11 Best Calm Rides at Walt Disney World
We talk so often about the best thrill rides at Walt Disney World and other theme parks.
What nobody discusses enough are the calmer rides that are fun for all ages.
I’m not talking about the kiddie rides that nobody over the age of eight enjoys nor the carousels that are timeless but repetitive.
I mean the attractions that provide tremendous satisfaction but don’t require anyone to feel pressured to ride them.
Here are the 11 best calm rides at Walt Disney World.
Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros
I had my pick of It’s a Small World or this. At the risk of alienating people immediately, I chose the less-heralded attraction.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a Small World has stood the test of time as a celebration of optimism and positivity.
However, I prefer Gran Fiesta Tour for its setting and ambiance.
This Mexico pavilion attraction features a dream-like nighttime setting at the start.
Then, Donald Duck and his pals introduce cartoon shenanigans as the boat travels past many Mexican puppets.
Gran Fiesta Tour is my go-to ride when the parks are crowded because I know it will have a short wait time while delivering a terrific experience.
Yes, this ride includes some spooky moments and a genuinely creepy killer bride.
However, no thrill ride could take place on an Omnimover.
Disney controls the pace of Haunted Mansion and delivers a delightfully macabre 10-minute journey into the spirit world.
Well, technically, the spirits invade our world, but you get the point.
Haunted Mansion delights with its mischievous sense of humor and occasional scares.
You’ll notice that many of the best calm rides take place on boats.
From the beginning, Walt Disney planned his theme park this way.
He knew that he could deliver family-friendly entertainment while adding an element of danger.
Boats work brilliantly because you’re trapped, even though you don’t think about it. Also, someone else controls the direction of the vessel.
So, you’re stuck and at the mercy of Disney storytelling.
Thankfully, Disney prefers entertainment like Jungle Cruise, wherein the only danger comes from wanting to jump off the boat to save yourself from more puns.
Seriously, Jungle Cruise works so well due to its accessibility. As long as you speak the same language as the Skipper, you’ll get the full experience.
In fact, even if you don’t speak the language, you’ll get the gist when you see the absurd set pieces and fake animals.
Jungle Cruise stakes a strong claim as the ultimate in silly theme park attractions.
You board an oversized Jeep and ride around man-made jungle settings for 20 minutes.
Kilimanjaro Safaris isn’t merely a calm experience; it borders on a lazy one.
Of course, you will feel the excitement when your guide points to a rare animal that ordinarily hides from park guests.
Still, this attraction displays the beauty of nature in the most serene of settings.
Living with the Land
This ride is more laid back than a stoner at a Grateful Dead concert.
I jokingly refer to it as Sleeping in the Land, as it’s the go-to nap ride for EPCOT veterans.
Disney really emphasizes the infotainment with the storytelling, as a narrator relays the history of food manufacturing.
If the subject matter doesn’t interest you, think of it as a boring class where you sit in the back and pass notes or snooze.
Of course, I find the second half of Living with the Land incredibly engaging. I marvel at the scientific advances on displays here.
Disney is building food at the Land pavilion. When you take this boat ride, you’ll watch some of the science at work.
Na’vi River Journey
Yes, I know that some folks feel strongly that Na’vi River Journey doesn’t deliver the way that Avatar Flight of Passage does.
However, the two complement one another, as one’s a thrilling trip through the skies. The other’s an exploration of the bioluminescent nights on Pandora.
With Na’vi River Journey, you’re there to appreciate the dazzling colors and alien creatures.
Among Disney’s boat rides – not raft rides – this one arguably features the most intense moments.
After all, you square off with predators in their natural environments.
Still, the beauty of the place creates an otherworldly sensation that I find relaxing.
Peter Pan’s Flight
Any ride that starts with Pixie Dust sprinkled on you qualifies as calm.
The oldest attraction on this list, Peter Pan’s Flight has wowed guests since Disneyland’s opening day more than 65 years ago.
On this ride, you set sail into the London sky. Eventually, you discover you’re in Neverland, a place where pirates and mermaids own the seas.
Since you’re flying through the sky, you enjoy a proverbial bird’s eye view of the colorfully decorated sets of Neverland, the most incredible place that never was.
Pirates of the Caribbean
When I think about what differentiates Disney from its competitors, Pirates of the Caribbean springs to mind.
Most theme parks create thrill rides based on pirate adventures, but Disney went a different way.
Walt Disney himself oversaw the creation of this attraction, which explores the mythos of coastal pirates.
A true-to-life representation of pirates would have involved pillaging and plundering, both of which sound charming…but aren’t.
Disney anchors its story to humor, as drunken pirates sleep off the booze, and jailed sailors attempt to persuade a dog to liberate them.
I like Disney when it’s silliest, and that’s Pirates of the Caribbean for sure.
The Seas with Nemo & Friends
What could be gentler than an Omnimover exploration of the ocean?
A few years after EPCOT debuted in the 1980s, it introduced The Living Seas, the largest saltwater tank ever constructed up until that point.
Guests would explore the pavilion and learn about the high seas, but the infotainment focus alienated some less studious guests.
In 2007, Disney switched the entire facility to Nemo theming, and the rest is history. Kids cannot get enough of Nemo and friends, especially on the signature ride.
On this attraction, guests experience an eerily similar story to the events of Finding Nemo, complete with an up-close encounter with Bruce the Shark.
Yes, a Shark Week experience sounds scary, but the entire story plays up the laughs.
The Seas with Nemo & Friends skews very young, but I treasure its gentility.
Everyone on the planet knows about the golf ball in the sky, but some people don’t realize that Disney built an attraction inside the ball.
The audacity of this feat is very Disney.
In a way, Spaceship Earth works as an architectural nesting doll.
The exterior blows people’s minds, while the interior consists of a full track theme park ride, which contains dozens of meticulously themed scenes.
In totality, these scenes detail the development of humanity from frigid hunters to conquering scientists.
I feel strongly that people take Spaceship Earth for granted, as it’s one of the most impressive theme park rides ever constructed.
In a way, Spaceship Earth represents the theme park equivalent of missing the forest for the trees.
Guests pay so much attention to the exterior that they sometimes overlook the brilliance of the interior.
Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
In every quasi-futuristic story of significance, some unique form of transportation zooms guests around the area.
At Magic Kingdom, Disney still pays tribute to a kind of transportation that Uncle Walt wanted to use for real.
The PeopleMover could have addressed all short-term travel needs in the Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow.
Alas, that version of E.P.C.O.T. never got built, leaving this glorious attraction as a relic of the Progress City that never happened.
All Disney fanatics know that the PeopleMover is the place to go when you need a break or simply want to appreciate Tomorrowland’s majesty.