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Brian Bennett

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Magic Kingdom Attractions

Before describing the attractions in the Magic Kingdom, I think it's necessary to point out some issues regarding small children and the attractions in this park. Many people assume that any attraction in the MK is suitable for all ages...and you need to understand that that is NOT necessarily the case. For one thing, there are height and age requirements that prohibit smaller children from riding some of the more wild attractions. Also, many attractions are very intense. The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Alien Encounter, Snow White's Scary Adventures, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and others have images and sounds that can be downright frightening for children.

There's a lot more information on this issue in the "Walt Disney World With Kids" section of the trip planning guide, including a complete list of the height requirements and "fear factors" that you will want to be aware of for the various attractions.  There's also a description of the "baby swap" policy that will be helpful for families with smaller children.  If you have kids under the age of thirteen that will be going on your trip, I encourage you to read through that information in detail before leaving for Florida.  For disabled guests, there's a brief amount of information that you may find helpful on the page titled, "Touring the Parks with Disabled Guests."

Main Street

Click here to take a great photo tour of Main Street!

Walt Disney World Railroad

The railroad is really a must-see attraction for any railroad buff or Disney history aficionado. Walt himself was a very big fan of model railroading. His home in the LA area had a huge layout in the backyard. A full-sized railroad was in the plans for Disneyland from the very beginning. Kids love this ride mostly because of the thrill of riding on a real train (the engines are indeed steam powered). Another tidbit is that, with some careful thought, the railroad can be used strategically to move around parades and other shows. Also, you can get some glimpses of the backstage areas as you ride around the berm that surrounds the guest areas of the park.

Main Street Vehicles

If you're on a time budget, skip the trolley, the horseless carriages, and the fire truck. You'll certainly get to the other end of Main Street much more quickly on foot. On the other hand, these can be fun to ride...and your kids might really enjoy doing so.

Adventureland

Click here to take a great photo tour of Adventureland!

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

This attraction is very, very similar to the venerable Dumbo ride in Fantasyland.  The queue and surrounding area is nicely themed, the two spitting camels (from the Aladdin parade that used to run at the Studios and which were later placed in the Animation Courtyard there) are props (one of them spits, too) and the bazaar gives a nice backdrop for the area.  If you take note, you'll also find that the pavement has "jewels" embedded in the concrete.  It's a nice touch.  The other main thing is that the riders control both the height of their carpet flight as well as the angle that the carpet flies at. Like Dumbo, this ride has very little loading capacity.  Unlike Dumbo, this attraction isn't in the middle of a very busy area of the park, so although lines do form on busier days, it's nowhere near as bad as Dumbo.

Tropical Serenade - Under New Management!

The Tropical Serenade was an audio-animatronic show in which birds, flowers, trees, and Tiki totem poles all join in song to entertain. As a Disney historical buff, it's neat to notice that this was the first audio-animatronic attraction.

In 1997, Tropical Serenade closed due to mismanagement and financial problems.  In the Spring of 1998, though, the attraction was bought out and is now being run by a new management team.  A couple of old birds, Iago (from Aladdin) and Zazu (from the Lion King) are now responsible for running the place, and setting the creative direction for the show.

Unfortunately, the avians disagree about how to do that.  Iago prefers a new, hip, updated approach.  Zazu, though, is concerned with the respect one must have for the Tikis.  The results are very amusing!

Pirates of the Caribbean

On this premiere attraction, guests are taken on a treasure hunt on the Spanish Main. During the course of the ride, you witness a cannonade between a pirate ship and a stone fortress on the shore. Then you travel into the middle of a small town that is in the process of being ransacked by the swarthy buccaneers. You do get to see the pirates treasure, too, before the end of the ride. Just as a side note, this is a much longer, and more detailed ride in Disneyland...but it's still worth a line in Florida, too. The scenery is outstanding, the effects are convincing, and the music is haunting.

