Walt Disney World (FL)

Why I Love Disney’s Thrill Rides

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One thing you should know about me, probably one of the most important things, is that I have a serious obsession with adrenaline rushes. You can’t put me on a roller coaster that’s too high or too fast. The sky is truly the limit for me. Heck, I’ve even experienced North America’s tallest, fastest, and longest zip line which was 600 feet high in the mountains! Yeah! Talk about intensity! On top of that, I grew up near a very famous “roller coast” amusement park that’s known for always upping the bar in extreme thrills.

Given my fascination with any ride that is insanely exhilarating, you’d probably think that I’d find the thrill rides at Disney World a little dull. You couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, Disney World houses some of my absolute favorite thrills in the country. Let’s take a look at Disney World’s most fantastic thrill rides and what you can expect should you brave any of them.

First of all, what sets Disney apart from virtually every other theme/amusement park with thrill rides is that Disney actually creates a story and a theme for each attraction. Starting in the queue, Disney’s goal is to transform you to another place and perhaps another time to better immerse you in the story of the attraction. Using things like unique cast member costumes, music, lighting effects, props, and often a pre-show, Disney helps sets the mood for your adventure. Not many other theme parks can say that go that far simply because most of the time, their goal is to push the limits of engineering and they often ignore pushing the limits of the human mind and senses. Each Disney thrill ride is not suitable for each and every guest that walks in the gate. What one person might enjoy, another person could be absolutely miserable experiencing.

Space Mountain – This Magic Kingdom attraction is sort of the Disney World staple that most guests want to experience. The updated queue is more interactive but quite boring compared to most queues in Disney World. You’re obviously traveling in space once you board your rocket ship. Just a warning for virtually anyone that isn’t Twiggy, the ships are tiny and you’ll feel packed into it like a sardine. The ride itself is in the dark with a starry sky dimly lit above you and a few random lighting effects throughout. While there are no major drops or high speeds, your senses are heightened by being in the dark and you often feel like you’re going to go right off the track. It’s an intense ride, don’t get me wrong. However, this is one coaster that makes you feel like you are pushing your limits when in fact, if you were outside in daylight riding the coaster, it would feel much more tame.

Splash Mountain – This one is much more visually intimidating than it turns out to be. The queue isn’t scary at all so there’s no excessive excitement there. Once you board the boat it’s a pretty easy ride for a little while. You’re going through a really fun and very kid-friendly story. There are two fairly mellow drops that are comparable to Maelstrom’s drop. You’ll encounter a third drop that’s pretty much in the dark and is a little more exciting than the previous two. There’s a “Disney scary” build up to the final drop. While the drop is pretty hairy, the happy music kicks in right away after the splash down and you’ll be giggling and smiling just like everyone else that experiences this classic ride. Splash Mountain is definitely a great starter thrill ride for kids because there are so many distractions.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – If I could recommend any roller coaster for a beginner, this would be it. I’ll admit straight away, it’s a bit of a bumpy ride if you’re in the back but overall it’s very tame. There are no drops or insane speeds to worry about. The track is pretty visible ahead of you and you don’t have to worry about being surprised. The queue is fairly boring compared to some other attractions. What’s cool about Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is the details that you can notice while riding the coaster. Be sure to look all around you and you’ll notice some pretty cool hidden gems.

Expedition EverestSo much of this awesome Animal Kingdom coaster feels like a fun, fast train going through the Himalayas. On the other hand, a portion of it feels like your head is going to fly off your neck and your stomach will pop up through your throat and out the empty hole where you head used to be. Yeah, it’s like that. People often watch this magnificent attraction from the viewing area in the park and think that the drop looks pretty scary. It’s actually not bad since you’re curving around and not going straight down. You know that “tickle belly” feeling? The one minor drop on Expedition Everest really doesn’t cause that feeling to happen. The great thing about this coaster is that when you feel like you need a break to gain your composure, you get to see some super cool Disney special effects come into play as your ride vehicle sits still. There’s a Yeti silhouette and then the actual (but mechanical) Yeti that is hungry for only the flesh that Disney park guests can offer. Take a ride on Expedition Everest after you’ve already conquered the mountain range at the Magic Kingdom.

DINOSAURFinally, a thrill that doesn’t include a big drop or train cars connected. Dinosaur just has turbulent Time Rover’s, prehistoric dinos, and my favorite television mom, Phylicia Rashad. Can I admit something to you right now? I’ve only opened my eyes on this ride once out of a few handful rides on it. Don’t judge me! It’s really loud and that Carnotaurus scares the living daylights out of me! However, don’t let that intimidate you. I’m sure you’re much less of a pansy than I am. The only physically torturous thing in this attraction is your ride vehicle that shakes you all over the place. Just… try and be braver than I am.

