What are your favorite, 'perfect,' theme park attraction moments?

March 8, 2010, 11:51 AM · I've been waiting for Impressions de France's spotlight day so that I could start a discussion I've been wanting to get into.

Part of the reason why I love Impressions de France so much is that it contains one of those rare, "perfect moments" for me as a theme park fan: When we see the Eiffel Tower and the theme from Saint-Saens' Organ Concerto begins. That rousing finale, culminating with the timpani blasts as the curtain closes and the host strides toward the Eiffel Tower in middle of the frame... wow, it's just a perfectly composed moment, when perfect visuals and sound come together to force an emotional reaction from its visitors.

So what are your perfect theme park moments? I'm not asking for personal moments (e.g. "the time my kid rode on a roller coaster for the first time without throwing up"), but rather elements from theme park attractions that you find perfect in composition and effect.

Here are three more "perfect moments" for me:

- On the Haunted Mansion: "There's always my way...." And, boom!

- The original IllumiNations: As the first notes of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue sound and the spotlights turn to America. (I so miss this version of the show.)

- On Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean: As you float by Old Joe on your way through the Blue Bayou, the restaurant chatter fades into gentle banjo licks, which melt into... silence. A brief, perfect moment of stillness, before the impending storm.

Chills. Every one.

Please tell us about your top theme park attraction moments, in the comments.

Replies (44)

March 8, 2010 at 11:55 AM · Three 'honorable mentions':

- Flying past the waterfall on Manta

- The airplane crashing into the water in Waterworld

- When the street lights extinguish and Baroque Hoedown begins

March 8, 2010 at 12:18 PM · I'd agree, the Plane in Waterworld is by far one of the best moments in any theme park show!

My favorite perfect moments include the following:

-The Indiana Jones Boulder scene... one of those "totally out of nowhere" effects!

-Soarin Over California's start. Just the way the seats lift you into the first view is awesome.

-Florida's Tower of Terror's "false" drops. You think you know the ride, but you don't!

-Stepping into Disneyland's Main Street is always magical. The park definitely takes you to another place. Gotta be something said about not being able to see the outside world.

-USH's Jurassic Park's front gate and loading zone reminds me of the "actual" park if it could ever exist.

-Splash Mountain's transition between "happy" to "scary" and "happy & carefree" again is perfect.

Can I give a honorable mention for "how to make the worst park attraction moment" for one section of the Tram Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood? The Fast & The Furious section is horrible... everytime I've been through there, people in the trams are either silent, or saying "what is this???" or "really?" or "uh... ok?". And I don't get why it's even there... an Asian Garage set (I think?), with German cars, with a Latin Reggaeton Soundtrack.

March 8, 2010 at 12:21 PM · 1. "Disappear! Disappear!" on Maelstrom.
2. The first and last notes of Fantasmic, and the interaction with the firework explosions on those notes.
3. On Splash Mountain when your boat enters the room with the spinning turtles and the hopping waters. That's always a happy moment.
March 8, 2010 at 1:03 PM · The old version of Terminator 2:3D at US Florida when the wall of fog literally rolled across the auditorium...

Maybe a little poinant now but the first time 'Shamu' leaps out of the water with 'his' trainer on his nose...

The opening of the Magic Kingdom when the steam train puffs into view above us and every child in the crowd points and goes 'Tigger!' (or 'Mickey/Pluto'/etc). You have to be a hard-nosed SOAB not to choke back a tear at that moment because for a split second you are that child again...

Front row of Dueling Dragons/Dragon Challenge as you hit the loop and your feet are inches away from the other train...

The launch on Rock'n'Roller Coaster...

Everything about Expedition Everest, (whatever mode it's in). It's just the perfect combination of theme and ride)...

First glimpse of 'the Serengeti Plains' on the Kilimanjaro Safari'...

The drop on Sheikra...

Walking the lagoon at Epcot...

Dinner at the California Grill...

Fireworks at the Magic Kingdom...

