Parents often question whether or not their teens will enjoy a Disney World vacation. “Aren’t they too old for princesses?” In case you haven’t noticed, Disney has a TV channel aimed squarely at teens and the theme parks are no less exciting for this age group. While there may not be the standard extreme roller coasters, there are still plenty of exciting thrill rides for teens at Disney World. Imagineers have put a lot more effort into designing rides that tell a story and, even in the queues, riders will find themselves entertained instead of just scared of the next huge hill. But don’t worry, there are still some rides at Disney World that will have teens screaming with excitement and fear. Here are my top ten teen thrill ride picks by park.
Test Track – Teens will appreciate the room full of touch screens in the queue where they can design and customize their own sim car. After scanning their Magic bands and boarding the vehicle, riders are taken through a series of road tests, such as braking, turning, and acceleration. Displays in the ride and within the vehicle keep track of how well riders’ designs score. The best part of Test Track is the finale where the vehicle bursts through the doors to the circular track outside for the 65mph spin. A great combination of thrills and a bit of friendly competition.
Tower of Terror – With a storyline based on an old Twilight Zone episode, the Tower of Terror draws you into the tale the moment you walk through the entrance. At the end of the line guests board an elevator-like car and become part of the story. Through accelerated lifts and drops, guests plummet up to 13 stories (130 feet) through the building; sometimes stopping to get a birds eye view of the park when the elevator doors open to the outside. To add a bit more thrill for repeat riders, a random pattern of ups and downs is selected for each session. From the looks on riders’ faces when they get off, the Tower of Terror is easily the scariest of rides at Disney World.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster – Walking through the queue, riders will meet the rock group Aerosmith and join them on an imaginary limousine journey through the streets of LA. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is a great combination of traditional coaster and Disney ingenuity. The ride kicks off with a high speed launch which takes the car from 0 to 57mph in 2.8 seconds. Riders are propelled into nighttime as the limo corkscrews, loops, and twists while neon highway signs fly by and Aerosmith tunes blare from the speakers. It comes at you so fast that you’ll need a few seconds after to try and make sense of it all as you wander through the gift shop.
Star Tours – After several updates, Star Tours has shown its potential. Boarding a space transport simulator, guests will feel like they have stepped right into the Star Wars universe. Familiar characters, C-3PO and R2-D2 drive the story, and ship, through a myriad of worlds we all recognize from the films. This is no cake walk though. One of the passengers, it may be you, is identified as a Rebel spy and the ship makes a quick getaway flying into space battles, across beautiful landscapes, and even into star ship hangers. Several story segments are chosen at random, so each ride will be unique. The simulator does an incredible job of matching the movements of the ship to the action taking place and riders will be tossed about during the wild ride.
Dinosaur – Often overlooked, Dinosaur takes us on a wild jaunt back to the cretaceous period. The queue resembles a science institute and is filled with fossils and graphics telling about the age of dinosaurs. During the pre-show, guests are informed they will be traveling through time to the cretaceous period in a modified rover; though one of the scientists has other plans: return with a dinosaur. There’s one more catch, the rover travels back to far, right as a massive asteroid is about to strike the Earth. The journey is a rough and tumble ride filled with animatronic dinos and meteorites impacting all around. The ride will leave you a bit shaken, but excited.
Expedition Everest – A classic roller coaster with a Disney twist. The adventure begins in the queue where riders meander through temples, a museum, and supply shop for hikers bound for Mount Everest. Everywhere you look are images of the yeti. The ride vehicle is modeled off an old tea plantation train, which immediately ascends into the realistic mountains. Riders then twist and turn through the mountain and a few close encounters with the yeti along the way.
Avatar Flight of Passage – One of the newest and most ground breaking rides at Disney World, Flight of Passage is an amazing 3D flight simulator. Taking place in the world of Pandora, riders hop on a banshee (flying dragon) for an incredible flight through the rainforest, around floating mountains, and into caves. The simulator is incredibly realistic as you look around the giant screen and feel the banshee breathing. It is easily one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve had. Be warned, the massive lines for this attraction will likely not taper off for years.
Splash Mountain – More story than pure thrills, Splash Mountain retells the story of Br’er Rabbit’s escape from Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox, which was originally told in the outdated Disney classic Song of the South. The flume ride carries riders gently through the waters as the story unfolds, eventually ending in a watery drop into the briar patch.
Big Thunder Mountain – The best combination of traditional roller coaster and Disney magic. Starting in the interactive queue, guests are immersed in the dry desert of the Southwest; which is quite a feat in the Florida humidity. Riders board one of two trains and set off on a long ride up, down, and through the mountains. There aren’t any huge drops, but there are many and it keeps the ride fast paced all the way through. The best time to ride is after dark, especially during fireworks, with a great view of the whole park.
Space Mountain – Speaking of dark, Space Mountain will take you on a wild ride through the cosmos. Sitting single file in rocket shaped vehicles, riders are plunged into darkness with the exception of a few shooting starts and occasional flashing lights. There is no sound in space, but here you’ll enjoy plenty of effects as you swoop around; never really knowing which direction you’re headed next.
Disney World isn’t just for little kids. In fact, even adults like myself can enjoy most of the rides and have a good time. Finding the best thrill rides for teens at Disney World is an easy task and one they can enjoy with friends and family alike.