I’m Morgan, and I am a (mostly reformed) scaredy cat.
For the majority of my childhood, I was underweight, scrawny and scared of most things.
And when it came to theme parks I largely found roller coasters, big drops, going “upside down”, dark rides, motion sickness, haunted houses and ghosts (basically most things at theme parks) to be truly scary.
Fortunately, as I got a bit older, with my parents’ gentle nudging, I eventually learned to get over many of those fears.
Well – mostly.
I’m largely over my fear of coasters and dark rides at this point – but my motion sickness tendencies remain a constant cause for concern. And you won’t see me in every haunted house during Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights either.
But I digress.
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I still vividly remember what it was like to let those fears guide my decision-making – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.
You see, back then we didn’t have the internet. I couldn’t just Google whether or not something was “scary”.
But luckily for you dear reader, you DO have the internet.
You also have me, a reformed scaredy cat, here to tell you all about exactly what makes these rides, in my opinion, the scariest rides in Disney World.
It is my hope that this list helps you make informed decisions on your next Disney World vacation based on your own specific scaredy cat tendencies and unique fears.
19. It’s a Small World
Scare summary: It’s a dark ride with creepy singing dolls/animatronics.
My husband, who normally isn’t afraid of anything, told me I should rank “It’s a Small World” in the number one spot.
He dislikes this ride with a passion.
It’s a Small World, located in Magic Kingdom, was originally created for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair. It features a dark boat ride with animatronic dolls singing “It’s a Small World” in multiple languages.
It’s basically Pirates of the Caribbean only with unintentionally creepier animatronics.
I will admit, I’ve only ever ridden this ride once in my life and it got stuck. I don’t know how many times I had to hear “It’s a Small World” while sitting in the boat waiting for the ride to resume. But it was enough to permanently implant that annoying earworm into my brain for life.
18. Star Wars Rise of the Resistance
Scare summary: The ride itself is tame, but it’s convincingly immersive.
Then we have Star Wars Rise of the Resistance, located in the new Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios.
While I love this ride – it’s important to remember that it is FULLY immersive from the moment you enter the line queue.
There’s a “spaceship” that “transports” you into space before being intercepted by the First Order (Star Wars bad guys).
Cast members, dressed as soldiers, remain in character as they place ride-goers into a “holding cell”‘ and sus out the “traitors” – and this is all before the actual ride begins.
My friend Kirby, who also writes for this blog, said that the ride was so immersive that one of her young sons was fully convinced they had actually left Earth.
Overall, the entire experience is an absolute blast. But I could see it being a bit scary for very small children.
17. It’s Tough To Be a Bug
Scare summary: 3D spiders fall from the ceiling and bees “sting” you from behind. Enough said.
It’s Tough To Be a Bug, located in the Animal Kingdom and based on the movie “A Bug’s Life”, is a 9-minute 3D film with animatronics and special effects.
During the show, Flik introduces you to a variety of his bug friends including a massive tarantula who throws 3D “darts” at the audience and a termite who sprays “acid” in your face.
The show is eventually “taken over” by Hopper, the villain of the story, who threatens to “exterminate” the audience with poison and fly swatters.
The theater then goes dark and the next thing you see are large 3D animated spiders “falling” from the ceiling.
Seriously, why are there so many spiders on this ride?
At one point you even feel something poking you in the back of your chair, emulating the “sting” of a bee.
I’m going to admit, it’s cute for older kids. But young kids? I wouldn’t touch this one with a 10-foot pole.
16. Avatar Flight of Passage
Scare summary: If you are afraid of heights or prone to motion sickness you may want to skip this one.
Next up we have Avatar Flight of Passage located in Animal Kingdom’s Pandora area.
This is another 3D film experience with a unique ride/seat mechanism designed to look and feel like you’re riding a banshee – just like in the movies.
You lean forward for most of the ride while feeling the banshee “breathe” underneath as you “soar” through the skies of Pandora.
The actual seat doesn’t move that much. But between the subtle motions and the large 3D screen, it can be nausea-inducing for some. It can also be scary for those who have a fear of heights.
Editor’s note: I AM prone to motion sickness but only have issues on one ride in all of Disney World and it’s not this one – more on that later.
15. Star Tours
Scare summary: This ride has the worst track record in the park for motion sickness.
Now let’s talk about the single in-park attraction that I will never ride again: Star Tours.
