Why Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Disney World is my new favorite theme park attraction
Editor’s note: Madison Blancaflor was a guest of Walt Disney World to preview Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind as part of the 50th anniversary celebration. Disney provided her travel to the event, her two-night stay and the experience itself. The opinions expressed below are entirely hers and weren’t subject to review by Disney or any other entity.
I absolutely love roller coasters — have since I was a kid begging the ride operators at Magic Springs in Arkansas to let me ride The Gauntlet on repeat every summer — which means it takes something special for a ride to make it onto my list of favorite coasters of all time.
Disney World's newest attraction Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind had my heart before I even sat down on the ride itself, and I can confidently say it's my new favorite attraction at any theme park I've ever visited.
Epcot's first-ever roller coaster won't officially blast off until May 27, but I was able to take a few turns riding the attraction at a recent media preview hosted by Disney. It's honestly hard to put into words just how much I adored every aspect of the attraction. From the entrance to the queue design to the pre-show to the attraction storyline to the soundtrack to the ride itself — everything about this coaster surpassed every expectation I had (and believe me, my Marvel-obsessed heart had pretty high expectations going in).
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With the ride opening soon as part of Disney's 50th anniversary celebration, anyone with an upcoming trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth is likely asking themselves whether the coaster will be worth making a priority to check out. Here's why Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is my new favorite roller coaster (and worth checking out while you're at Disney World).
It's freaking fun — yes, even the queue
"Immersive" is every theme park attraction's favorite buzzword these days, with Disney and Universal especially having been neck and neck in recent years creating experiences that attempt to transport you to different universes —from Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The word is a bit overplayed, in my opinion.
But when I say that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind truly is an immersive experience, I mean it. The queue, pre-ride experience and the coaster itself all make you feel like you're in space with the Nova Corps and the Guardians. And on top of that, it's just a freaking good time.
First, you wind through the (air-conditioned — very important for anyone visiting in the hot Florida summer) Galaxarium, where you'll hear about the ways Xandar and Earth are connected. The entire experience constantly points back to this idea that we are all more alike than we think — a central ethos of Epcot as a whole.
As you get closer to boarding, you'll pass through the Xandar Gallery, where you'll learn more about Xandar (and see a few cameos from your favorite "Guardians" characters). These displays were really fun and will make the inevitable long lines a lot more entertaining.
Once you get into the pre-ride experience, the action really begins. I won't give away everything, but I will say that it really does feel like you've been transported to a Nova Corps ship. If you've dined at Space 220, you'll notice some similar technology with a healthy dose of "Guardians" pizazz. And there are cameos I very much enjoyed and some fun "OMG"-worthy moments throughout the pre-show.
Especially if you're a Marvel and "Guardians of the Galaxy" fan, the queue and pre-ride experience are top-notch.
It balances thrills with a fantastic storyline
Cosmic Rewind is Epcot's first true roller coaster, but it's also so much more. Yes, you're screaming (and if you're me, giddy laughing) as you whip through space and time, but you're also starring in a great storyline on a mission to save the galaxy.
In terms of intensity, I'd give it a three out of five. You're zipping through the dark with twists and turns, but it's nothing like the speed and flips of coasters like VelociCoaster at Universal Studios.
I love intense thrill rides, so I would have been totally okay with more twists and turns and a few barrel rolls, but on those types of coasters, you really lose the actual storyline once the ride starts. (It's hard to focus on a plotline or visual effects when your stomach is in your throat and you're screaming louder than the speakers.)
Guardians offers a different experience — thanks to the speakers in each Starjumper ride car, the visual effects used for the ride and the way the coaster seamlessly turns so you can see each scene, it strikes the perfect balance between true thrill and immersive storyline.
I won't spoil the plotline because discovering the story as you go is honestly one of the best parts of the ride. But in true "Guardians of the Galaxy" fashion, you'll be helping save the universe ... with a few laughs and chaotic mishaps along the way.
And for those of you who want to know where they should try to sit? An Imagineer gave me an insider tip: Rows five and six in the middle of the ride offer the best view of the story.
I rode multiple times in the front, middle and back, and the middle is definitely the best place to get the full effects of the storyline. But my personal favorite seat was in the third row (front seat of the second car), which offered the thrill of being toward the front while still getting a great seat for the show.
The soundtrack is amazing
I don't know if I've ever actually cared about the music on a roller coaster before, but Cosmic Rewind is truly a coaster of "firsts." The soundtrack was incredible.
There are six songs on the soundtrack:
- "September" by Earth, Wind & Fire.
- "Disco Inferno" by the Trammps.
- "One Way or Another" by Blondie.
- "I Ran" by A Flock of Seagulls.
- "Conga" by Miami Sound Machine.
- "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears.
"Each time you ride with a different song, it really does feel different," Daniel Joseph, principal special effects designer and illusion development lead at Walt Disney Imagineering, told TPG in an interview.
I was able to ride Cosmic Rewind six times throughout the day and night and got to hear three of the different songs, and it truly does change the experience.
