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Heading to Walt Disney World, but you’re not a fan of Disney World thrill rides? No worries. You can still have a blast. Unlike some theme parks that rely on thrills to keep attendees interested, Disney parks offer options for everyone, regardless of age or adrenaline needs! Before you get on that plane to Orlando here’s what you need to know.
Space Mountain, Expedition Everest and Tower of Terror are fun, but your Disney World vacation does not need to revolve around them.
Personally, I’m a fan of most Disney World thrill rides (minus Mission Space which makes me want to upchuck). However, we’ve traveled to Disney several times with grandparents who aren’t into jolts, bumps and drops. Here are some of our favorite nearby alternatives for those seeking tamer entertainment while thrill seekers get their rush!
TravelingMom Tip: If some in your party don’t plan to do Disney thrill rides, you’ll definitely want to use Fastpass+ for those who do. It will speed up the wait and maximize time when you can all be together.
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Magic Kingdom Disney World Thrill Rides
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Located in Frontierland next to Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is based on the idea that you’re on a runaway train. You’ll go whipping around corners, drop into canyons and duck under bones sticking out from the canyon walls. Some parts are dark and bumpy. It’s by no means the scariest ride at Disney and most kids 40″ and above should do fine on it. However, the bumps can keep some folks standing by instead of riding.
This log flume ride is a family favorite. While most of the ride isn’t scary, knowing the “big drop” is coming is enough to keep some people off. Plus, you’re going to get wet. Maybe even soaked. Pair this thrill ride with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to save steps. They’re right next door to each other.
Non-Thrill Alternatives for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain
Located nearby is Tom Sawyer’s Island. Take a log raft ride over to the island, based on Mark Twain’s books. The best part of Tom Sawyer’s island? Shaded spots to sit out of the Florida sun. Plus it’s one of the few spots at Magic Kingdom where you can just do things without standing in line. Explore mine shafts and a frontier fort at leisure.
If your party has Fastpass+ reservations and you think they won’t be long, check out the Laughing Place Play Area near the Splash Mountain ride exit. It’s located outside of the gift shop, to the right of Splash Mountain if you are facing it. It is shaded and designed for kids under 40″ who aren’t tall enough to ride Splash Mountain.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
If you love the Snow White and the dwarfs, this is the ride for you. You’ll hop into a mine car and navigate the diamond mines. This coaster offers a very smooth ride with more round-the-corner action than big drops. My mom usually doesn’t do coasters because bumps aggravate her back, but she was a fan of this one.
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The queue itself offers some fun activities for kids, including interactive gem games and colorful displays. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train regularly has one of the highest wait times in the park. It is imperative to book a Fastpass+ if you don’t want to kill hours of time waiting for others in your party to ride here.
Non-Thrill Alternatives for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is located in the heart of Fantasyland. If grandparents are waiting with younger kids, the Prince Charming Regal Carousel is a great option. You can also maximize time by scheduling Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique appointments during the same time if the makeover recipient won’t be riding.
Get hungry while you’re waiting? Grab a frozen treat from Storybook Treats. The quick service Disney restaurant often has limited-time specials based on characters. On our last visit, my friend Breeze had a Peter Pan float (DOLE Whip lime soft serve, Sprite and a chocolate feather), while I enjoyed a Minnie Cookie Dough Sundae with a cute red bow.
TravelingMom Tip: We’ve rounded up some of the best Disney World toddler rides for grandparents to enjoy with their grandkids.
Ahh, Space Mountain. It’s an oldie but goodie. While walking into Tomorrowland and riding Space Mountain feels like a right of passage for some kiddos, it can also be a bit much for others. To start with, you’re in the dark pretty much the whole ride. And if a dark ride isn’t scary enough, there are big drops and very little visibility. Not being able to see where you’re going makes the g-forces on this ride (3.7) feel as powerful as Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (5).
Non-Thrill Alternatives for Space Mountain
There are some great options nearby. If you’re looking to get off your feet and rest awhile, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover will take you on a 10 minute loop that includes glimpses into Space Mountain. It’s the perfect place to nurse a baby, catch a quick nap, or sort through your plans for the rest of the day.
Another option if you need to slow down is Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress stage show. You’ll see a family depicted over four generations by animatronic figures. It will buy you at least 21 minutes of air conditioning.
If you’re looking for something a little bit more active, you can usually make it into Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin without too long of a wait. Toy Story fans will love shooting lasers to score points. Get enough to beat Zurg.
TravelingMom Tip: The Buzz Lightyear ride vehicle can spin, so skip this one if you get dizzy easily.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the world’s largest theme park covering 580 acres! While a large part of that is habitats and not actual walkable acreage for the guests, it’s still the most walking you’ll do while at Disney in Orlando.
While we can offer alternatives to the Disney thrill rides at Animal Kingdom, my #1 suggestion is for everyone in your party to grab a Wilderness Explorer book when you arrive at Animal Kingdom. Get one from the booth (Wilderness Explorers Headquarters) as you cross the bridge from the park entrance into the Discovery Island area. Basically, once you see the big tree look right. There are 25+ self-guided activities to complete throughout the park in the booklet to earn “badges.”
Avatar Flight of Passage
Located in Animal Kingdom’s newest section, Pandora, Avatar Flight of Passage is one of the coolest Disney World thrill rides. If you’ve ever ridden Soarin’ in EPCOT, you know how Disney uses scent and the combination of movement and a movie screen to create an immersive experience. Avatar Flight of Passage is the “riding on a motorcycle” version of this.
For this ride, you straddle your banshee (which feels a little like riding a motorcycle). You’ll feel the pulsing of it breathing, smell the salt water as you soar through and feel like you are truly on another planet. If you get motion sickness, then this may not be the ride for you. But if you just don’t like roller coasters, you may want to try this ride. It’s more of an immersive experience than a full-on Disney thrill ride.
