The mountains are calling! As much as my husband and I love to travel through the Smoky Mountains, there are three mountains in our Happy Place that call to us even more…Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain. They are not new attractions, and one of them is not exactly one of my favorite rides, but there is a reason they made my list – and why they made it as a group.
Since these are not new attractions, I am not going to take the time to describe the rides themselves – most everyone knows that generally, at the very least, they are two family style coasters – and a log flume type ride. But I do want to explain why they are awesome, give you some tips, and special things to look for when you ride.
Let’s start with my least favorite – Space Mountain. I know, my husband may edit this paragraph extensively because it is his favorite ride in the Magic Kingdom (ed: considered it). My distain for it has nothing to do with the theming, which is completely awesome – or the concept – it is a really fun ride. Other than the Mad Tea Party, there are no other rides in the Magic Kingdom that mess with my vertigo as much as Space Mountain. The coaster is designed with many short, sharp drops, and quick short turns – which makes it fun (the drops surprise me every time) but also slightly painful. Even with the way it makes me feel, I try to ride Space Mountain at least once every visit. It was the first roller coaster I ever rode as a child and because it is one of my husband’s favorite (it is no Expedition Everest, naturally), I love to ride it with him and hear him laugh!
If you love Space Mountain, make sure you ride the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover (TTA). It goes through Space Mountain and it gives you a great view of the ride – especially if the ride happens to be down and you get to see Space Mountain in all it’s glory with the lights on! (Just hope you don’t have to ride SM with the lights on. Last trip, near the end of the night, it was bright enough to see all the infrastructure of the ride, and it was terrifying!)
Big Thunder Mountain is a family coaster designed as a runaway train. This ride is just plain fun. The theming is awesome, and you get great views of the Haunted Mansion. This is another example of Imagineering detail that gives you so much, you often notice new things when you ride. I try each time to see the animatronics inside the saloon and listen for what they are saying as we fly by. The sounds the ride itself makes are a great effect, even if they make me feel nervous. They make it sound dilapidated, almost like we should not even be on the track!! You will know you are going to have a wild time when you hear the awesome, recorded safety spiel – “this here’s the wildest ride in the wilderness!”
Finally, Splash Mountain is one of my favorite rides in the Magic Kingdom. This is Disney Imagineering detail on steroids, in a very long ride (over 10 minutes long!) I didn’t ride this the first few visits to WDW, our daughter was terrified of the drop and refused to ride it – and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it myself. When she finally became brave enough – I told her I would ride it with her and I realized that the drop is not nearly as scary as it looks when you are viewing it from the bridge. You may get wet on this ride, but honestly, it is not enough to ruin your day – in the Florida weather, even in the winter, you will dry very quickly.
There is a storyline on this ride and it is beautifully designed. The animatronics are great and there is an unusual Hidden Mickey (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hidden_Mickey). While most Hidden Mickey’s are the shape of Mickey Mouse, sometimes Imagineers place hidden symbols or message in their attractions that are not classic Mickey shapes. In this ride, after you pass through the section with the turtles shooting water at each other, immediately past that turn you can look above you to see a gopher pop out of a hole. He yells out a special cheer – see if you can hear it (and feel free to boo if you aren’t a fan of what he says)!
Beyond just being a lot of fun, Splash Mountain is a great ride during firework shows. If you have already seen ‘Happily Ever After’), head to Frontierland and get in line – which are a little shorter for both Splash and Big Thunder at this time usually – you can see the fireworks from either ride, but I think it is best to see them from the top of the big drop of Splash!!
As if all of this isn’t reason enough for the mountains to make my list, I also didn’t get to ride Splash or Big Thunder on our trip with the kids in July. Our youngest granddaughter had been such a trooper all day and she just decided to find a bench and take a long nap. I volunteered to stay with her and then one of her parents was going to come relieve me, so I could ride the next round…but we didn’t realize that they were going to close them during the evening extra magic hours.
So now, all three mountains are calling me – they are must-dos on the upcoming trip, and all future ones too!!