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Walt Disney World’s Lesser Known Attractions

Updated on August 25, 2017

Walt Disney World’s Lesser Known Attractions

Rides like Splash Mountain, Expedition Everest or Pirates of the Caribbean are generally found at the top of everyone’s Disney bucket list. Don’t fill up your itinerary too quickly, though— Florida’s Disney World is roughly the size of the city of San Francisco. There’s more to do than you probably even realize. Next time you walk into the parks to grab a map, look for some of these little, lesser known gems.

Mickey’s Philharmagic

Mickey’s Philharmagic

In front of the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in Fantasyland there is an entrance to a small movie theater. The film that runs every 15 minutes is a comical romp following Donald Duck as he chases Mickey’s pesky sorcerer’s hat through some beloved and classic animated films. This is no ordinary 3-D movie, though; Mickey’s Philharmagic offers a fully immersive, 4-dimensional experience.

The 3-D effects alone are spectacular. You’ll feel like you can reach out and touch Tinkerbell as she flies by or that you can grab the gems floating in Ariel’s hidden grotto. Disney doesn’t stop with the visual effects, however. You’ll be splashed by water-toting mops, smell the apple pie as Lumiere invites you to be his guest and feel the rush of wind as you ride a carpet through the streets of Agrabah.

If you want seats in the front, line up at the theater lobby doors farthest to the left.

Club Cool

After a long day of traveling the World at Disney’s Epcot, you might be in the mood for something cool and refreshing. Head to Club Cool and belly up to the free soda-tasting bar. You'll be given a small cup, which you're free to refill as many times as you want.

Browse the selection. You'll find a wide array of sodas from around the world to sample. Try a watermelon-flavored pop from China or apple lift from Mexico.

Warning: not all the sodas are quite so tasty. If someone chugs some Beverly from Italy, stay out of the way; spewing is not unheard of when this bitter beverage is gulped unsuspectingly.

Rafiki’s Planet Watch

Some guests don’t make it to Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Animal Kingdom, which is set slightly apart from the rest of the action. If you’re an animal lover, it’s worth the short ride on the Wildlife Express Train.

You'll find tamarinds—world’s tiniest primate-- playing along the Habitat Habit trail. At Conservation Station, you'll have the opportunity to meet some characters or get a behind-the-scenes look at animal care. Outside, get close and personal to a few furry friends in Disney's own petting zoo.

To see some of the animals getting their veterinary check-ups, try to get there early in the day.

Rafiki’s Planet Watch

DisneyInMyEyes- Rafiki's Planet Watch

The Magic of Disney Animation Academy

The Animation Academy is not exactly hidden at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s a large building located in a huge courtyard between Pixar Place and Sunset Boulevard. When you enter the building, you may get distracted by the characters to greet, the Disney film artifacts and the computers where you can play with sound and animation. Look at the top of the stairs to the far left, and you’ll see a small, roped-off waiting area and a wall mural with pencil sketches.

If you wait there, you’ll be let into a big drawing studio. A cast member will run the class, showing you on an overhead projector how to draw a lovable character. You’ll follow along with your own paper and pencil on a light board. The best part is that you get to take your drawing home—free souvenir!

This class runs every 30 minutes throughout the day. Each class features a different character, so you may want to take more than one. It’s an excellent way to duck out of the mid-day heat and take a load off for a half hour.

Campfire Sing-Along with Chip ‘n’ Dale

If you’re having some trouble deciding which fabulous Disney resort you want to spend your vacation, Chip ‘n’ Dale fans need look no further than Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. Every night (weather permitting), the adorable furry duo host a fun event that is a free amenity for this resort.

Head to the back of the wilderness every evening to roast some marshmallows around the campfire. A musician arrives to get the crowd started with a fun, old-fashioned sing-along. The night really gets jumping when stars Chip ‘n’ Dale arrive to join in the festivities. They’ll do the Hokey Pokey and dance with the crowd, then walk around to pose for photos with each guest.

After all the excitement with the ho-down, you might want to settle down on one of the benches for the nightly family movie, broadcast on the big screen.

Maelstrom

Unless you look for it, you might miss Maelstrom. Enter the building in the back of the Norway pavilion and you’ll find a surprise indoor water ride. Jump on a log-carved boat and you’ll float back in time to mythological Medieval Norway.

Drift by an enchanted winter forest, some playful polar bears, an angry troll and talking trees, and finish it all off by plummeting down a waterfall. The artwork and atmosphere are set up to make you forget you’re indoors; the scenery is breath taking. You’ll finally dock at a small, picturesque village where you can watch a vividly stunning short film on Norway, or you can make your way directly to the gift shop.

On your way out through the gift shop, don’t miss the opportunity to don a Viking helmet, grab a sword and take your own snapshot with the giant tree troll.