Star Tours is located in the original Star Wars section at Hollywood Studios, outside of the immersive new Galaxy’s Edge.
I’ve ridden it once and have since vowed never to ride it again.
This is the only ride in any theme park that makes me instantly motion-sick.
It’s basically an old version of Smuggler’s Run with a 3D screen and a small moving theater. But there’s just something about that small space and the small screen on Star Tours that makes me feel like I’m in the backseat of a tiny car on a winding mountain road.
14. Slinky Dog Dash
Scare summary: It’s a family coaster, but it can still be scary if you dislike coasters.
Alright, now we start adding a few actual thrill rides to the list – starting with Slinky Dog Dash.
Slinky Dog Dash is a largely tame coaster located in the Toy Story section of Hollywood Studios.
It doesn’t go upside down, it’s incredibly smooth and it’s relatively slow (for a coaster) at just 40 mph.
But it does have two launches and a few decent drops throughout. So if you’re scared of coasters in general, this one isn’t going to reform you.
Scare summary: It’s a jerky dark ride about dinosaur extinction.
DINOSAUR, located in Animal Kingdom, is a dark ride with animatronic dinosaurs in a race to outrun a giant meteorite.
There are no real drops on the ride – just a few dips and sharp turns – but it’s surprisingly jerky, even for an older ride.
And the dark-dinosaur Jurassic Park-style theming could be scarier for younger members of your party.
12. The Haunted Mansion
Scare summary: Ghosts are scary.
Judge me if you must. But I’ve always been afraid of ghosts – especially as a child.
And as a kid, I outright refused to ride The Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom.
In fact, I didn’t actually ride this ride for the first time until I was 37 years old.
Admittedly, it was far less scary than 7-year-old me had imagined.
Regardless, I think 7-year-old me would have still been quite uncomfortable so I’m rather glad I waited on this one. Especially considering the fact that our ride actually got stuck and stopped for a solid 10 minutes during the ghostly dining room scene.
Which, 37-year-old me thought was kinda cool. Seven-year-old me would have had an emotional breakdown.
11. Test Track
Scare summary: The Test Track reaches speeds of up to 65 mph which makes it the fastest ride at Disney World.
EPCOT’s Test Track, built in 1999, has a bit of age on it now, but it still holds up as a unique thrill ride.
While in line, you get to design your own “vehicle” and then put that vehicle to the test with a variety of simulated maneuvers along a track.
To be clear, you never actually “drive” a vehicle on the ride. You ride in a vehicle that “drives” itself.
It’s like Tomorrowland Speedway for older kids and adults.
But it’s the big finish that really packs in the thrills.
Near the end of the ride, the car opens up into the fresh air, speeds up to 65 mph and laps the building on a rooftop track.
I personally love it. But again, if you’re not a coaster fan, you may want to skip this one.
10. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Scare summary: This coaster features a roughly 39′ drop.
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, located in Magic Kingdom, is a smooth family-style coaster but it features a 39′ drop.
To be clear, a 39′ foot drop by coaster standards is tiny in the grand scheme of things. But it’s not insignificant.
Tiana’s Bayou Adventure’s famous drop, for instance, is roughly 52′. And Big Thunder Mountain Railroad’s biggest drop is estimated to be about 35′.
So if you’re scared of those two rides, you might want to skip this one too.
This brings me to …
9. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Scare summary: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad features a roughly 35′ drop.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, located in Magic Kingdom, reminds me quite a bit of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
Both are family coasters, both are based on mountains and mines, and both feature roughly 35-39′ drops.
In fact, I debated on whether or not to rank this above or below Seven Dwarfs for quite a while. In the end, I decided that the smoothness of Mine Train made the older and slightly more jerky Big Thunder Mountain a bit scarier, by comparison.
8. Space Mountain
Scare summary: This coaster is completely in the dark.
Space Mountain, located in Magic Kingdom, is an indoor roller coaster with a few small drops and sharp turns.
While, for some strange reason, I’ve never seen a clear measurement on Space Mountain’s largest drop, most describe it as more of a slope than a drop and estimate it to be around 26′.
So pretty tame right?
But here’s the twist – like the Rockin’ Roller Coaster – this one is completely in the dark the entire time.
It’s just you, a few twinkling “stars”, a series of strobing lights and pitch-black darkness.
And it’s that darkness that truly makes this ride thrilling.
Heck, any ride where you can’t see where you are going automatically becomes 50% more thrilling in nature by default.
7. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
Scare summary: It’s the only roller coaster that goes upside down in Disney World.
Finally, we are getting into some real roller coaster territory.
Located in Hollywood Studios, the start of this ride features a 2.8 second 0-57 mph launch and there are a total of three inversions.
However, even with the launch and the inversions, this coaster is still largely tame, ya know, for a roller coaster. The inversions are fairly small and there are no significant drops.
PS: Strangely enough, even with the inversions, they still allow bags on the ride – is it just me or is that tempting fate?
6. TRON Lightcycle Run
Scare summary: TRON Lightcycle Run is one of the fastest coasters in Disney World.
TRON Lightcycle Run, located in Magic Kingdom, is a motorbike-style coaster where riders lean forward while on the ride instead of sitting back in a traditional seat.
This, coupled with the fact that it reaches speeds of up to 59 mph (even faster than the aforementioned Rock ‘n’ Roller coaster) makes it one of the more “adult” coasters in the park.
It’s reminiscent of Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal Studios.
In fact, I would say this is one of the best coasters in Disney World. But it’s not for the faint of heart.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy
Scare summary: Some people get very sick on this ride.
EPCOT’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is a dark indoor “spinning” roller coaster with a reverse launch. It’s similar to Cobra’s Curse at Busch Gardens in Tampa, only with controlled rotations.
It’s also completely in the dark minus a few larger-than-life theater-sized screens.
I can never tell where this ride is going and what’s happening next. It’s THAT dark.
The effect is meant to make you feel like you are flying through space rather than riding along on a track.
But for some reason, this effect also makes some people quite sick.
Oddly, even though I am prone to motion sickness myself I’ve never had an issue on this ride. But almost every time I’ve been on it, it never fails that someone in front of me or behind me seems to have issues.
Know yourself before boarding this one.
4. Mission: SPACE
Scare summary: The Orange Mission spins, tilts and lets riders experience the G-forces of a real spacecraft launch.
Mission: SPACE, located inside EPCOT, gives riders a chance to experience what it’s like to be a real NASA astronaut.
Riders get to choose between two mission types before boarding:
- The Green Mission: A family-friendly experience for riders 40″ and taller with light movement and no spinning.
- The Orange Mission: A less family-friendly experience for riders 44″ and taller with spins, tilts and G-forces.
I’ll admit, even though I’ll ride almost any other ride (except Star Tours) in Disney World, there’s just something scary about the fact that Mission: SPACE is so intense that it feels the need to offer a tamer version of its own ride.
This is why, at least for me, it’s a Green Mission every time.
3. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure (formerly Splash Mountain)
Scare summary: Tiana’s Bayou Adventure features the third-biggest drop of any ride at Disney World.
While we don’t know a lot about Tiana’s Bayou Adventure (based on the Princess and the Frog movie and located in Magic Kingdom) prior to the ride’s re-opening, we do know it will be retaining its famous 5-story drop.
And if you’re afraid of heights, a 5-story drop is a very, very big deal.
In fact, I believe huge drops to be one of the scariest ride mechanics at any theme park, which brings us to our top two …
2. Expedition Everest
Scare summary: Expedition Everest features the second steepest drop of any ride at Disney World.
Expedition Everest, located inside Animal Kingdom, was one of the OG coasters capable of going both backward and forward with excellent theming throughout.
But it’s the 80′ foot drop – the second steepest of any drop in all of Disney World – that secures it the number two spot on our scariest rides list.
1. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Scare summary: The Hollywood Tower of Terror features the steepest drop of any ride at Disney World at 13 stories tall.
With the word “Terror” in the name – why wouldn’t I rank this one in the number one spot?
I’m old enough to remember when this ride first came out. I was only nine at the time. My dad was the only one in our family brave enough to tackle it.
To make matters worse, at least for nine-year-old me and my aforementioned childhood fear of ghosts, there is also some ghostly theming to this ride.
So as you might imagine, this attraction, to me, was the stuff of nightmares.
But twenty-eight years later I finally worked up enough courage to tackle it myself. And I have to say, it’s actually pretty fun.
The ride features multiple drops that are randomized in sequence and length to create a different ride experience each time. But the largest drop – the 13-story drop – is guaranteed at least once with each ride.
This is what makes it the scariest ride in all four parks, at least in my opinion.
Do you agree with my rankings? Do you like scary rides? What do you think is the scariest ride in Disney World? Let me know in the comments below.