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The 7 Stunning "Natural" Wonders of the Theme Park World

3. Forbidden Mountain

Image via Keys to the Magic Travel. Click for link.

Location: Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Attraction: Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

There’s nothing unimpressive about the Himalayan mountain range at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. At 199 feet tall, the snow-capped peak of the Forbidden Mountain makes it the second tallest mountain in Florida. The “natural” peak has the assistance of 38 miles of rebar, 5,000 pounds of structural steel, and 10,000 tons of concrete. Inside is a runaway train of a different type – a sightseeing train up into the Himalayas goes very wrong when the mysterious Yeti uproots the track and sends the coaster forwards and backwards. From most all angles, Forbidden Mountain is a daunting and impressive Wonder of the theme park world.

2. Ornament Valley & the Cadillac Range

Image: Disney

Location: Disney California Adventure
Attraction: Radiator Springs Racers

Ornament Valley will take your breath away, pure and simple. The expansive mountain range – a near perfect recreation of the sunset-hued rockwork from the film Cars – is only 125 feet tall, but you’d guess it was twice that. The scale and scope of the Ornament Valley is unreal, and simply can’t be captured in photographs. Like seeing a real natural Wonder like the Grand Canyon, you simply can’t describe how the Ornament Valley expands infinitely in both directions, filling any panoramic photo you try to take.

Image: Disney

300,000 square feet of rocks recreate the Pixar-designed desert landscape. It pays off. That first all-encompassing view of the mountains up close is almost as stunning and jaw-dropping as seeing any real natural formation of the American Southwest. Not to mention, one of Disney’s brightest and most vibrant attractions – Radiator Springs Racers – darts along neatly paved roads around and against the range.

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature, the Cadillac Range is the signature element of the incredible desert backdrop. The six cartoon mountain peaks somehow look entirely, plausibly natural here. Not coincidentally, they represent the iconic tailfins from Cadillac cars from 1957 – 1962 in order, with the 1959 nodel earning the highest peak.

Click and expand for larger. Image: Disney

Cars Land might've saved the disastrous, old Disney California Adventure from certain doom, but we can't help thinking that this starring land wouldn't be worth much without the backdrop of the Cadillac Range. 

Our tip for seeing this Wonder? Take the long way ‘round. While it’s tempting to enter the park’s famed Cars Land via the traditional route looking down Route 66, only by entering through Pacific Wharf will you be granted the breathtaking view above. And what a view it is.

1. Mount Prometheus

Image: Disney 

Location: Tokyo DisneySea
Attraction: Journey to the Center of the Earth

Named for the ancient Greek titan who defied the gods by bestowing fire and knowledge on the humans, Mount Prometheus is absolutely stunning from all angles. The active volcano is made up of 750,000 square feet of rock and rises 189 feet above the Tokyo Disney Resort (the same exact height as Cinderella Castle, the icon of Tokyo Disneyland next door). Not only is the mountain the park icon for the much hailed and beloved Tokyo DisneySea… it also contains the park’s headlining land and two stellar E-ticket attractions.

The huge, circular, collapsed caldera bowl formed by the mountain (to its right in the photo above) contains the park’s Mysterious Island port, themed to Jules Verne’s sci-fi fantasy novels. The entire land is contained within the caldera under the peak of Prometheus, with visitors suspended on metallic catwalks above bubbling geysers, boiling waterfalls, and steaming volcanic vents below. Captain Nemo's Nautilus is even docked inside, with steep staircases descending down to it. The land's two attractions – both themed to Verne novels – are the indisputable highlights of the already-E-ticket-packed park.

Via tdrfan.com.

First, there's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a stunning modern take on the classic novel. Entirely different from Magic Kingdom's abandoned 20,000 Leagues attraction, this version of the ride is equally mindblowing using an entirely different medium. Of course, set among the massive, starring E-tickets of DisneySea, it feels almost like a family-sized aside, but at any other park on Earth, Tokyo's 20,000 Leagues would be considered a headliner. 

If you’re looking to explore Mount Prometheus, then your best bet is Journey to the Center of the Earth, an off-roading adventure into the depths of the planet via a carved lava tube beneath the volcano. Just beware – deep at the molten core is the terrifying Lava Creature, who also happens to be among the most advanced animatronic creations on Earth. It glares, rears back, gnashes its hideous fangs, and lunges at the vehicle just as you accelerate full speed up through Prometheus and out of a collapsed lava tube on the mountain’s side. For the sheer impossible size of the peak and the stellar rides within, Mount Prometheus earns a spot at number two.

Closing

Were you fooled by Alton Towers' valleys of blood? Did you assume Mount Prometheus was a legitimate volcano with a theme park built around it? Figure that the Old West peaks of Big Thunder Mountain had mysteriously migrated to Florida naturally?

Alright, maybe not. But consider the painstaking lengths that designers and engineers went to to create these "natural" Wonders that transport us to unique places that we might not otherwise get to visit. Which do you think is the most magnificent? Tell us in the comments below! And don't forget to check out our list of the Seven Ancient Wonders and the Seven Modern Wonders!

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