Pros: Disney World has many great attractions for different age groups.
Cons: It can be expensive depending on how you do it. The lines are sometimes long.
I am not a globetrotter but I've been to some interesting places around the world; I've scuba dived in the Great Barrier Reef (Australia), stayed at the Ice Hotel (northern Sweden), visited Dracula (Vlad III) related places around Transylvania and Walachia, toured the world's largest castle, I've been to many US States and cities, many European cities and countries, US National parks, Central America, Israel, the Grecian Islands, been held by Soviet authorities (80's), toured the Virgin Islands, etc.
I have to say that I am pretty confident that Disney World in Orlando, Florida is one of the most interesting and fun places in the world, and arguably the best Family vacation spot in the world.
The third week of June of this year we visited Disney World for the sixth time. We were six people, my wife and I and our three children and a cousin once removed of mine from Sweden. We did many of our favorite rides, shows and attractions once more and we had a good time. Since we have gone to Disney World without kids and with kids as young as two years old up to seventeen years old I think I have a good idea of what kids of different ages like at Disney World. I have created two ranked lists below consisting of top ten attractions at Disney World. The first list is geared towards adults and teenagers. The second list is geared towards the younger children.
I have added links to the attractions that have reviewed and I will add links to most of the remaining attractions in the near future.
Top Ten Attractions for adults and teenagers
This ranked list is composed of attractions that might not appeal to young children because they are either too scary, too fast or might be somewhat boring to a young child because it is a show. However, I believe that most adults and teenagers will find these attractions very enjoyable. I am basing my list on my experiences and that of my wife, oldest son and various friends and relatives who have visited Disney World with me.
1. Epcot the World Show Case
The World Show Case at Epcot, is a large attraction that really consists of many smaller attractions. However, you typically do the World Show Case as one big attraction and it is difficult to pinpoint which "sub-attraction" is the best. The World Show Case consists of eleven Nations (Canada, UK, and France, Morocco, Japan, America /US, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, and Mexico). Each nation consists of a set of buildings, shops, and streets which specifically represents that nation. The nations typically also feature a few somewhat authentic restaurants (or pubs/biergartens) staffed by natives, as well as rides, shows and movies about that nation. The Nations are located around a near circular lake which also hosts the Illuminations show.
Why I chose this as the number one attraction is because everyone I know (from overseas and the US) with whom I have visited Disney World, has expressed how much they liked this part of Disney World. I and many of my friends and family think this is the most interesting and enjoyable part of Disney World. You don't stand in long lines for a short ride; you walk around, look at interesting things, shop, have lunch or dinner, have a beer or some good wine in France, speak to the natives, and watch a movie or ride a fun "ethnic" ride.
Fantasmic is one the most fascinating shows that I've ever scene in my life. It is held at the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater (holds 10,000 people) at Hollywood Studios (former MGM) at Disney World. The show is about a dream that Mickey Mouse is having. It involves numerous Disney characters, 40 feet tall fire breathing dragons, orchestra music, large boats, dancing and acting, lasers and visual special effects, and Mickey Mouse stands above all this conducting it and fighting monsters. The show also features large water mist screens which pop out of the water that surrounds the podium. Disney movies are then projected onto these water mist screens and the result is quite impressive. This is a quite remarkable special effect you don't see often.
"Illuminations" or "Reflections of Earth" is a show held on the lake in the World Show Case at Epcot. The Illuminations show feature laser light effects, huge burst of fire, fireworks, and a floating spherical video display system (weighing hundreds of tons). The show tells the story about the creation of Earth and the achievements of the human race and ends with some amazing celebratory fire works. The show is typically held 9PM every night and can easily be seen from anywhere in Epcot (outside) and portions of it can be seen from anywhere within Disney World (and Orlando). To get a look of the show you should stand by the lake. There might be a lot of people, but around France and Morocco it is usually not too many people, so that is a good place to stand.
4. The Land and Soaring
There are many interesting and fun attractions and rides at Future World which are suitable for adults and among them I think "The Land" stands out. The Land is a 59 acre area in Future Land which features futuristic buildings and pavilions and lots of greenery, exotic plants and green houses. The Land is about the environment, plant life and our world. The Living with the Land is a boat ride which is also a greenhouse tour. "Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable" is child friendly educational movie involving the Lion King characters. Soaring is a hang glider simulation. You sit in a vehicle (with feet dangling) and a concave surround movie causes the sensation of soaring, in this case above cities, the golden gate bridge, and natural parks in California.
