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

Tower of Terror – 10 Best Things

RM-Hollywood-Tower-Hotel-SignIt’s October and I’m feeling Halloween-ish.  Last week, I listed my favorite things about Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion.  This week, I feel it’s only fair to do the same for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  As it is most certainly one of my top three favorite attractions, I have plenty of love for every dark, spooky, incredible detail.  Where to begin?  That’s easy!  The Tower of Terror’s draw begins long before guests step into the queue.  Stroll down Sunset Boulevard and you’ll see (and hear) what I mean.  The Tower’s exterior, complete with screaming faces in the upstairs window, is sure to capture your attention.

Tower of Terror – 10 Best Things

  1. The Grounds – This is one of the best, most detailed attraction exteriors ever created.  Disney Imagineering at its very best.  There’s mist, age, decay, overgrown landscaping – the story begins long before that first step inside the Hollywood Tower Hotel.RM-Tower-of-Terror-Misty-Queue
  2. The Lobby – If you could escape from a Doom-Buggy in Haunted Mansion, it might be a lot like exploring the Tower of Terror.  Clearly, this was once a finely appointed, upscale establishment.  It’s almost sad to see it in such a rundown state.  Creepy yet lovely with a sense of foreboding.  Exactly the right atmosphere for what happens next.RM-Tower-of-Terror-Lobby-Desk
  3. The Bellhops – Seriously some of the best and most fun Cast Members in the World!  They’re solemn (but still fun) and have awesome costumes.RM-Tower-of-Terror-Bellhop
  4. The Library – So much to see! Incredible details are everywhere even before the TV comes alive and Rod Serling (voiced by Mark Silverman) sets exactly the right mood!  This attraction layers the buildup like none other – carefully crafting the story while maximizing anticipation and a bit of fear (in a good way).  Watch carefully – the hidden details are part of the charm!RM-Rod-Serling-Tower-of-Terror
  5. The Sounds – The classic Twilight Zone theme song, the televised back story, the use of sound (and silence) from the library to the end of the ride…genius!  “It’s raining it’s pouring…”RM-Tower-of-Terror-TV
  6. The Basement – Amazingly detailed (like the grounds outside), the winding path between the library and the elevator takes guests into the dark, dingy hotel basement.  Giant boilers, pipes, equipment, and Hidden Mickeys are all there to be explored.RM-Tower-of-Terror-Queue2
  7. The Service Elevator – Could a ride vehicle look more daunting?  I don’t think so.  The elevator on the outside looks ramshackle and uninviting – once the doors open?  It takes some serious bravery to step inside knowing that once those doors close, there’s no turning back.RM-Tower-of-Terror-Elevator-Doors
  8. The Anticipation – First-timers worry about what’s going to happen next.  Repeat guests DO know what’s in store and still…well, I know how hard my heart is pounding at this point and I’ve ridden dozens of times. That’s part of what keeps me coming back!RM-Tower-of-Terror-Elevator
  9. The Thrill – As you can tell from outside this attraction, the Tower of Terror tends to make people scream.  Me?  Not so much – this ride makes me laugh hysterically.  I can’t explain it, but the surprises on this ride seriously crack me up.RM-Tower-of-Terror-Queue
  10. The Pictures – Even before our Memory Maker package included video for the Tower of Terror and even with many strangers in every picture, I still count the ride photos among my most favorite.  I guess it’s all the different expressions captured and the different way each person reacts to the ride’s random movements…makes me smile every time I see our pictures.Tower of Terror Ride Photo

What about YOU?  How do you feel about the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror?  Do you love it?  What’s your favorite detail about this attraction?


WDW – Best Top of the World Views!

Ever wondered where you can find the best views at Walt Disney World?  Want to take in the most scenery?  See the big picture?  Here are a few of our favorite spots:

WDW – Best Top of the World Views!RM-Expedition-Everest

Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom) – Hands down (or hands up, if you prefer), this attraction offers the very best (in my opinion) view of any other Disney World attraction.  As my little tea train sets off on an amazing Himalayan adventure, I look forward to so many special moments along the way.  Among these is the spectacular view offered on the way up the Forbidden Mountain.  The going is slow enough for guests to take in the breathtaking, really spectacular scenery.  There’s so much to love about this attraction, this view is often overlooked (hahaha) and underappreciated.RM-PeopleMover

The PeopleMover – If you have not taken a spin on this Tomorrowland attraction (Magic Kingdom), you do not know what you’re missing.  It’s a tour of Tomorrowland and a tunnel of love all in one.  You’ll go inside for some fantastic behind-the-scenes looks at Tomorrowland attractions and outside for a bird’s-eye view of others.  A smooth, relaxing ride, exceptional scenery, and a couple of kiss-stealing opportunities – what more could anyone ask for?  Some of you may remember the old Skyway gondola ride in Magic Kingdom (1971 – 1999) , it was (to me) once the very best way to see the World.RM-Top-of-the-World-Lounge-View

Top of the World Lounge – This little corner of the World is especially reserved for Disney Vacation Club members and guests.  Like the next location on this list, it offers exceptional Magic Kingdom views and is a fantastic place to end the evening at Walt Disney World.  The interior is a tribute to the monorail offers a unique and different atmosphere.

RM-California-Grill-ViewCalifornia Grill – Yes, you can see Wishes from the balcony of this signature dining restaurant atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort.  The views from the windows that surround the dining room are always awesome – with or without Magic Kingdom fireworks.  I particularly love sunset while enjoying the Cali Grill’s excellent food and service. (Full review here.)Twilight-Zone-Tower-of-Terror

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – It’s a fleeting view, but whoa!  It’s a haunted hotel, you’re in a crazy service elevator with a mind of its own and there – for a mere moment at a time, your elevator allows you a glimpse outside from high atop the tower!  Scream all you want to, but do try to keep your eyes open so you won’t miss the view!

Cinderella’s Royal Table – The one and only time we went, our table was in the middle of the room and it was dark outside.  My friend Heather and her family LOVE this Magic Kingdom dining experience, though, and find the views to be particularly enchanting.  Catch all the details here.

Where are your favorite views at Walt Disney World?  Your resort room balcony?  Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse?  Characters in Flight?  Tell me what I’ve missed.