The scariest rides at Disney World 2023
By Helen Wright
Walt Disney World is known for its family-friendly welcome and general happiness-inducing offerings. One of the best things about Disney theme parks around the world is that families can enjoy most of the main attractions together – exactly the way Walt Disney himself imagined it. But that doesn’t mean the thrill-seekers are left disappointed, far from it in fact. Some of the scariest rides at Disney World include lightning-speed accelerations, surprise twists and turns, sudden drops and immersive storytelling that makes you forget you’re even at a theme park at all! For adrenalin junkies looking for the fear factor, there are plenty of exciting attractions at Walt Disney World, but of all the Disney thrills, which one is the most terrifying?#AllTheDisneyThrills
What are the scariest rides at Disney World?
I recently went back to Walt Disney World without my kids for a thrill-seeking few days riding Disney’s most exciting attractions. I was lucky enough to be there for the launch of Disney’s newest ride, TRON Lightcycle/Run – a motorcycle coaster with multiple accelerations, which is now officially the fastest ride at Disney World. It goes without saying, this nimble new attraction most certainly qualifies as one of the scariest rides at Disney World, but if you’re anything like me and you LOVE the thrill of the fear, what other top attractions will get the adrenalin pumping?
Here is my pick of all the Disney thrills in 2023.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
If we’re talking about the scariest rides at Disney World, I had to start with The Tower of Terror. I mean, it’s all in the name! From the ghostly holograms, the ‘death’ defying drop(s) to the sinister theming, everything is designed to scare the Mickey outta you – and it really does.
Opening in 1994, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Park has become one of the most beloved attractions at Walt Disney World. It was one of the first rides at Walt Disney World to embrace a full immersive experience, meaning the scary ride theme begins from the moment you step throug the deliberately dusty gates. The cast members adopt a creepy persona and the staging is perfectly set to tell the story. Attractions that fully immerse you in their theme often end up being the scariest rides at Disney World, because you start to fully believe the story and then become a part of it.
For those who are terrified of heights, this really will be one of the scariest rides at Disney World! You can see the ride from across Disney’s Hollywood Studios as it ‘towers’ over the park. Inside, the maintenance elevator takes you up, yep you guessed it, 13 floors, where everything goes black. Then, a vertical drop of 130ft lifts you right out of your seat! It’s fantastic and with 21 guests in each lift car, the reactions of the other riders only add to the entertainment. There are five different drop sequences on Tower of Terror, so even if you go back for a second ride, you never really know what’s going to happen…
Height requirement: 40 inches / 102cm
TOP TIP: If you see the wait time for Tower of Terror set to ‘13’ minutes, that’s a Disney Easter egg! This means there is no wait for the attraction and you’ll be able to walk right on, turning unlucky 13 into lucky 13! You will find the same cheeky code at Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion attraction too.
Is Disney’s newest attraction one of the scariest rides at Walt Disney World?
Opening officially at Magic Kingdom in April 2023, TRON Lightcycle/Run became the fastest ride at Disney World with an alleged acceleration of 0-60 in 2.5 seconds (Disney won’t confirm the actual speed. Sneaky!). This unique coaster has motorcycle seating and really does give the feel of riding a real motorbike. Based on the original 80s film, the concept sees guests entering ‘the grid’ and being computerised in order to take on a digital enemy. Even if you don’t really get the concept, the build-up is really exciting and the queue-line cleverly weaves around the coaster launch pad, building excitement – and fear – watching that intense acceleration as you wait to board one of the scariest rides at Disney World.
Once you are on your TRON Lightcycle, a unique harness holds you on to the bike which then zooms off at thrilling speeds on an outdoor coaster 78ft above Tomorrowland and then into a dark section of the ride that dazzles with 360’ visual effects. Music plays as you ride, which really adds to the excitement.
The thrill factor here comes from the acceleration speed and the unique ride position of being on a motorbike. There are points where you feel as though you are flying through the sky. I loved it and recommend to any thrill-seeker, but it’s certainly not one for the faint hearted!
Height requirement: 48 inches / 122cm
TOP TIP: Sitting on the front row makes the ride even more exhilarating as you get the full force of the wind in your face as you ride, and a spectacular view.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
Despite being one of the scariest rides at Disney World for some, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT is still one of my favourite attractions at the parks. It’s just so much fun!
Using the unique comedy and characters from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, this coaster is a thoroughly modern attraction that combines storytelling with humour, special effects and modern engineering to create the ultimate ride. The thrills here come in the form of surprises, from cars that rotate on the track to unexpected directional elements.
This one gets your tummy and doesn’t relent as it speeds up and slows down, weaves around a real life set with digital visuals and blares a playlist of bangin’ 80s and 90s tunes in your ear while you ride. Don’t be put off by rumours that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is a spinning coaster. The ride does not spin, but the cars are not fixed on the track facing forward like on a normal coaster, so prepare for a sensation that’s a bit extra.
Height requirement: 42 inches / 107cm
GOOD TO KNOW: There are six songs in the playlist and these are randomly selected as you ride. My favourite of the tracks is September by Earth Wind and Fire and Disco Inferno by The Trammps. Tell me on Instagram what track you get!
The scariest rides at Disney World
Speaking of coasters that go backwards, this brings me neatly to one of the most underrated attractions at Walt Disney World, Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom Park. If heights are your scare factor, you might be surprised to learn that The Hollywood Tower of Terror isn’t the tallest attraction at Walt Disney World – Everest is! Standing at 199.5 ft (60.8 m), expedition Everest is 6 inches (15cm) taller than The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – but is it one of the scariest rides at Disney World?
