Disney Bucket List | Disney World

  • Disney World Bucket ListDoes it bother you a little: This notion of visiting so many places on a “bucket list?”

    These are often seen as “101 places to go before you die.”

    Why 101?

    No answer.

    But, yes, this all bothers us a little, too.

    Going like 101 places is a lot of travel arrangements…not to mention expenses.

    You would also need a lot of time.

    Like months and years instead of weeks and days.

    And if you think about it:

    How likely are you to ever visit or even want to see the Crystal Mosque in Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu, Malaysia, or even the much closer Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, British Columbia?


    But one theme park in Orlando?


    They’re right here at a single spot.

    One stop shopping

    So what if we speculate on what you should see here….a local bucket list…when visiting Walt Disney World Resort?

    Any list like this is merely an opinion, of course. And it may leave out your own personal favorites.

    Which would incline you to discount the rest of the list.

    Which is also OK.

    But for our purposes, and just to bring up the subject for speculation and to give you our thoughts, let’s look at our own top ten favorites here.

    Within just the Disney park.

    And why we chose to select them (as well as some insights to make your own visit more enjoyable).

    You, of course, are then free to scream and holler or stand up and applaud…(up to you).

    A great start is a simple one, perhaps.

    Disney’s nightly fireworks.

    Found at multiple locations

    This one belongs to the history books.

    We’ve done it as a country for reasons you know about.

    Disney does it nightly. Several different places these days.

    Disney’s highly expensive and spectacular version are not what you find in your backyard with family and friends lighting off sparklers and tiny tubes that go “bang.’

    Disney utilizes perimeter bursts, making it seem like the fireworks are all around you. Stirring music, too.

    Why see it:

    To start, who does not like fireworks?

    Universal appeal (and we’re not referring to the theme park, but unique to Disney).

    One reason is that this is almost unique to Disney. Or we think so.

    Far as we know, it is one of the few theme parks anywhere to have fireworks on a daily basis.

    A major reason for that is probably cost.

    Disney does not publicize prices of this kind.

    But various estimates put the cost of a 15-minute display at about $40,000.

    For one night.

    Adding up to multi-millions quickly

    This might discourage you from starting your own neighborhood club to just have fireworks for one day, July 4.

    There are many versions of the best way to view the fireworks.

    Or the best place.

    We’re not going to get into that here but among the best places are outside the park. Mainly to avoid crowds. But even more: avoid the rush of crowds trying all at once to get out of the park after the show.

    The best place to see the show could very well be not right at the Magic Kingdom’s highly popular viewing area of Cinderella Castle but at the Contemporary Resort.

    If you don’t mind paying, spring for a dinner (maybe $50 a person) at the California Grill where the lights dim and music plays during the show.

    But on the other hand, fireworks anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances are worth seeing.

    So you can see them anywhere. Inside the park. Outside, even.

    And it’s all OK.

    So we come to Main

    Our second area is Main Street, U.S.A.

    The attractions here are admittedly tame by thrill standards.

    But here is where you see some history. Two blocks of turn-of-the-century nostalgia.

    Horse-drawn carriages doing their clop-clop on cobblestone.

    The nostalgia keeps on coming.

    Take a ride on a horseless carriage, a replica of an early fire engine, a jitney or a horse-drawn trolley.

    See the Flag Retreat daily at 5 p.m.

    You don’t have to be a ex-military to recall the old days when uniformed soldiers joined those old parades down Main Street, small town, USA.

    Walt Disney had his own personal tiny railroad at his home but here you can ride the 20-minute long steam train.

    Why see it:

    This is among the least crowded of anywhere in the park.

    Explore at your leisure. Enjoy the unhurried pace of another time. Another century.

    Nothing quite like it in busier and more frenetic sections of the park.

    It generally only gets busy when everything else closes down.

    While here, try a famous hot dog at Casey’s Corner, and dessert at the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor.

    It might add to your enjoyment to know facets of Main Street that the general public is often unaware of.

    For example, the windows above the main floors have specific names. Not just anyone, but the names of men and women crucial to the park’s development.

    Another window names Elias, Walt’s father, over the Main Street Emporium.

    Let’s not get too carried away in our pick here. But we suspect, knowing what we do about Walt, that this would be his own personal favorite place in the park.

