Some friends of mine recently returned from a Disney vacation (I’m so jealous!), which has me reminiscing about my trip a year and a half ago. Since it will be at least several months until I go back, I’ll have to settle for thinking about my love for all things Disney World, rather than actually experiencing them. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a park-by-park guide to the best attractions that Disney World has to offer, specifically for those grown-ups who, like me, are kind of wimpy when it comes to thrill rides.
I’m just not a thrill seeker. I don’t see what’s fun about being turned upside down, inside out, thrown backwards, spun around, etc. I’d rather keep both feet on the ground, or at least close to it. Luckily for thrill-challenged adults, Disney’s version of rollercoasters is apparently much tamer than some other amusement parks. So, in addition to listing my picks for the best attractions at each park, I’ll also mention which thrill rides are “okay” for scaredy cats to try without being forever scarred.
In this post I will cover Magic Kingdom attractions, and will move on to other parks in subsequent posts.
- Mickey’s Philharmagic - This may be the best attraction in all of Walt Disney World. First of all, it is fully air-conditioned (including where you stand in line), which was much appreciated even in December. Perhaps more than any other ride, it can turn a resistant adult into a kid again. Take as an example my husband, who never having been to Disney World in his life, was convinced it was just for kids and that he wouldn’t enjoy himself, especially since he didn’t have nostalgic memories of childhood trips to the parks. Well, he was wrong. This attraction was his introduction to the magic of Disney, and he loved it! In mere seconds, his face transformed from tired and bored, to totally fascinated and entertained. I’m talking wide open eyes, mouth hanging open in a full out smile. He was hooked. From that point on, he embraced Disney World. Anyway, this attraction has a little of everything: great “old style” theater atmosphere, a wide sampling of Disney characters and music, and fantastic special effects (you feel like you are flying along with Aladdin with the wind on your face, you smell the pie during “Be Our Guest,” and you even feel water splash out of the buckets during the Fantasia bit.) I don’t think anyone could be disappointed by Mickey’s Philharmagic.
- The Haunted Mansion – This is another ride that begins while you are standing in line. Let’s just pretend that the Eddie Murphy movie version of this ride never happened, but the actual ride is very entertaining. And it is so packed with detail that you can ride it several times and not grow tired of it. From the cemetery headstones to the spooky dome room, to the various sights and sounds taken in from the “doom” buggy, this ride has something for everyone (but it may be a little too intense for very small children, since much of it is in the dark with spooky noises). The special effects are rather realistic, especially considering that they were created years ago.
- The Carousel of Progress – Some find this revolving theater attraction to be cheesy, and that it is. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun and entertaining. The revolving theater is a novelty that will keep kids entertained even if the ongoing story of the changes in technology doesn’t. Normally I wouldn’t want to have a theme song like this stuck in my head, but for some reason it only adds to the Disney fun to go around singing “It’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of everyday” with your family. This is another attraction that stands up well to repeats, since there are so many details to take in on the stages. Also, it has the perk of a/c to escape the Florida heat and humidity.
- Peter Pan – This ride is more fun for grown-ups who remember riding it as children, than for those who experience it for the first time as adults. Even so, the story of Peter Pan is a magical, whimsical one, and the designers of this ride did a great job of re-creating those feelings. My favorite parts are “flying” through Wendy’s bedroom and then over London, where you can look down and see little cars and buildings, as if you really are high up in the air.
- Buzz Lightyear – I can’t remember the full name of this ride at the moment, but it is a very surreal experience. Lots of glowing neon lights, laser beams, and other bright colors and characters – you feel like you have entered one of Disney’s Pixar movies, which I suppose is the point. The interactive aspect is what makes it fun for everyone. You earn points for shooting at various targets throughout the ride. My gamer husband thought this was pretty cool.
Thrill Ride Assessment:
- Space Mountain – This is a rollercoaster, which would normally make it off limits for me. But, this is Disney’s version of a rollercoaster, so it is doable, and I enjoyed it. The entire ride is in the dark, so you can’t see how high up you are, and the dips and turns aren’t too steep or jerky. It’s just a fun ride through outer space.
Attractions that Failed to Impress: The Jungle Cruise (not even the novelty of a boat ride could save this one), It’s a Small World (that is one song that should never be stuck in my head! – this ride about drove me crazy, especially since we got stuck inside due to technical difficulties), The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (fun to look at, but not to ride for those of us prone to motion sickness)
Coming Soon: My look at the best Epcot attractions