Home » The 8 Iconic Disney Rides That Blow Guests’ Minds Every Time

The 8 Iconic Disney Rides That Blow Guests’ Minds Every Time

Many theme park tourists are under the misguided perception that Disney rides aren’t exciting enough. I must confess that I once held this notion myself. Millennium Force at Cedar Point is my One True Coaster, and I (unfairly) judge all other adrenaline rush attractions. For years, I favored Cedar Point vacations for this reason right up until the moment that I fell in love with Disney…permanently. As one of you thrill seekers, I feel qualified to speak on ways that the Mouse House will surprise you. Here are several spectacular thrill rides at Disney theme parks.

Avatar Flight of Passage

Image: DisneyDisney shuns the term “virtual reality,” instead preferring “augmented reality.” It’s an argument of semantics, really, but Imagineers certainly aren’t afraid to play in the VR sandbox. Avatar Flight of Passage is the anchor attraction for Pandora – The World of Avatar, the proverbial E-Ticket ride. It’s a breathtaking exploration of the imaginary realm created by James Cameron.

Avatar Flight of Passage sweeps guests away on a realistic adventure through three dimensions. You’ll ascend into the clouds and then plunge to the ground at an alarming rate, all the while forgetting that none of what you’re experiencing is real. In actuality, you’re on a modified stationary motorcycle that bounces you when appropriate. It’s every bit the immersive escapism that Avatar the movie is, only you don’t have to sit through three hours of dialogue to get to the good stuff.

Expedition Everest

Image: DisneyWhat goes up must come down. Everyone knows this, but only the brilliant Imagineers who design Disney rides have realized the flaw with the maxim. Nobody ever said exactly how that thing will come down.

In the case of Expedition Everest, you reach a summit of a mountain, only to feel the tight grip of fear as you grow aware that the train tracks are shattered. You’re going to go down that hill, come Yeti or high water. What you can’t possibly expect is that the person operating your vehicle thinks it’s a great idea to shoot you backward into darkness at 50 miles per hour. One of the recurring themes of Disney thrill rides is that they don’t need to set any land-speed records for height or velocity. Their excitement stems from creativity and novelty. No ride on this list exemplifies it more than Expedition Everest.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!

Image: Disney

The decision to reboot Twilight Zone Tower of Terror as a comic book attraction proved divisive to many. When the doors finally opened for the debut of the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction, Disney had the last laugh. Their decision seems brilliant in hindsight.

Mission: BREAKOUT! is exactly the attraction that Disney California Adventure needed. The park is currently in transition as it evolves into a half-Pixar, half-Marvel experience. While they’ve done well on the Pixar part, Guardians of the Galaxy was the first Marvel ride, and it needed to be terrific. It is.

The central conceit of Guardians of the Galaxy is that the titular heroes are terrible at their job. They screw up a lot and fight with each other as much as the bad guys. Somehow, they get results, though. And the bouncing elevator ride mechanic plays up this premise as each “floor” is another scene created expressly for the attraction.

You’re watching Star-Lord, Gamora, and their friends battle some sort of inter-dimensional goo monster. The fight…isn’t going well. In watching them try to save the day, you’re a voyeur experiencing a comic book movie mise-en-scene in an unprecedented way.

The rock music soundtrack adds to the immersive nature since Peter Quill’s soundtrack is functionally an extra character in the films. You’re bouncing to the music as the ride bounces up and down in the elevator shaft. While most parks have standard drop-tower rides, Disney has elevated the concept to its logical extreme thanks to style, substance, and ride structure.

The Incredicoaster

Image: DisneyCalifornia Screamin’ was a hallmark achievement in coaster design. Then, Disney rebooted the concept with a special touch, Pixar theming done right. Now, the dark tunnels have a purpose beyond keeping sunlight out of the eyes of coaster riders. They also tell a story.