Those of you who live in the USA and frequent the theme parks regularly forget how good they are. Our first (of only two) visits to Florida 5 years ago enabled us to visit all 8 parks and every single park delivered at least one 'Perfect Moment' - something that took our breath away and made us go 'Wow'. That was the magic we sought/hoped for. And we found it. Everywhere. Everyday.

March 8, 2010 at 1:05 PM · Here our mine

The "bam, bam, BOOM" at the end of Illuminations when the countries light up! I like to pretend I am controlling it since I know the cue to wave my hands.

"We go on" portion of Illuminations

When the lights go out for Spectromagic

And I agree with all the rest mentioned, especially the opening of Soarin!

March 8, 2010 at 1:05 PM · 1. The ending of Soarin' when Sleeping Beauty's Castle comes into view with the powerful ending to the musical score
2. The beginning fanfare to Spectromagic as the street lights dim on Main Street
3. The ship and village scenes in Pirate of the Carribean when "Pirates Life for Me" can be heard
March 8, 2010 at 1:10 PM · Here is the Illuminations part I mean

(at 4:50)


March 8, 2010 at 1:12 PM · I agree 110% about the Main Street Electrical Parade. By far, it's the best parade ever and the music is so intrinsically tied into the show. The planning of your entire evening to snag prime seating...the anticipation of sitting curbside and waiting for it to start...the regular announcements counting down the moments...all culminate in the dousing of every street light and a few seconds of eerie silence, before the opening notes blast through the speakers. (And of course, the extra anticipation as it takes a little while after the music starts for the floats to actually make their way into view.) I only wish I was going down this summer--instead of this spring--so I could see it come back!
March 8, 2010 at 1:21 PM · Interesting how pretty much everyone gave just Disney moments...I guess it shows which company is the best at making those moments.

I'll concur with whoever said the beginning of Soarin'...coming out of the clouds and being in front of the Golden Gate Bridge is just awesome.

The holiday "Let There Be Peace on Earth" ending to Illuminations is pretty excellent as far as a "goosebump" moment.

March 8, 2010 at 1:25 PM · OOOH, great topic. A few of mine (not previously mentioned. I agree with most mentioned as well):

>The finale of American Adventure, when Ben Franklin and Mark Twain are just "chatting," the music swells, and the curtains open wide to show the statues depicting the "American Spirit."

>The last beats of Fantasmic! (USH) when Mickey miraculously disappears from the top of the mountain and reappears onstage, then disappears completely again.

>And from a bygone era: The end of Poseidon's Fury (old version) at IOA, when the lights came back on and everyone suddenly found themselves in the room they had just left. That was classic! (Why'd you change it, Universal? Why?!)

March 8, 2010 at 1:46 PM · Many of these are "first time you ride" moments.

Expedition Everest - you reach the summit to find the track mangled, a pause, and then backwards you go into the dark.

Mission Space - must be on Orange team to feel the acceleration at the launch.

Soarin' - at dusk in Malibu when you swear your feet will touch the waves.

Tower of Terror - when your elevator moves horizontally (especially if you rode ToT in California first)

Men in Black - when you get "The Suit". It does take some of your own skill. My daughter loves that moment.

Jurassic Park - you focus on the T-Rex not realizing you are going to drop!

March 8, 2010 at 1:59 PM · TTA "Now approaching Space Mountain."

CP "Riders..how was your ride?? Thank you for riding America's Roller coast."

Magic Kingdom at night.

Top of the Millenium Force at night.. looking over lake Erie

March 8, 2010 at 2:26 PM · Being at Bucsh Gardens VA on top of The Griffion for a few minutes. There was a full moon and it was right over the James River and I had my best girl with me( my wife) The moonlight shown on the river like a lighted mirror. Of course you still have to do the 205' drop at some point.

I also agree with David about Shamu

March 8, 2010 at 2:18 PM · I will give you a non Disney one: The whirling water vortex you walk through on the old Posiden's Fury at IOA.

I also great enjoy the Candlelight Processional!

March 8, 2010 at 2:23 PM · Great topic, Robert. Perfect moments, in movies, music, literature, and even theme parks, that send shivers down your spine, are indescribably great.

