Category Archives: Rides

Living With The Land

Part One of the Living With the Land Ride

Living with the Land is located in the Land Pavilion in Future World at Epcot. It is no doubt one of those often overlooked and under-appreciated attractions that make Epcot synonymous with boring to many Disney visitors. Nevertheless it is worth the time to see it if only to be able to say you have seen it.

The ride has two distinct phases. The first is your standard if understated Disney dark ride, meaning you are in a boat riding past Disney created landscapes and animatronics.

The first scene opens with a thunderstorm in a forest and tell us the beneficial impact of even seemingly cataclysmic events. Next the guests pass through a rain forest as they are told that even though the rain forests are a small part of the earth’s surface they have a major impact. Then the American plains open up as the narrator informs everyone how the landscape was transformed by even simple things like the hooves of the buffalo. The final scene is an American farm house complete with goats and chickens. From this we are taught the quest for more efficient food production can lead to overuse and destruction of the land. We are offered a glimmer of hope as the narrator tells us we are now learning to live with the land without destroying it for future generations.

At this point the ride shifts gears to focus on the efforts humans are making to minimize their impact on the environment while producing the food we need to sustain ourselves. This is not a standard greenhouse though. The boats enter greenhouses where some interesting crops and techniques are displayed. The key word for these greenhouse is sustainability. The crops are grown and sometimes engineered to survive with minimal resources and produce maximum results.

In the tropics greenhouse guests get to see some familiar fruits and some new faces too. Each of these fruits are edible to humans and though some are not as popular as the banana (the most popular fruit on the planet, at least among humans) the others offer the possibility to help feed an ever growing human population.

Aquaculture is the next exhibit as the boats float past aquariums filled with sustainable fish. Not every animal in this area is fishy though. There are some alligators too.

In the temperate greenhouse guests will not see any fruits they will not recognize but they may be surprised at how big these common fruits can grow when given the opportunity. Several prize winners were grown here right in Epcot. Of special interest to lemonade lovers are the nine pound lemons grown here in the greenhouse.

The string greenhouse introduces guests to some innovative growing techniques such as nutrient film technique and vertical growing. Vertical growing makes plants, like tomatoes, look like trees.The Guinness World Record is held by a tomato plant grown at Epcot. It produced over 32,000 tomatoes! This greenhouse also houses some Mickey shaped surprises.

The last greenhouse is the creative greenhouse. Here the aeroponic technique is demonstrated.  Instead of planting the crops in the ground it is suspended in the air and nutrients are sprayed directly onto the root. It works too.  There is also a small display of NASA experiments created for long range space expeditions.

While this ride is a great science lesson is it worth it? To some it is and to others not so much but Grumpy enjoys it. Guests can get a Fastpass and enjoy a leisurely ride will getting some much needed rest from the rest of Epcot or its a good time filler while you wait for your Soarin Fastpass which is housed in the same building.

It is also interesting to note that over 30 million tons of produce are grown here for use in Disney restaurants and some of the seafood is produced here too.


The Jungle Cruise

Name: Jungle Cruise

Land: Adventureland

Fastpass: Yes

Good: The animatronics are great on this ride and there are a lot of them. The landscape is also incredible. The jokes are lame no doubt but they still make you laugh! (at least the first dozen times)

Bad: The only real negative for this ride is the jokes! When you can start to quote them yourself they lose a lot of humor!

Must See: Yes

Grumpy Rating: 4 out of 5 grumpys

Back to the Magic Kingdom

Disney World Top Seven Must Sees Part Three (Conclusion)

Number 1: Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

At the watering hole

This should come as no surprise to fans of I have posted several stories already on Kilimanjaro Safaris. It is quite simply, in my grumpy opinion, the best ride Disney World has to offer.

To understand why you have to understand some things about me. First I am not only grumpy I am a nerd at heart. Second I love animals. this ride combines both of those parts of my personality into one ride. The nerd gets to learn about animals!

The ride premise is nothing spectacular. You are leaving Harambe Village for a tour of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. The tour is scheduled for two weeks. I have taken this safari numerous times and though it is one of the longer rides at Disney World it has never been two weeks! During your tour you will be in constant contact with warden Wilson Matua who is patrolling the reserve for poachers. Your particular tour has the call sign Simba 1. Okay its not an original name but the theme behind the ride is not the impressive part. It is the ride itself.

Your ride vehicle is a rather large open-sided truck. All seats are bench seats that hold up to six people. Unlike many of the rides at Disney World, including even the Liberty Square River Boat which actually runs on a rail, these trucks are true trucks. The driver can take them anywhere he or she wants. Don’t bother trying to bribe them into taking you off the prescribed course though. I have tried and it doesn’t work. For the best view, of course, try to get a seat on the outside.

