Have you ever clenched your teeth and blasted off in a stretch limo rollercoaster? Had 90s kid flashbacks about Tomorrowland’s old ride Alien Encounter? Or if you’ve seen stars while tipping over a 5 story drop on a ride – this article is for you.
I’m of the opinion that Walt Disney World Resort attractions are some of the best theme park attractions in the world. After all, the technology, attention to detail, and storyline in each of the rides are unmatched. That said, some thrilling attractions are just plain terrifying. Let’s compare frights in this OpEd about Walt Disney World rides that terrify me.
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
A fitting first attraction for this list is the famous haunted Hollywood Tower Hotel. That’s right, I’m talking about the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. This elevator-style drop ride packs scare factors like extreme darkness, creepy theming, and, of course, those massive gut-wrenching drops. If you are wondering about the intensity of this ride, just stand on Sunset Boulevard for a few minutes in Hollywood Studios Park and watch as the elevator shaft opens at the top of the Hollywood Tower Hotel every few minutes. You will catch a glimpse of screaming Guests seconds before they begin a rapid descent.
The catch 22 for me is always the awesome storyline and incredible details in this ride. As much as I am terrified of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, I hate to miss an opportunity to see the gardens and lobby in the ride queue and, of course, to experience the storyline in the pre-show holding room before boarding. Not to mention, if you can push down your fear and focus, there are neat details in the actual ride as well.
The backstory of this attraction is a mix of tragedy and foreboding that dates back to 1939. On Halloween night at 1939 at the peak of Hollywood’s Golden Age, an elevator carrying Guests of the hotel was tragically struck by lightning, catapulting the elevator riders into the fifth dimension.
Park Guests meet with host Rod Serling via vintage television to learn this creepy backstory and their mission for the day. This ride takes on a haunted house vibe from the moment you walk in, but Disney did a great job making it feel distinct and not like a Haunted Mansion in Hollywood Studios.
After the pre-show Guests are released to an ancient service elevator to check out this fifth dimension. Serling wishes Guests luck as anxiety builds and the doors to the ride loading area opens.
One of the ride details that adds to the thrill factor also adds to my anxiety. You guessed it — the unique drop pattern that this Walt Disney Park boasts about means I never know when to be most afraid during the ride. Each ride is said to have a unique pattern of drops and lifts that vary in length and rhythmn. The sound of elevator cable snapping and industrial metal clanging sounds, coupled with dark ride angst, makes for a pretty terrifying, albeit thrilling, ride. The details inside the ride are always enjoyable and I love watching Disney storytelling at play during this attraction. That said, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror will always be one of the most terrifying rides at Walt Disney World.
This EPCOT Future World attraction is actually so terrifying that I’ve only ever experienced it twice. This Disney World ride simulates blasting off into space and allows Guests the oppotunity to choose their intensity level of green (less intense) or orange (intense). Let’s just say, I’ll stick to Space Mountain if I want a bit of space flavor in my Disney Park Day.
In this Disney ride, missions are broken down by color, with green mission riders launching into space and orbiting the earth. Orange mision riders launch before embarking on an intense mission to Mars . Each mission level assigns riders to roles like navigator, commander, pilot, and engineer. The ride pre-show guides riders through the simulation, teaching them about the role they will play in the mission.
The intense spinning of this ride simulates launch and landings in space and can be too much for some riders like me. The tiny ride seats shrink even more when the attraction starts and the screens fold forward toward you. Claustrophobic Guests would panic on this ride. Once the launch begins, the spinning of the ride pins riders to their seat. The G-force, coupled with the small ride space, and ride storyline made this ride a no for me. Mission Space orange level was panic-inducing for me and I will not be riding this terrifying simulator again.
I really do not like big drops in theme park rides, so it stands to reason that even though small children are enjoying themselves, I am afraid of Splash Mountain. Located in Frontierland in Magic Kingdom Park near Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, you’ll find Splash Mountain.
This thrill ride also scores big with Guests as a water ride and a storybook ride. If you are looking to cool off on a hot day or step into a classic Disney story while you enjoy over 100 cute swamp creatures singing, you’ll love this attraction. If you are also afraid of a 5 story drop at the end of the ride, you will be a conflicted Guest like me.
Jokes aside, this story of the southern Bayou with Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Bear, and Br’er Fox is adorable. The music is fun and I love the longer ride time of this attraction. But the 3 dips and 5 story drop at the end of the ride make this attraction rank among nail-biting Disney rides. The Disney Parks website describes “3 dips” earlier in the ride. While I agree that the first is a gentle hill, the next 2 rank as drops in my opinion. The good news, is that the smaller drops help Guests mentally prepare for the big “Laughing Place” drop at the end of the ride.
Of course, the big news concerning Splash Mountain is that it will undergo a complete transformation soon and will reopen in late 2024 as Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. As a fan of The Princess and the Frog, I could not be more excited to see this change. I think it’s time this successful Disney movie be represented in Magic Kingdom.
Not to mention, all signs are pointing to the fact that Splash Mountain itself is a need of a facelift. Repeatedly sinking boats and ride details in disrepair may mean that it’s time to overhaul this attraction. Splash Mountain at Disneyland has seen similar issues of late with some Guests suggesting the overhaul should happen earlier than originally scheduled or suggesting Disney and close Splash Mountain early. One thing is for sure, even though I am terrified of the huge drop at the end of this ride, I am looking forward to seeing it’s makeover in 2024!
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
If you’ve ever been peer pressured onto an attraction this entry is for you. My husband is a die-hard Aerosmith fan and a huge fan of roller coasters, so I have found myself with clenched hands and gritted teeth on this Hollywood Studios coaster more times and I would like to count.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith opened in 1999 and is located in Sunset Boulevard at Hollywood Studios, not too far from Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. This Disney World ride ranks as the most legit thrill ride in my opinion. This attraction places Guests alongside Steven Tyler and bandmates in a recording studio. Unfortunately, the session has run late and now Steven and the guys are in a bind. In fact, they have no idea how they are going to make it to the show on time. Until Steven requests that the band manager order them a super stretch limo to blast them to the show on time. As the lucky Guests watching in recording studio, we have been selected to ride alongside the Aerosmith gang in the super-fast car.
When I say “fast car”, I mean this car goes from 0 to 60 mph and 2.8 seconds. I can never quite decide if anticipating the launch sequence in this ride is more or less dreadful than the actual takeoff. Once you blast off in this ride, you swoop past traffic jams through 3 inversions, 2 roll over loops, and a corkscrew. Although honestly, I am usually so disoriented on this ride, I could not account for the details without the help of Disney website ride notes.
As you blow through this scary but smooth roller coaster Aerosmith hits songs like “Sweet Emotion”, “Back in the Saddle”, “Dude Looks Like a Lady”, “Love in an Elevator” rewritten for this ride, and the iconic “Walk this Way”, blast from speakers on your ride car and inside the enclosed attraction area.
Again, even though I’m terrified of this ride there are definite high points. The ride storyline is great and the pre-show holding area is one of my favorites at Walt Disney World Resort. The loading dock is perfectly themed as a big city alleyway that you might expect a limo or town car to zip down and pick up celebrities like Aerosmith.
Once inside the ride I love seeing the iconic Hollywood landmarks lit by bright glow-in-the-dark paint. Seeing the Hollywood sign and looping through the center of a giant doughnut are some of my favorite parts of this ride.
Even though I can find the positives in this ride, it still is an incredibly terrifying attraction. You don’t have to take my word for it. After all these years my ride PhotoPass snapshots on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith keep looking tragic.
Are you spooked by any of the Walt Disney World rides that terrify me?