Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Frisch's Top 10 Walt Disney World Attractions

I love Walt Disney World.  It's the most magical place on earth.  It's where the memories begin and where dreams come true.  It's where you can show your Disney side and other assorted marketing slogans I'm sure Disney would love for me to tweet about.
Cynicism aside, Walt Disney World is one of my favorite places to visit.  There's so much to do, between the four theme parks, Downtown Disney, the water parks, resorts and more.  It's impossible to do everything!  So where do you even start?  Having just returned from my latest trip to Disney, I decided to compile a list of my Top 10 Favorite Attractions at Walt Disney World.  You'll note a startling lack of thrill rides here.  Those aren't really my cup of tea.  But that's testament to the variety of experiences that Walt Disney World offers.  There's something for everyone!  And whenever I visit the parks, these are the places I head first...

 10.  Walt Disney World Railroad

A staple of the Magic Kingdom, the Walt Disney World Railroad may not be a particularly flashy ride, but it's still great fun.  I mean, who doesn't like trains?  Whether making a round trip of the whole park or just as a means of getting from one land to another, the Walt Disney World Railroad is one of the most laid-back and pleasant rides at Walt Disney World.  And, if you're observant, you might also be able to catch a glimpse of backstage at the Magic Kingdom in a few spots...but you didn't hear that from me!

9.  Living With The Land

Living With The Land, located at The Land pavilion in Epcot, is essentially Pirates of the Caribbean but with plants instead of pirates.  Doesn't that just sound thrilling?  Okay, so Living With The Land isn't going to win any awards for being the most exciting ride at Walt Disney World, but it does provide an interesting peek inside the fully operational greenhouses and research laboratories within Epcot.  The environmental messages may come off a little preachy, but it's still a fun little ride with some neat scenery that gets you off your feat for a few minutes.

8.  Pirates of the Caribbean

Living With The Land too boring for you?  Fine then.  Let's go ahead and swap out those plants for pirates.  Pirates of the Caribbean, found in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom, is one of the most beloved classic Disney rides around.  Already a favorite of many before the blockbuster movie series came out, it's even more well-known now thanks to Jack Sparrow and crew.  The ride has been updated to reference the films in a few places, but the overall experience is still pretty similar to how it opened in 1973.  And for good reason!  The spooky intro, the drop in the dark, and the journey through a port being ransacked by pirates is still one of the most enjoyable stories ever told through a Disney dark ride.  It's a classic for a reason, and you'll be humming the song for weeks!

7.  Enchanted Tales with Belle

Conceptually, Enchanted Tales With Belle doesn't sound all that impressive.  Children are assigned roles and are given little cutouts of Beauty and the Beast characters so they can put on a little play with Belle.  The whole thing sounds very cheesy and not very entertaining for anyone besides the aforementioned children.  In reality, Enchanted Tales with Belle is one of the most charming attractions within the Magic Kingdom and the best thing about the New Fantasyland expansion.  The attention to detail in the scenery is astounding, the animatronic characters and effects are a sight to behold, and the whole experience is kept fun enough to be enjoyable for guests of all ages.  It's kind of a slow attraction, so wait times get quite long, but if you have the time to wait or can score a Fastpass, Enchanted Tales with Belle is well worth experiencing even if you don't get assigned a part to play.

6.  Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros

Gran Fiesta Tour, found within the Mexico pavilion of Epcot's World Showcase, is very similar to It's A Small World...except, you know, fun.  Riders follow the antics of The Three Caballeros as José Carioca and Panchito Pistoles try to chase down Donald Duck through a tour of Mexican stereotype land.  It's all in good fun though, and the animated vignettes featuring Donald's adventures sprinkled throughout the ride are lively and entertaining.  The Three Caballeros theme song is much less grating than Small World's infamous theme tune and, being tucked away in a corner of the Mexican pavilion, Gran Fiesta Tour almost always has a short line.  It's easily overlooked, but it's one of Epcot's most enjoyable rides and should not be missed!