Well, if the sudden change of direction, super-fast corners and the small factor of a territorial yeti is enough to strike the fear in you, then yes – this is definitely one of the most hairy rides at the parks (no pun intended).
Height requirement: 44 inches / 112cm
Slinky Dog Dash
Whilst some of the scariest rides at Disney are dark rides that play on the unexpected, Slinky Dog Dash is for the daring as the whole coaster can be seen from the Toy Story Land area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios Park. Technically, it’s a kids’ coaster… but that doesn’t take it out of the game when it comes to Disney thrills. Even a seasoned roller coaster rider like me loved the little surprises, the interesting track layout and the curvy drop. There were moments that got my tummy tickling, for sure. At 37cm for the minimum height requirement, it’s a great coaster for little ones who may find it a bit scary. My tall three-year-old, Finn, certainly did!
Height requirement: 38 inches / 37cm
TOP TIP: Lines for Slinky Dog Dash are often some of the longest in the park. If you plan to use a Genie+ lightning lane for the attraction, make it the first one you select when you log on at 7am. Find out more about Genie+ here
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
A big shout out to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Magic Kingdom Park, because even though it might not be the scariest ride at Disney World, it was one of the first Disney thrill rides I was able to ride, age eight, and it was definitely a screamer! Don’t go on expecting a casual choo choo train ride, this coaster is longer than average and has some excellent speedy corners and sudden drops. If you ride at the back, the pull speed really summons the adrenalin too. At 40 inches, younger kids should be able to ride and I imahine this would certainly be one of their scariest attractions – I’m a big kid and I scream every time!
Height requirement: 40 inches / 102 cm
Haunted Mansion – the scariest ride at Disney World?
Another classic attraction, Haunted Mansion opened along with Magic Kingdom itself in 1971 and remains a firm favourite for guests. Although it is a house filled with ghosts and ghouls, the jury’s out as to whether Haunted Mansion constitutes as one of the scariest rides at Disney World. For starters, it only goes 3mph. However, this is an eerie attraction that for some reason makes me a bit nervous to ride alone!
Rumour has it that guests have tried to scatter the ashes of loved ones in the Haunted Mansion in the hope they will return as a ghost (something Disney definitely does not allow, btw!), so what if it really is haunted? Then it WILL be the scariest ride at Disney World.
There are no height restrictions on the Haunted Mansion.
GOOD TO KNOW: If you love spooky thrills, have you heard of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party? This separately ticketed event takes place at Magic Kingdom after-hours and includes trick-or-treating, the Boo-to-You special parade, a unique fireworks show and access to all the attractions at the park with hardly any lines. It’s brilliant! Read about our MNSSHP experience here.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
This Hollywood Studios attraction isn’t a speeding coaster either, but the immersive theme completely transports you to the planet Batuu where you have been captured by the Resistance. Much like the Tower of Terror, the staff are committed the role, directing guests into the ride vehicles without breaking their ‘mean’ character. The ride itself is intense and for some, could easily be the scariest ride at Disney World because the chase against the resistance is very high octane and guaranteed to get your heart racing.
This attraction features state-of-the-art trackless ride vehicles that move through multiple, massive sets, complete with life-size AT-AT walkers, hologram characters, audio-animatronics and other ride effects, all with the. background soundtrack of the iconic Star Wars music. There is a small drop (I rode while six months pregnant, so there’s nothing to worry about). Unlike other attractions, it’s not the motion of the ride vehicle that creates the thrill, it’s the experience – and it’s amazing.
Height requirement: 40 inches / 102 cm
GOOD TO KNOW: Finn was tall enough to ride Rise of the Resistance, but we decided the effects, shooting and chasing scenes and ‘scary’ nature of the attraction were too grown up for a three or four year old, so we decided not to take him on.
One of the earliest thrill ride attractions to open at Walt Disney World is still as thrilling as it was in 1975 and not much has changed. Space Mountain, which is a completely dark coaster, has riders sat in a single-file line meaning you’re riding completely alone. That’s right, it’s pitch black and there is no one to cling to, making 50-year-old Space Mountain one of the scariest rides at Disney World.
Height requirement: 44 inches / 112cm
The scariest rides at Disney World: Bonus attractions
Rock and Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith
I love this super-acceleration limo rollercoaster that whizzes alomg to the tune of ‘Love is a rollercoaster’, the especially adapted song by Aerosmith. Going from 0-58mph in 4 seconds, this popular ride has a lot of thrills but is currently closed for refurbishment. Rock and Roller Coaster is due to open Summer 2023 and will retain the Aerosmith branding and theme.
Splash Mountain / Tiana’s Bayou Adventure
For the steep drops alone, this water ride deserves an honorary mention on the list of scariest rides at Disney World. That deep plunge into the water below gets me every time. I find the free fall of log flumes more frightening than most rollercoasters. Splash Mountain is now permanently closed and the attraction will be rebranded into a Princess and the Frog-themed water ride called Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. I am really looking forward to seeing how Disney have reimagined it and anticipate it will be just as tense.
Walt Disney World is clearly not short of Disney thrills, with an attraction to excite everyone. If you enjoyed our post on Disney’s scariest rides, find us on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok and tell us your favourite attraction. Did we miss any great Disney rides from our list?
We visited Walt Disney World on a hosted trip with Disney Parks UK to discover all the Disney thrills on offer at the parks. I was not paid to write this post and my opinions remain my own.
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