1. Stepping off the "motor coach" at Epcot in the early morning, passing through the turnstiles, and admiring the geodesic dome, fountains, and topiaries while music plays. That pre-park anticipation, particularly at Epcot, gets me every time.

2. Driving on the I-4 as you pass into Florida and seeing the first theme park advertisement billboard.

3. Being at Islands of Adventure early in the morning, when the park is eerily quiet, and hearing nothing but the Hulk rolling out of its launch pad.

4. Being in any of the Disney parks for late night Extra Magic Hours in the off-season. The temperature is cooler, the park is empty, the queues are non-existent, and the only sound in the air is the music.

5. Taking a boat from a Disney resort to Downtown Disney at night when the adults get to play. A good boat skipper will interact with the passengers, dressing them up as pirates, stopping the boat to watch for alligators, etc.

6. The launch on Mission: Space.

7. The conclusion of Illuminations, when the Kellie Coffey and the backup singers sing "We go on" for the final time, followed by orchestra hits and a huge array of fireworks.

8. In Fantasmic!, after the boat of characters completes its tour and Mickey appears on the mountain, with a climactic score, fireworks, and laser effects. Some imagination, huh?

9. The Tower of Terror queue, with its perfectly eerie jazz music, props from classic episodes (e.g. the glasses from "Time Enough at Last"), and Rod Serling's first appearance, digitally recreated and re-voiced in all his glory.

10. The grubs, maggots, and cockroaches exiting the theater at It's Tough to be a Bug.

11. Seeing guests dance to live music outside of Mel's Diner at Universal Studios.

12. The Terminator driving off the stage and through the screen in Terminator 2: 3D.

13. Watching people play at the jumping fountains at Epcot.

14. When it's working, the tyrannosaurus attack and drop at Jurassic Park River Adventure.

15. The skyscraper fall on The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman.

16. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights.

I'm sure there are many more, but these are off the top of my head.

March 8, 2010 at 2:29 PM · YES!!!


I like also when the lights appear above you on Mission Space!

March 8, 2010 at 2:47 PM · Everything everyone has said!

Being in the front car of almost any coaster as you crest the hill and seem to hang over the edge for a brief moment before you plunge headlong down the track.

Splash mountain, as you go through the old America Sings...brings back happy memories.

Soaring when you dive down on the PS golf course.

The smell of the hot springs on the mine ride at Knott's.

Watching the reaction of kids when they first see a character at a theme park. The sheer look of excitement and awe.

The old parachute ride at Knott's. Hanging in the cage looking out over So Cal just before it drops.

March 8, 2010 at 3:21 PM · Some great moments have been mentioned, here are a few I didnt see, and are all in my top X.

When the bank blows up on the Bandit (A) show on the Great Movie Ride!

Getting washed into a runaway river at Rhino Rally,those days look to be over :(

Hitting the crown of the lift of X2, looking over the other 15 roller coasters of the park, various sound clips of movies and song playing to increase the anticipation...

March 8, 2010 at 3:26 PM · The launch on Rock'n'Roller Coaster...The best
Being sucked by maggie in The simpson ride
"A whole new world" in Mickeys Philarmagic..
Watch a Gorilla in Animal Kingdom
Going Backwards in Expedition Everest
March 8, 2010 at 3:54 PM · The moment on the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman at Universal's Islands of Adventure when you get hit with the anti-gravity ray and the buildings around you fall away!
March 8, 2010 at 4:33 PM · Great topic Robert!

1. Entering the planetarium at the top of Spaceship Earth
2. Launching out of the tunnel into the first barrel roll of Hulk at IOA
3. Although it's not the same anymore, hearing Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" on their coaster at Hard Rock Park, specifically the moment when they're belting out "looooovvvvvvveeeee" as you go down the first drop then the song really kicks into gear
4. A perfect theme park moment that I have at home: Everytime I listen to the finale of Illuminations I can picture the exact pyrotechnic elements that are bursting with each note of the music
5. Coming down the seemingly endless first drop of Titan at Six Flags over Texas then whooshing through the tunnel at the bottom.

March 8, 2010 at 4:40 PM · Mine are, like most here, Disney parks biased, particularly the California properties.

