Best Attraction Replacements at Disney World

Over the years, many attractions have come and gone at Walt Disney World. Some better than their predecessors, some worse. This post is 1 of 2 in a series, with this list focusing on the best replacement attractions added to the park, plus the follow-up Worst Attraction Replacements at Walt Disney World. (Updated November 25, 2023.)

This list focusing on improvements wasn’t easy. Most of the best additions at Walt Disney World have been new developments or original attractions, so it’s not really possible to dub them as replacements. Often, replacement attractions are also faced with the challenge of being shoehorned into an existing space, which seems to make it difficult for them to surpass their predecessors.

Additionally, as someone who has been visiting Walt Disney World my entire life, I’ll admit that I’m probably nostalgic for what I grew up with. Even though I try to view everything with an open mind and clean slate, sometimes the replacements already have a strike against them in my head.

For the purposes of this list, we’re comparing current attractions with their immediate predecessors. This prevents the sins of the father from being laid upon the son, and keeps things cleaner. (So no comparing Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin to If You Had Wings.)

Our latest updates to this list for Late 2023 add a few new ride replacements as well as Walt Disney World righting past wrongs, so to speak. Newer Disney fans who formed nostalgia for the things that are now gone might disagree, but we have to give kudos to Walt Disney World for (indirectly) admitting they made some mistakes and undoing the damage.

Anyway, here’s the list of what’s new…and the old that’s new again…that’s an upgrade as compared to what it replaced at Walt Disney World…

Soarin Around the World -> Soarin Over California – Spoiler alert: Soarin’ is the only attraction to make this list twice! Sadly, the newer Soarin’ isn’t quite as good as the OG Soarin, which has since (temporarily?) replaced its successor at the start of the Disney100 celebration.

Although it might seem like expanding Soarin’ from geography only in California to some of the world’s most recognizable landmarks is a good move, the execution is very iffy. For one thing, some of the new locations weren’t filmed at all. They are entirely CGI. For another, showcasing so many architectural icons in Soarin’ Around the World was a bad idea–there’s really bad distortion from seats that aren’t dead-center.

By contrast, Soarin’ Over California (which was originally just “Soarin” at Epcot) still looks great. It also isn’t particularly California-centric. Unless you’ve visited Anza-Borrego, Yosemite National Park, Tahoe, Malibu, Camarillo, etc., you probably couldn’t identify where the footage was shot. You might’ve just assumed the desert, waterfall, rushing rapids, ocean, orange groves, etc. were simply generic–but stunning–locations.

I’m not averse to Soarin’ Around the World, but the CGI, cheesy animals, and distortion has worn on me over time. Moreover, I think Soarin’ Over California is not showing its age at all. If anything, it benefits from its footage being real, whereas the extensive CGI of the new version will inevitably date itself much sooner. Both versions are good, must-do attractions–but Soarin’ Over California is better.

Ellen’s Energy Adventure -> Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind – I loved Universe of Energy. Its closure hit me really hard, between both my memories of it and feeling like the end of an era for the old EPCOT. It also didn’t help that the best thematic explanation Disney could must for Guardians of the Galaxy coming to Future World was that Peter Quill visited EPCOT Center as a kid. Then the massive show building went up, adding further insult to injury.

With all of that said, I have no delusions about all of this. Ellen’s Energy Adventure was about a decade past its prime, feeling woefully outdated and incredibly unpopular with guests. While the Energy pavilion’s retirement–along with other simultaneous shutdowns–did close one chapter of EPCOT’s history, it was already a foregone conclusion. The park I loved as a kid had been dead for over a decade, and its replacement had a dead mall vibe. If anything, the closure brought closure for fans.

Best and most importantly of all, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is fantastic. It’s an incredibly satisfying attraction from start to finish, with a queue and pre-shows that provide depth and somehow manage to provide enough of an ‘edutainment’ foundation to weave this into EPCOT, a couple of wow-moment effects, hilarity & hijinks, and a compelling story set-up. The roller coaster itself is satisfying in duration and has fantastic flow and fluidity–better the music and the motion, it feels a bit like dancing.

Above all else, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is just flat-out fun. It’s one of the most fun attractions in all of Walt Disney World. It hits all of the right notes, and is just a non-stop hoot from start to finish thanks to its characters, humor, and use of music. It’s exactly the blockbuster attraction that EPCOT needed, and is another great modern hybrid of story and fun from Imagineering. It might be called Cosmic Rewind, but the ride fast-forwards to a new chapter of EPCOT.

