Underrated Disney World Experiences
We’ve already shared some of the Walt Disney World experiences we believe are overrated, but what about the underrated rides, restaurants, and hotels?
Well, you’re in luck, because there are a ton of them! In fact, our list of underrated experiences is longer than the overrated ones. Just like the overrated list, this list is based upon quality exceeding hype, price, or wait times.
Just like the “overrated” list, this topic is inspired by our Facebook page, where commenters haven’t been afraid to share conflicting opinions on what we review and deem things “overrated” or “underrated.” Just like the underrated list, this list does not take into account any of your opinions we’ve read; it only contains our opinions.
One pitfall with a list like this is conflating things for which we’re nostalgic with things that are actually underrated. Despite our nostalgia-driven love of some attractions, many have flaws or are low-rated for good reason. We’ve tried to keep those attractions off the list. After all, it’s about underrated experiences, not a list of the “Best Stuff for Embracing Nostalgia.”
We’ll start with attractions, which we should honestly revise and expand upon a bit. When we originally wrote this list, Flights of Wonder, Great Movie Ride, Stitch’s Great Escape (no joke!), and Ellen’s Energy Adventure all made this list. We’ve had to remove all of those attractions from the list in the last year. Nonetheless, many of our sleeper hits remain…
Country Bear Jamboree – After my opening statements about avoiding nostalgia, this might seem like an “interesting” first pick. It’s not. Country Bear Jamboree has a lot of nostalgia attached to it, but it has even more quality attached to it. I’ve long been of the opinion that Country Bear Jamboree is an extremely intelligent show, and its irreverence and sharp humor make it an easy pick here.
Maintenance-wise, it’s in much better shape than most other “classic” attractions, and although there are occasional issues with audio levels, it’s arguably in better shape than newer attractions like Soarin’. If you’re the politically correct type who can’t look past a few wry jokes by singing bears as they parody stereotypical Southern life, Country Bear Jamboree probably won’t be for you. Those who enjoy irreverent and clever humor will enjoy Country Bear Jamboree.
Impressions de France – We think that Impressions de France is the best film in all of Epcot. That wouldn’t be saying much if only including the World Showcase, but that also includes Future World…which includes The Land pavilion. Impressions de France doesn’t have the same “experience” that Soarin’ has, but it does have a beautiful, chills-inducing score, a new digital projection that’s free of debris, and breathtaking visuals.
Even though the substance hasn’t been updated since 1982, it still feels fresh (with the exception of a few dubious outfit choices of folks in the travelogue). I don’t expect anyone else to agree with us that Impressions de France is better than Soarin’ (which admittedly has its own excellent score, visuals, and is a really fun experience), but the fact that the two can even be reasonably compared makes Impressions de France, which rarely plays to more than half-full theaters, underrated.
We’re such big fans of Impressions de France that we actually did a trip to real-world locations in France from the film, and one of our bucket list travel goals is to visit every location in the film. We’re halfway there!
Gran Fiesta Tour – The attraction that replaced the cult-favorite El Rio del Tiempo doesn’t receive much love. It rarely has a line, and the fan community doesn’t seem to care for it. With the exception of the excellent El Rio del Tiempo music that is now gone, I think Gran Fiesta Tour is a better and far less-dated experience.
It weaves culture together with Disney characters to make for an enjoyable and more dynamic experience. Normally, I wouldn’t be thrilled with the “toonification” of an attraction, but Three Caballeros, a film that itself blends culture with animation, works perfectly here. The addition of the Audio Animatronics figures at the end are also a nice touch.
Monster’s Laugh Floor – Monster’s Laugh Floor (can’t include that “Inc.” or else we have an acronym that isn’t very family friendly! ;)) doesn’t draw a lot of guests (since the shows are so long it often comes close to filling up its seating area) and it’s not at all popular with Disney fans. It seems most people take issue with its location rather than the substance of the show, though.
Substantively, we think the Laugh Floor fires on most cylinders, with guest interaction that usually works, and humor that appeals to a wide range of audiences. It’s repeat-ability is high, as the jokes change depending upon the audience. We can understand shy guests not liking this attraction due to uneasiness about being picked on, but otherwise, we think Monster’s Laugh Floor isn’t praised nearly enough for its great humor and interactions.
Living with the Land – I know nothing about, and have absolutely no interest in, gardening. Yet I find Living with the Land to be a highly underrated experience, and one that weaves together elements of a traditional attraction with some “edutainment” components.
If even my curiosity is piqued by the experimental horticulture techniques showcased in The Land greenhouses, then just about anyone should find it interesting. Living with the Land is a testament to human ingenuity, and it’s a shame that more people aren’t interested in experiencing this relaxed boat ride.
