My Disney Top 5 - Walt Disney World Attractions I Never Experienced

by Chris Barry, staff writer
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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


A "Ring Man" puppet parades through Italy during Tapestry of Dreams in 2003. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

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


Journey Into Imagination. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

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


Promotional Walt Disney World photo of River Country.© Walt Disney Productions.

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


A glimpse of a Nautilus submarine from an old postcard book. © Walt Disney Productions.

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


A display during Epcot's 25th anniversary celebration celebrated the Horizons pavilion. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

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.

Comments

  1. By MajorMickey

    Having gone to Disney World every year since 1973, I always regretted not riding the Swan Boats that floated in front of the Castle.
    Probably not so much for the ride as the fact of an attraction not tried.

  2. By DisneyDreamer100

    Nice article, Dave. Dreamfinder and the expanded Image Works are dearly missed. I'm a bit fuzzy on timeframes but I'm betting you missed Food Rocks at The Land, and World of Motion at EPCOT as well.

  3. By Silvercat

    My kiddoes once met Dreamfinder and Figment in Epcot, and Figment spent an inordinate amount of time searching in their hair for "English fleas!"

    I do miss Horizons, and the Image Works zones, they were both so much fun ....... (I don't miss Body Wars though - ugh!)

  4. By Drince88

    But Chris, Horizons WAS interactive: you got to choose your ending!!

    Silvercat, I don't miss Body Wars, but I do miss Cranium Command. It became a bit dated to the younger set when they finally closed it permanently (how many younger people actually understood the background of Hans and Frans and why them being the heart was just brilliant) but I was so grateful I had one last chance to see it during its last 'seasonal' opening.

    I'm sad I never got to experience Adventurers Club. The last trip before it closed my sister and I went to visit, but it was closed for a private event and we decided not to kill the hours in DTD until it opened to the general public, because 'We'll just go next time'. Famous last words.

    (But we did make a special trip, in July, to spend a long weekend saying 'goodbye' to Millionaire!)

  5. By LtPowers

    I'm lucky enough to have seen everything you listed, though I gotta say on a couple of 'em you really didn't miss much. =)

    My #1 missed attraction is one I'm too young to have ever seen: the Mickey Mouse Revue.


    Powers &8^]

  6. By carolinakid

    Never experienced Timekeeper or Alien Encounter. I really miss the Plaza Swan Boats. The parks need more of these low-key type of attractions suitable for any age. Don't get me wrong, I love the thrill rides, but the parks could use more attractions where one can just relax and enjoy the beauty and magic around you.

  7. By littlej

    I'm so sad for you, Chris! Horizons and 20,000 Leagues were two of my three all-time favorite rides, along with the Skyway. I credit 20,000 Leagues for my eventual career in life sciences, but that's another story.

  8. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by MajorMickey View Post
    Having gone to Disney World every year since 1973, I always regretted not riding the Swan Boats that floated in front of the Castle.
    Probably not so much for the ride as the fact of an attraction not tried.

    The Swan Boats are also on my list. I like the idea of seeing the Magic Kingdom from a slightly different perspective.

  9. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by DisneyDreamer100 View Post
    Nice article, Dave. Dreamfinder and the expanded Image Works are dearly missed. I'm a bit fuzzy on timeframes but I'm betting you missed Food Rocks at The Land, and World of Motion at EPCOT as well.

    We definitely missed World of Motion. Food Rocks was up and running, but didn't strike my young daughter's interest, so we passed it up and then it was gone. And no offense but its Chris not Dave!

  10. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by Silvercat View Post
    My kiddoes once met Dreamfinder and Figment in Epcot, and Figment spent an inordinate amount of time searching in their hair for "English fleas!"

    I do miss Horizons, and the Image Works zones, they were both so much fun ....... (I don't miss Body Wars though - ugh!)

    We really miss meeting Figment. He never had a line and was always extra fun with the kids.

  11. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by LtPowers View Post
    I'm lucky enough to have seen everything you listed, though I gotta say on a couple of 'em you really didn't miss much. =)

    My #1 missed attraction is one I'm too young to have ever seen: the Mickey Mouse Revue.


    Powers &8^]

    Yes the Mickey Mouse Revue is up there for me too. And now it's gone from Tokyo as well. Oh we'll.

  12. By danyoung

    I started visiting WDW in 1979, and was lucky enough to be in E.P.C.O.T. the week that it opened. I never made it to River Country, but then I'm not really one for the big water parks. But the two attractions that immediately came to mind were the Swan Boats and the DAK River Cruise (whatever it was called). I know that neither of these rides were show stoppers, but I wanted to ride 'em just once anyway.

  13. By CBFETT

    20,000 Leagues was my favorite! There was nothing like it anywhere. Still sad to this day that it's gone and can't experience it with my kids! Horizons was very cool and miss it too. River Country was my first experience at a Water Park and loved it. It really felt like a Country Swimming hole! While TL and BB are spectacular! There shoud be room for 3. And don't miss Body Wars! Made me sick. Star Tours doesn't nor does anything else like it.

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