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Welcome to Disney Week at The Points Guy! All week we’ll be covering everything there is to know about Disney parks all around the world. After you’ve read this guide to “The 10 Best Disney Thrill Rides Around the World,” make sure to check out our other Disney stories — the list is at the bottom of this page.
Sure, your family knows all about how they can fight crime alongside the Incredibles in Disneyland and trek up Space Mountain in Walt Disney World. But have they ever considered shooting down TIE fighters in Paris? Or racing lightcycles in Shanghai?
There are a full dozen Disney parks across six cities in the world, and each of them has its own unique rides, special to that park alone. Many of them are so good that they’ll make you consider a trip to a foreign Disney park just to get another notch on your thrill-ride belt — and we’re going to tell you which ones are the best of the best right here.
To qualify for this list, we only considered Disney rides that satisfied two criteria: First, it had to be a thrill ride. What’s a thrill ride? Well, if you’re looking for the scariest roller coasters in the world, then Disney probably isn’t where you’ll find them. To be on our thrill list, we’re talking drops, twists, turns and high speeds (or an awesome simulation of them).
Second, it had to be unique to a single park. There are a number of rides that have copies in two or more Disney parks worldwide, making it unnecessary to travel all the way to the other side of the world to experience it. But sometimes a copied ride is different enough in theming from park to park to be a unique experience, in which case it’s eligible for our list. But, in general, we looked for rides that could only be found in one park.
With those two rules in mind, we present to you the 10 best Disney thrill rides in the world…
10. The Incredicoaster
Disney California Adventure, Anaheim, California
One of the few classic roller coasters in all of the Disney theme parks, The Incredicoaster was recently re-themed from its previous incarnation as California Screamin’ as part of Disney’s transformation of Paradise Pier into Pixar Pier. The ride features the same track as before, but now with characters from Pixar’s “The Incredibles” incorporated into its story.
The “scream tubes” previously designed to comply with noise-abatement ordinances protecting Anaheim’s nearby residential neighborhoods have been extended, with new lighting and special effects added to play scenes with Dash and his family (voiced by the original cast) chasing after baby Jack-Jack as you whiz by.
The Incredicoaster is the fastest ride in the two Anaheim parks and one of only a handful of Disney rides to feature an inversion loop, which is a fancy roller-coaster-designer way of saying you’ll be upside down at some point. Make sure your Mickey ears are secured before climbing aboard.
9. Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars
Hong Kong Disneyland, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
No one wreaks havoc quite like absentminded bears. At least that’s the story behind the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars roller coaster. Added to Disney’s Hong Kong park in 2012, riders are strapped into a mine-car train and sent down to Tunnel 8 until a bear scratching his butt … er, backside on a track switch sends your group careening down the more perilous Tunnel 4.
The ride is the second Disney attraction to feature sections that run both forward and backward, an innovation first utilized by the company on the US ride that appears next on our list.
8. Expedition Everest
Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida
If you’re thinking you’re unlikely to ever come face-to-face with a snow-drenched yeti in the middle of Central Florida, Disney has a surprise for you.
The yeti that lives inside Mount Everest on Expedition Everest is the largest audio animatronic figure that the company has ever created. The creature is designed to reach out and grab at park goers at the climax of the ride, but it hasn’t operated quite as intended since a few months after the attraction opened in 2006. Manufacturing errors led the theme park to operate the yeti only in backup mode, which simulates motion via strobe lights.
Still, you’ll certainty get a thrill racing away from the yeti after being dropped backward down the mountain, which is the tallest structure at Disney’s parks in Florida.
7. Hyperspace Mountain
Disneyland Park, Marne-la-Vallée, France
What’s that sound? It’s Disney fanatics loudly objecting to the inclusion of Hyperspace Mountain on our list.
“It’s just a re-theming of Space Mountain,” they cluck away. “There are multiple Space Mountains in Disney parks around the world, including versions in both Orlando and Anaheim.”
Well, yes. But there’s only one version that features an outdoor section along with inversions — that part where you’re upside down — and you’ll find it only in Disneyland Park at the Disneyland Paris resort, about 30 minutes outside the capital of France. In fact, none of the other Space Mountains in the world have even one inversion, much less the three — sidewinder, corkscrew and tongue — featured on the Paris attraction (besides, are we really going to do a list of the top Disney thrill rides in the world without having some version of Space Mountain on it?).
Right now in Paris, you’ll also get the enhanced Star Wars theming, which was added to the ride in May 2017 and features TIE fighters battling against your squadron of X-wings, accompanied by the classic John Williams score trumpeting from speakers on board your coaster car. But if you want to defeat the Dark Side, you’ll need to hurry, as the ride is scheduled to revert to its original Space Mountain: Mission 2 theming in late 2018.
6. Tron Lightcycle Power Run
Shanghai Disneyland Park, Pudong, Shanghai, China
Up until just a few years ago, you were probably a middle-aged adult male if you knew what the word “Tron” referred to. But since the release of the 2010 movie sequel, “Tron: Legacy,” there are a few more people familiar with the concept of lightcycle matches.