    Riding with ghosts

    No. 3. There are many iconic, long-standing rides at Disney worth considering as “must sees” such as Pirates of the Caribbean, even Roller Coasters such as Space Mountain and Splash.

    But we’ll cast a vote here for the Haunted Mansion, #3.

    The spook-filled English Tudor style home has consistently ranked among the best-loved Magic Kingdom attractions for almost half a century.

    Visitors these days can play with new interactive elements that have been added over the years.

    These include new instruments in the Decomposing Composer’s Crypt that not only look weird but also carry some surprising sounds.

    Disney insiders will appreciate the Ghost Host. He is voiced by Paul Frees, whose voice provided the characters for many animated cartoons, including Boris Badenov from Rocky & Bullwinkle.

    Special effects include portraits aging, ala Dorian Gray-style.

    Riders in a Doom Buggy encounter an inevitable séance by Madame Leota.

    The entire ride is less than eight minutes long. On your way out, be sure to see the Pet Cemetery.

    Why see it:

    This has remained a Magic Kingdom classic since it opened with the rest of the park on October 1, 1971. It has been refurbished several times, including an updated waiting line in early 2011.

    It has also added interactive elements, keeping it up to date but not radically changing the concept.

    The premise here is a creepy haunted house.

    But the genius is also evident in that the ride is not too scary for just about all ages. There is often more humor than fright.

    And adults who enjoy the spookiness for its laughs more than its haunting images of dark rooms, bats and many ghosts and ghouls seem to be able to this experience comfortably with at least older children.

    While a lot of other attractions have faltered and fell, it has stood the test of time. Enough said.

    It’s Twilight Time again

    No. 4. You don’t have to be an adult old enough to remember the disturbing “The Twilight Zone” to appreciate the Tower of Terror. It does the job -- as advertised.

    The deep voice you are hearing is that of television’s classic writer-creator Rod Serling.

    Look around as he tells of the Hollywood Tower Hotel before boarding a 1917-style elevator. Then the lights go out and you begin to fall, and fall, and fall…into the Twilight Zone.

    This is an unmistakable up and down experience. And about as scary as any roller coaster.

    You can take this ride several times and have different results -- thanks to a computer that varies the ride.

    Why see it:

    This is a real thrill ride outside the realm of the roller coaster.

    Only about eight minutes. It’s like falling from a tower almost 200 feet tall, which qualifies as a high-rise.

    But that’s long enough.

    This is the highest attraction at Walt Disney World Resort.

    It may also be the scariest.

    Fear of heights? Skip it.

    No. 5. Epcot's World Showcase in a description sounds sort of…banal…or boring.

    What you already know about it:

    It represents almost a dozen countries where visitors walk around a reflective lagoon. It encourages late-goers because most activity does not start till 11 a.m.

    Ho, hum? But no.

    It is possibly the most scenic and laidback area of Disney.

    There are also films and live performances.

    But its claim to fame for us:

    It is easily the best attraction for foodies and for shoppers.

    That’s true because all the different countries display their own shops. No cookie cutter souvenirs here.

    And each country has its own distinctive cuisine.

    So you can buy unusual items and sample what you might otherwise think of “strange” and unusual food.

    You stroll (and that’s the perfect word for enjoying it) from one country to another. All right here.

    No jet trip and packed suitcases required.

    You meet cast members who can discuss their countries (just like meeting locals if you are in, say, France or Mexico).

    Why see it:

    Special events geared mainly for adults here include the always expanding International Food and Wine Festival, and the International Flower and Garden Festival.

    A couple of reasons for adults to particularly like Epcot: the UK pavilion has a secret garden alongside the Rose & Crown Pub with a quiet sitting area near the lagoon.

    Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is all fake, either. Just to cite one example: the Venetian gondolas moored near the Italy pavilion are the real thing.

    But young people or kids can also appreciate what initially may be seen as boring “culture.”

    Among options for them is to get a World Showcase Passport. They are inexpensive. But include country stamps (just like a real passport still required for some countries).

    Epcot has gone out of its way to be kid-friendly in this and other ways, including games geared for children. And despite its adult nature, it has succeeded.

    No. 6: Not a lot is different at the PhilharMagic Concert Hall in the Magic Kingdom. But the 3D is worth a look.

