The Top Ten Best Attractions in Walt Disney World

epcot cosmic rewind and spaceship earth

April 5, 2024

Written by: Jim Smith

I was recently asked to do one of the most challenging things I’ve ever been asked to do…list my top five attractions in all of Walt Disney World. I thought about this for a minute (maybe a little less) and quickly concluded that there is no way I could, in good conscience, pick only five attractions in Walt Disney World. Heck, picking the top five attractions from any single Disney theme park is challenging enough! But I acknowledged that maybe – just maaayyybeee – I could select a top ten list of attractions in Walt Disney World.

So I put pen to paper (i.e., sat down at my computer) and crafted a list of the Top Ten Best Attractions at Walt Disney World. To do this, I drew on my own Disney nostalgia, and made sure to include critical components of thrill seeking, family-friendly content, and storytelling achievement. I was quickly able to pick about fifteen “best” attractions, but I had significantly more trouble narrowing that list down to ten. After some depth-defying soul searching, I was able to prune my list down to ten, and I present them here for your consideration.

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One note of caution: There are several amazing attractions that did not make this list, which can arguably be “top ten” material. No offense was intended in the direction of your favorite attraction. I even left a couple of my own favorites off the list. But ten is ten, so here we go.

10 – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – Magic Kingdom

magic kingdom big thunder mountain
Image: Disney

My favorite roller coaster in Magic Kingdom is the only coaster from the park to make this list. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad takes guests on a runaway train ride through the southwestern town of Tumbleweed. The “wildest ride in the wilderness” reaches speeds up to 35 mph, but the sharp curves in and out of the terracotta formations, and through the remains of the small, haunted mining town make it feel a whole lot quicker. Big Thunder is a family-friendly coaster, as most kids can handle it fairly readily. But it offers plenty of thrills to keep the more adventurous guests satisfied. This coaster is a blast during the day, but for a completely fresh experience, ride this train at night. The dimly lit town comes to life when the sun goes down.

9 – Toy Story Mania – Disney’s Hollywood Studios

toy story mania
Image: Disney

Load up for the rootinest, tootinest shootin’ game this side of Andy’s backyard. Toy Story Mania is – in the simplest words possible – an absolute joy. The music, the spinning, and those pop-trigger guns make this the most delightful version of a shooting attraction I’ve ever experienced. Guests slide their way through several carnival-looking arcade rooms, including Hamm & Eggs, Buzz Lightyear’s Flying Tossers, and Woody’s Rootin’ Tootin’ Shootin’ Gallery, to name a few. The challenges increase in difficulty, but no worries for smaller guests. Every room includes many easier targets then even the tiniest of hands can hit. Your wrists may feel a little sore after you’ve pulled the pop string several hundred times!

If you are stuck in the attraction queue, fear not. There are tons of nostalgic toy props to tug at the heartstrings of adults, and kids and adults alike will enjoy the riffings of Mr. Potato Head.

8 – Kilimanjaro Safaris – Animal Kingdom

animal kingdom kilimanjaro safaris
Image: Tranquil Kilimanjaro

The original signature attraction in Animal Kingdom – Kilimanjaro Safaris is the largest attraction in any Disney resort, covering over 100 acres of ground. In fact, the vast size of the safari alone puts Disney’s Animal Kingdom atop the list of the largest Disney theme parks worldwide.

This simulated African Serengeti tour of the fictional Harambe Wildlife Reserve offers sightings of (and in some cases interactions with) elephants, giraffes, antelopes, crocodiles, hippopotamuses, lions, hyenas, warthogs, flamingos, wildebeests, and many others. The tour guide cheerfully informs guests with interesting facts and fascinating stories of the animals with which we share our planet. Many of the animals are allowed to roam freely throughout the savannah, which can lead to entertaining and often humorous interactions with the tour buses and the guests aboard them. These unpredictable moments are what make the safari such a rich experience, and one that is unique and new with each trip.

Nostalgic fans of Walt Disney know he originally intended the Jungle Cruise to be a tour including real jungle animals. While the Jungle Cruise found its sweet spot with animatronics and humor, Kilimanjaro Safaris fulfilled a wish Walt had all the way back in the 1950s.

7 – Soarin’ – EPCOT

epcot soarin around the world
Image: Disney

“Soarin’ to tower. We are ready for takeoff.” These words, delivered memorably by the velvety smooth voice of Patrick Warburton, might be the sweetest words you’ll hear when you visit EPCOT. Just don’t forget to store your “ little beauties” (Mickey ears) under your seat before takeoff.

