Before the pandemic, my sole vacation spot was Orlando Florida for Disney and Universal. I actually grew up in Florida, but Disney wasn’t a big part of my childhood. I remember going to Universal (Studios only existed at the time) more often. I moved out of Florida and promptly forgot about theme parks for a solid decade. Also, I couldn’t afford vacations for a good ten years!
I went on my first “adult” vacation to Walt Disney World around 2010 and fell instantly in love. It was a magical journey completely divorced from reality. Disney picked us up at the airport and we were already in “the Disney bubble” on a bus with shaded windows playing a long promo for WDW. The hotel, the busing, the parks… it was all a fantasy world. I was officially hooked.
Now that I can afford it, I’ve been taking all my vacations to WDW and Universal… until the pandemic, of course. I haven’t been to Disney since 2018 and Universal since 2019. I still haven’t been to Galaxy’s Edge, a fact that haunts my days and nights! I’ve had two different trips cancelled due to covid, but I think I’m finally gonna make it this year.
I’ve read a lot of bad press about the new Disney experience. The free airport bus is going. The free fast passes are gone. It sounds like the WDW of 2022 is very different from that of 2018… but I still can’t wait to experience the magic again. And finally see Galaxy’s Edge!
WDW is an astonishing achievement. It’s the size of a sprawling city with four different theme parks, two water parks, golf courses, dozens of hotels, a massive shopping district… I’m only interested in the theme parks, but the scale is astounding.
Magic Kingdom will always be my favorite part just for the sheer number of rides. It’s twice as many as any other park! Since I love lists so much, here’s a top ten rides:
10. Small World. It’s a slow boat ride but still a classic.
9. Monsters Inc Laugh Floor. It’s amazing how they can create live action CGI characters who interact with the audience.
8. Peter Pan. A classic opening day dark ride.
7. Jungle Cruise. The animatronics are dated but the skipper’s groan-inducing corny jokes never get old.
6. Big Thunder Mountain. A perfect little baby coaster with great theming.
5. Pirates. The sheer scale of the scenes are incredible!
4. Splash Mountain. An amazing combination of an animatronic show with a log flume ride and some of the catchiest songs ever.
3. Seven Dwarves Mine Coaster. The theming is second to none and the smooth family coaster is just at my preferred thrill level.
2. Space Mountain. Another perfect me-sized thrill ride.
1. Haunted Mansion. Without a doubt the best WDW ride for sheer story, atmosphere, and song.
Animal Kingdom is without a doubt the most gorgeous looking park. The theming is immaculate everywhere… except for Dinoland USA, anyway. The addition of Pandora was the crowning achievement; walking around life-sized floating mountains never gets old.
5. Kali River Rapids. A merely adequate river rapids ride.
4. Dinosaur. Not very thrilling but the story is cute and dinosaurs are fun.
3. Navi River Journey. It’s a slow moving boat ride but the Pandora seting is beautiful and it has the most life-life animatronic figure ever created.
2. The Safari. An incredible achievement and putting you inside a zoo. Every ride is different and you can get so close to the animals!
1. Flight of Passage. It’s just a sim ride, but the most polished one ever made. The sense of flight is incredible and the film’s journey through new locales on Pandora is breath-taking every time.
Hollywood Studios was still a half-day park the last time i was there. I can’t wait to see the addition of Galaxy’s Edge and the two new rides. I can only go off my four year old memories here. Even when it was half shuttered, I still enjoyed DHS. It was small and easy to walk through!
5. Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. Incredibly dated at this point but still cool to see stunts and explosions in real life.
4. Fantasmic. Give me this over any fireworks show. The best evening show Disney has to offer.
3. Toy Story Midway Mania. It’s basically playing a Wii motion control shooter game, but the theming makes it special.
2. Star Tours. I will never get tired of this ride, particularly since the planet order is randomized each time. I have ridden this over and over. It’s pure Star Wars and really recaptures the slightly goofy fun feeling the franchise had back in the Prequel Era under Lucas.
1. Slinky Dog Dash. I only got to ride this a single time in my life but it was a great coaster and actually pretty scary for this cowardly lion.(One can only assume my new number 1 and 2 will become Rise of the Resistance and Smuggler’s Run in a few months!)
Epcot was my favorite park as a child because I was terrified of any kind of thrill ride whatsoever, and this was nothing but dark rides. As an adult, it’s the least thrilling park. I still don’t have much love for the World Showcase since it has almost no rides. When I think of Epcot, all I think of it is hot concrete and endless walking.
5. Living Seas. I refer to the entire pavilion than the entry ride. I love how there is an entire aquarium stuck in the middle of a Disney park. I love watching the dolphins and manatees.
4. Spaceship Earth. My favorite part of this ride is how the entire thing is built into a massive ball sitting in the air. The ride itself is merely fun.
3. Frozen. I remember loving Maelstrom as a child, but i don’t mind its replacement. The Frozen theming is perfectly done.
2. Soarin’. As long as you get the right seat, this is a magic sensation of flying through the air across the entire world.
1. Test Track. This is a thrill ride tailor made for me. It goes super fast, but on a flat level!