We have selected one dozen rides and shows from Disney World's four theme parks that stand above all the other attractions at the resort, according to our readers' ratings. If you can get to these rides and shows at some point during your day in each park, you will have seen what many Disney fans consider the best that the Disney World theme parks have to offer.
The Haunted Mansion Dark ride, Liberty Square
Nine hundred and ninety-nine grim, grinning ghosts inhabit this haunted mansion on the banks of the Rivers of America. But there's always room for 1,000 in this beloved Disney classic, which starts with a stretching room and continues through the mansion's various illusions before reaching its graveyard finale. But beware of hitchhiking ghosts, trying to follow you home.
Splash Mountain Flume ride, Frontierland
Find your laughing place in the musical adventure, featuring characters and songs from Disney's long-buried South of the South, which blended animation and live action back in the late 1940s. Brer Fox is trying to catch Brer Rabbit, who tricks the fox into throwing him back into his brier patch home. But it's the music, the indoor show scenes, and that drenching drop at the end that keep fans coming back.
The Muppets Present Great Moments in American History Live show, Liberty Square
Playing on the Liberty Square street in front of the now-perpetually-closed Hall of Presidents, Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of the crew present one of two shows about the founding of the nation. Funny, but with just the right balance of irreverence and education, this skit might be the best use of The Muppets franchise yet in a Disney theme park.
The American Adventure Animatronic show, World Showcase
Disney tells the history of the United States, using an impressive cast of Audio Animatronics and moving stages. Ben Franklin and Mark Twain host this presentation, which doesn't completely whitewash the nation's story. And it finishes with one of the most rousing songs ever written for the Disney theme parks, Robert Moline and Randy Bright's "Golden Dream."
Spaceship Earth Dark ride, Future World
Ride through the park's iconic geosphere and learn about the history of communication, from the earliest cave dwellers to the garage dwellers who helped create Silicon Valley. Yes, the entire ride is contained in the giant sphere that stands at the front of the park.
Impressions de France Movie, World Showcase
A wonderful travelogue that features delightful scenes and vistas from around France, set to the music of French classical composers. The only attraction from Epcot's opening day that plays in its original form, this might be the best movie every filmed for a theme park.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Indoor drop ride, Sunset Boulevard
Check into the long-abandoned Hollywood Tower Hotel and enter your own episode of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone. Your service elevator will take you to the top of the hotel, then into the Fourth Dimension, from which your elevator will be thrown into a random sequence of multi-story drops and bounces.
Star Tours: The Adventures Continue Motion simulator show, Echo Lake
Board a Starspeeder for a tour to a random selection of destinations in the Star Wars galaxy far, far away. But watch out. There's a rebel spy on your ship, and the Empire is looking to catch him or her.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Flight of Passage Motion simulator ride, Pandora: The World of Avatar
Disney World's best ride simulates putting you on the back of a Mountain Banshee for a ride across the moon of Pandora, inspired by the rite of passage for Na'vi in James Cameron's Avatar. The long queue takes you through Pandora Conservation Initiative's research facilities, setting up the backstory for your adventure through the skies of Pandora.
Kilimanjaro Safaris Live animal tour, Africa
The heart of Animal Kingdom is, well, its animals. And one of the easiest ways to see them is on this drive through the park's Kilimanjaro plain. Disney's removed the story element from this ride so the focus now is solely upon whatever animals are out and about when you take your tour. Get your cameras ready.
Expedition Everest Roller coaster, Asia
Disney World's best coaster used to be even better, back when the Yeti animatronic inside the mountain actually moved. But even illuminated by strobe lights, the Yeti remains an awesome sight and just adds to this fun coaster, which features a zippy backwards segment.
Festival of the Lion King Live musical show, Africa
Featuring songs from one of Disney's most popular animated hits, Festival of the Lion King is more a concert than an abbreviated version of the Broadway production. But there's no better place to sit down inside and take a fun break from hiking around the resort.
You can use Walt Disney's World's Fastpass+ system to reserve your ride times on many of these attractions, up to a month or two in advance of your visit. (Here is how to useDisney's Fastpass+, if you are new to planning a Disney World vacation.) Even if you don't plan in advance, you might be able to avoid long stand-by waits for these attractions if you are willing to ride alone and use the single rider line where available.
And, finally, you can help your fellow theme park fans by submitting ratings and reviews for all the attractions you've experienced — at Walt Disney World and other major theme parks. Just follow these links to our theme park attraction review pages.
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