5.  Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover

It's hard to define exactly what it is about the PeopleMover that is so enjoyable.  For one thing, it almost never has a long wait, making it a great choice if you just want to hop on a ride without standing in line.  Once on-board, the PeopleMover provides a scenic tour of Tomorrowland, whizzing around above the action below with some cheesy narration throughout.  It even passes through some of the other Tomorrowland rides, such as Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.  There really isn't anything else quite like the PeopleMover at Walt Disney World and that's part of what makes it so enjoyable.  It's a great way to take a little break from the hustle and bustle of the Magic Kingdom and enjoy the fun atmosphere of Tomorrowland.

4.  Muppet*Vision 3D

I make no secret of my general disdain for 3D theme park movies.  They're loud, obnoxious, and mostly exist to terrorize the audience.  It's Tough To Be A Bug pretty much single-handedly ruined Animal Kingdom for me.  But leave it to the Muppets to subvert expectations and offer a 3D experience that is not only not obnoxious, but easily the most clever and witty show in Hollywood Studios and Walt Disney World as a whole.  The final project directed by Jim Henson before his death, Muppet*Vision 3D represents the Muppets at their comedic best.  Even the pre-show, seen before entering the theater itself, is pure comic gold.  The jokes come fast and furious, and you'll certainly have to watch the show more than once to catch all the subtle gags laced throughout.  You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't enjoy Muppet*Vision 3D.  Well, besides Statler and Waldorf, of course.

3.  Mickey's PhilharMagic

Another 3D movie that beats the odds, Mickey's PhilharMagic is just about the purest distillation of Disney magic you can find at Walt Disney World.  Though Mickey gets top billing, the real star of the show is Donald Duck, who inadvertently finds himself on a slapstick-filled journey through some of the most iconic scenes in Disney history, including being serenaded by Lumiere, swept away by the brooms from The Sorcerer's Apprentice, swooning over meeting Ariel, and soaring through the skies with Peter Pan, Aladdin, and Jasmine.  The show doesn't feature any villains trying to take over the show or anything like that.  It's just a whirlwind tour through Disney's greatest hits.  The 3D effects are put to good use, the additional theater effects are clever without being annoying, and the animation is lively and colorful.  Mickey's PhilharMagic is easily one of the best experiences the Magic Kingdom has to offer, even if Lumiere does look a little bit terrifying in CGI...

2.  Spaceship Earth

"Majestic" and "Grandiose" are the first words that come to mind when thinking about Spaceship Earth.  The 180 foot tall geodesic sphere is one of the most striking visual icons of Walt Disney World, but it isn't just the outside of Spaceship Earth that's impressive.  The dark ride inside takes guest on a journey through the history of human communication complete with numerous audio-animatronic scenes and a sweeping orchestral score.  Some of the scenes are a little goofy, but the whole experience is treated with enough gravitas that it's hard not to get swept away in the atmosphere.  It may be lacking in thrills, but there's nothing boring about Spaceship Earth.  Taking at least one trip through the big golf ball is a must-do for anyone visiting Walt Disney World.

1.  Fantasmic!

When I said that Mickey's PhilharMagic is just about the purest distillation of Disney magic at Walt Disney World, there was one show I was thinking of that does it better.  And that's Fantasmic, the nighttime spectacular at Hollywood Studios.  Much like PhilharMagic, Fantasmic follows Mickey Mouse on a trip through some of the most memorable moments in Disney history...and Pocahontas, too.  What really makes Fantasmic such an impressive spectacle is that it's not a 3D movie, but rather a live stage show housed in the huge Hollywood Hills Amphitheater.  The water projection used throughout the show isn't as mind-blowing as it used to be, but the rest of the show makes up for it.  How often you do get to see Mickey Mouse battle a dragon live on stage?  Even the soundtrack alone exudes Disney-ness.  There is no better way to end a day at Walt Disney World than by watching the night ignite with Fantasmic!

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