Theme Park Insider

The 10 Most Underrated Things at Walt Disney World

February 2, 2016, 2:16 PM · Yesterday I offered my list of the Top 10 Most Overrated Things at Walt Disney World — places at the resort that Theme Park Insider have placed more highly in our reader ratings than I would, if I were rating places all by myself.

Now that I've gotten your attention with that list, please allow me to direct that attention to 10 other locations in the resort... ones that I believe deserve a better shake than they've gotten from readers so far.

Again, these are not my picks as the top 10 best locations at Disney World. They are simply the 10 places that, in my opinion, are not rated as highly by readers as I would rate them on my own. I hope that these lists will inspire you to respond with lists of your own, and to browse through our theme park and hotel listings to rate and review the locations you have visited recently. The more readers who participate in our ratings, the more accurate they will be for the general public.

10. Swiss Family Treehouse

The charming walk-through provide the perfect opportunity for restless kids to tire out their legs while firing up their imaginations. No, it's not an E-ticket. But it is the sort of well-decorated, crowd-absorbing secondary attraction that has elevated Disney parks above their less-well-themed competition. One suggestion for improvement? Disney needs to station a greeter at the turnstiles during all operating hours again, to hold the line of visitors whenever it backs up to the point where people have no space to walk through the treehouse at their own pace.

9. Columbia Harbour House

Here's my theory on why the Harbour House doesn't rank among the top quick-service dining locations at Disney World. Some people can't stand the idea of a QS restaurant where you can't order a hamburger. And some people don't know to walk upstairs here to find a table and eat. But for those of us who appreciate the variety of a seafood quick-service restaurant, and who adore the tranquility and views from its upstairs windows, the Harbour House remains one of the better places to eat at Disney.

8. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

As the newness wears off this 2014 ride, I hope that future Disney visitors don't automatically dismiss it based upon the low ratings submitted by guests who didn't think it worth the two to three hours (or more!) than people were waiting to ride it in its first year or so. With its unique swaying coaster trains and a wonderful interior sequence featuring outstanding three-dimensional animation, the Mine Train deserves more love than it's been getting. As the Mine Train's wait times settle to a more reasonable level, I hope that its ratings will rise in turn.

7. San Angel Inn Restaurant

The Inception of theme park restaurants (you're dining next to a Mayan pyramid, while inside a Mayan pyramid!), the San Angel Inn offers excellent Mexican cuisine that looks and tastes nothing like the Americanized, mass-market "Mexican" food that most Disney visitors seem to expect. Unfortunately, improvements in its cuisine and service in recent years have not pushed its average ratings up as much in return, illustrating that a good reputation is lost much more easily than it is regained.

6. Via Napoli

Here's another example of an Epcot restaurant that is suffering by not meeting visitors' expectations — even though it is delivering an experience far superior (in my opinion) to what I suspect most Disney guests expect from a pizza restaurant. Yeah, I'm being a pizza snob here, but I will gladly pay Via Napoli's prices for its well-charred-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside crust, cupped pepperoni, and San Marzano tomato sauce than suffer through eating the other stuff masquerading as pizza from chains such as Pizza Hut and Dominos... or the quick service "pizza" restaurants at the Walt Disney World resort.

5. Restaurant Marrakesh

Tucked in the back of the Morocco pavilion, Restaurant Marrakesh long as been the go-to location for Epcot visitors without dining reservations and a willingness to try something other than well-established-in-America meat and potatoes or Italian fare. The couscous, lamb, and chicken are all amazing here and well worth venturing off the beaten path.

4. Finding Nemo - The Musical

Nemo doesn't offer the immersive visual spectacle of the more unconventionally-staged Festival of the Lion King, but this original, live stage musical in Disney's Animal Kingdom ought to be considered among the best theme park shows in the industry.

3. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

So you must take your daughter to a Disney princess character meal while visiting the Walt Disney World Resort? Don't despair when you can't get a table at Cinderella's. Consider it a blessing in disguise, and go ahead a book a reservation at Epcot's Akershus, instead. It's a better value and much less of a hassle (though we can't promise that will remain the same once Anna and Elsa move in next door later this year).

