I have been to Disney World quite a few times but I never get tired of it. For me Disney World is a perfect combination of nostalgia from my childhood and excitement to see what's new. And now I get to see my daughter experience Disney for herself.
I thought it might be fun – as she just got back from her second trip to Disney World, this time with her grandparents – to revisit my list of must-see Disney attractions.
Note: This is my list. Beatrix will have to write her own blog post with her must-see list someday.
The Magic Kingdom
Of the main four parks at Disney World, The Magic Kingdom is still my favorite. There are just so many things to do and each of the 'lands' has such a unique personality.
The Jungle Cruise – Yes, the animatronics are outdated and fake looking. Yes, the jokes are terrible and cheesy. But its still such a great ride. Truly a Disney classic.
Pirates of the Caribbean – Pirates has been my favorite ride at Disney World since I was a little kid. The pirates themselves are looking pretty dated now. And I suppose I am a purist but I really don't like that its all about Captain Jack Sparrow now. But nostalgia trumps. I still can't walk through Adventureland without setting sail with the Pirates.
Country Bear Jamboree – If I went into the Country Bear Jamboree today, with fresh, adult eyes, I would most likely see it for what it is: mechanical bears singing to hillbilly music. But it's impossible for me to see it without the many times I saw it as a child coloring my perspective and because of that I love it. And Beatrix loves it too wich makes it that much more enjoyable for me.
Frontierland Shootin' Arcade – I don't think there is any better way to spend $0.50 and five minutes than the Shootin' Arcade. Did you know that there used to be another shooting arcade in the enormous, original arcade in the Contemporary Hotel? My brother and I know that and we have mourned it's loss for about twenty years now.
The Haunted Mansion – It is true that I have many fond memories of the Haunted Mansion from when I was a kid but it also holds up remarkably well in its own right. It is funny, just a little bit scary, and they recently gave the queue a big refresh to keep things interesting.
TTA Peoplemover – I mean, c'mon. The Peoplemover is a classic. It's an excellent way to get off your feet and out of the sun for a while and it's almost always a walk-on. And if Space Mountain is closed for maintenance you can see the inside of the roller coaster ride with the lights on.
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin – For a 'kids' ride the Spin is one hell of a lot of fun for adults. Shooting lasers? Defeating Zurg? Of course its a blast!
Special Mention – Main Street Electrical Parade – Of all of the Disney Parades this is by far my favorite. The music is fun, the floats are great, and it's at night so it isn't terribly hot. And when I was a kid I got to go on one of the behind-the-scenes tours and see the building where they store and prep the parade units. Pretty cool.
EPCOT: Future World & World Showcase
The focus of Epcot has always been more on the experience, and even learning things, over rides and entertainment. That was what Magic Kingdom was for. That's changed a bit recently but the layout of the pavilions and the emphasis on 'edutainment' shows that Epcot isn't simply a place to shove Mickey Mouse down your throat.
Soarin' – This is a new ride for Epcot and a new reason for people to visit the Land pavilion who wouldn't have before. The queue and the engineering of the ride itself are just as cool as the ride experience. You have got to ride this one but make sure you get a FastPass. It's a crazy long wait.
Living With the Land – Ok. I am definitely in the minority on this one but I really like it. It's a relaxing walk-on ride that falls more on the edu- side of edutainment. But you see a lot of cool stuff and may actually come away learning something. Also? Hydroponics.
Mission: SPACE – This is just a great ride. I have only done the 'rough' version and I don't think I would want to do the other one now. If you want to feel what it is like to go into space this is your chance. It's supercool.
Morocco – Morocco is one of my favorites due to the attention to detail given to everything in the pavilion. Everything from the tiles on the walls to the winding path through the market really makes you feel like you are in Marrakech proper. Also: this is the only pavilion paid for and still maintained by the country it is based on.
Japan – The Japan pavilion was one of my favorites when I was a kid. I loved the small department store. Now I enjoy it more for the atmosphere and the architecture.
China – The China pavilion is intriguing to me because there is so much more to it that it appears. The design and architecture is fascinating. You should definitely take extra time to explore China. I always discover something I haven't seen before.
Mexico – When I was young I truly adored the boat ride in the Mexico pavilion. Unlike some of my other favorites from childhood, however, this one just doesn't hold up even with it's recent refresh. I still love the pavilion as a whole, though. It's a great atmosphere with cool shops and the restaurant is fantastic. Adulthood, huh?
Special Mention – Illuminations – Fireworks, lasers, fire, music. It is perfect all around and a definite must-see. Grab a seat early at the cantina across from the Mexico pavilion for a great view and a great margarita.
Hollywood Studios is the one park of the four that I could skip if I had to. But there are some gems there and there is a lot to explore and discover.
Toy Story Mania – This is a newer ride and although at first glance it seems very similar to the Space Ranger Spin in Tomorrowland it's quite different. Its more about games than just shooting targets and it does the spin part for you. But it is extremely popular so you really need to FastPass it.
Studio Backlot Tour – I like seeing the behind-the-scenes, how'd-they-do-it stuff from the movies. This one could be pretty boring if you don't care about that stuff but they've got Catastrophe Canyon back there, too.
Great Movie Ride – This was one of the original rides when the park opened as Disney/MGM Studios and it shows. The animatronics are pretty hokey – see especially Tarzan swinging by on his 'vine' – but it is a cool look at a small selection of great films.
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular – Do you like Indiana Jones? Yes. Do you like stunts? Yes. Do you like pyrotechnics and crashing cars? Yes, of course. Then the Stunt Spectacular is the show for you. Go see it. You won't be disappointed.
Star Tours – Star Tours has recently been updated to show more of the stuff from the Star Wars prequels. But, unlike how they shoehorned Captain Jack into Pirates this one actually doesn't bother me. It's still an excellent ride. You can FastPass it but if you go in the evening it is almost a walk-on.
Muppet Vision 3D – In my opinion a good indicator of whether someone is a decent American is whether or not they like the Muppets. I love the Muppets. And this 3D show is typical Muppet fare with typical Muppet humor. A definite must-see.
Special Mention – Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater – Large cheeseburger, fries, chocolate milkshake. All while sitting in a car-shaped booth and watching sci-fi and monster movie trailers on the big screen. It is just about the perfect meal. You will want to make reservations.
In terms of atmosphere and attention to detail Animal Kingdom is the best of the four parks. And since opening it has grown considerably and is worthy of spending at least an entire day there.
Kilimanjaro Safari's – This is just a great ride. Think Jurassic Park but with actual, real animals and not getting eaten. You will definitely want to FastPass this one. It is very popular.
Pagani Forest Exploration Trail, Maharajah Jungle Trek – I put these together because they are pretty similar. But you should do both of them. Highlights include gorillas, tigers, and enormous bats a la Temple of Doom.
Special Mention – Festival of the Lion King – I was kind of skeptical of this show before I saw it but it is really good. They combine live actors and puppetry and it is very well done. You will have to wait in a pretty big crowd for a while to get it but its worth it.
While you're there...
Since you're at Disney World already you should take an hour or two and hop on the Monorail and check out the big hotels – the Contemporary, the Polynesian, and the Grand Floridian. If money were no object we would stay at the Polynesian every time we go to Disney.
There it is. My list of must-see, must-do Disney World attractions. These are permanently on my Disney checklist.