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!