Attractions in FiveWalt Disney World (FL)

Five Things to Know About the Tomorrowland Speedway

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The Tomorrowland Speedway is an elaborate miniature raceway with gas-powered cars that let you zip along at a breathtaking 7 mph! Read on to learn more about this classic attraction, but if you prefer to race off to the nuts and bolts, here’s your shortcut.

1. You’re off to the races!

The smells and sounds of gas engines fill the air as you line up to enter the Tomorrowland Speedway. The queue winds outside the entrance and across a pedestrian bridge to the ride’s loading area. (We suggest that you turn right off the bridge and then head to the first loading area for a shorter wait in line!) The ride lasts about a four-and-a-half-minutes as you putt-putt around gentle curves and at one point go over the roadway.

Since your car follows a guide rail, you don’t really do much more than steer. But along the way, you’re afforded some pretty nice views of Storybook Circus, Space Mountain, the Tomorrowland PeopleMover, and other areas of Tomorrowland. And every car gets the checkered flag when it crosses the finish line! Although signs warn drivers not to bump into the cars in front of them, it still happens more often than not. All of these caveats aside, the Tomorrowland Speedway is a pretty nice family-friendly attraction, if not a great thrill ride.

The Tomorrowland Speedway gets a holiday overlay complete with lights, holiday displays, and more for guests of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and later for all park guests toward the end of December.

2. You’re driving a real vehicle.

The Mark VII cars were designed by Bob Gurr and took their inspiration from the Corvette Stingray. Each car has a Briggs & Stratton nine-horsepower engine and can reach a maximum speed of 7 mph. A governor on the engine ensures that this is the top speed they’ll reach. In total, there are 146 cars driving with you on the 4 “lanes”.

Only one can drive at the Tomorrowland Speedway

Although the cars are guided along the track, the driver has the ability to steer and accelerate. From experience, I can tell you that steering can be a little tougher and more frustrating than you think. Accelerating can be more of a challenge than you expect too. Cars are equipped with shock-absorbent bumpers, which is great because the odds are pretty good of a new driver (yourself or someone else) bumping on a short stop.

3. The track has a backstory, so let’s backtrack!

The Tomorrowland Speedway is one of the “OG” attractions from the opening day of Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971. The Speedway is modeled on the Autopia attraction at Disneyland, which was also one of that park’s opening-day attractions. Versions of the ride can be found in Disney Parks in Tokyo, Paris, and Hong Kong.

Both the track and the attraction’s name have changed over the years. On opening day, it was called the Grand Prix Raceway; in 1994 the name was changed to the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway. Most recently, in 2008 the name was shortened to Tomorrowland Speedway.

A long shutter speed can make this attraction look like the Indy Speedway

The length of the track has also been shortened several times from its original length of more than 3100 feet. The first reduction occurred when Space Mountain was built; the second made room for Mickey’s Birthdayland in 1998 (where Storybook Circus is now). In 2012 the track was shortened to make room for relocating Dumbo the Flying Elephant during the New Fantasyland expansion. Most recently some minor track adjustments were made to accommodate the addition of TRON Lightcycle/Run in 2019.

The present length is just over 2100 feet (roughly 0.4 mile). So, if you were one of the folks who drove around on opening day, your ride was more than 30% longer than it would be today!

4. Opinions vary.

It’s probably no surprise that the closer you are to having your own license, the less likely you are to love this attraction. It rates highly with preschoolers and the grade-school set, and goes downhill from there. Still, there are a fair number of adults who ride without kids, possibly because it can be good old-fashioned fun. For those who aren’t into it, the most common complaints are that it’s boring and that the gas-powered engines smell bad.

When I last rode the Speedway with my wife (which was a decade or so ago), the Cast Member noticed that we were wearing Celebration buttons for our Anniversary. They somehow affixed a “just married” sign to the back of our car, which gave the ride a special place in our memories – and maybe explains why fewer other cars bumped into us from behind! I can’t attest to whether this sort of thing still happens, but if you’ve experienced something similar, let us know in the comments below.

5. The Nuts and Bolts.

The Tomorrowland Speedway is located in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom, next to the Mad Tea Party and across from Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. Since it’s an outdoor attraction, it will shut down in bad weather. The queue is mostly uncovered, so guests can be exposed to the elements.

The seat isn’t like the one in your car – you’ll sit on a hard bench with a back with one fabric lap belt for all riders. Standard capacity is two guests per car. But Cast Members can load one adult plus two small children, or two adults plus one small child.

You must step over a small wall and then down a moderate step to enter the car. Guests must transfer from a wheelchair/ECV to experience this attraction. For safety, you should be in good health and free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness, or other conditions that could be aggravated by this attraction. Expectant mothers should not ride. Also, be aware that bumping can (and usually does) occur.

Tomorrowland Speedway has two height requirements. You must be 32 inches tall to ride, but no one can drive alone unless they are 54 inches tall.  If you do decide to let an older child drive alone, make sure you explain that they are in control of their “car” and give them clear instructions for how the car works. And if your child is too short to drive, ride along and allow them to steer the car while you work the gas pedal. As with all rides with height requirements, Rider Switch is available.

For the shortest waits, try to check out the Tomorrowland Speedway before 10 a.m. or during the last 2 hours before park closing. Alternatively, you can secure Lightning Lane entry via Genie+. Tomorrowland Speedway is open for both Early Theme Park Entry and Extended Evening Theme Park Hours.

The Bottom Line.

Although it’s a classic Walt Disney World ride, this is an easy attraction to skip if your time in the park is limited. If you’re visiting the Magic Kingdom for two or more days, Tomorrowland Speedway can be an enjoyable way to experience another “throwback ride” to when times were simpler and driving slowly around a track was a pretty exciting deal. (And for some of us, still is!)

Have you ridden the Tomorrowland Speedway? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.

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Bob Jacobs

Bob Jacobs lives in Wisconsin where he retired as Editorial Director for a well-known catalog company. He and his wife Cristie have four children, seven grandchildren and a cocker spaniel named Penny the Dog. They’ve visited Walt Disney World regularly since 1992.

2 thoughts on “Five Things to Know About the Tomorrowland Speedway

  • I really love this “5 Things to Know” series! Sometimes it features a ride I haven’t tried (but might now) and other times a ride I’ve done a million times – but either way I learn something new and fun! Thanks Bob!

    • Angela, thanks for the kind words. Glad you enjoy the series!!


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