That story involves Jack-Jack, the baby of the Parr family. He’s the youngest of the Incredibles and also the most powerful. In fact, he has roughly 20 superpowers…and his natural skills make him difficult to babysit. The Incredicoaster functions as one giant chase scene as a bunch of emotionally invested family members use their own powers to try to stop a baby who thinks he’s playing a game.

Of course, you don’t need to care about any of this to get a rush from the Incredicoaster. The structure of California Screamin’ is still there, which means that it’s in the discussion for best overall coaster in California before we factor in the theming. When we include the Parr family, it becomes a seminal masterpiece of Disney Imagineering, the perfect combination of thrill ride and storytelling adventure.

Indiana Jones Adventure

Image: DisneyI feel like Indiana Jones Adventure is a ride that Walt Disney would admire. He loved telling stories in new and exciting ways. He’d frequently have his team of Imagineers invent new ride technologies so that they could the most immersive storytelling environment possible. Uncle Walt and his team set up rides the same that they’d always done movies. They created giant set pieces. The challenge was moving guests from spot to spot.

For Indiana Jones Adventure, Imagineers literally created a new ride cart to tell the story perfectly. You’re a tourist in a temple that Indiana Jones previously discovered. Alas, the place is cursed, and you’re clearly unwelcome here. Dr. Jones isn’t much help, either, as he’s got his own problems in the temple.

So, you cross shaky bridges to reach the next scary room, all the while wondering if the curse will claim another victim, you. The best part of this thrill ride is that you’re basically riding a Jeep yet you feel wholly out of control and in peril. It’s another example that sensory/psychological manipulation is one of the greatest theme park thrills.

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

Image: DisneyA word of warning for first-time riders: When the cast member warns you to press your head back against the headrest, take them seriously. In the days before Elon Musk invented Ludicrous Mode on a Tesla, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster set the standard in lightning fast acceleration.

On this coaster, you’ll go from a full stop to 57 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds. Should you ignore that warning about the head rest, you’ll quickly discover the danger. Your body is slow to react to such quickly changing circumstances. Your head will fly backward, giving you a huge thump on the noggin.

Assuming that you follow the suggestion, you’ll have a blast on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Aerosmith has many classic hits, but Disney did a wonderful job in picking the perfect ones to accentuate the ride. I particularly like the medley of several hits. You can aim for this combo by getting in the car with the BUHBYE license plate. It’s that special touch that maximizes the glory of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

Slinky Dog Dash

Image: DisneyYou’ll notice that four of the attractions listed here are new-ish, although two of them are re-skins of existing attractions. The recent prioritization of adrenaline rush attractions isn’t a coincidence. Disney park planners are sensitive to the complaints of customers and casual observers alike. They are aggressive in addressing all criticisms. And their latest one subverts expectations on how a roller coaster should work.

Slinky Dog Dash is kind of a dicey inclusion for this list, but I feel it meets the core criteria. No, it’s not the fastest or most intense roller coaster. It’s closer to the Barnstormer, if I’m being honest. It deserves a spot here because it is brilliant in structure.

Slinky Dog Dash mimics a slinky toy in the way it stretches and contracts, adding an inimitable ride sensation to the experience. And it uses bunny hops better than any coaster in recent memory. In combination with the genius spot of stopping and starting the ride in the middle, Slinky Dog Dash is the best thrill ride possible for kids.

Space Mountain

Image: DisneyCome on, you’d send me an email full of swears if I excluded this one. No, Space Mountain isn’t the freshest roller coaster on the planet. Who cares? It’s THE most famous coaster in the world, and it might be the most famous attraction overall. It didn’t earn that status by accident. To the contrary, it’s faced 40 years of imitators and still towered above the rest of the industry.

Space Mountain is quietly one of the slowest roller coasters you’ll ever ride, maxing at 32 miles per hour. You’ll never know this, however, because Imagineers understand the psychology of ride mechanics. A bit of sensory deprivation with the occasional lighting effect is more than enough to turn a slower coaster into the truest icon in the industry.