Walt Disney Presents – Highly regarded in the fan community, Walt Disney Presents (formerly One Man’s Dream) is often overlooked by normal park guests despite being in a high traffic area. If you haven’t given it a chance because you assume it’s a dull museum, commit 10 minutes to it on your next trip.
You’ll likely find yourself spending a lot more time inside as you pore over the many interesting pieces that have made the Disney empire what it is today.
Sanaa – We’ve been praising Sanaa as one of the most adventurous and under-appreciated restaurants at Walt Disney World for the last couple of years, and we’ve received feedback from a number of readers who have given it a chance and have loved it. It’s relatively easy to get same-day dinner reservations at Sanaa, and it’s not uncommon to have a 75% empty restaurant if you’re there for lunch.
Due to the lack of other guests, our service at Sanaa has always been phenomenal, and we regularly receive appetizers or desserts “compliments of the chef.” If you only try one new experience as a result of this list, Sanaa should be it.
Contempo Cafe – Often taken at face value–and overlooked as a result–because it doesn’t have much in the way of theme besides “basic food court with monorail overhead” and is a loud place to eat with Chef Mickey’s next door.
If you can deal with the mall food court vibe and potential for a loud meal, Contempo Cafe is a great spot for a counter service lunch at Walt Disney World. The menu is deep, varied, and mostly made to order. It’s lower volume as compared to other counter service restaurants also means that entrees are more ambitious. We often sneak away to Contempo Cafe during our Magic Kingdom days, and it’s been a long time since we’ve had anything less than a good meal here.
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater – Years of poor reviews have placed Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater on many “Worst Of” lists. However, a substantial menu overhaul improved the quality of food at Sci-Fi, to the point where it’s now one of our favorite themed restaurants at Walt Disney World.
While we don’t think the food here is underrated (it’s fine), we do think people don’t give the restaurant enough credit. The ambiance at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater has always been great, which is an important criteria when choosing Walt Disney World restaurants, so by that measure along Sci-Fi is highly underrated.
Animal Kingdom Lodge – When it comes to Deluxe Resorts, the Epcot resorts and the Magic Kingdom resorts seem to get all of the love. Due to its location out near Disney’s Animal Kingdom (park), not as many people are interested in Animal Kingdom Lodge. This is crazy! Animal Kingdom Lodge has some of the nicest themed rooms (Sarah’s favorite on property) and has incredible dining options in Jiko, Sanaa, Boma, and The Mara.
The beauty all around the lodge is incredible, surpassing even Wilderness Lodge (except at Christmas). For a couple interested in a relaxed, resort-oriented vacation, Animal Kingdom Lodge cannot be beat.
Old Key West Resort – Old Key West resort has large rooms, lush grounds, and a relaxed atmosphere. Despite all of this, it (along with Saratoga Springs Resort) is one of the least popular resorts at Walt Disney World, and one of the first to be heavily discounted. Sarah understands why, as she dislikes the sprawling size of this resort and its theme.
I strongly disagree. To me, Old Key West feels like a “resort” rather than a hotel. Its mature vegetation and design adds to the feel that you’re in the “town” of Conch Flats, making it a fun environment to explore. I can understand that it’s not for everyone, but it does not deserve to be so unpopular.
That’s it for the list! Part of me regrets leaving off some borderline favorites like Columbia Harbour House and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover, but I think many of these favorites are fan-favorites in general, and aren’t really underrated as a result. That, or maybe I want the quiet upstairs at Columbia Harbour House to remain quiet, so I don’t want to share that little secret with too many people! 😉 In any case, there are a ton of things at Walt Disney World that can be viewed as underrated, so no reasonably concise list can be complete!
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!
What do you think is underrated at Walt Disney World? We’d love it if you’d share your thoughts on anything at Walt Disney World that you believe is overrated, whether that be attractions, restaurants, hotels, or something else entirely! What do you agree or disagree with on our list?
Two I can’t agree with are Country Bear Jamboree and Sci-Fi Dinner restaurant. Country Jamboree is a snooze-fest…a good place to escape the Florida sun and get off of your feet for a few minutes. And that’s about it. It’s like Chuck E Cheese collided with Disney World. Even my kid got bored watching the show.
Sci-Fi Dinner restaurant gets bad reviews for a reason. The food is over-priced and not that great. The service isn’t much to speak of, either. We did it once, but won’t repeat that mistake. Our server was pretty much nonexistent most of our visit. We waited so long for her to show up with the check, I actually contemplated just leaving because I was tired of waiting and we were wasting way too much park time.
But TOTALLY agree with Monster’s Inc and Gran Fiesta. The Monster’s show is hilarious. I don’t think I laughed as hard in any other show Disney offers (at any park). And the Three Caballeros bring back pleasant memories of a less tech-heavy world of animation and movies. Plus, it’s a nice, cool boat ride.