2. The American Adventure

Disney's most impressive Audio Animatronic show, ever. But forget the technical marvel of this amazing complicated production for a moment to enjoy the profound elegance of a show that tells America's story in 30 minutes without ignoring troubling moments in the nation's history. And "Golden Dreams" remains one of the best Disney theme park songs ever written. The American Adventure deserved to be ranked as a Disney classic, alongside other heavyweights as Pirates and Mansion.

1. Tom Sawyer Island

C'mon. If you've been reading Theme Park Insider, you probably should have guessed that I would save my favorite former attraction for the top spot on this list. I made the case for the importance of Tom Sawyer Island in my recent post, What's So Important About the Rivers of America? The greatest theme park attractions inspire visitors to imagine their own stories within the context of what the attraction presents. Tom Sawyer Island is a theme park treasure, and I love it more than just about anything else in this business. Frankly, you can't rate it highly enough... in my humble opinion.

Now, please head over to our listings pages and start submitting your own ratings and reviews! We want to know what you think, too.

Tomorrow: The 10 Rides, Shows or Restaurants from Other Disney Parks That Walt Disney World Needs


Replies (27)

February 2, 2016 at 2:26 PM · I agree with a lot of these picks, especially The American Adventure and even the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. However, I have to say that I think Columbia Harbour House has lost its way. The food isn't as good as it once was, and it's so much more crowded than it used to be. We had a really bad experience there on our recent trip, and it wasn't much better in 2015. It's a great place as a hidden gem, but it's too small to handle crowds.
February 2, 2016 at 2:48 PM · As a west coaster, I have often lamented the loss of Swiss Family Treehouse. I understand the tie-in to Tarzan and the Disney Movie franchises but I truly loved the original. As for most of the rest, I completely agree! We have yet to eat at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall as we never had a daughter and we are not a character following family. We are more interested in how the park works, how they do what they do so well, etc. Now that I have a granddaughter, we will be changing this omission! On another note, my husband does not care for ANY of the Italian food on the entire property of Walt Disney World. You see, he is half italian with that half being his mother. Italian food never lives up to his expectations because his family is NORTHERN Italian and most restaurants serve Southern. There is a big difference. It is like saying Taco Bell is good Mexican food. That isn't to say that Via Napoli doesn't have good food. I just wouldn't know.
February 2, 2016 at 2:50 PM · Very much agree about San Angel Inn. A few years ago we took a chance on it because there was no wait for a table, and it's become a go-to choice. The ambiance alone is almost worth it, but the food has been great every time, too.
February 2, 2016 at 2:51 PM · I have to laugh that two out of three of the things I would add to the -overrated- list made Robert's -underrated- list. Oh well, to each their own. Differences of opinion help spread out the lines better. As long as everybody has a good time.

I have to completely agree with 7 Dwarfs Mine Coaster: great ride + awful wait = low rating. Unfortunate.

For me, I'm surprised by the "Time Permitting" status of Test Track. That's one of my favorites. And the "Not Recommended" status of Grand Fiesta and the Living Seas, I also think is a little harsh. Not exactly on the must-do list, but they're not that bad. I find Grand Fiesta quite relaxing, especially after having a multi-layered tequila slushie. And the aquarium is always fun to wander around, after rescuing Nemo.

Over at MGM, I also have to question the Great Movie Ride on the "Time Permitting" list. That ride sets up the whole theme of (what's left of) the destination. Sure it's corny, but it captures the spirit of the entire (1/2) theme park. It needs some TLC and more updating, but it surely deserves to be recommended for a visit.

February 2, 2016 at 3:13 PM · Thanks for recognizing San Angel Inn -- the food is good but the atmosphere is what makes it special. I love dining under the Mexican "stars".

And I agree 100% about the American Adventure and "Golden Dreams". That song -- and the clips of historic events that play in the middle of it -- gives me goosebumps every time.

I'd add the Sunshine Tree Terrace and their orange/vanilla swirls to the list. I like those originals from my childhood much better than Dole Whips.

February 2, 2016 at 3:39 PM · "...the profound elegance of a show that tells America's story in 30 minutes without ignoring troubling moments in the nation's history."

Well, it does, sort of. Up until about WWII.

