The best roller coaster in Orlando 2023
By Helen Wright
If you are a massive roller coaster fan (like me), of course you will love Orlando. Probably the most fun destination on the planet, there is so much to see and do and, of course, ride! With so many new Orlando roller coasters and attractions opening over the last few years, we thought it was time to revisit this list and decide which is the best roller coaster in Orlando to ride in 2023.
For a lot of people, theme park fun has been on hold for a while, so 2023 is the year to get back ‘on track’ with the really good rides. So hold on tight, as we look at the 11 best roller coasters to ride in Orlando this year:
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So, what is the best Orlando roller coaster in 2023?
There might be some surprises below here, but remember there is more to a good coaster than speed. You will see some slower, yet inspired, coasters have also made our hot list. So even if you don’t meet the upper height requirement, you might still be able to get in on the action. Often, some of the least wild rides end up becoming your favourite rides in Orlando.
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Our shortlist for the best roller coaster in Orlando:
1. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (Universal Orlando)
Okay, so my favourite Orlando roller coaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure *used* to be Dragon Challenge or, for the really old school, ‘Duelling Dragons’. I’m sad to say, this ride is now a distant memory for theme park nerds like me, since it was closed and dismantled in 2017. However, this was all to make room for an extension to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and we have to admit the result was pretty awesome.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike adventure is not like any coaster I have ever ridden before. The unique ride vehicles are designed as a motorbike and sidecar, exactly like Hagrid drives in the movies. This means you can have two different experiences on the coaster (if you get a chance to ride twice). As well as tummy-twisting accelerations, speeding turns and many surprises along the way, the attraction is also designed with a clumsy ‘Hagrid’ comedy about it too and it’s absolutely brilliant. Are you laughing or screaming? Probably both! That’s the beauty of Hagrid’s. And, talking of beauty, the pace of the coaster means you can truly appreciate the wonderful landscape and theming around the ride, especially as you speed through one of the gate arches to Hogwarts Castle. The view at night is especially stunning. 100% one of the best roller coasters in Orlando and anywhere else for that matter.
TOP TIP: Hagrid’s Magical Motorbike Adventure is one of the most popular roller coasters in Orlando and this is reflected in the consistently long line. It’s rare to see the queue time for Hagrid’s fall below 65 minutes and you cannot currently use Universal Express passes for this attraction. However, there are ways to reduce your waiting time. Staying at a Universal Orlando Resort hotel means you can enjoy Early Park Admission an hour before the regular gates open, which gives you a head start to race to the attraction and join the standby line. Hagrid’s is not always open very first thing, but you will be able to get as close as possible to the ride and be ready when the line does open (this is called ‘rope drop’). We did just this and waited just 20 minutes to ride. After we exited, the queue time was already 60 minutes.
There is also a single rider line for Hagrid’s. This means you can wait in a shorter queue, but you have to fill empty seats on the attraction (eg: this is usually when there is a party of 3 or 5 in the standby line, creating an odd number), so it is unlikely you will get to ride alongside someone in your party. The other downside using the single rider line on Hagrid’s is that 99% of time you will ride in the side car. In my experience, there is very little difference between the two seat styles, but if you are excited to try the motorbike seat you will probably have to join the regular line. I used the single rider line on Hagrid’s and waited 45 minutes instead of 125 minutes.
My last tip for waiting less time to ride Hagrid’s is to keep and eye on the Official Universal Orlando App. This will show you wait times for all the attractions as well as when the rides have broken down or been closed for technical difficulties. If you happen to see Hagrid’s is down, keep a very close eye on the app (or even head in the direction of the attraction). When a ride has been closed for an hour or more, the majority of people have left the line, meaning when it does reopen, this is the ideal time to make your move. I did just this and waited for 50 minutes (this was in high season when the regular line had been 220 minutes all day).
Find out more about the best tickets for Universal Orlando in our dedicated guide to theme park tickets post.
2.Jurassic World VelociCoaster (Universal’s Islands of Adventure)
This one is a beast. And we love it! Universal Orlando’s Jurassic World VelociCoaster opened last summer 2021 and this apex predator of attractions is now Florida’s fastest, tallest and most intense launch coaster, catapulting riders into the air at 70mph. The menacing black track dominates Universal’s Islands of Adventure and the resort’s newest and biggest rollercoaster can be seen from almost everywhere in the park – creating anticipation and excitement from the moment you arrive.
The first thing to catch your eye as you pass through the Port of Entry is the 47-metre high ‘top hat’, the tipping point of the VelociCoaster, which has an 80-degree drop toward the lake below… This is followed by a truly wild and manic race through 360-degree inversions, stop starts and a dynamic inverted stall that spans more than 30 metres of track. In laymen terms, expect to rotate 360 degrees in your seat as your body literally spins around your heart. Pretty wild, hey?
The heart-racing result is to conclude that the Jurassic Park VelociCoaster may not be just the best roller coaster in Orlando, but maybe the best coaster in the world. The ride may be frantic, but also manages to be amazingly smooth. In terms of state-of-the-art design, incredible theming and the sheer excitement of riding it, this certainly comes close the perfect roller coaster and has shot right to the top of my all-time favourite attractions in Florida.
