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Planning a vacation at the magical theme parks of Walt Disney World® Theme Parks? Given how many parks actually make up Walt Disney World® Resort—the Magic Kingdom® Theme Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park and Epcot®—not to mention its water parks and all the other activities you have planned on your vacation itinerary, you’ll be hard-pressed to find time to check out every attraction, ride and show at every park.
That’s why Preferred Guest Resorts has done some heavy legwork for you and found out the favorite rides/shows of travelers at Walt Disney World Theme Parks. On your Best Vacation Ever, make sure your family’s ticket packages include the Park Hopper® option, so you can bounce park to park as you please, and if you plan on a return visit in the future, opt for the No Expiration option. Also take advantage of any Magical Hours that are designed to let a handful of people in early, and be sure to grab FAST PASSES for rides you absolutely must try before you leave—at least the ones that offer FAST PASSES, which give you a window of time to come back and walk right on the ride… no waiting in line. Just return during the window of time they give you on the FAST PASS and you basically walk right on.
Based on fellow Best Vacations Ever travelers’ feedback, Preferred Guest Resorts identified a few of the must-do rides and must-see shows for each of the four main theme parks that offer the most fun for the young and the nostalgic young at heart. For a whole new set of thrills and chills, you can also check out Walt Disney World® Resort’s two water parks, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Check out the wet and wild fun on the Walt Disney World® Resort website. As far as the main theme parks go, here’s our top picks for the best rides and shows at Walt Disney World® Resort:
BEST RIDES AND SHOWS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD® THEME PARKS:
MAGIC KINGDOM® THEME PARK:
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad® – A super fun and fast roller coaster with fun dips, twists and roundabouts that are not especially scary, so the more adventurous kids and adults will really like it. With cliffs and canyons, Big Thunder Mountain is fast and fun!
Pirates of the Caribbean® – One of the most classic and enjoyable Magic Kingdom rides of all time—always managing to stay fresh and entertaining. Board your boat and drop 14 feet over a waterfall into treasure-filled caves! Then float through a town where pirates pillage and Captain Jack Sparrow hides from pursuers. It’s a “yo ho, yo ho” lot of fun, but a slow ride through cannonball shots during a ship-to-shore battle that may be loud for sensitive young ears. Prepare them ahead of time because it can be load and somewhat scary. Prepare to spend a small fortune on incredible souvenirs the kids will be begging for, too!
Splash Mountain® – Wind through bayous, caves and watery byways in a log boat, then hold onto your cap hold for the 52-1/2-foot drop finale. Kids get a kick out of it, but make sure they check out the final drop, which can be spotted just outside the ride before getting on.
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin®– Based on the Disney Pixar Movie Toy Story, it’s just like being smack dab in the middle of a Buzz Lightyear video game, with colorful characters, flashing lights and laser shooters. Climb into your own space cruiser and compete with family members as you shoot laser guns at targets, with your final score provided at the end. Some heated competitions have taken place—rounds and rounds.
Haunted Mansion® – Though it’s quite tame and more fun than scary, with humorous fake ghosts at the end that stow away in your ride-along buggy, the beginning may scare some younger kids. Prepare them ahead of time that its not at all as scary as they think, and it will be more fun and entertaining than frightening!
Peter Pan’s Flight – A classic ride that has a true Disney magical feel as you soar through the sky in a ship, and watch the classic fairytale unfold with Peter and all his friends. It’s a great, cool ride for escaping the summer heat, too.
Mickey’s PhilharMagic – Ideal for families, this 3D show is a lot of fun and filled with lots of traditional Disney characters.
Astro Orbiter® – A fun spin for two people high above Tomorrowland with spectacular view from orbit as you dip and rise.
Space Mountain® – Mimicking a rocket blastoff, this super fast, twisting, dropping roller coaster in the dark is a signature yet recently renovated classic Disney ride and may be a bit scarier for younger kids than the open-air, open-eye Thunder Mountain.
Jungle Cruise – A family-fun 1930’s-style safari boat through the world’s most exotic, untamed rivers. Brave wild animals and silly goings-on in Asia, Africa and South America on this riverboat Disney classic.
Wishes™ Nighttime Spectacular – The biggest, brightest fireworks extravaganza in Magic Kingdom theme-park history over Cinderella’s castle and if you look closely, Tinkerbelle actually takes flight from the castle top to kick it off! This also is a great time to catch last-minute rides with short lines since most of the crowd is watching the closing show.