And then it quickly rushes through like the entire Civil Rights Era, Vietnam, and all of contemporary American political history but minus any tricky or thoughtful parts and it lets the song and some pleasant images do the talking.

In other words, I think they calculated they could do honest history until circa about when the older members of the audience was born and pivoted from narrative and story to the full song. I don't think that's an accident, and I don't blame Disney, but you do get the sense they took the 'easy' road out of knotty contemporary American history that could get politicized by the audience.

February 2, 2016 at 4:05 PM · Test Track is underrated. People don't praise it. It is popular, but that doesn't tell you if the ride is good. The Tron makeover is quite good and a significant upgrade from the previous version. If they upgrade it again, consider a Cars Upgrade and turn Space into an Airplanes makeover.

The Little Mermaid ride is underrated. Many people don't care much for it, but it is quite nice and you can tell the quality with the numerous characters in it. In contrast, the Small World ride lacks dolls, which makes it a downgrade from the other Small World at Disneyland.

February 2, 2016 at 4:25 PM · Tower of Terror is kind of underrated to me. It's underrated to be the same way a B&M hyper is underrated. They are amazing, however I don't feel like they get enough credit.
February 2, 2016 at 4:57 PM · I greatly enjoy everything on your list. I liked 7 Dwarfs Mine Coaster, except it was way too short. I don't understand the hate for the Voyage of the Little Mermaid ride. I rode it more than half a dozen times in October, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I also like the Gran Fiesta Tour. So if this was a list of 12, I'd add those last two to your list.
February 2, 2016 at 6:12 PM · I didn't agree with much of yesterday's list, but I completely agree with this list. I love 7DMT, but always ride with FP+ so not a long wait. I have always been a huge fan of The American Adventure as well. Even as a Canadian, it is an absolute must do for me on every trip :-) As others have noted, the new Test Track overlay is great, and since the upgrades, Journey of the Little Mermaid is a wonderful attraction, that is somewhat underrated.
February 2, 2016 at 8:48 PM · I actually agree with this list more than the overrated. Still, I think Swiss Family Treehouse is really overrated. Maybe I am just not getting it?
February 2, 2016 at 9:02 PM · I think the Land (the boat ride that takes you through the greenhouse at Epcot) is underrated. There is zero thrill aspect to it, so for most people it can be a skip over it ride.... but I think it's both relaxing and interesting AND BEST OF ALL.... very little wait time.
February 2, 2016 at 9:38 PM · I think all of Disney is becoming underrated, really. The resort gets criticized for way too many things. I admit the resort has some major problems, but nowadays it seems like everyone wants to pick on Disney for the most ridiculous things! That's unfortunately because this website is filled with way too many Universal fanboys and nitpickers who always have unrealistic expectations for Disney because they're the biggest names in theme parks. (Sigh)...but you guys have grown on me too much for me to hate you...

But looking at specific things, here is what I feel is underrated at WDW:

All of New Fantasyland-I previously stated that I think 7DMT is overrated, but that's only in terms of the queue line. In terms of critical recieption, this ride is vastly underrated. Enchanted Tales, while nothing too special, is probably the greatest meet n greet ever, the Dumbo ride is better than ever with an updated queue and an extra spinner. And I also don't understand all the hate for Little Mermaid. Yes, it is basically just a book report of the movie, but guess what? So was Peter Pan. And Snow White. And Pinnochio. And Alice In Wonderland. And Mr. Toad. And Winnie the Pooh. Just like Little Mermaid, they are all family-friendly dark rides that are all book reports of their respective movies. But all of their special effects are vastly inferior to Little Mermaid's, yet Little Mernaid gets hated on while all the others are considered classics!

PeopleMover-This is a bit of a weird ride. It has no immersive theming, no intriguing storylines, no groundbreaking special effects, and no big thrills. If this were any other ride, all this simplicity would make for a pretty terrible ride, and yet this is one of my favorite Disney rides! It's simplicity just gives this ride a charm and personality that's all it's own. It always makes for a nice break from all the walking around and all the large crowds.

Stitch's Great Escape-seriously, why am I the only person on this planet who likes this attraction? It's so freakin awesome!!!!

Spaceship Earth-a really anazing dark ride that embodies the heart and soul of everything that makes Epcot so awesome.