There may have been some set up to this picture. Okay there was! But the zebras and the giraffes really are that close to each other and too you! And nothing keeps them from coming up for a better view of you! At least one guest has even been licked by a baby giraffe.

Disney has pulled out all the stops to recreate Africa on this one and it is very much appreciated by me! You get to see a lot of different animals some of which I had never heard of before. Having been to Africa myself, the real one I mean, the road is especially authentic. There are bumps and potholes everywhere and the ride can be a little rough at times but don’t be discouraged it is worth it.

The animals are the stars of this ride and they are not hid behind cages as they would be in a zoo. Many of them roam quite freely through their designated area. On more than one occasion the entire system has had to be shut down because an animal has chosen to stop right in the middle of the road. I had the unique experience of staring at a giraffe’s butt on one trip because he was blocking our path. He eventually tired of eating leaves and moved out of the way as if he really had no where else to go. Even white rhino’s are allowed some freedom to roam. They can come right up to your truck!Dangerous animals of course cannot get close to you! Ignore the rumors about guests being lost to the great cats. It never happened. At least not to me. The dangerous animals are kept separated from all the guests by trenches and other systems that have been built into the environment in such a way  you never see them!

Even keeping the animals in their respective areas has been tackled with typical imagineering skill. You will notice from time to time that you come to what looks like a gate. In fact it is but it is always open when the ride is running. As you pass through the gate you will notice chains on the road. For whatever reason the animals do not like the chains and will not cross them!

I wish I was on that truck right now. How about you?

Keeping animals separate and guests safe is not the only way the imagineers outdid themselves though. Many of the bushes and plants you see are actually feeders only pretending to be normal plants. Keeps the animals in better range for your viewing pleasure!

One other fact you may not know. The animals do not actually sleep on the open savanna. They are brought each night to their respective homes, which are much more like the zoo you might expect. There is no ranger who goes out to gather them up though. Each of the different animals has been trained to respond to sound and when they hear the appropriate sound for their species they head in all on their own! For the most part that is!

Of course all those little imagineering tricks go unnoticed for the most part and the ride is exceptional. Keep your camera ready for some excellent shots!

If you missed part one of the Disney World Top Seven Must Sees click here.

If you missed part two of the Disney World Top Seven Must See click here.

Space Mountain

Within that building resides Space Mountain. This ride was not an original E-Ticket Ride only because it was not added till after the Magic Kingdom opened. Once Space Mountain opened it certainly became on though and is arguably one of the biggest rides at the Magic Kingdom.

Space Mountain is one of three roller coasters in the Magic Kingdom. Unlike the other two, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain, the exterior of Space Mountain is not designed to resemble a real mountain. Instead it is a futuristic building designed to resemble a base on some distant planet or a space port on a future earth.

Space Mountain is also different from its Magic Kingdom Counterparts in that it is a completely enclosed ride. Riders enter the building and will not see the light of day again until they have completed their intergalactic journey. There are two two different tracks for Space Mountain, Alpha and Omega. They offer nearly identical rides but Alpha is slightly longer.

As you either walk or wait your way through the queue there are glimpses into space. They include stations, astronauts and celestial bodies such as stars and planets. When your wait is over, it can be a very long wait on busy days, you are selected for either the Alpha or the Omega train. Each train holds up to six people riding single file. Your “ship” then moves to the launching area. Strobe lights that increase in flash frequency and a humming “warp” speed sound effect emphasize you are about to be hurled into outer space as  you climb the hill. Then you are blasted into the void of space.

Like space, Space Mountain is very dark. Stars can been seen shooting overhead and one never really sees very far ahead. The track twists a lot even for a roller coaster. The darkness and the rapid twists create an illusion you are travelling at great speed but the truth is you really only reach 28 miles per hour. You will occasionally encounter other ships, the Alpha train will see the Omega train for example, as you wind your way through your journey.

I have ridden Space Mountain many, many time but Goofy has never ridden with me!

After your rocket has landed you will find yourself on the moving walkway, known as the speed ramp, and several scenes of what life might be like on the surface of planets with atmospheres that are not human friendly. You will even notice a robotic dog.

Space Mountain is definitely a must see at the Magic Kingdom. Fastpasses are available. There is no single rider line. This ride is open during Extra-Magic Hours.

Back to the Magic Kingdom.

Back to the Magic Kingdom

Disney World Top Seven Must Sees Part One

If you have stayed at a Walt Disney World Resort you know that Disney has got it down when it comes to shameless self-promotion. Every time you turn on the TV it defaults to a specific channel. It does not matter what the last channel you were watching was. The TV has been bribed to keep your mind focused squarely on getting you back into the park where chances are you will spend more money. I am not judging. Just saying.

