Home » Here’s How Walt Disney World is Becoming a Paradise for Teen Guests

Here’s How Walt Disney World is Becoming a Paradise for Teen Guests

Concept art for Avatar Flight of Passage

“Teenagers. They think they know everything. You give ‘em an inch, they swim all over you.”

Walt Disney World has been a top destination for families around the world for decades, but it seems like one unique demographic has consistently eluded them: teenagers. I work with Florida teens for a living, and almost unanimously, they all have wishy-washy opinions about Disney.

“Ugh, all we did was stand in line for Frozen! Disney is lame.”

“Universal is so much cooler! They have real coasters! And they have Halloween Horror Nights—blood and guts!”

“I am Grooooot!” (*emphasized sass)

If Infinity War taught us anything besides flaking away our broken hearts, its that teens can be a tough crowd to please (yes, you, Teen-Groot!). While Disney has made a laudable effort in the past to appeal to thrill-seekers and teen visitors, not all of their attempts have been successful. While classics like Space Mountain and Expedition: Everest have withstood the test of time with adolescent visitors, other teen-centered attractions like Tomorrowland’s ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter and Disney Springs’ DisneyQuest failed to keep up with the passage of years.

With the acquiring of teen-favorite intellectual properties like Marvel and Star Wars, Disney seems to have possibly found their stride with an upcoming line-up of attractions with serious youth appeal. Is the Most Magical Place on Earth becoming more teen friendly than ever? We certainly think so. Here’s why.

1. Avatar: The World of Pandora

Concept art for Avatar Flight of Passage

Image: Disney

Most teenagers I know are not particularly familiar with James Cameron’s Avatar. For being one of the most financially successful films of all time, it’s not necessarily one that has held classic appeal to younger audiences. As far as picking a franchise to compete with Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Avatar seemed a peculiar choice.

However, it worked, and Animal Kingdom’s Pandora: The World of Avatar is the one area of Walt Disney World teens seem to consistently love these days.

The beauty of Disney’s Pandora is that is requires absolutely zero pre-knowledge of the film its based on. For teens, stepping into Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom feels like stepping into a living video game world. Instead of feeling childish and fanciful, Pandora has a visceral science fiction feel to it, from the giant Mecha-Suits to the pounding of drums throughout the day. Even the land’s signature restaurant, Satu’li Canteen, feels like something straight out of Halo or Destiny.

Teens love Pandora’s flagship attraction, Avatar: Flight of Passage. We’ve talked about the appeal of attractions inspired by video games before, and this seems to go over particularly well with younger visitors. Our teens across the board can’t gush enough about how much they love Flight of Passage. Despite a usually-lengthy cue, both the virtual reality and flight aspects of the attraction hit chords with teen gamers and sci-fi fans. We’re excited to see if future attractions added to this land when the Avatar sequels arrive will hold the same appeal.

2. The VOID

Fans in The VOID hyper-reality

Image: The VOID

It’s no secret that we are big fans of Disney Springs’ The VOID here at Theme Park Tourist. For those unfamiliar, The VOID is a company that produces hyper(virtual) reality experiences. Disney flirted with virtual reality attractions many times in the past with Disney Quest and one-off attractions in Magic Kingdom—I personally remember getting to beta-test the Magic Carpet virtual reality experience with I was a pre-teen. It was cool, but all of these experiences had a distinct cheeziness to them. You knew you had no real control within the simulation besides being able to turn your head and maybe slightly steer.

Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire was the VOID’s first experience to arrive at Disney Springs, and it has proven an undeniable success. The difference between the VOID’s hyper-reality experiences and older virtual reality games is that guests are able to interact with the digital world in a manner that is stunningly realistic. Through the combination of a portable VR rig (similar to a laser tag vest) and a gigantic maze, guests assume the role of rebel spies sent on a mission against the Empire. You can run through an Imperial bass, physically pick up blasters and interact with control panels, and even have some puzzles to solve. When you get shot, your rig vibrates like you really did get zapped. It’s stunningly spectacular.

The VOID is a must-visit attraction for families coming to Disney World with teens, particularly those who are gaming-inclined. Admission is treated separately from normal park tickets, so it’s a great attraction to try on a day you won’t be hitting the parks. The cost is similar to the average escape game in Orlando. Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire has been so successful, Disney will be adding a second hyper-reality experience based on Wreck It Ralph soon. Easily, our visit to The VOID was one of the most fun things we ever did at Walt Disney World, and we can’t wait to go back!