Disney Enchantment -> Happily Ever After – All Magic Kingdom fireworks shows have the same core qualities, with pyro exploding over Cinderella Castle to conclude a long, memory-filled day at Walt Disney World. The music is pulled from sentimental moments in memorable Disney movies and the visuals are dazzling. The whole production tugs at the heartstrings, overwhelming the senses and emotions in the best way possible. Because of all that, there’s a high floor for any Magic Kingdom nighttime spectacular, and even a “bad” one is still “good” relative to most other attractions.

Suffice to say, Disney Enchantment found that floor and was as close to “bad” as fireworks over Cinderella Castle could conceivably be. It was about as good as a Magic Kingdom fireworks show set to the “Meow Mix” jingle with cat projections on the castle. That might’ve actually been better–at least it would’ve been funny. Thankfully, Walt Disney World had the good sense of undoing this mistake, even after declaring that Happily Ever After had been “permanently” retired.

Happily Ever After excels largely thanks to a fantastic arrangement paired with song and movie choices. There’s a thematic progression to the show that makes sense–it goes from adventure to friendship to romance to overcoming adversity to attaining a ‘happily ever after.’ The song choices are fantastic, pyro pairings are truly superb, and projections add even more to the nighttime spectacular. In a sense, Happily Ever After is the Disney animated film archetype, but in montage fireworks show form. It is perfect, and the nighttime spectacular that Magic Kingdom deserves.

Primeval Whirl -> Seating Area – No, this isn’t on the wrong list. The removal of Primeval Whirl was addition by subtraction. Hear me out on all the strengths of the seating area:

  • No line
  • Not physically painful
  • Good, safe fun
  • Not a hideous carnival ride

None of that could be said about Primeval Whirl. Unfortunately, Dino-Rama has become popular with fans who praise its backstory. To the extent that it’s possible for an opinion to be wrong…they are wrong. Dino-Rama’s backstory is lipstick on a pig, expecting to dupe you into thinking tacky carnival rides are actually good.

This reflects a pervasive problem in fandom: diehard enthusiasts want barriers to entry to make the material incomprehensible to casual audiences. They want to be “in the know” or have deciphering content be a challenge, with there being some misplaced notion that it earns them street cred or some nonsense.

But at the end of the day, a dumpster full of garbage that has an interesting story is still a dumpster full of garbage. Normal guests don’t care about backstory, and it couldn’t save this crappy carnival ride. Here’s hoping that the budget for Tropical Americas is more than the like twenty bucks they spent on this mess.


Pooh’s Playful Spot -> Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – This isn’t totally fair. Some fans will probably remember that the attraction before Pooh’s Playful Spot was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a true Walt Disney World classic. Comparing Seven Dwarfs Mine Train to that might not go as well.

Pooh’s Playful Spot, on the other hand, was nothing special. While its predecessor was epic in duration and scale and its successor is exciting and endearing for families, Pooh’s Playful Spot was sort of just “there,” a stop-gap to throw in place while they figured out what to do with the plot of land.


El Rio del Tempio -> Gran Fiesta Tour – Since El Rio del Tiempo was replaced by Gran Fiesta Tour, it has been met with a mixed response by fans, many of whom were upset over the introduction of characters to the attraction. I’ve always been fine with Gran Fiesta Tour (although I really miss the music from El Rio del Tiempo) and that’s because it utilizes characters who are from an obscure film that heavily focuses on the culture and scenery of Mexico.

This wasn’t simply a matter of Disney wanting to capitalize on the popularity of Three Caballeros as has happened elsewhere in Epcot. Since the Audio Animatronics have been added, the attraction has an appropriate finale a true “wow” scene that gives it a real climax. This is something it has never had, and in my book, makes the current Gran Fiesta Tour better than El Rio del Tempio.

Tarzan Rocks -> Finding Nemo: The Musical – This one is clear-cut, and without caveats. Tarzan Rocks was a high-energy concert style show with some neat visuals, but the “extreme sports” vibe made it feel out of place in Animal Kingdom. It also wasn’t nearly as elaborate or well-produced as Finding Nemo: The Musical.

Although the Nemo show is a CliffNotes version of the movie, it works incredibly well, and features excellent production value. The way it utilizes performers versus puppets is the highlight for me, and I think the show is one of the best ones Disney has done in the parks.


Donald’s Boat -> Dueling Dumbos – I still remember the drive down to Walt Disney World in the early 90s, and listening to Disney Radio, “Florida’s in-car welcoming station.” One year, the radio touted a new temporary land, Mickey’s Starland, with a Disney Afternoon Show. As a young child, nothing was quite as cool as this. Two decades later, this “temporary” land was still chugging along as Mickey’s Toontown.

New Fantasyland’s “Dueling Dumbos” aren’t totally new in the sense that there was a Dumbo spinner in Magic Kingdom before, but the presentation is significantly better, as is the overall experience. The wait is also now a lot shorter, there’s an indoor interactive play area, and the Storybook Circus area around the Dumbos is top notch.

