Last Thursday, I covered boating-related activities outside of the theme parks in Walt Disney World. Today, I’m going to talk about all the boat ride attractions, and assuming I didn’t miss any, there are ten of them spread between three parks. By the way, I’m not counting any attractions at the water parks, because they’re not exactly boats, but if you love water slides in addition to boating, you should definitely spend a day or two at Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.
So, here are ten things to do in Walt Disney World if you love boat rides:
1. Splash Mountain
I’m starting with one of my favorites: Splash Mountain. If you haven’t ridden this attraction, you probably just associate it with the big drop at the end, which can be seen from outside. But before you get there, you go through several scenes filled with singing critters, plus a couple fake-out drops. Trust me, when you’re getting to the big drop, you’ll know it. I wish someone had told us this the first time I rode when I was a kid. I had glasses and we were a bit paranoid that I would lose them, so I was supposed to take them off before the drop. But we didn’t know when the drop would be, so I took them off at the beginning and ended up riding the whole attraction blind, with all the cute animals as fuzzy blobs of color. In the future, we knew that I could wait to take them off until the steep incline at the end, when the vultures taunt you with “Time to be turning around, if only you could” and “If you’ve finally found your laughing place, how come you aren’t laughing?”
2. it’s a small world
This boat ride is “the happiest cruise that ever sailed.” The theme song may have a bad reputation, but as I mentioned in my post on vintage Magic Kingdom, it’s really a heartfelt wish for peace. The kids love it too, even the babies. There’s so much to look at, and there’s nothing scary. It really is a perfect family attraction.
3. Jungle Cruise
Like it’s a small world, Jungle Cruise is an opening day attraction, so it’s full of vintage charm. Also, cute elephants.
4. Liberty Square Riverboat
I talked about the Liberty Square Riverboat in my post on Mark Twain. What’s a little confusing is that the attraction is named Liberty Square Riverboat, but the ship itself is called the Liberty Belle. Either way, it’s a boat, and you can ride it.
5. Pirates of the Caribbean
Another classic Disney attraction, this boat ride through pirate-infested waters is one of the many ways to encounter pirates in Magic Kingdom. If you can’t get enough of pirates, be sure to check out my recent post on pirates outside Magic Kingdom as well.
6. Raft to Tom Sawyer Island
This is a true boating experience, because the rafts to Tom Sawyer Island are not on a track or guiderail. They take actual skill to pilot. Robert Niles, a former pilot says that “driving a TSI raft is, without a doubt, the most pleasurable and satisfying job in the Disney parks.” You can read more of Robert’s thoughts on being a raft pilot on his Tom Sawyer’s Island Appreciation Page.
7. Living with the Land
Now, we move over to Epcot. While the theme of Living with the Land is, you know, land, it is still a boat ride. This attraction is underrated but charming in its own way. Keep an eye out for the Mickey-shaped pumpkins!
8. Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros
I’m not sure why, but it was just a few years ago that I figured out that there was a boat ride inside the Mexico pavilion. Gran Fiesta Tour replaced the original attraction, El Rio del Tiempo, in 2007, but I have no memories of that one either. If you like Donald Duck, this attraction is a must-see. It’s fairly simple, and like it’s a small world, there’s nothing scary, so it’s good for the little ones.
Now, this one I definitely have childhood memories of. I remember the “back, back, over the falls” scene feeling much more dramatic than it does now. This attraction has popped up on a surprising number of lists on this site already: bears, snow, rain, and Halloween. It’s unique one, to be sure.
10. Kali River Rapids
Our list concludes with the one boat ride in Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Kali River Rapids. You’re going to get wet on this one, likely more wet than you got on Splash Mountain. Just make sure your valuables are in a plastic bag and you should be good to go!
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I do have to throw in one honorable mention here: Peter Pan’s Flight. Although you’re not in water, you are technically riding in a boat: a pirate galleon… that just happens to be flying. You can decide whether or not to include this attraction in your day of boat rides, which will be long enough as it is.
You’ll need to hit three parks, so getting started as early as possible in the morning is important. Begin at Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom, whichever opens earlier. Epcot is excluded from being the first park because even if Epcot opens early, World Showcase won’t be open yet, so you won’t be able to ride Maelstrom or Gran Fiesta Tour. Today, for example, Epcot opens at 9 a.m., but Future World doesn’t open until 11 a.m. Magic Kingdom open at 9 a.m. So does Animal Kingdom, but it also has Extra Magic Hours starting at 8 a.m., so that would be the place to start (assuming you’re staying on property, which entitles you to Extra Magic Hours).
You also want to consider the closing times. Today, Animal Kingdom closes at 5 p.m., Epcot at 9 p.m., and Magic Kingdom at 10 p.m. So, in this example, it would be good to end at Magic Kingdom.
Also consider that you’re going to be getting wet on Splash Mountain and Kali River Rapids. If it’s cool outside, try to do these in the middle of the day when the sun is the warmest. (Or be a wimp and wear a poncho.)
What’s your favorite boat ride on this list?