The Walt Disney World Resort is home to its fair share of thrilling attractions, including a trio of mountains in the Magic Kingdom that each have their own theming, storyline, and thrills. Guests love to visit the Magic Kingdom and enjoy Space Mountain in Tomorrowland and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain in Frontierland, and each attraction typically can boast some of the lengthiest wait times in the Disney Park!
While each mountain in the Magic Kingdom is packed with thrills, Guests each have their favorite and can argue all day about why their choice is the best. So let’s break down the three mountains into several categories and put them head to head to see which mountain truly comes out on top.
It’s the battle of the Magic Kingdom mountains! Will your favorite come out on top? Let’s see!
One of the most basic elements of a great thrill attraction is speed, and each mountain packs some high speed twists, turns, and drops for Guests to enjoy. Space Mountain definitely creates the illusion of speed, but many Guests might be surprised to find out that it truly is illusion as the top speed achieved is only 27 miles per hour! Big Thunder Mountain Railroad comes in with a respectable top speed of 35 miles per hour, but it is Splash Mountain’s main drop with gravity on its side that comes in for the win at 39 miles per hour!
WINNER – Splash Mountain
Each of the three mountains is completely immersive in its theming and storytelling beginning with Space Mountain which brings Guests into Starport 75, an intergalactic travel hub that connects all corners of the galaxy. Guests certainly feel as though they have left Earth far behind with futuristic details, glimpses through windows into the inky blackness of space, and the attraction itself which literally keeps Guests in the dark in regards to what comes next.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad brings the town of Tumbleweed to life and Guests can learn a little bit about the history, workers, and residents of the town by checking out the many details throughout the queue. Once on board the runaway train, Guests also briefly whip through the town itself where they can spot various animals, and even the saloon which features shadows of dancers and music each evening.
Splash Mountain brings Guests on a journey with Br’er Rabbit as he continuously tries to escape Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear, and there are several immersive scenes including the Laughing Place, Br’er Fox’s lair, and the finale with the Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Lady. Each scene is packed with details and characters to help Guests feel fully immersed in the story unfolding around them.
Each of the mountains obviously features an incredible theme, but the winner here has got to be Space Mountain as one Guests step foot inside of the building, they are literally transported to space without a glimpse of the Magic Kingdom until they emerge again.
WINNER – Space Mountain
Music is a critical element of every attraction at the Walt Disney World Resort, and each of the three mountains features its own score that helps immerse Guests. Space Mountain features a sort of whimsical background loop throughout the queue that is then taken up a notch with a blending of 50s surfer-style music with futuristic elements once on board that heighten the thrills.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad features a background loop of classic Western music throughout the queue and loading area that is accentuated with the sounds of distant explosions in the mines, whistles from the trains, and general sound of digging and metal clinking.
Splash Mountain is the only mountain to feature actual songs with lyrics and Guests are sure to find themselves singing along to “How Do You Do?,” “Ev’rybody Has A Laughing Place,” and “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.” It’s clear that Splash Mountain is the winner in this category with such iconic and catchy songs!
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WINNER – Splash Mountain
An important part of any attraction are the characters presented to Guests to help create a believable and immersive story. Space Mountain really doesn’t feature any characters except for a pair of astronauts that can be seen on a space walk and one other scientist in an observation booth all found in the lift hill area.
Similarly, Guests don’t really encounter any characters while on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad other than a portrait of Barnabus T. Bullion found in the queue, the memorable voice that provides the iconic safety spiel, and the shadow of residents of Tumbleweed in the saloon window.
Alternatively, Splash Mountain is overflowing with characters that help to bring the story to life. Guests immediately are introduced to Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, Br’er Bear, and Br’er Frog in addition to dozens of other animatronic animals including possums, gophers, bunnies, birds, geese, alligators, and more. With so many memorable characters, Splash Mountain is the clear winner here!
WINNER – Splash Mountain
Each of the three mountains in the Magic Kingdom features unique ride vehicles that Guests board to enjoy their experience in. Space Mountain features futuristic rockets with glow in the dark panels on the sides so that other rockets can be spotted whipping around the track through the darkness. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad features a fleet of steam trains that all have unique and cheeky names like U. R. Brave, rustic and worn details, and many different cars that all offer up unique vantages and speeds throughout the experience depending on where a Guest is seated. Finally, Splash Mountain literally seats Guests in logs that help to add a rustic element to the attraction and each log features a carving of a critter on the front.
Each vehicle here definitely has its advantages, but this category has to go to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad simply for the level of detailing that goes into each train to showcase its history whipping around the mountain and in and out of the mines.
WINNER – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Since each attraction is a mountain, they are all massive in scale and the Imagineers went all out in designing the architecture that accompanies each experience to create an entire immersive experience.
Space Mountain’s unique architectural design was created by Jon Hench who suggested that the beams be placed on the exterior of the mountain to help create a futuristic look that also uses a trick of perception to make the mountain seem even taller than it is. Exterior beams also allow for the interior of the mountain to have a smooth surface on which the stars and various space objects are seamlessly projected.
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Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is designed to look like Monument Valley with rocky peaks, jutting boulders, and even a dinosaur fossil that has emerged from the rockwork. The mountain perfectly captures the rugged look of nature, but also showcases breaks in the rockwork emulating locations where mines have been created throughout the years.
Splash Mountain brings Guests to the Southeast of the United States with a natural mountain that features a reddish tone representing the rich mud as well as green patches and smaller growing vegetation to showcase the rich soil. The mountain itself features several different levels that Guests can see, adding a sense of depth and natural architecture to the visual exterior as well as the kinetic element of flowing water down the drop.
All three mountains are obviously gorgeous in their design and architecture from the Imagineers, but the winner here has to be Space Mountain thanks to its innovative use of exterior beams that effortlessly creates a futuristic look.
WINNER – Space Mountain
So which mountain is the best? Well, we’ve got a tie between Space Mountain and Splash Mountain, but Guests can always make an argument for why their preferred mountain is the best! No matter which is a Guest’s favorite, there’s no doubt that Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad all have to be enjoyed on every visit to the Magic Kingdom!