1. California Screaming launch - beats Rockin Roller Coaster launch because you can see how fast you're going and it seems more sustained. RRC's launch is over too quickly.

2. Entrance to high speed loop on Test Track

3. Like others have said, the dimming lights as Baroque Hoedown begins playing

4. Conclusion of Fantasmic: "Some imagination, huh?"

5. Haunted Mansion: "Your cadaverous pallor..."

6. Remember Dreams Come True Haunted Mansion scene, Ghost Host intro with simultaneous 360 degree green flares on "Is this room actually stretching?"

7. Finale jump in Lights Motors Action with explosion.

I'll also second the person who said the Fast and Furious VWs-on-a-Stick on USH's Studio Tour is the antithesis of these perfect moments. That one bit manages to throw the entire tour off key. It is just so random, pointless, and out of place.

March 8, 2010 at 4:52 PM · I agree with what many people have said here, and rather than repeating them, I'll add some of my own.

-The Spaceship Earth with Jeremy Irons: "...Or will we use this technology to usher in a new era of communication and understanding, on this: OUR SPACESHIP EARTH!" Just as your vehicle transitioned from the neon light tunnel into the star dome, with the string music building behind Irons' voice.

-Many people say Vegas is one giant theme park so: KA at MGM Grand: The first time the floating stage comes out of the pit, spinning and disguised as a boat is beautiful.

-Pooh's Hunny Hunt at TDR. The whole ride is brilliant but when the three vehicles appear to be connected as a train and then split and take seperate paths is perfect.

-Walking down World Bazaar at TDR. The Victorian structure of the glass canopy frames the Castle like a picture in a way that can't be duplicated on any other version of Main Street U.S.A.

-BraviSEAmo at Tokyo DisneySEA: When the Dragon rises out of the water slowly and dramaticlly. You have not seen a perfect dragon until you see Prometeo erupt into fireworks. Unfortunately this show closes later this year to make way for their own version of Fantasmic in honor of the park's 10th anniversary.

March 8, 2010 at 5:04 PM · My Top Five Moments of Theme Park Zen

1a. A few years back when Expedition Everest's Yeti actually moved, there was a moment near the end of the ride when your train was racing up toward the Yeti and his beefy, lunging arm came careening down toward the track. Just when it looked like you were about to become Yeti fodder, the track dropped downward for its final descent. When that happened back in 2007, my eyes were looking up, riveted by that huge, hulking animatronic mass so I had no idea the drop was coming! There I was staring straight up as the train plummeted down, the combination of which left my stomach somewhere in between! What a great moment.

1b. Similarly, on the Jurassic Park River Adventure (IOA), the first time you face the T-Rex, you don't even realize the final plunge is coming as your attention is fixed on that huge dinosaur! Eyes up, boat down, stomach lost in the shuffle! Love it!

2. On the now obliterated Orient Express at World of Fun, there was a part of the adventure when your coaster train passed through the second loop of an interlocked combo into a batwing element. That section of the course provided three wonderful inversions in a row and was a moment I always loved, until Cedar Fair took it away from me. Curses!

3. I absolutely love the part of IOA's Spider-Man ride when Electro leaps onto the hood of your vehicle and the car lurches impressively in time with his movements. It was at that moment in May 2007 that I knew my decision to add four days of Universal touring to my already extended Orlando vacation was one of the best decisions of my life.

4. The 3-5 seconds of hang-time on Griffon before the first drop is one of the finest coaster moments in recorded history.

5. And my greatest moment of Theme Park Zen is that first time on every Orlando trip when I start walking right down the middle of Main Street, USA, in the Magic Kingdom. Never has that moment failed to turn me into a misty eyed fanboy of the worst degree!

March 8, 2010 at 5:35 PM · 1. Fantasmic!'s ending.
2.Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure (every year) Musical finale.
3.Soarin' Over California
4.Space Mountain where you've just entered space.
5.Going up on the 2nd hill on BTMR when the fireworks are at its best. =)
March 8, 2010 at 5:52 PM · Disneyland....riding Matterhorn during the fireworks.
March 8, 2010 at 5:55 PM · Here are the favorites from our family:

1) Soarin' over the kayakers. So close you can almost kick them in the head!
2) Riding Splash Mountain during the fireworks.
3) Listen to Off Kilter on late summer Sunday afternoon.
4) Riding TTA during a summer rain shower.
5) Getting surprised everytime by the jets in Soarin'.
6) When your car bursts through the doors to enter the outside loop at Test Track.

