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Disney World Rides - My Top 5 Favorite Disney World Attractions
This is my "best of" list of my top favorite Disney World rides. I've never been much for roller coasters and thrill rides, but I absolutely love the theme park rides at Walt Disney World. Some are more thrilling and some are just magical experiences.
What you may note is an absence of some of the bigger thrill rides here. That's mostly because I'm a big baby. So I don't go on rides like Everest or Rock & Roll Rollercoaster. But if you want to experience amazing Disney magic, you don't need to be a thrillseeker.
There are plenty of amazing experiences at Walt Disney World that don't require you to move at 60 mph. This list is just a small fraction of some of my favorite Disney World attractions and not all of them even quality as "rides", but I think all of them are "can't miss!"
Tower of Terror photos by EmbitcaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney Studios
The first time I ever saw this ride I said, "Nuh uh, not doing it." If you are standing on the street in Disney Studios that leads up to the attraction, you can actually see the elevator plunging and then suddenly halting, rising and plunging again. You can hear the screams. So there wasn't anything that was going to get me on that ride.
Well fast forward a few years later and my niece dares me to go on and I guess I was feeling brave or something (I'm a big baby when it comes to rides) and so I decided to go on it. And then realized what I'd been missing those intervening years.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is without a doubt one of the most well-themed rides at Walt Disney World. In fact, it may really be the best. Everything about it is perfect, starting right from the pathway that makes its way up to the Hollywood Tower Hotel lobby.
Once inside, you are ushered into a room by one of the Hotel bellhops and then somehow you find yourself in what is clearly the basement of this rickety old hotel. And you stumble your way onto an elevator where you are strapped into a chair. Not long after, the screaming starts.
But what you don't really hear from outside is the laughter. There's something really exhilarating about the random plunges and sudden stops. It all ends very quickly and then you are released. You exit towards the Hotel reception desk and then.... the gift shop!
Haunted Mansion photos by EmbitcaClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Haunted Mansion in the Magic Kingdom
It is really hard for me to decide between Haunted Mansion and the Tower of Terror when it comes to the top spot. I love them both very much and when I'm at Disney World I wind up riding Haunted Mansion far more often than the Tower of Terror simply because I spend a lot more time at the Magic Kingdom than I do Disney Studios. It's also a tamer ride. ToT I can take only so many times. But Tower of Terror is more extensively themed, I think, so we'll leave it at the number 1 spot for now.
But let's talk about The Haunted Mansion. Funnily enough, this ride absolutely terrified me when I was a kid. During my family's first trip to Walt Disney World, when I was about 9 years old, I completely freaked out in the Stretching portraits elevator. Freaked out as in screaming my head off and crying a lot. I was a very impressionable child and at the time had no idea I was inside an elevator. So seeing the portraits stretch to reveal not so nice things flipped me right out. Now, of course, it is one of my all time favorite attractions at Disney World.
Disney refurbished Haunted Mansion in Fall of 2007 and they did an amazing job, truly amazing! They added a brand new section to the ride in what was formerly a blank section of the ride. It's ingenious really that they fit this new piece into the space. What on earth am I talking about it? The staircase! I like to think of it as the Escher staircase since it looks an awful lot like an Escher drawing. In addition, the ride has just generally been cleaned up and brightened and the audio has been remastered. All in all, a spiffy update to one of my favorite rides.
On quiet days in the Magic Kingdom, I will often do visit Haunted Mansion four or five times in a row. My favorite scene is the dinner party full of ghosts.
Soarin' at Epcot
Soarin' is actually my favorite Disneyland ride, but due to its huge popularity at Disneyland, Disney added it to Epcot, and it's another great success. This will always be the attraction with the longest lines in Epcot, so if you want to ride it, use a fastpass.
Since I get to Walt Disney World a lot more often than I get to Disneyland, Soarin' belongs on my top 5 list here. In Disneyland, the ride is called Soarin' over California, but here at WDW, it's simply called Soarin'. It is the exactly same ride, however, and Soaring over California is exactly what the ride does.
Soarin' is kind of like a hang-gliding simulation, except you are seated. Once you are strapped into your chair, it lifts into the air and positions itself over an 80 foot screen. During a ride that takes you over the Golden Gate Bridge, the great Redwoods, Yosemite National Park and other amazing California vistas to finally end up over the nightly fireworks display at Disneyland, you will also smell the orange groves and feel the spray from the ocean.
It's all accompanied by an amazing score and creates such a magical experience that if you don't get a bit tearful during the ride, I'd be surprised. I end up a little overwhelmed nearly every time I ride it and I've been on it at least 20 times.
Mickey's PhilharMagic at the Magic Kingdom
When you stop to consider that he's the icon of not only the Disney theme parks, but the symbol of everything Disney, it's a bit surprising that there really aren't a lot of attractions at Disney World that are about Mickey Mouse. Sure, you can meet Mickey in the park and get his autograph, you can have lunch or dinner with him at Chef Mickey's, but there aren't any rides with Mickey.
So, the Disney Imagineers apparently decided to rectify this and then came up with another attraction that isn't really about Mickey Mouse. It's about Donald Duck! Hah! Those sneaky imagineers!
Mickey's PhilharMagic is a 3D movie attraction at the Magic Kingdom. It's located in Fantasyland. Shown on a 150 ft wide screen, the movie features scenes from all of the classic Disney animated movies. To increase the immersion, there's other interactive features as well.
The movie stars Mickey Mouse in his bandleader role and at the start of the film he sternly tells Donald Duck not to mess with his Sorcerer's hat, then Mickey goes off to take care of some things before the concert starts and leaves Donald to unpack all of the instruments.
Well, you know Donald. So we spend the rest of the movie with Donald as he tries to retrieve the Sorcerer's hat which finds its way into various scenes of your favorite Disney films.
This is a completely magical presentation that, in my opinion, is one of the not to be missed attractions at Walt Disney World. It has a compelling story, it's very funny and moving, and some truly amazing work was done to a make all of these different movie scenes work together. I think it represents some of the best imagineering work in the parks.
Once of the nice things about Mickey's PhilharMagic is though it is very popular, there usually isn't too long a wait since the theater itself is so large. So it makes a nice break in the day after you have run around the Magic Kingdom doing some of the bigger attractions. Just make sure that you do get to it at some point, because it really is a "can't miss".
Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom
Kilimanjaro Safari is the can't miss attraction at the Animal Kingdom. This safari ride has you piling into a jeep to be taken on a journey into the African Savannah. I usually do this ride several times on any trip to Walt Disney World because every time you do it, it's different. In fact, you'll often find that even if you ride Kilimanjaro Safari twice in a row, you will see different animals on your journey.
Because the jeeps are open-air, in some cases you will be very close to the animals as many of them can wander at will. You may see antelopes, hippos, zebras, rhinos, giraffes, elephants (and baby elephants!), and lions. Don't worry though, the lions can't get to you. You can't tell how they are unable to escape their enclosure, but trust me, they can't ;)
While you are on your Safari, your driver will receive word that a baby elephant has been captured by poachers and your gentle Safari journey turns into a thrilling chase as you track down the evil poachers. Yes, Disney has turned poaching into a theme park attraction! But it is lots of fun. Just don't be too disappointed if you find it hard to get decent photos of the animals you encounter. The ride vehicles move just a bit faster than your camera.
If you are going to spend at day at Animal Kingdom, I recommend getting on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride early in the morning and then again later in the day as different animals will be active at different times of day.