Ten Best Themed Disney Rides
- Peter Pan’s Flight at Magic Kingdom tops our list. The new interactive queue walks you straight into the story. A hall featuring locations from the movie, London and Neverland, leads you to the exterior of the Darling House with Mr. and Mrs Darling inside by the window and Nana out front. Entering the Darling House, you move through the children’s bedroom with Tinkerbell flying around the room. Then you are off onto the ride, flying over London and Neverland through scenes from the movie. It is immersive and detailed. You leave the modern world and enter turn of the century, fantasy London. The Magic Kingdom version makes our Ten Best Themed Disney Rides instead of the Disneyland version due to the queue and a longer ride length.
- Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure is the star attraction of what I consider the best themed land of any U.S. Disney Park. In Cars Land, you feel like you have walked down Route 66 into the Cars movie. At the end of Main Street is Radiator Springs Racers. The queue is amazing with details that make you never question that you are in the Cars universe. The Ride is my favorite California Disney ride. You race through Radiator Springs, meet characters from the movies, and even go tractor tipping with Mater.
- Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios effectively takes you into an episode of the Twilight Zone. The details begin with the wait time clock never going below 13 minutes. Unlike other Disney Rides where cast members are bright and cheerful, here they are gloomy with flat affects. The Hollywood Tower Hotel has magnificent details. From the library where Rod Serling introduces you to your story, to the basement boiler room, and through the ride, the theming works effectively. The Florida version is better than the California version due to a better queue.
- Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom is a classic. Tomorrowland’s kitschy 1960s space-age theming flows into Space Mountain. The old Star Trek type visuals and details keep you in the spirit. The classic roller coaster through the dark of space never fails to delight. In my opinion, the Florida version is superior in every way to the California one. Tomorrowland is more coherent. The outdoor queue at Disneyland is lacking. And, I prefer the sled type space ships.
- Seven Dwarves Mine Train at Magic Kingdom gives you a view into the classic movie from the point of view of the dwarves. The theming begins with the hill into which the mine is built and the view of the dwarves cottage. The interactive queue is one of Disney’s best. The roller coaster portion of the ride keeps the theming going with the swaying of the mine cars, but the dark ride portions excel as you join the dwarves singing Hi Ho as they enter the mine, and then later as they dance with Snow White.
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland is a family favorite; it may be because it is now unique to Disneyland. The exterior is an exact replica of Toad Hall from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (from the book The Wind and the Willows). The interior portion of the queue takes you inside Toad Hall with details like a Mr. Toad statue. You then board a motor car and are whisked through the movie’s story to nowhere in particular and to a surprise ending. This is definitely a classic and deserves to be on the Ten Best Themed Disney Rides list.
- Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom is not one of our favorite rides, but we can still appreciate superior theming. The haunted house theme begins outside with as you pass mausoleums and tombstones with humorous epitaphs. Inside, with the stretching room, doom buggies, and ghostly optical illusions, the theming is the highlight of the ride. Again, Magic Kingdom tops Disneyland due to the interactive queue outside. Otherwise, they are very close.
- Alice in Wonderland at Disneyland has an outdoor queue like most Disneyland rides, but sitting next to the Mad Tea Party attraction, you are immersed in Wonderland before you board the caterpillar for the ride. The details are as always top notch, making this one of the best dark rides.
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at Magic Kingdom is a family favorite. Who does not love Pooh Bear? The interactive queue is another of Disney’s best letting you wander past Mr. Sanders’ house, through Rabbit’s garden, and into an area where you wipe away honey to reveal surprises. One of my favorite things about the ride is the use of pages from the books throughout. Riding in a honey pot past Owl receiving a deed from Mr. Toad, into Pooh’s Heffalump and Woozle dream, bouncing with Tigger, and floating as “the rain, rain, rain, came down, down, down” plants you firmly in the Hundred Acre Wood. Brilliant. Again, the queue is better at Magic Kingdom.
- Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom takes the myth of the Yeti to a whole new level. The Asia Pavilion of Animal Kingdom convincingly places in the Indian subcontinent. You enter the Himalayan Escapes travel agency, stroll through a tea garden, and then through the Yeti Museum. The Yeti Museum is particularly impressive with photos, artifacts, and sherpa gear all convincingly leading to a train ride up the Forbidden Mountain. If you can handle a fairly intense ride and an encounter with the legendary monster, then you will see why it made our Ten Best Themed Disney Rides.
We came up with our Ten Best Themed Disney Rides by each of the three of us listing our own top 10, then adding up totals. We were not uniform in our choices,…at all! This attests to the high quality and attention to detail that Disney places into the theming of its rides.
Honorable Mentions: Indiana Jones’ Adventure, It’s a Small World, Kilimanjaro Safari, Pirates of the Caribbean,Rock n Roller Coaster, Soarin’ Over California, Spaceship Earth, and Splash Mountain.
Obviously, we did not agree on everything. Your opinions are welcomed! Did we get it right? Let us know.