Behold the magic of Disney: the spectacle, the wonder, the excitement. We all feel it. We all know it.The shows are good, the food is great, the characters are excellent and slightly terrifying, but the attractions… The attractions are what draw us in time after time and persuade us to pay, wait, and revel. I could go on and on about the sparkle and grandeur of Disney (yadda, yadda) but let’s face it: we go for the rides.
Hundreds of attractions dot the landscapes of Disneyland, Disney World, Tokyo, Paris, and Hong Kong and millions of people wait hours just to experience a mere couple of minutes of these Disney creations. Some attractions we find to be worth the wait while others leave us wondering why we endured the line, the repetitive music, and the obnoxious foreign children (and parents for that matter) for that. While I have never ventured across the seas or even across the county to check another Disney park off of my list, I do consider myself to be a Walt Disney World enthusiast. I have loved attractions and disliked attractions and have decided that there are some that I would always ride- as long as there was no wait. To assist you I have considered Walt Disney World’s four parks and have narrowed down my favorite attractions to five. These five choices await you in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Magic Kingdom and can fill the categories of coasters, dark rides, and “other”. I have my own reasons for loving these particular creations and while you may agree with me, you will ultimately have to decide for yourself.
Anywhere else the roller coaster is simply designed to whip its riders from side to side, climb and plummet, dash, race, and thrill. At Disney, Imagineers have designed each coaster to not only do just that, but to capture each audience with creative mystery and story telling. While no Disney coaster loops or takes off from zero to sixty, the ideas behind each ride and matching story makes up for this missing piece.
1. Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Everest is one of Disney’s newest coasters and is quite literally worth any wait. The coaster moves throughout the Himalayas and past shrines dedicated to the mighty Yeti. The ride allows guests to believe that they’re about to spill over the peak of the mountain when suddenly the track is torn and ripped- work clearly done by the Yeti. The rest of the ride follows this theme as the coaster finds dead ends created my the monster and more pieces of track destroyed with nowhere to go.
Reasons why this coaster is great:
*Excellent creativity in terms of theme.
*Truly a thrilling coaster.
*Excellent views of the park (as well as other parks) from the peak of the mountain.
*Entertaining and masterfully thought out wait queue.
*Get a Fast Pass, wait in line and ride, then use your Fast Pass to ride again.
*Sit in the front to enjoy views of the ride and park but sit in the back to more thoroughly enjoy the theme.
2. Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom: Space Mountain is THE quintessential Disney coaster. Located in Tomorrowland, the ride is outer space themed (duh) and gives riders an idea of the quick space travel of tomorrow (where’s Zenon?). Some coasters give riders thrills with speed, others with loops and corkscrews. Space Mountain uses one asset to thrill its many guests: the dark. The coaster climbs and drops in relatively total darkness with just the dashing colorful lights of space to give riders and sense of direction. Screams and the sounds of many trains fill the monstrous room, adding just the perfect touch of terror and filling guests with the desire to ride again (and again!).
Reasons why this coaster is great:
*Due to the darkness, riders truly don’t know what’s coming next.
*Air conditioned queue.
*Truly a thrilling coaster (especially considering when it was built).
*Use Fast Pass!
*There are two loading areas within the ride. As a guest you may believe that this is the case simply to allow more guests to load more quickly. While this is true, it is also true that each “side” of Space Mountain is different. If riding more than once, request to ride from the opposite loading area the second time!
“Dark rides” are classic Disney Parks entertainment and take riders through the stories that enchant us most. Usually slow-moving and well, dark, these attractions draw large crowds not for the thrills but for the enchantment that is a Disney story.
3. Peter Pan’s Flight at Magic Kingdom: Board Peter’s flying pirate ship and sail over London and Neverland. Opened in 1971, Peter Pan’s Flight was innovation for its time. Keeping this in mind, the ride is still pretty cool. For me it’s nostalgia that makes this dark ride so utterly perfect. Peter Pan is not only my favorite Disney movie but my favorite story in general (J.M. Barrie is the genius here) and to be able to fly over the beautifully constructed London or the perfectly created Neverland is pure joy and sheer magic. Even if Peter Pan isn’t your favorite Disney tale you should still check it out. The creativity is astounding.
Reasons why this dark ride is great:
*You’re suspended from the ceiling, not moving along the floor. This difference from other Disney dark rides makes Peter Pan’s Flight thuper kewl.
*Excellent portrayal of the Disney adaptation.
*Remarkable animatronics (for 1971).
*A lot of the characters are life-sized so you’ll feel as though you’re part of the story.
*The entire story and all of the characters are portrayed.
*Be open-minded. It was opened in the 70’s, after all.
4. Under the Sea- Journey of the Little Mermaid at Magic Kingdom: Like Peter Pan’s Flight, Disney’s newest dark ride follows Ariel’s entire story. Riders board a clam shell and glide “under the sea” to witness Atlantica, Ursula’s spell, Ariel on land, and her happily ever after. Again, this ride is nostalgic for me because of my love for Ariel. But seriously, this shit is cool. The animatronics are outrageously legit and since the characters are life-sized, you feel as though you’re part of the story.
Reasons why this dark ride is great:
*Follows the story perfectly and forgets nothing.
*The ride is long! Well, longer than other dark rides.
*The wait queue is excellent! Spend time outside of Prince Eric’s castle and winding through sea caves.
* Ariel is waiting to be met right next door in Ariel’s Grotto. During my last trip there was quite literally no one waiting because she’s so out-of-the-way!
*Take photos! The lighting is excellent and the cars are moving slow enough to get some great shots.
Besides coasters and dark rides, Disney packs some pretty excellent shows, walk throughs, boat rides, and rides that I would deem to be on a whole other level (Kilimanjaro Safaris in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a great example). This final attraction originated at Disney’s California Adventure and I’m beyond thrilled that Disney took some smart pills and recreated it in Florida.
5. Soarin’ at EPCOT: If you’ve experienced Soarin’ then you understand why it can’t possibly be placed into any practical category. Tens of riders at a time are strapped into giant “hang gliders” that all face an IMAX-sized screen and slowly the gliders rise and the screen comes to life. The next several minutes allows guests to fly over California- all of California. Mist sprays guests as they soar over the Pacific and a faint citrus scent fills the air as the gliders move over orange groves. If there is a single word to describe Soarin’ it’s “impressive”.
Reasons why this ride is great:
*You truly feel as though you’re flying.
*The movement of the gliders and the video match excellently.
*Great attention to detail.
*Wow. Just wow.
*You will most likely have to use Fast Pass.
*If heights are a worry for you, make sure you get in the loading line that’s furthest away from the ride entry door (there are three). This hang glider hangs out closer to the floor.
And there you have my five most excellent, most thrilling, most perfect, most wonderful Disney attractions. Some thrilling, some nostalgic; all magical.Comment to tell me what your favorite is and why!