Welcome to week two of WHAT TO DO WEDNESDAY! We kicked off the initial WTDW (What To Do Wednesday) last week by visiting two of our favorite attractions: Pirates of the Caribbean at Magic Kingdom and Soarin’ at Epcot. This week we are rounding out the main parks by visiting two of our favorite thrill rides, one from Disney’s Hollywood Studios and one from Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Stroll down Sunset Boulevard to find this delightfully eerie attraction that’s based on the old television series The Twilight Zone. The story goes that in 1939, something unusual and unexplainable happened to guests in an elevator during a nasty thunderstorm at The Hollywood Tower Hotel. The glitzy hotel was left abandoned and frozen in time, until now. Upon entering the hotel, you’ll pass through the lobby where ornate rugs, luggage, dead plants, and a welcome desk are covered in dust and cobwebs. Creepy and off-centered bellhops give you strange looks and guide you through the hotel. You make a first stop into a library filled with hard cover volumes, vintage telephones, globes and busts. The lights go out suddenly and an old television set springs to life with a Twilight Zone style movie, recounting the mysterious 1939 events that left the hotel deserted. You are then invited, if you dare, to travel to the basement and step into a service elevator much like the one the guests rode many years ago. Once seated in the elevator you will find yourself rising up and moving forward to enter the “5th dimension.” The elevator will then begin a series of drops and rises which will have your heart hammering and palms sweating. The sequence of drops is randomized so you never know what to expect. Sometimes you have several long drops. Sometimes you shoot upwards, pause and then drop a little, before plummeting down all over again. Sometimes the elevator rises to the top of the shaft, and the doors open to reveal a spectacular, albeit brief view before you fall.
You have to put on your big kid pants and muster up some courage to brave this ride. I’ve visited this attraction dozens of times, and my nerves waver every time I walk into that hotel and get into that elevator. (It’ll make you think twice about getting into ANY elevator!) But let’s face it, I crave that pit in the bottom of my stomach – being scared is half the fun.
Guests must be at least 40 inches tall to ride, and guests who are claustrophobic or children afraid of the dark may want to consider passing it by.
Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Rising into the sky, a snowy peak beckons guests to experience the excitement of Expedition Everest. Join the quest to discover the legend of the Yeti, the guardian of the forbidden mountain.
Upon entering the queue, guests are guided through a covered area where large metal bells are suspended, begging for someone to reach up and give them a swing so they can sing out. I hit every one I can reach, even if that means jumping and swinging my arms like a monkey. All of the bells are different sizes and therefore have different sounds. Prayer flags dance in the breeze over stone yeti statues piled high with fruit offerings. Next you enter the Yeti museum devoted to the pursuit and legend of the elusive snow monster. Artifacts and fossils are in glass cases, photos, drawings, and maps hang on the walls among plenty of signs displaying quotes endorsing the existence of the Yeti. Camping equipment from Yeti seeking excursions is scattered everywhere – snow shoes are mounted on the wall, while mittens and campfire coffeepots dangle from the ceiling. You almost want to have to wait for this coaster so you can check out all of the compelling evidence supporting this monstrous mountain dweller.
After passing through the museum you come to a platform, where you board a train to pass through the forbidden mountain and embark on your quest to discover the Yeti. With a puff of steam the train pulls of the station and begins to twist and turn before making a steep ascent up the mountain. (I love this part – gravity is pulling your back into the seat, but looking left and right grants you breathtaking views of WDW’s property!) As the train begins to ease down the hill and curve around, the train comes to a halt as broken track is exposed, leaving nowhere to go. The track literally flips upside down behind you, and with a woosh the train is suddenly flying backwards on an entirely new path. This roller coaster is full of twists and turns as you plunge through the mountain with the Yeti right on your heels.
This is one my all-time favorite attractions WDW. It’s the perfect blend of special effects, speed, smooth twists and turns, and drops that make my stomach flip. It’s also just fat lot of fun. Who doesn’t want to hop on a run-away train to a forbidden mountain in search of a legendary monster?!? Expedition Everest was an exceptional addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom (I wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of similar new attractions there, *sigh*). Anyway, this is always the first thing we do once we arrive to Animal Kingdom in the morning. However, the jury is still out on whether or not breakfast should be consumed before or after riding!
Guests must be 44 inches or taller to ride. There are dark sections in this roller coaster, as well as loud noises that could be frightening to young children.