"'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." We're not certain Disney fans agree, as many still long for the lost dark rides we've collected on this list. While dark rides have been around for a century or more, it's often Walt Disney's innovations and installations that are the most well-known and celebrated. It is, after all, Disney's Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, "it's a small world," and Indiana Jones Adventure that continue to re-define what a dark ride is and what it can do.
Like all attractions, dark rides can't last forever. Here we've collected eleven of the most well-loved, defended, and celebrated dark rides on Earth that you can't ride anymore. A tragic loss, for sure, but do you have any memories of these fantastic and unforgettable attractions? Tell us all about it in the comments.
1. Adventure Thru Inner Space
Location: Disneyland ParkOpened: August 5, 1967Closed: September 2, 1985
Disney’s first foray into the ever-trusted Omnimover ride system (and predating its fabled use in the Haunted Mansion), Adventure Thru Inner Space is perhaps the least well known of the classic dark rides on our list. But to those who recall it, it's incredibly well-loved. The attraction opened in 1967 as part of Disneyland’s New Tomorrowland, introduced alongside Carousel of Progress, Circle-Vision, Flight to the Moon, and the Peoplemover. The sleek, silver, Space Age land was a triumph, and Adventure Thru Inner Space was its headlining ride.
Aboard Atommobiles, riders were scooted into the Monsanto Mighty Microscope and miniaturized right before the eyes of queuing guests, disappearing into infinitesimally small dots. On board, riders “passed beyond the limits of normal magnification” (as dramatically narrated by Paul Frees, who also provided the voice for Haunted Mansion’s Ghost Host). The retro ride whisked guests through the crystals of a snowflake, then down to the level of an atom with its electrons orbiting riders, and into the very nucleus itself!
What Happened: If the photograph of the model of the ride’s Microscope-dominated queue and loading platform above looks familiar, there’s a reason: The ride closed in 1985 to become Disneyland’s Star Tours, which re-used the queue. The docked Starspeeder is placed right where the Mighty Mightscope was formerly anchored, and the magnified snowflake is now a giant starport departures board! Because Star Tour’s four motion simulating pods take up a lot less space than the former resident, the rest of the showbuilding became the Starspeeder security checkpoint and the Star Traders gift shop. Even though future Star Tours installations weren’t working off of Inner Space’s queue infrastructure, they still recreated the familiar curving path in Orlando, Tokyo, and Paris. In that sense, the foundation of Inner Space now stands on three separate continents!
Read the in-depth Lost Legends: Adventure Thru Inner Space feature for the full story!
Location: EpcotOpened: October 1, 1983Closed: January 9, 1999
When Epcot opened in 1982, it represented a departure from Disney’s fantastical and immersive lands of fantasy. Instead, it was intended to be a permanent World’s Fair, filled with pavilions that each focused on a single topic. For most of its life, the topical concept was clear: one pavilion for the oceans, one for land, one for transportation; communication; innovation; energy. One pavilion, though, was designed as Epcot’s “thesis statement,” purposefully combining the topics into one narrative on how they, together, affect our future...
Horizons opened on October 1, 1983 (the park’s one year anniversary). Said by Imagineers to be a sequel to the Carousel of Progress, Horizons was an Omnimover dark ride through progress itself. It began in the era of Jules Verne and his retro-futuristic novels, then moved through impressions of the future and envisioned in the 1950s. The ride then passed before massive, cutting edge OMNIMAX domed screens and into the core of the attraction: astonishing dark ride scenes depicting the future of man’s interactions with cities, deserts, the oceans, and space.
Most innovatively, guests were then able to use buttons in the ride vehicle to select their return trip to the loading dock, where screens in each vehicle would show them the future of space colonization, arid zone agriculture, or life in an undersea research station.
What Happened: The ride was closed in 1994, re-opening the following year to fill the gap caused by the park’s two major rides both being closed for refurbishment. It took five years for Horizons to close for good. The building was entirely demolished and Mission: SPACE was built in its place. While it’s gone for good, many Disney fans and Epcot fans cling to the notion of Horizons and celebrate it as one of the triumphs of Disney Imagineering.
Read the in-depth Lost Legends: Horizons feature for the full story!
3. Snow White’s Scary Adventures
Location: Magic KingdomOpened: October 1, 1971Closed: May 31, 2012
Snow White and her Adventures opened in 1955 - a Disneyland original - and was one of the original Walt dark rides exported to Magic Kingdom for its 1971 opening. Like California's, the Orlando version didn't actually feature the titular heroine. Guests were supposed to imagine themselves as Snow White, experiencing the things she saw. (Still, imagine explaining to children why the Snow White ride didn't feature a single depiction of Snow White!) The ride closed briefly in 1994 and re-opened with Snow White added in. Four years later, "Scary" was added to the ride's name to emphasize its focus on the Evil Queen and the ride's dark and sinister tone.