That channel is an endless loop of the Top Seven Must Sees at Walt Disney World. It updates from time to time as new rides open and old ones close but whenever you turn on the TV  you are going to see it first. In honor of the Top Seven Must Sees at Walt Disney World I am going to create my own. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

Of course the hardest part of any “top” list is figuring out what belongs there. Sometimes its just hard to find anything that would make the list. Fortunately I do not have that problem at Disney World. My problem is narrowing the list down to only seven. But I am up to the task. Of course there are a few things that won’t make my list simply because I have not done them, like Cirque Du Soleil (an official winner on the Disney generated list.) I have completed almost every ride and experience in the parks though. In fact one of the only thing that comes to mind that I have not done is The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I was going to ride it last time I was there but it just did not work out.

So without further delay here is my list. I hope you enjoy it!

Number 7:Flights of Wonder at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Okay so it’s definitely not flashy and the story is especially hokey. A tour guide who happens to be terrified of birds finds his tour group (you the audience) has left him behind and has stumbled into, of all things, a show on birds. The tour guide, the last several times I have seen the show it was Guano Joe, spends the rest of the show learning about birds and at the same time overcoming his fears.

My favorite part of the show. They have never let the eagle fly out over us but I still love seeing it.

This show is not like a lot of animal shows you might have seen. Birds will be flying right over your head. Well that is the hope at least. They come so low you have to wonder if they ever hit anyone in the audience. There are singing birds, birds who can “do” math and a bird who literally takes money right out of an audience members hand and delivers it to the show host. Don’t worry the bird brings it back. Last time I saw the show I made sure I took cash so I could volunteer and low and behold I was picked. Unfortunately my wife was too close to get a good picture.

I really enjoy the whole show but what earns its spot on this list is the closing. They bring out a real bald eagle. Now I have loved the American bald eagle since I was a child. They were once on the endangered list but aren’t any longer. To see one up close and personal like that literally brought tears to my eyes. Don’t skip this one. You will be missing out.

Number 6: Soarin’ at Epcot

The Golden Gate is only one thing you will see as you “soar” over California. Click the picture to watch the video from Walt Disney World

Okay I have to admit up front one of the reasons I picked Soarin’ is location. It’s in EPCOT and I didn’t have anything from EPCOT and I would have hate to have left out a theme park completely. That being said it does not mean this is not a first class attraction.

Guests on Soarin’ strap into what looks like a row of theater seats. In fact you are in front of a large movie screen. But do not be fooled. Once everyone is seated and ready to go your seats get whisked up and into the air and the show begins.

The show is a tour over California and it’s coast. (Soarin’ is a transplant from Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland.) The seats move and tilt. Obviously this show has a visual impact but there are also cool breezes blowing in your face, the smell of pine trees and the salty pacific. The “movie” will drag you in to the point you will lift your feet to avoid clipping the trees.

Number 5: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The story goes like this, years and years ago some people at a hotel were in the elevator when lightning struck it and they disappeared as a whole wing of the Hollywood Tower collapsed. As the name should imply it happened because of the Twilight Zone.

Not for the faint of heart but if you can overcome your fears you might just like it! Hey I refused the first year I was there but now I ride it and ride it often. Click the picture for the official Disney page and a video.

After winding your way through the abandoned hotel you will enter the last stage of the queue. Here you are crowded into a room with a bellhop as you watch a video that could could be an introduction to the original TV show the Twilight Zone. The narrator even sounds like Rod Steiger. Then you have one more little queue till you enter your elevator car to excitement. They give you a seat but you won’t always need it. You are also given a seat belt. You do need this and I highly recommend you use it!

The car then moves along some dark tunnels. You catch glimpses of the missing guests and then the fun starts. You move into final position and are raised and lowered multiple (and a random amount) of times. This is where you will not need your seat and be thankful you are strapped in. It is an odd feeling to be floating in one direction while you realize the car is moving in the other but don’t worry you will come back together one way or the other!  At multiple points in the ride you will be stopped as windows open up and you get a first class view of the rest of the Studios.

Because of its nature I was at first reluctant to try this one out. But my niece was going to ride and I overcame my shame. I am glad I did! You are enclosed for the whole ride for those who do not like standard drop rides and if you are healthy enough I recommend you try it at least once. It’s a must see after all!

Ready to find out what is next? Click here for the next installment of grumpy’s Walt Disney World Must Sees.

Can’t wait to find out what grumpy’s number one is? Click here.

Kilimanjaro Safaris

Welcome to Kilimanjaro Safaris, your two week expedition into the wilds of the dark continent.