March 8, 2010 at 5:55 PM · Ok heres mine:

-Before Illimunations when the narrator says "We hope you enjoy our story tonight; Reflections of Earth." and then blows out all the couldrens around the lagoon.

-Fantasmic at DHS when Sorceror Mickey is on top of the mountain and he is shooting off all the fireworks and then disappears and reappear at the bottom of the mountain and you hear the 7000 to 8000 guests cheer at once!

-Watching Mickey's Boo To You Halloween Parade and 2 scenes get me really excited and they are the Headless Horsemen riding at the begginning and then the Haunted Mansion float.

March 8, 2010 at 6:07 PM · "We're not gonna make it! WE'RE NOT GONNA MAKE IT!" Ah the end of Dinosaur, the panic, the giant carnataurous head poping out at your car, it's just awesome. As well, the starting of Soarin', when the lights go down, and you go up, it's just the most exciting thing.
March 8, 2010 at 7:20 PM · The beginning of Illuminations..The host blows out the lights, the drums pound and one "rocket" is launched into the darkness.
The begining of the MSEp still excites me.
The end of the preshow at the Tower of Terror..You have entered the twilight zone with lightnng effects followed by darkness.
The Christmas ending to Illuminations with Let there be Peace on Earth. In the last few moments, Disney launches more fireworks than any place else. The ground literal shakes.
The roar of the T-Rex at the drop in Jurassic Park.
The launch at Rockin Roller Coaster
Being in the front row for the drop at Griffon.
Taking the boat on the water at Busch Gardens Europe or whatever they call it now, and seeing the tracks of the coasters all coming together.
Spiderman landing on your car at the beginning of the attraction and the car tips forward.
The first time when you enter The Magic Kingdom and the Castle comes into view. Everybody usually just stops and stares at the castle.
The beinig of It's tough to be a bug when the "curtain" turns in a mass of butterflies that fly away.
Mister Potato Head interacting with guest in the queue at Toy Story Mania.
March 8, 2010 at 7:32 PM · The moment on "The Mummy" ride at Universal Orlando when you're ascending through the storm clouds and Im Ho Tep's face appears and screams, "Your soul is mine!," opening his mouth and you get sucked forward into green fog!

This ride also includes the great "false ending" with the flaming ceiling.

The part on the "Spider-man" ride where the Hobgoblin throws his pumpkin bombs at you, and Spider-man catches one of them, but one of them gets threw (and KABOOM) you get thrown backwards.

Also, the forty story fall at the end of "Spider-man".

March 8, 2010 at 8:19 PM · Hello all! Long-time lurker, first-time poster.

• The boulder scene in Indy is as good as it gets. It's a total shock to you the first time you ride it, and every ride after that it's someone else's first time -- so it always elicits quite a reaction!

• The long float through the caverns near the beginning of the Anaheim POTC is one of the few parts of any theme park ride where I momentarily forget that everything I'm seeing is fake. It's an all-encompassing sensory experience.

• A breezy summer night on the Whizzer at Six Flags Great America is about as pleasant as it gets. There's no roller coaster quite like it.

March 8, 2010 at 8:25 PM · All of these are great, but for me it is the entrance of any park. You hear the music, smell the smells, have guidemap in hand, and just pause as the anticipation builds. That feeling that overcomes you of knowing you are about to have one of the best times ever. Those initial beginning moments of stepping through the gate are perfect.
March 8, 2010 at 8:27 PM · Two, off the top of my head:

The old pre-show at Epcot's Living Seas, when Kathleen Turner described the never-ending rains that cooled the Earth, "the Deluge." Gave me goose-bumps every time.

Sitting on a rocking chair at the dock of Tom Sawyer Island, listening to the soft, lazy plucking of a solo banjo.

