FlyOver Canada Review: Soarin’ Over the Great White North

FlyOver Canada is a soaring attraction at Vancouver’s cruise ship terminal that is so similar to Soarin’ that Disney fans might feel a sense of deja vu when riding. In this post, we’ll review FlyOver Canada, assess whether it’s worth your time and money, and offer basic information about the attraction experience.

Located in the multi-purpose Canada Place complex, FlyOver Canada is convenient for guests preparing to board a Disney Cruise Line sailing to Alaska. There’s also a location in Mall of America, which alternates with a second version of the attraction called FlyOver America. The Vancouver original could just as easily be called “Soarin’ Over Canada” due to its similarities to the popular Disney attractions in Epcot and Disney California Adventure.

In fact, there are so many uncanny parallels that you might wonder whether Imagineering had a hand in its creation. Before we get to those similarities, let’s talk ticket price, as that’s a threshold issue. At the time we visited, FlyOver Canada cost $25/person via advance online purchase or $29/person at the box office. That’s a steep price for an 8-minute experience, even one we did think was pretty enjoyable…

If that wasn’t enough to scare you away from FlyOver Canada, let’s talk about the quality of the experience. We waited in almost no line on the morning of a Disney Cruise Line sailing from Vancouver (presumably, a prime audience for FlyOver Canada), so that was at least a plus.

Once we got inside the pre-show room, the experience began with the Uplift by Moment Factory, which highlights everyday Canadian people and landscapes through the stories of five Canadians. Neither of us were fans of this pre-show. It was fine, but we didn’t think it added any value to the experience.

Presumably, in an attempt to be hip and give the video a stylization, there was an inordinate amount of parkour featured. I didn’t realize parkour was one of Canada’s proud exports (that’s because it’s not), and the decision to lean so heavily on this was perplexing. Rather than showcasing a wide array of everyday aspects of Canadian culture, this video is mostly parkour, hockey, and other outdoor activities.

To be sure, Canada is known for its natural side. Nevertheless, I would’ve found a video that balances this fact with Canada’s spirit of innovation (highlighting everyday occupations), or even traditional culture to be more compelling as a visitor. Whatever–Uplift was just filler until the main event, anyway.

The pre-show safety video is decidedly better. This is very reminiscent of Soarin’ Over California’s pre-show, and features some of the same type of wry and subtle (and not-so-subtle) humor. FlyOver Canada did well here, as what could’ve been a boring safety video is quite amusing and chuckle-inducing.

Then there’s the main show: the soaring experience. The ride system is nearly identical to Soarin’ both in appearance and in operation. The principle differences are actually improvements–FlyOver Canada has a greater range of motion and the spacing of the rows in the theater allows for a more intimate experience and a view that’s free from feet.

As for the video itself, it’s also quite good. I keep comparing this to Soarin’ Over California rather than Soarin’ Around the World because FlyOver has more in common with the former. Not only are both more limited in scope of locations, but they both have the same travelogue style of video, rather than the hyper-realism and CGI sensibilities of Soarin’ Around the World.

Quality-wise, the video at FlyOver Canada is pretty comparable to Soarin’ Over California, too. The 4K digital projection here looks sharp and lifelike, but isn’t quite as crisp as Soarin’ Around the World. Still, very good and puts you right in the midst of the action.

The locales featured in FlyOver Canada are pretty much what you’d expect. You’re primarily flying over Canada’s picturesque natural landscapes, ranging from Niagara Falls to Banff National Park to Iceberg Alley to Gros Morne National Park. There are also generic locations that highlight scenic beauty, such as the stunning Northern Lights, fjords, and more.

Interspersed among the craggy peaks, brilliant blue lakes, and tree-lined mountains, there’s just enough “other” scenery in the form of Toronto and Vancouver skylines, vineyards, and cityscapes to add sufficient variety and visual interest. The dissolve transitions aren’t always smooth, but they’re arguably better than what’s used in either incarnation of Soarin’. (I’d contend that a mixture of the three–dissolves, fades, and ‘subject swap’ transitions–would be ideal.)

This all comes together for a film that is engaging and beautiful, and can hold its own with either version of Soarin. Add to that a nice ride score, scents, mist, and dynamic motion, and the ride experience is likewise a winner. Even though it’s nearly double the length of Soarin and features less diverse environments, FlyOver Canada doesn’t outstay its welcome. It’s fun and high quality from start to finish.

What impressed me the most was the polish of the whole experience. I went in half-expecting this to be a cut-rate Soarin’ knock-off, trepidation that arose from how liberally it seemed to “borrow” from Soarin, right down to iconography and marketing materials. Fortunately, it’s not just a Soarin’ copycat; it hits the same high notes as Disney’s soaring attractions, too.

All of this comes as no surprise once you learn that ex-Imagineer Rick Rothschild, the director of Soarin’ Over California, is one of the creators of FlyOver Canada. Together with his team, Rothschild spent 2 years filming FlyOver Canada, filming 18 different scenes and cutting down over 100 hours of footage to just 8 minutes. (You can read more on FlyOver Canada’s Behind the Scenes page.)

With that said, I would still rate FlyOver Canada behind both Soarin’ Over California and Soarin’ Around the World/Soaring Over the Horizon. While I really enjoyed FlyOver Canada and feel it’s in the same league as both Soarin’ attractions, I prefer the scores to those attractions and the visuals in Soarin’ Over California. On the other hand, FlyOver Canada has better motion, mist effects, and is longer. Perhaps I’m just biased by nostalgia for Soarin’ or my personal affinity for all things Disney. Either way, the fact that there can be a reasonable debate as to whether Soarin’ or FlyOver Canada is superior speaks volumes to the experience of the latter. If you do decide to splurge on the ride, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the experience–it’s one of the best things to do in Vancouver, which is a city filled with awesome things to do!

For more of my tips and thoughts for travel to Vancouver and beyond, please check out my Canada posts. If you’re planning a trip to Vancouver, I recommend picking up a copy of Fodor’s Pacific NorthwestWritten by locals, it provides info for Seattle and Portland in addition to Vancouver. 

Your Thoughts…

Have you done FlyOver Canada in Vancouver or FlyOver America in the Mall of America? If so, what did you think of it? Did you think it was worth the money? Would you recommend it to someone doing a Disney Cruise Line sailing to Alaska before or after their trip? If you haven’t stayed done FlyOver Canada, would you consider doing it, or is the cost too steep? Any questions? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

5 replies
  1. Susan
    Susan says:

    Thanks, Tom. We’re adding this to the ‘to do’ list of our Vancouver/Alaska Cruise trip. The cruise is booked, but
    it’s not until Sept. 2019. Your post helped us feel better about getting/wanting a verandah.

    We’re going to WDW in early October and our “Park and Fly” hotel is at the Mall of America.
    We’ve planned to do “FlyOver America”, I’ll let you how it goes.

    Reply
  2. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Thanks for the review! We were in Vancouver last year and if I had known about this, we likely would have done it. Perhaps next time.

    When you say: “I keep comparing this to Soarin’ Over California rather than Soarin’ Around the World because FlyOver has more in common with the latter.” I assume you mean the former?

    Reply

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