Walt Disney World outside Orlando, Florida, is the most visited theme park in the entire world - and for good reason. The Disney name means magic, family-friendly fun, and hospitality, bringing you everything and more for the best possible vacation be it with family or friends or your group of students. The park can be a little overwhelming, however, with its massiveness so as to help narrow down your itineraries, here is a list of the best rides in all four parks on the Disney campus.
These rides are a mix of thrill factors, types, and age appropriateness so be aware that if you are chaperoning younger children, not all of these rides may be suitable. It is Disney though so most everything is fine for even the youngest of children.
11. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad - Located in Frontierland of Magic Kingdom, this iconic roller coaster is larger than its Disneyland clone and holds a great amount of family-friendly fun. The coaster only gets up to a maximum of 35 mph so it's not too fast or jerky but smoothly glides with gathering speed out of the indoor "train depot" to climb the hills and rocks surrounding and allowing you to see several rides in Frontierland including Splash Mountain. The set decoration in the outdoor space is spot on, as it is indoors, and riding in a miniature train car is pretty fun too. You must be 40 inches tall to ride this roller coaster.
10. Splash Mountain - Splash Mountain, also in Frontierland of Magic Kingdom, is perhaps one of the most recognizable rides in the entire park franchise. Imagine loading you and your friends into a "log" and traveling through what seems to be a Disney dark ride through the life of Br'er Rabbit and his troubles with a rascally Br'er Bear and Br'er Fox. Then you plunge SPOILER! But you never know when you go down which is half the fun. This ride, and the building anticipation and final plunge, can be rather thrilling so kids under the age of six are probably not well suited and you also have to be 40 inches tall to ride.
9. Kilimanjaro Safaris - This is probably one of the least thrilling rides on this list but what you find as you board the tram is amazing. Ride through the "game reserve" of Kilimanjaro Safaris and find yourself on a real African safari seeing giraffes foraging in the trees, lions resting on sun-hot rocks, and hippos swimming through the water. It's so realistic that you'll think you're in East Africa and your guide is so full of facts that you'll be learning oodles of information that you didn't know before. This ride is great for even the youngest of children as it's more like a ride-through zoo without borders than anything else.
8. Peter Pan's Flight - Dark rides are something Disney does perfectly, especially since they practically created the concept. Among the many spreads throughout the parks, Peter Pan's Flight is one of the best. During the course of the ride, you will board a pirate ship and lift off over London town, flying over Neverland and watching the tale of Peter Pan unfold below your feet. This ride is absolutely charming and is suitable for all ages and all heights. P.S. If you enjoyed this with your kids, try the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh for a similar experience.
7. Soarin' - The only ride on this list located in Epcot, Soarin' is an international favorite that takes you from a slowly moving seat in a high flying glider to the skies over California. Anyone over 40 inches can board the glider and take flight over the Golden State, seeing everything from the redwood forests in the north to the glittering blue ocean waves on the coast and more. It's so realistic you'll think you really are flying and find yourself ducking past obstacles and expecting the wind to blow on your face. I won't spoil the effect but see if you can use more than one of your senses while on the ride (wink, wink). It may heighten the experience and make it even more amazing.
6. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train - Based on Snow White's fabulous friends, even the waiting line for the Mine Train is superb. Play games in the line, fine jewels, and gems embedded into the walkway, and make music with streams of colored water. When you've made it to the front, board a mine cart and zoom off in the nature of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad through indoor and outdoor depots. Find friendly dwarfs, with amazing animation techniques I might add, working in the mines before you glide out to loop smoothly around and find other favorite Snow White characters hidden in the course. Kids only have to be 38 inches to ride.
5. Haunted Mansion - Located in Liberty Square of Magic Kingdom, the Haunted Mansion is strategically placed between Fantasyland and Frontierland. Any height or age is allowed to ride but be aware that young kids might get nightmares from the animations. While the ride is more silly than scary, there is a plethora of ghosts and some incredibly fine animation techniques that make the ghosts seem disembodied and autonomously moving. Meet spooky characters, be scared by the moving portraits and creepy crystal ball psychic among others. This ride is like a "dark ride" made darker if you know what I mean.
4. Star Tours - If you love Star Wars, and any sane person should, then you'll thoroughly enjoy Star Tours. Board a shuttle with all of your friends and be transported by C3PO on an adventure through space. Wearing 3D glasses, you'll think you're really moving through Hoth, the Death Star, Naboo and more as the shuttle tilts and jolts and moves as if it's really flying. Each ride is different from the last as the 3D scenarios mix and matches creating unique experiences for everyone. This Hollywood Studios ride is wonderfully popular and a FastPass is recommended. Kids must be 40 inches to ride.
3. Space Mountain - A Tomorrowland classic, Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain is a park favorite. Board a ship and go zipping through space and time - all in the dark. This is a thrilling roller coaster that is more focused on scary fun than telling a story but it does take you to the "darkest reaches of outer space," as they say. Board a ship with your friends - try to get the front seat if possible - and blast off into the future. Children must be 44 inches to ride and young kids aren't recommended for Space Mountain.
2. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror - This is one of my personal favorites as someone who enjoys thrilling rides. The Tower of Terror looms over Hollywood Studios with creepy personality, continuously drawing guests through its haunted doors. Travel deep within the hotel and board the elevator to "nowhere." You will go up but who knows what you'll see, or how you'll get down. Scared now? If you're over 40 inches and mature enough to take extreme thrill, then you should definitely ride this fantastic ride. Make sure your kids are old enough to handle this ride before boarding - it's not recommended for everyone.
1. Expedition Everest - And for number one: Expedition Everest! Animal Kingdom's own roller coaster is the most thrilling of its kind in the entire park campus and incorporates storytelling with roller coaster fun. Board the expedition train in the Himalayas and go searching for...something. I'm not going to spoil the surprise. Find out for yourself what is waiting for you at the top of Mount Everest. It's so worth the line wait but FastPass and the single rider lane is recommended. Riders must be 44 inches tall.