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The 8 Best Rides at Walt Disney World Guaranteed to Make You Smile

4. Toy Story Mania!

Image: DisneyWalt Disney World features three attractions that have a gaming element. The best of them is Toy Story Mania!, which was formerly the hottest ticket at Walt Disney World prior to the arrival of Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The attraction remained popular due to the excitement that stems from riding (or playing?) it.

Toy Story Mania! is a ride that would have been dear to Walt Disney’s heart. It celebrates the old-school carnival games, the ones that comprised a key part of Frontierland during the early days of Disneyland.

The genius of the updated version of the premise is that it’s the same skills translated into a videogame format. You have a controller instead of a dart or a ring toss, but you still need to pop balloons or stick your rings on a hoop. It’s timeless fun that hearkens back to a simpler age of theme park design.

Since there’s scoring, you’ll feel the thrill of competition, guaranteeing that special dose of excitement every round. Toy Story Mania! embodies the best of the first generation of Disney rides while still modernizing it for 21st century kids.

3. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Image: DisneyIn evaluating the biggest crowd pleasers at Walt Disney World, I see three tiers. Expedition Everest through Soarin’ is the first tier, while Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Toy Story Mania! are the second tier. People may quibble a bit on what goes into those sections, I think most theme park tourists would agree that the three attractions that score highest on the Fun Meter are these.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is the least Disney-like of the three. It’s not based on a Disney intellectual property, and it’s not a ride design that they invented. Yes, it’s one that they perfected on this attraction, but the company prefers to innovate rather than duplicate. They made an exception because the theming and style of Tower of Terror is so spectacular. How could anyone feel anything but total delight as they bounce up and down in the haunted elevator shaft? It’s a euphoric sensation.

2. Haunted Mansion

Image: DisneyThe idea of gothic horror as a source of humor seems incongruous. Television shows like The Munsters and The Addams Family were all the rage during the 1960s, demonstrating how much viewers loved the idea at the time. Disney cast members involved with the design of Haunted Mansion weren’t as convinced. Some of them argued for a truly terrifying ride experience, while others wanted something silly. Haunted Mansion as a ride is the product of a seemingly awkward marriage of the two diverse concepts. It proves that the ideas are not at all incongruous, though.

You board a Doom Buggy and head into a ghastly manor, the home of 999 happy haunts. During your trip, you’ll encounter a murderous bridezilla, a ballroom full of dancing ghosts, and a graveyard comprised of wannabe musicians. It’s all so ridiculous and over the top that you can’t help but spiral into a giggle loop during your first journey into the forbidden realm. The mansion might be haunted, but the spookiest part is how much you laugh at some unsettling events.

1. Splash Mountain

Image: DisneyI understand why some of you would pick a different ride as the biggest crowd pleaser at Walt Disney World. When I compiled my selections, however, I never hesitated at which one would win. To me, Splash Mountain is a rapturous ride experience. It’s the perfect blend of cartoon characters telling a story and a water ride delivering an epic climax.

Like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Haunted Mansion, the musical interludes on Splash Mountain manipulate your mood. The congenial singalong fosters a sense of glee that will stick with you throughout the 12-minute ride. You’re happily listening to Disney music while you ride down a river dark ride. It’s the most comfortable setting imaginable. And it’s a clever way to distract you from the upcoming splashdown, too.

Splash Mountain is structured as a series of mischievous misdirects. You’ll worry that you’re about to hit the water and get soaked on several occasions. By the time it finally happens, you’ve entered into a “boy who cried wolf” scenario. You no longer worry about the possibility…right until the moment when you’re dripping wet. It’s a masterful ride design and the most gratifying single moment at Walt Disney World. Splash Mountain is what makes the most people the happiest at the parks.

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