On my last visit to Walt Disney World as I stood in an attraction queue, I thought to myself, “Why do I keep riding this ride? I’ve seen it a ton of times? Nothing has changed. Why do I keep coming back for the same experience over and over?” Please do not pull out the pitchforks; I considered none of these questions with condescension or judgment. I was simply wondering what magical powers Disney has employed that really and truly keep me coming back time after time.
Despite the fact that my vacation was quite some time ago, I have not ceased in my pondering of these questions, and after careful thought, I have come up with, what I believe, are the five reasons that Walt Disney World fans return to and repeat the same experiences.
If Walt Disney World is anything to me, it is a place of memories. If someone were to ask me why I return to Walt Disney World, my immediate response would be that I desire to remember and to make new memories. While there is no denying that many of WDW‘s rides are worthy of riding because of story, effects, music and more, for me, there are a few attractions where all of that fades, and I am left with what that ride means in my memories.
Once upon a time, my husband asked me why there was always such a long line for Peter Pan’s Flight. He made a comment that he could not understand why people wait, at times, for two hours to see something that lasts about two minutes. As I internally gasped, I explained that for many of us, it is about the memories. It is true that Peter Pan’s Flight only lasts three minutes, and it is a relatively simple dark ride based on a film and character that some young children, sadly, may only know from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. But for me, Peter Pan’s Flight will always be my most vivid memory from my first trip to Walt Disney World at five years old.
I will never forget climbing up on the turnstile railing, while holding onto one of the shields so that I could peek over and watch the ships come and go as we waited. At that time, if you looked past the ride vehicles, you could see a tiny Tinker Bell that flew amidst the scenery during loading. I remember my family of four piling into one pirate ship (I was small and my sister was just a toddler). I remember when the track in front of our ship disappeared, and I believed we were flying. I remember my first glimpse of London and the tiny cars beeping as they zoomed about. I remember my mom pointing out the silhouettes on the moon of Peter and the Darling children as we floated along. I remember being sure there was real fire in the volcano, and I remember the glittering gold Jolly Roger as we came around the bend to unload. I ride Peter Pan’s Flight at least once during every visit to Walt Disney World because I want to relive those memories.
Some attractions in Walt Disney World take on a life of their own. Out of sheer history and longevity they demand our respect. Visiting them almost becomes a sort of pilgrimage, and over time, the somewhat mandatory feeling gives way to tradition. Traditions can be individual for each guest or family, such as a first ride that is repeated each vacation, or it can be a sort of mythic legacy in the realm of Walt Disney World fandom (I’m looking at you Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover!) Either way, ritual plays a big part in whether an attraction is revisited. While I enjoy Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress and often find myself singing “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow,” if I am being honest, I continue to devote a chunk of my Magic Kingdom day to this attraction purely because “it is tradition.”
Some rides at Walt Disney World are just pure fun, and not necessarily because that was the intended purpose. Kali River Rapids could be considered a bit heavy based on its theme of conservation and the inclusion of scenes depicting the decimation caused by deforestation and logging. However, when I think of Kali, all that comes to mind are the hilarious moments shared with total strangers. My family is always good for a few laughs, but the real fun comes when the strangers across the raft are willing to laugh and point along with you at the poor soul who receives the total dousing in the first minutes of the attraction. The hilarity only continues as everyone guesses and laughs about who will get it next. This has been my experience every single time I have ridden Kali; even a language barrier did not serve to stem the joy as we shared our raft with a group who did not speak English. That particular visit taught me that the funny misfortune of our fellow man is part of a universal language. I may consider Kali River Rapids for a quick cool-off, but the thought of new laughs is what pulls me into the queue again and again.
Walt Disney Imagineering is known for being on the forefront of technology due in large part to the innovation of Disney Research. These advancements and discoveries, when put into practice at Disney Parks, make for some of the most impressive experiences. There are attractions in Walt Disney World that I visit time after time because I continue to be impressed by the creativity and ingenuity that led to their existence. For me, this is most definitely the case with Soarin’. Admittedly, I have yet to have the opportunity to experience Soarin’ Around the World, so my feelings are based solely on its predecessor, Soarin’ Over California. Regardless, I spend the entire load time scanning and surveying the incredible armature that makes this ride possible. Simple while incredibly complex, I love telling new riders the story of its Erector Set inspiration.
When memories, fun, tradition and impressiveness all gather together in one attraction, you find the ride you love. It is the one you return to for no reason at all and every reason all at once. Without it, no visit to Walt Disney World would be complete. If it were ever to be altered or removed, you would be devastated.
No other attraction in Walt Disney World even comes close to stirring up the emotions I have for Splash Mountain. Undoubtedly my family’s favorite attraction, I have memories of racing through the queue time after time during evening fireworks and parades. In fact, there was one vacation where we stopped tallying our repeat rides at 20. Screams, funny photos, family jokes made using its quotable dialogue – Splash Mountain is a part of my family’s history. It is tradition in every sense of the word, both a rite of passage for our family and for the Disney community as a whole. Memorable music, engaging characters, and hills that toe the line between enjoyable and thrilling all combine to make this attraction one of WDW‘s most fun. While it employs technology that has been present for decades, its show scenes, creativity and multi-sensory ambience combine to make it truly impressive. For all of these reasons and more, I love Splash Mountain.
Why do you ride the same attractions over and over again? Which attraction do you ride because of the memories associated with it? Which one is your tradition? Which do you find the most fun? Which one do you love most of all?
(Photos from the author’s personal collection.)
To learn more about Kendall and read her recent posts for WDW Radio, visit her author page by clicking the link on her name at the top of this post.