I was singing the entire time to "One Way or Another," which gave the mission we were on while we raced through time and space a chaotic and upbeat vibe. "I Ran" made the ride and storyline more intense. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" was easily my favorite song I got to experience, and I was dancing in my seat the whole way — it gave the story a whimsical vibe (very on brand for anything "Guardians" related).
"It's amazing how just the audio track, which we went through so many iterations, changes the whole experience, like the visual and the visceral experience," said Joseph.
The song selection is luck of the draw, but an Imagineer did tell me that the songs play on a loop so you have an equal chance of hearing all six. I'm personally hoping I can eventually get all of them as I continue to ride after it opens to the public.
Last, but certainly not least, I have to give a shoutout to the fact that this roller coaster is size-inclusive.
I'm a plus-size traveler who loves roller coasters — two things that unfortunately usually don't mix well. Too many roller coasters only allow thinner theme park-goers to ride. In fact, there are multiple roller coasters at Universal Orlando that I can't ride as a size 18/20, despite having no health risks that should prevent me from riding.
With so many of the newer coasters consistently having small seats, I was definitely a little worried that I wouldn't be able to ride Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind — or at the least, that I would have to squeeze into an uncomfortable seat that affected my ride experience. But my fears were put to rest as soon as I sat down.
Each person has their own individual lap bar, the seats are wide and comfortable, and I had absolutely zero issue fitting in the seat. I heard similar rave reviews of the ride cars from other plus-size Disney fans at the media preview event.
There's also a solid amount of legroom, so taller riders who might be worried about their legs cramming into a small car can also breathe easily.
"We spent a lot of time using mock-ups to try and figure out just the right configuration," said Liz Diaz, senior ride development engineer at Walt Disney Imagineering. "It is very inclusive."
I can tell you from experience that there is almost nothing worse than the way your stomach drops when you realize you can't ride an attraction you've waited in line to experience. So the fact that size inclusivity — from considering different ages to different body sizes to different heights — was an important factor in designing the seats is just another reason Cosmic Rewind already holds a special place in my heart.
A few caveats to consider
When I say I had zero complaints about the ride, I mean it. I completely loved every second of the experience — and each time I was able to ride the coaster, I fell in love with it even more. However, there are a few things about the ride that might not make it worth the wait or virtual queue experience for you and your family.
There is a height requirement
First, you do have to be 42 inches tall, so not all kids will be able to ride. It is a family-friendly attraction — not too intense with fun twists (figurative and literal) that both kids and adults can enjoy — but if you're with smaller children, just know one of you may have to wait with them outside in order for you to experience it.
Motion sickness and light sensitivity
Something else to consider is motion sickness and sensitivity to flashing lights.
The Starjumper seats were incredibly smooth, but you are twisting and turning quite a bit surrounded by screens and flashing lights. If you are prone to motion sickness, you'll likely want to wait it out.
Brooke McDonald, a fellow Disney fan and TPG contributor, told me that she found Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind to be worse than even Remy's Ratatouille Adventure in terms of motion sickness (especially if you ride it more than once, like we did during the media preview). Tarah Chieffi, family travel writer at TPG, also noted that a little bit of motion sickness did kick in after the second time she rode it during the day.
I'm not prone to motion sickness, and I honestly would have ridden it nonstop all day if I could have. But if rides such as Remy's or Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey over at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando make you queasy, there's a good chance this ride will, too.
Additionally, you'll experience flashing lights throughout parts of the pre-ride experience and during the entire ride itself. If you have photosensitive epilepsy or are at all sensitive to bright flashing lights, keep that in mind before deciding to ride.
Marvel fans will love this ride the most
I will admit that part of what made me love this ride so much is my connection with Marvel. I've watched almost every single Marvel Cinematic Universe movie in theaters, many on premiere night and many multiple times. I've watched every Marvel TV series, both the Netflix shows and the newer Disney+ shows. I've even read a fair share of the screenplays I've been able to find online.
While I'm not saying you have to watch every Marvel movie and show in order to enjoy this ride (I personally think even those who have never watched anything Marvel would still have a great time), it is something to consider when reading through my experience.
I can say with absolute certainty that this is my favorite attraction I've ever experienced at any theme park — not an easy feat, believe me. And while it's not the most daring roller coaster I've ever been on (VelociCoaster over at Universal will continue to hold that designation), I would still choose to ride Cosmic Rewind over VelociCoaster.
There is also a cute merchandise store, Treasures of Xandar, next to the ride exit with unique "Guardians of the Galaxy" memorabilia — including baby Groot plushies, a cassette crossbody bag and Peter Quill's iconic leather jacket. If I had more room in my suitcase, I would have taken home one of each.
The ride is set to open to the public in Epcot's World Discovery on May 27. Like previous new attractions at Disney, Cosmic Rewind will launch with a virtual queue boarding experience. Guests will alternatively be able to purchase an individual Lightning Lane. There will be no standby line when the attraction opens.
There truly isn't another ride like Cosmic Rewind at Disney (or any theme park), and this ride solidifies Epcot as a "can't miss" park for every Disney trip of mine moving forward. Until my next trip to Xandar, you'll find me listening to the ride soundtrack on repeat.