Walt Disney World and the Disneyland Resort share a number of the same attractions, such as Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, “it’s a small world,” and many others. But if you think that these attractions are the same on both coasts, you would be mistaken.
One of the many things I love about Disney is that they never do the same thing twice; and while the attractions that can be found on both coasts may share the same names and themes, they do have differences too. Hey, who doesn’t like variety, right? But you have to wonder, which resort has the best version of a popular attraction? Which Disney Park has the bragging rights? Well, that’s what I’m going to find out by comparing two tall and somewhat snowy attractions in Disneyland vs. Disney World: The Matterhorn Bobsleds and Expedition Everest.
I know what you’re thinking. A Disneyland classic and an Animal Kingdom coaster. These two attractions are so different how can you compare them? But if you really think about them both, you will notice that they both share a number of similarities. But before I get ahead of myself, let me explain for those who haven’t experienced these Disney mountains before.
What is the Matterhorn Bobsleds?
The Matterhorn Bobsleds is a Disneyland icon. This famous mountain dominates the Disneyland skyline and houses a vintage (but totally safe!) tubular steel coaster that takes guests in and out and down the Matterhorn Mountain. This attraction is special to Disneyland as it is the only one in the world and came from the mind of Walt Disney himself. When filming Third Man on the Mountain in Europe, Walt decided he needed the famous Alpine peak in his park. It first opened to guests in 1959 and has undergone several facelifts and updates through the years.
What is Expedition Everest?
Expedition Everest is themed after the world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest. On this attraction, guests embark on a expedition into the Himalayan Mountains by train, but the legendary Yeti of the mountain isn’t too happy about that. The train zips in and out of the mountain, and even goes backwards! Expedition Everest first opened in 2006 and was an addition to the Asia section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. The attraction was an immediate success and still is one of the most famous thrill rides at Walt Disney World.
Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds are located in Fantasyland, but that hasn’t always been the case. When the attraction first opened in 1959, the Matterhorn Bobsleds was included as part of Tomorrowland. In reality, the mountain sits on the border of the two neighboring lands and its snowy peak can be seen from multiple locations throughout the park. Disney World’s Expedition Everest calls the Asia section of the Animal Kingdom Park home. On the map, it’s between Kali River Rapids and the Finding Nemo -The Musical, nestled into its own little section. The only problem is that it takes quite a bit of walking to get there from the main entrance, and the trek can be rather hot and exhausting in the summer months!
Height Requirement: The height requirement for Disney World’s Expedition Everest is 44″ while the Matterhorn Bobsleds is only 42″. While I’m all for safety, it’s much more convenient when every person in the family gets to ride at one time.
Yeti/Abominable Snowman: Both of these famous Disney mountains are known for their infamous residents: the Yeti and Abominable Snowman. For serious research purposes, I looked up what the difference is between a Yeti and Abominable Snowman and discovered that there really isn’t any. Interesting, no? Well, there is a difference between the creatures you meet in the Matterhorn and Expedition Everest. You see, the Matterhorn is home to the Abominable Snowman, who also is referred to as “Harold” by Disneyland Cast Members and park regulars. Since the Matterhorn Bobsleds reopened after a refurbishment for Disneyland’s 60th anniversary in May, Harold is more lifelike than ever! Guests see him three different times during their ride, two of which feature an audio-animatronic Harold encounter which is sure to make you scream!
On Expedition Everest, the focus of the attraction is the Yeti. There are little nods and references and warnings about him as early as your approach to the attraction area. The finale moment of the attraction is seeing a giant, audio-animatronic Yeti reaching for you as the train rushes underneath him. It was awesome and really scary, if you could keep your eyes open and be brave enough to look up. However, this audio-animatronic Yeti hasn’t been working for a number of years. Instead, Disney uses a strobe light to kind of simulate motion. It’s still kind of frightening, especially if it’s your first time. However, those who remember the Yeti when he worked jokingly refer to this current broken state as this “disco yeti” and are waiting for the day when he will be restored to his former, terrifying glory. If Expedition Everest’s Yeti was still in working condition, it would win this category due to its size and motion. But the Matterhorn’s Abominable Snowman actually scares me more these days due to the fact that he moves and is frightening!
Speed: Expedition Everest is fast! At max speed, your train reaches up to 50 mph, making it one of the fastest rides at Disney World behind attractions such as Hollywood Studios’ Rock n’ Roller Coaster and Epcot’s Test Track. The Matterhorn Bobsleds only reach speeds of up to 27 mph, but I think it feels faster, especially when going around those sharp curves!
Winner: Disney World
Queue: In my opinion, Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest has one of the best queues of all time! Disney’s attention to detail is at its finest as guests weave through a Tibetan temple, a tours and expedition office, general store, and then a museum with some ominous evidence supporting the legend of the Yeti. Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds queue is…well…a rope line. Yes, the queue for this popular peak is just a rope line surrounding the base of the mountain. The closest you get to a queue is the little chalet right before ushered to the boarding platform. While I love the alpine theme, Expedition Everest wins this category by a landslide!