Living With The Land-I mostly like this ride because of the greenhouses. As a bit of an environmental nut and I find it to be a really fascinating facility. I highly recommend it to anyone who is into agriculture and herbology.

Great Movie Ride-I am a massive movie geek. The world of cinema and how it influences our culture has always fascinated me. And I owe a lot of that to DHS. They showed me the power of movie magic and all of it's intriguing themes and characters. And Great Movie Ride really was the heart of it all. Just like Spaceship Earth has always been the physical embodiment of the true spirit of Epcot, so has Great Movie Ride been the same for DHS. Unfortunately, all of the park's movie magic will be all but gone by the time all of the refurbrishments open, this ride will be the last remaining testament to everything the park used to stand for. So I hope this ride lasts for many generations to come.

DAK's animal exhibits-again, bit of an environmental nut, so these exhibits are right up my alley. In addition to showcasing some really amazing animals, they also have some of the best landscaping in any Florida park.

TSMM, Soarin, RnRC, and Philharmagic-I know that these are all really popular attractions, but I was really surprised that quite a few people on this website (especially Mr. Niles) don't find them worthy of their popularity. To avoid repeating myself, I will instead refer you to the comment I posted in the Most Overrated Things in Walt Disney World article if you must know why I love them.

Disney's transportation system-look, I don't care if the buses aren't magical or have weird sitting arrangements, or if the monorail looks too dirty. All I care about is that they get me to the park before lunchtime and that they get me back to my hotel before sunrise. They're always able to do that, ergo I've nothing to complain about. Personally, I've always loved the diverse transportation options Disney gives you. You could take a bus, a monorail, a ferry, a riverboat....and you know what the best part is? IT'S COMPLETELY FREE!!!!!!!!

February 2, 2016 at 10:46 PM · I love the Swiss Family Treehouse. I wish I could have an exact copy of it at my house. I have always thought that the American Adventure is an amazing show.
February 2, 2016 at 11:39 PM · I agree with most of this list, but we tried Tom Sawyer's Island once, and didn't much like it. We greatly prefer the pirates version at Disneyland. Maybe that's blasphemy to some, but we loved all the clever touches added with the pirate theming.
February 3, 2016 at 5:43 AM · ive always liked Carousel of Progress and its tucked away at the back of tomorrow land.
February 3, 2016 at 5:43 AM · ive always liked Carousel of Progress and its tucked away at the back of tomorrow land.
February 3, 2016 at 7:42 AM · I'm not certain it's actually underrated, but I love the Tomorrowland Transit Authority in the Magic Kingdom. It's a relaxing, restful, and entertaining ride through Tomorrowland, and it's a pleasant way to take a break from walking and the hot sun.
Of course, I have to confess that I'm old (over 60), and my priorities are different from parents with young children, but I've always enjoyed the ride through the years!
February 3, 2016 at 7:46 AM · I think Mission: Space should be on this list. I think society's loss of interest in the unknown of outer space has really hampered the popularity of the attraction. I still get goosebumps when I step into the cockpit and and look at the amazing technology of the ride system I'm about to board. Then the ride itself that places you in a cockpit that's more realistic than the Space Shuttle simulator I rode at Goddard Space Flight Center (identical to the one in Space Camp in Huntsville, AL). I only wish I could have ridden it in it's first year when the simulation was even more intense that really gave you a zero-g sensation. Mission: Space is definitely one of the most under appreciated attractions in all of WDW.

I cannot agree with 7DMT. The cars barely swing, so the one aspect of the coaster that makes it unique in the coaster world is minimized to the point of imperceptibility. If you think waiting 60+ minutes is a "reasonable level", then I guess you could consider it a middle of the road attraction, but Disney's newest roller coaster rarely has waits below 40 minutes, even on the slowest days. The coaster is still plagued with downtime, and the queue, while certainly prettier than many roller coasters around the world, is pretty generic by Disney standards.

Akershus has to appear for me on this list. It's a princess meal that is far more accessible than CRT, and the food is exponentially better than 1900 Park Fare. Even if you're not into princesses, the food alone is worth using a table service credit on the DDP (maybe not worth paying cash for because it's still over $50, but very few character meals are worth paying cash for these days IMHO).