Soarin’ Around the World takes guests exactly where it sounds – on an aerial tour of our world, with breathtaking views of the Taj Mahal, Great Wall of China, Eiffel Tower (albeit a slightly curved version of it), and several other iconic locations. The attraction is a treat for almost all human senses. Bruce Broughton’s score (which adopted much of Jerry Goldsmith’s music from the previous Soarin’ Over California version of the attraction) lifts guests as much as the mechanics of the ride.

Disney “Smellitizers” are working overtime in this attraction, offering aromas of jasmine, fresh grass, and paradise ocean breezes (though I miss the orange grove smell from the Soarin’ Over California). Both iterations of Soarin’ have long been my favorite EPCOT attractions.

Fans of the Animal Kingdom’s Avatar Flight of Passage attraction might be disappointed to see Soarin’ on this list in lieu of its technological successor. While I certainly understand that disappointment, I personally find more emotional value in Soarin’s score, as well as the (mostly) live-action nature of the attraction. The presence of full-on animation in Flight of Passage takes away from the power of the attraction, which is why I didn’t not include it here on this list.

6 – Pirates of the Caribbean – Magic Kingdom

pirates of the caribbean attraction
Image: Disney

“Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!”

My absolute personal favorite Disney dark ride is the classic Pirates of the Caribbean. Guests feel the (very refreshing) cool dampness in the air while boarding boats for this dark ride masterpiece. Once the boat departs, guests wade through a series of classic pirate scenes, experiencing the tales of the pirate days of old. A combination of intimate personal moments and larger battle scenes gives guests something new to notice with every ride. Keep an eye out for Captain Jack Sparrow – the rum-swilling buccaneer joined the attraction in 2006.

The Disneyland version of this attraction has the distinction of being the last attraction to which Walt directly contributed, although it opened after his death. The nostalgia of Pirates lands this attraction easily in the top ten.

5 – The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – Disney’s Hollywood Studios

twilight zone tower of terror
Image: Jim Smith – Facts and Figment

Located at the very end of Sunset Boulevard, The Hollywood Tower Hotel harkens back to Tinsel Town’s golden days of the 1930s. But this is no ordinary hotel. It is haunted and possessed, and unlucky guests traveling to the thirteenth floor are in for more than they bargained for. The creepy feel inspired by The Twilight Zone, including the ominous voice of Rod Serling himself, adds a level of depth and danger to the attraction’s story, making it one of Disney Imagineering’s crowning achievements in storytelling and engineering. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is widely considered one of the best theme park attractions worldwide.

A Little Friendly Advice: When the bellhop tells you to store your items under your seat, take their word for it. I once left a sweatshirt on my lap, and upon our descent, I found it “floating” in front of my face!

4 – Expedition Everest – Disney’s Animal Kingdom

animal kingdom expedition everest
Image: Disney

True to its name, Expedition Everest holds the distinction of being the tallest mountain (in fact, the tallest attraction) at Walt Disney World.

Upon first arrival, you’ll first visit the “Himalayan Escapes” travel agency, where you’ll have the opportunity to board a train to head to Mount Everest. On your way up and around, you’ll pass the ruins of a temple that has been claimed by the legendary Yeti snow monster. As you reach near the top of the mountain, you encounter more evidence of the Yeti’s handiwork, in the form of a torn rail track.

Watch out for the Yeti! Here’s where your ride literally spirals out of control. Your train will roll backwards and around the inside of the mountain, then rock forward again, where you’ll encounter the Yeti himself.  Thankfully, the train is moving so fast you’ll slide by the Yeti en route to the base of the mountain and back to the tourism office. Phew, that was a close one! You’d think the Himalayan Escapes travel agency might consider refunding your money.

This runaway train makes Magic Kingdom’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad look like child’s play. Guests fleeing from the ominous snow monster will reach speeds of up to 50 mph! This is an amazingly-themed coaster, but it’s not the top coaster on this list…

3 – Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance – Disney’s Hollywood Studios

star wars rise of the resistance
Image: Disney

Disney’s most technologically advanced ride experience to date puts riders in the middle of the war between the Resistance and the First Order. Members of the Resistance base are forced to flee from an oncoming First Order invasion. However, the escape pod gets intercepted by a First Order Star Destroyer. Resistance hero Finn leads a rescue charge. Through a series of encounters with First Order stormtroopers, vehicles, and Supreme Leader Kylo Ren himself, the guests are finally rescued and transported to a safe haven.

