With 17 to 20 million visitors every year, it's hard to imagine that anything at the most-visited theme park in the world can really be considered "underrated." But there is definitely a cycle of hype, even at The Happiest Place On Earth, which is actually like a whole bunch of happy places spanning an area of nearly 40 square miles (in fairness, they're only using about half of that space right now).
Between four unique theme parks, two water parks, four golf courses, two mini-golf courses, and 21 resorts (and that's just on property), there is a ton to do. Which is why we're narrowing this list down to only the four theme parks at Walt Disney World.
And even by "narrowing it down" there's still a bazillion things that are easy to overlook. Of course, some of those don't really warrant more than a passing glance — but many deserve a lot more attention than you've been willing to give. How rude of you.
And notice we're going with the term "attractions" here — not just rides, because some of these don't actually move you around all that much (or at all), but are still deserving of carving out a little bit of your precious WDW visit to experience.
Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover — Magic Kingdom
I'll admit I had a hard time explaining to my son what this attraction was like, especially since I hadn't been on it in a very long time (and my memories were all from the bygone Disneyland version).
"It... uh... moves people."
At its core, that's pretty much all there is to the TTA PeopleMover, which is why it might end up lower on many people's must-do lists. But, my friends, that is an enormous mistake. I'll say it right here, right now: This is one of the best attractions in all of Magic Kingdom.
The tour of Tomorrowland has seen a few iterations since its opening in 1975, from the WEDway version (WED = Walt Elias Disney) to New Tomorrowland to the most recent incarnation that provides updated narration for the TRON attraction.
The wait for PeopleMover rarely reaches above 20 minutes, gives you a 10-minute experience, provides you with stunning views of the castle and TRON (ride it at night for even cooler views), and gives you a glimpse inside other Tomorrowland attractions + Star Traders. Honestly, it'd be hard to overrate this one.
Living with the Land — EPCOT
I honestly had no idea what to expect heading into this attraction. I mean, the name doesn't exactly beg for your attention. And frankly, if you just told me what it does, I would probably laugh in your face and vow to never, ever go near it.
Essentially located in the basement of The Land pavilion (which also hosts Soarin'), this is literally one of the easiest attractions to overlook — but don't make that mistake.
Following a brief dark ride aboard a gently moving boat, where this attraction really shines is the greenhouse tour. I never could have imagined that just looking at plants and fish would be so interesting, but hell, it is.
Opening in 1982 as Listen to the Land, you can gawk at all the cool stuff being grown and wonder later on if you're eating something that was grown there. You also give your legs a 15-minute break.
Pro-tip: For the love of all that's holy, do not waste a Genie+ spot on this ride — yes, it has a Lightning Lane, but you will feel pretty foolish walking through it just as quickly as standby riders.
Star Tours - The Adventures Continue — Hollywood Studios
As the kid who begged his mom to go on that ride simulator thing at the mall that looked like a minivan on the outside but then projected something like an old wooden rollercoaster inside, Star Tours has always been my jam.
So I was pretty dubious when they "updated" this attraction — but turns out they kind of crushed it. We all miss Captain Rex, but hey, he has a new gig as a DJ at Oga's Cantina, so he's fine, and how cool is it to see C-3PO as your pilot?
Plus, you really never know what you're going to get. Imagineers had a stroke of genius when they decided to incorporate all eras and use a randomized approach that means you rarely, if ever, experience the same flight twice.
Yet watching the wait times at Hollywood Studios, as one does for no apparent reason (just me?), you'll notice that they are always, always comparatively low — and at times just downright stupidly low.
I get it, it's been around for a while, had a couple of incarnations, and they do a great job keeping folks loading up and moving through, but on a recent visit when Tower of Terror was over 90 minutes and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster was 100 minutes, Star Tours was 5.
The wait should be much, much longer for this one — but hey, everyone else's loss, your gain.
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor — Magic Kingdom
This is another one that I truly had no clue what to expect — and was quite pleasantly surprised.
Heading back to Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom, Laugh Floor took over the spot where the Timekeeper attraction used to be. I'm assuming somewhere someone's still mad about that one shutting down, but I never experienced it, so I had no preconceptions heading in.
I figured this would feature some animatronics or maybe a 3-D projection, but instead, you get a straight-up hilarious improv comedy show. The audience is always incorporated, and the actors are legitimately funny. It's also pretty cool how they overlay animation as the actors talk, making it feel like you're actually watching monsters from Monsters, Inc. deliver some serious wit.
