Perhaps one of the best loved rides in all of Walt Disney World is Soarin’. Located at the Land Pavilion in Epcot, this attraction simulates a hang glider experience over practically the entire state of California (all in five minutes).
Why California? Many ask that question since Walt Disney World is in Florida. The reason is because Soarin’ first opened in California at Disney’s California Adventure in 2001. The ride proved so wildly popular with guests that plans were drawn up to create another Soarin’ at Walt Disney World. The Florida version opened on May 5, 2005 and has proven to be just as popular there.
The simulated hang glider ride starts off with a long queue leading people from the Land Pavilion to the Soarin’ building. The queue used to be filled with pictures and references to some of the great natural wonders of the world but has been recently replaced with new technology allowing guests to participate in interactive games as they wait (and the wait can be quite long sometimes).
Once passed through the turnstiles, guests are sent to another queue line in front of one of the two ride systems. From there, guests are further directed to “gates” which divide the people into the appropriate numbers for the ride. The Walt Disney World version uses the term “gates” and has the cast members wearing flight attendant-like gear to enforce the theme of people taking a trip to California as that is where the ride is based.
Once the doors open, guests stay in their assigned lines and go sit down on the ride structure, strapping themselves in for the flight. Then, when all are ready, the lights dim and guests are hoisted into the air to “float” above a giant projection IMAX dome.
The music and movie start at guests are treated to a flight above many of California’s most famous locations. Some of those include Napa Valley, Death Valley, Yosemite National Park, an aircraft carrier in San Diego Bay and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Along the way guests spot people engaged in activities like river rafting, golfing and hot air ballooning.
Throughout the entire ride, a musical score from Jerry Goldsmith adds to the excitement while scent machines “plus” the ride – orange scents when flying above the orange groves, evergreen scents in the mountain scenes, etc.
As the ride progresses, the time of day is perceived to be changing so that near the end of the ride it is night-time. Closing in on the traffic at night, guests start a slow fly-over of Disneyland in California where fireworks go off and surround the riders.
Once the ride is over, the movie stops, the lights come back on and guests are lowered back to the ground.
Thanks to ejud2001 who provided the video shown above which also gives viewers an idea of the ride structure itself.
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