Tuesday, December 18, 2012

RANK IT: My favorite attractions

"RANK IT" will be a regular feature, because every darn blog in the universe needs to have such a thing. (It's in the rulebook. What, you don't have a copy?)

I'm new to the parks blogosphere, so it's only natural that I introduce myself by telling you about my favorite Disney attractions. Mind you, I've never left this hemisphere, so you'll only see attractions from Anaheim and Orlando listed here.

So here we go!

1. Haunted Mansion (Magic Kingdom) -- The songs. The sounds. The smells. And of course the sights. This is Disney's masterpiece, a not-so-scary spookhouse whose old-fashioned visual tricks still impress. The Disneyland version is wonderful -- as is its controversial holiday overlay -- but the ghosts in Florida enjoy a grander facade, a grander queue, and an unparallelled experience in the realm of themed attractions.

2. Space Mountain (Disneyland) -- Every time I'm in line for this ride, I will inevitably at some point jump up and down like an excited child. I just can't help it. The idea behind Space Mountain is so simple, and executed so perfectly; how has it not been replicated by any other theme park company anywhere else in the world? The Magic Kingdom's queue is better, and the track layout is more exciting if you like your coasters to be a little rickety -- but the overall experience shines at Disneyland. (Big ups to Michael Giacchino's music. Is there anything he can't do?)

3. Jungle Cruise (Magic Kingdom) -- I love this ride because it looks like the coolest job in the world, even if the skippers keep insisting it's not. The MK version wins thanks to the dark temple scene, which, on one of my recent trips, gave one skipper a chance to "create some magic" for a young guest and let him man the wheel.

4. Horizons (Epcot) -- Yes, it really was that amazing. I would have been perfectly content to ride this over and over and over again every time I went to Epcot. I was very sad to see it go, but I also understand why it's not there anymore; it would have required a rather large refurbishment to keep up with our changing expectations of the future. All my favorite stuff, though, could have stayed put: the visions of the future by those living in the past. That cavernous display of neon signs, highways and cars; Jules Verne floating in his space capsule; the crazy kitchen robot ... that's Epcot at its best.

5. Pirates of the Caribbean (Disneyland) -- I feel like it's all been said about this attraction. I'll just add that nothing beats the atmosphere of the first five minutes as you float by the Blue Bayou and into the ominous blue caverns.

6. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue (Disneyland) --Hey, George Lucas got something right! I still haven't seen the pod racing sequence, but I hope to correct that in February. (I hope to be the Rebel Spy, too, but beggars can't be choosers.) I will never forget my first ride on the original incarnation: As Rex took us into the trench and exclaimed, "I've always wanted to do this," my then-41-year-old father yelled, "ME TOO!"

7. Journey Into Imagination (Epcot) -- Horizons aimed higher and was more impressive, but the original Journey Into Imagination left a bigger void. The current incarnation of the ride isn't the worst thing in the world, but it certainly suffers as a reminder of what once was.

8. Spaceship Earth (Epcot) -- We all know how great this ride is, but not all of us like the current ending. It may be tonally jarring, but I can't deny that every guest leaves that ride with a smile on his or her face because of it.

9. Indiana Jones Adventure (Disneyland) -- I did not see this until 2007, so happily I can't bore you with musings about how much better it was when it first opened. It seemed pretty darn perfect to me that first time. I honestly couldn't believe the size and scale of it, the details, the perfectly timed music, the breakneck pace ... it totally lived up to my wildest dreams of what an Indy ride could be. When that boulder came rolling toward us and our vehicle suddenly lurched underneath it, the whole EMV erupted in applause. Something tells me that happens a lot.

10. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (California Adventure) -- That's right, I prefer the shortened DCA version of this ride, mostly because it's the first one I experienced. I prefer the pop of that first drop, too, coming right after you see the ghostly elevator drop out of your view.

Those are my ten, and they're not very surprising, are they? (Some others I considered: The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure; Mr. Toad's Wild Ride; Mickey's Philharmagic; Matterhorn Bobsleds; the original Test Track.) What are some offbeat or unloved attractions that you value more than any of these? Let's hear it.

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