Everyone has a Disney attraction they think is the best, along with a variety of reasons to support their choice. But my favorite, Splash Mountain, has the distinction of actually being the best. Why? So glad you asked!
#10 The Story
Disney is famous for its stories, and most attractions have one (yes even TriceraTop Spin, I’m told). But few rides have a story that’s this well thought-out and complete. Beginning, middle, end. Or in English teacher terms exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, conclusion. It has setting, characters, plot, and theme (message), all wrapped up in zip-a-dee cuteness.
#9 Awesomeness in all Directions
Look up, you see swampy foliage and upside down possums. Look down, flowing water. Look left or right, more creatures of all sizes and shapes doing all sorts of crazy things. Some characters are familiar and others are not as you move seamlessly from one scene to another. It’s possible to ride dozens of times and still not see it all.
#8 Best use of Recycled Materials
It’s no secret that many of the characters that inhabit Splash Mountain in Disneyland had a previous existence in the “America Sings” attraction. With this second life they have brought smiles to an entirely new generation of park visitors. And they’re still singing!
#7 Activation of all five senses
I mentioned the sights in all directions, but those are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There are also sounds, including several toe-tapping songs (see #6), buzzing bees, croaking frogs, flowing water, and screams (from the riders, not the characters). The smell of Splash Mountain is a sort of swamp water-meets-fresh air, with an occasional soggy shoe smell thrown in for good measure. Not always pleasant, but definitely memorable. The ‘feeling’ sense is everywhere — the back and forth of your log, the spray of water on your cheeks (or your backside, depending on your location in the log), the speed-generated wind in your face. Last but not least are the taste buds, which are only activated if you forget to close your mouth on the big drop. Then some of Brer Rabbit’s swamp will be going home with you!
#6 Memorable Soundtrack
I have always been drawn to Disney music, whether live, parades, ambience, or attractions. So it’s not surprising that the catchy tunes from Splash Mountain would grab my attention as much as any part of the experience. The thing I really appreciate is that there are three distinct songs on the ride that tell the story as much as anything else does. As you enter the ride, there’s “How do You Do?,” a twangy welcome-aboard-type song that makes you want to sing along. Then comes “Everybody has a Laughing Place,” which can’t help but put a smile on your face as you think about your own laughing place (mine is right there in that log!). After an interlude of Brer Rabbit pretending to be horribly afraid of the briar patch, we get “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah,” an all-time classic. The three distinct but related songs, sung by the characters themselves, make Splash Mountain an unforgettable feast for the ears. If that’s a thing.
You can see the big drop from the outside (see #3), but before that happens there are several hidden drops that also add to the thrills. This includes one (or two, depending on which coast you’re on), in the dark. And when it’s time, that big drop really is thrilling! First there’s the slow uphill climb, when your palms have a chance to get nice and sweaty. They you pop over the top of the hill and hang there for just a second. Then, whoosh, down you go. It’s over quickly, but not before you get that stomach-in-your-throat feeling for an instant. You also have a second to ponder just how wet you’re going to get when you bottom out, an experience that can depend on factors including weight, weather, which seat you’re in, how tall the guy in front of you is, etc. These are thrills that really will take your breath away.
#4 The View
The view from all outside portions of the ride are great. Of course they’re easier to savor on the slower portions of the ‘river,’ but the view from the top of the hill is really stunning (if fast!). You can see far and wide and get a great feel for the entire place from the comfort of your log. My personal favorite view was the time I rode in Disneyland at night, and I hit the hilltop just as the Mark Twain riverboat was passing below, in all its lit-up glory. I’ll never forget it.
#3 The Anticipation
Who hasn’t stood outside the ride and watched those logs coming down the big hill? Before you ever get on, you’re thinking to yourself, “Can I do this?” Then when you slide into the log, you’re given more to think about. First, you’re probably sitting in water (or at least your feet are), so that’s a good tension builder as you wonder exactly when that happened. Next, you pass right by the big hill before you ever do any splashing of your own. You’ll get a closeup view of the descending screamers (and possibly some backsplash). The dark and the the hidden curves and drops also add to the fun. There’s often something unseen just around the corner, and the first time you experience it you really don’t know what’s coming next.
#2 The Big Finish – that’s not
So you made it to the drop and there’s no going back now. It’s all built up to this, then down you go. Whew! That was great! So sad it’s over. But wait – it’s not! Around the bend and back in the cave you go to experience even more. The fact that there’s more to come (including a whole new song) really adds to the magic.
#1 The Big Finish – that is
When you really do get to the last scene, it’s all that a finale should be. Show-stopping tunes, dozens of animatronics, and the happiest of endings to the story. By the time you actually get off the log (wetter than you got on), you really feel like you have been through something special.
If you’ve been on the ride at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, you know there are differences (log configuration, ride length, where it is in the park and a few more). But I believe all ten of these reasons make Splash Mountain the best Disney attraction no matter where you are lucky enough to experience it. I guarantee you’ll have a Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah time!