Is the Tower of Terror Scary? Advice From a Disney Dad

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When I was nine, went to visit my family near Cleveland, Ohio and to Cedar Point. At the time, Demon Drop was a shiny new attraction. On the ride, a gondola carried guests straight up, moved them into position and then dropped down 131 feet. There was no frou-frou theming. No drop sequence. It was just menacing anticipation and then an unmerciful drop. 

I couldn’t do it. I told myself I’d that I’d face the fear when I got older. And, I finally did. But I did it at Walt Disney World. I did it on the Tower of Terror, which is taller and faster than the Demon Drop ever dared to be. 

Is the drop scary on the Tower of Terror?

In short, yes. There are several genius little inventions that add to the thrills and the entertainment of Disney’s classic ride at Hollywood Studios. But at its heart, it remains a drop ride and any time you are held nearly 200 feet in the air and then plummet quickly to the Earth, it’s scary. It gets the heart pumping. 

The Tower of Terror Elevator
The drop in The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror elevator uses a pulley system (photo by James Overholt/

Do you physically drop on the Tower of Terror?

Even though I just called it a drop ride, it turns out the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the Hollywood Tower Hotel have some tricks up their elevator shaft. 

There is dissension among the brightest minds at thanks to revelations made in an episode of the Disney+ documentary about various park attractions. In the construction phase, Disney Imagineers decided simply allowing gravity to do its job wasn’t doing the job. In other words, they wanted it faster. So they designed a pulley system that yanks the ride vehicle towards the earth at a faster rate than if it was simply allowed to fall. 

Hence, the crux of our debate. Are you dropping? Some of us say yes. After all, moving from height A to a lower height B is dropping, no matter the force used to create the drop. Some of us believe that “drop” implies a certain level of falling freely. You wouldn’t say a regular elevator dropped you from the 10th floor to the first. Should it make a difference if the pulley system is above or below the elevator? I say no, you’re not dropping since the ride is firmly in control of the pulley system throughout. But it may depend on your definition of drop. 

What is the height requirement for the Tower of Terror ride?

Guests must be at least 40 inches tall to ride, or 3 feet and four inches tall.

What age can you go on the Tower of Terror?

Disney doesn’t do age requirements. It does height requirements. I suppose in theory if you had a two-year-old tall enough to ride, they could ride. However, I wouldn’t recommend putting your kid on it simply because they are tall enough.

The Queue at the Entrance of Tower of Terror
Guests must be at least 3-foot-4 to ride The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (photo by James Overholt/

Is Tower of Terror OK for kids?

Your average 6-year-old would be tall enough to ride. Of course, I can’t speak specifically for any of your kids. But mine were not ready for the physical scare of the thrill ride and the drop, even when they were tall enough. I think there are a lot of kids who would be comfortable with the ride by the ages of 8-12.

You know your kids best but do keep in mind that the ride is scary for multiple reasons. Disney notes that the attraction includes sudden and fast drops in a dark, enclosed space which may be frightening to some guests. There is also the ride theming to consider. 

Guests Waiting to Board The Tower of Terror Elevator
Guests, including a youngster, get ready to board the Tower elevator (photo by James Overholt/

Is the ride’s theming scary? 

Yes, and the theming should be considered if you’re deciding on whether or not the ride would be too scary for you or your child. The ride is based on Rod Serling’s genius “Twilight Zone” which trafficked in some of the most delicious psychological terror of the previous century. I’ve been watching reruns since I was a kid and there are still some episodes I just turn off. Specifically, the one where Telly Savalas battles with a menacing doll that comes to life and speaks only to him. Also, the one where the little boy talks to his deceased grandmother on the toy phone. It’s been about 60 years and both are a big bag of nope for me. 

What to expect on the ride

But on the ride, Serling welcomes riders to the Twilight Zone and they learn the story in the hotel lobby. Serling says that on a gloomy Halloween night in 1939, some hotel patrons were riding the elevator when a storm struck the building and was never seen again. The hotel closed and has stood empty ever since. 

Guests enter the rickety, elevator-style lift and strap in as they discover what lies beyond the darkest corners of their imagination. Riders are suddenly propelled up and down the abandoned shaft, unexpectedly dropping and rising, as they hear cables snapping and metal clanging overhead. You travel through the hotel, learning a lightning strike propelled the unfortunate guests into the 5th dimension – the Twilight Zone. The ghosts beckon from the great beyond or wherever. One is a young girl’s ghost that smaller riders may find disturbing. Also, the ghosts are more realistic-looking than the ones at the Haunted Mansion in the Magic Kingdom. 

Are there any reasons I shouldn’t ride?

Well, aside from being a scaredy cat, you should be in good health. Those with neck problems, motion sickness, back problems, high blood pressure or heart problems shouldn’t ride. Expectant mothers should also pass on entering the Fifth Dimension.

The Hollywood Tower Hotel Sign
The legend is that on Halloween night in 1939, some hotel patrons were riding the elevator when a storm struck the building and they were never seen again (photo by James Overholt/

Is there more than one Tower of Terror?

The Tower of Terror at the end of Sunset Boulevard in Walt Disney Studios Park isn’t the only one in the world. There’s a Tower of Terror in Japan at Tokyo DisneySea and another in France at Disneyland Paris. There used to be another one in California at Disneyland, but they traded in the Otis elevator company for some intergalactic business and Marvel theming. It is now Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!

hollywood tower of terror
The Tower of Terror may not be suitable for all guests (photo by James Overholt/

Do I need to rope drop Tower of Terror?

I don’t think so. If I were ranking rope drop rides, I’d have the Star Wars rides, Toy Story Mania!, Slinky Dog Dash and Mickey & Minnie Runaway Railway ahead of Tower of Terror. The best Tower of Terror strategy is to try and get in the ride queue right before the park closes. It’s a fun ride at night and as long as you get in line before the park closes, you can finish the night with a great ride.

Have you ridden the Tower of Terror? Did you think it was scary? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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John Gullion

John Gullion, Managing Editor at the Citizen Tribune, is a freelance contributor for LLC – the parent company of and

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