Beloved Disney World Experiences No Longer Around

in Updates, Walt Disney World

Former Experiences at Disney World_feature image

Credit: Inside the Magic

We used to get to do so many great things at Walt Disney World that are no longer possible.

A picturesque view of a fairy tale Cinderella Castle with spires, under a clear blue sky with the sun setting behind, casting a warm glow over the scene.
Credit: Disney

Changes and developments are forever occurring throughout Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake (near Orlando, Florida). However, new and emerging experiences sometimes require tweaking, altering, or discontinuing a preexisting endeavor. As a result, we’ve witnessed firsthand the end of many beloved formerly available services and activities.

Here at Inside the Magic, we’re recounting a few previous onsite offerings that have since disappeared.

Related: The Beloved Disney World Experiences Ended For ‘Good Reasons’

Monorail Front Seat Rides

EPCOT Line Monorail at Disney World
Credit: Disney

Utilizing Walt Disney World Monorail transportation is a popular must-do for many visitors. Moreover, the service is free and features multiple cars with plenty of seating. But did you know you used to be able to personally request riding upfront alongside the Cast Member tasked with piloting the Monorail?

That all changed in 2009 following a Monorail crash in which a Disney Cast Member was killed. So, following best safety practices, Disney has since banned Guests from riding up front.

Related: What Are All the Different Transportation Options at Disney World?

Disney Lake Swimming

Graphic of surfing Donald plunging into Seven Seas Lagoon at the Polynesian

Although so many Disney World Resorts feature sandy beaches overlooking surrounding bodies of water, it’s primarily understood today that offshore swimming is prohibited on the premises. But that wasn’t always the case. Until the late 1990s, Guests were allowed to dip into their Resort’s corresponding lakes/lagoons.

Over the years, however, people started getting wiser about the dangers of bacteria, uncirculated water, and the very real threat of native alligators in the vicinity. These factors eventually led Disney to ban swimming in non-designated areas.

Related: Do You Know the Different Disney World Lakes and Lagoons?

Parasailing at Disney World

Until 2018, parasailing at Walt Disney World was a popular recreational pursuit. In fact, over at the Contemporary Resort Marina, visitors could also enjoy a host of other water recreational endeavors onsite at Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Center. These included tubing, jet ski rentals, water skiing, and wakeboarding. But sadly, after 20 years in operation, Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Center closed.

Except for traditional marina boat rentals, the aforementioned activities, including parasailing, are no longer offered anywhere at Disney World.

Snorkeling with Sharks

Guests swimming at former Shark Reef attraction
Credit: D23

Did you know that you used to be able to swim and snorkel alongside live sharks at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon? It was an onsite experience known as the Shark Reef, which allowed Guests to gear up and plunge into a separate, unheated saltwater reef inhabited by leopard sharks, bonnethead sharks, stingrays, and plenty of tropical fish varieties.

The Shark Reef opened at the water park in 1989 and was a beloved hit for many years. Sadly, though, it closed in 2016 due to the exhibit’s maintenance and upkeep costs.

Related: Disney Announces Return of Beloved EPCOT Tours, With Price Increase

Race Car Driving

Once upon a time, Disney World was even home to a one-of-a-kind race car driving pursuit. It came as the Richard Petty Driving Experience and took place on a former NASCAR race track that used to be located in the parking lot near Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

The Richard Petty Experience offered everyday car-enthused fans the opportunity to ride along in a race car with a driver or take the wheel themselves, reaching speeds up to 165 mph. But in 2015, the Walt Disney Company announced that it would be removing the race track due to needed improvements to be made to Resort transportation services.

The announcement came following a public tragedy in which an instructor was killed in a crash while a Guest was driving. This likely impacted the initial decision to discontinue the experience.

DisneyQuest

Exterior of DisneyQuest building
Credit: Disney

Between 1998 and 2017, the site formerly known as Downtown Disney used to operate a massive five-story complex loaded with excellent virtual attractions. It was practically an indoor theme park and was a great rainy-day alternative. Among their numerous featured attractions was the chance to design and ride your own simulated roller coaster. However, with Downtown Disney revamping into Disney Springs, DisneyQuest closed.

Following its closure, the complex formerly housing DisneyQuest reopened in 2019 as the NBA Experience at Disney Springs. This latter stint, however, was unforeseeably brief when the COVID-19 Pandemic closures sent it to an early grave.

Dine with an Imagineer

Another experience that’s yet to return following the Park closures in 2020 is that coveted opportunity to dine with one of Disney’s Imagineers. Not so long ago, guests could reserve a spot for one of many ongoing offerings, which most often took place in the Bamboo Room at the Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant in Hollywood Studios.

These events were also sometimes held at Citricos, onsite of the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. The meal came as a four-course offering, but the real treat was interacting with a Disney great on a more personalized level.

While we cannot confirm that this experience has been officially retired, we’ve received no verification of any Dine with an Imagineer 2023 dates nor any posted for the upcoming 2024 year.

Related: Discovering What Disney Imagineers Really Do

The ‘Spirit of Aloha’ Dinner Show

Former Spirit of Aloha show
Credit: Disney

Disney’s Polynesian Resort used to feature a vastly popular dinner show, the luau/all-you-can-eat feast combo, in its resident open-air Luau Cove theater. But again, the 2020 closings saw the shuttering of this impressive offering as well.

Even when things finally started to reopen, this experience remained indefinitely discontinued for a while before Disney officially confirmed that it would not return. Instead, the Luau Cove theater was to be leveled so a new Disney Vacation Club expansion could be constructed onsite.

Mickey’s Backyard BBQ

Former scene at Mickey's Backyard BBQ
Credit: Disney Dining

Before 2018, this all-you-can-eat buffet feast and folly was a big deal, offered on select nights at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campgrounds. Not only did it boast all the classic barbecue picnic favorites, but it even included character appearances by Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Chip, and Dale. On top of that, there was live cowboy entertainment and toe-tapping live music. It was an actual party experience to get everyone dancing.

Which other former Disney World experiences do you miss the most? Let us know in the comments.

in Updates, Walt Disney World

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