    Visitors get to see most of the familiar characters: Mickey, Goofy, etc. The songs are also familiar because you have heard them before but not on this stage.

    It’s all viewed on a 180-degree screen, one of the widest in the world. As an aside, the seats are padded and very comfortable. Lots of leg room.

    The entire production of Mickey's PhilharMagic was created totally on computer, representing the first time the featured classic Disney characters were completely modeled and animated by computer.

    Animator Nik Ranieri, already known for Disney's animated classic "Beauty and the Beast," returned to render him in 3-D for "Mickey's PhilharMagic."

    Animator Glen Keane, creator of the magical Ariel in "The Little Mermaid," also returned to develop her in 3-D.

    Why see it:

    The show features the largest cast of classic Disney animated stars who have ever performed together in a single 3-D show. The 150 foot by 28 foot high screen is also the most immersive wrap-around image Disney ever created. Reasons enough.

    No. 7: There are many shows at Disney but the one we think you should not miss is “Festival of the Lion King.”

    At 30 minutes, it’s relatively long at Animal Kingdom. Includes dancers. Acrobats and perhaps best of all, fire jugglers.

    Audience members get to interact with animal sounds.

    As the performers fill the theater, four huge moving floats (really stages) are brought out. Simba is a 12-foot high animated character sitting on Pride Rock.

    There is an elephant, a swaying giraffe and then one with Pumbaa and Timon. And if you have not seen it, you will love the acrobatic monkeys.

    Another highlight: “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” sung and performed as a ballet with 50 performers.

    Why see it:

    Fine for adults but kids really love it. They can and do join the performers. The high level of quality here is evident in the fact that after the first run of the show in 1998, several performers went on to perform on Broadway.

    No. 8. A familiar name again: Walt himself is also said to have been the creator of “The Hall of Presidents.” The attraction with talking presidents in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdomcreated a stir with its life-like speakers when it first opened.

    There are audio-animatronics versions of each of the US presidents.

    Perhaps the best one is Abraham Lincoln, who rises from his chair to read the famous and memorable Gettysburg Address.

    Why see it:

    The technology may be old hat now but the sentiment is the same. And the history lessons as spoken by our US presidents reaches out to young and old. With an easy to swallow dose of patriotism.

    Walt would love it.

    No. 9: Cinderella’s Castle. How can you not see the very symbol of the Magic Kingdom?

    It opened, of course, in the very beginning.

    Painted in grey, blue and gold, it is Imagineers’ concept of a French palace or fortress. It’s medieval looking in nature with turrets and spires on the upper level.

    Why see it:

    There’s only one of them. It’s a great place to find Disney characters, especially in the rear of the castle.

    You might appreciate it more by knowing no bricks were used in its 18 months of construction. The castle was also built to withstand hurricane winds of almost 100 miles an hour (has not been tested to quite that level so far).

    The structure itself is made of steel covered with fiberglass.

    At almost 190 feet tall, it towers over the rest of the Magic Kingdom.

    Finally, it’s a good place to have lunch and dinner. And there are character breakfasts.

    No. 10. Two of the longest lines at the park are always for the mountains: Space and Splash.

    Tomorrowland’s Space Mountain comes from the active mind of….

    Guess who?

    Walt himself is again given credit for the idea of combining a coaster with the space age (remember that NASA and the US government’s space efforts used to be mainly out of Cape Kennedy, less than an hour’s drive from Orlando).

    Why see it:

    Darkness. It’s like outer space itself. The coaster dips and swerves through the galaxy in less than three minutes.

    But the speed is really very slow: no faster than 28 miles an hour.

    The illusion of high speed in the darkness is the key.

    Our other top ten, Splash Mountain is based on Walt Disney's 1946 classic "Song of the South.

    It has more than 65 Audio-Animatronics. To bring the classic Disney story "Song of the South" to life, Walt Disney Imagineers created a magnificent mountain chock-full of backwoods swamps, bayous and waterfalls.

    Why see it:

    No matter your mood, “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” will be the best uplift you’re likely to experience anytime soon.

    The ride includes a five-story drop and speeds up to 40 miles per hour.

    Splash Mountain has a 950,000 gallon reservoir.

    So you will get wet.

    So what?

    It’s worth it. ###