WDW Attractions – Best Lead Up

RM-Haunted-Mansion-Exterior2We’ve talked about queues, we’ve talked about favorites and today it’s time to talk about the best attractions for attention-grabbing from afar – the one’s with real curb appeal, if you will.  With some of the very best rides, it’s all about the lead up!

Some attraction exteriors offer absolutely no clue what to expect (think Soarin’, Country Bears, Space Mountain), but some attractions draw you in from far away – the theme, the park setting – long before you step into the queue, you know you’re about to experience something extraordinary!  I’m going to talk about just five today – go ahead and leave a comment if your favorite gets left out – I’ll do a “part 2” in the future!

WDW Attractions – Best Lead Up

  1.  Haunted MansionRM-Haunted-Mansion-GraveyardFrom WAY far away, the draw to Haunted Mansion is incredible!  It looks exactly the way you hope it will – Grand yet a bit sinister.  You can immediately tell the Mansion holds room after room to explore – haunted corridors, ballrooms, attic and much more!  RM-Haunted-Mansion-ExteriorThe minute you see it, you know it’s going to be the perfect combination of scary and fun!
  2. Big Thunder Mountain RailroadThe Red Rock of Big Thunder MountainThe train flies along the track – you can see the passengers raise their hands, you can hear them screaming in delight, but that’s not the primary draw.  In Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland, the whole landscape of Big Thunder that makes you eager to get inside that mountain – so out of place with the surrounding Florida palm trees and lush tropical plants.  Big Thunder Mountain is a wasteland of epic proportions and the details are mesmerizing!  Best of all, the queue at this mountain is top notch.
  3. Twilight Zone Tower of TerrorDisney's Hollywood Studios Tower of TerrorIt looks elegant and disheveled, classic but unique – first impressions are everything here in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Strolling down Sunset Boulevard, you can’t help but notice the tower’s façade and how it stands out.  Walk a little farther, and you’ll notice something else – the SCREAMING!  The sound will draw your eyes closer to the tower where in an upstairs window, you’ll see motion, but little else.  If you’re a thrill ride junkie, this is the ride for you!
  4. Rock’n’ Roller CoasterRock'n'-Roller-Coaster-GuitarThe location actually hurts this attraction because Tower of Terror tends to steal Rock’n’ Roller Coaster’s thunder.  You have to turn left at the very end of Sunset Boulevard to even notice the upside down Cadillac let alone the gigantic guitar, but once you see the setting, you know that for music fans and coaster addicts alike will find this the place to be!
  5. Expedition EverestRM-Expedition-Everest-ApproachIn Animal Kingdom, you can be far from Everest and still be drawn in.  Call me biased, but there’s a reason this is my favorite ride in all of Walt Disney World and one of the main reasons is that from the moment you see the mountain in the distance, you can’t help but want to be a part of its magic.  “Forbidden Mountain” is like a double-dog dare to those of us who love an amazing coaster – every single detail is beyond perfect!  Hands down, Expedition Everest has the best draw from afar of any attraction in the World.

Is your favorite “love at first sight” attraction missing from this list?  Which Walt Disney World rides grab you from afar and draw you in?Expedition Everest

At WDW? No FastPass? Please Stand By!

Magic Kingdom's Big Thunder Mountain RailroadEven if you’ve mastered all the tricks of the new FastPass+ system, I’ll bet there will come a day when you will want to experience a ride or attraction and will need to use the standby line.  I know!  That’s the way it used to be all the time!  I think some of us have been so spoiled by the entire FastPass convenience, we’ve come to believe that a 20 minute wait is practically torture – a vacation-ruining waste of time!  I, for one, don’t fall into that category.  I’m so much more patient and tolerant of waiting when I’m in the Disney Bubble – sometimes, I’m willing to step into line for one of my favorite attractions even if the posted wait is 45 minutes!

Luckily for all of us, those geniuses of Disney Imagineering have come a long way with theEntrance for Toy Story Midway Mania entertainment value of the standby line.  Once just a holding pen with little to see or do as you and your party snaked around and around chain barriers and handrails like cattle, the introduction of a well designed standby line has changed overall ride experiences exponentially.

