13 best rides at Disney World Orlando, ranked

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World can be super fun and exciting. But it can also feel overwhelming at times.

Even if you plan to visit all the theme parks, it’s impossible to do everything in one day, especially if it’s your first time in the park. Depending on the ages and interests of your party, you’ll have different goals and priorities for your trip.

Do you want to pack your Instagram feed with selfies from character meet and greets? Are you mainly in it for the snacks? If thrill rides are the first thing on your priorities, I’ve compiled a list of the best Disney World rides the four parks have to offer.

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13. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

  • Park: Hollywood Studios
  • Height requirement: 40 inches

Starting off our list at lucky number 13 (see what I did there?) is Tower of Terror.

This spooky ride takes you back in time to the gilded age of Hollywood to a once-glamorous hotel right inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The elevator ride features a series of sudden drops and lifts. Personally, I find it to be a pleasurable blend of exhilarating and terrifying.

It’s not for everyone, though. A few years ago, we took our barely-tall-enough preschooler on Tower of Terror. He didn’t scream or cry, but when asked afterward how he liked it, he replied: “I peed a little.” 

Soarin' Around the world ride at Epcot
Soarin’ takes riders on a hang-gliding journey (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

12. Soarin’ Around the World

  • Park: EPCOT
  • Height requirement: 40 inches

Soarin’ takes you on an exciting hang-gliding journey to experience aerial views of both natural and manmade wonders around the globe.

You’ll travel to the Matterhorn in Switzerland, the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, the Taj Mahal in India and back to EPCOT.

Soarin’ is a crowd-pleaser for groups of varied ages and interests, which is one of the best things about the ride. My school-age kids love it and so do their grandparents. 

11. Mission Space

  • Park: EPCOT
  • Height requirement: Green (less intense): 40 inches / Orange (more intense): 44 inches

Choose between two simulated aerospace missions on this ride that takes you out of this world. Each rider is assigned a role (Commander, Navigator, Pilot and Engineer) and will perform important duties during your flight.

The Green experience is less intense, and I highly recommend selecting this option for anyone with even slight misgivings. If it’s a piece of cake for you, you can always try out the Orange option afterward.

Above all, if you’re prone to motion sickness at all, skip this one.

For families with small children, there is a cool indoor astronaut-themed playground located at the ride exit. It’s a perfect place to hang out while waiting for the more adventurous members of your group to complete their mission. 

Space Mountain in Magic Kingdom
Space Mountain is an indoor dark roller coaster (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

10. Space Mountain

  • Park: Magic Kingdom
  • Height requirement: 44 inches

I probably would’ve rated Space Mountain higher when I was in my 20s – long before the fluid in my inner ear dried up and made me less tolerant of jerky roller coasters.

This classic ride holds a special place in my heart and it’s probably one of the most popular rides in the park, but I can’t ride it on repeat anymore. This 1975 dark ride takes you on a dizzying ride through star-studded darkness.

If you’ve been on the Disneyland version, one notable difference is the configuration of seats within the ride vehicle. This one seats three riders single file in a car with two cars connected to each other. 

Test Track at Epcot in Disney World Orlando
Test Track allows riders to design and customize a car and then put it to the test (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

9. Test Track

  • Park: EPCOT
  • Height requirement: 40 inches

As a mom of five boys who is also married to an engineer, I’ve been on Test Track more times than I can count. Riders have an opportunity to design and customize a car and then put it to the test.

Buckle up in a six-seat ride vehicle and take your car through a series of tests that measure responsiveness, capability, efficiency and power.

Spoiler alert: The power test takes you outside on a track where you’ll reach speeds of up to 65 mph, so hold on to your hat – literally.

Also, if you have very young children that aren’t tall enough, there’s a Chevy showroom that has vehicles that the little kids can climb in and explore just outside the ride exit. 

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Orlando
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a classic roller coaster (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

8. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

  • Park: Magic Kingdom
  • Height requirement: 40 inches

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a classic roller coaster located in Frontierland.

It will take you through a prospector’s camp with lots of quick climbs and drops, but no inversions. It’s a great experience.

Pro tip: Visit Tom Sawyer Island for a cool view of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This is a great coaster for families with an odd number of young children because 2-3 people are allowed to sit together in one row. 

7. Expedition Everest

  • Park: Animal Kingdom
  • Height requirement: 44 inches

Located in the Asia section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Expedition Everest is the park’s only roller coaster.

