5. Location, Location, Location
Located in Frontierland, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is perfectly situated near key attractions you won’t want to miss. After all, it’s just a stone’s throw away from the wildly popular Splash Mountain; many visitors head to Splash Mountain first thing in the morning, and follow it up with a trip of Big Thunder. Or you can jump across the water to explore the winding trails, caves, suspension bridges and other secret finds on delightful Tom Sawyer’s Island. If you haven’t yet had your fill of trains, catch the Walt Disney World Railroad to Fantasyland or Main Street USA. For those with young children, there is a small, covered playground (which serves as a great meeting place) near the restrooms, under the train tracks. And when you need a break from all of your adventuring, Pecos Bill’s is only steps away; there, you’ll find burritos, nachos, fajitas and a variety of other Southwestern (and not so Southwestern!) foods to replenish you. We love spending half a day turning back time and donning our cowboy hats and spurs to blaze our own trail in Frontierland!
4. Surprising Tips and Secrets to Maximize Your Experience
Over the years, we’ve gathered a few not-so-well-known tips to enhance your Big Thunder Mountain Railroad experience. First, if you’re an adventurous rider, sit at the back of the ride if at all possible. This not only gives you a better view than sitting at the front of the ride, but you’ll experience a much wilder ride back there! My most memorable trip on Big Thunder occurred the evening I rode it in the dark; the absence of light does wonders for the thrill factor of this ride, so tip number two is: ride after dark for a more harrowing experience (or just to avoid the worst of the lines, which occur in the daytime). Be on the lookout for a portrait of “Barnabus T. Bullion”, the “founder and president of the Big Thunder Mining Company”; you’re really looking at the face of Tony Baxter, the main Imagineer for the ride. Finally, you may not have realized it, but those fun dynamite plungers and wheel cranks your kids love to push while they wait in line actually trigger explosions (of noise, water and steam) experienced by trains passing by, adding a great interactive element. Note: ride times for Big Thunder can be pretty long, so think about getting a FastPass+ or riding early in the morning or at night.
3. Line Envy
In typical Disney style, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad begins long before you step into a rickety train car. There’s plenty to get you in the mood for the ride – and to keep kids occupied – while you’re waiting in line. In addition to the interactive plunger and crank props that cause actual explosions on the ride, you can also watch “home movies” made by the mine workers to make you feel part of the mining community. There are also opportunities to experience the sights and smells that those unfortunate canaries would have been exposed to in the mines. Props and displays tend to be scattered enough that there is a fairly constant supply of distractions, even for the least patient among your group!
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2. Attention to Detail
The back story of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is that of an abandoned mining town from the days of the Gold Rush. Legend has it that the mine is haunted, and you’ll encounter fabulously detailed elements as you explore the abandoned mine throughout the ride. Disney Imagineers have spared no expense to recreate the look and feel (and occasionally, smell and sound) of an abandoned old mining town. Dinosaur bones emerge ominously from rocks, rusting mining equipment sits eerily untouched, and you’ll be surrounded by picturesque rock formations and cacti. The mountain itself is almost 200 feet tall, and at times you’ll descend into caverns with realistic-looking stalagmites and stalactites. You’ll hurtle under a waterfall, and try to outrun a rogue boulder from a landslide. But don’t forget to keep an eye out for the animals you’ll spot along the way – there’s a goat, buzzards, opossums and bats, among others! The train itself, designed to look rustic and old-fashioned, also adds to the atmosphere, not least because you can’t escape the chugging clickety-clack of its wheels!
1. Wild – But Not Too Wild – Ride
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a mine-car ride that is described by Walt Disney World as a “rollercoaster-type” ride. It’s meant to be enjoyed by the whole family, which means that it is somewhat gentler than a typical rollercoaster (for example, you won’t find yourself hanging upside down or navigating hairpin turns at any point). The ride is more about what you’ll see along the way, rather than sheer speed, drops, or other rollercoaster thrills. This makes Big Thunder perfect for kids, seniors and anyone with an aversion to rollercoasters; often, even guests who are self-professed rollercoaster-haters will enjoy this ride. Of course, everyone’s tolerance and perception will be different, and there are small drops as well as bumpy sections, and some moments occur in the dark. But in general, this is a thrill ride for guests who don’t like thrill rides, and it’s a great family adventure.