Swiss Family Treehouse

You'll do alot of climbing in the tree house, but if anyone in your party is a Swiss Family Robinson fan, you just have to check this out. Usually, there's no line to speak of. Also, I'd recommend that you rent and watch the film before leaving on your trip. That will make this attraction much more enjoyable. Also, I'd suggest that you visit the tree house when you're fresh and rested.

Jungle Cruise

The jungle cruise is a waterborne adventure over many of the rivers of the world. You'll see animals from all of the major jungle areas of the world including Africa, India, and South America. Actually, the ride was based in part on the Real Life Adventure documentary "The African Lion". In my opinion, WDW's version has better audio-animatronics than the Disneyland version, and includes a ride through a far-Eastern temple. This is also one of Barb's favorite rides -- especially when it's dark (the audio-animatronics are much more realistic then).

Frontierland

Diamond Horseshoe Saloon Revue

Awhile back, lunch or dinner was served just before the old west slapstick show began. Now, counter service fast food is available if you want to snack. The show itself is a live music and vaudeville thing. Entertaining, funny (some of the one liners are killers). I'm told this is similar to the Hoop-dee-doo, but on a much smaller scale.

Frontierland Shootin' Arcade

I've only spent a few quarters here, but it's a fun arcade. Almost any target has some amusing thing happen when you hit it, and the targets are so sensitive you might as well be shooting at the broad side of a barn. I guess Disney did some market research and discovered that hitting something is what makes shooting fun. So much for gun control.

Country Bear Jamboree

This is another audio-animatronic show. This time, a group of bears and other forest animals entertain with a show of country music, hand-clappin', and foot-stompin'. The Vacation Hoe-down show, which ran from the mid-80's, was replaced in 1995 with the original Jamboree version of the show. I personally like the Vacation Hoedown better, but that's just my opinion. Pay careful attention to the lyrics. The music is ok, but the words are a hoot! There is a totally different show at Christmas time, but I've never had a chance to see it.

Tom Sawyer Island

Make sure you read the classic "Tom Sawyer" or at least see Disney's "Tom and Huck" before you head to the island. You'll enjoy Injun Joe's Cave, the bridges, and the other things on the island much more if you do. I can't wait until Allan's old enough to bring here. I think just about any kid would enjoy the fort and the other details. My own Dad had a really fun time on the barrel bridge during our 1993 trip.

Splash Mountain

"The Song of the South" and Br'er Rabbit's adventures with Br'er Bear and Br'er Fox is the basis for this ride. The audio-animatronics are wonderful and the soundtrack, as is typical with Disney, is marvelous. Only after watching Br'er Rabbit get into a heap of trouble with the other main characters do you realize that you're about to follow in his footsteps and escape the villains by jumping (six stories) into the briar patch. I can't stand this big drop, but I ride Splash Mountain every trip. The first time Barb and I ever rode this contraption, it broke down just as we reached the top of the big hill. No kidding, right at the top...and we had to sit there until the thing started up again and dropped us to our deaths. At least it seemed that way. Don't miss this one...unless you have a clinical fear of six story drops into briar patches.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Indian legend says that Big Thunder Mountain is haunted. The white men ignored the warnings of the local tribe, though, and when they sunk their shafts in search of the mother lode, bad things began to happen. During your ride, pay attention to the town that is in the midst of several natural disasters. You can hear some of the town folks inside the buildings as you whiz by. Big Thunder is one of my favorite rides. It's a fun coaster-like ride, but not excessively obnoxious. The worst thing about it is trying to catch the details during the quick sweeps around the mountain.

Liberty Square

The Hall of Presidents

This attraction is exceptional. It tells the history of the Constitution of the United States and the role of the president in the governing of our nation. After that presentation, a roll-call of all of our presidents, from George Washington to William Clinton, is made with each audio-animatronic president acknowledging his announcement in turn. The presentation ends with a speech by Presidents Lincoln and Clinton. Again, as a history lover, I enjoy it a lot. Barb enjoys the air conditioning and the soft seats. Regardless of your personal opinion of history, don't miss this attraction.

