OPINION: Ten can't-miss Magic Kingdom attractions

·5 min read

Aug. 13—A visit to Walt Disney World is becoming complicated — and expensive. I partially blame the pandemic, but prices have always gone go up there consistently. Many families who made WDW a regular part of their itineraries have given it up for something less expensive — like beluga caviar.

Several people have asked me what to do once they get there. So here we go again, starting with Magic Kingdom. It's the flagship of the four parks — a Disneyland without the Matterhorn or Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, although it still has traditional favorites like the People Mover. The latter should be on your list. It doesn't require you to wait in a long line because as the name suggests, it's perpetually moving, and it takes you through Tomorrowland, giving you an intriguing lay of the land. But let's move on with the top 10.

1. Splash Mountain. If you are going to WDW soon, don't miss this elaborate water flume based on the old "Song of the South" tale. With today's sensibilities, Disney could no longer avoid the racist overtones, so the attraction will soon be "reimagined" it to fit the motif of "The Princess and the Frog." I have not seen this Disney movie, but I do understand the gist of the storyline. At some point, the ride will be shut down for refurbishment, so 2022 is the time if you want the original.

2. Space Mountain. The original dark roller coaster, these toboggan-style trains take you through bunny hops, banked curves, spirals, and dips. There are no inversions, and compared to other coasters, it's somewhat slow. The audio and visual effects are pretty cool, and it still has a retro look about it, since it was opened in the mid-'70s. It's a nice starter coaster for the kids.

3. Big Thunder Mountain. This is another coaster but with an Old West flair, less intense than Space Mountain. This is a "mine train"-type ride, only it's much faster than the one at Six Flags Over Texas. If you can figure out when the fireworks go off on a given evening and board the train at about that time, you're in for a real treat.

4. Jungle Cruise. This boat ride takes you down the impossible combination of the Amazon, Congo, and Mekong rivers. The original attraction also was tinged with racist imagery, but they still have most of the animatronics, both human and beast — except for Trader Sam — and no end of corny jokes. Sometimes you'll get a skipper who comes up with a new pun. This is one of my husband's faves.

5. Carousel of Progress. This was Walt Disney's favorite attraction, and he introduced it at a World's Fair. A family of animatronics takes you through various eras of American life, beginning in the early 1900s. The dad explains all the gadgets and fads of every period. And not only does the family home change to conform to trends, so do clothing and hairstyles. This is a circular theater but the stage doesn't move; the seats, which are arranged in a ring around the four-part stage, rotate from scene to scene. Even today, the technology is impressive.

6. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. This is a relatively new coaster, and if you get the right people in your car, you can make it rock side to side. This could be another starter for the kids because it features the story of Snow White. The coaster cruises along at a leisurely pace, and although there are some banks and sharp turns, there are no major hills, except the one through the bejeweled mine, and no inversions.

7. Peter Pan's Flight. I can't explain why this is one of my favorites, but judging by the length of the line, everyone else agrees. The car is aerial, like the old Astrolift bucket ride at Six Flags, but it's dark, and you glide through scenes of London and the Peter Pan story below you. It's possible the circle of stereotypical Native Americans will disappear soon. This ride is ideal for very small children.

8. Haunted Mansion. A continuous chain of semi-enclosed vehicles — "doom buggies" — takes guests slowly through various spooky scenes, with a "ghost host" narrating. Some of the animatronics might be a little intense for small children, but older kids will delight in the mildly amusing scares. Still, the part with the bride who's knocked off a few husbands, and whose beating heart can be heard by guests, reminds me of that old Edgar Allan Poe story and kind of gives me the creeps.

9. Pirates of the Caribbean. This is another one that has been retrofitted to eliminate stereotypes. Since pirates did indeed auction off women and other things they pilfered, I laughed at the sexy-looking "saloon lady" animatron who strutted her stuff as pirates about to do the bidding yelled, "We wants the redhead!" I was told by a cast member the problem wasn't so much for the treatment of women as chattel as for the not-so-subtle commentary on physical appearance; the men wanted the "scarlet woman" instead of the regular-looking gals. At least the redhead has evolved into a scurvy pirate herself. Several years ago, Johnny Depp animatronics were added, and they're realistic. Disney did dump Depp from the "Pirates" franchise owing to his woes with his ex-wife, but I haven't heard whether they plan to remove these pieces of technology.

10. The Enchanted Tiki Room. Take a break from the heat in the circular theater featuring animated birds and flowers, and even a few intimidating tikis. It's a sentimental favorite, and still has the ability to amaze the audience with its sophisticated theatrics.

Next we will Go to Hollywood studios, then Epcot, and then wrap up with Animal Kingdom.