*A very big THANK YOU to my friends at www.laughingplace.com for helping me compile this list.
A first trip to Disney World can be a little overwhelming. With four parks, two waterparks, a nightclub and entertainment complex, and numerous dining and shopping opportunities, many attractions are competing for your attention. How do you narrow the list down? I recommend focusing on the making sure you see the things that Disney does really well, and then planning the rest of your time accordingly.
These days, even if you are going for a short visit the best option is to get a Park Hopper pass. This will allow you admission to go back and forth between two or more theme parks in a single day. The four major theme parks are the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Disney MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Each have their own special attractions and a unique feel, so you will want to be able to visit each of them. The following is a list I have compiled of Disneys Greatest Hits. The selections on this list are the ten attractions that I feel represent the diversity of the Disney. They include a variety of older and very new attractions, and there is at least one from each theme park. If you visit these ten greatest hits, you will experience some of the best Disney fun.
1. Pirates of the Caribbean - This is one of Disney Worlds earlier attractions, but still one of the very best experiences available at any of the theme parks. Guests board large boats and set sail for a pirate adventure. There are a series of scenes full of audio-animatronic pirates doing what pirates do best. You can see them burning down buildings, drinking, and singing the popular Pirates Life for Me theme song, which is likely to stick in your head all day. The figures are pretty realistic, particularly the animals. The ride is rich with detail and keeps me entertained even after riding it dozens of times. There is one mild drop towards the beginning, but this isnt a wild ride by any means. This attraction was the basis for the recent popular movie starring Johnny Depp, and Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbosa figures have recently been added to make the ride even better. A more thorough review is available here. (Magic Kingdom Adventureland)
2. Dinosaur - Located at the Animal Kingdom, this is my very favorite Disney attraction. Visitors board time travel vehicles on a mission to bring back an iguanadon from the days when dinosaurs roam. However, the trip becomes a bit rocky and your car must avoid not only giant, carnivorous dinosaurs but get out in time to avoid the asteroid collision. This ride jerks you around quite a bit and takes place largely in the dark, but it is a complete blast! My family giggled the whole time. A more detailed explanation is available here. (Animal Kingdom Dino-Land)
3. Stroll Around the World Showcase - No trip to Disney is complete without allowing yourself some time to be immersed in the different cultures represented in the showcase. The World Showcase is situated around a lagoon in the back portion of Epcot Center. The countries include Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, United States, Morroco, France, United Kingdom, and Canada. Each offers unique shopping, live entertainment, and dining experiences. There are boat ride attractions in Mexico and Norway. France, Canada, and China have delightful films, while the United States offers a great American Adventure audio-animatronic show that is a must-see at least once. I like to start out in this area of the park in the late afternoon to enjoy a leisurely stroll around and eat dinner in one of the countries. The atmosphere in the World Showcase is the most enjoyable anywhere at Disney World, so be sure to take a break from rushing around and savor the experience. (Epcot Center)
4. Soarin' over California - This is Epcot's newest attraction and one of the best. Soarin' takes riders on a hangglider ride over a variety of georgeous California scenes. You'll fly over mountains, the ocean, and golf course. The climax is an amazing birds-eye view of Disneyland. Soarin' is great for the whole family, just don't forget to take off your shoes when you take off! Read the full review here. (Epcot Center)
5. Illuminations - Long-running but frequently updated, Illuminations is a nightly fireworks show that never fails to impress. The current version is referred to as Reflections of Earth, and I find it to be the most impressive one yet. The show is viewable from all around the World Showcase lagoon. We usually stake out a spot by the United Kingdom. Illuminations features lazers, fountains, and fireworks all timed to music. Try to find a viewing space with an unobstructed view of the center of the lagoon, as images for the early part of the show are projected on to a large ball that floats out. The fountains are lit up a variety of different colors. This show takes place at the end of the day at Epcot. Its truly a magical end to your day at Disney, and if you only have one night to see a firework show I recommend this one. (Epcot Center World Showcase)
6. Peter Pan - You can fly, you can fly, you can fly! All you have to do is think happy thoughts on this ride. Peter Pan takes riders from the Darling familys nursery over London at night and into Neverland. The soundtrack from Disneys Peter Pan movie plays in the background. You will see mermaids, pirates, and Peter and the Darling children. A more detailed review is available here. The ride is short, but magical, and the best of several similar attractions in Fantasyland in my opinion. Children and adults will both enjoy this ride. (Magic Kingdom Fantasyland)
7. Spaceship Earth - Also known as the big golf ball, this attraction is located in the giant geosphere that doubles as the symbol of Epcot Center. The attraction is a continuously loading ride that travels through the history of communication. The journey begins with paintings on a cave wall and travels all the way to internet use to create a virtual world. There is great attention to detail, be sure to look out for the snoring monk who falls asleep during his transcribing. The ride has a high capacity because of its a design, so you will rarely have to wait very long. There is something very exciting about being in the Epcot Ball. Epcot Center - Future World
8. Kilimanjaro Safari - This attraction gives you a lot of bang for your buck, lasting over twenty minutes. You will depart on an adventure to view wildlife which turns into a hunt for elephant poachers at the nature preserve. On your route, you will view a variety of real animals including elephants, lions, zebra, and many more. The attraction is different every time, depending on where the animals are hanging out. From my experience, riding this attraction early in the day yields better results in terms of seeing animals. There are lots of animals in the park, and sometimes they will walk right across the track in front of your vehicle. The guides on this safari are among the most energetic of any Disney attraction, which is impressive because they keep up their banter while looking out for wildebeests and flamingos. Make a beeline for this ride when you enter Animal Kingdom, because I have seen lines of up to two hours. Even if you have to wait a while, this is definitely one of Disneys greatest hits and not to be missed. (Animal Kingdom Africa)
9. The Great Movie Ride - This attraction best captures the spirit of Disneys MGM studios. Your guide will take you into an adventure through the movies. There are scenes shown from Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, Singing in the Rain, Alien, and Fantasia, along with many others. Of course, these adventures always run amok and your train will inevitably be hijacked by either a gangster or desperate cowboy. I wont give away the end, but probably everything will turn out all right. The ride features a combination of moving and still audio-animatronic figures, the most impressive of which is the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz scene. At the end you will see a touching film focusing on great moments in movie history. This attraction really gets me in the movie studio mood to enjoy my day at MGM. (MGM Studios)
10. Space Mountain - Although ideally a day at the Magic Kingdom would include all three mountains, (Space, Splash, and Thunder) this one is my first choice. Space Mountain is a roller coaster totally in the dark, where you can see only the stars above you as you fly through space on your rocket. There are dips and curves, but the ride isnt really too intense as roller coasters go. The darkness, however, makes it a truly unique experience. I like to try to sit in the front seat with no one to block my view of the outer space experience. No trip to Disney World is complete without flying through space! More details are available here. (Magic Kingdom Tomorrowland
So there they are, ten of Disneys most unique and well-executed attractions. There are hundreds of things to do at the theme parks and beyond, and it would take weeks to experience everything. If you ride these ten, however, you will be off to a great start in experiencing the magic of Disney!
*Planning a trip to WDW? These other reviews might be helpful...
Top Ten Things You Must See on a First Visit
Top Ten Places to Eat at WDW
Magic Kingdom for Adults
Epcot Center's Hidden Treasures
Animal Kingdom - One Day Touring Plan
Downtown Disney Marketplace
*Hotel and Restaurant links in my profile, just scroll down.
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