10 Can’t-Miss Attractions at Walt Disney World

Courtesy of Disney

In a category of its own, Walt Disney World Orlando lives up to its self-proclaimed title as “The happiest place on earth.” A magical empire that has expanded to cover 43 square-miles of Central Florida, Disney pioneered the modern theme park, with immersive attractions tied in to silver-screen favorites and thrills for all ages. With upwards of 52 million visitors annually and well over a hundred attractions offered throughout the four theme parks, Walt Disney World still has several can’t-miss attractions. From a thrilling trip on the world’s most expensive roller coaster to the park’s original slow rides that forever capture the spirit of Disney, there’s no restraint on the magic of these attractions. —Zachary Laks

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Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

WHERE: Disney's Animal Kingdom

Thrilling guests since 2006, Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain is an immersive coaster that takes riders through the heights and depths of Mount Everest in search of the mythical Yeti. The first of its kind, the attraction tops the list as the the most expensive roller coaster in the world, built at an estimated cost of $100 million. Most acclaimed for its surprises, riders gasp at an effect where the train approaches a dismantled track ahead before reversing backwards into darkness. Racing along the mountainside at speeds of up to 50 miles-per-hour, expect a few chance encounters with the Yeti on this new Disney classic.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom Travel Guide

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DINOSAUR

WHERE: Disney's Animal Kingdom

Taking riders back millions of years in just three minutes, DINOSAUR is a hair-raising thrill ride that sends riders on a mission to rescue an Iguanodon from extinction. Completed in 1998, the ride was rebooted in 2000 to complement Disney’s blockbuster film, Dinosaur. Twelve at a time board Time Rovers (over-sized utility vehicles) for a dark ride that features turbulent jolts, bursts of speed, and a final encounter with a terrifying Carnotaurus. Life-like animatronics, an immersive world, and an unexpected drop make this ride one not to be missed.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom Travel Guide

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The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

WHERE: Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Walt Disney World’s most terrifying thrill, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is your chance to experience an episode of The Twilight Zone first hand. Ride attendants dressed as bellhops greet the brave who enter the Hollywood Tower Hotel where an impeccably themed garden, lobby, and library set the scene of a haunted, derelict hotel prior to boarding a 1917 service elevator. Once onboard, the ascent is fast and dark, bringing riders through paranormal scenes where spirits are conjured and ghosts beckon, before the vehicle is propelled down the elevator shaft and back up to an open expanse that overlooks the park. With four drop profiles completely randomized, no one will ever know what’s coming next.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Walt Disney World: Hollywood Studios Travel Guide

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Kilimanjaro Safaris

WHERE: Disney's Animal Kingdom

With over forty species of African animals set within a hundred acre habitat replicating a savanna of East Africa, Kilimanjaro Safaris offers the rare chance to venture on an African photo safari without ever leaving the country. Thirty two passengers board a tall safari vehicle that navigates through the grassy terrains and water passages of the park with a lively driver-guide. Be sure to have your camera ready as the twenty two minute expedition crosses paths with giraffes, elephants, and playful monkeys and many more photo-worthy encounters.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom Travel Guide

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Space Mountain

WHERE: Disney's Magic Kingdom

An iconic landmark that ranks as one of the park’s most popular attractions, Space Mountain lives up to the hype. A roller coaster nearly entirely in the dark, the trains barrel through a smooth track filled with sudden drops and banked turns at a modest 27 miles-per-hour. Building an elaborate experience before and after your journey into space, the standby queue line and main station are themed with a futuristic flare complete with sleek space age accents. The ride features two nearly identical tracks, Alpha and Omega, which helps to keep the line moving considering each train can only accommodate six people.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom Travel Guide

Magic Kingdom by Theme Park Tourist [CC BY 2.0]

Peter Pan’s Flight

WHERE: Disney's Magic Kingdom

An original ride that dates back to the park’s opening in 1971, the charm and wonder of Peter Pan’s Flight remains a winning escape to Neverland. Board the suspended galleon, where with a little help from Tinker Bell you’re off to the Darling home, soaring over a nighttime London scene with lights twinkling below. Past the Mermaid Lagoon, prepare for an encounter with Captain Hook's 48-foot pirate ship, as Hook and Peter Pan duel on the mainsail. As with many of Disney World’s rides, there are plenty of subtle surprises throughout the ride, namely Mickey Mouse silhouettes that appear in the most unlikely of places (look to the moon and the flowers of Mermaid Lagoon).

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom Travel Guide

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Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

WHERE: Disney's Magic Kingdom

As the newest coaster at Walt Disney World, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train combines the signature elements of family fun with immersive story tie-ins that Disney does best, capturing the spirit of Disney’s first animated film, Snow White (1937). The steel coaster is unique in that each car swings horizontally, meant to mimic a mine car. The ride starts with a few banked turns before entering into the enchanted mine where the Dwarfs are at work collecting their bounty. Disney’s technically advanced projections and glass work bring the mine’s gems and jewels to vivid life, a sight to behold.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom Travel Guide

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Finding Nemo – The Musical

WHERE: Disney's Animal Kingdom

Bringing animated favorites Nemo and Dory to the stage up to six times a day, Finding Nemo -The Musical is a new musical adaptation of Disney’s 2003 wildly-popular animated feature, Finding Nemo. Perfect for the younger set, puppets operated by visible actors in colorful costumes tell a truncated version of the story, along with a handful of new songs written for the show. With music from the team that wrote the songs for Disney’s Frozen, Finding Nemo – The Musical proves to be a most-tuneful forty minute escape from the hubbub of the park. 

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom Travel Guide

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Test Track

WHERE: Disney’s Epcot

Hop into a life-sized slot car and buckle up for a tire-burning ride on Test Track, Disney’s simulated run through a series of tests that new car prototypes endure. Relaunched in 2012 with a new customization feature, riders in the queue are able to design their own car that can then be tested in real time throughout the attraction. The track features four tests on the car which include capability, efficiency, responsiveness, and the most thrilling, power. Having passed the first three trials, the cars rev up for the grand finale, bolting out of the gate to coast along a winding track, reaching top speeds of 65 miles per hour.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Walt Disney World: Epcot Travel Guide

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Splash Mountain

WHERE: Disney's Magic Kingdom

The world’s most renowned log flume, no one seems to mind a little splash of water aboard the iconic Splash Mountain. The themed log flume has been a park staple since it opened in 1992, enchanting riders through a nearly eleven minute journey of scenes from Disney’s motion picture, Song of the South (1946). Meant to evoke a riverside in Georgia, the flume gently glides through various scenes and animatronics, following Br'er Rabbit and the menacing Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear. The grand thrill comes from a fifty foot drop, which remains a prized photo opportunity and souvenir. 

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom Travel Guide

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