Top 12 Underappreciated Things About Walt Disney World

I love when I get beautifully descriptive travel guest posts like this one from my pal John Errico (JB to his friends). He’s here to share his delightful insights on Walt Disney World, and I hope you enjoy as much as I did.

I’ll be continuing my Blogging Basics Series soon, so stay tuned and make sure to subscribe to my blog to keep up with those tidbits.

Without further ado, here’s JB:

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Walt Disney World is magical even to us big kids.

Whether you’ve seen it on TV or been there in person, just about everyone knows about Walt Disney World. It’s a place filled with wonder and excitement and is somewhere we can go to forget about the outside world for a while. Much of the wonder of Disney World is familiar to us, such as Cinderella Castle, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Magical as these things are, let me present to you the top 12 underappreciated things about Walt Disney World:

1. Carousel of Progress (Magic Kingdom)

First introduced at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the Carousel of Progress has become a nostalgic staple at the Magic Kingdom. Rarely is there a line to view it, as most visitors these days prefer either Space Mountain or Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin located in the same area of the park. You’ll probably recognize the voice of the narrator. It’s Jean Shepherd, writer and narrator of, “A Christmas Story.” Take the time to see the show. The tune is catchy, the audioanamatronics are engaging, and the theater is air-conditioned. What else do you need?

2. Liberty Square River Boat (Magic Kingdom)

It’s dock is nestled next to the Haunted Mansion. This Mississippi paddle boat makes for a nice ride around the Frontierland area and provides a nice, relaxing break from the typical hectic day. You almost think Tom and Huck will be waiting for you at the end of the ride!

Tom Sawyer Island truly is gorgeous.

3. Tom Sawyer Island (Magic Kingdom)

It starts with the short pontoon boat ride over to the island and grows from there. You are transported into the story of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer as you walk down paths, through tunnels and over barrel bridges. Keep your eyes open for a paint brush and if you see it, grab it and bring it back to your pontoon boat driver. You will be happy once your ride back ends.

4. Jungle Cruise (Magic Kingdom)

The Jungle Cruise has been around as long as the Magic Kingdom itself and the ride features show it. The animation features are a bit dated compared to many of the other attractions. So why ride it? Well, this one is all about the ‘boat pilots.’ We’ve had some great pilots over the years. They get that the ride seems a bit dated and they play on it. The jokes are corny and if you’ve ridden a few times, predictable but somehow you still laugh. We’ve also found that the later in the day you ride, the funnier the pilot gets. It’s still great fun and worth the 10-minute ride. Just be careful about what you’re wearing. The pilots tend to pick on folks with yellow t-shirts and black shorts. Take it from ‘Banana Guy.’

5. Innoventions Fountain (EPCOT Center)

Big deal, it’s a fountain. Well, stick around for a bit. At various times throughout the day what appears to be a simple fountain explodes into a well-choreographed musical show. The water and music work in perfect synch and provide some fabulous video moments for you to capture. Take the time to see it at least once.

6. Ice Station Cool (EPCOT Center)

You’re thirsty and right now you just don’t want to pay another $4.00 for a drink. The water fountain is an option but not a great option. Enter an area with all of the free soda you would like! Ice Station Cool provides soda from all over the world at no charge to Disney World guests. The flavors aren’t what you may be used to but there are some interesting options. There is a watermelon soda from China, lemon soda from Israel, a vitamin soda from Japan, one called Mezzo Mix from Germany, ginger ale from Mozambique, and a curious soda from Italy. Do yourself a favor and watch some of the reactions to the Italian soda. They are priceless.

7. Maelstrom (EPCOT Center)

In the Norway section of EPCOT resides a ride called, ‘Maelstrom.’ This is a log-flume style ride that gives you a bit of Norwegian history and folklore along the way. Maelstrom is my older daughter’s favorite ride in all of Walt Disney World and coming from a 15-year old, that says something. Don’t rush through the movie theater after the ride ends either. There is a nice, short film that gives you a glimpse into Norwegian life.

