We all know about those popular rides and attractions at Walt Disney World. You know, those must-dos that make it onto every Guest’s bucket list and often have extensive wait times and excessive crowds flocking to them. But Disney is such a big place, and one that consists of four separate theme parks at that. So surely there are a number of other Park pursuits too, right?
This is exactly true. But sadly, there are so many awesome attractions that get pushed out of the limelight and passed over far too often. Here we’re profiling our top 12 picks for underrated Disney World attractions for you to check out.
12. Tom Sawyer Island
It may be the extra effort required of Guests visiting the Magic Kingdom, to be ferried over by raft to this separate, secluded spot in the Park, but for some reason visiting Tom Sawyer Island doesn’t score high on the list of must-dos in this Park. It’s an experience that often gets overshadowed by all those other highly popular, easily accessible attractions throughout the Magic Kingdom’s main lands. It’s a shame though, because Tom Sawyer Island truly is a beautiful, peaceful place to venture to, with so much to explore, including caves and humorously-themed callouts to the Mark Twain classic.
11. Liberty Square Riverboat (Liberty Belle)
Whether this graceful, gently gliding riverboat along Magic Kingdom Park’s Rivers of America gets overlooked or not is debatable. Everyone sees it. Everyone recognizes it. But did you know there are some who fail to realize that it is actually an attraction? Some first-time visitors even make the false assumption that it is some mode of transportation, or even an experience that comes as some sort of extra rather than being open to everyone. There are also some who think the easygoing nature of the boat isn’t worth wasting time on when there are so many other, livelier rides to get through. But make no mistake that Liberty Belle is completely worth it! It’s a way to take a restful breather via a 17-minute ride, narrated by none other than Mark Twain.
10. Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
While Magic Kingdom Park’s “it’s a small world” dark boat ride attraction is one of those classic Disney rites of passage endeavors, this featured attraction over at EPCOT’s Mexico Pavilion just doesn’t get the same amount of attention. It’s sort of a shame, though, because in my opinion this similarly patterned option is way more appealing.
It features Disney’s beloved classic character Donald Duck and two of his feathered friends, as presented in Walt Disney’s classic 1944 film The Three Caballeros, which blended together live action and cartoon interactions. The themed boat ride, housed all indoors, follows Donald’s misadventures through Mexico via a series of film clips and elaborate scenery. It’s just one of those enjoyable pursuits we wish that more folks would share in.
9. Living with the Land
Housed within EPCOT’s Land Pavilion, this gently gliding indoor boat ride setup just doesn’t get the acclamation it deserves. Perhaps it is because it often gets outshined by what is one of the Park’s most popular attractions — Soarin’, which just so happens to its next-door neighbor in the Land Pavilion.
But Living with the Land truly is an awesome attraction that lets you see firsthand the wonderful ways in which we humans depend on the land synergistically for food cultivation and growth, while also highlighting more sustainable growing practices and methods to improve the quality of life on the planet.
This informative, enlightening boat ride runs just under 15 minutes and never has the same lengthy wait time as Soarin’. It’s also a peaceful, low-key ride to take some time and relax with, all while feeling fulfilled by absorbing all of the new facts that you will learn along the way.
8. The American Adventure
This is the official name of one of EPCOT’s national pavilions, but it is also the official title of the pavilion’s anchoring theater show attraction. Presented as a half-hour combination stage and screen show spectacle, the “adventure” showcases 35 audio-animatronic figures from all throughout American history — detailing the odyssey of this great nation from its founding onward into modern times. Guests gather into the impressive, stately Colonial theatre for the show, in which Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain serve as the guides throughout the presentation.
Sometimes the idea to take a half hour out of the busy world tour through EPCOT gets lost in the shuffle. But the American Adventure truly is a wonderful experience that all Guests can fully appreciate.
7. Mickey’s PhilharMagic
As far as 3D show attractions go, this featured favorite over at Magic Kingdom Park’s Fantasyland truly is the best! But sadly, there are several Park visitors who are unintentionally, sometimes automatically programed to overlook show-based attractions, in greater pursuit of rides solely.
But you’d be making a big mistake on missing out on this one. Not only is it a good way to come out of the heat for a little while, but it also delivers an interactive, entertaining experience that even incorporates tactile elements and special effects. And watching Donald Duck get into trouble with all of his antics through different scenes from some of Disney’s most beloved classic films is always heartwarming, to say the least.
