For years, thrill rides have been the name of the theme park game. In fact, before COVID-19, Disney World had begun construction on two new coasters – Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind for EPCOT and TRON Lightcycle Run for the Magic Kingdom. However, not everyone loves coasters or thrill rides. In fact, there are many Disney guests out there who feel sudden drops, dizzying heights, and high speeds are anything but magical.
So for my fellow Disney ride chickens, I’ve created a ranking system to help you know what to expect and maybe what to avoid when compiling your Animal Kingdom touring plan.
I’m breaking down the different elements of a ride that may be a little scary or extreme, such as drops, height, darkness, and speed. I’m also using a simple 1 to 3 scale with 1 being less intense and a 3 being the most intense.
Avatar Flight of Passage
Flight of Passage is a flight simulator attraction where guests experience the sensation of flight on the back of a banshee over and through the breathtaking landscapes of Pandora. Flight of Passage is often compared to EPCOT’s Soarin’ Around the World as it effectively simulates the feeling of flight and uses a giant screen coupled with scents and water effects. But what makes Flight of Passage unique from Soarin’ Around the World is its use of 3-D coupled with unique bike-style ride vehicles.
It is a difficult attraction to rate since it’s sort of a thrill ride and sort of not. The feeling of flight is definitely thrilling, and there are some close calls in the ride film, but I can’t say the ride is scary. I think it helps that, despite the massive screen and your 3-D glasses, you’re subconsciously aware that you’re not actually moving or up in the air and that takes away a lot of the fear.
Also, the overall tone, along with the ride’s score, is positive, triumphant, and even peaceful at times. The typical Disney ride formula where something goes wrong is absent so there isn’t that sense of alarm.
The ride vehicle definitely plays a part in how comfortable or uncomfortable guests feel on Flight of Passage. Some guests don’t like being isolated to their own bike or even riding in that position. Also, the restraints have been known to make some uncomfortable. On the other hand, other guests find that the restraints make them feel secure. It really depends on the rider.
Height Rating: 2
Since the ride film depicts flight, you can expect the ride film to include a lot of heights. If you can handle Soarin,’ you can probably handle the heights in this attraction. I will add, however, that the rows of bikes are positioned on multiple floors; and if you look away from the screen and either far to the left or the right, you will notice other riders on bikes at various floor levels. Knowing you could be on a high floor may cause some uneasiness.
Claustrophobic Rating: 2
Once aboard your bike, restraints will come up against the back of your legs and your back to keep you secure during your ride. They do apply some pressure for optimal safety; but some guests find the pressure coupled with being locked in place claustrophobic.
DINOSAUR is a dark, thrilling hybrid of a dark ride and simulator where guests are tasked to travel back in time in a Time Rover to rescue a dinosaur before an asteroid hits the earth.
Many guests consider DINOSAUR to be the scariest ride in the park, and I’m one of them. This ride is very dark, very loud, very rough and jerky, and many of the audio-animatronics, including the hangry Carnotaurus, are legit scary. Still, there are no major drops or high speeds.
Darkness Rating: 3
As I said, this ride is very dark. Steer clear if this isn’t your thing.
Intensity Rating: 3
This rating isn’t because of any drops, inversions, or high speeds; it’s simply because of the scary nature of the ride. This is one where you need to know what your kids can handle before taking them on it.
Motion Sickness Rating: 2
Because this ride is so rough with plenty of up and down movements, motion sickness may be an issue for some.
Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain is Animal Kingdom’s take on a runaway train coaster in a mountain. Think of it as a combo of Disneyland’s Matterhorn and the Magic Kingdom’s Big Thunder Mountain. This highly detailed coaster takes guests in and out of the snowy Forbidden Mountain to escape the legendary Yeti!
This coaster is the perfect blend of fun and thrill coupled with some of the best of Disney’s signature storytelling. There are no inversions, but you can expect a number of significant drops, high speeds, and an appearance from the Yeti.
Darkness Rating: 1.5
This coaster takes you in and out of the Forbidden Mountain so there’s a balanced mix of darkness and sunshine.
Drop Rating: 2.5
Expedition Everest offers several drops with the biggest at about 80″. They will take your stomach, but they don’t feel as intense as they look or as you might expect. Some guests, including myself, actually find that Splash Mountain’s drop feels more intense than Expedition Everest!
Since the drops come so quickly, you don’t have much time to realize how high up you are. However, that slow climb up the lift hill at the beginning of the ride offers a spectacular literal birds-eye view of Disney property and the park below. If heights aren’t your thing, be warned about looking down or around during this part of the ride.
Intensity Rating: 1.5
This may be controversial, but I don’t find Expedtion Everest as scary or intense as some other Disney attractions. It’s a massive attraction and looks extreme, but guests tend to walk away thinking more about the story and experience than its thrill factor.
With that being said, the coaster does go backwards at one point; and some may be alarmed by the giant Yeti reaching down at guests towards the end of the ride. For those concerned about this element, keep in mind that the encounter with the Yeti happens so quickly that some guests miss it completely.
Motion Sickness Rating: 2.5
While the coaster is an overall smooth ride, there are some rough moments and sharp turns. The main motion sickness trigger however is definitely the rapid backwards motion.
Speed Rating: 2.5
Expedition Everest’s top speed is 50 mph, but it doesn’t maintain that speed throughout the experience. In fact, the first half of the ride is a slow climb; and the coaster stops completely at more than one point during the ride.
It’s Tough to be a Bug!
It’s Tough to Be a Bug is a 3-D/multi-sensory show starring Flik from Disney Pixar’s film A Bug’s Life. Through the use of a 3-D screen, audio-animatronics, and effects, Flik and other bugs attempt to demonstrate the importance of bugs, but also that it’s really tough to be one!
Darkness Rating: 3
There are moments of darkness during this show. What really tends to bother people is the darkness coupled with the implied presence of bugs.
Intensity Rating: 2.5
Believe it or not, this show truly terrifies people and especially kids. A large audio-animatronic Hopper from A Bugs Life makes an appearance, spiders lower down from the ceiling over the audience, and guests are sprayed with a giant can of bug spray. Plus, sensory effects are used to simulate both the presence and movement of bugs. Be sure to know what your kids can handle before checking out this show.
Kali River Rapids
Kali River Rapids is a whitewater raft ride through a lush Asian rainforest where guests eventually encounter the dangers of a logging site.
Drop Rating: 1
Kali River Rapids is shorter than most guests expect and a little anti-climatic. The biggest drop is 30″ and more of a downward slide.
Motion Sickness Rating: 2
The Kali River Rapids rafts spin and bob up and down in the waves. While it doesn’t aggravate some who experience motion sickness, the motion of this ride is something to be aware of and consider.
Are you a ride chicken when it comes to Disney attractions? Which Animal Kingdom ride would you recommend for guests looking to avoid thrills?
First published November 21, 2020. Revised May 28, 2021.