Here’s Where You Can Visit the Real Places That Inspired Disney Rides
These real-life locations that inspired popular Disney rides will make you believe in magic.
If you like Jungle Cruise…
…Head to the Amazon, Congo, Nile, and Mekong Rivers. Jungle Cruise, the classic ride located in both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resorts, simulates a riverboat cruise down some of the major rivers of Asia, Africa, and South America. Park guests board a 1930s British explorers’ lodge, and are then taken on a journey to see various faux jungle animals with the help of live Disney cast members keeping things light with scripted and ad-libbed narration for humor. The Amazon, the Congo, the Nile, and the Mekong are the four great rivers that inspired the scenery along the downstream voyage. Headed to the park itself? Here are all the things you need to book in advance before your trip to Disney.
If you like Grizzly River Run…
…Head to Redwood Creek and the Sacramento River, California. If you’re looking for a little splash and a lot of laughs, Grizzly River Run, located at Disneyland’s California Adventure, is a safe bet. The ride is meant to mimic a toned-down version of California’s best white-water rafting with a free-floating river ride up, down, and through Grizzly Peak.
If you like Great Movie Ride…
…Head to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, is a ride involving live actors, animatronic figures, special effects, and projections that create iconic scenes from 12 classic films. The ride is located inside a replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, which is famed for its hand and footprints of legendary actors and was named a historic-cultural landmark in 1968.
If you like Soarin’…
…Head to Iguazu Falls, South America. Iguazu Falls are waterfalls of the Iguazu River on the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Parana—they’re even bigger than Niagara Falls. Soarin’, also known as Soarin’ Around the World and Soaring Over the Horizon, at Disneyland’s California Adventure and Disney World’s Epcot, is a flight-motion simulator attraction. The portion of the ride where park guests’ feet dangle freely over the immense cliffs of the Brazilian waterfall system is inspired by the magnificent spectacle of these 275-individual drops waterfalls.
If you like Pirates of the Caribbean…
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…Head to Castillo de San Felipe del Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico. A 16th-century citadel named in honor of King Philip II of Spain, Castillo San Felipe was designed to guard the entrance to the San Juan Bay, and defend the Spanish colonial port city of San Juan from seaborne enemies. The citadel inspired the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Disneyland. The ride (and the movie it inspired) tells the story of a band of pirates and their adventures. Unfortunately, not every Disney ride is still in operation. Find out the 10 discontinued Disney rides we wish would come back.
If you like The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror…
…Head to Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. This luxury hotel located in downtown L.A. boasts some incredible ceilings, and Disney’s Imagineers took note. The Rendezvous Court, for one, which was once the hotel’s lobby and is now used for afternoon tea, is decorated with a Moorish Revival styled plaster ceiling painted with 24-karat gold accents, two original imported Italian chandeliers from 1923, and a grand Spanish Baroque Revival bronze doorway.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, also known as Tower of Terror, at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios pays homage to the Biltmore. In the fictional Hollywood Tower Hotel guests are taken into an abandoned and haunted hotel for a death-defying elevator ride. Check out the list of our favorite new places to eat in Disney.
If you like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad…
…Head to Bryce Canyon, Utah. The American Southwest is home to some incredible landscape, including Utah’s Bryce Canyon with its crimson-colored hoodoos, a column or pinnacle of weathered rock. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a mine train roller coaster located at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, will give wilderness lovers something to look forward to, as well as history buffs, with its biggest inspiration pulling from Bryce Canyon and the discovery of gold in the late 1800s in the American Southwest.
If you like Expedition Everest…
…Head to Mustang, Nepal. Residing on the edge of the Tibetan plateau, Mustang has been a part of Nepal since the 18th century, but it only opened up to a limited number of travelers in 1991. The district survives a Tibetan culture in isolation among a high altitude desert of deep red and ocher land, intense gorges, and a dreamy blue sky.
Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom was inspired by Mustang. Joe Rohde, one of the imagineers of the thrill ride, along with his team, traveled to Nepal to become more immersed in the environment, finding great affection for the land, particularly a 1,000-year-old monastery near Mustang. Read on for more of how to beat the crowds in the park over holidays.
If you like Kilimanjaro Safaris …
…Head to an East African Safari. African safaris are just one way people can spot the annual wildebeest migration in Tanzania’s Serengeti, rare desert-adapted elephants and rhinos in Namibia, and chimpanzees and mountain gorillas in the jungles of East Africa. Or you can stay in the U.S. and hop on Kilimanjaro Safaris at WDW’s Animal Kingdom. It was inspired by the raw experience of an African safari and is the next best thing.
If you like California Screamin’…
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…Head to The Big Dipper in Santa Cruz, California. The Big Dipper, a historic wooden roller coaster located at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, first opened in 1924. You can find the classic coaster in several movies including Sudden Impact, The Lost Boys, and Dangerous Minds. California Adventure’s California Screamin’ is an ode to the wooden roller coasters of the past, most notably The Big Dipper. Still eager to head back to ride the real thing? Make sure you know these insider secrets for the best Disney World vacation.