Welcome back to another Disney Top 5.
Here’s where I make a confession: my name is Chris and I’m not a Walt Disney World lifer. I have not been going there since it opened; not even close. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been there a whole lot—or that I’m not completely and totally enthralled by the place. And it doesn’t mean that I don’t know my way around or know a lot about it. The exact opposite is certainly true. I know way too much about Walt Disney World and have earned my “Disney PhD” many times over. But the fact still remains that I was never in the Most Magical Place on Earth outside of this century. That’s still an impressive 13 years or so at this point, and the knowledge and experience that I’ve gained in that time is pretty substantial. From the moment that I arrived I had to know everything about the place.
Walt Disney World has that effect on people. I was hooked from the moment we arrived. After driving through a literal monsoon to get to the airport only to be massively delayed—then finally arriving after midnight with a tired wife and little girl in tow, Disney’s Caribbean Beach sucked me right in and had me at “Have a magical stay!” I soaked up the place and basked in the joy of my daughter and wife doing the same. I’m so glad that my first Disney World experience was through the eyes of my star-struck child. She made it so much more magical than I could have possibly imagined. It was almost worth NOT going there as a child myself to have that first time experience with her buying into everything hook, line, and sinker. I don’t begrudge my parents—much—for never taking me as a kid. I’m sure they had a good reason for not taking us to the most iconic family travel destination on the planet. That said, I do feel that there was a lot that, as a true Disney fan, I missed out on.
I never got to see characters roaming freely through the Magic Kingdom and running into guests spontaneously. I never purchased an E-ticket. I’ve only known a World with all four parks. The teacups have always been covered. We’ve never taken a Flight to the Moon or a Mission to Mars. I could go on and on, but I’d rather just take a look back at the Top 5 Walt Disney World Attractions I Never Experienced.
5 – Tapestry of Nations/Tapestry of Dreams
This parade was actually running on our first trip, and how I never made it over to Epcot to see it I’ll never know. It was an amazing-looking parade with wonderful music and incredibly creative puppets much like what can be seen each day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom during Mickey’s Jamming Jungle Parade. This one-of-a-kind parade that wound its way through Epcot’s World Showcase was created for Epcot’s Millennium Celebration and wrapped up in 2003. Search for it out there on the web. Thanks to sites like YouTube, we can still experience the magic of this short-lived but much loved parade.
4 – Dreamfinder
The whole family loves Figment. He’s actually one of our favorite Disney characters. We never pass up the Imagination Pavilion, and why not? There’s never a wait. It’s always fun. “One Little Spark,” written by the legendary Sherman Brothers, is a happy little tune that’s certain to get stuck in your head. I do wonder how cool it would have been to see the original attraction in all of its glory and follow Figment and the Dreamfinder in his flying contraption as they flew to the Dream Port to help put our imaginations to good use.
3 – River Country
Another near miss for me was the first of Disney’s water parks, and from what I can tell, seemed like a great place to cool off on those scorching Orlando summer days. Once again, I’m only speaking from pictures and Internet video, but it definitely seems like my kind of place. I realize that it wasn’t as huge or as high tech as the current Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Still, the Huck Finn inspired swimmin’ holes, rope swings and flumes seem like they’re right up my alley. I think I’d have enjoyed the natural sand beaches, the location nestled alongside Bay Lake, and the seemingly impressive rock work, designed by legendary Imagineer Fred Joerger. River Country certainly seems like my kind of place and I’m sorry that I missed it.
2 – 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea
I remember the lagoon always being there… enticing me… making me wonder what it was like to ride what I consider to be the coolest ride vehicles of all time: the Nautilus submarines. You used to be able to see the lagoon when you met Ariel in her grotto and the queue area was used for frequent Winnie the Pooh meet and greets, but my eye was always off the characters, instead imagining the subs plying their way around the lagoon. I’ve heard they were slow loading and I know they had a limited capacity so long waits were common, but honestly—I don't care. I just wish that I had gotten to ride in one of these awesome looking subs just once. There’s always the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage in Disneyland, and believe me that’s on my to-do list someday, but it’s not quite the same as these classic attraction vehicles.
1 – Horizons
Many people refer to this as their all-time favorite attraction at Walt Disney World. Essentially a sequel to the Carousel of Progress, Horizons tied together all of the themes in Epcot’s Future World and took us into the future. I’m a big fan of attractions like this; massive dark rides that take us through multiple audio-animatronic inhabited scenes, much like Spaceship Earth and Pirates of the Caribbean. I think it’s what Disney does best. I don’t really buy into the whole newer wave of thinking that I need to be “interactive with the attraction.” Not denying that this can be enjoyable, but sometimes I just want to sit back and have the attraction take me on a journey and watch it unfold in front of me as I travel from room to detailed room. It’s the total immersion factor that hooks me. It seems like Horizons succeeded tremendously on that level. The pictures and video that I’ve seen of the attraction prove that.
The one problem with attractions presenting the possibilities of the future is they actually become dated, as we unfortunately fail to live up to those possibilities shown in the attraction. This affects an attraction’s longevity and relevance. Sadly, a ride like Horizons is doomed unless it’s consistently updated. After all, aren’t we all supposed to be farming the ocean floor, colonizing space, and traveling around in jet packs and flying cars already? Obviously, we’re not and won’t be any time soon. Still, I certainly wish I had been able to see Horizon’s particular vision of our future before it was torn down to make way for Mission: Space.
There are so many things that I missed during Walt Disney World’s first three decades. There were rides and attractions that were open in my tenure that I just never got around to experiencing before they closed. The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter and Timekeeper in Tomorrowland come immediately to mind. I would have traded one trip on either of those for the one unfortunate time I sat through Stitch’s Great Escape, that’s for sure. There are plenty of others, but I certainly can’t complain. I’ve had more than my fair share of magic over the past decade or so and there’s plenty more in my foreseeable future. On the flip side, I also missed Ace Ventura Pet Detective: Live in Action, Magical World of Barbie, and Stitch’s Supersonic Celebration—and I’m OK with missing those.
As a Disney writer and enthusiast, these are just a few of the things that I hear so much about and regret never having experienced at Walt Disney World. What about you? Is there a fan favorite that you’ve only heard about or watched online, but never got to experience? Click on the link below and let me hear your thoughts and I’ll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.