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith – Here’s where we get talking about the big boys. A really intense roller coaster with inversions and a high speed take off. If you’ve never experienced a roller coaster that goes upside down, I definitely suggest that you try this one first. First of all, it’s in the dark so not seeing the track ahead of you will help you not freak yourself out so much. Secondly, there are only a few times you go upside down which is a heck of a lot less than the average twisty coaster at your local amusement park. The fantastic Aerosmith track (all hail Steven Tyler) blaring in your ears will absolutely distract you from the intensity that your body is going through.  I definitely can’t suggest braving this thrill ride without first dipping your feet in some of the other roller coasters that Disney has to offer.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – For me, this is the creme de la creme of Disney thrill rides. The theming is eerie and the details are so subtly brilliant. It’s an attraction that you truly have to take in every second of to get the full idea. I gotta be honest. This is the only Disney attraction that I can go on over and over and still get sweaty palms each and every time. From the second you step into the lobby there’s this buildup to your fate at the Hollywood Tower Hotel. Before you actually board your haunted elevator, you’re packed into a pre-show “library” where the story is laid out and you begin understanding that while the hotel’s mysterious event happened many years ago, it’s all about to go down again and this time, you’re a part of the story. During your spooky elevator ride, the buildup gets more intense as you get closer to the drops (yes, plural). While you might feel like you’re in a very unsafe environment, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve seen the control room myself and how strictly everything is monitored up there. It’s watched so carefully that the two people staffed to watch the numerous monitors couldn’t even turn around to greet me when walked in the door… they had mirrors positioned so they didn’t have to turn their backs to the control panel. Trust me on this one. You’re safe.  Even if you aren’t brave enough to board the elevator, at least be sure to go through the queue to check out the gorgeous lobby then ask for the exit before you board.

Test TrackWhile this attraction currently isn’t open for a few months, it’s still thought of as a thrill ride so I should probably include it here. That being said, the details of the renovation aren’t very clear so I’m not sure what’s staying and what’s going. The previous version of the attraction was bumpy at times and other than that final spin around the outdoor track, it was very tame. Put it this way… my mother, who hates ALL roller coasters simply loves Test Track so much that she throws her hands up at the end and screams like crazy. It’s truly adorable.

The final three thrilling attractions at Disney World happen to be lumped into the same category… simulators. It’s sort of hard to explain what a simulator feels like and how your body and mind might respond to it without having experienced it for yourself. You might like one but hate another. At Epcot, you’ll find Mission: SPACE. Your choice of which “version” of the ride you participate in is up to you based on your ability to handle the intensity. If you don’t know which one to go on then please try the tame one first. It’s not worth throwing up over.  While I find Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios pretty tame, I know a handful of people that never want to ride it again. For that attraction you’re given a pair of 3-D glasses before you board your ride vehicle. While it no doubt can be an intense experience, there’s a great way to prevent yourself from feeling woozy. Just take off your 3-D glasses and focus your eyes on something still that’s not in the film. Finally, Sum of All Thrills at Epcot takes simulators to the next level by actually allowing you to design and test your very own thrill ride and then board a simulator that looks like it’s on the end of a giant octopus arm. When you test out your ride, your simulator isn’t very stationary at all. You’re swung, dipped, swooped, and flipped in all different directions depending upon how you created your attraction. While I think it can be a very intense experience, it actually all depends upon your design. This is one simulator you don’t want to miss.

Alright folks! That’s it! We’ve covered all of Disney’s thrill rides in the four major theme parks. Whether you’re an adrenaline seeking newbie or a self-proclaimed expert like myself, I’m sure you’ll find something at one of the parks that’s sure to get your heart racing. Consider yourself very lucky that you’re experiencing cutting edge ride technology mixed with incredible storytelling that only Disney can create.

I’d like to hear about your favorite (or least favorite) Disney thrill rides! Leave me a comment so we can chat about your experiences!


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Stacey Lantz

Born and raised in Southwest Michigan, Stacey believes she lives far too many miles away from Walt Disney World. In her spare time she enjoys singing/dancing, spending time with her nieces, and of course, talking about Walt Disney World to anyone that is willing to listen. She's been blogging about all things Disney since 2008. Follow her on Twitter @Stacey87.

17 thoughts on “Why I Love Disney’s Thrill Rides

  • What about doing a piece on the water park rides???

    We have a rule that both our girls have to try everything once, if they don’t like it, they don’t have to do it again… when our tiny 6 year old finally reached the height limit for Splash Mountain (my favourite) she said she hated it – rules out the window – I made her ride again just to make sure. It paid off, she loved it. Here’s to my attention seeking children.

  • We love Splash Mountain, but it was a little too exciting yesterday when the ride broke down. Twice! The first time we were stuck on an incline for about 10 minutes before we got going again. The second time, we were cruising by Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit when all the boats stopped again. After we sat for about 15 minutes two castmembers came to escort us from the boats, walk us out of the attraction, out the back door and into a back lot, then around the side and back to Frontierland, where we got Fastpasses! Now that was thrilling.

    • Oh my goodness! Yeah, breaking down twice is a bit too exciting, I agree. Although, I’ve always wanted to be evacuated from a big ride at Disney World just to see what it’s like.

  • Agree that ToT is at the top of the heap — there are plenty of rides all over the world that do the same thing to you from a physical standpoint, but the ride itself plus the theming and everything else is so much more than the sum of its parts. I’m an adrenaline junkie myself and enjoy all of the rides that you mentioned, but I’d probably reschedule a trip if I learned that ToT was under renovation when I was going — and I can’t say that about any other ride at WDW.