Huey, Dewey, and Louie help at the Animation Academy.

8. Animation Academy (Hollywood Studios)

If you’ve ever wished you could be a Disney animator, this is for you. Each day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, guests can learn to draw some of their most beloved characters at no charge. Groups are led into a room set up just like an art studio where they receive a sheet of drawing paper emblazoned with the Hollywood Studios logo. A Disney animator then randomly chooses a character from audience suggestions and teaches everyone in the room how to draw it. This is a lot of fun as it is a hands-on lesson plus you get to take home your artwork. Don’t be afraid to make multiple stops here on your Disney visit.

9. Jammin’ Jungle Parade (Animal Kingdom)

Disney’s parades have always been focal points of a visit but the Jammin’ Jungle Parade is still the new kid on the block. This parade incorporates some unique scenes and isn’t nearly as hard to get a good viewing spot to see as the Magic Kingdom’s afternoon parade. Another fun aspect of this parade are the number of families randomly chosen each day to become part of it. If being in a Disney parade is something you’ve always wanted, this one provides your best opportunity. Find out its schedule as you enter the park and inquire about being part of it.

10. Music (All Parks)

I’m not talking about music from the shows and parades. I’m talking about the music played all day, every day in each park. As you stroll through, really take a listen. Much of the music has been chosen for a purpose. If you really pay attention, you’ll notice the subtle changes as you go from section to section. For us it has gotten to where my kids often hum the tunes while doing their homework as a reminder that vacation isn’t that far away!

Walt Disney World is where dreams come true and wallets are made lighter. :-)

11. Aromas (All Parks)

There are some truly wonderful smells in this place. Main Street U.S.A. at the Magic Kingdom provides the smell of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. Boulangerie Patisserie in the France section of EPCOT Center brings you the sweet aromas of French cakes and pastries. At the hub of the Hollywood Studios you get the salty, buttery smell of fresh-popped popcorn like you might have at a grand movie premier. The Animal Kingdom holds the Flame Tree Barbeque that defies your mouth not to water from the aroma of its sauce as it wafts your way. These are only a handful of the many pleasant scents you will find on your visit.

12. The Cast Members (All Parks)

These people are the unsung heroes of the Disney parks. They can make a great experience even better. Over the years we’ve taken time to talk with several Disney cast members and have come away with some wonderful stories as well as some unexpected surprises. Take the time to chat with as many as you can. I think you’ll be happy with the results.

Those are my 12 top underappreciated things about Walt Disney World. What are some of yours?

About the author: John Errico, an all the time Sports Love & Game Day Stringer for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. His day job is VP of Finance. Follow John on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn ; as to this date, he has still resisted Facebook.

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Thank you, John, for an amazing post. I really enjoyed sharing blog space with you!

For everyone else, what feature did you like best? Tell me in the comments!

Read the last post here: Criteria For Choosing Storage Solutions for Professional Photos

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Feature images courtesy of Flickr via Creative Commons. Click images to see respective photographers. 

  • John E.

    No Amberr, thank you for giving me the space. I hope your readers enjoy it.

    • Mary

      So proud of you, brother. I enjoyed reading every word and look forward to sharing a Disney experience with your family and mine, as my little boys will have four of the best personal tour guides in the world!

  • http://www.fadderly.com fadderly

    good stuff! one of my favorite rides is the carousel of progress. just wish they would put it back to it’s originally ending at this point.

    love the music in all the parks, too.

    great list…

    • John E.

      Thanks so much. We’d like to see some ‘classic’ versions of attractions brought back too. ‘El Rio de Tiempo’ at EPCOT’s Mexican pavillion was great in its original format. The updates with the Three Caballeros is fine but my family misses that original version.

  • http://www.biculturalmama.com Bicultural Mama

    I have not been here for years, but see it in the future since I have a child now. Thanks for reminded us of some great places to go while there!

    • John E.