This attraction is a perfect combination of dark ride elements and story immersion, with a little bit of thrill thrown in. The way the experience unfolds – guests don’t even realize they are moving through a pre-show and loading queue – it’s that immersive. 

Due to this ride’s immense popularity, securing passage on the attraction takes some work. If you don’t win the opening siren boarding group contest, then you may need to put up some “credits” (Star Wars-speak for money) to pay for Lightning Lane access to insure yourself a spot in this top-level ride experience. But the magnitude of this attraction’s interior scenes, combined with the frantic pace of the breathtaking escape sequence, make this attraction worth every ounce of energy it takes to secure a spot on the transport.

2 – Haunted Mansion – Magic Kingdom

magic kingdom haunted mansion
Image: Jim Smith – Facts and Figment

“We have 999 happy haunts here, but there’s room for a thousand.”

The Haunted Mansion is perhaps the most iconic attraction in all of the Disney Parks. Guests board “Doom Buggies” to experience an unearthly blend of humor and horror that only a Disney haunted house can offer. This attraction is classic Disney storytelling and Imagineering at their best, as many Disney Legends contributed story ideas and mechanical savviness to its creation.

Don’t just race to the attraction using Genie+. The queue winding through the graveyard is one of the very special things about the Haunted Mansion. Many Disney Legends are cleverly recognized in the tombstones and other memorials on display. After the attraction, you may even notice a pet cemetery, in which resides a certain famous toad in particular.

1 – Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind – EPCOT

guardians of the galaxy cosmic rewind
Image: Disney

Atop the list of the best attractions in Walt Disney World in one of the newest and most exciting. When Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opened to guests in 2022, it changed the face of rollercoasters as we know them. This completely indoor coaster treats visitors of EPCOT’s Xandar Pavilion to indoor lighted entertainment, swiveling coaster cars, and a sweet selection of music to jam out to while riding (if you can hear it over the joyful scream of everyone on-board). Did I mention it takes off backwards???

Cosmic Rewind is a party on wheels (very, very fast wheels). After opening, this coaster immediately became the most popular attraction in all of Walt Disney World. It is currently EPCOT’s only attraction accessible using the Individual Lightning Lane – and it’s worth every penny! With reprogrammable music and supporting imagery, this intensely fun coaster should be making guests laugh and scream for many years to come.

Honorable Mention – Splash Mountain / Tiana’s Bayou Adventure – Magic Kingdom

disney splash mountain
Image: Jim Smith – Facts and Figment

“Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay

My, oh, my, what a wonderful day”

If this list of the top ten Walt Disney World attractions was created a year ago, or a few months from now, this attraction would most certainly make the cut. But as fate would have it, we are currently threading the needle between old and new – with Splash Mountain retired forever, and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure taking its place, but not yet open for business.

Frontierland’s Splash Mountain was a fan favorite flume ride, operating from 1992 through 2023. Audio Animatronic critters were front and center here as guests toured the deep southern critter country. The story followed the journey of the restless (and reckless) Br’er Rabbit as he gets into trouble with Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear. 

disney tianas bayou adventure
Image: Disney

Opening in Summer 2024, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will take guests on a flume log tour of the Louisiana bayou.  As Princess Tiana plans to throw a giant party at the home of her recently established food co-op Tiana’s Foods, she discovers she is missing music – a key ingredient in every New Orleans-area celebration. Guests will join Tiana on a trip through the bayou in search of some musically-inclined critters to help fill the melodious void. I expect this new attraction to be at least as entertaining as its predecessor, and look forward to placing it on this top ten list officially very soon!

There you have it – my take on the (current) ten best attractions at Walt Disney World. As I mentioned at the outset, I’m sure several of my inclusions and omissions will not agree with everyone. But that’s the great thing about opinions – everyone is allowed to have one!

Do you have a favorite attraction you think should be on this list? Reach out with a message on social to let me know what you think:  Instagram  Facebook  X

If you’d like a more comprehensive list including more of the best attractions from all four Walt Disney world theme parks, check out my favorite attractions lists for Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Are you interested in visiting Walt Disney World and experiencing all these attractions for yourself? Reach out to Facts and Figment Vacation Planning to get the ball rolling. My travel planning services are absolutely FREE to you, and I can help you score the best, hardest-to-get deals to make your vacation more affordable and magical!

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