It's also a nice rest, and the most you're likely to ever wait is 15 minutes if you've just missed a show. It opened in 2007, but between a global pandemic and some very unmagical actor disputes, it only just recently returned, giving you another reason to stop inside this one instead of waiting an hour+ for Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.
SeaBase — EPCOT
I totally understand why Disney wants to incorporate as much of their IP as possible into the parks, but sometimes I wish they'd just knock it off. Case in point — "reimagining" Living with the Seas into The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
On the other hand, you now have a great excuse to skip the slow-moving Nemo ride (which is waaay better at Disneyland, but that's a debate for another post) and instead spend some time exploring the oceans at SeaBase.
As if Disney World weren't sprawling and grand enough, you could easily spend two weeks there and never realize that there is a full-on aquarium, with sharks and seahorses and everything. Perfect for cooling off on a hot day at EPCOT where shade is precious, or just for seeing cool sea creatures, it's kind of shocking that you don't hear about SeaBase more.
Lightning McQueen's Racing Academy — Hollywood Studios
I haven't been to HS in a really long time, so I was kind of surprised on a recent visit to realize just how small it feels. Perhaps that's just a relativity thing, but there are really only a handful of top-tier attractions here, which means the waits for those are almost always stupidly long.
But the next time you've just wrapped up your backstage concert with Aerosmith on the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, sneak up to this Cars-themed animatronic and audio/visual attraction.
It's one of the most tucked-away spots in any of the theme parks at WDW, which makes it even more worth your time to swing by if you've already trekked that direction.
This one will definitely appear to the younglings more, or those who grew up with Lightning, but it's still worth checking out. The animatronics are surprisingly impressive, and it's just a fun immersive show that provides a little bit of new Cars content that is actually enjoyable.
Plus, as with many of these — air conditioning and about 15 minutes of sitting with little to no wait.
Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros — EPCOT
Again with the updating rides with new IP — except, this time they chose source material from 1944, which gives this slow boat ride a nostalgic feel, even if you never rode the original attraction (El Rio del Tiempo).
Being located in a Mayan-style pyramid is pretty darn cool on its own, and it's really easy to forget this attraction is even there. With tons of shopping and a full-on restaurant inside the pavilion, you actually have to kind of seek this one out.
It's one of the few attractions in all of WDW that doesn't have a Lightning Lane — and hell, it doesn't need it. You can slip in here on even the busiest days and be on your tour with Donald, Panchito, and José in no time.
Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café — Magic Kingdom
Perhaps this isn't technically an attraction, but I don't understand how this isn't higher on every Disney World list out there.
Perhaps it's the ALF fan in me, but this is one of my favorite hidden gems from any Disney park. Ostensibly, it's just a seating area to sit and enjoy some galactic burgers and hot dogs. Nothing real special there.
But then you have the entertainment: Sonny Eclipse hailing from Yew Nork on the planet Zork.
I don't know who decided to include this lounge-style act, but may the sweet lord bless them for all eternity. Sonny has a litany of punny jokes, space-themed music, and of course his trusty Astro Organ at his side at all times.
The midday lunch rush is a time to avoid (as it is in general anywhere in any of the parks), but this should be on your must-do list. Just stop in to escape the rain or heat and rest for a little bit, or grab a meal and enjoy the show. If you're a fan of silly jokes, animatronics, and space, you'll love it.
And if you aren't? Go to Universal Studios.
All of Animal Kingdom
You might have noticed that Animal Kingdom is the only WDW park not mentioned so far — that's because there's nothing underrated at AK, aside from pretty much the entire park itself.
Upon my first visit, it felt the least Disney-ish of all the parks. But the more it's grown in my memory, the more I just want to live there. And we're talking much more than the Avatar attractions.
Perhaps it's because it's technically the biggest park (thanks to the sprawling wildlife areas), or maybe it's because you can knock out the entire park in like 5 hours (depending on the day of course) — it's kind of easy to forget about Animal Kingdom.
Expedition Everest is just plain fun, the food is actually really good, and you can grab a beer while watching a boat full of Disney characters float by on a river. There are much, much worse things in life, my friends.
I know for a fact we're Disney World novices compared to a lot of our readers. Which attractions do you think are underrated?