Non-Thrill Alternative for Avatar Flight of Passage
Your best bet is to just explore Pandora while others ride. The flora, fauna, noises, smells and every part of the land has top-notch theming. You really feel like you’ve stumbled into the movie.
Depending on the time of day, you may want to check out the Na’vi River Journey. This gentle boat ride floats through a series of caves and bio-luminescent rainforest complete with music. It is a simple but beautiful ride. Perfect to occupy time while you wait, but not worth standing in line for a long period of time.
TravelingMom Tip: There are two Wilderness Explorer badges to earn in Pandora. Grab a delicious non-alcoholic Night Blossom from Pongu Pongu to sip while you work on them. The drink consists of layers of apple and desert pear limeade topped with passion fruit boba balls and is hands down one of my favorite Disney beverages.
This is one of my favorite Disney World thrill rides. I like to introduce unsuspecting friends to it. Not only does whip around, feature a Yeti appearance, and go backwards, but it’s got a great Disney story behind it. The attention to detail and theming in the queue is amazing. We convinced my mom to go on this and I’m not sure she’ll ever trust us again. It is definitely a Disney World thrill ride!
Non-Thrill Alternatives for Expedition Everest
During the daylight hours, the options aren’t super close. Animal Kingdom involves some walking. Finding Nemo: The Musical is a great stage show. You’ll get to be in air conditioning. At 40 minutes long, it will cover a large chunk of time.
In the other direction, you could head to UP! A Great Bird Adventure. This open air show features birds from around the world and Russell and Dug from the movie Up. If you don’t mind getting wet (or want to on a super hot Orlando day!), Kali River Rapids is a good option. It’s not really a thrill ride so much as a “see how soaked we get” ride.
At night, let the thrill seekers ride Expedition Everest. The line is short in the evening. Everyone else can head across the way to see Rivers of Light, the night show.
TravelingMom Tip: Check out some of our favorite toddler things to do at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
You can check into the Hollywood Tower Hotel, but you may never check out. This BIG drop ride takes you into the haunted hotel. Will you go missing like those other guests did in 1939? You’ll certainly think you will! With creepy music, multiple drops and some other surprises, this ride isn’t for the faint of heart. You can hear the screams resound through the park as you enter.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith
On this ride, located right next to Tower of Terror, you’ll be strapped into a “limo” to make it to an Aerosmith show. The catch? You’re running REALLY late and the driver will be taking some shortcuts.
This coaster includes two roll-over loops and a corkscrew, so you’ll spend some time upside down. Pair that with high-speed and loud music and some folks may want to skip it. The ride itself? Super short. Most of your time here will be in line.
Since it’s located next to Tower of Terror, your best bet may be to Fastpass the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and then attempt the single rider line at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
Non-Thrill Alternatives for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
While some of y’all get your scream on, the rest of your party has some stellar options. First, Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage is very close. This 25-minute show is filled with dancing, colorful costumes and the songs we all know and love.
About a 10 minute walk away you can choose from three other great options. The new Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is popular with all ages. Located in the old Great American Movie Ride building, this attraction is the first at any Disney park focused on Mickey Mouse and his friends!
Want to save the ride for the whole family? Head down to watch adorable Mickey cartoons in the Mickey Shorts Theater. After viewing, make sure you take advantage of the photo ops, including Potatoland!
If your party will be doing both thrill rides, you may want to consider squeezing in the Frozen Sing-Along celebration (doesn’t run until a bit after park opening) or the Disney Junior Dance Party! which this adult has to admit was surprisingly fun.
Disney Junior character greetings open up around 9:30am. The sets are super cute for pictures, so I advise hanging out in the Animation Courtyard to hit these first thing if you’ve got Fancy Nancy, Vampirina or Doc McStuffins fans.
TravelingMom Tip: Consider purchasing Disney’s PhotoPass Service if your party will divide up. It’s fun to look through all the pictures later to see what everyone did!
You’ll reach speeds of up to 65mph as you race test a car. This speedy ride has bumps and heat and cold flashes before you floor it on the track. Test Track does have a single rider line that can be considerably faster if your party doesn’t mind splitting up. Since the cars hold six passengers and many parties are 2 or 4 you often end up in the same vehicle anyway, albeit in separate rows.
Test Track and Mission: SPACE are right next to each other, so team these two Disney World thrill rides to maximize your time in the rest of the park.
You’ll be hurled through space on your choice of missions. The orange mission involves g-forces and you’ll tilt and spin. The green mission is a little tamer with no spinning. Instead, it uses a motion simulator and light movement.
They both make me want to hurl. I love Disney thrill rides, but Mission: SPACE sends my stomach into knots, so it’s a skip for me every time.
Non-Thrill Alternatives for Test Track and Mission: SPACE
Under normal circumstances, I’d say check out Future World. But with EPCOT undergoing such large scale construction now, getting around can be tricky.
The two closest spots for a non-thrill-ride experience are Spaceship Earth and the Mexico pavilion.
Spaceship Earth is the iconic ride at EPCOT. The 16 minute slow-moving ride brings you through history using animatronic characters to show important moments and discoveries.
TravelingMom Tip: Spaceship Earth will close for renovations on May 26, 2020, so be sure it’s open before you head over!
The other option is to head to Mexico. There you can check out artwork, enjoy a margarita, or ride the Gran Fiesta Tour with the Three Caballeros. It’s a gentle boat ride through Mexican scenery with lively music.
What are your favorite things to do near Disney’s thrill rides? We’d love to hear what you do to pass time when your party splits up!