Celebrate A Dream Come True -> Festival of Fantasy Parade – How many Disney fans have uttered the phrase “I’m not a parade person” as result of a decade-plus of the various incarnations of the Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade? It’s not that it was bad…in 2001 or 2002 when it first debuted, but a decade later I was more than over it.

It wasn’t until seeing some of the parades at other castle parks that I realized maybe it’s not me, it’s the parade. Festival of Fantasy is imaginative, elaborate, colorful, and features a few jaw-dropping floats that culminate in a daytime parade worthy of Magic Kingdom.


Under New Management -> Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room – Sometimes, all it takes is a small fire to really set things right! I don’t know whether Disney decided to revert to the original Tiki Room because it was the right thing to do, or the cheaper thing to do, after a fire damaged aspects of the Tiki Room.

Regardless of motivation, the original Tiki Room is back, undoing the 1990s damage inflicted upon the attraction.

Food Rocks -> Soarin’ – Epcot attractions will feature prominently on the sequel to this list–the 10 worst attraction changes, but it also earns a high place for one of the best changes. Part of the reason Soarin’ ranks so highly is in part due to the fact that Food Rocks was an inferior replacement for the EPCOT Center-era Kitchen Kabaret, a fun and more memorable show.

In larger part, Soarin’ is here because it manages to capture the spirit and ambition of EPCOT Center, while also adding excitement to the mix. The updated Soarin’ Around the World is inferior to its immediate predecessor (see above), but for the sake of this entry, we’re considering Soarin’ as a whole attraction, not the film playing in it.


Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Play it -> Toy Story Mania – Since its debut over a decade ago, Toy Story Mania has been one of the most popular attractions in Walt Disney World. I have to admit that I think it’s overrated, with popularity coming from a dearth of other family-friendly options in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Still, I think it’s better than Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Play it and the type of attraction the park needed. The subsequent Toy Story Land additions (Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers) were built on unused land, so they don’t really count here. With that said, Slinky Dog Dash is our favorite of the trio.

Camp Minnie-Mickey Trails -> Avatar Flight of Passage – Speculating is a dangerous game, and we originally expected Na’vi River Journey, the slow-moving boat ride through a bioluminescent rainforest with relaxing music along the way, to be our favorite attraction in Pandora – World of Avatar. Even then, it was obvious that Flight of Passage would be the headliner, but we’re suckers for boat rides.

In reality, the marquee draw and our favorite replacement for the Camp Minnie-Mickey Trails has been Avatar Flight of Passage. While this could be described as Soarin’ on steroids, it’s really so much more. Before riders climb aboard the back of a banshee and fly through Pandora for a simulator experience, there’s a ton of build-up and cool queue. Plus, the ride itself is a multi-sensory experience that is relaxing and exhilarating all at once.

Words don’t do Flight of Passage justice–it’s so good that it ranks as #6 on our Listing Ranking All 91 Attractions at Walt Disney World! That’s good enough to make it the #2 attraction replacement in the history of Walt Disney World, but it can’t compete with #1…

Lights Motors Action -> Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance – This isn’t just the #1 attraction replacement in the history of Walt Disney World, it’s tied for the best ride in all of Walt Disney World, period. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is that great, a true triumph of creativity and a modern masterpiece of Imagineering.

It’s been well over a decade since the Disney-MGM Studios really shined as a working studio, and since then the Streets of America portion of the park trudged along without any memorable draws (save for the Osborne Lights at Christmas). As such, it was pretty easy for the billion-dollar Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to surpass it.

As a whole, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is fantastic but arguably doesn’t quite live up to its full potential. It was a big swing for Imagineering to create an original setting and stick to a storyline, but that has ended up being a liability rather than an asset (see It’s Time for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to Break the Rules).

Of the ride replacements back in this corner of the park, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is far superior to Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. That might come as a bit of a surprise to first-timers, after all, what kid hasn’t dreamed of piloting the Fastest Hunk of Junk in the Galaxy?! As it turned out, Smugglers Run is fun but a bit like a UPS-in-space simulator, whereas Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is revolutionary. It’s right up there with the best Walt Disney World–or any theme park anywhere–has to offer.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

Your Thoughts

Which attraction replacements at Walt Disney World do you think are upgrades? Anything on this list that’s actually a downgrade for you? Did we miss any rides or shows that should’ve made the cut? Do you agree or disagree with my list? Do you like the replacement attractions on this list, or would you prefer their predecessors? Which of the new-generation attractions are your favorites? Share any questions or additional thoughts you have in the comments!

35 Responses to “Best Attraction Replacements at Disney World”
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