The Mountain Range At WDW
Home on the (Mountain) Range
The old song “Home on the Range” has never felt truer than when I take my family to Walt Disney World. No matter which park you visit to find a Disney mountain, you’ll also find that each is special in its own, thrilling way. From an out-of-this-world ride, to a yeti encounter, here’s why we love the mountains!
Just over three years after WDW opened its gates and folks began to call it “The Most Magical Place on Earth”, Space Mountain became THE Thrill ride inside Magic Kingdom on January 15, 1975. Based off of the Matterhorn Bobsleds in Disneyland, the all-indoor roller coaster was a fun addition to Tomorrowland. With two separate tracks, both the Alpha & Omega reach a peak speed of 28 mph. The tracks are nearly mirror images of each other, so once you’ve had the chance to ride each one, you’ll soon realize that the turns are opposite. Sure, there are plenty of modern coasters that double, if not triple, its speed, but it’s the classically modern design and dark ride that get us every time. With only six riders per train (three in each of the two cars), the queue can be quite lengthy, but head there at rope drop on a normal crowd-level day when everyone else is headed to the New Fantasyland Expansion and you’ll be able to hop on and off.
Fun Fact: If you want to ride Space Mountain just THIS MUCH longer, queue up on the Alpha Track—it’s 10 feet longer than the Omega Track!
BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN RAILROAD
Head to Frontierland in Magic Kingdom if you want to embark on “The Wildest Ride in the Wilderness!” The ride’s official opening date of November 15, 1980, gave two coaster-style rides in Magic Kingdom, keeping the park both classical and current at the same time. The ride’s backstory is simple and fun: in the small town of Tumbleweed, gold was found in the late 1800s (a correlation with the Gold Rush frenzy), and the train becomes a runaway mine train roller coaster. Quests pass through a dark cave, take rocky paths through Tumbleweed, and eventually end up on the opposite train track (there’s two to keep the ride flow going). With top a top speed of 36 mph and a ride length of just about three minutes, this one’s a must-do for folks who love steel coasters. Head to Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris to find very similar rides (apart from their titles).
Fun Fact: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is not only the name of the attraction; it’s also the name of the fictional railroad line depicted in the ride!
Disney’s “Song of the South” was so popular in 1946 that the love of the movie only continued when Splash Mountain was opened in Frontierland on October 2, 1992. The indoor-outdoor log flume water ride sets the scene indoors and, with a couple of small dips, it gives guests the ride’s premise. Based on several Uncle Remus stories, you’ll see plenty of Southern-style hospitality in the “Brer” characters including Rabbit, Fox, and Bear. Always the mischievous creature, Brer Rabbit sets off on an adventure and ends up finding trouble instead: at the top of a 50-foot, 45-degree angle drop. The ride reaches a maximum speed of 40 mph, but when you’re actually on it, it feels much faster. Three of the popular Uncle Remus songs (“How Do You Do?”, “Ev-rybody Has a Laughing Place”, and “Zip-a-dee-do-dah” do a great job of distracting you from the final drop and the audio-animatronic animation is still so fun to spy as you’re floating along a calm, Southern river. Both Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland have similar versions of the ride, as well.
Fun Fact: At rope drop or when it’s cooler at WDW (but not so cold that they close the ride), the queue is much shorter. If you don’t mind walking around wet, this is the optimum time to ride!
If it’s a Yeti you’re out to discover, it’s a Yeti you shall on Expedition Everest. The grand opening date of April 7, 2006 at Animal Kingdom officially made the steel coaster the tallest ride on WDW property. Thousands of guests flocked to the park to try to discover the wooly legend high atop Disney’s own Mount Everest, and even present day, folks hit the park at rope drop to ride it two or three times in a row without the need of a Fastpass+ selection. While the standby queue takes you through fun scenes, including the office of the Himalayan Escapes Travel Agency, there’s plenty of beauty and artifacts to spy as you mosey on through. On the 10 seconds shy of three minutes long ride, you’ll hit a top speed of 50 mph and a lengthy drop of 80 feet including some backwards travel, as well compliments of a couple of track switches.
Fun Fact: Expedition Everest tops out at 199 ½ feet tall. Six more inches and the folks at WDW would have had to install a blinking red light at the top to warn low-flying planes. Feeling that it would take guests out of that lovely “Disney Bubble,” the ride was kept just under 200 feet to avoid the light.
Have you had the pleasure of hitting one or all of the “mountains”? Do you have a must-ride mountain every time you hit the parks? No matter which is your favorite, there’s a special place for each in my and my family’s hearts.