Cinderellabration – Great fun for kids, especially daughters into all the Disney princesses. Boys may get a little restless, but it’s a great family spectacle.
DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM® THEME PARK:
Festival of the Lion King – The No. 1 must-see show even for locals. It always receives high praise. Based on the Disney movie The Lion King, it’s a spectacular Broadway-style musical show that’s fun for the whole family and a great, 30-minute escape in a cool theater during hot summer months.
Expedition Everest® – A high-altitude, high-speed roller coaster through big drops, hairpin turns and a close encounters with Yeti, the inhospitable inhabitant of the Forbidden Mountain. A super fun ride, but it may be a bit much for younger kids and senior adults.
Kilimanjaro Safaris® Expedition – A rugged Jeep ride through an African savanna filled with real wild animals, poachers and some minor special effects that add to the fun and experience. Great for the whole family. No two safaris are the same, so go a couple times, if you can.
Finding Nemo–The Musical – A fun, 30-minute musical-theater adaptation of Disney Pixar’s movie Finding Nemo that will amaze audiences of all ages.
Liberty Square Riverboat – A fun family cruise on the Rivers of America in an authentic 3-tiered paddlewheel steamship. The scenic, half-mile tour cruises Frontierland, Liberty Square and Tom Sawyer Island.
Kali River Rapids® – Great family fun but expect to get wet as you rage the Chakranadi River rapids in a big raft through an Asian rainforest, then drop into gushing geysers and drift under waterfalls. During the hot summer months, the splashes are quite refreshing, but do be careful and stow your electronics as the instruct in the raft because some people cone off head-to-toe soaked.
Primeval Whirl® – A very different but fun carnival type of coaster (height requirement). Most kids love it but some get a bit scared. But adults have delighted in its spins, whirls, twirls and hair-pin turns. Height requirement required, but it is right in the middle of a large kids’ area with carnival-style games including prizes and fun activities the whole family can enjoy.
Dinosaur – A dark ride in a Time Rover through the Cretaceous era. It’s a good time, but it’s very loud and very bumpy as you ride through the dark with roaring dinosaurs. It may be a bit too load and rocky at some points for younger kids—even a bit scary for some—and it may be a bit harsh on those adults with bad backs or neck problems as you’re tossed around a lot.
The Boneyard® – When you need to sit a spell, let the kids become paleontologists on a sandy, dinosaur playground where they can excavate fossils, climb through tunnels, and wind their ways through a giant, multilevel maze with slides and much more.
Maharajah Jungle Trek® – Experience the wilds of the mystical Anandapur Royal Forest of Southeast Asia, encountering majestic tigers, a Komodo dragon, wild bats, deer and more than 50 species of exotic birds amid ancient ruins and murals.
Wildlife Express Train – A fun, rustic African train that runs 1.2 miles between the Harambe, Africa and Rafiki’s Planet Watch areas. See animal housing and care areas for rhinos, elephants and other species.
It’s Tough to be a Bug!® – Super fun 3D theatrical, multimedia show in the Tree of Life hosted by the ant Flik from Disney Pixar’s A Bug’s Life. Fun surprises make adults giggle as much as the kids.
DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS®:
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ – Another signature Disney thrill ride that drops passengers several floors without warning in an old building’s elevator. Very scary but very fun for adrenaline junkies. But this wild ride is really not for the faint at heart.
Rock n’ Roll Roller Coaster® –Fast, scary, exhilarating coaster, but not one for the little kids. This high-speed coaster is enhanced by a soundtrack recorded by the rock legends Aerosmith. Quite possibly the best coaster out of all the parks. Prepare for a long wait, or try the single rider line (faster) if you don’t mind sitting without your partner.
Fantasmic! – A nightly spectacular, 25-minute nighttime fireworks and water show starring Mickey Mouse and a bevy of Disney Characters, classic Disney music and songs, laser lights and amazing hydrotechnic effects. It’s crowded and you need to get there early, but it’s worth it as on of the best shows at Disney World.
Beauty and the Beast–Live on Stage – A lavish, 25-minute, Broadway-style musical that’s great for all ages, but it’s especially favored by young and old females alike.
Toy Story Mania!® – Play through an interactive, 4D attraction featuring the cast of characters from the Disney Pixar Toy Story films.