The Haunted Mansion

The Haunted Mansion is another wonderful Disney special. It's filled with special effects and scenery that is top shelf. I especially like the ghostly ball and the graveyard scene. It's in the graveyard that the music is first heard. When you hear it, you are instantly cursed with the "It's a Small World" curse....you keep humming it over and over...until you ride "It's a Small World" again and get hooked on that Sherman Brother's tune instead. Now that's horrifying!!!

Liberty Belle Riverboat

Click here to take a journey on the Rivers of America on the Liberty Belle!

This paddle-wheeler takes visitors on a ten minute ride around the "Rivers of America". It's a nice, quiet ride and gives you a nice view of the scenery around the river. Like most of the other transportation attractions, this is worth the time if you don't have any higher priorities to take care of first.

As a bit of trivia, the riverboat used to be called the "Richard F. Irvine" in honor of one of the Imagineers that was prominent in the design and construction of Walt Disney World.

Mickey's Toontown Fair

The best reason to visit Toontown Fair is that there are lots of characters to meet there. All around, Toontown Fair is OK, but Disneyland's Toontown is far, far superior. On a time budget? Skip it. No kids? A brisk walk through the area will about cover it.

Goofy's Barnstormer

This is a relatively tame roller coaster for the younger set, based on Goofy's penchant for flying airplanes into and through your local neighborhood barn. Each car of the train is shaped like a plane, just to make the connection with the flying fairs of the 20's and 30's. The speed of the ride is sufficiently slow so all but the most worrisome of mothers won't mind their kids taking a spin.

Donald's Boat

This is a water play area that toddlers just love.  Be aware that your kids will get drenched if you let them play here.  Also, don't forget to bring your camera!  Those pictures will be priceless.

Character Greetings

You can meet Mickey after walking through his house.  You actually have to walk through to the "judge's tent" in the back, where the country fair's vegetables and backed goods are ostensibly being evaluated.  After a brief queue (even if it looks long, the line moves fairly quickly...if the whole tent is filled, you still won't wait more than twenty minutes or so), you will be ushered in to a semi-private audience with Mickey!  This is another photo-op that you don't want to miss.

Various characters, including some of the princesses, Pooh characters, and others can be met at the Toontoon Hall of Fame.  The queues are labeled, so you won't be surprised as to what character you'll be meeting.  Also, be aware that various characters are available throughout the day. 

Fantasyland

Cinderella's Carousel

Each and every hand-carved horse on this beautifully restored carousel is white so every rider is a prince or princess. The carousel's calliope plays music from many of the Disney classic films, not the least of which is Cinderella itself.

Mad Tea Party

The Tea Party is based on "Alice in Wonderland" and the LSD-like hallucinations that pervade that movie. Don't ride the Tea Party after a meal, or else... This is the ride that makes Dramamine the official medicine of Walt Disney World. It's also highly recommended for folks with bulimia and no spoons. With effort, it is possible to keep your cup from spinning individually, but you'll still spin around the center of the ride.

Dumbo

Dumbo is another midway-type of ride in which the guests take Dumbo himself out for a spin. You can control the height at which you spin around Timothy Mouse, but that's the extent of your power on this ride. I finally rode this old standout in November 1995, but due to the long lines that form, I probably won't do it again until Allan is old enough to want to ride. Because Dumbo has very little loading capacity, lines form early and only get worse as the day wears on. If you or your child want to ride, get here pronto in the morning...or be prepared to wait.

Legend of the Lion King

This show is now closed.  A new 3-D movie attraction, staring Mickey Mouse, will be opening in 2003 in this theater.

Peter Pan's Flight

Peter Pan is one of the classic Disney films. The music, animation, and characters all work their magic as the story unfolds. The fantasy of pirates, flying, and mermaids all play to the minds of children. Hey, I'm in my 30's, but Peter Pan is still one of my favorites. In this attraction, many of those magical moments are recreated as you fly in a galleon through the Darling's nursery, over London's Big Ben and the Tower Bridge, and off to Neverland. Of course, Peter, Wendy, and the boys defeat Hook in the end. The crocodile shows up towards the end, too. Personally, I love flying over London the most...although the first glimpse of Neverland is always fun, too.

