What Makes a Classic?
There are some Walt Disney World Rides, past and present, that most folks would consider true classics. Attractions come and go over the years, and a few of the Parks’ classic attractions no longer exist in their original forms, but they still hold a special spot in history.
What makes us think of an attraction as a “classic”? Is it just the length of time it has been around in a Disney Park? Popularity? A sense of nostalgia surrounding it, whether the attraction is still present or has been replaced? Or, perhaps there’s something indescribable that makes us want to experience them time and time again.
Here are the top ten classic attractions that have won our hearts at Walt Disney World over the years.
Though just a simple spinner ride, Dumbo has long been an icon in the Magic Kingdom and at Disneyland. At Walt Disney World, wait times to ride Dumbo were historically very high, leading to a major change for the attraction. When New Fantasyland construction was planned, Dumbo was “cloned” to help meet the demand for this slow-loading attraction.
In addition, a new queue experience was born: an indoor circus-themed play area that allowed children to play while parents held an Applebees-style pager letting them know when to re-join the line. I wouldn’t be surprised if children found the waiting area more fun than the ride itself!
2. Peter Pan’s Flight
Another Fantasyland attraction that always seems to have long lines is Peter Pan’s Flight. The whimsical flight over London and through scenes from Peter Pan makes it a Disney fan favorite. Still, the consistently-long wait times don’t match up with the other long wait times in the parks, since thrill rides are usually the ones with the most demand.
3. It’s a Small World
It’s hard to imagine a Disney Park without this classic boat ride – in fact, each of the 5 Disney Parks locations around the world has one. It’s a Small World was created for the 1964 World’s Fair, and then made its way to Disneyland. The message of unity and international connection never gets old, and we need it now more than ever. While no one would argue that this relaxing, slow-ride attraction is a classic, there are plenty of people who don’t enjoy the ride because the song is so….. catchy? Yes, let’s go with catchy.
4. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
It’s hard to summarize the plot of this classic dark ride. Mr. Toad is, after all, an erratically-driving toad with questionable morals. On paper, the plot wouldn’t really look like a family attraction, but somehow this ride has become a favorite of many. Based on characters from The Wind in the Willows, this attraction was replaced at the Magic Kingdom in the late 90’s by a more cuddly and lovable friend: Winnie the Pooh Bear.
If you look carefully, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh pays homage to the old classic Toad ride (look for a picture in Owl’s house of Toad giving him the deed in the ride). If that’s not enough for you, you can always go visit Mr. Toad in the “pet cemetery” near the exit of The Haunted Mansion, or take a trip to Disneyland to ride the original attraction there.
Related: Top 10 Disney Attractions We Wished Weren’t Closed
5. Snow White’s Scary Adventures
At Walt Disney World, this classic attraction based on Walt Disney’s first feature film was replaced by a Princess Meet and Greet experience, but it still exists in Disney Parks around the globe, including Disneyland. In fact, it was given a recent update in Disneyland, taking away the “scary” elements and getting a new name: “Snow White’s Enchanted Wish.” If you’re a fan of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Walt Disney World, you’ll notice some borrowed elements from that attraction in the update as well.
Related: 8 Controversial Changes at Disney World
6. Space Mountain
Space Mountain is a “dark ride” of a different sort. Though not the same as a slow-moving Fantasyland-style dark ride, Space Mountain gives Guests the ultimate “where am I going?! (in a good way)” experience. Flying through the dark on this indoor roller coaster makes you feel like you’re going much faster than you actually are (no more than 35 miles per hour at any given time), and it’s a favorite of many Guests.
Space Mountain’s popularity and staying power cannot be ignored. It’s the centerpiece of Tomorrowland, and its structure is a landmark in the Parks. It has been replicated within all of the Disney Parks and there’s always a long line of fans waiting for a ride. Space Mountain was the first attraction to prove that there was indeed a place for thrill rides at Disney Parks, paving the way for more intense coasters to come.
Related: 6 Reasons Why We Love Space Mountain
7. The Haunted Mansion
There’s no mistaking The Haunted Mansion’s classic status. Not only has the spooky Haunted Mansion enjoyed its stay in the Park since its opening, but all of the other global Disney Parks have made their own versions of it. The Haunted Mansion’s popularity is evidenced by the amount of unique merchandise that you can get these days featuring characters like the Hitchhiking Ghosts and even the Haunted Mansion Cast Members.
8. Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean is a fun family attraction that even newborns can go on, with a mild thrill and an immersive story. Pirates of the Caribbean was the last attraction that Walt Disney oversaw himself. Unfortunately, he died 3 months before it opened within Disneyland. Pirates of the Caribbean can be found in Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris.
And don’t forget – Pirates is such a favorite that it has an entire film franchise based on it! Its status as a fan favorite means that any changes to the attraction – like the changing of the auction scene – come with great discussion and debate.
Related: Virtual Ride on Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure at Shanghai Disneyland
9. The Jungle Cruise
Here’s another classic that has inspired a popular film: The Jungle Cruise. The ride is full of “punny” jokes and animatronic animals at every turn. It has undergone some recent changes to update cultural representation in the ride, but it’s as funny as ever.
10. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
My Frontierland favorite, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, is part family roller coaster and part thrill ride. With an elaborate backstory about a southwestern mining town and a beautifully detailed queue and ride scenes, there’s nothing we don’t love about this one.
Just as Space Mountain is to Tomorrowland, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad’s exterior is a key element to Frontierland –and that certainly lends to its status as a classic, both as an awesome attraction and as a sort of Park icon.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about “classic” attractions over the years, it’s that being a classic doesn’t necessarily spare an attraction from revision, revamp, or retirement!
Which of these classic Disney rides is your all-time favorite ride?