Top 10 Disney Theme Park Attractions


Disney has hundreds (if not thousands, I’m not counting!) of theme park attractions and rides at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney Resort, and Hong Kong Disneyland. Obviously, not all of these attractions were created equally. At their best, Disney attractions are timeless classics that have multi-generational appeal. At their worst, they’re dressed up versions of amusement park staples.

I thought it would be fun to put together a list of what I consider the 10 best attractions worldwide. As there are literally more Disney parks than there are attractions on this list, some great ones are bound to be snubbed, but I’m keeping to a strict 10 attraction limit. Even if I had a list with 40 more honorable mentions, I’d be still be snubbing some very worthy attractions. As it’s a multi-continent list, it’s not like this top 10 has any functional utility anyway…it’s more geared at being a fun conversation piece for Disney theme park fans. I want to do more worldwide lists like this, so if this one is popular, it will be the first of many more to come. I enjoy comparing and contrasting all of the different parks, and want to do more posts like that, anyway. They’re a nice change of pace from the normal trip planning material here.

A few notes about the list before we get started. First, while it’s my personal list, I’m considering not just what I like the best, but also what I consider to be objectively the most impressive and captivating attractions. I don’t have any specific scoring criteria–it’s basically just a mix of my gut reaction and analysis. Second, only attractions that are currently operational are eligible. It’s very easy to say Horizons or Journey into Imagination should be #1, but there’s no perfect way to tell how those would have aged or if opinions today are clouded by the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia. Third, only the best version of each attraction (we’ll call this the “Tower of Terror” rule). Finally, this list is a moving target based partially on how I feel when I’m writing it. If you ask me my top 10 tomorrow, you might get different answers.

With that said, here’s the list in no particular order! (more…)

IllumiNations Post Show: A World Showcase Stroll

Okay, so this isn’t really a post about the post-show to IllumiNations, but as I was listening to the “Evening at Epcot” music, I started thinking about how there are few experiences we enjoy more at Walt Disney World than strolling around World Showcase at night. In particular, we really like wandering around World Showcase after IllumiNations, when the park is closing and the crowds have cleared out.

World Showcase’s countries are inherently romantic, and there’s something special about being there late listening to the peaceful background music, walking hand-in-hand with someone you love through those beautiful environments, while few other guests are around. This is by far our number one World Showcase experience.

That may seem crazy since it’s not something you’ll find on a park map and isn’t really a “thing” at all, anyone who has ever done this probably understands. For us, Walt Disney World is about the little moments during which we enjoy the place and the presence of one another, and walking through World Showcase after IllumiNations is typically one of those little moments for us.

Since the restaurants in World Showcase make dining reservations until park closing and it takes some guests over an hour after park closing to finish their meals, you have some time to linger and slowly make your way out of the park. In fact, the best way to enjoy this tranquil walk through World Showcase at the end of the night is to make an 8:55 p.m. Advance Dining Reservation for a restaurant deep in World Showcase. By the time you’re done with your meal, you’re pretty much guaranteed one of these enjoyable walks out. Our top recommendation for this is Tokyo Dining, where you can enjoy a great view of IllumiNations, too, and is basically in the “middle” World Showcase, allowing you to see the most countries possible on your way out.

We understand that this late night stroll is not going to be possible for everyone for various reasons. Fortunately, while World Showcase is light on actual rides, it’s a great place to just experience, and actually has quite a lot to offer. This post definitely isn’t meant to be a definitive guide to Epcot’s World Showcase. Since we already have a Guide to Epcot Attractions, we’ll instead focus on some of the little things that many guests miss that we like most about World Showcase and random tips for having your own excellent evening in Epcot.