Deep in the wilds of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is what I consider the greatest attraction in the park. In fact my wife and I love it so much it we may consider it the best attraction in the World! True it is not the fastest ride on property. It does not have the big drop of say a Splash Mountain or the animatronics of Pirates of the Carribean. It does not rely on speed, height or technology to thrill. The stars of this show are the animals. If you love animals you will love this. Even if you don’t you have to try it at least once.

True to Disney form there is a back story behind the attraction. You, the guests, are embarking on a two week guided safari of the Harambe Wilderness Reserve on your safari truck, Simba 1. Throughout the ride you will be in touch with warden Wilson Matua who is patrolling the reserve from the sky keeping an eye out for poachers. Thus your ride begins.

Some rides proclaim never to be the same twice. This ride delivers because the animals on the reserve are not in traditional cages. Instead the wonderful imagineers have recreated Africa in painstaking detail. It does not take much imagination to believe you are really in Africa. This of course, leaves you the guest at the mercy of the stars of the show and sometimes they are very shy while at other times some of the more peaceful ones will walk right up to your truck. On some occasions they will even stand right in front of your truck. During these occasions your truck will stop and your experience will be even longer. I have heard that on at least one occasion a baby giraffe was very curious, stuck its head in the vehicle and licked a guest! I am not sure whether that would be a thrill or not but you will come away with a once in a lifetime story.

At the watering hole

Your vehicle will wind its way past various animals. Some of them you will be familiar with such as hippos, elephants and giraffe. Some you might not have encountered before such as the endangered Okapi and the Thomson Gazelle, called Tommies for short. Taking pictures can be a challenge because the vehicles may slow down a little but they never truly stop, unless one of the animals is blocking the way. If you want to take pictures try to get a seat on the sides of the seats and not in the middle. Your driver will help spot animals and educate on some of them. If you are a nerd like me, sit up front so you can ask questions.

As the ride nears its conclusion, which is considerably shorter than the “planned” two weeks but is still one of the longer rides at Walt Disney World, warden Wilson radios in that poachers have been spotted. Your truck jumps into high gear as you help keep them from harvesting elephants to sell their tusks.

Kilimanjo Safaris fills up quick. Head their first thing in the morning to get on quickly or use a Fastpass. The animals tend to be more active during the morning. This is especially true in summer when the heat sets in and many of them hide in the shade. If your first ride doesn’t thrill you don’t be too worried. Try it again and it will be totally different. If you love animals the way my wife and I do, you cannot miss this one!

As you exit the vehicles you will be right at the entrance to the Pangani Forrest Exploration Trail. I recommend not rushing away, unless you have a Fastpass about to expire. The trail offers views of several animals including hippos but the stars of the show are silverback gorrillas.

Back to the Disney’s Animal Kingdom Page.

The Official Disney's Animal Kingdom Page for Kilimanjaro Safaris

Pirates of the Caribbean

What is an E-ticket Ride

The coveted E Ticket. Notice what rides in each land required this prize of the Disney World.

Years and years ago when you went to Disney World you paid for admission and then bought tickets for the rides much as you would at the fair. That system is long gone at Disney World but it left it’s mark on our culture. It is from this system that the world got the phrase “E-Ticket Ride.”

When Disney Land opened in California there were three classes of tickets. Those were A, B and C. Each ride and attraction required a ticket that corresponded to one of the ticket classes. As new rides and attractions were upgraded the D ticket was introduced. Then came the E ticket ride.  E ticket rides were the best of the best. Click here for a ride breakdown for Disney Land provided by Just Disney.Com.

In 1971 Walt Disney World opened in Florida and used the same system of tickets. E ticket rides at Walt Disney World in the 70s were:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Hall of Presidents
  • It’s a Small World
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  • Space Mountain

While I understand why most of those were E Ticket Rides two do surprise me, namely the Hall of Presidents and It’s A Small World. To be honest I hate It’s A Small World but I ride it every time anyway and I don’t even remember the last time I did the Hall of Presidents. Of course It’s A Small World is always packed so I guess I understand it’s E Ticket status but the Hall of Presidents? Either way that was how it worked.

By 1982 the ride ticket system was gone. Competition had forced Disney to adopt the nearly all-inclusive pricing system which we have now. I am not sure we, the consumer save any money this way but it is a lot more convenient. We are not left carrying around a bunch of A and B tickets wishing we could combine them so we could ride space mountain but we do pay a hefty price.

Though the system may be gone we are still left with term. Now anything that is over-the-top cool, exiting or fun is referred to as an E-ticket Ride. In my next series of articles I will be reviewing some of those rides that were E Ticket at Disney World as well as some that definitely qualify as E Ticket but were built after the demise of the ticket book. What rides at Disney World make your E Ticket list?

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