The frustration of any trip—especially one taken during peak tourism times—is waiting on line. If only all major world attractions had a FastPass, where I could return at a designated hour and cut right to the front of the line. Some attractions, though, are worth those minutes and hours and sweaty days of snaking forward on a seemingly interminable line. Here are three that are definitely worth the wait, and alternatives to two that weren’t entirely worth my time.
Worth the Wait
The towers of Notre Dame, Paris
On this trip to Paris, I brought the Youthful Adventurer, who would willingly make water runs while the Senior Adventurer and I inched forward toward our goal. About 30 minutes in, the Senior Adventurer was ready to take a pass, pleased with having seen the Cathedral of Notre Dame and convinced she didn’t really need to view the gargoyles. The Youthful Adventurer and I prevailed, and were glad we did.
Climbing up the narrow steps, we felt like monks from the Middle Ages and a little bit like Quasimodo longing for Esmeralda. The view and the gargoyles are most definitely worth the wait.
The Harry Potter ride at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Orlando
The great thing about the line for the Harry Potter ride is that a bit more than halfway through you can stop and get a beer.
Be prepared, because the line can get a little crazy. The last time I was on it, a woman who had climbed over me while I was getting a refreshment then abandoned her kid in line to go to the bathroom and wasn’t back by the time everyone reached the locker room. The kid was crying and temporarily in the care of strangers. Memorable childhood memories created there.
I made my first trek to Disney World at around age 10 and have been back multiple times since, as a young single and as a parent. I know my theme parks. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal’s Islands of Adventure is the best ride ever.
The Vatican, Vatican City
It’s going to be long, it’s going to be hot, it will probably make you cranky—but how many opportunities to visit the center of Catholicism are there in anyone’s lifetime? Other visitors to the Sistine Chapel will likely annoy you with their cameras, most especially the flashes they are not supposed to be using. The art, though, combined with the history of the Vatican, is truly awesome.
Two Worth Skipping
The Statue of Liberty, New York
Maybe it’s because I’m a New Yorker and I always know it’s there, the Statue of Liberty just isn’t worth suffering the mass of people I always find. To me, the view from the head just isn’t appreciably better than the view from the base, and the space is unpleasantly cramped.
If you need an adventure in New York Harbor, take a ride on the Beast speedboat or head to Ellis Island instead (but note that the damage from Hurricane Sandy is still being redressed on Ellis Island, meaning that access is somewhat limited).
The Catacombs of Paris
I greatly enjoyed walking through the cool and eerie ossuary beneath the streets of Paris, but the long line on a hot summer day made me long to beat it.
If you happen to be traveling to Italy, skip the Paris Catacombs and head to Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome instead. In the basement is a Capuchin crypt where thousands of dead monks’ bones are on display, in chandeliers, on the walls, stacked. The space is much smaller than the Paris Catacombs, but the feeling is just as eerie in this place where human skeletons were turned into macabre art.
The question of how the flesh came separated from the bones might come to mind, as will the thought that this is what happens when monks don’t have TV to pass the time. There’s sort of a sicko “look what we have in the basement” feel to an otherwise inspiring church, but the crypt is a good reminder that it’s the soul that’s important, not the body. If you need a dose of sanity after a visit, though, cross the Via Veneto and stop in at the Hard Rock Café Rome.
Related post: Paris: Macarons and Macabre All in One Morning