My 10 Favorite Disney World Attractions
Putting together a list of my favorite attractions at Walt Disney World was surprisingly easy. Much less difficult than I expected, and easier than my attempt at “objectivity” in my Top 10 Best Walt Disney World Attractions list.
Whereas that list ranked attractions based on their actual merits, this is “just” what I like the most, which is sometimes less about logic and merit and more about personal appeal (which hopefully is, at least in part, based upon logic). There’s some overlap between this list and that one, but little redundancy.
For those attractions that make both lists, I’ll focus on some of the quirks of those attractions that makes them particularly appealing to me in this post. In other words, some nostalgic anecdotes and personal history with some of these attractions to “explain away” some choices that some of you might find a bit questionable… 😉
Please note that this list of my favorite Walt Disney World attractions is in not numbered, and that’s because there’s more fluidity within this list than its companion ‘greatest’ list. I’ve more or less ordered this list with my absolute favorites being at the bottom of the post, but the reality is that much of this depends upon mood, and even weather or time of day.
With that said, here’s the list…
Avatar Flight of Passage
This ranks highly…for now. I do wonder how I’ll feel about it once we return and have to book FastPass+ 60 days in advance, wait in long lines, or deal with heavy crowds. Truthfully, one of the things that makes certain attractions more appealing to us is a frictionless experience.
With that said, I think we’ll find a way to do Flight of Passage at least once per trip. Whether it’s making an effort to book FastPass+ early, or just waiting until the last minute to jump in the standby line (we still do Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at least once per trip, and it’s always with this method). We just enjoy the attraction that much–Sarah even loves it more than I do.
Without getting into spoilers, Flight of Passage appeals to me for a few reasons. I love the sensory effects, and feel they really enhance the experience. I also really like the entire ride film, and the way it takes you and your banshee through a variety of environments. In particular, the final act of the ride is superlative, especially the point in the attraction where the banshee lands, and the entire cavern in which you’re sitting slowly transforms. That, coupled with the intoxicating scent during that scene, literally gives me goosebumps.
Living with the Land
Whenever I talk to someone who doesn’t like Living with the Land, their justification almost always is that they don’t enjoy gardening. Neither do I. We used to have a garden at our old house, and my only “contribution” was one day accidentally (OR WAS IT?!) running over part of it with the lawnmower, a mistake that I’ll never live down.
Despite detesting the hands-on act of gardening, I am an avid consumer, for lack of a better term, of horticulture. Not only do I love Living with the Land, but I also enjoy the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, the Behind the Seeds Tour, and just the many ‘glorious gardens’ of Walt Disney World. I think even those who are anti-hands on gardening like me agree that gardens are pretty to look at.
Beyond the appearance of the Living with the Land greenhouses, I enjoy this attraction because it weaves together elements of a traditional dark ride in the early scenes with “edutainment” components in the later scenes. There’s also some distinctly 1980s EPCOT Center music, the timeless scent of musty Florida water, and even rad video footage showing ‘current’ advancements around the globe. If all of that is not enough to sell you on Living with the Land, I’m not sure what is! Plus, the ride experience is longer in duration than you’ll wait in line (Tom’s Rule #1 for a satisfying Walt Disney World attraction).
I know I’m in the minority when it comes to Disney fans who prefer Space Mountain at Walt Disney World to the one at Disneyland. Admittedly, part of that is nostalgia. Space Mountain in Magic Kingdom was the ultimate rite of passage for me when I was a kid (and could not do it), and I’ve loved it ever sense.
I realize Space Mountain is not without its flaws, and could still use a comprehensive refurbishment. I also realize if you reduce it to its basic terms, the attraction is “only” a wild mouse-style coaster in the dark. (Reducing attractions to their basic terms is a dangerous–and foolish–game, I think.)
Yet, there’s something about Space Mountain I find very endearing. I love the old school effects in the queue, the star tunnel music, the dual track layout, and even the new post-show scenes. To me, it’s the most complete version of Space Mountain from start to finish, and that (plus the aforementioned nostalgia) scores it big points in my book.
The next three attractions do not occupy the middle of this list for any reason other than that my descriptions for them is undoubtedly boring. In large part, I love Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, and Tower of Terror because they are exceptional attractions. I covered the why of that in the earlier rankings.
While we do Haunted Mansion a ton (it’s among our top 5 in all of Walt Disney World), I really don’t have anything personal to offer here. I don’t even remember doing Haunted Mansion as a child, and my strong feelings about it are not even in part driven by nostalgia. It’s just an excellent attraction with a ton of re-rideability.
Personally, I think guests will be going on Haunted Mansion 50 years from now and still finding it to be an excellent attraction, which is more than can be said for many brand-new attractions.
