Asking me to choose my favourite Disney Park or ride is probably one of the most difficult answers I will ever have to give. I’ll pick something, then think of another thing I love just as much, then another, and another, and so the list goes on. According to the list I’ve put together, it looks as though overall Epcot is my favourite of the parks considering the amount of rides and attractions I picked from there, and to be honest, that’s the one that pops into my head first when I’m asked the question. For some reason, Epcot just seems to hold most of the nostalgia I have about Disney, despite having visited Magic Kingdom just as many, if not more, times.
I started writing this as a single list, but with the amount I ended up wanted to write for each attraction, you would have been here for days! I also titled it my “Top 10”, but as you can see, that failed, and it’s now a Top 12 list! I also cheated a little bit by adding “similar” honorable mentions underneath some! I’m splitting it into two sections, half I’m keeping more “nostalgic” (with some now defunct rides, sob!), the other half as current as possible. They’re not in any order either, since that would make my life far too hard. I also thought it would be fun to illustrate the post with pictures from the various different trips I’ve made to Disney over the years, so hope you enjoy the pictures too – they’re from 1996 right up to 2014, and from about 5 or 6 different trips, many are old film photos too, so definitely interesting quality-wise!
The beauty of Disney is really in the details, so as much as I try to convey the attractions here, it’s nothing compared to the real thing – some of these attractions probably sound positively boring in my descriptions, but believe me, they’re awesome in real life!
So, here are my top current rides at Disney:
Pirates of the Caribbean (Magic Kingdom)
Non Disney-ites may not know this, but Pirates of the Caribbean was a ride at Disneyland far before it was a film starring Johnny Depp, in fact it was even designed by Walt himself, although it opened just shortly after his death. It’s a dark and gloomy ride inside, but a very effective one. In the Magic Kingdom Florida attraction, guests enter the building, modelled on a Spanish fort with a watch tower, and head down a series of dark passages (this is all part of the queue – watch out for Hidden Mickeys, I know a few in there!). The ride is taken in a boat which navigates grottoes, lagoons, open seas and a town being besieged, which includes a couple of very mild drops (not even drops, just downhill sections), and a recently added Jack Sparrow scene! It has a great atmosphere and you’ll be singing “Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a pirate’s life for me!” for the rest of the day.
It’s Tough To Be A Bug (Animal Kingdom)
I’m sure any Disney fan will recognise the Tree of Life in Disney’s Animal Kingdom (pictures above through time…1996, 2008, 2011, 2014), a man made tree covered in carvings of animals from around the world – this attraction is situated right underneath that! The queue area and entrance wind among the carved tree roots (see how many animals you can spot!) and you finally cram into the wait area where you pick up “Bug Eyes” which will allow you to see the creatures (3D glasses!) and wait for the doors to open. You take your seat in a large underground theatre and wait for the “curtain” to rise, except it turns out to be curtain of bugs! This is another 4D film, which Disney and Universal do so well, featuring your favourite characters from It’s A Bug’s Life, and a few surprises along the way.
Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom)
This year, we got my mum, dad and Ben to do Expedition Everest for the first time! Unfortunately, while Ben loved it and I could hear my dad yelling from behind me with glee, “My face is falling off!”, my mum came off shaking – she’s not so great with the bigger rides, despite this one only being about on par with Goofy’s Barnstormer in my estimation! This is one of my newest favourite rides – again, it has a great Tibetan themed queue, set in what I guess to be a lodge at the base of Everest before your expedition begins. You climb into a slightly beaten up train style ride vehicle and ascend the Himalayas…The ride has a couple of surprises for you, which (unsurprisingly, I’d think!) feature the yeti and “broken” track. It’s a minor thrill ride I’d say, which often has fairly long queues, but is definitely worth the wait!
