Five More of My Favorite Underrated Disney Attractions
We had a lot of fun in our last newsletter talking about some Walt Disney World attractions that are often over-looked. We got several more great nominations from our readers and thought we’d share them with you this week! So, as before, this is a tip of the hat to those attractions that may not jump to the top of your to-do list, but nonetheless are well worth visiting. And as before, who knows? You just may find a new favorite attraction! Ready? Then let’s go…!
Walt Disney Presents
Formerly known as One Man’s Dream, this walkthrough exhibit sits unassumingly in the Animation Courtyard section of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The Studios are of course now home to Galaxy’s Edge, as well as Toy Story Land. While these two new areas are well worthy of the crowds they attract (and of course there’s even more magic on the way with Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway), there are still some old classics that are well worth a visit. Even before the arrival of these new lands, One Man’s Dream was always an oh-by-the-way attraction, well overshadowed by the likes of the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror. But this was (and remains) an attraction that I implore people to visit, for it’s here that you’ll discover the true story behind the magic, and the story of the man who created it all. A tour through the exhibit takes you on a chronological journey through the life of Walt Disney; from his childhood years and early experiments in animation to his ambitious innovations and his “oh what could have been” visions for the future. Along the way you’ll discover many historic artifacts, including the Dancing Man (one of the earliest precursors to today’s Audio-Animatronics) and a thorough explanation of the multiplane camera (which may seem quaint compared to today’s CGI animation, but seeing it will give you a true appreciation of how innovative Walt Disney and his team were, and will give you insight into the genius that created whole new worlds in exciting new ways). You’ll also get to see conceptual models for attractions new and old, and you can watch a special 15-minute documentary that showcases the life and times of Walt Disney himself (and yes, I cry every time). Note that the theater is sometimes home to special promotional presentations of new happenings at Walt Disney World and beyond, but even if the documentary is on temporary hiatus, a tour through this wondrous exhibit will give you a much greater appreciation of this magical world around you…and a great look into the mind of the man behind the magic. As they say in the film, Walt Disney said “it all started with a mouse,” but we all know it started with a very special man.
Enchanted Tales With Belle
When New Fantasyland opened, we got the chance to go Under the Sea with Ariel, and race through gem-filled mines with the Seven Dwarfs. But there was another attraction that opened; one that I’ll even admit to passing by on my way to visit Ariel and friends. Why did I pass it by? I just assumed it was a show for little children, along the lines of a meet and greet and nothing more. Boy, how wrong I was!! I can still remember my first visit to this quaint cottage, and being absolutely spellbound by the magic that awaited me inside. Your tour comprises a visit to several rooms in Maurice’s cottage, each filled with incredible detail (which makes the wait to get to the next room well worth it). And Enchanted Tales With Belle is home to one of the most incredible special effects ever created by Disney’s Imagineers, the Enchanted Mirror. How does it work? What did we just see??? It’s truly an amazing sight, and I like to pretend it’s just simply, well, magic. But it’s the show that will bring a tear to your eye, no matter how old you are. Seeing children coming face to face with their favorite characters is a sight that will surely tug at your heartstrings (especially if they’re your children!). And no matter what your age, you just might get to participate in the show (I got to play a knight once! I was so brave….). And then there’s the appearance of Belle herself. Truly magical, mostly because of how grateful she is that we, the audience, gave her this very special surprise. Enchanted Tales With Belle is not just for the young, it’s for the young at heart. No matter what you’re age you will surely be touched by the magic inside this whimsical cottage, and I dare you not to cry!
Gran Fiesta Tour
I will start this one off by telling you I totally miss El Rio del Tiempo, the tranquil boat ride that took you on a tour of Mexico in World Showcase. But the addition of Donald Duck, and the re-theming of the attraction to incorporate the Three Caballeros, was a whimsical addition that brought a touch of Disney history to this oft-overlooked attraction. Though the World Showcase favorite, Frozen Ever After, is right next door, don’t overlook this hidden gem in the Mexico pavilion. Whether it’s under the guise of Gran Fiesta Tour or El Rio del Tiempo, this slow-moving boat ride harkens back to the colorful charm of “it’s a small world.” And if you keep your eyes open, you can spot a small world-esque Donald Duck piñata in one of the scenes. And the addition of an Animatronic Donald (and his fellow Caballeros) makes for a stirring finale. But don’t let that distract you from the true treasures of Mexico that are on display here, from the cliffs of Acapulco to modern day Mexico City and a dazzling display of fiber optic fireworks. And how magical is the tranquil boat ride beneath the Aztec pyramid at the beginning of your journey? There’s plenty of Disney magic to be found, including a clever Hidden Mickey concealed on the boat right before the Three Caballeros finale. Olé!
I’m not sure if this truly qualifies as “underrated,” but I do know the wait time for this attraction is rarely longer than the wait for the next showing. And like all theater-type shows, it often loses out in popularity to it’s roller coaster and thrill ride cousins. But this is a piece of pure Disney magic…and the first that portrayed our favorite mouse in full CGI glory (even though Donald is the real star of the show). The show is filled with magical moments…far too many to count here. But my favorites include the ride over Agrabah (ushered in by a breath of wind), the larger-than-life appearance of Lumiére from Beauty and the Beast, and finally (and anyone who knows me could see this coming a mile away), Ariel reaching out into the audience with open arms. (And yes darling daughter, my heart always skips a beat!). For me, the magic actually starts on the lobby. I still stare in awe at the pure “blueness” of the walls and draperies…I swear I’ve never seen that color in real life. And who can ever forget the hilarity of Goofy plugging in the wrong plug (though I feel sorry for that cat). Actually, if you’re fortunate enough to visit the show with few Guests around you, you’ll get to hear the pre-show “behind the curtains” banter between all of your favorite Disney characters (as well as some piped in crowd noise!). But the best part has to be the finale, with Donald Duck doing his best not to fall into the hole in the wall. He never seems to quite make it, does he? For one last surprise, check out the music on the music stand in front of conductor Mickey in the gift shop!
Yep, I’m going to end with a “go with me here” one. (And literally, go with me here, the doors are closing!) For many of us, this is our favorite Disney attraction, and no trip to Florida is complete without a trip aboard the highway in the sky. But, you can admit it, you often ride the monorail just for the sheer enjoyment of it, right? How many times have you ridden the Epcot loop two, or even three times? Just because it’s, well, the monorail? And for me, there’s no better way (besides a stroll down Main Street U.S.A. on party night) to experience Christmas than to resort hop aboard the monorail and to experience the holiday splendor on display at the Contemporary, the Polynesian, and the Grand Floridian. (Which one is your favorite, by the way?) No, it’s not on your attraction map, but for me, nothing says “Disney” more than the most classic of all Disney creations…the monorail.
What do YOU think? What attraction would you add to this list? We’d love to hear from you, so let us know in the comments below!