Let’s start out in Mexico and make a stop in each World Showcase country as we embark on our own (virtual) evening in Epcot. Hopefully you can apply some of these tips to your own World Showcase visit. Oh, and this post is best read while playing that “Evening at Epcot” music in the background… (more…)

Sunshine Seasons Review

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Epcot’s Sunshine Seasons is one of the best counter service restaurant at Walt Disney World. The Sunshine Seasons menu offers a wide variety of choices, including many healthier ones, with some of the best desserts at Walt Disney World. Along with Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, it’s one of our sentimental favorites for Walt Disney World counter service dining. Whereas Cosmic Ray’s is mostly a sentimental favorite, we have to say that Sunshine Seasons is also great from the perspective of the food.

Sunshine Seasons participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a counter service meal. Like most in-park counter service restaurants, it does not accept the Tables in Wonderland card. If you are on the Disney Dining Plan and want to eat here, you’re in luck, because as this restaurant is an exceptional value on the Disney Dining Plan (to read about the other best restaurants for getting the best bang for buck on the Dining Plan, click here).

About the only place where Sunshine Seasons stumbles, and that’s just a little, is in terms of ambiance. The seating area is just a large open-air area in the middle of The Land pavilion, and it can get loud in here at lunch time as people leave Soarin’ and immediately stop at Sunshine Seasons. It’s also a fairly plain seating area, and almost reminiscent of a mall food court. This is too bad, as there used to be a beautiful fountain in the middle of the dining area that made the ambiance more interesting. Still, we really enjoy dining here in the middle of the afternoon or late at night when it’s not nearly as busy, and the background music and balloons overhead give Sunshine Seasons a deceptive sense of calm.

We’ve had most of the major menu items at Sunshine Seasons, but going through each of them would be a bit of a chore. Instead, we’ll take a look at some of the highlights, and offer our takes on the best things to order. It’s actually a bit humorous (to us, at least) that we’ve been to Sunshine Seasons so many times. Thanks to all of the great restaurants at Epcot, we had not discovered Sunshine Seasons until our Summer 2009 Walt Disney World vacation! Since then, we’ve been to Sunshine Seasons 3-4 times per year.

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In my opinion, by far the highlight of the menu is the Oak-grilled Rotisserie Chicken. The first time I tried it, I was instantly hooked. The chicken was tender and moist (miracles at a quick service restaurant) with plenty of flavor. At that time, it came with mashed potatoes. Those were not the standard ‘instant’ type you find at many quick service restaurants, but were soft with a buttery and herb flavor. (NOTE: you can still get the chicken with the mashed potatoes, just specify that’s the side you want when you order!) We were shocked at the quality of the meal for the price. Since that trip, we make it a point to eat at Sunshine Seasons once per trip. For all the praise World Showcase gets for its dining options, we feel that Sunshine Seasons is the best counter service restaurant in Epcot.

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On our honeymoon in June 2010, I made it my goal to give some of the other options there a try besides the chicken and key lime pie, so I opted for the sandwich you see pictured, the Turkey and Monterrey Jack Cheese on Foccacia. The sandwich was great; nice and “fluffy” for lack of a better term (yet filling), and the dessert was rich yet good (not nearly as good as the key lime pie). Unfortunately, that delicious sandwich is has been replaced by a lesser sandwich, the Turkey and Monterey Jack on Ciabatta. 

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In fairness, virtually the only change to the sandwich is in terms of bread. The new sandwich still has the Chipotle Mayonnaise, and is still quite excellent (the current version is picture above). While the Cast Members serving you will not indicate this, you can mix and match sides. The default side for the sandwich is often a pasta or potato salad. If you don’t speak up, you will receive this side by default. We highly recommend ordering the sandwich from its station with no side, and then walking over to the grill station (where mashed potatoes are served), and ordering a side of mashed potatoes. Your order will still be treated as a sandwich combo with one side. Seriously, these mashed potatoes are the stuff dreams are made of. Opting for a side other than the mashed potatoes would be a grave error.

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Sarah also really likes the Mongolian Beef with Vegetable Fried Rice. She finds it to be a flavorful, somewhat healthy option. While I agree that this is a good entree, it pales in comparison to some of the other choices.

