Even with the best time-saving tips, there’s just too much to do at Walt Disney World! It’s nearly impossible to find time to ride every attraction. But there are a handful of rides in each of the four parks that shouldn’t be missed. I’ll let you know park by park where you should go first, and what warrants a Fastpass. Whatever you do, don’t miss these! (Also, look for a similar list regarding Disney’s excellent live shows.) What makes them so great? You won’t find another ride anywhere else like these, they’re truly unique to Disney.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Expedition Everest – This is the only truly can’t miss ride currently found at the newest Disney theme park to be added to “the world”. (That’s what we Disney geeks like to call it.) This park is all about experiences, and there are a lot of amazing activities here, such as the real animal safari offered to guests. But as far as rides go, this is the one that you MUST do. I don’t care how long the line is, get a Fastpass or wait it out, just don’t miss it. It’s a thrilling coaster, and Disney has added several unique and terrifying illusions along the way. It’s the best of both worlds, you get the excitement of a dark ride, and the twists and turns of a coaster. The line for this ride isn’t so bad either, because it’s packed with authentic reproductions of cultural art, images, and architecture from Nepal. It’s no ordinary line. Take a camera!
Mission Space – This ride defies gravity. Literally. It takes the old concept of a tilt-a-whirl to a whole different level, using actual equipment that NASA uses to train astronauts for space-flight. But I will warn you, it’s not for the faint of heart. In order to pull some serious G’s, you’ll have to climb into a space that may be a little too cramped for some people’s liking. But even if you’re claustrophobic, it’s worth the effort. Nothing will give you butterflies like this ride, the illusion of launching into space is so real…it may even scare you.
Soarin’ – On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Mission Space, you’ll find Soarin’. This rie is relaxing, and quite honestly…it’s a little majestic. A lot of people skip it because they don’t find the title appealing or because when you try to explain what the ride is like, it may come across as fairly unimpressive. But don’t miss it, no matter what you’ve heard. Ever had a flying dream? Ever wanted to float around in an IMAX theater? Well, it’s kind of like that. Only Disney adds incredible little extras like wind, scents, and relaxing motion to complete the illusion that you’re literally soaring through the air. Just like the other most popular rides, the line can be long. But don’t let it daunt you. Disney has found some creative ways to help you pass the time as you wait..but I’ll let you be surprised.
The Magic Kingdom
The Haunted Mansion – It’s a classic. And classics reach their status for a reason. Aside from the detailed and rich atmosphere of the line and the ride itself, this one will give you a nice break from the heat! It’s dark, it’s cool, and it’s one of the park’s longest rides. So it’s actually quite relaxing! The greatest thing about the Haunted Mansion is it’s mix of special effects, old illusions, and creative vignettes. The ride is packed with visual treats, catchy tunes, and sight gags. It’s creepier enough to still be completely effective on adults, but innocent enough not to traumatize the kiddos.
Pirates of the Caribbean – I know I probably really don’t have to fill you in on the details of this one. We’ve all seen the movies and heard of the ride, right? Well, it still stands today as a whimsical time capsule. A window to a time in piracy that never really existed. But you’ll wish it did after you take the ride. There’s just something special about this ride, same thing with the Haunted Mansion. In this case, it’s the sights and sounds of being taken on a tropical adventure through caves and burning buildings and past pirate ships. It’s the best, and you dare not miss it. The good news? The line for this one usually moves very quickly, because boats board non-stop and seat many. If you’re going to ride this one as an adult for the first time, try not to think about how they do things and create illusions. Just sit back and enjoy it.
Splash Mountain – This ride may surprise you. It’s more than the thrilling drop at the end. Though that is the best part of the ride, for sure. Like the Haunted Mansion, this is mostly an indoor log ride. It’s a chipper little journey. It’s the closest thing you’ll ever get to stepping inside of a cartoon world. There’s something distinctly “vacation” about this ride. It could be the smell of chlorine, it could be the anticipation of the final drop, whatever it is…you can’t miss it.
The Jungle Cruise – There are several reasons you won’t want to miss this one. For starters, it’s been part of the Disney experience almost from the beginning of park history. It’s a Walt original, like Pirates. It’s a little bit like journeying through an encyclopedia from the 1940’s or 50’s. It presents you with several different locales, types of vegetation, and famous rivers as they were seen in filmstrips of days gone by. Consider it a little Geography review. With campy jokes from a tour guide. But they’re the most endearing bad jokes you’ll ever hear. Also, it’s very renascent of some famous river-journey movies such as “The African Queen” or even, “The Creature from the Black Lagoon”. So there’s extra incentive for the movie geeks out there. There’s just something about this ride, and don’t you dare miss it.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Tower of Terror – This is almost like a second Haunted Mansion. The ride queue is one-of-a-kind. Disney takes pride in authenticating time-periods and it didn’t stop when it came to recreating a 1939 hotel. It’s eerie, but you’ll also appreciate all the intricate details of the hotel lobby and the exterior. The real fun begins with the ride though, and don’t be too surprised if you find yourself feeling genuinely terrified. There are several factors about this ride that make it so scary, for started, you move on both plains. Meaning not only do you drop up and down, but at some points in the ride, you also move back and forth…in the same vehicle. This just adds to the uneasiness on a very subliminal level. If you’re a fan of the Twilight Zone, you’ll definitely geek out over this one. Even if you’re not, you’ll love the ride for it’s creep-factor and it’s thrill factor! It’s got plenty of both to go around.
Rock N Roller Coaster – This is a fast ride. Meaning that it launches fast, (From 0 to 57 mph in about 2.8 seconds!) you listen to the fast tunes of Aerosmith for the entire duration of the ride, and it’s over quickly. But the ride feels long. It’s exciting, and features some of those Space-Mountain “near miss” type moments. In fact, it’s a lot like Space Mountain for music nerds. I’ve never been much of a fan of Space Mountain. Why? The line is too claustrophobic for me and I don’t think the coaster cars are very comfortable. I think Rock N Roller Coaster is much better, an improvement on the classic indoor coaster idea. There’s nothing about this ride that coaster freaks, dark-ride fans, and thrill seekers won’t love.
The Great Movie Ride – Ah, the great movie ride. A MUST-RIDE for movie geeks. This ride takes you through movies scene by scene. It’s like a prototype for the Indiana Jones Adventure over at Disneyland. Let me be honest about something with you though, this is not a special effects spectacular. This ride saw it’s heyday in the early 90’s. Much like Star Tours, it does feel a little outdated in some ways. But it’s still worth a ride. The recreation of Grauman’s Chinese Theater is incredible. The line moves quickly. You get to watch movie previews while you wait, and if you’re a sucker for the magic of the movies at all, ride this one for sure. Even if you don’t love it, there’s a lot to laugh about and this is one of those rides that creates memories. Because of it’s slower pace, you have plenty of time to lean over and talk to the people you’re with. No matter what, don’t miss it.