11 Best Disney Thrill Rides You Need to Experience
For some reason, Disney has the reputation as a children’s theme park. Sure, kids love it, but plenty of adults spent all their free time at the parks, too. And they’ve found that many Disney attractions rival those of the finest amusement parks in the world. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, this article’s for you! Here are 11 of the best thrill rides at Walt Disney World.
11) Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
Whether you hate the Empire or the Resistance more, the second iteration of Star Tours has something you’ll love. Disney has spliced together several exciting story elements from all three movie franchises thus far. The ride randomizes the experience so that you’re likely to discover something new each time, too.
The ground will literally shake beneath you as motion simulation immerses you in a lifelike Star Wars experience. Star Tours is a five-minute rush, and it’s that much better for those who are one with The Force.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is quietly home to three of the best thrill rides at Walt Disney World. Yes, the animal interactions are still the key to spending a day here but don’t sleep on the attractions. DINOSAUR is a fabulous combination of gripping story and Imagineering brilliance. You’re sent back in time to capture a dinosaur right before the entire species gets annihilated.
Your motion simulation vehicle is basically a mobile version of the one from Star Tours, meaning that you’ll bounce in time with the stomping of dinosaurs. The environment combined with the ride carts forces you to allow for the possibility that you might die in the Cretaceous Period. That’s pretty dark for a Disney ride, right?
9) Slinky Dog Dash
The newest roller coaster at Walt Disney World has already gained a reputation as family-friendly. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its fair share of thrills, though. To the contrary, the slinky dog design of the ride adds a compelling element to the feel of a roller coaster.
You’ll stretch apart from the other coaster carts for a brief moment before getting pulled back together. For this reason, the airtime you’ll receive at various points is heightened by the ride mechanic. Plus, the stop-and-start portion in the middle of the ride is sure to get your blood running.
8) Space Mountain
You may boggle at the low ranking for Space Mountain. The explanation involves one of my favorite bits of Disney trivia. Do you know the operating speed for this legendary roller coaster? It’s only 8 miles per hour! Technically, Disney could max out the ride at 35 miles per hour, but they haven’t done that for a long time.
Imagineers understand that the sensory deprivation of a low-light ride makes the entire experience feel faster and more dizzying. Plus, when you board Space Mountain, you’re riding the most seminal roller coaster ever built, and that enhances the excitement quotient.
7) Mission: SPACE
The history of Mission: SPACE is well-known by now. Disney wanted to simulate the experience of space travel as realistically as possible. What they quickly learned is that breaking gravity isn’t for everyone. The intensity of the attraction caused so many issues that Disney had to rebuild the ride on the fly.
They introduced a new, calmer version called the Green Mission. It removed a critical aspect of Mission: SPACE, a spinning centrifuge. This component creates lateral acceleration, something that many human bodies just cannot tolerate. Yes, Mission: SPACE is too hardcore even for adrenaline junkies, at least the ones with motion sickness tendencies.
6) Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Walt Disney World has a couple of mine train roller coasters that are equally great. While I prefer Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in a vacuum, it’s a gentler ride than its predecessor, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. When you board this roller coaster, you’ll learn why the residents of Tumbleweed were forced to abandon the town. A flood wiped out the town in the middle of its gold rush, leaving abandoned equipment everywhere.
The theming here is pitch-perfect, straight down to when you get sprinkled on in a mine that still drips. From a thrill ride perspective, the curves and helix elevate the ride experience, making your mine train feel like it’s going much faster than 36 miles per hour. It’s also an incredibly smooth ride, something I always appreciate on roller coasters.
5) Test Track
Test Track isn’t technically a roller coaster. It’s not quite a dark ride, either. Disney invented a new term to describe it. They call it a high-speed giant slot car design; people of a certain age know that slot cars are children’s toys that head down a set path aka a slot.
Imagineers took that idea and expanded it on a grand scale. In fact, they did it at three different parks. Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure and Journey to the Center of the Earth at Tokyo DisneySea are fraternal twins to Test Track, each employing the concept in slightly different ways.
The Epcot version simulates vehicle testing done by car manufacturers, which makes sense given that the ride’s sponsor is General Motors. The structure of this attraction assures that you’ll experience several shocking thrills throughout your test. You’ll swerve to avoid oncoming traffic, you’ll skid due to inclement weather, and you’ll explode into daylight before maxing out the velocity of your vehicle. The variance of Test Track is what distinguishes it from other thrill rides.
4) Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
This roller coaster isn’t for fans of subtlety. There’s no confusion about it. You’ll go very fast very quickly, and you’ll sing some of Aerosmith’s greatest hits while you do it. Disney hadn’t employed launched roller coaster technology before this attraction, and the results speak for themselves.
Thanks to linear motor technology (aka magnets), this roller coaster hits its top speed of 57 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds. When the sign warns you to put your head back against the headrest, believe it! Otherwise, you’ll get knocked silly by the sheer force of the initial movement. After that, it’s twists, turns, and Love in an Elevator.
3) Avatar Flight of Passage
Cast members love to tell park guests that Avatar Flight of Passage is “Soarin’ on steroids.” The implication is clear. While Soarin’ does an incredible job in simulating the sensation of flight, the Pandora attraction modernizes the concept with a much more intense experience.
Part of that comes from the setting. During Soarin’, guests glide through the air like tourists, witnessing some of the most famous landmarks on Earth. Avatar Flight of Passage endangers guests by throwing them into a dangerous rite of passage, one where survival isn’t assured. The encounters with monstrous beasts native to Pandora explain why Soarin’ didn’t make this list, while Avatar Flight of Passage is in the top three.
2) Expedition Everest
I’ve always viewed Expedition Everest as proof that Imagineers have a chip on their shoulder. They’ve heard all of the comments about Disney rides being for kids. In one fell swoop, they proved everyone wrong with this spectacular thrill ride, the best roller coaster at Walt Disney World. Expedition Everest doesn’t just go 50 miles per hour. It does so backward…IN THE DARK!
Everything about the ride is perfect, but I’m especially fond of the buildup. You ascend almost 200 feet in the air, making this the tallest attraction at Walt Disney World. When you get to the top, you don’t get the majestic view that you’d expect. Instead, you feel mortal dread as you see the broken tracks up ahead.
You suffer a growing sense of doom as you know that your ride has gone very, very wrong. Then, you get thrown backward at an alarming rate and never catch your breath again until you’ve escaped the clutches of the intimidating Yeti.
Fans of longer rides will claim that it’s the best thrill ride at Walt Disney World. But I prefer short and sweet. Yes, I’m speaking of…
1) Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
According to Wikipedia, the official time of a ride on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is three minutes and 23 seconds. When I watch a ride video, it seems like less than three minutes. Even that is an exaggeration, though. The distilled essence of the ride is that mesmerizing few seconds when you bounce up and down several times in an elevator shaft.
You may think that this can’t be dangerous. Elevators have measures in place to protect guests, right? Plus, it’s a Disney ride! Well, I have some shocking news. Imagineers actually requested that an elevator manufacturer DISABLE their standard security measures.
Almost by default, it’s the scariest elevator ride on the planet! While other Disney thrill rides last longer, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror proves that less is more. It’s the most exhilarating of all Disney attractions.