5. Splash Mountain
Splash Mountain is a log ride located in Frontierland in Magic Kingdom. It features four drops and the last drop is quite significant. What makes this ride great, is not the log ride itself or the drops, but the themed entertainment along the ride. The Splash Mountain ride tells the story of Br'er Rabbit who leaves his home to look for his laughing place and along the way there are various stations with stuffed animals, dolls, scenery and decorations that visually tells you the story. It's fun and hilarious. Another nice aspect of the ride is the great view of Magic Kingdom that you have before the final drop. Splash Mountain is a quite popular ride so the lines are sometimes long and can exceed 90 minutes, however, we used a fast pass last time.
6. Space Mountain
Space Mountain is a famous old Disney World classic located in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom. It is a themed indoor roller coaster with a space theme. The fact that the Disney World roller coasters are themed is what makes them good. Disney World has so much to offer that you wouldn't care about the roller coasters otherwise. You sit in a bobsled looking vehicle and you go through a strobe light tunnel and then you enter into the roller coaster area which is inside a huge dark dome. There are drops, lifts, turn-arounds twists, and along the way you see stars, galaxies, the moon, the earth, comets and more. I once rode this roller coaster with a seven year old girl but she was brave. I would recommend to older kids and adults.
7. Rock'n Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith
The "Rock'n Roller Coaster" is a themed indoors steel roller coaster set to Rock'n Roll music. It is located in Hollywood Studios (former MGM) at Disney World. You are seated in what looks like a limo and each seat has five speakers. You take off and accelerate from 0 to 60mph in 2.8 seconds which causes you to experience a g-force of 4.5g (more than a space shuttle astronaut). You speed into a tunnel and into various corkscrews and roll-overs. This roller coaster is fast but smooth and there are no big drops, which makes it a great thrill ride without making it uncomfortable. I should add that this roller coaster is absolutely not for young children. I rode it with my boy when he was ten and that was fun but the kids should not be much younger than that. We did not visit Disney World to go on roller coasters but when Disney makes themed roller coasters they are good.
8. Pirates of the Caribbean
The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is a themed raft ride located in Adventureland in Magic Kingdom in Disney World. Along the ride you will see pirates, pirate ships, skeletons, cannons shooting, a town being ransacked and Captain Jack Sparrow (from the movie). The only drop on the ride is pretty mild which makes it suitable for both adults and younger children. The really young ones may get scared of the skeletons and the pirates though. When we rode it last time in June there was no waiting time at all. However, normally there is somewhat of a wait (but not too bad).
9. Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
There are many good shows and rides for adults at Hollywood Studios including the Great Movie Ride, the Backlot Tour, stunt shows, and the aforementioned Rock'n Roller Coaster. However, I think "Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular" stands out as probably the best stunt show at Hollywood studios (I admit it was not an easy pick). The "Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular" is a live stunt show based on the Indiana Jones movie. The hero in the show is a Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones) look alike. The show starts out with Indiana Jones escaping various dangers in a Peruvian temple including that huge rolling ball (if you remember from the movie). This is followed by various scenes from the Indiana Jones movies (but with a different story) including fighting in Cairo and Indiana Jones trying to stop the Nazis from flying off with the ark. There are explosions, fire, shooting, and stuntman action. It is quite entertaining.
10. Haunted Mansion
This is a haunted ride featuring ghostly encounters, heads floating in the air, skeletons, portraits with people who are moving in the portraits, things popping up, coffins, a crazy woman with a knife, holographic images of ghost being super imposed on top of you when you pass mirrors and much more. It is not very scary (but a little), however, the special effects are impressive and the ride mixes horror with humor. This ride is quite enjoyable for adults as well as children unless they are really young.
Other attractions I highly recommend to adults and teenagers:
The Electric Parade (Magic Kingdom) - This is an impressive parade held every evening at Magic Kingdom. It consists of a large set of floats lighted with colorful lights. On the floats there are various Disney characters, a dragon, a large light eagle, and American flags created by lights.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Magic Kingdom) - A themed roller coaster ride in Adventureland in Magic Kingdom.
Buzz Lightyear (Magic Kingdom) - I recommend this ride for adults as well as children. See the description under the kids section below.
Ellens Energy Adventure (Universe of Energy at Epcot) - Ellen De Generes and Bill Nye the Science guy takes you on a trip through Earth's history to see where fossil fuels and other energy sources come from. The show features some amazing animatronics Dinosaurs. The best parts of the show are the comic situations involving Ellen. Ellen fighting off a roaring dinosaur "if you can't say something nice, well, then don't".
