Walt Disney World Roller Coasters: What’s the Difference

Share This!

There are several roller coaster-style attractions at Walt Disney World, each with a unique profile that may make it more, or less, appealing to different types of guests. Some of the Disney coasters have more in common with a kiddie carnival ride that anything fierce or frightening.

Here’s a breakdown of each coaster’s characteristics.

The Barnstormer (aka Goofy’s Barnstormer)

  • Location: Magic Kingdom, Fantasyland Storybook Circus
  • Height requirement: 35″
  • Duration of the attraction: 2 minutes
  • Maximum speed: 25 mph
  • Themeing: You’re in an old-timey, cartoon airplane.
  • Restraint system: Single pull-down lap bar for all the riders in each row.
  • Special features: This is generally accepted as the best starter roller coaster at Disney World. If your children (or you) are new to coasters, The Barnstormer the logical place to start.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

  • Location: Magic Kingdom, Frontierland
  • Height requirement: 40″
  • Duration of the attraction: 7 minutes
  • Maximum speed: 36 mph
  • Themeing: You’re in an old mining town.
  • Restraint system: Single pull-down lap bar for all riders in each row.
  • Special features: The thrills come from tight turns more than big drops. This is a good next step up if your child has conquered The Barnstormer.

Expedition Everest

  • Location: Animal Kingdom, Asia
  • Height requirement: 44″
  • Duration of the attraction: 4 minutes
  • Maximum speed: 50 mph
  • Themeing: You’re searching for the Yeti on Mt. Everest.
  • Restraint system: Individual pull-down lap bar.
  • Special features: Tight turns, big drops, and a section where you’re going backwards make this a formidable experience.

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster

  • Location: Hollywood Studios, Sunset Boulevard
  • Height requirement: 48″
  • Duration of the attraction: 1.5 minutes
  • Maximum speed: 57 mph
  • Themeing: You’re in a limo with Aerosmith racing to a concert.
  • Restraint system: Individual over-the-head harness rests on shoulder and waist.
  • Special features: This is the most intense of the Disney World coasters. The initial blast off takes you from 0 to 57 mph in about three seconds. After that you’re subjected to high-speed corkscrews, drops, and an inverted loop. Like Space Mountain, this takes place in the dark, but unlike the gentle new age music on Space Mountain, at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster you are pummeled with rock music throughout the ride.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

  • Location: Magic Kingdom, Fantasyland
  • Height requirement: 38″
  • Duration of the attraction: 3 minutes
  • Maximum speed: 34 mph
  • Themeing: You’re with the Seven Dwarfs as they work in the diamond mine and then visit Snow White.
  • Restraint system: Individual lap bar for each passenger.
  • Special features: Your ride vehicle swings from side to side, giving this a bit more variety to each ride than Big Thunder. It’s a zippy experience, but with no loops or colossal drops, it’s geared toward families with older children. It’s a fine second coaster after The Barnstormer.

Slinky Dog Dash

  • Location: Hollywood Studios, Toy Story Land
  • Height requirement: 38″
  • Duration of the attraction: 3 minutes
  • Maximum speed: 40 mph
  • Themeing: You’re riding on Slinky Dog through Toy Story Land.
  • Restraint system: Individual pull-down lap bar.
  • Special features: There are turns and dips, but no giant drops. The experience is similar to Big Thunder Mountain or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. If you’re not planning to try The Barnstormer, the child-oriented theme makes this a decent starter coaster for youngster.

Space Mountain

  • Location: Magic Kingdom, Tomorrowland
  • Height requirement: 44″
  • Duration of the attraction: 10 minutes.
  • Maximum speed: 28 mph
  • Themeing: Outer space.
  • Restraint system: Individual pull-down lap bar for each guest.
  • Special features: This attraction takes place entirely in the dark. That alone ups the scare factor for many people. If it took place in daylight, the thrill factor would be similar to that of Big Thunder Mountain, but the inability to see what’s coming makes this more challenging. An additional issue for new coaster riders is that the seating is such that you’re sitting in front or back of your companions, not side by side as with all the other Disney coasters. This means that you can’t hold hands with a child.

If you’re concerned about speed, drops, or thrills in general, there are a few non-coaster rides at Disney World that are more challenging than most of the coasters. If speed is your issue, then be aware that Test Track is the fastest ride at WDW, topping out at about 65 mph (though remember, you probably go that fast every time you’re on a highway in your car).

Tower of Terror is more concerning for some guests than The Barnstormer will ever be. Those with a fear of heights might be intimidated by Avatar Flight of Passage or Soarin’ but not by some coasters. Be sure to check our parks and attractions overviews to determine which attractions are right for you and your family.

You May Also Like...

Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (now PlanDisney), a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater.

6 thoughts on “Walt Disney World Roller Coasters: What’s the Difference

  • March 11, 2021 at 3:27 pm
    Permalink

    A couple of the ride durations look off. Big Thunder isn’t really 7 mins long, and Space Mtn definitely isn’t 10 mins long.

    You list a couple candidates for best “second coaster” after a kid has conquered the Barnstormer, and I’d give Slinky an edge there because the entire ride is visible from the Toy Story Land walkways. Before getting in line, a nervous rider can watch the trains traverse the entire ride and know that there won’t be any surprises. While SDMT is probably a tamer coaster than SDD, the fear factor for SDMT and BTMRR might be higher than SDD due to the unknowns of the hidden/indoor portions.

    Reply
  • March 11, 2021 at 5:31 pm
    Permalink

    I wish you also mentioned how they compare in terms of “up in the air, with nothing around them” vs “grounded.” Barnstormer and Slinky Dog Dash scare some kids (and adults) for that reason, while Big Thunder Mountain and Seven Dwarfs seem to have ground under/around the tracks. I see these debated often in terms of which rides would work for their child.

    Reply
  • March 11, 2021 at 7:41 pm
    Permalink

    To your addendum of terrifying non-coaster rides must be added Dinosaur! at AK, a fast and jerky in-the-dark fear-fest that is the most horrific experience I’ve ever had in a theme or amusement park. It shattered me.

    Reply
  • March 13, 2021 at 3:34 pm
    Permalink

    I agree with @Sarah that the track being “grounded” for Seven Dwarfs makes it feel less intense than Slinky Dog. I also agree with @Andy that the durations are a bit off. Wikipedia lists the duration of Space Mountain at 2:30.

    Reply
  • March 14, 2021 at 6:32 am
    Permalink

    I’m an adult and not a huge roller coaster fan. I enjoy Big Thunder Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I did not enjoy Slinky Dog Dash. While it’s true there aren’t any BIG drops, unlike BTM and SDMT there are drops and I regretted getting on it.

    Reply
  • April 19, 2021 at 2:08 pm
    Permalink

    The quick acceleration of SDDs launch is probably worth a note too. I’m not sure if that’s a thing that scares some folks more than other stuff but I do think it’s maybe a good mention because it’s a specific feature that’s only found on RnRC otherwise, and if someone doesn’t want an inversion or a ride in the dark SDD is a place to get the “pushed back in your seat” feel.

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Sarah Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *