Roller coasters might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re planning a Disney World vacation, but thrill seekers can still find their fix at “The Most Magical Place on Earth!”
The Walt Disney Company is known for its immersive theme parks and you can experience a total of nine different roller coasters between Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Some are well-suited for the youngest travelers you have in tow, and others are a bit more intense.
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Located in Magic Kingdom, The Barnstormer ranks as the most kid-friendly. In fact, it’s known as a “junior roller coaster.” The height requirements are the lowest of all Disney World roller coasters, requiring that riders be only 35 inches (89cm) tall.
The ride can be found in Fantasyland’s Storybook Circus area, and elements of the attraction were rethemed when it opened as part of the new land 2012. The new backstory is that “The Great Goofini” (a.k.a. Goofy) is performing his “world-famous aerial stunt show” and taking you along for the ride. So, you’ll hop into Goofy’s “stunt plane” and head out for a low-intensity adventure.
You can expect a smooth ride with small drops and turns, making it a great ride to introduce your kids to roller coasters. Adults can also fit in the ride vehicles, so your kids won’t have to go alone. (Though, they certainly can if they’re brave enough!)
SEVEN DWARFS MINE TRAIN
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train can also be found in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland and takes guests on a ride through the “mines” with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This is my daughter’s favorite ride! Guests board a mine train and enter an upward climb through a gemstone mine, where you’ll encounter the Seven Dwarfs singing “Heigh Ho.”
At the peak, guests head down the mountain for a ride full of twists and turns, reaching up to 34 miles per hour. Plus, what makes this ride unique is that each ride vehicle (or mine train) sways back and forth, meaning that the turns will feel a little more thrilling!
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is amazingly themed, and it’s just thrilling enough without being scary. My daughter and I think this coaster is the perfect balance. It feels like a roller coaster, but isn’t too crazy.
All in all, you don’t need to be too brave to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, as its hills aren’t as steep as many others that can be found throughout the theme parks. Because of its family-friendly features, the roller coaster is known for having long lines throughout the day. Opting to ride this attraction first thing in the morning, or just before the park closes, will likely score you the shortest wait time.
SLINKY DOG DASH
Over in Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you’ll find Slinky Dog Dash. This roller coaster is much like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, in that it’s more of an intermediate ride in terms of intensity.
The entirety of Toy Story Land is designed to make you feel like you’ve become an honorary toy, and Slinky Dog Dash fits right into that story! Guests hop into a ride vehicle designed to look just like Slinky Dog (who you’ll recognize from the Toy Story franchise), and head off for a ride on Andy’s “Mega Coaster Play Kit.”
The ride features an accelerated uphill climb, but none of the hills or turns are too steep, making this another kid-friendly option. Just be mindful that this ride tends to have some of the longest lines in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (especially during busy times), so you’ll want to prioritize riding it, whether you’re opting for the standby line or utilizing Disney Genie+ — Disney World’s paid-for option to skip the lines at several popular attractions throughout the parks.
BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN RAILROAD
If it’s more of a thrill that you’re seeking, then Magic Kingdom is one of the best places to be! Towards the back of the park in Frontierland, you’ll find Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which takes guests on a wild ride through the gold mines. This ride is oriented toward older children and adults, as it includes lots of bumps and a portion of it takes place in the dark.
Guests board a train and head straight uphill through a dark gold mine. At its peak, the train makes its way downward, featuring quick turns and even some water and sound elements that are triggered by guests waiting in line. If you’re looking for a tamer ride, you’ll want to ask a Cast Member for a seat towards the front of the train. You’ll find more of a thrill with a seat in the back.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is one roller coaster that you can find at both Disney World and Disneyland, and it’s one of the three “Disney World mountains” — Splash Mountain and Space Mountain are the other two. It’s for these reasons that the ride is considered one of the most iconic attractions in the park.
Note that this attraction closes in the case of rain or nearby lightning, so you’ll need to plan your day accordingly. Florida is known for having frequent afternoon storms, especially in the summer, so you may want to plan to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad towards the beginning or end of your park day.
Speaking of Disney World’s mountains, Space Mountain can also be found at Magic Kingdom in Tomorrowland. This is an indoor roller coaster that is well-known for its fast turns and unexpected drops.
The ride itself has two different tracks, meaning that you can have two completely different experiences depending on whether you’re directed to the right or left line. There’s not one track that is considered “better” than the other, but if you’re lucky enough to have the chance to ride both, you’ll likely form an opinion!