What Happened: Snow White's Scary Adventures terrified children from the park's opening to 2012. That's when it closed permanently as part of the park's massive expansion dubbed New Fantasyland. Original plans called for a half-dozen individual princess meet-and-greets. When fans protested the obvious princess lean, Disney reorganized. They replaced the meet-and-greets with a boy-centric family coaster based on the Seven Dwarfs.
The princesses would have to learn to get along in a single Princess Fairytale Hall. That large-scale meet-and-greet needed real estate, and the old Snow White dark ride was perfectly located. So Snow White was evicted for a meet-and-greet (to the outrage of many fans), but at least her story continues to be told (albeit, in a different format) at the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train across the way. Eagle-eyed fans will also notice a few original props and figures from Snow White's Scary Adventures have made their way to the Mine Train...
Read the in-depth Lost Legends: Snow White's Scary Adventures feature for the full story!
4. Journey Into Imagination
Location: EpcotOpened: March 5, 1983Closed: October 1998
A second unfortunate loss for Epcot, Journey Into Imagination is today remembered as one of the most tragic ride losses at any Disney park. The awesome ride was the keystone of the park’s Imagination pavilion. Guided by an enigmatic inventor spirit named Dreamfinder and his whimsical purple dragon Figment, the attraction literally absorbed guests into imagination, surrounding them in sights, sounds, and wonders that only the awakened mind can produce. The creative duo led guests through outrageous dark ride scenes depicting Art, Literature, Performance, and Science as elements of imagination.
Epcot was purposefully devoid of Disney characters in those early days, so Dreamfinder and Figment became veritable icons of the park. Of course, in true Disney style, the ride was all set to the unforgettable tune of a Sherman Brothers original – in this case, “One Little Spark.” It was all just so well crafted (designed by famed Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter) and magnificently classic.
What Happened: In 1994, Disney opened Honey, I Shrunk the Audience in the Imagination pavilion’s 3D theatre, based on the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids film. Five years later, in 1999, Disney decided to unify that Imagination pavilion under a single theme, bringing the dark ride into the same continuity as the 3D movie’s Imagination Institute story. The ride was transformed into Journey Into YOUR Imagination, eliminating Dreamfinder, Figment, and “One Little Spark” altogether. Now a tour of the Imagination Institute’s Sensory Labs, the ride was missing… well… a spark.
Fans reacted in outrage at the new ride and its removal of the characters who had become icons of Epcot, and languished in the idea that the physical ride track had been cut in half, reducing the 12-minute original to a 5-minute runtime. The new ride survived only two years before closing for a second major renovation, becoming Journey Into Imagination With Figment, injecting a mischievious and off-putting version of the purple dragon into the Imagination Institute storyline and ride layout. The mangled and disjointed ride has yet to make many fans, who still long for the whimsical original and Dreamfinder to return.
Read the in-depth Lost Legends: Journey into Imagination feature for the full story.
5. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Location: Magic KingdomOpened: October 1, 1971Closed: September 7, 1998
Like Snow White's Scary Adventures, the original Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was one of the classic dark rides that opened under Walt’s supervision in 1955 at Disneyland. That made it an obvious opening day attraction at Florida’s Magic Kingdom. The ride placed guests into jalopies and sent them careening through the streets of London on a mad drive, crashing through walls, narrowly avoiding obstacles, and brushing past police. Magic Kingdom’s version also took advantage of the park’s larger footprint and offered two boarding areas, each leading to a slightly different ride experience that interacted with cars on the opposite track throughout.
Like Disneyland's, the Magic Kingdom version ended with your vehicle apparently smashing head-on into an oncoming locomotive, sending you to... well... Hell! Surrounded in fiery stalagtites, flames, and dancing red demons, the ride had the unusual pleasure of being the only one of Disney's to (narratively) kill you and send you to hell. There's a lesson about road rage in there somewhere...
What Happened: Mr. Toad is still terrorizing the British motorways in California, but the dark ride closed in Florida in 1998 to be replaced with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Disneyland got a Pooh ride, too, but it took the place of the park’s Country Bear Jamboree – a purposeful decision by Imagineers so that both Toad and the Country Bears could continue to exist in the U.S. instead of wiping one or the other off the face of the Earth.
Read the in-depth Lost Legends: Mr. Toad's Wild Ride feature for the full story!