    • I feel like with Disney’s Hollywood Studio’s losing it’s “extra special something,” Tower of Terror really draws in masses because no one wants to miss it. I feel really passionate about that attraction and all of the work that’s put into it. So glad that someone else feels the same way! Thanks for writing in!

  • Our three year old was tall enough to go on Splash Mountain and BTMR last year, and there was no turning back. I was pretty sure we’d bred a thrill ride seeker! That is until we took him on Dinosaur. Big mistake. He screamed “mommy… momMY… MOMMY!” the whole time while grabbing for my arm. I felt so terrible. He still talks excitedly about going back on Splash Mountain and BTMR (and trying out Space Mountain), but he’s quick to add, “but I’m not going on that Dinosaur ride EVER again.” Oops.

    • That’s pretty funny! I’ve always been a pansy with rides and it took me until I was 14 to ride Haunted Mansion without backing out. The fact that your three year old loves Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at such a young age is a huge feat! Dinosaur scares adults that I know and every single time I see little kids going on it and walking off smiling I think, “boy are you brave!”

  • HEY….This guy has a SYRACUSE shirt on – can’t be bad at all!!!!
    Seriously, though the article was a good one. Disney thrill rides are thrilling and entertaining at the same time – not like typical amusement park rides.

    • That’d be my awesome husband, Matt! We’re big Syracuse fans!

      Thanks for the kind words on the article! I really appreciate it.

      • Stacey, I can’t begin to tell you how crushed I am to find out you’re married – you’re obviously the dream girl for every guy who likes WDW! You like the right attractions, the right restaurants, . . . . . and those photos! How did I miss out?!

        On the other hand, I’m a USC guy, and there’s this game coming up in a couple weeks . . . . .

  • I hate Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom. It’s uncomfortable and after going on Space Mountain at Disneyland, it was a bit of a let down.

    The build-up to the drop on Splash Mountain freaks me out every single time!

    Big Thunder Mountain was my first roller coaster as a kid! It’s still one of my favorites 20+ years later.

    You need to get to Disneyland (I know, I tell you that ALL the time) so you can go on Indiana Jones. I bet you’d love it more than Dinosaur. Same track but you’d be able to keep your eyes open. 🙂

    I really enjoy RnR even though it’s a bit too short. I’m a wuss and if it were outside where I could see it, I probably would not have tried it! However given the choice though…I’d much rather go on California’ Screamin’ at DCA. It may not have any corkscrews but it just lasts so much longer.

    Tower of Terror…hate it. I don’t enjoy the feeling of “falling” or being pulled down. I’ve been on it once at HS and two or three times at DCA. Still not a fan.

    Test Track…I love it and I hope they didn’t change it TOO much.

    I’ve only done the easy side of Mission Space and it was okay. Not sure I’ll ever try the other side. Star Tours is great! The new version actually makes me feel LESS nauseated than the old version.

    • You’re right, Jill. I need to get to Disneyland because I want to try out Indiana Jones so badly.

      The ONLY thing I don’t like about Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is that it’s too short, I agree. I find it annoyingly short. I want another 20 to 30 seconds and I’d feel fulfilled.

      I feel the same way about the new Star Tours. The old one made me feel a little sick but this one doesn’t do anything to me really. The worst simulator I’ve ever been on in my life other than Mission Space was Back to the Future at Universal Studios when I was twelve years old. I wanted so badly to like it but I walked off and wanted to hurl.

  • As an enthusiast myself I’d like to point out how true you are when you say “Not many other theme parks can say that go that far simply because most of the time, their goal is to push the limits of engineering and they often ignore pushing the limits of the human mind and senses.”

    Space mountain’s top speed is 27 mph. This is barely faster than a school zone speed limit, and slower that Primeval Whril, but feels so exciting when everything else is brought into play.

  • I completely agree with the premise of the article, Stacey. My favorite thrill ride at WDW is Splash Mountain. The thrill, the drop, is great, but the music and storyline leading up to it are why I love this attraction.
    Also, I now enjoy looping coasters, and Rock n’ Roller Coaster was my “gateway drug” so to speak because of what you mentioned: the dark atmosphere makes the loops “just happen” and you don’t fear them as much. After riding this without problem, I felt comfortable going on looping coasters at other parks.
    Finally, while I’m not a huge drop tower fan at other parks, and will skip them if the line is long, I really enjoy Tower of Terror because of the theme.

    • Hi, Andrew! Sounds like you like a lot of the same things I do for the same reasons I do. As you said, drop tower attractions at other parks are sort of lame and not worth a long wait. Tower of Terror just brings something totally different to the ride concept. If you ever get a chance to ride late at night when no on else is in line, ask to ride with the lights on. They might just turn them on in your tower for you so you can see how some of the special effects work. Something I never noticed until I rode with the lights on is when you’re pulling forward into the drop shaft and the panel lights up and splits in front of you, the doors don’t move to the side horizontally, they actually seperate and move at a diagonal and come toward you. Somehow you don’t know exactly where the doors are moving in the dark but if you look for it you might notice it.


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