Space Mountain is one of the most well-known roller coasters in Disney World among fans, as a version of the ride can be found in every Disney Park, except for Shanghai Disneyland. The ride does feature some bigger drops and reaches top speeds, which actually feel faster because the entire ride is in the dark! You may want to ensure that your youngest travelers are comfortable with more intense roller coasters before giving this one a go.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: COSMIC REWIND
One of the newest roller coasters in Disney World is Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. New to EPCOT in 2022, it has quickly become a favorite among park-goers, and could be considered one of the most thrilling rides at Disney World due to its innovative technology.
Themed after Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the ride features Disney’s first-ever reverse launch and ranks as one of the largest, fully-enclosed indoor roller coasters in the world. The ride vehicles rotate a full 360 degrees so that your eye is drawn to the story elements throughout the ride. Plus, each time you ride you have the chance of getting one of six different classic songs including “September,” “Disco Inferno,” “Conga,” “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” “I Ran,” and “One Way or Another.”
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind can be found in the new World Discovery neighborhood in EPCOT, in the building that once housed Ellen’s Energy Adventure (which closed in 2017). You will want to keep in mind however, that the ride does not use a standard standby line – instead, guests must enter a virtual queue, which opens daily at 7AM and 1PM. Spots fill up quickly though, and you won’t be able to ride for free if you do not get a boarding group during these two time slots.
If you are unable to get a spot in the virtual queue, you can opt to purchase a ride on Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind through Disney’s Individual Attraction Selection service (which is part of the new Genie+ service). Just note that this will cost anywhere between $15-$20 per person depending on the date that you are visiting. Prices tend to peak over weekends and holidays.
ROCK ‘N’ ROLLER COASTER STARRING AEROSMITH
Another indoor roller coaster is Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This attraction takes guests on a high-speed “limo” ride through the dark, while jamming out to some of the band’s most iconic hits.
Much like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, guests have the chance of hearing a different Aerosmith song every time they ride. Songs include “Walk This Way,” “Sweet Emotion,” “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” and “Back in the Saddle.” Plus, the song “Love in an Elevator” was rewritten exclusively for the Disney World coaster, so guests who are lucky enough to get this song will hear “Love in a Roller Coaster,” instead of the traditional lyrics. But, the music is not even close to the most thrilling part!
The ride features a launch from 0 to 57mph, 3 inversions, 2 rollover loops, and one corkscrew. Because of all the twists and turns, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is geared towards the most daring guests.
For those big-time thrill seekers, you’ll want to head over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom where you’ll find Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. This roller coaster is themed to make you feel like you’re embarking on a hike up Mount Everest, but things go awry and riders must escape a Yeti that lives on the mountain.
During your ride on Expedition Everest, you’ll encounter an animatronic Yeti on one of the many drops, but you might not know that the Yeti is actually broken! When the attraction originally opened, the Yeti swept down towards guests, but the mechanics were continually breaking. This led Disney to pause the movement of the animatronic and utilize a fan and strobe lights to create the illusion that the Yeti is reaching for you on the ride. You may hear this referred to as “Disco Yeti” among fans.
The roller coaster itself reaches high speeds and features several large drops as you weave throughout the mountain, including a short period of time where the ride vehicle is going backward in complete darkness. Expedition Everest just might actually be one of the most thrilling rides in Disney World – you’ll have to see for yourself!
TRON LIGHTCYCLE POWER RUN
Of course, a list of Disney World roller coasters isn’t complete without mentioning the newest ride, TRON Lightcycle / Run. This amazing ride opened in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland in 2023 to critical acclaim.
The ride is copy of TRON Lightcycle Power Run, which opened in Shanghai Disneyland Park in 2016. The storyline will pick up after the events of the TRON sequel, TRON: Legacy, and will take guests on a race against Team Orange inside the digitized world that is also known as “the grid.”
TRON Lightcycle / Run is one of the fastest roller coasters at any Disney theme park in the world and features a unique ride vehicle where guests board their own Lightcycle (which is very similar to a motorcycle). The ride features a high-speed launch and a track that goes both indoors and outdoors.
Like Guardians of the Galaxy, there is currently no standby queue for TRON Lightcycle/Run. You must try to get a spot on this popular coaster via virtual queue on the My Disney Experience app at either 7am or 1pm, or you can purchase individual Lightning Lane entry for this attraction. It’s very popular, so make sure to book this experience as soon as the timing window opens!
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