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Some other choices we like at Sunshine Seasons include the Sweet-and-Sour Chicken and Slow Roasted Pork Chop. Sunshine Seasons used to have a shockingly good grilled salmon entree (shockingly good for a counter service restaurant at Walt Disney World), but we haven’t seen that recently. It seems to have been replaced by a fish of the day. We have yet to try this, but are curious as to whether it’s as good.

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Sunshine Seasons is also great for dessert. Our number one pick is the Key Lime Pie. This is one of the best desserts at any counter service restaurant. Everything about it, from the rich tangy flavor to the lightly singed cream on top (a nice touch, we thought), to even the excellent graham cracker crust make it a dessert to be reckoned with.

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The Key Lime Pie is not the only dessert that’s excellent at Sunshine Seasons. We rate the Strawberry Shortcake and Chocolate Mousse Cake very highly, too. It’s large in size, is moist, and has some delicious whipped cream frosting. Plus, it has a lot of strawberries, so it must be healthy! These are our two go-to desserts at Sunshine Seasons, but they aren’t the only ones we like.

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Although the selection rotates (we haven’t seen our favorite, the Asian Chocolate Cheesecake in a while), the cheesecake at Sunshine Seasons is also typically pretty good.

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The Tiramisu is also a nice, light snack that tastes excellent. The only downside to it is that it’s smaller than the other desserts and more expensive, so it’s not quite as good of a value. We’ve tried numerous other desserts at Sunshine Seasons, and most have been very good. Our one recommendation with regard to desserts here are to go for something other than cupcakes or cookies. You can find those anywhere–Sunshine Seasons excels at the more “advanced” counter service desserts.

On top of the food quality, we’ve found the restaurant’s location to be perfect for our touring style, as usually we can use our first FastPass for Soarin’, eat lunch, then head for a relaxing voyage on Livin’ with the Land after lunch. Of course, there have been a couple of times where we’ve been so hungry (or arrived to the park a little late), and Sunshine Seasons made a good stop right after picking up our Soarin’ FastPasses.

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Sunshine Seasons also is one of the few Epcot restaurants that serves breakfast. There are only two options: the breakfast platter and the breakfast panini. The platter is the standard breakfast plate you can find at a number of restaurants around Walt Disney World.

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The breakfast panini is a bit more unique, but unique does not equal good. To be honest, both of these breakfast options are fairly lousy. We aren’t big fans of the “standard” Walt Disney World counter service breakfasts, as most taste like they have fake eggs, rubbery bacon, and just are not that good. Sunshine Seasons is no exception to this. We don’t knock it down any points for their breakfasts because it’s basically just the default breakfast to be avoided, and we’re only mentioning it so you know not to expect more. Still, it would be nice to see a breakfast menu as ambitious as the lunch and dinner menu at Sunshine Seasons.

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Overall, we absolutely love Sunshine Seasons. The food at lunch and dinner are unique, (mostly) healthy options and our memories of it are cherished. While the atmosphere is a bit chaotic at times, Sunshine Seasons still always manages to seem tranquil when we’re there. The unique and healthy food is also a big plus. For me, this is no doubt because of its location in The Land pavilion, a pavilion I associate with the earth and healthy living and eating. Even if the food isn’t actually good for you, it sure seems like it is!

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While the food obviously isn’t on par with Walt Disney World’s great table service restaurants, it does come close to some of the lower end table service restaurants at Walt Disney World. Quite a feat, since Sunshine Seasons is certainly not comparable in price to any table service restaurants! In its category, Sunshine Seasons is one of the best-performing restaurants at Walt Disney World. It’s right up there, I think, with a lower-tier table service favorite of mine, Beaches and Cream at Disney’s Beach Club Resort.

Heck, Sunshine Seasons can even go toe-to-toe with some table service restaurants that cost twice as much. It truly is that good. It has a varied selection of food, that, by theme park standards, doesn’t taste overly fatty or unhealthy. Although the hustle and bustle of The Land pavilion is nearby, Sunshine Seasons does a reasonably good job of secluding guests from the Soarin’ Stampede. I almost dinged Sunshine Seasons a point for that, but all things considered, that would be unfair, especially since I believe the menu is that good.