Tower of Terror (Disney’s Hollywood Studios/MGM)
The good old Twilight Zone Tower of Terror! I didn’t take this on until one of our later trips, I think I was about 12, because I was too scared before, but in reality I could have done it a couple of years before that I think! Based on the old episodes of the Twilight Zone (need to watch these again, I watched some years ago!), you enter the Hollywood Tower Hotel via the overgrown gardens filled with crumbling statues and creeping vines, then into the lobby, strewn with dust and cobwebs, seemingly abandoned since 31st October 1939, according the yellowing newspaper (I have yet to find a Hidden Mickey in here, but am sure there must be one!). Cast members from behind the front desk lead you into the library where the power shuts out and a television flickers to life, explaining the story of how on that fateful day, a storm took the hotel in its grip. Guests had entered the elevator (Hidden Mickey here!), began to ascend, when it was hit by lightening and plummeted into….The Twilight Zone. Riders then head to board the service elevators via the basement, darkened and filled with rattling boilers, and I’m sure you know the rest from here! Really it’s the build up and story that makes this ride what it is, not the drops! But the ride itself is fantastic, although not so great if you’re not a thrill seeker (ie. the year we got Ben, my mum and dad on the ride…they didn’t talk to us for a good hour afterwards…).
Honorable Mention: I can’t miss out Hollywood Studios’ other thrill ride, the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster which really does as the name says – it’s a rollercoast with added rock and roll, starring Aerosmith which plays in your eyes as you hurtle through the dark! It’s an indoor coaster, in mostly darkness, so you have no idea where the track is heading, but filled with very clever lit up signs, supposed to mimic the Los Angeles freeway as you’re in a stretch limousine heading late to the gig!
Kilimanjaro Safaris (Animal Kingdom)
Honorable Mention: Jungle Cruise in Magic Kingdom (pictured above) – I was tempted to include this in the full list, but decided it could have an honorable mention instead! The queue area for this may seem stuffy and boring, and but look around you, and you’ll realise it’s far more interesting than you think – it’s packed full of Disney “in jokes”, including a Hidden Mickey or two and a lot of theming to the ride (clue: make sure to read all the writing you see, maybe say it aloud, and you’ll find a few more jokes!). Check out the name of the boat you’re boarding as they’re always fun, such as “Nile Nellie” and “Ganges Gertie”. You’re guided down a river which transitions between the Amazon, Congo, Nile and Mekong; you’ll see animatronic animals such as elephants, hippos and snakes, as well as a tropical jungle outpost. The guides on this are usually excellent, and if there’s any hold up in offloading the boats, you’ll be treated to a mini comedy show by them!
Soarin’ is a difficult one to get a picture of, but here’s one in the (not so fun) queue (and I’m wearing a tiara, so I think that just about makes up for it!) – there is a more interesting part of the queue where you get to play a giant interactive game with everyone else waiting, so it’s not all bad!
Anyway, the ride is within Epcot’s The Land pavilion. It’s a fairly simple ride really, but one of our favourites as a family – you hop on board a hang glider which lifts you up high above a huge screen below you – it’s so big that once you’re up there, aside from seeing other hang gliders and feet in your peripheral vision, it’s all you can see. Below you, images from across America flash across the screen as you “soar” above them. The best part is that you can feel the wind blowing on your face and can smell the things you’re flying over – don’t worry, they’re all pleasant, including pine trees and orange groves. It’s a fantastic experience to feel like you really are flying.
Haunted Mansion (Magic Kingdom)
The Haunted Mansion is such a classic Disney ride and has probably one of the best queues and most iconic preshows. I’m not ashamed to admit that I used to be a little bit scared of the holographic ghosts that appear at various times throughout the ride, but then again, I was 6 the first time!
The queue area has been recently updated and is fantastic, featuring a musical crypt where you can tap instruments on a tomb to hear them play; a sea captain’s tomb where you hear him gurgling underwater; and the “Secret Library” with a haunted bookcase where books pop in and out.
Entering the building, you are taken first into the preshow room where you are surrounded by pictures which at first look normal, but are hiding a secret – this is the stretching room, and the pictures stretch with it to reveal that all is not as it seems! Embarrassingly, I only figured out how this illusion is actually done a couple of years ago (on what was probably at least my 15th time on the ride in my life!). There is a flash of lightning, the lights go out and…I won’t ruin the surprise! You then exit the room and board your “doom buggy” which takes you on a tour of the haunted house and its grounds, meeting its various ghostly residents in darkened rooms where ghouls dine and dance or music instruments spin around you, and through the graveyard packed with forgotten souls. It sounds a bit scary from this, but in reality it’s more spooky than scary – I wouldn’t hesitate to take young children on it, just make sure to keep them close to you in the preshow room where it gets dark and be prepared for any slightly surprised jumps. As with all the rides, there are plenty of in jokes, such as gravestones outside the mansion inscribed with cast member names or funny rhymes, so keep an eye out and read everything you see.