Virtual Disney tripping is even wilder with these 360°style theme park rides

You may already have spent some time exploring the exquisite, intricate video walkthroughs of Disney theme parks, but be sure you're sitting down for this bit of news – and that you keep your arms, hands, legs and feet inside the vehicle at all times.

Your mobile device, a set of ear buds for some extra you-are-there-ness and just a little bit of imagination make it possible to take 360-degree, immersive rides on some of your favorite attractions; if you've got a portable VR viewer for your device, you can even go on incredible virtual-reality rides. (Should you choose to remain seated at all times, you can even watch them on your laptop, using your mouse or trackpad to control the view.)


It's all possible thanks to YouTube channel Virtual Disney World – plus, of course, some Disney Imagineering. The creators of Virtual Disney World have been astonishingly thorough and up-to-date – not to mention bi-coastal – so even if you weren't able to get a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance before Disney theme parks worldwide were forced to close, or to ride Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway in the mere 11 days it operated before the shutdown, here's your chance.


360º Tour of Star Wars Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios www.youtube.com


Prefer something a little more classic? You can choose from The Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World or Disneyland and compare the not-insignificant differences – or even check out the ever-controversial Haunted Mansion Holiday from Disneyland, which re-themes the dark ride to The Nightmare Before Christmas for four months each year. There are even some 360° walkthroughs of Disney resorts, and a couple of the most popular rides at Universal Orlando – if you didn't want to wait in line 10 hours for Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventures, here's your chance to see what all the fuss was about.


360º Ride on Haunted Mansion Holiday www.youtube.com


Even better, if you've got back or neck problems, high blood pressure, are prone to motion sickness or you're an expectant mother … it's not a problem at all!

Here's a quick rundown of some of the best of the 360° videos from Disney theme parks.

* Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway – Few people have had a chance to experience this centerpiece attraction of the Disney Hollywood Studios: Disney's parks closed a week and a half after it debuted. Now you can see the frenetic, cartoon-themed wackiness for yourself. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jaf4Vbj4ClA)

* The Great Movie Ride – Here's the super-elaborate, Audio Animatronics-filled dark ride that called the Chinese Theater at Disney Hollywood Studios home from 1989 to 2017. Pay special attention to the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz sequence; for years, she was the most advanced animatronics figure Disney ever created. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jaf4Vbj4ClA)

* Mad Tea Party – Here's an extra dose of 360° craziness: spin while you spin and get yourself extra dizzy on the Magic Kingdom version of the "tea cups." The original ride at Disneyland was one of the opening-day attractions on July 17, 1955. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ouofPAuSxI)

* Spaceship Earth – The iconic geodesic sphere of EPCOT houses this 15-minute ride (about 10 minutes are included in this ridethrough, not including the personalized, interactive descent). The slow-moving dark ride through human history and the evolution of communications has been reworked three times in EPCOT's 38-year history and is about to undergo another big, as-yet-unrevealed change. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSIs3cCdlhc)

But Virtual Disney World isn't the only 360° game in Disney's town. The YouTube channel ResortTV1 also offers 360 videos of attractions, including the incomparable Kilimanjaro Safari at Disney's Animal Kingdom. By far the largest single Disney attraction at more than 110 acres (35 acres more than Disneyland itself), it's also one of the most stunning.

Disneyland fans won't be left out, because Dream Disney 360 offers this wraparound ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which opened in California in September 1979 (more than a year before the Walt Disney World version), so hang on to your hats and glasses, 'cause this here's the wildest ride on the Internet!

John Singh is a writer and entertainment-industry veteran who began his career as a newspaper journalist and has also worked at Disney, Lucasfilm Ltd., DreamWorks Animation and on a variety of films and TV series.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

This article originally appeared on November 11, 2015


Remember those beloved Richard Scarry books from when you were a kid?

Like a lot of people, I grew up reading them. And now, I read them to my kids.

The best!

If that doesn't ring a bell, perhaps this character from the "Busytown" series will. Classic!

Image via

Scarry was an incredibly prolific children's author and illustrator. He created over 250 books during his career. His books were loved across the world — over 100 million were sold in many languages.

But here's something you may not have known about these classics: They've been slowly changing over the years.

Don't panic! They've been changing in a good way.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Images from Denver Animal Shelter's Facebook page.

Imagine rummaging through secondhand finds in your local thrift store, only to find that some items include a bonus feline at no extra charge.

Montequlla the orange tabby had somehow not gotten the memo that he and his family were moving. As they dropped off furniture, including a big recliner chair, to the Denver Arc Thrift Store on New Year’s Eve, they had no idea that poor little Montequlla was tucked away inside.

Luckily, the staff began to notice the chair meowing.

Keep Reading Show less

Emily Vondy's mom fail.

Sometimes, we have to just laugh at our failures.

“Here’s a little story to allow all the moms of littles out there to maybe feel a little better about yourself,” Emily Vondy told her 1.3 million TikTok followers.

In a TikTok video that has now garnered more than 500,000 views, Vondy shared perhaps one of the most hilarious “mom fail” stories of all time: forgetting her son’s actual birthdate.
Keep Reading Show less