Today I want to highlight three examples of what I consider excellence in queue creativity.  I chose these three attractions based on their ability to provide samples of the following categories –

  • Existing ride successfully refurbished to provide a vastly better standby experience
  • Brand new ride with a wildly entertaining standby line
  • Not-so-new ride with an original, well-themed queue

Existing Ride:

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – Refurbished in 2012 to add a new interactive queue:  I just got to experience this highly touted standby experience myself in May and I thought it was absolutely wonderful!  So wonderful, in fact, the line moved too fast for me to fully enjoy all the cool features and activities.  I’ll share a few pictures, but you’ve just got to experience it for yourself.  Seriously – if the wait is 30 minutes, you’ll have a ball!Interactive Queue for Big Thunder Mountain RailroadInteractive elements for Big Thunder Mountain Queue

Brand New Ride:

Ariel in Fantasyland / Magic KingdomUnder the Sea- Journey of the Little Mermaid – New Fantasyland attraction, Opened December, 2012.  From the craggy rocks along the “shore” to the seashells, starfish, and many other tiny details on the outside of the Little Mermaid queue to the really awesome treasures and cute blue crabs that move in and out of different scenes.  Again, this ride moved too fast for me to catch all the interesting things to see and do!  Since the Clammobiles are continuously loading, this line moves fast.  Do not waste a FastPass on this one!Outside Queue / Under the SeaTreasures in the Queue for Under the Sea

Not-so-New with Originally GREAT queue: 

You know what I’m going to pick, don’t you?  Expedition Everest!  We were lucky enough to be at Expedition EverestAnimal Kingdom during this ride’s soft-opening back in the Spring of 2006.  So, EE’s 8 years old now and still boasts one of the (if not THE) most amazing, clever, spectacularly detailed queues in the World!!!  We fell in love at first wait and still try to use the standby line at the Forbidden Mountain whenever time allows.  To me, Expedition Everest set the bar for every new attraction that followed.  This is Disney Imagineering at its finest.

Okay, it’s your turn – which ride would you nominate in each category?Expedition Everest Queue Yeti MuseumExpedition Everest Train Platform Gear   


What Makes Disney’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad So Great?

IMG_1263“Howdy, folks! Please keep your hands, arms, and legs inside the train, and
remain seated at all times. (Laugh) Now then, hang onto them hats and glasses,
’cause this here’s the wildest ride in the wilderness!” – Big Thunder Mountain’s Prospector

Frontierland in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is chock full of action-packed, fun-filled excitement.  So much to see and do packed into one place – Tom Sawyer Island, Country Bear Jamboree, Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade, Splash Mountain – and the attraction I want to talk about today….Big Thunder Mountain Railroad,  There is SO much to love about this ride – it’s an absolute “must do” for every Disney World visit.

Since September of 1980, Frontierland guests at Magic Kingdom have been hopping aboardIMG_1206_4 this runaway mine train in the Wild Western landscape (based on Monument Valley in Arizona) for a super-fun, thrill-filled ride.

What’s so great?  That’s easy:

The music!  The setting is the gold rush era of the late 1800’s and the music fits the times.  Personally, I love the song “Big Rock Candy Mountain”.  Listen carefully and you’ll also hear “Buffalo Gals”, “Pecos Bill” and more!

The Prospector!  Isn’t it always the little details that make Disney attractions so fantastic?  The announcer on this ride is every bit as loveable as Haunted Mansion’s “Ghost Host” or Dame Judy Dench in Spaceship Earth (Epcot).  Voiced by the late Dallas McKennon, the prospector (and his safety warning) is an essential part of the experience we’ve grown to love at Big Thunder Mountain.

IMG_0803The dips and curves, the drops and tunnels!  It’s not just any old mine, but a haunted one in the American Southwest.  This ride’s got a lot of thrills, but in a middle-of-the-road way.  Not as tame as Barnstormer (Magic Kingdom, Storybrook Circus) nor as extreme as Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom, Asia) – Big Thunder’s perfect (and not too jerky) for most thrill ride fans.  Yes, that’s my opinion – your actual experience may differ.

The length of the ride!  For riders (over 40″ tall) there’s a LOT to enjoy during the very impressive nearly-4-minutes it takes to ride this attraction.  That’s a long time!  Even then, it’ll leave you wanting more because…

There’s so much to see!  The scenes, the scenery, the characters – all so cleverly crafted!  RideIMG_1207_4 again and again – you’ll have a hard time taking it all in during just one or two times around.  Personally, I love the mountain goat, the dinosaur bones, the guy in the bathtub, and the mule!

The Fam and I have not ridden BTMRR since before it’s 2012 rehab and are rarin’ to go on our next visit to the World later this spring.

When’s the last time you rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?  Is it one of your “must-do’s”?