Star Tours® – New adventures, now in 3D, complete with new Star Wars destinations and the classic characters like C-3PO, R2-D2 and Darth Vader.
Indiana Jones™ Epic Stunt Spectacular! – Another classic Disney stunt show spectacular that re-enacts some of the most exciting adventures of the first Indiana Jones film. This wild stunt show with all the modern special effects is super fun for the whole family.
The Great Movie Ride – A ride through the middle of some of the greatest movie scenes in history, from 1930’s gangster flicks to contemporary sci-fi classics. Fun for all ages with some special effects that may be tad scary for the wee ones, but they’re brief. To prepare for those moments, sit them next to you but on the inside of the tram.
Lights, Motors, Action!® Extreme Stunt Show® —Great family fun and q favorite for young boys and fans of Lightening McQueen animated movie Cars. The 33-minute live attraction is great for the whole family and reveals the film-making secrets behind complex vehicle stunts and electrifying pyrotechnics, which is really fun for all, but especially young boys and boys at heart.
Voyage of the Little Mermaid – A unique, 15-minute live show that recreates the magic of Ariel’s underwater world; based on the popular Disney movie The Little Mermaid.
Studio Backlot Tour – A thrilling 35-minute, behind-the-scenes guided walk and tram ride that’s great for all ages and a nice chance to get off your feet for a while as you see how some of the most spectacular special effects in movies are made. Some controlled explosions (with fire) and special effects might be a little scary for young ears, but you’ll have an idea when they might be coming up and can sit the kids inside the middle of your tram row.
Soarin’™ – A serene, simulated hang-gliding experience perfect for all ages. Experience the feeling of free flight from 40 feet in the air with scenic panoramas that include the Golden Gate Bridge, Malibu and LA. Take a deep breath as you pass over the field of orange groves and you’ll capture the scent of orange blossoms.
Spaceship Earth – Perfect for all ages, this slow, smooth, air-conditioned slow-moving ride through the signature Epcot globe. The 16-minute ride transports you through 40,000 years, from the dawn of recorded time to modern day.
Mission: SPACE® – Super fun for adults, but it can be scary and cause some upset tummies in sensitive kids afterward since there’s quite a bit of spinning, though a less-intensive option is now available. It’s definitely not for claustrophobics either. You turn into an astronaut on this realistic space flight to Mars, traveling 8,000 miles in 5-1/2 minutes on a journey dodging meteors as you attend to aeronautical duties. A strong stomach and a heavy dose of bravery are much needed for the original version.
Test Track – A very fun, very different ride for the classic park, but a top favorite and must-do ride for park visitors. It can be a little scary, but most adults and many kids really like it. If you have any health problems, though, sit this one out! Also prepare for long lines. You can get through much faster by using the single rider line, unless you must sit with your partner.
Epcot’s® World Showcase – OK, so it’s not really a ride, but global exploration is so exciting and adventurous, we had to put it on the list. Explore the cultures of 11 international countries and their pavilions filled with their own unique culture, authentic merchandise, restaurants, one-of-a-kind shopping and attractions. Countries include Mexico, Norway, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Japan, China, Morocco and more. There’ a great restaurant and boat ride with Daffy Duck in Mexico that’s a nice retreat from the summer heat. There’s also an excellent bakery in France, as well as a winery that sometimes hands out champagne samples, and of course, a frosty pint and great fish, chips and big ole pretzels in Germany.
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth – A spectacular nightly show filled with pyrotechnics, lasers, fire and fountains on World Showcase Lagoon.
TRAVELER’S TIP: Beyond the exceptional variety of cuisine, otherworldly sideshows, performances and global souvenirs, from trinkets to high-end global luxuries, Epcot surprises many families, especially children, who have found it to be quite stimulating and a really great place to explore other world cultures, hang out, have dinner together and watch the fireworks over the lake.
Make no mistake, there’s absolutely something for everyone at every Walt Disney World® Resort Theme Parks, and Preferred Guest Resorts is thrilled to offer you such an incredible money-saving vacation opportunity to see such exciting and endless Central Florida attractions that will put longtime smiles on the kids faces and make memories that last a lifetime.
With so much to do in Orlando, call your Best Vacations Ever representative to book your travel and make sure you get premium accommodations in a hotel, resort, or luxury timeshare rental as close to all the parks and attractions on your vacation itinerary. Fall under the magical spell of Orlando, Florida, by calling Preferred Guest Resorts and starting your Best Vacation Ever today!