Now, thanks to the Tron Lightcycle Power Run ride at the relatively new Shanghai Disneyland Park in China, you can climb aboard a lightcycle of your own — and yes, it’s really a cycle. The coaster cars are designed like bikes, which you climb aboard and ride with your legs strapped down on either side and your hands holding onto the handlebars like a motorcycle as you race down the indoor/outdoor coaster track at nearly 60 miles per hour.
Sound intriguing? You can either head to China to take a spin now, or wait a few more years here on the home front, as a copy of Tron Lightcycle Power Run is being built at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. That version of the ride is scheduled to open in 2021.
5. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Orlando, Florida
A ride starring Aerosmith in our top five? It may sound silly, but this in-the-dark roller coaster — which itself features three inversions — is a blast right from the start as it rockets from zero to almost 60 miles per hour in less than three seconds.
The story has you barreling down the 405 in Los Angeles in a limo, with signs and landmarks flashing by as you try to make it to the Aerosmith concert in time. As you fly along, tunes like “Love in an Elevator” (rewritten as “Love in a Roller Coaster”) ring in your ears — you’ll hear one of five different Aerosmith songs, depending on which set of cars you end up riding.
Note that there’s a version of this same ride at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris, but the story isn’t as good (no limo, no 405, no Los Angeles), and it’s being closed in summer 2019 for refurbishment with an Iron Man and Avengers theme on the horizon. So in just a short while, Florida will be the only place you can experience “Sweet Emotion” at a Disney theme park.
4. Iron Man Experience
Hong Kong Disneyland, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
The first thrill ride on our list that isn’t a roller coaster, the Iron Man Experience in Hong Kong is a brand-new 3D motion simulator experience that opened in 2017. Your trip to Stark Tower in the Iron Wing is interrupted by HYDRA robots attempting to steal the Arc reactor. Fortunately, it’s Tony Stark to the rescue, who will get you home safely with a little help from Jarvis — though with more than a few hard bumps and drops along the way.
If you haven’t been on a modern simulator ride, the Iron Man Experience shows how far the technology has come, with an experience so real you’d swear you were actually flying. (Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for the ubiquitous Stan Lee cameo in the boarding video before the ride.)
3. Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout!
Disney California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Up until last year, this was just one of multiple versions of Disney’s Tower of Terror attraction, with four different-but-not-that-unsimilar versions floating around the company’s various theme parks. But after a significant refurbishment in 2017, the California ride is the only one that now features the Guardians of the Galaxy, all played by the original movie actors (and, yes, Howard the Duck).
In the story, the Collector has captured our heroes, and it’s up to us to help rescue them, with Rocket’s help. Unfortunately, the irascible space raccoon’s plan involves cutting power to the gantry lift you’re riding, resulting in some rather abrupt ups and downs — a series of random drops of up to 13 stories at a speed of 39 miles per hour. At the top or bottom of each drop, the doors fly open to reveal the Guardians in various stages of chaos — in fact, there are six different scene sequences, so this is a ride you can take multiple times to experience different stories each time.
2. Journey to the Center of the Earth
Tokyo DisneySea, Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, Japan
The prime attraction at Tokyo DisneySea — itself considered by many Disney aficionados to be the best of the 12 worldwide Disney parks — Journey to the Center of the Earth takes you to Captain Nemo’s base on Mysterious Island, a half mile below ground level (and inside the volcano at the center of the park). From there you’ll board a mine vehicle to take you all the way down to the center of the earth … except that, as these things always seem to go at Disney, an unfortunate detour brings you face-to-face with an unexpected creature that’s less than pleased by your presence.
The ride features both indoor and outdoor sections, a high-speed chase and terrific theming that demonstrates the very best Disney can bring to the theme-park experience.
1. Avatar Flight of Passage
Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida
It’s probably no surprise to find Avatar Flight of Passage at the very top of our list — or at least it’s no surprise to park goers who routinely wait in lines reaching upwards of three hours just to ride this 3D motion simulator.
But unlike with most simulators, you won’t be sitting in a seat with a group of others on Flight of Passage. Instead, you’ll have your own ride vehicle — similar in style and appearance to the Tron bikes in Shanghai — lined up in a room with 15 others facing a huge screen. And once the lights go down, it really does feel like you’ve been transported to Pandora on the back of a banshee, with the effect helped along by additional “4D” stimuli like the feel of the wind and even the snorting of your banshee under you.
Is it worth the wait? Probably, but try very hard to get a FastPass+ at 60 days out so you won’t spend half your day standing in line for it. And if you can’t, be waiting at the entrance to Animal Kingdom when the park opens and make a beeline for the Pandora area as quickly as you can.
Featured photo by Joe Pennitson/Flickr
Want to read more about Disney parks around the world? Check out our other Disney guides…
- The Best Points Hotels Near Disney World in 2018
- TPG’s Ultimate Guide to Disney World
- In the Shadow of the Mouse: Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs
- 9 Things Families Should Know Before Visiting Disneyland
- How to Save Money By Renting Disney Vacation Club Points
- How to Use Points for Disney Tickets
- Disney World Without Kids: 10 Ways to Enjoy an Adult Trip to Disney
- 10 Things Kids Will Love at the Disney Aulani Resort in Hawaii
- How to Ride Every Disney World Ride in One Day
- How to Eat Healthy at Disney World
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