Flame Tree BBQ is still one of my favorite counter service restaurants in all of WDW because of the quality and value provided. It's one of the few CS restaurants where a couple can legitimately split an entree and get a decent lunch for under $15 total. The ratings are good for it, but I think people forget sometimes how good this place is, and once DAK attendance starts growing with Rivers of Light and Avatar, it will probably be a great place to get away from the Pandora crowds or grab a quick bite to eat before watching the new nighttime show.

February 3, 2016 at 9:53 AM · Mission Space isn't on the list because people like myself who can handle all sorts of thrill rides get off it and feel terrible. Furthermore, there are others including myself, who get claustrophobic in that tiny ride. It's an awful ride experience. Just accept that fact.

One more point. For the few who I know that actually like Mission Space I don't know one who tries to re-ride it. It's a one and done attraction. A successful theme park attraction attracts repeat rides.

Disney absolutely failed with Mission Space. It has nothing to do with our lack of fascination with otter space.

February 3, 2016 at 10:03 AM · The problem for me, on Epcot and other Disney Restaurants in general, happens to be that they once filled a niche in America where a lot of these food types could be found. Now you can find char-ed pizza crust, Moroccan, authentic Mexican and good seafood about anywhere. Heck, I live in Iowa City Iowa and can find everything on that list. Couple with that the number of great James Beard nominated restaurants in the surrounding Orlando area, I just can't see myself spending the Disney-premium price for something I can get at a 1/3 to a 1/5 of what Disney charges. Anything and everything Disney sells for food is overrated. Do yourselves a favor and drive up to Winter Park, Florida if you want to find a good place to eat.
February 3, 2016 at 12:43 PM · I'd also like to add the Spice Road Table restaurant in Epcot. That place is really great, the food is good and you get a fantastic view of the lake/fireworks. Seems easier to get into in my experience, as i've walked in a few times with next to no wait.
February 3, 2016 at 2:35 PM · To the one who said that all of Disney's food is overrated. Wow! That is a pretty strong blanket statement. Just because one can find good food in other places doesn't mean that Disney doesn't have good food. I have been to many restaurants outside of Disney and am still excited to eat at Disney's restaurants every time that we are at Walt Disney World.
February 3, 2016 at 2:41 PM · Yes, Flame BBQ is maybe the best quick service restaurant at WDW. Plus the seating area has fantastic ambiance.
February 3, 2016 at 2:53 PM · I'm a huge fan of The American Adventure and of "Golden Dreams". With advances in stagecraft and technology, I wish Disney would "plus" the ending of the show. Something like projecting the sky or stars above the audience (like projections on the castle in MK) would make the ending even better. That would take the show from an A to A+ level in my book.

(No clue if that technology would work in an enclosed space.)

February 4, 2016 at 8:33 AM · "I think society's loss of interest in the unknown of outer space has really hampered the popularity of the attraction."

I disagree with this. There were no less than three huge movies that showcased space travel. Space continues to be popular. Many aerospace companies are working on the developing the next commercial spacecraft after the demise of the Space Shuttle. We will continue to experience interest in space exploration.

The problem with Mission: Space is it has a reputation of making people sick. That's the reason I avoided riding it ever. I didn't want to lose my expensive lunch at the Akersus.

February 5, 2016 at 8:50 AM · "That's the reason I avoided riding it ever. I didn't want to lose my expensive lunch at the Akersus."

So you're making a judgement about a ride that you've never actually experienced. I don't doubt that many people get sick on the ride - heck, people used to get sick on the Maelstrom or China 360 after drinking around the world. However, it doesn't change the fact that this ride is one of the most accurate simulator rides ever created. Not everyone can be an astronaut, and not everyone can ride a roller coaster or other intense rides without getting sick or feeling nauseous. That doesn't change the fact that the ride is really good to those that can tolerate the forces and have enough common sense to follow the instructions and not turn their head to the side during the experience.

It's clear the reputation of the ride as a vomit inducer has tempered its popularity, as Anon as exemplified, which is exactly why I think it is an underrated attraction. The ride's reputation (along with all the warnings during the pre-show) prevents guests from experiencing it, who may not have any issue with the simulation.

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