WDW Tour - Fort Wilderness - Chip 'N Dale's Campfire Sing-Along

The Magic of Disney Animation Academy

Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover

The Magic Kingdom is a blast, but with all there is to see and do, it can also be exhausting. If you need to catch a second wind, it’s a good time to make your way over to Tomorrowland. Look for the TTA PeopleMover, above the Lunching Pad snack bar and below the Astro Orbiter.

The PeopleMover is one of the most leisurely, relaxing rides at the Magic Kingdom. You hop into a car on the station platform and you’re taken on a tour around Tomorrowland, going right through some of the more exciting rides like Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Just kick back, enjoy the spectacular views of the castles and the cool breeze, and catch your breath.

The best part about the TTA PeopleMover is short and fast lines; if there is no line, don’t be shy about asking if you can just stay in your car for another go-around. Your feet will thank you.

The Great Movie Ride

The Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios is a 25 minute ride-through tour of the history of film. The spectacular animated exhibits of famous films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Tarzan, Singing in the Rain, Casablanca, Alienand The Wizard of Oz are exciting enough. The cherry on top, however, is thelive-action theater.

There are two different shows that occur simultaneously in different areas. Which one you get depends on which cart you’re riding. Without giving too much away, one show involves gangsters, the other involves cowboys. If you see one, you’ll want to go back to catch the other.

The final part of the tour features a montage of movies— some of your favorites are sure to be there, and it’s hard not to smile.

Maharajah Jungle Trek

The Kilimanjaro Safari ride at Disney is arguably one of the world’s most spectacular animal attractions, but it tends to overshadow the equally impressive Maharaja Jungle Trek.

This is a walk-through attraction found in the Asia section of the park. Along the foot trail, you’ll get a chance to see komodo dragons, fruit bats, blackbuck and a blood python. The stars of the trailare the Bengal tigers playing among the ruins.

Hit this attraction early in the day when the animals are at their most frisky. If you’re a Disney resort guest, morning Extra Magic Hours are ideal. Don’t put your trek off for evening Extra Magic Hours, though— this attraction won’t be open for them. Disney doesn’t like to put the animals off their routine.

DisneyQuest

You know about the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. You probably also know about the water parks. Did you know there is yet another theme park found in Walt Disney World? It’s DisneyQuest Interactive Theme Park.

This theme park is different from all the rest—it’s entirely indoors, in a 5 story building at Downtown Disney. Inside, you’ll find a huge arcade featuring everything from classic games to virtual reality rides. Ride a magic carpet through Agrabah, command a pirate ship, design your own roller coaster ride or walk into a life-sized pinball game.

Admission to this park is separate, however, day tickets are half the price of the outdoor theme parks and all games and rides are included in the admission price.

When you visit Disney, keep your itinerary open. You’ll find a lot of activities that may not get the word-of-mouth they deserve.

Animal Kingdom's - Maharajah Jungle Trek - Walt Disney World

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      gsurvivor 3 years ago

      Thanks for your comment, Blackspaniel; I love the different 'flavors' that each Disney park offers. There's a park to suit every style mood and preference. I agree, Philharmagic is highly recommended in the Magic Kingdom. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 3 years ago

      I do like Philharmagic, and recommend it if you are in the Magic Kingdom. I prefer Epcot and the Studios to the Magic Kingdom, so I do not always travel over there.

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      gsurvivor 4 years ago

      Thanks for your comment and your vote, WiccanSage. How great to bea regular at Walt Disney World! Yes, I agree, these great rides deserve more attention. They're a little slower and not as flashy as Splash Mountain or Expedition Everest, but they still make up a great part of the experience.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 4 years ago

      I am a Disney regular and I love all of these, yes it is so true that they don't get the attention they deserve. Great hub, voted up.

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      gsurvivor 5 years ago

      Hi talfonso :-)

      That's great that you found Club Cool. A lot of people don't even know it's there, many newcomers to Disney don't even know where to look for it. The Chip and Dale sing-along at Fort Wilderness is so much fun. You get to roast marshmallows, sing and dance to fun kids songs, get your photo ops (for once, you don't have to wait on line to meet characters-- the characters come to you!) and they play an outdoor movie on a big screen afterwards.

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      gsurvivor 5 years ago

      Hi Julie :-)

      The Carousel of Progress is another great one you just don't hear about enough, and most new visitors don't know to look for it. The old fashion settings are great, as well as the idea of the future.

    • talfonso profile image

      talfonso 5 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

      Lesser-known attractions, eh? I've visited a lot of them, and Club Cool is my favorite. I'm trying to cut back on soda, but Epcot is one of the only places where I'm allowed to have drinks of it. (Another reason why it's my favorite park of the 4.) I have yet to stay at a Disney hotel for a staycation and see Chip and Dale on campfire night at Fort Wilderness! That would sound really interesting and I don't need to go into the parks to see them!

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 5 years ago from Clinton CT

      I'm a Disney Freak!! I love hubs like this! I love a bunch of these- like Maelstrom and The Great Movie Ride. The only other one I would add is the Carousel of Progress. One of my favorites. Voting up and sharing!