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Top 10 Walt Disney World Thrill Rides

Looking for Thrills at Disney World? Don't Forget the Water Parks.

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Known more for its charm, whimsy, and cuddly characters than for white-knuckle, thrill rides, Walt Disney World nonetheless offers some exciting thrills. And the most thrilling ride (as well as the tenth most thrilling ride) isn't at one of the four theme parks. The top ten resort-wide list follows. You can also check out more thrills at each of the parks:

If you (or someone you know) is a thrill-ride wimp, you'll want to check out the great advice in my guide, Walt Disney World for Wimps

10. Crush 'n' Gusher

Crush 'n' Gusher
© Arthur Levine, 2005. Licensed to About.com.
The lightly themed water coaster uses powerful jets of water to propel two-person rafts uphill. (Gravity sends riders downhill.) Crush 'n' Gusher offers three different ride experiences: the Pineapple Plunger, the Banana Blaster, and the Coconut Crusher. If you only have time to try one, the Banana Blaster offers the most thrills. (Although none of the courses are overly intimidating.)

9. Sum of All Thrills

Sum of All Thrills
Disney. Used with permission.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): Up to 5.5
    The simulated rides can get wild.
  • Location: Inside Innoventions at Future World in Epcot
  • Fastpass: No
The unique ride allows guests to create their own virtual coasters, toboggans, or airplanes using interactive touch tables, and then take their design on a test run with a simulator that uses a robotic arm and an immersive video screen hood. Since guests design the ride, they can control the thrill level. At its most intense, Sum of All Thrills is no runaway Coney Island wooden coaster, but it can quicken passengers' pulses.

8. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Disney. Used with permission.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 4.5
    More twists and turns than big drops.
  • Height Requirement: 40 inches
  • Location: Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom
  • Fastpass: Yes

With a top speed of 36 mph, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is 9 mph faster than Space Mountain. Without the indoor coaster's canopy of darkness, however, Thunder Mountain somehow feels slower. The mine train coaster's three separate lift hills--that's a lot of click-clack-clicking--as well as its Old West themeing and effects are unusual features.

7. Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain
Disney. Used with permission.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 5
    One giant splashdown
  • Height Requirement: 40 inches
  • Location: Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom
  • Fastpass: Yes
Disney marries the classic log flume ride (with one humdinger of a drop) to an animatronics-filled dark ride themed to the Uncle Remus characters from "Song of the South." You'll be humming "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" (once you regain your composure from the drop).

6. Space Mountain

Space Mountain
Disney. Used with permission.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 5
    More twists and turns than big drops. Darkness factor adds to thrills.
  • Height Requirement: 44 inches
  • Location: Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom
  • Fastpass: Yes
Perhaps the most famous indoor roller coaster (along with its namesake rides at other Disney parks), Space Mountain offers more psychological than kinetic thrills. Riders are often surprised to learn that the legendary ride reaches a relatively puny top speed of 27 mph. It's the effects, the darkness, and the element of surprise that make it seem faster. A 2009 makeover made the coaster experience even darker (although it did not improve the somewhat bumpy ride).

5. Mission: SPACE

Mission: SPACE
© Arthur Levine, 2003. Licensed to About.com.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 7.5
    The sustained G-forces can be unnerving; the simulated liftoff and flight is very realistic; the capsule is quite confining.
  • Height Requirement: 44 inches
  • Location: Future World in Epcot
  • Fastpass: Yes
Mission: SPACE is a groundbreaking, awe-inspiring attraction that delivers sensations unlike any you have ever felt (unless you're an astronaut) and replicates space travel with an astonishing degree of reality. It figuratively--and literally--takes your breath away.

4. Expedition Everest

Expedition Everest
© Arthur Levine, 2006. Licensed to About.com.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 6
    Fairly intense positive G-forces, backwards coaster motion, darkness.
  • Height Requirement: 44 inches
  • Location: Asia in Disney's Animal Kingdom
  • Fastpass: Yes
As a roller coaster, Expedition Everest is just OK. And as a themed dark ride, the attraction would be just OK without the coaster elements. But the combination of the coaster, which is integral to the ride's story, and the attraction's lavish, immersive environment, creates another Disney E-ticket must-ride and a welcome addition to Disney's Animal Kingdom.

3. Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
Disney. Used with permission.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 6.5
    Fast launch, inversions, darkness.
  • Height Requirement: 40 inches
  • Location: Sunset Boulevard in Disney's Hollywood Studios
  • Fastpass: Yes
While there are no huge butterflies-in-your-belly drops or soaring heights, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster does feature an attention-grabbing 0-to-57-mph launch in 2.8 seconds. The "limousine" trains immediately enter an inversion, but it's heard to tell upside down from up in the darkened ride building. The Aerosmith themeing, including pulsating onboard audio tracks from the bad boys of Boston, adds to the thrills.

2. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
© Arthur Levine, 2004. Licensed to About.com.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 7
    Multiple freefall drops and launches, sensations of weightlessness, psychological thrills.
  • Height Requirement: 40 inches
  • Location: Sunset Boulevard in Disney's Hollywood Studios
  • Fastpass: Yes
The Tower of Terror is a modern-day classic Disney theme park attraction. Combining a thrilling freefall ride, dazzling effects, and an inspired and fiendishly clever storyline based on the seminal "The Twilight Zone" television series, Disney Imagineers have created a ride that, like a select few E-ticket attractions, is so much greater than the sum of its parts.

1. Summit Plummet

Summit Plummet
© 2006, Arthur Levine. Licensed to About.com.
Walt Disney World isn't known for its thrills, but at 120 feet and up to 60 mph, Summit Plummet is one of the world's tallest, fastest water slides. And, in my opinion, it's the single most thrilling attraction at the Florida resort. Even the heartiest thrill-seekers will test their mettle on Blizzard Beach's speed slide.
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