I still remember my family’s drives down to Walt Disney World from Michigan in the early 90s. When we hit the state line, there would be signs for Disney Radio, “Florida’s in-car welcoming station.” As soon as we saw those, we’d turn the dial, and listen to that on loop, learning everything new about Walt Disney World. (It was the best of times, it was the worst of times: there were no Disney blogs.)
During one such trip, the focus was on Splash Mountain. I don’t recall whether it was 1992 or 1993, but I remember being super excited. Splash Mountain did not disappoint then, and it has never disappointed me since. Its depth is incredible, and I feel like I still spot details I’ve never noticed. (Or have noticed, but have forgotten.)
In our other rankings, I commented on how I really loved the ‘lived-in’ feeling of Splash Mountain. One of the highlights of finally visiting Tokyo Disneyland was experiencing an entire (mini-)land built around Splash Mountain, complete with a ‘raccoon saloon’ and restaurant. Walt Disney World’s Splash Mountain is one of those incredibly rare attractions that is incredibly satisfying…but also leaves you wanting more.
Tower of Terror
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror has been one of my favorite attractions at Walt Disney World for as long as I can remember. I remember going shortly after it opened, and first entering that ominous, foggy queue. Even then, I loved that it featured one of my favorite television series. (I was a weird kid.)
For me, it’s still the closest thing Disney has to “stepping onto a set” besides Cars Land. I love the queue, pre-show, and post-show, all of which are littered with reference to episodes of the TV show. While I’m sure Star Wars Land and future forays into this type of attraction or land will be great, for me, the personal appeal of Tower of Terror will be difficult to top.
Then there’s the different type of old Hollywood vibe. Instead of being a glamorized or idealized version of the Hollywood that never was and will always be, this one feels slightly darker. It’s not exactly cynical, but maybe almost along the lines of Sunset Boulevard rather than Singin’ in the Rain. It’s equally as good as the rest of Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ classic style, just tonally a bit different in that it “celebrates” Hollywood in a different way.
Really, I love everything about the attraction. It has infinite repeatability for me and I’d say that even if I never stepped onto the ride portion of the attraction. (With that said, I’m a huge fan fan of the ride itself, particular the Fifth Dimension scene.) The full experience is a 20-minute or so “journey” that is incredibly satisfying, and this is one of my hallmarks of an excellent Walt Disney World attraction. On Page 2, we’ll get to the top of this list, including some distinctly patriotic picks…and one distinctly unpatriotic choice!
I can’t be the only one who wouldn’t mind seeing Tom sitting shirtless on his porch!! :-X
Since we live closer to Disneyland and we visit there frequently, this list gets me excited to take our family to Florida soon!
To determine my top 10 I not only consider what I like but also gave thought to how bummed out I would be to learn an attraction was closed during my stay. It happened to be that on our trip in 2015 the PoC was closed the entire time. I realized just how much I really liked it by not having it there. My whole family was bummed out walking by the closed entrance to PoC for that week. Here is mine, the order changes based on crowds and the weather. For instance, On a colder day in December, Splash Mountain falls some notches:
1) Splash Mountain
2) Haunted Mansion
3) Pirates of the Caribbean
4) jungle Cruise (beautiful jungle)
5) 7 Dwarves Mine Train ( I love the ride at night and think the cue is really done well. I wish the “dark ride” part was longer and miss the old Snow Whites Scary Adventure).
6) Peter Pans Flight (I like the music, the little cars of London, the mermaids, and the whole flying over the scenes idea. I think they speeded it up though as it has a low ride capacity and now it seems to speed through just a bit too fast).
7) Living with the Land (I really enjoy the “dark ride” part and find the greenhouse interesting).
8) TTA People Mover (Everything Tom said. It was closed in 2014 and again, I was so bummed out. “Now paging Mr. Tom Morrow” lol).
9) The Enchanted Tiki Room ( I like the feeling I get here, the colorful waterfall, the windows with the clouds and volcanoes in the distance. It’s cool when the sky that turns orange and then rains. Pretend for a few minutes to be on an exotic island and it can really work. Plus it’s nice getting out of the heat and sun. This is to me what the Country Bears are to Tom I think as a lot of people probably think this is kind of silly and a waste of park time).
10) Big Thunder RR ( especially at night).
Honorable mention goes to It’s a Small World (I like the Polynesian room), The little Mermaid (love the waterfalls and caverns. Too bad the ride itself is mediocre) and Dumbo. My wife and I make a point to ride Dumbo at night at least once during our trip and we always get a selfie together in front of the pretty colorful fountains that surround the ride. It’s become kind of a tradition and makes that dressed up carnival ride important to us.
