride is a must-do for us on every trip. We will probably both purchase an Individual Lightning Land reservation AND use the standby queue, just to make sure we get plenty of frozen fun.
2) Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
My husband loves Star Wars and he really enjoys this ride. I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, so I’m definitely on board with paying extra to make sure we can get on and off this ride quickly, without spending hours in the standby queue. Purchasing an Individual Lightning Lane reservation also gives us some flexibility should the ride go down, as it often does.
1) Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
This is a ride that always seems to have a crazy line. We’re not big fans of the mad dash at Rope Drop, as it’s just a little bit too chaotic for our tastes. The ride itself is too short for us to waste more than 45 minutes in line, so an Individual Lightning Lane makes sense for us.
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