Test Track (Epcot) - Test Track is thrill ride located in Future World at Epcot. It simulates the test procedures that GM uses to test vehicles and includes a fast ride around a track (the fastest ride in Disney World).
Muppet Vision 3D (Hollywood Studios) - This is an old classic that have me laughing every time I revisit it. This is a funny 3D movie which includes some other special effects including animatronics.
Studio backlot tour (Hollywood Studios) - I like the backlot tour. The backlot tour will take around and show you different movie sets, movie artifacts, as well as showing you examples of how some action packed movie scenes are created. This is an interesting attraction that might be boring to some children and teenagers.
The Great Movie Ride (Hollywood Studios) - The great movie ride is a fun for both adults and children. You are seated in large ride vehicles and taken through various movies throughout Hollywood history. There are movie set ups, animatronics as well as real actors entertaining you. The ride is pretty long so you get bang for your buck.
The Twilight Zone of Terror (Hollywood Studios) - This is a somewhat spooky drop tower ride.
It's tough to be a bug (Animal Kingdom) - I recommend this ride for adults as well as children. See the description under the kids section below.
Festival of the Lion King (Animal Kingdom) - This is live dancing and singing show featuring a large cast and several large moving animal props (elephants, giraffes, Simba the Lion, etc). This show is good for both adults and children.
Kilimanjaro Safaris (Animal Kingdom) - This is a large safari ride (you sit in a tour bus). You'll see a large range of animals close up including lions, crocodiles, elephants, and much more.
Kali River Rapids (Animal Kingdom) - This is a river raft ride. It is not the best one I've been on but it is pretty good, especially when it is hot.
Best Attractions for kids (young kids)
This ranked list is composed of attractions that appeal to young children (in my experience). However, many of these attractions appeal to adults as well. One of the items is on both lists (Haunted Mansion). I am basing my list on my experiences and that of my children, especially from when they were little.
1. Character Breakfast or Dinner
We've done Character Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner a number of times in the past and this is a great hit with the younger kids. Characters like Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck, Chip and Dale, Cinderella, Princesses, Lilo and Stitch, etc, are present at the Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner and interact with the kids (or the adults). They talk to the kids, hug them, and serve them food. You can take pictures of the characters with the kids and the kids typically love it. There are at least 13 places in Disney World World that offer character dining. Many Disney hotels do and so does restaurants at the various parks.
2. Meet the Disney Characters / Mickey's Toontown Fair (Magic Kingdom)
Meeting the Disney Characters Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck etc is a treat for the really young ones. In my experience Goofy can be fun for slightly older kids (4+) but he might be scary to the really young, just because he is tall and goofy. Mickey's Toontown Fair have one good spot (Judge's Tent) where you can meet all these characters but here you can also see Mickey's house and Minnie's house as well as a small roller coaster for the really young.
3. Buzz Lightyear (Magic Kingdom)
The Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin ride is combined ride and a shooting gallery based on the Toy Story 2 movie. It is located in Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom (Disney World). You are seated in a car which you control with a joy stick and you are also given a laser gun with which you shoot at targets located on space aliens and other items. This ride is a lot of fun for younger kids and fun for adults as well. The lines for this ride can be long. However, we used a fast pass last time.
4. Ketchakiddie Creek (Typhoon Lagoon)
Typhoon Lagoon is one of the water parks at Disney World. The other one is Blizzard Beach. Taking one day off to relax at beaches or the water slides at Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach might be a good idea. In my opinion Typhoon Lagoon has the best kids' area of the two parks. Ketchakiddie Creek feature kid friendly water slides, raft rides, and water cannons. The "Bay Slides" which are body slides for children are nearby as well as the Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool. Young kids love this place.
5. It's tough to be a bug (Animal Kingdom)
The "It's tough to be a bug" show is located in the root of the "Tree of Life" at the center of Animal Kingdom. This is 3D movie (3D glasses) which has some awesome 3D effects as well as animatronics, objects coming down from the ceiling, special features in the seats (push, poke, spray, etc) as well as smell. It presents the world of bugs and it will have you laughing.
6. DisneyQuest (Downtown Disney)
DisneyQuest in Downtown Disney is themed game arcade featuring amazing virtual reality games. Kids can build their own roller coasters and ride them in virtual reality machines, create their own toys using computers, and they can use laser swords to fight villains in a virtual reality world, and much more. The “Pirates of the Caribbean” virtual reality game involves steering a ship and shooting three feet long cannons at 3D animated pirate ships. My kids loved this place.
