People often ask: “What is your favorite ride at Disney World?” It’s temptingly easy to jump to Rise of the Resistance or Avatar: Flight of Passage. These rides are favorites which will be covered later, but the truth is, the non-thrill rides fill a different need. One for nostalgia and a little Disney magic.
In the first post of the “Best Attractions in Disney World” series, we will be discussing the Dark Ride attractions. These rides focus on massive amounts of Disney theming and a little excitement along the way. They are slow moving indoor rides, either in a boat or in a car/buggy on a flat track. And you guessed it, they’re mostly in the dark!
In preparing for this series we classified every single attraction at Disney World into one of 6 categories:
Just Skip It. . .: As the name says, it's just not worth your time. Go back to the resort pool and take a nap or buy an adult beverage instead!
If Nostalgic: Only ride these rides if they have a special meaning to you or someone in your group. If you feel like it would make you happy, then go for it!
Worth The Chill: If you get tired, or just want a break from the action, these are great options. But, you won’t really be missing out if you don’t make it around to this group.
Definitely Once: Whatever you do, don’t miss! But once is probably enough
Worth a Repeat: You won’t be satisfied visiting these attractions only once. Better plan on a second day - or better yet, a second visit!
Top Attractions: Being a top attraction at Disney World is a competitive distinction; there are so many high caliber rides at Disney World! No dark rides currently fall into this category, but Magical Adventure Co. has picked five that we are excited to reveal in another post!
Without further ado, here are the top “Dark Rides” at Disney World, from meh to wow.
Just Skip It. . .
14) Journey into Imagination with Figment: EPCOT
13) Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros: EPCOT
There is not much to these two rides, and they’re not quite worth the time. Part of our team grew up loving The Three Caballeros movie, and even they didn’t enjoy Gran Fiesta! Your time will be better spent with either a margarita from the Mexico pavilion or a beer from Canada.
12) “it's a small world”: Magic Kingdom
“It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all. . .” Now you are thinking about it, and now it's stuck in your head forever. You’re welcome. But if that’s your truth, go for it.
11) The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: Magic Kingdom
10) The Seas with Nemo & Friends: EPCOT
9) Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid: Magic Kingdom
If you/your kiddos are a fan of these characters and you have the time, then these three are definitely worth a ride. Since these rides have enduring popularity with the next generation, keep an eye out for wait times. Magical Adventure Co. recommends riding Winnie the Pooh first thing in the morning or right before park closing. Nemo and The Little Mermaid tend to be less busy mid-morning.
Also, the queue for all three of these rides is just as themed as the attraction itself. We would definitely recommend paying close attention to all of the little details when waiting in line!
Worth the Chill
8) Na'vi River Journey: Animal Kingdom
7) Living with the Land: EPCOT
These two boat rides are actually quite enjoyable. Na’vi River Journey ranks here mainly because the animatronics are some of the best in the park. It’s worth seeing if you have the time and the wait is not unbearable, which it often is. Magical Adventure Co recommends riding it later in the evening, if you’re unable to secure a FastPass+. Living with the Land is educational and very interesting. It highlights Disney’s environmental efforts, as the ride goes through the greenhouse and the agro farming areas. But in the end, these are both just slow rides in a boat.
6) Frozen Ever After: EPCOT
This is one of the best of the boat rides. With the thrill of a small drop situated between some impressive animatronics with rear projection technology and your favorite Frozen tunes, this ride is worth it with a FastPass+. Unfortunately, the line can often get up to 60+ minutes, making waiting in the stand-by queue not necessarily worth it if you are traveling without kids. Without a FastPass+, Magical Adventure Co. recommends riding as soon as the park opens or later in the evening.
5) Spaceship Earth: EPCOT
4) Haunted Mansion: Magic Kingdom
3) Pirates of the Caribbean: Magic Kingdom
The Classics! You can’t go to Disney World and not make it to these three. Pirates of the Caribbean added Captain Jack Sparrow to the attraction several years back. This adds some fun to try to spot this new fan favorite character throughout the ride.
These rides tend to get longer waits later in the day. The reasons why? All three are appealing to adults! Magical Adventure Co recommends riding them before lunch.
2) Peter Pan’s Flight: Magic Kingdom
This day-one Disneyland ride is still a must ride today at either park. You really feel like you are flying out of Darling’s window, across London - second star to the right, and straight on ‘til morning! On your flight to Neverland, watch out for a mean pirate and his band of scallywags! Because of this classic adventure’s nostalgic Disney charm, and Peter Pan’s continued appeal to kids of all ages, the average wait time is often over 70 minutes. Magical Adventure Co. recommends a FastPass+ or riding first thing in the morning.
Worth a Repeat
1) Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin: Magic Kingdom
As the only “Dark Ride” you’ll want to ride twice, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin comes in at #1. This video game-like ride takes you on an adventure to defeat Zurg. With only the best Space Rangers coming out on top! It's fun, it's competitive - it's just the best. If you don’t have a FastPass+, you can often sneak in a ride in the morning with a limited wait.
What did you think? Did we get it right? Wondering how to enjoy these attractions with minimal wait? Any questions, thoughts or opinions shoot us a note.
We'd be remiss without a tribute to our Honorable Mention Dark Ride. For us, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover is the only other low speed ride that we recommend riding. You get great views of the Magic Kingdom Castle and Tomorrowland, so make sure to keep your camera at the ready for these scenic spots.
Additionally, you can get an inside look at Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear. Most importantly, there is rarely any wait. This is a great thing to do in the afternoon when the crowds pick up, since you get to sit the entire time. Plus, It actually picks up a little speed for a breeze, but be sure to put your hands in the air :) So grab a snack and a seat, and enjoy the ride on the PeopleMover!