Disney Rides That Make You Believe You Can Fly
Walt Disney World brags that it’s the most magical place on Earth, but it’s not boasting if it’s true, right?
In fact, Disney rides feel so immersive that you buy into the illusion that the impossible can happen.
On some rides, you’ll even experience the sensation of flight. Here’s how I rank the Disney rides that make you believe you can fly.
8. The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
During the earliest days of Disneyland, Imagineers innovated with many unprecedented ride designs.
In other instances, Disney went cheap to stack the park with attractions.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant slots into the latter category, as do the clones that have arrived since then.
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin exemplifies this, as it’s an aerial carousel design that simulates a premise from the movie.
The seminal moment in Aladdin involves Jasmine and the title character exploring A Whole New World thanks to a magic carpet.
On this attraction, you board a magic carpet of your own and then spin around Adventureland.
Walt Disney World alone hosts three versions of this attraction (TriceraTop Spin is the other). Alas, it’s a bit low rent…and really always was.
Don’t get me wrong. I love The Magic Carpets of Aladdin and will probably ride it this week. It’s just not as good as everything else on this list.
7. The Barnstormer
What’s the simplest way to feel like you’re flying? Why, you hop on board a plane!
Well, a junior roller coaster at Magic Kingdom will make you feel like Snoopy (or the Red Baron?) as you fly around Fantasyland.
This Storybook Circus attraction wins with its theming, as you board an old-timey biplane to train as a pilot. And your teacher is none other than the Great Goofini!
Look, if you’re over the age of 10, The Barnstormer won’t impress you as a roller coaster. It’s quite basic.
If you’re a parent, you’ll relish the joy it brings out of your children, though. To them, it’s like flying a real plane, which is all that matters.
6. Astro Orbiter
Over the years, Imagineers expanded the premise of Dumbo the Flying Elephant. They came up with modified versions of the premise that exceed the original.
Astro Orbiter springs to mind as the best example of this fact. It’s the same apparatus, at least in theory.
A bunch of ride carts connect to a centrifuge hub. However, Astro Orbiter uses more hardware and Imagineer tricks to improve the ride experience.
You’ll whip around at higher speeds, and you’ll relish a panoramic view of Magic Kingdom.
Guests take an elevator up to the attraction area, which is 60 feet above the ground. Then, the rocket carts lift you even higher.
So, you’re way up in the air as you spin. And the view is even better at night since Astro Orbiter illuminates Tomorrowland.
I’d be exaggerating if I said that you feel like you’re flying a spaceship.
The spinning motion from high in the air will impress you enough to suspend disbelief for a bit, though.
5. Mission: SPACE
Now we’re getting into the serious stuff. The sensation of flight comes in many forms, one of which involves outer space travel.
There’s a reason why NASA started with a bunch of fighter pilots and other airplane adventurers. Those folks were crazy daredevils.
On Mission: SPACE, you get to pretend like you’re one of them for a while, and the ride experience is so realistic that it may make you sick.
Mission: SPACE also utilizes a centrifuge. However, this one keeps up the G-forces so much that many guests become nauseous during their interplanetary adventure.
Still, it’s a small price to pay to fly to Mars, right? Of course, if you’re not up for that sort of thrill ride, Mission: SPACE provides a calmer setting, too.
So, you can choose how accurate to make your escape from Earth’s gravity.
Disney hired people who had actually been to outer space to help with the design of Mission: SPACE. It’s as close as you can get to being a real astronaut.
4. Peter Pan’s Flight
The other opening day attraction at Disneyland has proven vastly superior to its counterpart.
On Peter Pan’s Flight, cast members sprinkle a bit of Pixie Dust onto your Galleon, empowering your vessel with flight.
You soar into the air on your way to Neverland, the mystical realm where Peter Pan and the Lost Boys wage constant battle with Captain Hook.
In 1955, no contraption had ever taken riders into the air the way that Peter Pan’s Flight does.
In fact, cast members will tell you it’s challenging to fix due to the odd skyward location of the ride tracks.
This bit of realistic placement enhances the sensation of flight on your aviation boat.
3. Space Mountain
Many people don’t think of space travel as flying, which is hysterical to me.
Perhaps no attraction exemplifies the entire experience as well as Space Mountain.
Less a ride and more a sensory deprivation exercise, this roller coaster disrupts everything you expect about a ride.
You cannot gain any sense of equilibrium as you return home to planet Earth from some undefined Starport (it’s 75, wherever that is).
With the lights turned off and only blinking stars in the distance, you never quite know where you’re going, only that you’re hurtling through space.
Space Mountain set the standard for steel roller coasters due to its too-accurate portrayal of interstellar travel, the fastest kind of flying.
Have you ever gone hang gliding? For many people, the answer is “no.” For Disney fans, a more accurate response is “kinda.”
Imagineers based an entire ride design around a popular children’s toy from yesterday.
This structure allowed a giant apparatus to lift guests several stories high and position them in front of an IMAX movie screen.
By moving the pictures in front of the rider, Soarin’ creates an immersive illusion that you’re hand gliding around the world.
You’ll fly through Arctic settings, jungles, beaches, and even recognizable landmarks.
In a matter of moments, you’ll fly by the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower.
In modern terms, you become a human drone, relishing unprecedented perspectives of some of the most scenic locations on Earth.
Humanity dreams of the power of flight. For the longest time, Soarin’ represented the closest thing to the real deal.
Then, Imagineers built an even better version of the same premise…
1. Avatar Flight of Passage
All aboard the Banshee Express!
On Avatar Flight of Passage, you experience something akin to riding a magical unicorn.
You hop on the back of a mythical beast named a Banshee, the flying beasts that own the skies of Pandora.
During your flight, you must tame this beast enough that it willingly agrees to become your mighty steed.
Along the way, you’ll fly through forests, avoid menacing whale…type…things that try to snatch you out of the air as an aperitif.
You also experience the bioluminescent gorgeousness that is James Cameron’s alien world.
Imagineers have constructed something so impressive that certain elements feel mystical, while other moments are primal. It’s a masterpiece.
Best of all, after you’ve nailed your air-jockeying, you land your Banshee just like you’re a successful pilot touching down with your plane.
All the Disney flight simulations will wow you to various degrees. Avatar Flight of Passage (literally) towers above the competition, though.