I’m never happier than when I’m screaming my way round one of the thrill-rides at Disney World and love that the rides are more than just that – the experience of exploring a fantasy, telling a story and sharing that thrill with people you know (and don’t know!) around you that goes way beyond just any other theme park ride. I also hold the noddy-rides (Dumbos, Flying Carpets, TriceraTop Spin) dear to my heart and will watch every stage show going, so absolutely nothing is off-limits. EXCEPT MISSION SPACE: ORANGE. Once and never again. Never, ever again. More on that later. First up, Magic Kingdom!
Best rides at Magic Kingdom
Starting with the big daddy of parks, Magic Kingdom has a proliferation of attractions but mostly at the tamer end of the thrill-scale. A great place to start for scaredy-cats The scariest thing you’ll find at Magic Kingdom is a mother with a buggy (“stroller” in local terms) heading for the exit after a long day in the park. Just don’t get in the way of that.
Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
As a glowing ginger child, Ariel was one of the first redheads I saw in films and she instantly became my go-to heroine of all the Disney princesses, I can even recall playing pretend games where I lost my voice a lot, like Ariel did. Anyway on to the ride, this is a dark-ride where you sit in a two-seater clam shell and learn the story of the Little Mermaid riding around beautifully recreated scenes from the film. My favourite scene features brightly coloured sea creatures in chorus with Sebastian at the heart of it all against a dark backdrop – it feels like you’ve fallen inside a kaleidoscope with every colour imaginable revolving around you. Ursula is downright terrifying, as she should be.
it’s a small world
Mary Blair is one of my most favourite artists, she produced concept art for films like Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella which inspired Walt Disney to call upon her services to create character and set designs for the ride. Here’s a nice read about Mary’s work on the ride. You journey around the world in a gondola whilst a chorus of small (animatronic) children and animals sing their “It’s a small world after all…” song in their language, in traditional costume whilst dancing, interacting or playing instruments to represent their culture. Each space you gently move through is brightly coloured, constantly moving, there’s always something I’m craning to see before I remind myself to just sit back and take it all in. It builds to a finale of glittering, illuminated multicultural scenes that are just so playful and charming, I simply adore it and won’t miss it.
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Are you ready to defeat the evil emperor Zurg? Buzz puts you and a buddy in a cart mounted with laser guns to shoot at targets as you move from room to room filled with space junk. Your scores are tracked as you go, and if you’re in need of some (friendly) sabotage then you can spin your cart from side to side to distract your companion. Best of 3? I am just terrible at this game. I am the Rigby to the Mordecai and am still honing my button mashing technique. It’s not quite there yet but I know one day it’s going to win a game. One day.
There’s so much artistry tied up into the Haunted Mansion, it makes for fascinating reading and is a real testament to the talent and depth of the Imagineers’ craft. Another dark ride which sees you in a twosey cart exploring the Mansion and its long-passed inhabitants. It’s hilarious, clever and deeply nostalgic, wherever I ride it in the world it always feels like coming back home. To a super weird and creepy home.
There are stacks of great rides in Magic Kingdom, other must-do rides for me include The Mountains (Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain), Pirate’s of the Caribbean (did you know the ride inspired the film?) Astro Orbiter, Dumbo, Magic Carpets, Enchanted Tiki Room, Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor… there are still a bunch of rides I haven’t yet experienced in Magic Kingdom, mostly because their reputation precedes them – I’m looking at you Carousel of Progress and Tomorrowland Speedway.
Next up, Hollywood Studios!