My husbands daughter was married at Disney this January, after reading your blog for months we decided to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge (because of your reviews) I have never had a better time in my life. I am so glad you highly recommended it. I can’t imagine staying anywhere else.
This is totally WORTHLESS because,, at least on my computer there is no date on the article. So is it 2017 or 2011 or 2000? If it isn’t current it isn’t worth anything.
Agreed. Well it is at least 3 years old due to comments. I think most of this list is bogus and makes me question anything else written by this person; f these are attractions they think we should waste valuable Disney time at.
Wow! Why is it bogus? I disagreed with him on two of them, but that hardly means it’s bogus. Everyone has different opinions on what they do and don’t like, so not everyone will agree with everything.
But he’s pretty much spot on for the majority of his list. I was just at WDW a few months ago and the ones on this list that I went to didn’t have lines, but they’re also ones we make a point to visit every time we go. It’s not a “waste” if you find you enjoyed it. And you’ll never know if you will unless you try it.
I disagree. If it’s an attraction that’s underrated, it doesn’t matter which year it was written in. We go to WDW every year and find most of the ones he’s listed have short lines, if they have lines at all. And I only said “most” because we haven’t tried all of his underrated attractions.
Sci-Fi Dinner Theater is the only one where you might encounter a wait. We waited even with an advance dining reservation. But the food and service stunk, so that may go back to being one without a lot of people there again.
Impressions de France is my favorite thing at Epcot. The music alone makes it worth it, the breathtaking visuals take it to the next level.
Impressions de France is my favorite experience in Epcot and one of my top five things to do in WDW. The music and scenery brings a tear to my eye every time! Sanaa is a great restaurant, we ate there twice when we stayed at Kidani Village. It was my boyfriend’s first time eating”ethnic” food and he really loved it. I’ve never stayed at Old Key West but the bf’s family has vacation club and it’s their home resort. They cannot say enough good things about it.
would definitely add Sum of All Thrills to the list.
Really fun, immersive experience.
Only downside is that its’ capacity is sooooo low
Another brilliant article Tom! Most of which I agree with (apart from stitch) and I maybe need to invest more energy into Epcot, some holidays I don’t even visit.
I realised in my last holiday I didn’t actually do any rides so you have prompted me to go back to grass roots and repeat some of the stuff I take for granted.
I wholeheartedly agree with quite a few of the things on your list. I love AKL -it’s my favorite resort. Sanaa is amazing, and I’ve had great dinners at Kona as well. I’ll be staying at OKW this spring and I’m excited to hear some great things about it. Living with the Land, the Great Movie Ride and Flights of Wonder are among my favorite attractions and we’ve always had a good time at Laugh Floor. I can’t disagree with any of your picks as some I just haven’t experienced yet (but I will say, I’ll probably keep on passing on Stitch). Thanks for a great article.
I agree that Carousel of Progress should not be on an under rated list. I love it and am sad they took it out of Disneyland, Glad it is still at WDW.
The Alien Encounter (now SGE) scarred me at 12 years old, I accused my dad of tricking me to go on it, but he didn’t know. I think I will never ride SGE just because of the “fond” memories of digging my fingernails into my grandfather’s arm and hearing my cousin scream and hyperventilate the entire time. I am glad they did away with that one, they could have at least warned that it could be scary to some people. I did come close to riding SGE a couple years ago, but then panicked and left the queue, dragging my husband with me. Thank you for the rest of this list though, I may check out the others.
We always enjoyed Country Bears, but miss one of the funnier parts – the animals on the wall that were still singing as you exited the show. Our fav resort is Pop Century but we have been to the other mid-range resorts and found that we weren’t in the hotel long enough to pay the higher prices. Bus service from Pop Century is excellent, especially if you’re in a wheelchair or scooter. We love the peoplemover ride in Tomorrowland because at the end of a busy day, it is a relaxing, usually cool and pleasant ride. I wish the trend was away from thrill rides/roller coaster rides and towards a balance of thrill rides and “easy ride through” like Small World or Pirates of Carribean or the Dinosaur rides. Not everybody likes the roller coaster type rides, especially adults or even our son who has motion sickness issues. Wish they had left the old World of Motion ride and added the Test Track to the mix instead of eliminating one for the other. Sorry to see the Epcot Health building close; I like the show about inserting brains into kids heads. Bringing Captain EO back was a mistake – loved Honey I shrunk the audience.
Best new thing at WDW – Magic Bands – we loved ’em.
I have go through a few ideal stuff below. Well worth bookmarking for returning to. I shock how a good deal try out you placed in making these kinds of wonderful beneficial site.
Love the Country Bears. The songs make me laugh and it’s a good place to sit for a bit. I had never been on Stitch so tried it last year. I did not like the feeling of being trapped. I also really enjoyed the One Man’s dream.