Winner: Disney World
Ride Duration: This category is a tricky one because the Matterhorn Bobsleds has two different bobsled runs with two different experiences. The Fantasyland bobsled run, which is located closest to Fantasyland, is known to be a little longer than the Tomorrowland bobsled run. But for simplicity’s sake, I’m using the average ride time between the two runs which is two minutes and fifteen seconds. Expedition Everest’s ride duration is quite a bit longer at around three minutes and thirty seconds.
Winner: Disney World
Mountain: Both peaks are impressive and dominate the skyline of their respective parks. Expedition Everest is the tallest at a whopping 199 feet! It’s stunningly massive and I always love coming around the corner in Asia at the Animal Kingdom Park and seeing the mountain across the water. The surrounding area, as well as the queue, truly makes guests feel as if they’re in a Tibetan village which makes this coaster also an immersive experience. The Matterhorn is smaller at only 147 feet, but what makes it cool is that it’s 1/100th scale of the actual Matterhorn in the Alps which stands at 14,700 feet. Disneyland’s version really does capture the look of the real mountain, but it has had a number of facelifts since 1959, particularly to cover up the large openings where the Disneyland Skyway used to pass through. During its most recent refurbishment, Disneyland made the Matterhorn Bobsleds even more realistic by adding more pine trees and more snow on the northern side of the mountain, just like it would be in the Alps. Also, the mountain’s snow now contains glass beads to reflect the sun and glisten like real snow. How cool is that? Now this category is a hard one for me, but I think I have to reward the Matterhorn for it’s history, evolution, and commitment to be as realistic as possible.
FastPass: Okay, I have a complaint. A big complaint. The Matterhorn Bobsleds do NOT offer FASTPASS! How can this be? Yes, I get that there probably isn’t a place to put the FASTPASS kiosks and Disneyland doesn’t offer FASTPASS for all their popular attractions like Disney World does. However, I’m all about minimizing time spent in line during my days at the parks and there doesn’t seem to be much I can do if I’m in the mood for an afternoon bobsled ride down the Matterhorn. Expedition Everest at Disney World fortunately does offer FastPass+; and while I have been able to walk on this attraction on occasion, the ability to skip the line is still a big perk when the line is out of the queue and I’ve already spent hours trekking through Animal Kingdom.
Winner: Disney World
Ride Vehicle: The ride vehicle for Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds are, as the name suggests, bobsleds! The attraction used to be infamous for its original bobsled ride vehicles because they offered little personal space. Thankfully, today’s bobsleds are much more spacious. Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest ride vehicles are a train. The sides of the train are a bit more open than what you experience on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad trains, which only adds to the thrill. The Matterhorn Bobsleds can accommodate eight guests, which is one of the contributing factors to its long waits, while the Expedition Everest trains can pack in a whopping thirty-four brave guests!
Winner: Disney World
Overall Ride: It’s no secret that the Matterhorn Bobsleds is anything but a smooth ride. It’s bumpy and jerky from the get-go which is part of its vintage charm. What I especially like about the Matterhorn Bobsleds is that it has two tracks; and as I’ve already mentioned, the Fantasyland side is known to be a little longer and rougher! But I must admit, the story guests experience throughout the Matterhorn attraction is a little weak since guests only know that they are taking a bobsled run through the mountain. There is very little lead-up to the Abominable Snowman; although, since the attraction reopened in May, the image of the Abominable Snowman behind the ice and the wreckage of old bobsleds and Skyway buckets does foreshadow your later encounters with him. Expedition Everest does offer a relatively smooth ride for a coaster with the exception of the climb up the hill where your vehicle lurches back sharply. If you have ridden Expedition Everest, you know what I’m talking about. For those who haven’t, keep your head back against the seat at this part. You will thank me later. One of Everest’s trademarks is that it reverses and goes backwards to escape the Yeti. While thrill junkies will love it, it has been known to make others feel a little queasy. The story is that guests are taking a train expedition into the Himalayas, but there are warnings about the legendary Yeti that guards the mountain. The peaceful train expedition suddenly turns intense when the train has to stop as something has ripped up the track. From there, it’s a race in and out of the mountain to escape the Yeti!
Winner: Disney World
So which coast boasts the best mountain? It looks as if Disney World’s Expedition Everest is the winner! Some may say it’s not a fair comparison, especially since the Matterhorn Bobsleds are so much older; although, as I’ve shown, the Matterhorn has a convenient location, an incredible mountain, rich history, a working Yeti, and more. I like to think that Expedition Everest is a second generation Matterhorn where Disney mostly improved upon a beloved icon. But do you agree? Is Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest truly the best or does Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds deserve more credit?