6. It’s Tough to be a Bug!
Here is another 3D show experience that often gets placed on the back burner when considering all of the other attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. But what’s unique here is the fact that its location is right within the Park’s most recognizable icon: the one and only Tree of Life. That’s right, there’s actually a theater housed at the base of the wondrous tree, which is a Discovery Island attraction in and of itself.
Like Mickey’s PhilharMagic, the show incorporates a series of tactile elements and interactions for the audience to experience. In this case, the show is largely comprised of audio-animatronic characters taken from Disney-Pixar’s A Bug’s Life (1998). There are also screen effects that rely on the use of special “bug eye” glasses.
There are a host of headliner attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom that stand out for their must-do appeal. You’ve undoubtedly heard about Expedition Everest, and the newer Avatar Flight of Passage. And who can overlook Kilimanjaro Safaris? But somewhere along the way, a large portion of Park Guests started overlooking this appealing animatronic dark ride, which is worthy of the same awesome appeal in my opinion.
This ride is unique in that it takes riders on a trackless, bumpy excursion through prehistoric times and includes a serious of impressive constructs, loud noises, and vivid scenery. I just can’t understand why this one, which is counted amongst my personal favorites, isn’t more popular.
4. Rafiki’s Planet Watch
As is often the case with the aforementioned Tom Sawyer Island, venturing to the section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park that is known as Rafiki’s Planet Watch requires a little extra effort. It is located in an area that can only be accessed via train ride and cannot be reached on foot or by any other alternate means.
You pick up the Wildlife Express Train nearby the exit of the popular Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction and then venture on a seven minute, 1.2-mile excursion up to this remote part of the Park, which is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of animal life and all life on Earth.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch is comprised of various different interactive sites that you can spend hours getting lost in. There’s the outdoor self-guided discovery trail known as Habitat Habitat! Then there’s the petting zoo area known as the Affection Section. But Rafiki’s main building, and the one that contains the most interactive explorations all under one roof, is of course Conservation Station.
It’s here that you can even see veterinary animal treatments taking place onsite through a large window, in addition to exploring animal dietary health at the Nutrition Center. A series of small animal exhibits can also be found here, along with so much more. This is also host to the much newer Animal Experience, which is devoted to the techniques used by Disney Animators in modeling beloved animal characters in film and entertainment after real-life animals.
3. Walt Disney Presents
While the rest of my party is busy trying to beat an ongoing record of times for riding the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror while at Hollywood Studios, I like to explore those less assuming haunts in the Park. And one of my personal favorites is that little museum/gallery setup known as Walt Disney Presents. Because it’s a self-guided go-at-your-own-pace sort of venture, I love taking as much time as I can looking at all the different props, sketches, costumes, and artifacts depicting Disney history and heritage.
At the end of the gallery there is an auditorium that plays a wonderful 15-minute documentary film tribute to Walt Disney called One Man’s Dream. While you don’t have to stay for the film, it’s highly recommended, especially for those with a true love and appreciation for all things Disney. Do note, that there are times when the film is temporarily replaced with sneak peek features for upcoming Disney or Pixar films, but for the most part, One Man’s Dream is the norm.
2. Carousel of Progress
While Space Mountain is arguably the attraction that dominates the Tomorrowland scene over at Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress is a classic that sadly gets overlooked far too often. In its own right, it is a hidden gem in the Park — a theater production with rotating scenes and audio-animatronics telling their stories of American life through the progressing decades. And with a runtime that adds up to just over 20 minutes, it provides the perfect opportunity to get out of the heat for a bit.
1. Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
Here is another Tomorrowland staple that should be vastly far more popular than it is. It’s that elevated looping track high above everything in the Park — the one you see people riding along in cars and that unseasoned Disney Park Guests sometimes mistake for the monorail! It’s really a conceptually-designed urban mass-transit system of the future that takes passengers along on a grand circular tour of Tomorrowland and many of its attractions.
There are even parts where the ride speeds up and swoops in and out of otherwise inaccessible sections (including Space Mountain). For all that it’s worth and all of the sights you get to see from such an elevated perspective while relaxing for a bit, this really should get a much higher billing in the category for notable classic Disney attractions.
There are so many wonderful Disney attractions that sometimes fall short of the popularity contest. But because people come with all different interests and thrill levels, it’s wonderful to see Disney prevail in offering such a versatile array of rides and Park attractions to mutually suit each and every member of your party. You can always count on finding a magical pick that’s just right for you.