I’ve spent hundreds of days at Walt Disney World over the years. So, I’ve seen and done it all.
Over the years, I’ve determined which rides are always worth my time versus which ones are more of a mood thing.
Today, I’m sharing my list of the attractions I never skip.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The only rule I’ve set here is that I’m limiting my options to three per park. At some places, I’d legitimately say six or more. So, you’d get bored.
Unfortunately, Animal Kingdom falls into the category of the park that attracts me the least.
I’m not really a zoo guy, and some of the attractions have always struck me as lackluster.
Still, I had to make some cuts even here. The hardest one was Na’vi River Journey, which I prefer to Avatar Flight of Passage.
However, its lines and the overall crowds at Pandora – The World of Avatar prevent me from doing it every time.
I once wrote a review of Dinosaur, the movie that provided the basis for this attraction. Suffice to say, it was scathing. Disney can, should, and has done better.
Still, I love the ride, which tells a marvelous story. It’s kinetic and brimming with humor. Plus, the final few moments can lead to some white knuckles as I clench the ride cart.
My opinion on the best Disney roller coaster fluctuates dramatically depending on my mood and my most recent experience with each one.
What I’ll say is that Expedition Everest always makes my shortlist for the best one. Plus, it tells the best story. As you can tell, that’s vital to me.
What’s the point of going to Animal Kingdom if you’re not doing THE Animal Kingdom ride?
Something I adore about these safaris is that they’re all different. Of course, the animals and the tour guide play a factor in my enjoyment each time.
I fondly recall once watching some animals leave their habitat to chase some others, much to the tour guide’s chagrin. That…wasn’t supposed to happen. So they had to call it in.
This one’s the most challenging call these days. For example, I treasure Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. I’m just not always in the mood to wait for it.
That thought process applies to many of the best attractions here, like Slinky Dog Dash and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
So, my selections here represent pragmatism as much as passion.
Alien Swirling Saucers
Yeah, I’m that guy. I’m painfully aware of the criticisms of this modest ride experience…and I could care less.
For whatever reason, this one’s perfect for my much smaller wife and me.
Since I vaguely resemble the panda in Turning Red, it’s hysterical when my tiny wife slams into me, making me feel like something Hulk has just smashed.
This one’s pure fun. I love when Imagineers build rides just for the entertainment value like this.
Toy story mania!
I get my revenge for the body tackles when we ride Toy Story Mania! You know those Twitch streamers who are absolutely unbeatable?
That’s me on Toy Story Mania!, at least among my friends and family members. A lifetime of video game training has given me this one useless skill.
Also, you’ll note that Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is not on this list. That’s because my wife OWNS me on that game.
So, I duck out of it like the cowardly strategist I am.
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
What goes up must come down. In this example, it’s me. I go up, I come down, and gravity vanishes for a few moments. It’s a whole thing.
Nothing at Walt Disney World creates a fully immersive and plausible realm the way that Tower of Terror does. This is a hallmark achievement in Imagineering. I’m addicted to it and could never get enough.
My most brutal cut on this entire list comes from EPCOT, which isn’t surprising if you know me. It’s far and away my favorite park.
Sadly, I’m limiting myself to three rides, which means something has to give. So, I dropped Frozen Ever After since its wait times sometimes dissuade me.
Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros
Oh yeah, I don’t ride Frozen Ever After every time I’m at EPCOT, but I never miss Gran Fiesta Tour.
My explanation here is straightforward. First, I walk around the World Showcase during every visit. So, I inevitably walk by the Mexico pavilion.
The wait at Gran Fiesta Tour is rarely more than 15 minutes and is often walk-up. So there’s no reason not to do it.
Plus, my dad did a terrific Donald Duck impression.
Whenever I ride Gran Fiesta Tour, I think of him, which is fitting since the last time I wished him a happy birthday, I was standing in the World Showcase.
Soarin’ Around the World
Yes, I miss the orange groves at Soarin’ Over California. For this reason, I feel your pain if you’re a loyalist who cannot get past this change.
Still, I’m squarely in the camp that Soarin’ Around the World is better overall.
The Egyptian pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, and the flying whale put this one over the top for me.
Simply stated, it’s my favorite theme park attraction on the planet. The only thing that’s even close is Millennium Force at Cedar Point.
If I’m at EPCOT, I’m riding Spaceship Earth at least once, if not several times.
Here’s a park with 25+ genuinely terrific attractions. So, narrowing the list down to three depends entirely on my mood.
In fact, I even changed my answer a few times. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight were on this list at various times.
However, the truth is that I don’t always wait for both of them, as their lines can take 50-80 minutes. Sometimes, I’m in a hurry and won’t wait that long.
Similarly, I’m head over heels in love with Splash Mountain…but I’m not always in the mood for drenched clothing and soggy shoes.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
I’m a roller coaster fanatic, which makes Walt Disney World the place to be. The four parks host a plethora of high-quality thrill rides.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad somewhat gets taken for granted among the old guard. Unfortunately, it’s neither an elder like Space Mountain nor the new hotness like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
Instead, this coaster reminds me of another favorite, Magnum XL-200 at Cedar Point.
Back at the start of the 1990s, these two coasters were among the most dominant in the world. Now, they’re underrated but still exceptional.
Plus, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad features a crazy old man taking a bath in a tin tub at one point.
There’s literally no reason for him to be there, which is why I love the sight gag.
I ride this every time I’m at Magic Kingdom for one simple reason. Divorce lawyers are expensive. So, I’m dubious that any other woman would have me.
Seriously, my wife’s all-time favorite attraction is the one where Madame Leota holds court. It’s her Spaceship Earth. Since she’s kind enough to put up with me at EPCOT, I try to reciprocate at Magic Kingdom.
Honestly, I’d ride this one every time anyway. It’s a remarkably detailed and engaging attraction.
Please don’t tell my wife that, though. Right now, I score Good Husband points by riding it.
Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover
Some people go to Magic Kingdom but don’t ride the PeopleMover. I will never understand them. These people are legitimately strangers to me.
Their minds work in ways I cannot grasp. The PeopleMover embodies all that is good and decent at Walt Disney World. Uncle Walt once chose it as the designated form of transportation at EPCOT After his death, Disney turned it into a ride.
So, whenever I board the PeopleMover, I feel as if I’m living out a part of Walt Disney’s vision for a better tomorrow.
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Feature Photo: Disney