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Best Disney Attractions of the 1970s

2. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Image: DisneyHere’s an odd stat for you. Every Walt Disney World attraction listed so far debuted in 1971. Clearly, park planners were most inspired in the days leading up to the opening of Magic Kingdom.

The only other attraction that I’ve discussed is the Electrical Main Street Parade, which opened the following year in 1972. Card Walker at Disneyland was so jealous of the Electrical Water Pageant that he prioritized Anaheim’s answer to it.

The top two rides from the 1970s are a different story. In fact, I would argue that they are the only two genuinely remarkable rides from the decade. Unexpectedly, both of them are roller coasters. Only one debuted at Walt Disney World, though.

Yes, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad technically opened first at Disneyland in 1979. The Magic Kingdom iteration wouldn’t even qualify for this list since it debuted in 1980. But I don’t have to tell you how spectacular both versions of this attraction are.

This coaster is wildly thematic while still delivering a thoroughly satisfying ride experience. Every version of the ride has its own backstory, but the outcome is the same. You wind up on a rickety mine train, holding on for dear life as your vehicle runs unimpeded through a Disney-fied version of the Wild West. I whole-heartedly adore this attraction and would love to slot it first, but…

1. Space Mountain

Image: DisneyWhen we talk about rides that were ahead of their time, I invariably think of Space Mountain. Perhaps no attraction ever has fit the bill more accurately than this roller coaster.

During the mid-1960s, Imagineers knew that they could design the most breathtaking coaster ever. The problem was impossible to overcome, though. The “modern computer” of the era simply didn’t have the processing power that Disney required to operate the ride safely.

Space Mountain had to wait roughly 10 years from its conception to its debut at Magic Kingdom in 1975. When it finally did open to the public, well, you know the rest.

No roller coaster on the planet claims stronger name recognition than Space Mountain. In fact, it might be the most potent theme park brand of all-time. The 1970s were a shockingly weak decade for ride innovations, as Disney mostly coasted off of the developments at the 1964 World's Fair.

So, Space Mountain isn’t just a big fish in a small pond. It’s like the Loch Ness Monster while virtually everything else is a tiny guppy.

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