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?