First Timer’s Corner
Walt Disney World has a number of “thrill rides.” First time visitors may find these either more or less intense than they were expecting. Most thrill rides at Walt Disney World are much less intense than the most exciting rides at regional amusement parks—places like Six Flags or Cedar Point. But even so, most are not for the young, and some are not for the faint of heart.
The classic “thrill ride” at a regional amusement park is a massive roller coaster that dominates the park’s skyline, featuring steep drops, sharp turns, and various upside-down and twisted parts—called “inversions.” These rides provide fun by first, creating the sense that compared to everyday life, the system is dangerous, perhaps barely in control, and second, engineering feelings of weightlessness.
Walt Disney World has barely any of these rides. The two rides at WDW that come closest to this are Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Both, however, have two differences. First, they are very short—important if you hate them, as you will be off soon—and second, they are themed—they don’t simply exist as a structure of steel and a name, but rather are deeply visually themed to a specific concept.
Every other thrill ride at Walt Disney World is less challenging, and other than for young
kids, more will be challenged by motion sickness than by the actual scariness of the ride system. If you are concerned, one person in the group (just one, so that the surprise of the rides aren’t given away to everyone) should check out ride reviews on Dad’s Guide to WDW, easywdw.com, or The easy Guide to Your Disney World Visit, and supplement these with reviews of Youtube videos.
But before you do that, comments on the trickiest rides in each park follow. Note, by the way, that those who enjoy the rides that follow would list most of them as their favorite rides at Walt Disney World.
MAGIC KINGDOM THRILL RIDES
At the Magic Kingdom—space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and The Barnstormer all are based on a roller coaster concept. While less challenging than the two rides noted above, those who can’t abide roller coasters should avoid them, but most—even the fearful—will love them. Of these, Big Thunder can also raise motion sickness issues, and Splash Mountain is a special case—most of it is a charming, light-hearted and easy ride, but it ends with a big drop that is highly visible from the outside, and scares off many people who would love this ride.
EPCOT THRILL RIDES
At Epcot—soarin’ Around the World will challenge those with a moderate to severe fear of heights. Test Track features open-topped cars that at one point hit more than 50 mph. Most families will exceed that in their daily driving, but it is thrilling in the moment. The “Orange” side of Mission Space notoriously eats those prone to motion sickness—such folk should ride the green side, or skip it.
DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS THRILL RIDES
As noted above, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster is a real thriller of a coaster. Tower of Terror has the scariest name of any Disney ride, and is not for those with a fear of heights. Star Tours can be tricky for those susceptible to motion sickness as well.
DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM THRILL RIDES
Expedition Everest is a real roller coaster. DINOSAUR can be scary and uncomfortable for those with motion sickness. Disney’s new Pandora: World of AVATAR, to open here in late May, might add another thrill ride to the mix.
The thrill rides at Walt Disney World, with a couple of exceptions, are pretty mild compared to the roller coasters you will find in other parks. They are also among the most loved rides in the world. If you are uncomfortable with the prospect of riding them but tempted at all, try them. You will know after you’ve ridden a couple whether or not they are for you, and, if they are, they will add another dimension to your enjoyment of the Walt Disney World Resort.