7. Jungle Cruise (Magic Kingdom)
The Jumgle Cruise is a boat ride along what is supposed to be the Amazon River, the Congo River, and the Nile River. You will see amazing artificial animals along the way while your tour guide is talking about the plants and animals that you see. A number of scary things (not too scary) happen along the ride including attacks by dangerous animals and hostile natives. This is fun for the young ones but also fun for adults.
8. Tomorrowland Indy Speedway (Magic Kingdom)
The Tomorrowland Indy Speedway is like Go Cart on tracks. Little kids think this is really fun since it gives them the illusion that they are actually steering. The race cars are designed in an imaginative way that appeals to children. Dad can come with for a ride if he wants to. The really small children need to have dad or mom with them as a passenger.
9. Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool (Typhoon Lagoon)
The Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool features a large beach (nice for parents) and a large lagoon in which artificial waves are created with a wave machine. In my experience kids love the Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool. Just be a little careful with the really young ones (hold on to them).
10. Peter Pan's Flight (Magic Kingdom)
This is a slow ride which takes you soaring above London and then off to Never Land. You'll see the Never Land Island, Mermaid Lagoon and the Lost Boys camp as well as captain Hook's ship and the many characters from the Peter Pan story. This is a fun, imaginative and kid friendly ride.
Other attractions I highly recommend for young children:
Tom Sawyer Island (Magic Kingdom) Tom Sawyer Island at Frontierland in Magic Kingdom, Disney World, is an artificial island featuring wilderness, caves, hiking trails, mills, a suspension bridge, and lots of things to look at. You get there by crossing the river on a raft. It is an exciting and adventurous environment for small children even though it is mostly just hiking and things to look at.
The Electric Parade (Magic Kingdom) - I recommend this ride for young children as well as adults. See my entry above.
The Haunted Mansion (Magic Kingdom) - I can recommend this ride for young children as long as they are not too young. See my entry above.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant (Magic Kingdom) - Dumbo the Flying Elephant is a carousel style ride in which you are seating in Dumbo the Elephant cars that moved up and down in addition to around and around. Our oldest son loved this ride as a kid and would go on it over and over. My wife has some pictures of me and my son from this ride. He is smiling but I look "Dumboed out".
The Many Adventure of Winnie the Pooh (Magic Kingdom) - This is kid friendly indoors ride featuring beautiful colorful visuals, props, and music.
Country Bear Jamboree (Magic Kingdom) - This is a humoristic show that is fun for both kids and adults. A band of bears is playing old style country music to the comments of a Bison, a Moose, and an Elk that are hanging on the wall.
Illuminations (Epcot) - I recommend this ride for young children as well as adults. See my entry above.
Ellens Energy Adventure (Universe of Energy at Epcot) - I recommend this ride for young children as well as adults. See my entry above.
Fantasmic (Hollywood Studios) - I recommend this ride for young children as well as adults. See my entry above.
Muppet Vision 3D (Hollywood Studios) - I recommend this show for young children as well as adults. See my entry above.
The Great Movie Ride (Hollywood Studios) - I recommend this ride for young children as well as adults. See my entry above.
Festival of the Lion King (Animal Kingdom) - I recommend this show for young children as well as adults. See my entry above.
Kali River Rapids (Animal Kingdom) - I recommend this ride for young children as well as adults. See my entry above.
Kilimanjaro Safaris (Animal Kingdom) - I recommend this safari for young children as well as adults. See my entry above.
Dinoland USA (Animal Kingdom) - Is an area in Animal Kingdom featuring lots of fun attractions for kids as well as things to see, for example, dinosaur skeletons including an artificial replica of Sue the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found. In Dinoland there is a somewhat kid friendly steel roller coaster "Primeval Whirl", "Finding Nemo" a musical show, and a Dinosaur version of the Dumbo ride called "Triceratops Spin". There is also a ride called Dinosaur which is dark, it jerks and shakes, and I found it to be somewhat uncomfortable and I cannot recommend it to children.
These are my two lists of recommendations for adults and young children. It is based on my experience, the experience of my children, and that of my wife, other friends we visited Disney World together with, and that of the children of friends. The lists are not long but with the details I provided this essay/review is long. Take what ever you want from it and I hoped it helped you plan your vacation.
To see my Top Ten Theme Parks and Amusement Parks list click here.
To compare with Disneyland click here.