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Overall Score: 10/10

To read other Walt Disney World restaurant reviews, check out our Disney Dining Reviews Index.

Your Thoughts…

Do you agree that Sunshine Seasons is the best Counter Service restaurant at Walt Disney World? If so, which entree is your favorite? If you don’t like Sunshine Seasons, why not? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Kringla Bakeri og Kafe Review

Kringla Bakeri og Kafe is a bakery and counter service restaurant in Epcot’s Norway at Walt Disney World. It has a menu with entrees, drinks, and desserts, but the real draw here is the desserts. Kringla is arguably the best bakery in Epcot, with a variety of popular snacks. These desserts include School Bread, which has a cult following, and Lefse, which should have a cult following. Kringla participates in the Disney Dining Plan, with options for using counter service credits and snack credits.

In terms of location, Kringla is located in the village-front between the Stave Church and the Norway gift shops (and the Frozen Princess Meet & Greet), and across from Akershus. Unlike the newly-opened Les Halles in France, Kringla Bakeri og Kafe is small. Essentially, you’re in the front door, through the line, and out the other to the covered, outdoor seating area. It’s definitely not a place you’ll want to go for a snack or meal if you’re looking to escape the weather. It’s popular for guests on the Disney Dining Plan and guests paying out of pocket, thanks to a variety of snacks with a range of prices.

While it’s technically counter service, Kringla is better known as a bakery. This is not to say that the limited menu of meal items is bad (quite to the contrary), it’s just that the desserts cast a pretty long shadow. We generally only get dessert here, but that’s usually because we’ve already eaten somewhere else or are disregarding proper nutrition and are Snacking Around the World Showcase, but can’t resist a Kringla dessert. The “regular” food at Kringla actually makes it one of the better World Showcase counter service menus.

There are several good bakeries in the Epcot area (“area” is intentional here as BoardWalk Bakery rivals the best of them!), but Kringla is definitely our favorite. It’s right up there with Sunshine Seasons (which also has a solid selection of desserts) as the restaurant we visit most at Walt Disney World. We probably stop at Kringla once per trip, and 50% of the time, we get the exact same thing. Still, over time we’ve sampled just about everything on the menu. (more…)

Spice Road Table Review

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Spice Road Table is a new tapas restaurant in Epcot at Walt Disney World. It’s located in the Morocco pavilion in the World Showcase, and offers waterfront views in an open area or indoor eating area. Technically table service, Spice Road Table has a Mediterranean menu and is priced between Tangierine Cafe and Restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco, skewing much closer towards Restaurant Marrakesh. Spice Road Table accepts neither the Disney Dining Plan nor Tables in Wonderland at present, but we anticipate it accepting Tables in Wonderland at a later date.

Spice Road Table continues a recent trend in the expansion of World Showcase dining options. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with this, but when the only additions to World Showcase in recent years are La Cava del Tequila (2009), Via Napolia (2010), La Hacienda (2010), Tutto Gusto (2012), Les Halles Boulangerie and L’Artisan des Glaces (2013), with no substantive attraction additions or overhauls (excluding minor exhibits and games) since El Rio Del Tiempo became Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros in 2007, it’s a little troubling. This is especially true when the last bona fide new attraction added to World Showcase was Maelstrom in 1988. That’s over 25 years ago. We love some of these new dining options–La Cava del Tequila and Via Napoli are great–but the idea of paying admission to a theme park for the “privilege” of then paying more money for its new focus, dining, is frustrating. If the dining additions were coming step-in-step with attraction additions and plussings, we would applaud these new dining choices.

But we digress; Disney’s focus of increasing upcharge opportunities at Epcot instead of experiences included in theme park admission doesn’t bear on the quality of Spice Road Table itself. While it eats up more prime World Showcase lagoon waterfront space, it’s actually replacing a hodgepodge of “temporary” kiosks and looks far nicer than these kiosks. So at least there’s that small victory. (more…)