The Ten Best Immersive Rides at Disney World
One of the best parts about riding the rides at Walt Disney World in Florida is the immersive experience you get on so many of these unforgettable attractions. Disney Imagineers have found a way to theme their rides in a way that extracts you from the world you know and places you inside of a story. You aren’t riding for the mere thrill of an amusement park adrenaline rush, you do it to be a part of the story and leave your worries behind. If this is an idea that is attractive to you, here are my recommendations for the ten-best immersive rides at Disney World that you will not want to miss.
Travel back through time back to the Prehistoric Era to locate an Iguanadon before a cataclysmic meteor strikes the planet, along the way encountering a variety of friendly and fierce dinosaurs. Dinosaur is a rocky, high-speed trip, full of adrenaline-inducing run-ins with thunder lizards in a jungle terrain. The fact that much of the ride takes place in the dark makes the arrival of the frightening Carnotaurus all-the-more surprising. Located in Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, this ride is a MUST.
9. Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
If you love the Disney film The Little Mermaid (and let’s face it, who amongst us Disney junkies does not?), Ariel’s Undersea Adventure is going to be right up your alley. Full of the most up-to-date animatronic technology and special effects, why not take a sojourn “Fathoms Below” and experience the story in three-dimensional splendor. From the rollicking roomful of nautical creatures singing “Under the Sea”, to the impressive animatronic of the Sea Witch Ursula casting her spell on Ariel, this ride will especially delight the kiddies who have watched the movie six-dozen times.
8. Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster with Aerosmith
As rollercoasters go, The Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster with Aerosmith at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is one of the most original for the fact that it is entirely immersive. Audiences spend a short session with the band as they wrap up recording an album. They are invited on a limo ride to the wrap party. The rollercoaster is a mad dash in that limo through Los Angeles at night, twisting and turning through road signs and Hollywood landmarks. Did I mention the attraction goes from zero to sixty in 2.8 seconds, as you are thrust down the highway on your way to the festivities.
7. Kilimanjaro Safaris
Not all immersive experiences at Disney World need to be based in fantasy. In fact, one of their most-scintillating attractions affords guests to get up-close and personal with real wild animals. Delivered as the most-intimate of all safaris, Kilimanjaro Safaris reveals to audiences just how thrilling and magical the world of Animals can be. Set at the back of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the attraction brings you closer than you ever thought you would be to lions, Nile crocodiles, hippos, giraffes, elephants and myriad other creatures of Africa. You do run the risk of the animals not being animated (lions like to nap), but there is so much to see regardless of their natural inclinations.
6. Peter Pan’s Flight
Some people might find this ride a little hokey, but it is a beloved classic of Disney World, as evidenced by the unusually long line of people always waiting to board mini pirate ships for a ride through the sky with our favorite boy who never grows up. Peter Pan’s Flight features early animatronics of all your favorites: Captain Hook, Smee, The Lost Boys, The Darling Children, The Crocodile, and the title character himself. Particularly dazzling is the “Flight over London” portion of the ride, a genius concoction of light, scale and perspective that gives the illusion you are flying high above the city. It’s a simpler form of Disney imagination, but effective nonetheless.
5. Star Tours
Star Wars continues to prove itself to have multi-generational appeal, and the success of Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is evidence that the Force is as strong as ever. Guests enter a small movie theatre and lock into their seats, preparing to assist on a mission that takes them to several memorable locales of the movie franchise. The theatre lifts, shifts, and jolts, giving the audience the feeling that they are flying through space and entering the many worlds of Star Wars lore. With 96 different possible ride experiences, Star Tours can be ridden again-and-again, making it an experience you will want to return to for each new possible adventure.
4. Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror
I must admit that I am not particularly fond of the multiple free-fall drops that conclude the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (I know I am in the minority here), but the lead-up to this fearful climax is worth the churning stomach. Visitor are first treated to a short episode of the classic TV show The Twilight Zone, hearing the story of a family and a bell boy who disappeared from a Hollywood hotel due to the supernatural. Guests then ride through the hotel, seeing the ghosts of these unfortunate guests, concluding their brief stay by entering an elevator where the worst awaits. The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror is easily the spookiest of all Disney attractions, guaranteed to give you first a chill, then an awesome thrill.
3. Splash Mountain
Themes after the animated portions of the dated 1946 Disney classic The Song of the South, Splash Mountain invites visitors to board a log and ride through the rural south and the habitat of Br’er Rabbit and pals. Based on the fables found in Uncle Remus Stories, your vessel shifts, turns, climbs, and falls into Br’er Rabbit’s escapades with Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear. The final thrill of the ride is to be cast into the briar patch, plunging down a heart-stopping drop into a pool of water (prepare to get soaked). Three of the songs from the film, “Everybody Has a Laughing Place”, “How Do You Do?” and the Disney staple “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”, are the soundtrack for this joyous attraction with just a dash of thrill to keep it from getting too saccharine.
2. Pirates of the Caribbean
“Yo-Ho-Ho, and a bottle of rum!”, The Pirates of the Caribbean is one of Disney World’s most-iconic rides, taking park guests on a subterranean journey through a world of swashbuckling pirate mayhem. To the strains of “Yo-Ho, Yo-Ho, A Pirates Life For Me”, those who dare to enter are taken on a boat ride through a pirate battle, visit a Caribbean port town where pirates pillage and set fires, and you even float by Captain Jack Sparrow a la Johnny Depp. Some of the pirate animatronics are a bit rudimentary, but this is hardly a sticking point as the whole attraction is lively and atmospheric.
1. The Haunted Mansion
For my money, The Haunted Mansion is the BEST that Disney World has to offer by way of immersive experiences. Never actually frightening, but a sublime immersion into a world of 999 comically rendered ghosts, the attraction invites audiences to witness, first-hand, as these specters romp and play it the hallways of a Gothic-Revival manse. Riding in “Doom Buggies”, visitors are witness to transparent apparitions dancing at a feast, a séance with the mysterious Madame Leota (voiced by the glorious Eleanor Audley), and they go for a spree through a graveyard filled with phantom revelry. Every detail is a visual feast for the eyes and ears, with the catchy “Grim Grinning Ghosts” accompanying the experience. Be careful of the hitchhiking ghosts who just might follow you home.