2016 Best Disney World Thrill Rides

The Twilight Zone Hollywood Tower of Terror looms over Disney's Hollywood Studios.
The Twilight Zone Hollywood Tower of Terror looms over Disney's Hollywood Studios.

1. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios is an elaborate, extremely detailed update of the classic drop tower ride design.

Guests enter through a superbly themed Hollywood Hotel lobby area and enter a holding room where Rod Serling himself introduces the Twilight Zone-inspired backstory for the whole attraction.

After emerging from the holding room, guests queue in the hotel's creepy boiler room waiting for their spots on the ominous elevators that service the property.

Once strapped in to the elevator seats with just a seemingly flimsy seat belt (adding a feeling of apprehension), the elevator takes a circuitous trip through the Twilight Zone which features several expertly designed special effects and ultimately sets the guests on an inevitable experience with the Tower drop zone.

As is common with many headline Disney attractions, the “never the same ride twice” objective holds true with Tower of Terror. Each ride includes at least one full tower fall, one fake drop where the elevator shakes as though it’s going to fall, and at least one instance where the elevator doors unexpectedly pop open at or near the top to reveal the outside world below.

But, thanks to a highly sophisticated computer system, the initial height, depth and order of all drops change from one ride to another making it impossible for riders to become familiar with the timing of the events from visit to visit.

Neon glow emanating from the signature Fender Stratocaster outside of the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith.
Neon glow emanating from the signature Fender Stratocaster outside of the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith.

2. Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith at Disney's Hollywood Studios is the most riveting coaster experience available in Walt Disney World.

After loading passengers, The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster goes from a standing stop straight to 60mph in an adrenaline-pumping 2.8 seconds.

Following the rockin' start, the ride never lets up through two full inversions, and a corkscrew added for good measure - all packed into a pulse-pounding, 82 seconds of rock 'n' roll-infused speed.

Each extended stretch limo (your coaster vehicle) offers a different Aerosmith tune that is piped in directly through your head restraint using an on-board 32,000 watt stereo system. Put it all together and you have one pumpin', thumpin', non-stopin' ride.

Animal Kingdom's Expedition Everest coaster travels in and out of the Forbidden Mountain, increasing the thrill factor.
Animal Kingdom's Expedition Everest coaster travels in and out of the Forbidden Mountain, increasing the thrill factor.

3. Expedition Everest

Expedition Everest brings high speed roller coaster action to Disney's Animal Kingdom - both going forward (up to 50 mph) and in reverse. Expedition Everest does not have any loops or inversions - what makes it most interesting as a thrill ride is that:

  • it speeds riders in, out and around a 200 ft high mountain, called the Forbidden Mountain. During the day, this effect of alternating light and dark brings extra energy to the attraction.
  • during the ride, it stops, reverses course and moves backwards at high speed taking riders from light into near darkness before again returning to forward motion and returning back outside the mountain during the payoff plunge.
  • it includes a high speed encounter with a menacing, swooping 22 foot Yeti.

Embark on a far-reaching mission to the Red Planet on Epcot's Mission:SPACE ride.
Embark on a far-reaching mission to the Red Planet on Epcot's Mission:SPACE ride.

4. Mission: SPACE

EPCOT's Mission: SPACE is a sophisticated space flight motion simulator. Two ride versions are offered - a full-fledged spinning centrifuge-driven ride that simulates G-forces and a non-centrifuge version for those who may be prone to motion sickness or otherwise adversely affected by the conditions created by the centrifuge.

Riders climb into the rocket module in groups of four and each rider is designated as one of four different mission specialists. Depending on their station, specialists are asked to perform different functions during the mission. These functions are not material to the experience as a whole, but serve to offer a bit of variation from one visit to another.

Mission: SPACE enables centrifuge riders to gain a glimpse into what an astronaut might endure beginning with a thundering rocket launch from Earth, an out-of-this world approximation of weightlessness after leaving Earth's atmosphere, and ending with a suspenseful landing on Mars. Riders of the centrifuge-driven version of the attraction will feel G-forces 2.4 times Earth’s normal gravity.

Take a fast-paced, dino-dominated journey into the past on Animal Kingdom's DINOSAUR attraction.
Take a fast-paced, dino-dominated journey into the past on Animal Kingdom's DINOSAUR attraction.

5. DINOSAUR

Join the expedition on a six-seat CTX Time Rover, one of Disney’s most complex ride vehicles, for a high energy, non-stop trip back in time - 60+ million years back to the Cretaceous age of DINOSAUR.

In this dark and excitingly loud ride located in Disney's Animal Kingdom, the CTX Time Rovers jolt riders back in time through the Time Tunnel and then hurtle along in an environment filled with animatronic dinosaurs that jump out, roar and chase until the mission is completed and the timeline is restored.

Entrance to the Test Track Pavilion in Disney's EPCOT.
Entrance to the Test Track Pavilion in Disney's EPCOT.

6. Test Track

Test Track is a simulation of what an automobile goes through as it is put through it's paces during a run through a vehicle proving ground.

Riders are given a pre-ride briefing that provides a back story for the attraction and the queue up for their spot in a futuristic, six seat, open air test vehicle.

After buckling up, riders proceed in their auto-piloted cars through an indoor course that test vehicle acceleration, suspension, braking, heat resistance, cold resistance, corrosion resistance and handling through turns.

The big finish is the barrier test, which sets up to be a high speed crash test. The final minute of the ride transitions from the dark interior of the testing course to the airy outdoors. The open air vehicle speeds around a lengthy test track with speeds approaching an exhilarating, hair blowing 65mph. Before returning to the interior of the testing pavilion, riders are subjected to a live thermal scan that they can view on a screen as they pass by on their way to debarkation.

A five story+ drop provides a refreshing finale to Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain experience.
A five story+ drop provides a refreshing finale to Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain experience.

7. Splash Mountain

Inspired by the Disney classic Song of the South, Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain is a classic flume ride that floats riders through the entire story of Br'er Rabbit and his many adventures.

What places this ride on this particular list is the last few seconds of the experience. As Br'er Rabbit plummets into the briar patch at the end of the story, riders are thrust from the dark interior of the mountain where most of the story calmly takes place into the bright (on sunny days) exterior of the mountain.

Without notice, the flume rumbles and plummets over the edge down a five+ story drop at speeds in excess of 40mph, crashing into the briar patch and producing a soaking wall of water that expands several stories high.

A rider's eye view from within the neon Launch Tube inside Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain.
A rider's eye view from within the neon Launch Tube inside Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain.

8. Space Mountain

As one of Disney World's first headliner attractions, Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom still holds a place reverence for Disney-files and newcomers alike. From a neon filled launch tube, Space Mountain aims to give riders the feel of a twisting, turning rocket ride through the expanses of space.

Although it contains no loops, corkscrews or other advanced coaster machinations, it's setting in near darkness renders it's twist, turns, dips and climbs unpredictable and much more thrilling than if it were simply placed outside. Add a general inability to see the track or any of the ride structure to the disembodied screams of riders on other rockets inside the complex, Space Mountain still delivers a definite thrill factor - even if some of that excitement is nostalgia-based.

Which Disney World ride would you put at number 1 for most thrilling ride?

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