Peter Pan and It's a Small World sometimes forms very large lines right after a performance of the Legend of the Lion King ends. If you see a huge line, wait a few minutes. It's likely to dissipate considerably. If the line is merely long, it's not likely to get better until late in the day. Like most of the Fantasyland rides, you want to do Peter Pan early or late.

It's A Small World

It's a Small World was originally developed by the Disney Company as a pavilion attraction for Unicef at the New York world's fair of 1964. It was one of four such projects that Walt accepted. The original Small World can still be seen and ridden at Disneyland. Walt Disney World's version has far superior audio-animatronics, and WDW usually has a much shorter line. There's a good reason for the shorter line in Florida. The building facade is incredibly plain and boring compared with the crowd-stopping building that was built for the New York fair, but otherwise the music's the same...

Snow White's Scary Adventures

Snow White's Adventures is a retelling of the story of Disney's first full-length animated feature film. As you ride through the scenes of the story, you'll see the wicked witch. Beware, as some youngsters are frightened by the haggard appearance and sudden arrival of the witch. You'll also pass through the forest in which Snow White ran through after abortive attempt by the woodsman to murder her. Although no mention of the woodsman is made on the ride, the trees do appear as if they are about to grab you...just as they did to Snow White as she ran in panic from the woodsman. Toward the end of the ride, the Witch, chased by the dwarfs, climbs up the rocky cliff and falls to her death.  Fortunately, everything turns out all right because the prince comes to give Snow White her kiss and release her from the spell of the sleeping death.

This is a very intense attraction for younger children, so beware. 

The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh

Pooh bear finally has his own place in the Magic Kingdom!  This attraction, extremely well done, uses both sides of the former "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" building and has turned it into a retelling of many of the best scenes from the Winnie Movie of approximately the same name.  There's actually a bit more to see here than in the film, since the heffalumps and woozles make more than just a cameo appearance.  Also, the experience of bouncing with Tigger is an exhilarating one.

Tommorrowland

Space Mountain

Space Mountain is a Disney classic. It's not as high as some coasters, or as fast as some coasters, or as steep as some coasters, and other coasters run in the dark, but the combination of sufficient speed and air-time along with the typical Disney atmosphere make this ride fun. If you're a coaster fan, try it. It's not anywhere near as intense as the Beast or the Magnum, but it's a passable coaster. If you're not a coaster fan, try Big Thunder Mountain first. If you enjoy Big Thunder, graduate to Space Mountain. Disney maintains a story that both sides of the ride are identical...I don't buy it. For one thing, they do admit that one side of the track crosses over the other at one point in the ride...and I'm convinced there's an extra bump in the left side (I suspect it's the cross over). Try 'em both. Then you can tell me which side you liked better...

Luis A. Veras (luis.veras@codetel.net.do) emailed me with the following update: "About the track legth.....the right track of space mountain is 10 feet longer, this is due to the fact that it has to move out of the way of the other track when they cross each other. I came across this information on the show "Walt Disney World Inside Out" on the Disney Channel. it's also in the SOP manual, though, there it says it's only 9 feet longer."

Astro Orbiter

This is very similar to Dumbo, perhaps a bit faster, but very much the same. There's not much to the orbiter. It's very appealing visually, but the ride is a very simply spin with minimal height control at the driver's discretion. I think it's a fun ride, but not worth a wait of more than just a couple of minutes. I've also learned to not let Barb "drive"...she just won't change altitude..just sits there and spins.

Tomorrowland Transit Authority

The TTA is the old WEDway peoplemover. It takes you on a whirlwind tour of Tomorrowland via an induction motor driven vehicle. The TTA is a nice break, usually doesn't have a big line, and gives you an overview of the whole Tomorrowland area. Listen carefully to the soundtrack...you'll hear some references to WDW attractions that have long been dismantled...

Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress

This is another of my favorites. In a 1995 refresh of this attraction, the music "Now is the Time" was replaced with the original "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow". I think the "new" old music is better. The Carousel is a rather unique ride. In it, the audience sees typical homes from several different periods in time...the 1900's, 1920's, 1950's, and today in the 1990's. After each scene, the seats of the theatre rotate around the fixed stage to the next scene. It's fun to see how technology has progressed over the years, without really affecting the fact that people live pretty much the same was as we always have.

Progressland, the name of the General Electric-sponsored pavilion that included this attraction, was another of Walt's four 1964 world's fair projects. It's a Small World, as stated above, was another. The third was Primeval World, a project for Ford Motor company featuring audio-animatronic dinosaurs (29 years before Jurassic Park). The fourth was Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, produced for the State of Illinois. Pieces of Primeval World can be seen during a ride on the Disneyland Railroad. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln survives at Disneyland, too. Furthermore, the Hall of Presidents is an expanded version of Mr. Lincoln.

Tomorrowland Speedway

Younger kids will really enjoy the opportunity to drive on a rather interesting road just like Mom and Dad do. Teens will be bored with the fact that the center rail and the engine's governor keep them from driving like a yellow cab in New York City (or anyone in Boston, for that matter). This really is a very visually appealing attraction, so you'll probably be roped into riding if you have a child in Elementary school.

Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin

Help Buzz Lightyear, from "Toy Story", defeat the evil hordes.  You'll enjoy trying to beat your partner's best score as you journey "from infinity and beyond."

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter

In this attraction, you are introduced to the intergalatic company called X-S. "We do everything in X-S" is the company motto. According to the story, X-S is a company headquartered in a distant part of the Galaxy that just recently discovered Earth and found it to be a wide-open market for it's new technologies. After the brief introduction and a demonstration of one of it's newest projects, a long-distance non-vehicular transporter system, you are invited to enter a laboratory chamber to witness the first real attempt at transporting a humanoid creature across deep space. Chairman Klench, the head of X-S's board of directors, is beamed from his planet to Earth. Almost. Actually, a series of errors cause the inadvertent transit of a nasty looking alien kind of creature into the lab. The lights go out...and you're alone with IT. You hear and feel his breath on your neck, you hear a scream across the lab -- and then the alien touches you on the head with its' tongue. I'll leave the rest of the experience to you. Have fun!

Jay Smith (jrs@lumber1.com) provided me with this valuable comment: "In early '96 we were in line for the Alien Encounter near a family with two girls who seemed to be 10-12 years old...the CM at the entrance told the parents that the attraction was "very intense" and might be too much for the girls, but the parents said that they could handle it...during the "very intense" encounter the girls were crying and screaming hysterically (not "this is scary" screams like everyone else there, but genuine screams of terror. this continued through the rest of the show...and they were led sobbing out of the room by their parents at the end. Not only was it a horrible experience for the girls (I bet they're still in therapy)...but for the rest of the audience as well....I would advise parents to think twice or 3 times about allowing pre-teens to view this attraction. I thought it was pretty scary myself, and I'm positively over 21."

The Timekeeper

Robin Williams performed the voice role for the audio-animatronic character, the Timekeeper. This is another advanced technology attraction. This time, a time machine is the device being demonstrated. Perhaps learning from the mistakes of X-S across the street, the Timekeeper is a bit more conservative in his testing methods. Instead of sending a humanoid as a guinea pig, he sends a robotic device, called Nine-eye, back in time. Nine-eye is able to fly and hover at will...and is equipped with nine video cameras, so we can see everything he sees. Before we're done, Nine-eye goes both back and forward in time and meets up with some interesting people along the way. This attraction is very entertaining. I wish that we'd done more time traveling and spent less time with the thin storyline. Williams holds back a bit on this one, but the overall attraction and the way it is presented is a tremendous improvement over a "typical" circlevision presentation.

 
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