Home » The Best Rides at Walt Disney World: What You Got Right and What You Got Very Wrong

The Best Rides at Walt Disney World: What You Got Right and What You Got Very Wrong

From time to time, the staff at Theme Park Tourist takes the opportunity to check the leaderboards. You may not realize it, but you, the reader, enjoy the opportunity to vote on all your favorite attractions on our site. The votes get tallied automatically, with the leaderboard updating to reflect any changes in results. While a few votes here or there won’t disrupt the results much, it’s a fun thing to check on occasion to see where our readers stand on the best of the best.

The problem with a popular vote is that sometimes people get it wrong, though. So, let’s take this opportunity to inject some opinion into the TPT rankings. Today, we’ll focus on the top 10 Walt Disney World attractions as chosen by you all. Here’s a list of everything you got right plus a few things that you got horribly wrong.

10. Test Track (TPT Ranking: #72 overall)

Wow, you folks are tough graders. Test Track is AT WORST the third best thrill ride at Walt Disney World. The other two options both finish waaaaay ahead of it when we tabulate your votes. That’s crazy talk to me.

Test Track provides guests with the option to build a simulated car that the attraction grades against other daily/weekly designs. That gives it a competitive element that’s borderline unprecedented for roller coasters. Plus, the ride experience is dazzling. I love the interior/exterior elements of Test Track in isolation, but they’re that much better in combination. That moment when you exit the dark and blast into daylight is inimitable. Test Track is my favorite thrill ride at Walt Disney World and only slots behind Millennium Force out of everything in the world. Please do me a favor and head over to stuff the ballot box to boost its rating! 3.8 out of 5 just isn’t an accurate reflection of the majesty of Test Track.

9. Carousel of Progress (TPT Ranking: #71 overall)

This is one of the two most difficult attractions to grade out of your current top ten selections. As a Disney historian and superfan of Walt Disney himself, I’m thrilled to see that one of the Pavilions he constructed for the 1964 New York World’s Fair remains beloved to this day. On the other hand, I’m well aware of its limitations. Clever attraction construction notwithstanding, this timeless celebration of American innovations is clearly a product of the 1960s. Is it outdated or is it a classic? I firmly fall into the latter category and am thrilled to see that a lot of Theme Park Tourist readers agree with me. Way to show respect for theme park history, my friends!

8. Mickey’s PhilharMagic (TPT Ranking: #70 overall)

And this is the other attraction that’s difficult to grade. Disney’s robust storytelling structure is the unintentional source of these debates. How does a voter compare what’s effectively a 3D movie (4D if we count props) to a dark ride or roller coaster? I’m not sure that there’s a good answer to this question, and that’s why I choose to take a basic approach here. Every time I exit Mickey’s PhilharMagic, noticing Donald Duck’s posterior protruding from the wall, I’m smiling. The entire point of a theme park visit is to have a great time. This movie celebrates all things Disney in a novel, engaging way. So, I’m with you all on this one.

7. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (TPT Ranking: #66 overall)

As much as I love the combination of this modest roller coaster followed by a trip down the mountain you have in fifth place, I’m not with you on this one at all. Too many great rides exist at Walt Disney World for something as ordinary as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to rank this high. In fact, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train does the same thing much better. Why it’s unlisted is a mystery to me. Even though it’s undeniably a classic that I’ve loved since my youth, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is only the second best Disney attraction out of the two in its area of the park. It certainly doesn’t merit placement this high against so many superior options.

6. Space Mountain (TPT Ranking: #63 overall)

Your voting reveals a real gap in how you perceive the top five attractions at Walt Disney World as opposed to the next five. A 30-spot gap exists between Space Mountain and the next attraction. So, you’re basically saying that you like everything thus far, but everything that comes after it is far superior.

Space Mountain’s placement seems about right to me. As the first ride of its kind, it would merit placement for its legacy. Due to its status in pop culture, it also earns a spot on the list. The reason why it’s not higher is also understandable. We’re talking about a thrill ride that’s more than 40 years old, and it only goes 28 MPH. With those limitations and a constant stream of imitators that have implemented the concept better over the years, Space Mountain is important more than it’s fantastic.

5) Splash Mountain (TPT Ranking: #33 overall)

You clearly love the top five Walt Disney World attractions. I also agree with you on 60 percent of them. Splash Mountain is one of three where I’m with you. Honestly, who couldn’t love this ride? It’s got everything that exemplifies the Disney theme park brand.  It’s long, entertaining, musical, thematic, and whimsical. The fact that Imagineers managed this feat by using a controversial movie is all the more impressive. And that splashdown at the end is so satisfying after multiple fakes in the minutes leading up to the water landing. Everything about Splash Mountain is great, and my only gripe about your voting is that it’s not ranked higher.

4. Haunted Mansion (TPT Ranking: #27 overall)

The top ten as voted on by you reflects a nice mix of “new-ish” Disney attractions plus some of the oldest ones. From the old guard, Haunted Mansion stands as the granddaddy of them all. While it wasn’t an original Disneyland attraction, it still pre-dates Walt Disney World and thereby everything else on this list save for Carousel of Progress..and the one from the World’s Fair didn’t arrive at Magic Kingdom until 1975. Haunted Mansion is the only ride listed here that was available to the public on the opening day of Walt Disney World. That makes its presence on this list an imperative.

The only issue is one of placement. Personally, I’d rank it second overall, and I’ll go ahead and spoil you that my favorite attraction is also yours. So, we agree on that one but not the other two attractions I’ve yet to discuss. Haunted Mansion should go ahead of them for several reasons. It’s more iconic, it’s more engaging, and it’s simply better. No visit to Magic Kingdom would be complete without at least one trip on a Doom Buggy into Master Gracey’s abandoned abode. Forget what I said above. THIS is the attraction that is in most desperate need of some ballot stuffing.

3. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (TPT Ranking: #27 overall)

As you can see, a huge gap exists between my favorite of the three major adrenaline junkie rides at Walt Disney World, Test Track, and the other two. You have Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster almost 50 spots ahead, which is strange to me, even as a huge fan of Aerosmith as a band.

Theme Park Tourist voters clearly love this ride for being the best pure roller coaster at Walt Disney World since Space Mountain. That’s valid. For my part, I’ve forgotten to hold my head back against the chair one too many times. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is the attraction that’s most likely to give me a splitting headache at Disney. Also, since I’m fairly tall, I don’t fit comfortably in the seats. This one’s less a thrill for me and more an endurance test. It joins Carousel of Progress in being a ride that wouldn’t make my top ten at Walt Disney World.

2. Expedition Everest (TPT Ranking: #7 overall)

Okay, here’s another spot where I’m not with you. The consensus opinion of our readers is that Expedition Everest is a five-star ride. On that point, we agree. The point of contention is that you folks have selected only 13 attractions as worthy of that honor out of all rides in the industry. Shockingly, only two of them are at Walt Disney World. That’s where you lose me.

Expedition Everest is an adrenaline junkie’s dream come true. After a seemingly impossible upward climb, you suddenly see broken tracks in front of you, a disturbing sign that you’re not alone at the top of the world. It sets the stage for high velocity mountain chase as you seek to avoid an apparently not-fictional Yeti.  As you attempt to escape from the monster, the ride becomes a 50 MPH descent down the mountain…and you’re going backwards in the dark.

Expedition Everest is a wonderful example that the highest speed or most air-time isn’t what makes a thrill ride great. It’s the sensations and tactile experiences. It’s a wonderful achievement in ride structure and design. I just don’t think that it’s the second best thing at Walt Disney World. It wouldn’t even make my top five. As I mentioned above, I prefer Test Track, your least favorite of the three major thrill rides on Disney’s Orlando campus.

1. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (TPT Ranking: #1 overall)

Image: Disney

When you’re right, you’re right. And Theme Park Tourist voters are absolutely correct about the best attraction at Walt Disney World. Sadly, this one’s no longer available at Disney’s other North American Park, Disneyland Resort. The knowledge that the Hollywood Studios version of the attraction was also in jeopardy caused a spike in its popularity.

You maintained that enthusiasm over time, which explains why Tower of Terror isn’t just the highest rated attraction with a five-star average. Our loyal (thoughtful, kind, and attractive) Theme Park Tourist readers have also voted for it almost 200 more times than anything else in the top 100. So, this ride isn’t just the highest graded. It’s also the one with largest volume of grades, indicating a clear and emphatic opinion about what’s the best of the best at Walt Disney World.

Image: Disney

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror features a brilliant ride design, one that honors Walt Disney by plussing an existing amusement park ride structure, the drop tower, with a healthy dose of Disney magic. The outcome is an impeccably themed attraction that delights fans on first blush. Then, each additional bumpy elevator shaft fall (and rise) comes with a new set of surprises. You never quite know what to expect from any visit to the Hollywood Tower Hotel, but as you approach the facility, the joyous screams of thrilled theme park tourists strongly hint at what’s in store for you. While all of the selections listed here are worthy of your adoration and praise, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror’s is Disney’s perfect attraction.

Now that you know the top ten Walt Disney World attractions as voted via the consensus of Theme Park Tourist readers, let’s take a moment to discuss notable exclusions. You’ve currently listed five other Walt Disney World attractions on the top 100. Those are Jungle Cruise (#79), Peter Pan’s Flight (#79), Pirates of the Caribbean (#90), Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin (#91), and Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor (#97).

While I’m glad to see some much deserved credit go to the Monsters, Inc. comedy show, a highlight of any Magic Kingdom park visit, a lot of this is troubling. Jungle Cruise deserves higher placement than #76, as does Pirates of the Caribbean. These are two staples of a Disney visit that you’ve clearly started taking for granted.

Peter Pan’s Flight is hit or miss to many. I personally wouldn’t list it since the wait is approximately 30 times as long as the ride. That’s just not good bang for the line queue buck. You also didn’t vote for my favorite Walt Disney World attraction, Spaceship Earth, but I accept that I’m tilting at windmills there. I love the way that Imagineers have helped history come alive. I understand it’s a disappointing usage of space to a lot of theme park fans, though.

As for Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, that one’s fun as far as competitive rides go but dude! How do you have that ranked while leaving Toy Story: Midway Mania! off the list? That’s like picking a Rolling Stones cover band over the actual Rolling Stones. A couple of other unheralded attractions I’d to see get some love are Living with the Land, a spectacular demonstration of mankind’s ingenuity in combatting the world’s hunger/nutrition problems, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends, a simple but effective celebration of a wonderful movie. Kilimanjaro Safaris and Dinosaur also deserve more support. I can understand all of those, though.

Where you really lose me is by excluding Soarin’ and Frozen Ever After. Those are open acts of rebellion. I understand if you preferred the old version of Soarin’ and were a fan of Maelstrom, but Walt Disney World is a place of constant change. The new attractions deserve a chance, and both of these recent offerings are masterpieces. They merit a place not just on the list of top ten Disney attractions but one high on the chart!

Okay, I’ve said my peace. Now is the time when you get to judge me. Where do you agree and disagree with me on the rankings? Remember that you can always head over to the TPT100 section to weigh in with your own ballot!