TOP TIP: With the VelociCoaster being Universal Orlando’s show-stopping new ride opening, it goes without saying that lines will be long. Like Hagrid’s, Universal Express is not valid on this attraction, so the best way to take advantage is to utilise Early Park Admission if you are staying at a Universal Orlando Resort hotel.
However, there is a Single Rider line for this attraction and it is more than worth using it. This ride is manic and unrelenting. If you are anything like me, you won’t even be able to make sense of your own brain when you step off this coaster, so riding alongside someone you know won’t change the experience. You’re mentally on your own for this one and that makes it even more amazing. Good luck!
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Continue reading: What is the best roller coaster in Orlando?
3. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (EPCOT at Walt Disney World)
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is the first Marvel-themed roller coaster to open at Walt Disney World and currently the newest rollercoaster in Orlando (official opened May 27th 2022). This super slick roller coaster is so much fun, super smooth and a lot of fun.
Like Hagrids at Universal, the design includes a comedy element (implementing that Guardians-style banter) and I am loving the new trend for rollercoasters which offer thrills alongside some tongue-in-cheek humour. This smooth, modern coaster is known as an ‘OmniCoaster ride system’, which means cars actually spin 360 degrees on the tracks as the train moves at top speeds of over 50mph. Not only that, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is the first reverse launch coaster ever to open at Walt Disney World (this means you will be going backwards at some point, so watch out!)
The entire attraction design is so cool. The queue line and pre-show is engaging, exciting and fun, featuring appearances from the Guardians (including Star Lord, Gamora and Irani Rael). During the ride, huge projections stimulate your journey through the universe and a ‘mix tape’ of 80s and 90s songs play in your car. The playlist is random, so you never know what song you’re going to get on your ride, but includes six classic tracks; September (Earth, Wind and Fire), Disco Inferno (The Trammps), Conga (Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine), Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears), I Ran (A Flock Of Seagulls), and One Way or Another (Blondie).
The music, coupled with the fun elements and the feel-good music makes this coaster stand out from the rest. There are a few surprises in there too! Since this coaster is so new, the jury is out on whether this will become the best roller coaster in Orlando, but with the G-force of Disney and Marvel behind it, in terms of popularity we already know it will go into the stratosphere. To ride Guardians of the Galaxy, there is a virtual queue accessible through the My Disney Experience app (the official Walt Disney World app). Or you can purchase an individual Lightning Lane pass to skip the line.
DID YOU KNOW: Staying at a Disney Resort Hotel means you can join the virtual queue before non-hotel guests?
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4. MAKO (SeaWorld)
Often people are surprised about this, but SeaWorld is home to some of the best roller coasters in Orlando. This ‘hyper coaster’ opened at the park in 2016 and I was lucky enough to be there for opening day. Read my review here. The idea behind this coaster is to make the rider feel as though they are gliding through the water like a Mako shark. With the ups and downs and left and rights, it really does feel like this! And, yes. it is VERY high. The super smooth coaster is also specifically designed to lift you out of your seat (known as air time), so at some points along the 1450m track you are literally flying! SeaWorld is also home to the roller coasters Manta and Kraken (which used to be my favourite), and the cool Infinity Falls water ride, so if you are searching for the best roller coaster in Orlando, don’t miss this underrated thrill ride theme park!
NEW FOR 2022: SeaWorld’s brand new coaster, Ice Breaker, has just opened at the park and looks to be a certain addition to this list. Want to know more about what is new and happenin’ in 2022? We have a designated post with all the new Orlando theme park updates.
5. Slinky Dog Dash (Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World)
If statistics for the new Disney Genie+ are anything to go by, if Slinky Dog Dash isn’t the best roller coaster in Orlando, it’s certainly one of the most popular! This fun and colourful roller coaster is one of Disney’s busiest attractions and the first to run out of Genie+ slots every day.
The charm of this cute coaster is that Toy Story appeals to everyone, young and old. Plus, with a 38-inch height requirement, almost everyone in the family can ride if they want to. My tall three-year-old, Finn, rode Slinky Dog Dash and despite the grimace, he did enjoy it (but didn’t want to go on a second time, bless him). Slinky Dog does not go upside down but it does have a steep drop, stop and start elements and speeds of 40mph, so is wild enough to warrant its popularity and place on this list. With cheerful Toy Story music and a singing penguin at the end, this tame (ish) coaster is pure fun. And that’s what Disney is all about, after all.
TOP TIP: Like at Universal Orlando, guests staying at a Walt Disney World Disney Resort hotel, can take advantage of Early Theme Park Entry (half hour before regular guests) and make their way straight to the standby line for Slinky Dog to get ahead of the crowds. Disney Resort Hotel guests can also book Genie+ slots from 7am on the day of entry, but guests staying at non-Disney accommodation can only activate Genie+ once the park opens for the day.
Finally, if you’re staying at a Disney Deluxe Resort, guests are granted the great perk of Extended Evening hours (usually two hours after the parks close). This is probably the best way to enjoy Slinky Dog Dash without a 2hr wait, but it’s not always suitable for younger children due to the parks closing so late (10pm in peak times).