3. Guardians of the Galaxy Coaster

Concept Art for Guardians of the Galaxy Coaster

Image: Disney

So far, we’ve focused on pre-existing Walt Disney World attractions with teen appeal, but the real shift at Disney seems to be a focused effort to introduce new attractions for teens and thrill seekers. While Disney Imagineers have promised a number of upcoming attractions for Disney classic fans and families like Ratatouille, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and the upcoming Mary Poppins attraction, they have balanced these with several majorly-teen-friendly attractions we are super excited about.

The first of these is the still-to-be-named Guardians of the Galaxy coaster coming soon to Epcot. With Disney’s options for Marvel attractions in Florida limited by the Universal Studios deal, Guardians of the Galaxy has proven one of the few Marvel mainstays Disney can consistently pull new material from. Construction has already begun on this indoor behemoth, and it is looking seriously huge, stretching all the way from the old Universe of Energy building to an entirely new structure behind the old Wonders of Life. It is estimated that it will be one of the longest indoor coasters in the world by the time it is complete. While it’s looking like the coaster won’t feature any loops or barrel rolls like we’ve seen in the Rockin’ Roller Coaster, it still looks like a majorly fun thrill that will definitely appeal to teen visitors.

4. TRON Lightcyle Power Run

Concept Art for TRON LightCycle Power Run

Image: Disney

“I fight for the users…”

There’s something uniquely exciting for Disney veterans to see TRON finally making a comeback. Indeed, Disneyland visitors may remember the decade-long addition to The PeopleMover back in the 80’s and 90’s where guests were transported to the world of TRON through giant wrap-around superspeed screens in a seriously mind-bending visual effect. While Shanghai Disneyland fans have had access to the more recent TRON Lightcycle Power Run coaster for some time, it looks like this much-loved attraction is finally coming to Walt Disney World.

The TRON Lightcycle Power Run is a perfect fit for Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland, and it will prove a surefire draw for teen visitors. Positioned right next to Space Mountain, the new attraction will follow very similar design to its Shanghai Disneyland predecessor, which has a short outdoor element but is largely an indoor coaster similar to Space Mountain, with the addition of tons of trippy neon visuals appropriate to the TRON universe. The TRON Lightcycle Power Run will be a much-welcomed extra addition to Magic Kingdom’s lineup of teen-friendly attractions.

5. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Star Wars Galaxy's Edge Concept Art

Image: Disney

We can’t go on enough about how excited we are for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2019. Disney purists might be bemoaning the Star Wars takeover of The Most Magical Place on Earth, but it looks like this new section of Disney’s Hollywood Studios is going to hold insane appeal for teens who grew up on the Star Wars prequels and Clone Wars cartoons.

One of the complaints some readers have voiced about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is that it won’t be based on the classic films but will simulate a separate section of the Star Wars universe: the planet Batuu which exists during the timeline of the new film trilogy spanning from Episodes VII-IX. For fans of the Star Wars Expanded Universe and for teens, the choice to base Galaxy’s Edge on a new world is a welcomed one that leaves lots of flexibility for future expansions. It also will help make the new land feel more realistic.

We’ve talked in length about how Galaxy’s Edge will be Disney’s most immersive theme park land to date, with elements that appear to be heavily inspired or at least similar RPG video games. Both the Millennium Falcon and First Order battle attractions will have gaming elements where choices made on the attractions will affect how characters interact with you in the parks. Merchandise, dining, and even the expansion’s neighboring resort will be designed to be fully immersive. For teens who are fans of both Star Wars and immersive video games, Galaxy’s Edge looks like its going to be a slam dunk, even if initial crowds will no doubt be huge.

6. A fresh fanbase for classic attractions

Space Mountain

Image: Disney

Even with all the new developments at Walt Disney World, there are some attractions that have stood the test of time for teen visitors, and these classic can do nothing but help in appealing to new teen visitors. In Magic Kingdom, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad all remain teen favorites. For Epcot, Test Track and Mission: Space consistently top our teens’ list (despite the common opinion that Epcot isn’t teen-friendly, we actually meet a surprising number of teens who love both Epcot and World Showcase for its more mature feel vs. Magic Kingdom). In Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Expedition: Everest and Dinosaur still reign supreme amidst the classics, and of course, Disney’s Hollywood Studios still holds the crown for teen-friendly attractions with The Hollywood Tower of Terror, The Aerosmith Rockin’ Roller Coaster, and Star Tours.

The new teen-friendly attractions arriving throughout Walt Disney World will likely draw new families with teenagers who otherwise might not have visited. The more love classic attractions get, the more likely they will remain in Walt Disney World for many, many long years to come. While the future looks bright for families with kids of all ages visiting The Most Magical Place on Earth in the future, it seems to us that perhaps it may look brightest to families with teens who have long waited for a run of attractions like the ones we see coming soon.

Which of these attractions are you most looking forward to?