March 9, 2010 at 6:00 AM · Sitting in the dark of Comet Hollow during Halloween in Hershey and hearing the roar of the Great Bear at Hersheypark.

Reaching out to grab the brass ring at Knoebels.

March 9, 2010 at 7:53 AM · I'd like to add that I see a perfect moment in the Mummy Ride in USH, but the ride is also damaged by a "how not to" moment.

-Perfect is also when Ihmotep swallows the train. Pulled straight out of a movie indeed! One of those "WOW" moments as you're screaming.

-How not to make a ride is the anti-climactic ending. This is the anti-thesis of Indiana Jones' boulder. Instead of a "HOLY CRAP" ending, you get a "uh... we're just turning around in fog and lights" moment. Is the Florida version any better? I heard about the false unboarding station, and I think that's awesome.

March 9, 2010 at 9:25 AM · The ending of the Mummy ride in Orlando happens right after the wild midsection when the ride comes to a fake unloading section (which looks authentic) and stops. The ride operator's voice comes over the speakers, "Thank you for riding The Mummy at Universal Orlando. Please keep all hands and arms inside the vehicle until the ride--"when suddenly she is cut off. You can see her silhouette from the control booth as she is ATTACKED by Im Ho Tep who "breaks" the control booth glass (we're showered with "glass"/aka water droplets).

He intones, "You think it's over? Death is only the beginning!" Waves of fire race across the ceiling and we feel the heat. The coaster surges forward into the tunnel ahead and into another room filled with green fog and then past more painted ghostly appartions before finally racing uphill towards another giant Im Ho Tep face which starts "breathing fire" (red smoke) and we fly directly into the fire. Then we pass the sign of the Magi, saving us, and we pull into the station.

March 9, 2010 at 9:33 AM · The last 30 seconds of wishes.

The kiss goodnight at the MK.

"Dead men tell no tails"

not really a moment but rather a simple effect:
The fiber-optic lights in the pavement behind Spaceship Earth.

March 9, 2010 at 9:40 AM · As much as I would love for there to be one, there is no Indiana Jones ride at Walt Disney World.
March 9, 2010 at 11:35 AM · Dinosaur's the same ride (same track even, I've heard) but with a different theme. (Obviously, but if they can put aliens in an Indiana Jones movie, why not dinosaurs for the next one? Heck, Harrison Ford's almost as old as the dinosaurs now.)
March 9, 2010 at 1:00 PM · I consider Dinosaur to be far superior to Indiana Jones Adventure. The effects and animatronics in the latter pale in comparison.
March 9, 2010 at 1:27 PM · 1) Riding Test Track during EMH at Epcot and in the dark - magic!
2) The bit in Wishes at Magic Kingdom when Jiminy Cricket says 'we all have a dream, what's your dream' and I burst into tears! :)
3) 'A Whole New World' during Mickeys Philharmagic at Magic Kingdom

yep, I'm a WDW fiend for sure! 8:o)

March 10, 2010 at 8:38 PM · Mine are at Cedar Point. 1)The moment that we start across the causeway and first see the coasters and towers of Cedar Point across Sandusky Bay; 2) the moment our Sky Ride car leaves the station and we are floating above the Midway, looking down and seeing the beautiful floral designs that run the length of the Midway; 3)watching my kids going from ride to ride in Camp Snoopy (and joining them on the ones that don't spin me into a nauseous state).
March 12, 2010 at 2:51 PM · Sunrise over the Magic Kingdom as seen thru the mist from the roof of the Contemporary Resort.

Sunset glinting off the facets of Spaceship Earth.

Winding along the paths of Busch Gardens Europe, early in the morning, before the crowds arrive, when you almost feel like you're alone.

The Early Morning Walkback for passholders at Kings Island -- just you and a few others, fastwalking at a speedly clip to get to Diamondback.

Cedar Point right after the rain, when the pathways are moist, the wind is freshening, and the people are still under cover.

And -- you called it, but from the other perspective -- munching my Monte Cristo sandwich in the Blue Bayou as the boats float lazily by, on their way to the sacking of Port Royal.

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