The Simulator & Animatronic Thrill Rides at Walt Disney World are second to none. One of the biggest reasons? Disney has been the leader in animatronic simulations since the beginning. Imagineers consistently push the limits of our imaginations to take us on some of the wildest, interactive adventures.
These rides mostly rely on screens or animatronics to thrill their audiences without the use of significant "drops." These thrills come in many varieties; some are through tension and excitement, others come from wonder and beauty, and even more through laughter and humor. But in the end, none of them disappoint.
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; as there are so many high caliber rides. Two of today’s list fall into this category.
PS - Missed the Dark Rides rankings? Check them out here.
Without further ado, here are the top “Simulator & Animatronic Thrill Rides” at Disney World, from meh to wow.
Worth The Chill
11) Mission Space: EPCOT
Since opening in 2003, this ride has lost some of its luster, and newer and more realistic simulation attractions have come along. Additionally, this is the #1 ride in Disney World to make you sick. However, if you have a strong stomach and enjoy some serious g-forces, it's worth trying out the Orange side. If you are looking for a more tummy friendly adventure, then go for the Green side!
10) Star Tours: The Adventure Continues: Hollywood Studios
One of the most incredible parts of this attraction is that the experience is different every time. In fact, there are 384 variations of the simulation, so you most likely won’t see the same thing twice - at least not on the same trip!
As one of the first ever motion simulator attractions, Star Tours should be ridden by everyone at least once. Everyone with the stomach to handle it, that is. This ride does cause motion sickness, so be careful if you are not able to handle light speed!
9) Dinosaur: Animal Kingdom
On Dinosaur, you are taken back in time to bring an iguanodon back with you for scientific study. What could go wrong?! Even though a little dated, the animatronics hold up very well, making this a fun ride when the lines are low. The best time to ride this prehistoric pursuit without a FastPass+ is mid-morning.
8) Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway: Hollywood Studios
We haven’t been able to ride this one yet, but with it’s charming queue, and use of new technology it’s sure to be another great adventure from Disney Imagineers. Since it’s a ride designed for the kiddos that visit Hollywood Studios, the thrill level is not the same as with the other headliners in this park. Give it a try once and let us know what you think!
Worth a Repeat
7) Test Track: EPCOT
6) Soarin': EPCOT
The two best rides at EPCOT are definitely worth riding twice! Because of their enduring popularity, these rides have significant wait times in the afternoon. This means you will need to “rope drop”/ride one of these rides as soon as the park opens. For the other ride, you can get a FastPass+. Also, you can often ride Soarin’ right before closing or use the single rider line for Test Track to sneak in a second ride.
The FastPass+ system at EPCOT requires you to choose only one top tier attraction: Frozen Ever After, Test Track, and Soarin’. It is a tough choice between the latter two. However, Test Track often breaks down, and closes due to inclement weather. Our recommendation is to choose Soarin’ for FastPass+. It's important to note that if a ride is closed during your FastPass+ window, you can usually return at any time later in the day, or sometimes switch to another ride. Just ask a friendly Cast Member at Guest Experience for assistance.
When riding Soarin’, it makes a big difference where you sit. Ask to sit in the “B” boarding area so that you will be in the center of the screen.
5) Jungle Cruise: Magic Kingdom
Jungle Cruise gets better with age and after each ride, so get started now! As the most unique attraction in all of Disney World, it is the only one revolving solely around the thrill that comes through humor. The jokes are sometimes cringe worthy, and often the same from ride to ride, but always hilarious. Get ready to enjoy the “backside of water”, “sleeping Zebras”, “Sam the head salesman” and many other puns from this day-one Disney parks classic!
4) Toy Story Mania: Hollywood Studios
3) Millenium Falcon Smugglers Run: Hollywood Studios
These two interactive attractions at Hollywood Studios might get overlooked due to their headliner neighbors in Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge. However, they are worth a FastPast+ booking, as well as making the effort to ride early or late in the day at Hollywood Studios. Both rides are worth the repeat due to their theming, excellent storytelling, and the interactive experience of the ride itself.
On Toy Story Mania, get whisked away into this interactive 3D arcade style ride where you break plates, pop balloons, launch rings and shoot darts. Besides the arcade action, the ride itself is pretty thrilling as well. It's fast paced and spins you through the ride from game to game. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this ride is the theming of this mostly inside queue. The queue winds itself through Andy’s toy box, and then you load the ride in Andy’s room. It is adorably themed, and will make you nostalgic for toys from childhood. If you don’t have a FastPass+, it's one for which you won’t necessarily mind waiting in line.
With the opening of Rise of the Resistance and the virtual “Boarding Group” method for getting a ride, Hollywood Studios is now significantly more crowded in the morning. And this is especially true for Galaxy’s Edge. If you are willing to wait until later in the evening/close to closing, Smugglers Run usually has a more manageable wait time. Magical Adventure Co. tip: make sure that you ask to be the pilot!
2) Avatar: Flight of Passage: Animal Kingdom
1) Rise of the Resistance: Hollywood Studios
Making a choice between Rise of the Resistance and Avatar: Flight of Passage for the top ride in this category (as well as, spoiler alert, top overall attraction at Walt Disney World) is virtually impossible.
The entire experience for Rise of the Resistance is far and away the best thing that Disney Imagineers have ever done. From when you walk into the queue, to the Cast Members, to the realistic animatronics and projected character interactions, you feel completely immersed in the theming and story telling. This ride is one of the first to use a trackless car, which is now utilized in Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
On Avatar: Flight of Passage, you escape to Pandora on the wings of a Banshee via the Avatar program. The 3D graphics are a perfect simulation for flying through the world of Pandora. The seat for the ride even “breaths” to make it seem like you are actually riding a live animal.
From an overall theming and experience perspective, Rise of the Resistance is the best. Flight of Passage is narrowly better when it comes to the ride itself. However, theming is what makes rides at Disney World spectacularly great, therefore Rise of the Resistance is the best in this category.
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.