After winding your way through a Tibetan outpost, you’ll board a train to ascend to the top of the famous peak.

Near the summit, explorers will discover that the track has been destroyed. Hold on as you drop backwards down the track into total darkness, and keep an eye out for the fearsome beast of legend.

Seven Drawfs Mine Train
This is the perfect first coaster experience for little ones (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

 6. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

  • Park: Magic Kingdom
  • Height requirement: 38 inches

This is my top pick for first-time roller coaster experiences for kids.

It’s a relatively new ride, with a smoother ride experience. And happy music from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” will have the whole family singing along and clapping their hands.

The cars swing a bit at the end of the ride just before you exit. It’s also situated in a central location in Fantasyland, making it highly visible from several angles. If kids are nervous, they can watch the ride before they try it for themselves. 

Millennium Falcon at Disney World
The Star Wars expansion is one of the more recent additions to Disney World Orlando (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

5. Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run

  • Park: Hollywood Studios
  • Height requirement: 38 inches

Star Wars fans who have watched the animated series “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” will be thrilled to see the infamous Hondo Ohnaka featured on this attraction.

Pilots, gunners and engineers will take a seat in the cockpit of Han Solo’s iconic freighter for an interactive ride. The success or failure of this risky mission depends on your crew.

Pro tip: The pilot in the front right seat will need to pull the lever to make the jump to light speed, and smaller children won’t be able to reach it. If your little Ewok insists on being a pilot, have them sit on the left. 

4. Rockin’ Rollercoaster

  • Park: Hollywood Studios
  • Height requirement: 48 inches

I have loved this coaster since I was in middle school.

Back in the year 2000, our parents decided that my sister and I were responsible enough to ride it by ourselves. I can still taste that glorious freedom.

Now my 8-year-old son loves it so much that I routinely hear him asking Alexa to shuffle songs by Aerosmith on his echo dot.

This is Disney World’s only roller coaster with inversions. There are multiple loops and a corkscrew twist that you’ll traverse as you listen to Aerosmith’s biggest hits. 

3. Slinky Dog Dash

  • Park: Hollywood Studios
  • Height requirement: 38 inches

I grew up watching “Toy Story” and its sequels. Seeing the beloved characters come to life in this expansion of Hollywood Studios and Toy Story land is nostalgic.

In fact, if you’re a geriatric millennial like me, you may remember the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” section from back in the “late 1900s” when Hollywood Studios was M.G.M. Studios.

This area of the park will hearken back to that feeling of scale. The oversized toys give visitors the feeling of being miniaturized.

Slinky Dog Dash is a newer roller coaster with smooth ups and downs. It’s another great choice for little kids’ first coaster.  Like the Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, it’s highly visible and fun to watch. 

2. Pandora – Flight of Passage

  • Park: Animal Kingdom
  • Height requirement: 44 inches

You need not be a fan of James Cameron’s “Avatar” to appreciate this incredible ride. The wait times are almost always long, so come mentally prepared.

The cue takes you through the lab and the pre-ride briefing gives you some context for the main event. Riders will be matched with an avatar and then experience flying on the back of a Banshee through the world of Avatar.

Although getting situated on the ride can be a little awkward at first. You’ll sort of straddle the seat as though riding a bike or horse.

Next, lean forward, put on your 3D glasses and hold onto the handlebars as the restraints slide into place behind your back and legs. Flashing lights let you know that you’ve successfully “linked” to your avatar. Then, the flight begins.

Also, be sure to notice the feeling of your Banshee breathing with your legs. 

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1. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

  • Park: Hollywood Studios
  • Height requirement: 40 inches

This ride is an incredible, next-level immersive experience. It’s an absolute MUST for even casual Star Wars fans, and it’s one of the most popular attractions in all of Disney World.

It begins when riders are tasked with a mission to undermine the First Order. Your simulated trip on a shuttle gets cut short when it’s pulled into a Star Destroyer’s Tractor Beam. Captives disembark into the hangar of the ship before dozens of Storm Troopers.

Behind the formation of Troopers, a gigantic Ray Shield offers a view into the abyss of outer space. The sight took my breath away.

To illustrate, my 4-year-old son tightened his grasp on my hand. He looked up at me with tears welling in his eyes and said, “Mommy, I want to go back to Earth.” The next phase of the ride involves a harrowing escape with the aid of some familiar characters. 

Do you have a favorite ride at Disney World Orlando? Tell us in the comments!

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