      We consider WDW our home away from home. It is my most favorite place to vacation without question.

      I hope you see it through your child’s eyes. It will renew the joy for you. Thanks for reading!

  • http://sheenahfreitas.com Sheenah Freitas

    One day I’m going to Disney World and I’m going to make sure to see all of this stuff. Great post!

    • John E.

      We’ve been there going on 15 times & still get choked up walking through the main gates at the Magic Kingdom. I hope you get that feeling when you walk through for your first time.

      Thank you for reading.

  • http://scarymarythehamsterlady.blogspot.com/ Mary Kirkland

    My sister in law just took her nephew to Disney World in Florida to give momma a break. Our nephew is 8 years old and they have been posting pictures of the rides and things they have been doing. it looks like a lot of fun. Thanks for the great post.

    • John E.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. Just writing this piece made me excited about our trip this summer. There really is Disney magic.

  • http://lifechangingyear.com Tracey – Life Changing Year

    Sounds awesome. We have our very first visit to Disneyland coming up next week. How exactly are you able to resist Facebook John?? Lol

    • John E.

      It hasn’t been as hard to resist Facebook as you might think. Of course I resisted Twitter for a long time & now I’m hooked!

      If this whole blogging thing works out, I may break down and get a Facebook account. That would truly be the work of Disney magic.

      8(:-)

  • http://www.coffeelovinmom.com Coffee Lovin’ Mom

    Thanks so much for this post. I just booked our trip there so this will be helpful in planning. I remember a couple of these from when I went as a kid

    • John E.

      It was my pleasure to write it. My wife & I used to have a travel guide for our friends but it was on our old computer & is now gone.

      I hope you have a great trip. It would be great if you’d let us know if these 12 things live up to the hype.

      8(:-)

  • http://rita.crowdedminds.com/ Rita

    I’ve never been to Disney World myself – I’d love to visit it one day though. Perhaps I should check out Disneyland Paris – that’s almost down the block from where I live!

    • John E.

      We’ve run into many Europeans while on our Disney World trips. There have been years whee it felt like we were at Disneyland Paris!

      If you ever decide to make the Florida trip, we’d be happy to give you some more ideas as to what you should see and do.

      Thanks for taking the time to read & respond.

      8(:-)

  • Amberr Meadows

    Thank you to everyone who came out and supported this great post for JB. I really appreciate you all!

    • John E.

      I’d like to second that. I really appreciate everyone who took the time to read my post. Most importantly, thanks to Amberr who gave me the opportunity to share it with everyone.

      I’m actually thinking about doing a five-part series of these breaking down the wonders of each park and the Downtown Disney area. What can I say? I’ve been inspired.

      8(:-)

  • http://myneonsignlullaby.com Eileen

    Great list. :) Since I live in Florida, I’ve been to Disney World so many times. :O

    • John E.

      Our upcoming trip makes 15 times for us. We never tire of it. These 12 things are the ones that most stick out to us now, probably because the don’t to so many others.

      Glad you liked the list!

      8(:-)

  • http://www.thewritingnut.com nutschell

    those are some great pics! I haven’t been back to Disney in awhile
    Nutschell

    Happy A-Zing!

  • Barbara Mascareno

    Living in Orlando for so many years, we would always find something new that we didn’t know it existed. Great list of unknown little places to visit at Walt Disney World. The Ice Cool Station was the favorite of our family, especially in the summer. It’s a great place to hide from the blustering heat for awhile and try all these different sodas. I think Animation Academy is great because you get to take home a drawing of a Disney character. It’s great for the kids. Thanks for sharing all these great suggestions.

    @Amberr, thanks for another great guest on your blog. I really enjoy reading all about Disney :)

    • John E.

      Glad you enjoyed it, Barbara. Disney World truly is magical for me and my family. We can always find something there to help us make a new, wonderful memory.

      Thank you so much for reading & commenting. It makes me feel good knowing that I created something that others read & enjoyed.