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What are the must see, can't miss attractions at Walt Disney World?

October 19, 2017, 12:10 PM · As the world's largest and most popular theme park resort, Walt Disney World offers plenty of options for anyone. Too many, perhaps. So what are the best rides and shows to do and see among all these options when you visit?

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.

Magic Kingdom

The Haunted Mansion Dark ride, Liberty Square

The Haunted Mansion

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

Splash Mountain

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

The Muppets Present Great Moments in American History

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.

Epcot

The American Adventure Animatronic show, World Showcase

The American Adventure

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

Spaceship Earth

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

Impressions de France

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

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

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

Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

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

Flight of Passage

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

Kilimanjaro Safaris

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

Expedition Everest

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

Festival of the Lion King

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.

Rate and review Walt Disney World theme park attractions:

Replies (17)

October 19, 2017 at 6:23 PM · Festival of the Lion King is one of the best shows at WDW -- and still doesn't come close to the greatness that was Aladdin at DCA. Don't get me started on that loss.

Is there a growing consensus that FOP is now the greatest ride in all of WDW?

October 19, 2017 at 8:39 PM · Additions:

Magic Kingdom: Pirates of the Carribean, Space Mountain, Peter Pan.

Epcot: Soaring, Test Track, Wonders of China.

October 19, 2017 at 8:50 PM · Surprised no Soarin. I guess because Flights of Passage is the same basic type of ride, only more realistic and much much much better?

I'd still suggest Soarin if only because Flights of Passage may be too intense for some who could easily do Soarin. Then again, I suppose enough people already do Soarin anyway, so might as well suggest that French Movie I have never seen despite going to Disney World since I was a literal baby.

October 19, 2017 at 9:12 PM · Test Track-yes. Soarin-no. Rock n Rollercoaster-yes. Muppets-no. Space Mountain-yes. Star Tours-no.
I miss Horizons and The Great Movie Ride.
October 19, 2017 at 10:07 PM · Re: Soarin' - What exactly is the point of a CGI travelogue? Especially one that looks warped on a curved screen to anyone not sitting dead center?
October 20, 2017 at 5:36 AM · First feature film that started it all so I would have to include Seven Dwarfs mine train and Fantasmic as this is Mickeys fight of good v evil.
October 20, 2017 at 7:07 AM ·
I like Hulk, Forbidden Journey, Escape from Gringotts
Jurassic park river adventure, Spiderman, Skull Island...

(Hahahaha - Just saying)...

October 20, 2017 at 9:00 AM · Flight of Passage is quite good, but nowhere near as good as Mystic Manor.
October 20, 2017 at 10:02 AM · My absolute must see at every park:
MK: Haunted Mansion (best attraction at the park, innovative effects still impress 46 years later)
Epcot: Spaceship Earth (thesis statement attraction, most Epcot-y attraction left in the park, my personal favorite attraction at the park)
Hollywood Studios: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (best attraction at the WDW resort, great effects, and story, thrilling elements are done very tastefully)
AK: Kilimanjaro Safaris (not my favorite at the park but it is the thesis statement attraction, no other park has been able to do anything like it, largest attraction in the country by acreage)

Also, if we include Universal Orlando and SeaWorld:
USF: Revenge of the Mummy (my favorite attraction in the park, you literally ride the movies, closest to a thesis statement attraction)
IOA: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (best attraction in the country, riding the movies, seamless blend of screens and physical effects)
SeaWorld: Mako (best roller coaster in Orlando)

October 20, 2017 at 11:28 AM · Man, 5 of these are absolute CAN miss IM(not-so-humble)O.
October 20, 2017 at 1:16 PM · I wasn't a fan of Mansion as a kid but today, I can appreciate it much more with its design and mood. Love the book on its creation going in depth to the different versions and such.
October 20, 2017 at 9:23 PM · The main change I'd make to this list is to replace Impressions de France with Soarin'. As good as the former is, the show is just a fairly standard movie that could play in any IMAX theater. Soarin' is a full unique experience, and though the video could be a bit better it's still a very good attraction. I'd also add Toy Story Midway Mania to the DHS list just to give every park three attractions (bump Festival of the Lion King from DAK if necessary).
October 21, 2017 at 2:25 PM · Nice list Jaiden!
October 22, 2017 at 1:35 AM · After saying 'ugh Avatar ugh' I found myself fast-walking (I didnt run Disney...cough) to FoP at rope drop at AK.
My expectations low, mind set to wait 3 hours (such FOMO).
At the end I almost cried. It was so amazing. Breathtaking.
The entire room let out a sigh/whine that the ride had ended.
I take it all back - hoorah for Pandora!!

Totally agree with Robert about Soarin'. Never understood it. Only went on it in DCA as it had a 10 minute wait. Never go on it in the World. And those CGI animals.... Like... Why??

October 22, 2017 at 1:35 AM · After saying 'ugh Avatar ugh' I found myself fast-walking (I didnt run Disney...cough) to FoP at rope drop at AK.
My expectations low, mind set to wait 3 hours (such FOMO).
At the end I almost cried. It was so amazing. Breathtaking.
The entire room let out a sigh/whine that the ride had ended.
I take it all back - hoorah for Pandora!!

Totally agree with Robert about Soarin'. Never understood it. Only went on it in DCA as it had a 10 minute wait. Never go on it in the World. And those CGI animals.... Like... Why??

October 22, 2017 at 1:38 AM · Sorry about my double post!
I also forgot to say - I love love loved the Muppets in MK. I didnt run again (cough) to catch the last show of the day as I had been missing it all day. Such fantastic use of the characters, great comedy & subtle humour as well. As a Miss Piggy fan it was brilliant!
October 22, 2017 at 1:32 PM · @Robert: thank you for pointing out all the flaws in the new Soarin' I was utterly amazed when viewing a very distorted Eiffel Tower. So it bends now? And why, why the CGI? People love things like Planet Earth, so I can't understand any of the choices that were made here.

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