As Walt Disney World remains closed, many are having to cancel and/or reschedule trips. Having to cancel a highly anticipated Adventures By Disney Southern California vacation, I fully understand the crushing disappointment and despondency thousands of people are experiencing. We do not know when the parks will re-open, or what exactly that will entail. It appears that, for a couple of years at least, this will usher in a new era in Disney parks.
Many are fantasizing about the first place they are going to rush to upon their arrival on Walt Disney World property. Fantasies may consist of simply sitting in the hub eating popcorn, or enjoying rides on the monorail. Others are indicating they will happily wait three hours or more for Avatar Flight of Passage.
At Walt Disney World, there are six theme parks, two water parks, and much more to enjoy. Amongst hugely popular attractions such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Slinky Dog Dash, are those that get overlooked. Overlooked attractions are ones which often have minimal or no queues, and many guests may have gone years without trying them. Some of these are my favorite on property.
They often tap into nostalgia and offer some of the most beautiful and peaceful places within the parks, but often run the risk of being neglected. These places will undoubtedly make great options to saunter on once the parks open, allowing for an appreciation of Imagineering and great views. So, what are some of these attractions?
Swiss Family Treehouse
Swiss Family Treehouse, located in Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland, is probably one of the most overlooked on property. I could extol the virtues of the Treehouse at length (and have). Serving as an opening day attraction at Walt Disney World, it is a simple walk-through presenting to guests the ingenious work of a ship-wrecked family. It is located conveniently near Cinderella Castle, and an entrance to Frontierland. With no wait that I’ve ever seen, it is easy to enjoy. Swiss Family Treehouse is absolutely lush and gorgeous on its own merits, reminding me of a rustic Caras Galadhon, especially in the evenings. It also provides very cool views of Adventureland, and offers beautiful opportunities for pictures (how often can you get both the castle and Space Mountain in the background?).
In the era of Social Distancing, it can be somewhat claustrophobic. But otherwise, it is a simple, beautiful, and verdurous. Views of Adventureland, Frontierland, and Tomorrowland are easily available, providing unique views of attractions and lands throughout Magic Kingdom.
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
The Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail is located in Africa in Animal Kingdom, and is one of two walking trails in that park. This trail is a great companion to Kilimanjaro Safaris, as it allows guests to see various animals seen in Africa at their own pace. Gorillas, hippos, exotic birds, zebras, meerkats, and more are available for viewing in an incredibly immersive environment. An Okapi you may have missed on the safari can typically be seen on this trail. As the name suggests, gorillas are probably the primary attraction here, and on occasion, they can be seen being quite playful. This trail can get hot, and, depending on the time of day, animal viewing can be mediocre. But as many guests overlook this attraction, it is often quiet, and when you do get a good view of an animal, or a nice shaded spot on a bench, it can be a great way to appreciate nature and relax. Similar to the other animal trail to be discussed below, it generally offers wide paths and off shoots, which can allow for some distance from other guests.
Maharajah Jungle Trek
Maharajah Jungle Trek is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful areas in Walt Disney World. In Animal Kingdom’s Asia, this trail takes you through an abandoned temple which is being reclaimed by nature. The mix of animals you will see here is a most fascinating menagerie; Malayan Tapirs, massive bats, and a gorgeous mix of birds living in a stunning aviary. The highlight, the single most majestic things you will see on property, are the tigers. They are most active early in the morning, and, when playful, are really a quite a sight to see. These animals are stunning, gorgeous, and live in an incredibly immersive environment. Maharajah Jungle Trek is a great option for those looking to stop and appreciate the details of Animal Kingdom with minimal interference from crowds. The trek should take about 25 to 40 minutes depending on animal viewing available, but is especially unique, and shows Imagineering and Disney’s consciousness for the environment at its best.
Liberty Square Riverboat
The Liberty Square Riverboat in Frontierland is a traditional riverboat with three decks and a capacity of about 450 passengers. It is Disney World’s version of the Mark Twain Riverboat in Disneyland, and takes off from a convenient Liberty Square dock. Views are offered of all of Tom Sawyer Island, Frontierland, and two of the Magic Kingdom mountains. There are at least a dozen unique views which can only be seen by guests from this attraction.
Most notably, seeing new sides of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the Haunted Mansion, coupled with Cinderella Castle, offers a distinctive opportunity. It really lets one see Magic Kingdom in a new light, but also provides some really great picture spots. Decks are generally a little wider and more open, hopefully allowing for some distance between guests.
For those whose simply wish to be in Magic Kingdom at all right now, this attraction would a great option to head to once we are able to get back. Perhaps enjoy a headliner such as Peter Pan’s Flight, and then head on a boat ride.
Living with the Land
Living with the Land is located in the Land Pavilion in Epcot. It is a thirteen-minute boat ride taking guests through a variety of nature scenes and into a series of greenhouses. It displays innovative techniques used to raise and harvest various plants and fish. In Future World, the ride is pretty, calming, and should enable you to learn a thing or two. This attraction can have a more substantial wait, but often does not. Located in the same pavilion as Soarin’, it is worthwhile and rejuvenating. For those who do not care for Soarin’, this attraction is a wonderful alternative, offering no thrills of any kind. An experience which would probably be boring for children is a lot more interesting with the inclusion of uniquely shaped vegetation, and more importantly, fish. The hurly burly of Epcot is temporarily left behind, as one learns about the source of some of the food they eat while in the park.
In a time of uncertainty and despair, we can have faith the parks will re-open at some point, and Disney will do everything in their power to make the re-opening as magical as possible. As we anxiously await further updates, there are many ways to enjoy the parks at home, and future trips to plan!
What do you think about these attractions? Do you walk right on by, or are they a highlight of your trip? In your humble but informed opinion, will they will busier than ever upon re-opening of the parks, or will they maintain their status as overlooked?
Spencer Wright is passionate about Walt Disney World, Disney Film, History, and Old Hollywood. He works in Center City Philadelphia and lives in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. He looks forward to writing articles for The Dis Unplugged; currently focusing on Animal Kingdom and the creatures that live there.