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Soarin' will close January 4, 2016 to become Soarin' Around the World. A third theater will be built, an addition that should help spread out the crowds in this always-busy attraction. The existing theaters will receive new digital screens and projection systems. A new film for the attraction will fly guests over attractions around the world, such as The Great Wall of China and the African savannas. The attraction will reopen in summer 2016.
Opened: February 8, 2001
Ride length: 4 minutes, 51 seconds
As those who have ridden this unique attraction can attest, this is not your typical motion simulator type ride.
The ride is in The Land Pavillion in Future World. The building itself is shaped like a huge, truncated hangar, simillar to what you might find at a medium sized municipal airfield. The interior is also reminiscent of a municipal airfield, with chain link fencing in places. There is no separate pre-show to speak of. However, when you are ready to load up into your moving theater, you are treated to a short safety spiel type video on an overhead monitor.
Inside the theater, you will be guided to one of three large ride vehicles. Each has three rows of seating, with the most desirable being the front row, closest to the screen. When the ride begins, the front row winds up being the highest in the air, and none of the other rows are visible, as they go below and slightly to the rear of the row in front. I rode in the middle row, which still offers a fairly immersive experience.
The theater seats are quite honestly are the most comfortable ride vehicle seats in any attraction. They are very similar to slightly reclined lawn chairs, with a mesh seat and back, and are perfect for this attraction. They are also somewhat wider and larger than ride seating in most amusement park attractions. Safety is provided by a simple lap belt restraint, leaving you with a comfortable, free feeling as the ride begins.
At the starts, your ride vehicle is lifted swiftly and smoothly forward and up, with each row stacking vertically above the other, right in front of a massive theater screen. You then begin to "fly" through stunning scenes filmed over the California landscape. You are swept over snow capped ridges, desert canyons, rocky seashores, and gorgeous beaches. The whole experience culminates with a swooping run up Main Street USA to Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, ending among the evening fireworks display.
As the camera banks and turns through the scenery, your moving theater also banks and turns...In fact, each individual seat moves, banking you left and right, and angling up and down, in perfect synchronization with the camera angle on the screen. It truly does leave you feeling as though you were hang gliding over California's most breathtaking vistas.
The overall ride experience of Soarin' is certainly not to be missed. However, there were a few negatives worthy of noting...At times, the picture quality of the film appears to be a bit on the grainy side, and some of the cuts between scenery footage were a bit abrupt. During the ride, you are treated to the feeling of wind blowing in your face...it would be nice if the wind would be varied a bit, like occasionally "gusting" or lessening a bit as you bank through a turn. Lastly, on the negative front, guests who use wheelchairs and cannot transfer to a ride vehicle seat will not be able to experience this attraction, as there is no way to accommodate a wheelchair on the ride vehicles. Disabled access to the attraction, however, is good, with wide, gently sloping ramps throughout the queue area, and ample room to maneuver a wheelchair inside the ride theater. You just have to be able to get into the theater seats once you're inside.
There is very little not to like about Soarin' at Epcot, and a lot of reasons to make sure that this is one ride you don't want to miss on your next trip to the World.
Soarin' is infamous for its lengthy standby wait times. (DIS Tip: Make a FastPass+ reservation for this attraction. Standby lines get very long very quickly.) Disney uses interactive technology to make the wait in the standby line enjoyable. There are large overhead screens with interactive 'video games'. Similar to the Nintendo Wii, the players' physical movements dictate the direction of the game. One game has guests directing a bird through a forest. You'll hear "lean left, lean right" as everyone tries to help. At times the group becomes so engrossed that they don't realize the line has moved.
Handicapped Accessibility: Guests in wheelchairs and ECVs must be able to transfer.