Is it worth staying on-site at a theme park hotel? We investigate.
6. Rock’n’Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
For a very long time, this was my favourite roller coaster in Orlando by a mile (excuse the pun). This speeding limousine-coaster blares Aerosmith tunes at you while accelerating from 0 to 57 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds…eeek! According to word on the Internet, each car plays different songs but I swear I only remember ‘Love in an elevator’ (re-recorded brilliantly as ‘Love on a rollercoaster’). Although, it’s hard to think clearly when you’re zooming around in the pitch black, music drowning out your screams and secretly wondering if you left any of your small intestine back before the traffic lights turned green. This coaster has everything you could possibly want from a white-knuckle ride – speed, excitement and the urgency to ride again and again. Who knows what they will come up with next, but it will be very hard to top this thrilling one minute and 22 seconds. Happy riding!
Insider info? The Rock and Roller Coaster at Disneyland Paris is being transformed into a Marvel Iron Man themed attraction. Could this be the same plan for Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando?
7. THE INCREDIBLE HULK Roller COASTER (Universal’s Islands of Adventure)
The Jurassic Park VelociCoaster dominates the lake view but at the front of the park, The Incredible Hulk Coaster is fresh from a slick new revamp and remains one of our all-time favourites. Prior to its redesign in 2016, this Orlando roller coaster was a bit of a bone rattler, but the new and improved Hulk is a smooth, state of the art mega coaster and I LOVE it. From the ‘surprise’ acceleration blast off to the seven inversions (including a zero-g roll, a cobra roll, two vertical loops, and two corkscrews for the real rollercoaster fans), plus brilliant views of the park, this coaster is totally brilliant. Some might say, a marvel…
Fan of Marvel Superhero Island? See how many questions you can answer on our super Marvel quiz!
8. HARRY POTTER AND THE ESCAPE FROM GRINGOTTS (Universal Studios)
This ride forms part of the excellent Diagon Alley area of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The mega popular Harry Potter world saw an expansion from Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure over to the original Universal Studios park, accessed by the Hogwarts Express train attraction (also a great addition).
Not a traditional coaster, so speed isn’t the USP, but this is new wave of ultra modern coaster uses video imagery and holograms along with a few surprise drops and spins to spectacular effect. I’m not sure I was quite ready for the twisting, turning, twizzling 4D adventure and was so overwhelmed by the experience I had to ride again almost instantly to take it all in (thank heavens for the single rider line). This coaster is the ultimate in sophistication that theme park fanatics have now come to expect from the major parks. Dips, dives, backward tracks, 3D animation, A-list stars and plenty of scream-tastic moments. This is an experience and a ride rolled into one.
9. Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom)
Probably Disney’s most famous rollercoaster worldwide, there is a version in all six Disney Resorts around the world, but the one at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was the original. Opening in 1975, this veteran coaster is now the oldest active roller coaster in Florida. However, age is just a number and this white-knuckle roller coaster star has certainly not lost its sparkle over the years.
Space Mountain is a classic roller coaster with a great theme – launching you into space – that zooms around in a disorientating dark area surrounded by ‘shooting stars’ and flashing lights, which only adds to the excitement. It travels at a top speed of 44mph, but feels much faster due to the narrow track and slim ride vehicles. Riders sit in single-file formation, so there is no one to hold your hand! Space Mountain holds such a special place in people’s hearts, despite faster and more frenzied rides on offer, this is often the best roller coaster in Orlando for many people, as well as being a Disney cult classic attraction.
10. Revenge of The Mummy (Universal Studios)
Another longstanding and underrated roller coaster in Orlando is Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios. I absolutely love this coaster, which has an old-school ghost train vibe and chunky ride vehicles that make for a totally different roller coaster experience. Based on the Brendan Fraser version of The Mummy, this ride opened way back in 2004, but hasn’t aged a day in terms of enjoyment. It was one of the first attractions to feature a stop/start element, an elevator drop and a reverse launch, making it a very ground-breaking roller coaster in Orlando that should not be missed. It also has a fun, comedy element too and is one of the most surprising rides at any of the theme parks. Essentially, Revenge of the Mummy walked so Hagrid’s could run, and we bow to your greatness my Egyptian friend.
TOP TIP: The other great thing about Revenge of the Mummy is that the attraction is cleverly designed to load four large ride vehicles at once, meaning the line moves really quickly. And that is always something to celebrate!
11. Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Slinky Dog Dash may be in the spotlight at Hollywood Studios, but Walt Disney World has another terrific and underrated rollercoaster over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. What starts as a traditional coaster train soon goes ‘off the rails’ with a shock twist and surprises further down the track. As you ascend up to the peak of Everest, enjoy panoramic views of Animal Kingdom, which is a beautiful park, but don’t get too comfy – you’re in for a wild ride back down.
Curiously, lines for Expedition Everest vary quite dramatically. Sometimes it’s practically calling you on to ride with a 20 min wait and sometimes it’s the longest line in the park! Definitely one to watch on the official My Disney Experience app to take advantage of the unpredictable wait times. And certainly worthy of this round up of the best Orlando rollercoasters to ride in 2022.
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