My top 10 are in no particular order stitch, journey into imagination, the energy ride, the lands lion king movie, Aladdin, triceratops spin, primeval whirl, tram ride, Epcot’s 3d movies, Tomorrowland speedway
I steadfastly support as many guests as possible attempting to replicate Mike’s touring plans.
. That is hilarious!
No particular order? If the tram ride isn’t #1, you’re doing it wrong.
My absolute favorite WDW ride: The original Journey Into Imagination.
Runner-ups: All the other EPCOT rides that I rode as a kid during the 80s/early 90s.
Runner-up: Seeing the animators work on Aladdin in the Animation pavilion at Disney-MGM Studios.
Wow, my WDW preferences are really rooted in nostalgia… I need to live more in the present, which means saving money so I can go back to TDS.
I’m so happy that so many people like Carousel of Progress….my kids grumble every time, but I have to go on CofP at least once whenever I’m in Disney. My top ten:
10. Tough to be a Bug
9. Under the Sea, Little Mermaid
8. Kilimanjaro Safari
7. It’s a Small World (first ride I ever went on in WDW)
6. Great Movie Ride (nostalgia)
5. Splash Mountain
4. Spaceship Earth
3. Carousel of Progress (nostalgia)
2. Haunted Mansion
Personal Top Ten
Toy story Mania
Spaceship Earth (aka “the giant golf ball” – my 8 year old LOVES it)
7 D Mine Train (also a fave of my 8 year old, who at age 6 would not even look at it).
Turtle Talk with Crush
It’s Tough to be a Bug
Buzz Lightyear’s Ranger Spin
Pirates of The Caribbean
Enchanted Tales with Belle
Granted, my list is skewed by going with my wife and daughter (currently 8 years old), so there are a number of rides and attractions I’ve missed due to size and/or fright factors. Having just made a disclaimer, the first 4 attractions I listed are must do, even for me, and I’m the only one to have done Haunted Mansion.
Amen to Impressions De France. It’s way up there on my list.
I get nauseous watching the CircaVision movie at Canada and got sick before watching I think it was “Around the World in 80 days” (many years ago, I don’t think it’s still there)……….is Impressions De France like either of those.
That was “Timekeeper” with Robin Williams voicing the robot guide to a time travel adventure that included meeting Jules Verne.
No, it is not, Lucy. It’s widescreen, but should not cause you problems like the Canada movie.
Oooh, I love the fact that you made this subjective. Sometimes you love what you love, right? My top 10, in no particular order:
Haunted Mansion – (except the lines. For an omnimover, why?)
Tower of Terror – (could have been a standard drop-ride, but the beginning makes it)
Pirates of the Caribbean – (Redhead controversy aside, still the best dark ride)
Expedition Everest – (a coaster with a Yeti, need I say more?)
Spaceship Earth – (for some reason I find the progression through time more affecting on this ride than on Carousel of Progress, which I find tedious.)
Journey Into the Imagination – (never saw the old version but we love Figment!)
Soarin’ – (haven’t ridden the new version yet, though)
Space Mountain – (like you, for nostalgia)
Tomorrowland People Mover – (because of the huge grin it put on my son’s face)
And saving the last spot for Flight of Passage even though we haven’t gone on it yet!
Next time you ride Soarin’ make sure they seat you in the middle section and not on the left or the right side. Views from the sides result in terrible visual distortions to the images on the screen. The Eiffel Tower droops over like a willow tree. From the middle section the new version is excellent.
This list is very similar to my own, except I’d probably add Spaceship Earth also. As you always say, nostalgia is big factor. My love of WDW grows from spending every summer there as a kid with my family, with my Dad being the biggest fan. As a kid, you want to do all the Mountains again and again, and now it’s funny how so many of the rides that I used to roll my eyes about as a kid and thought were “boring”, are now all of my favorites.
Oh, also, you forgot one major big one….THE MONORAIL! I bet tons of kids come back from vacation claiming that to be there favorite. haha
The TTA. So glad to continually hear it’s so many others’ favorite too — ensuring its longevity, hopefully. Now if they could just get the DL version back up and running…
There’s something about this ride/attraction’s appeal that’s almost indescribable, but the very fact that it exists at all I think transforms the park as a whole beyond that of a themed/amusement-type space.
Imagine the draw if this had been built as transport for the WDW Village, or throughout the perimeter lands of EPCOT — or out in the real world?
Anyway, your list in totality is spot on.
My top ten are:
1. Rockin rollercoaster
2. Expedition Everest
3. Mission Space
5. Splash Mountain
6. Toy story Mania
7. Lion King live
8. Finding Nemo live
9. Star Tours
10. Tower of Terror
I take into account that I haven’t been since 2012, do I haven’t tried the new ones and Test track was closed. Hopefully next year!