From the classic mountains (Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and Splash Mountain) of Magic Kingdom to the more recent additions throughout the rest of Walt Disney World, roller coasters and water thrill rides continue to be adored by long time fans and newcomers alike. As with all things Disney, these attractions don’t stop at the thrill of a drop or high speeds, all are themed perfectly to fit in with their surroundings and tell a great story along the way.
In preparing for this series, we classified every single attraction at Disney World into one of 6 categories:
Just Skip It. . .: As the name says, it's just not worth your time. Go back to the resort pool and take a nap or buy an adult beverage instead!
If Nostalgic: Only ride these rides if they have a special meaning to you or someone in your group. If you feel like it would make you happy, then go for it!
Worth The Chill: If you get tired, or just want a break from the action, these are great options. But, you won’t really be missing out if you don’t make it around to this group.
Definitely Once: Whatever you do, don’t miss! But once is probably enough.
Worth a Repeat: You won’t be satisfied visiting these attractions only once. Better plan on a second day - or better yet, a second visit!
Top Attractions: Being a top attraction at Disney World is a competitive distinction; there are so many high caliber rides. Three of today’s list fall into this category.
Without further ado, here are the top “Coasters and Water Thrill Rides” at Disney World, from meh to wow.
Just Skip It
10) The Barnstormer: Magic Kingdom
This coaster is a children's ride, with most adults having a hard time fitting in the seats much less enjoying the ride. Only ride this if you get to take along a child and can experience the joy through their eyes.
10) Kali River Rapids: Animal Kingdom
On a hot day, Kali River Rapids can be a refreshing change of pace. But, you will get (and we cannot emphasize this enough) soaked. Plan ahead if you want to ride: bring flip flops and a poncho to ride in or a change of clothes for swapping into after. The reason for the low ranking here is that the ride is super short and honestly offers very little in terms of overall story. There is one drop and some mild “rapids”, but the main thrill is trying to not be the one who gets drenched to the bone.
8) Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: Magic Kingdom
7) Slinky Dog Dash: Hollywood Studios
The two newest roller coasters at Disney World are some of the best themed of the bunch. You will want to ride these once to get the chance to experience the Disney magic. On Seven Dwarfs, the queue itself is enough to make you be in awe of Disney’s imagination. As with most Disney rides aimed at the younger adventurer, this queue has touch screen games, as well as thoughtful gems - pun intended! But make sure to keep an eye out while riding in your swinging mine car for all of the added character. You’ll spot familiar faces, and even Snow White.
Slinky Dog Dash takes the idea of being in Andy’s backyard to the next level with the story that Andy has built a roller coaster for his toys to ride in the backyard. Andy even built a little boost for Slinky Dog to dash through. The charm of this queue, and the attraction itself are the real winners here; especially a familiar friend singing “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” near the end of the ride.
Unfortunately, while very well themed, both of these coasters leave a lot to be desired from a thrill perspective as they are targeted to the younger adventurer. Only ride if you have a FastPass+ as you will likely be disappointed after waiting in each attractions’ very long lines.
Worth a Repeat
6) The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: Hollywood Studios
Tower of Terror is another great example of Disney doing what Disney does best: telling a story from entering the queue until you leave the attraction. As you walk up the obviously deserted and overgrown Hollywood Tower Hotel, you’ll notice that everything from the greenery outside to the dusty, cobweb filled lobby prepare you for a trip to the Twilight Zone. Even the cast members take part in making this ride great, adding a little humor to the otherwise creepy queuing areas.
From a ride perspective, the falling sensation here is second to none, lifting you out of your seat on every drop. A bonus is that the ride is randomized, so you get a different experience each time. Make sure to ask to sit in the front row (areas 1 and 2), raise your hands, and smile for the picture!
5) Splash Mountain: Magic Kingdom
4) Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: Magic Kingdom
These two Frontierland neighbors in the park are tough to separate even here. Each with their own unique thrills and nostalgia, you will definitely want to try to get a second (or third!) chance on each of these classics.
Splash Mountain takes you on a journey as you follow Brer Rabbit through the mountain, on his attempt to escape from Brer Fox and Brer Bear. While it is a dated attraction, the multiple drops and animatronic scenes make for a memorable ride. What makes this water attraction worth a second ride is the big drop near the end. Be warned, you will get wet, so make sure to pop on that poncho before riding. You’ll be humming Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah while you dry off after exiting this ride.
Big Thunder Mountain is one the longer rides in the park and, due to its high capacity, often has a reasonable wait compared to the other major attractions. If you are looking for a real thrill while riding, ask to ride in the back as the experience is markedly better. At Big Thunder, the back car gets yanked over the hills and flung around the corners. Aside from the thrill of the back, the rest of the seats are a great first roller coaster for kids. You can actually ride with three people across to help that little one feel safe between two adults, or to take two kiddos at once!
For those of you planning a Rope Drop morning at Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland, our general recommendation is to ride Big Thunder first and then head straight to Splash. Generally, people are less inclined to want to hop on a water ride first thing in the morning.
As part of this attraction series, we have chosen only five attractions to fall into this category. Today, we will highlight three of them. You can find the other two in our post on Simulator and Animatronic Thrill Rides.
3) Space Mountain: Magic Kingdom
The best of the original mountain rides, Space Mountain is a fantastic roller coaster. Which, believe it or not, only gets up to 25 mph. However, the darkness with quick drops and turns make for a really thrilling attraction. A FastPass+ or Rope Drop is usually necessary for this attraction as wait times for this classic thrill ride get very lengthy.
2) Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: Hollywood Studios
You’re invited to a VIP experience with the band Aerosmith! But wait, you need to get there fast, and there is the standard LA traffic. How will you arrive on time?! Why on the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster of course! This well themed ride, from the intro video to the actual car you’re riding in, is one of the fastest in Disney. The thrill of the 0-60 mph launch and multiple inversions make for a very thrilling, albeit short, attraction. As the only ride in all of Disney World to go upside down, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster continues to be hugely popular with guests. Ride multiple times in the front and back for different, but equally awesome experiences.
Hollywood Studios touring strategies vary greatly by party, however, a Rope Drop for this coaster after grabbing that Rise of the Resistance boarding pass is a safe bet. But a word of warning, while the single rider line may seem attractive when lines are long in the afternoon, it often can be as long if not longer than the regular standby line.
1) Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain: Animal Kingdom
Due to its high speeds, steep drops, and fun theming and surprises along the way, Expedition Everest is truly the best roller coaster in all of Disney World. It’s queue sets up the story very well, so don’t miss out on all the details as you prepare for a trek up Mt. Everest!
To be completely honest, this is one of Magical Adventure Co.’s favorite rides in all of Disney World. We once rode it 5 times before 11AM! We recommend riding multiple times to experience the attraction from different places in the train - front, back and middle are all great! However, if you are prone to motion sickness, try to sit in the middle of the train where the ride is a little calmer.
This ride has a very high capacity and takes a while to fill up in the morning. After a Rope Drop ride on Avatar: Flight of Passage, we recommend hustling over to Everest where you can often get 2-3 quick rides in back to back before lines get long. We also recommend getting a FastPass+ as well to claim another trek up to Everest later in your morning!
What did you think? Did we get it right? Wondering how to enjoy these attractions with minimal wait? Any questions, thoughts or opinions shoot us a note.