In this particular post I will endeavor to address one of—if not the—most common reason I hear from skeptics for why they think a Walt Disney World® (WDW) vacation is not for them… “Everything at Disney World is for kids!” They just don’t know any better, yet. In many cases, they are convinced that there is little at WDW for the thrill seeker(s). Unfortunately, this misconception has resulted in many individuals and families opting to vacation at other theme/coaster parks across the country. Of course, I realize these other parks offer numerous extreme roller coasters and other exhilarating thrill attractions. However, what these doubters do not know is that WDW has more than a few ways to get your adrenaline pumping. There is oh so much “More to the World” than kiddie rides and adventures.
Included with Admission
While it is true that WDW has its fair share of kid-oriented attractions as well family-focused adventures, shows, and character Meet-and-Greets that dominate their television and print ads, Disney strategically includes teaser images to show off the thrilling side of Walt Disney World. Not for the faint of heart, there are several mind blowing, spine-tingling, heart stopping, take-your-breath-away opportunities included with admission. Let the facts below speak for themselves:
- Rock n’ Roller Coaster® Starring Aerosmith – This indoor roller coaster located on Sunset Boulevard within Disney’s Hollywood Studios® (DHS) is an intense, themed ride that utilizes linear induction technology to catapult riders from 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds while pulling between four and five Gs. Each mega-stretch limo takes passengers through an inversion loop followed by a cork-screw and a second inversion loop. Adding to the overall experience, every twist and turn of the adrenaline-charged course takes place in near pitch-black surroundings with the only illumination coming from glowing landmark signs and images appearing in the darkness. All the while, riders are blasted by over 120 speakers blaring one of five Aerosmith songs. It’s a rockin’, rousing good time.
- The Twilight Zone Tower of TerrorTM – Many people may think that this free-fall-like ride is no different than others found at various amusement parks throughout the country. However, on this DHS attraction, riders—after having been launched multiple stories up—are actually pulled down as opposed to being dropped. Passengers literally descend faster than the speed of gravity, which results in a feeling of weightless floating that is at once pleasing and unsettling. Just when riders think the unnerving experience is over, they are pulled back up for a series of randomized plunges and lifts that prolong this unpredictable elevator ride. It is important to note that it is the unique phenomenon of weightless floating that creates a thrill unmatched on any free-fall drop ride at any other theme park in America.
- Expedition Everest –Legend of the Forbidden Mountain®—Only at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® (DAK) can a scenic train ride through the Himalayan Mountains become a high-speed, frightening encounter with the legendary, fearsome Yeti. This train roller coaster has a steel track that is well over 4,000 feet in length. The course includes a surprising midcourse hold-point and switch track that unexpectedly reverses the train’s forward motion. Now, on a new track, passengers are suddenly plunged backward down into the mountain for more treacherous thrills and chills. Eventually the petrified riders come to a halt and are righted to a forward motion only to plummet down an 80-foot drop into an intense helix. The ride isn’t over just yet; several more spine-tingling experiences await overwhelmed riders before the train returns to the unloading dock.
- Dinosaur® –Imagineers are responsible for development, designs as well as technological advancements that have propelled WDW well in front of its competition in terms of storytelling. Journey attractions aren’t just for kids anymore. Not recommended for children, Dinosaur® located in DAK is a scare-your-pants-off mission back to the dinosaur age when enormous creatures roamed the earth 65 million years ago. Riders board a Time Rover (Enhanced Motion Vehicle or EMV) to travel back in time to rescue a friendly Iguanodon and bring him back to the present before a giant asteroid hits earth. Throughout the ride, numerous animatronic dinosaurs, deafening sounds, lighting, and the EMV ride itself combine to create an incredibly realistic experience that many riders admit is—at times—downright scream inducing. Word to the wise, beware of the massive, dreaded Carnotaurus.
- Mission: SPACE®– For those looking for intense thrills, look no further than Epcot’s® Future World indoor attraction Mission: SPACE®—a space flight simulation attraction. What is now called the “Orange Team” version—or original version—of the ride was found to be so intense that Imagineers created a “Green Team” version to allow more guests the ability to experience the attraction. The Orange Team utilizes a centrifuge technology to produce the realistic sensations of a rocket launch and weightlessness. Buzz Aldrin and Rhea Seddon, NASA astronauts, have both ridden Mission: SPACE® and confirm that the simulation is directly comparable to actual space travel.
- Summit Plummet®—Located at Disney’s Blizzard Beach® Water Park, Summit Plummet® is a water slide made to look like a ski jump. Currently ranked among the world’s top five tallest waterslides, it measures an amazing twelve stories in height, and boasts an angle that is literally breathtaking. Gravity will have fearless thrill seekers plummeting down the slope at 50 to 60 mph. That certainly makes this Blizzard Beach thrill ride chilling in more ways than one.
While those listed above are considered—by most thrill seekers—to be the 6 most intense attractions at WDW, they definitely are not the only ones in the category of “Thrill” rides. The Magic Kingdom® Park (MK) has Space Mountain®, Big Thunder Mountain®, Splash Mountain®, and The Barnstormer®. Epcot offers Test Track® Presented by Chevrolet®. DAK has Kali River Rapids® and Primeval Whirl®. Typhoon Lagoon® Water Park boasts Crush ‘n’ Gusher®, Keelhaul Falls®, Gang Plank Falls®, Mayday Falls®, and Humunga Kowabunga®. Blizzard Beach has Downhill Double Dipper®, Runoff Rapids®, Slush Gusher®, Teamboat Springs®, Toboggan Racers®, and Snow Stormers®.
Where to Stay
Many might wonder if there are hotels on property to satisfy the thrill seeker. WDW has more than one. Disney’s Yacht Club Resort® and Disney’s Beach Club Resort® share a 3-acre mini waterpark pool, Stormalong Bay®, which boasts a 230-foot shipwreck waterslide. While that may be exhilarating to some, what is thrilling in life is defined differently by each individual. For others, it is more about sight than participation. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort® offers outstanding visual thrills. It is surrounded by four savannas where giraffes, zebras, gazelles, rhinos and several other animal species wander freely within a secure wildlife preserve that is just yards off all savanna view resort rooms. Still other thrill seekers might just want a comfortable bed and world-class service after an adrenaline-filled day at the parks. No problem, WDW has 20+ resorts to accommodate thrill seekers ready for adventure or needing rejuvenation.
Where to Eat
Food can be a thrill when you are adventurous enough to step outside your comfort zone. Such foods may be never-before-tried items or they may be unique variations of familiar ones. Here are some options that may intrigue, tantalize and excite the thrill-seeking food lover. At Epcot, in the Norway pavilion, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, is a table-service location with a buffet that includes authentic cuisine such as Traditional Kɸjttkake, which are Norwegian meatballs with lingonberry sauce. Also at Epcot, the Morocco pavilion is home to Restaurant Marrakesh and the Tangierine Café. A quick-service location, Tangierine Café, offers various Shawarma Platters with meat options, hummus, tabouleh, and couscous. Restaurant Marrakesh includes menu items such as Beef Brewat Rolls and Seafood or Chicken Bastilla, both of which include thin layers of pastry filled with meats, sauce and various nuts or vegetables. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge®, Jiko – The Cooking Place® and Boma – Flavors of Africa® both serve up some of the most unique and thrilling foods the continent of Africa has to offer. Boma’s buffet includes items such as Zanzibar Crab Soup, Apple Jicama Salad, Beef and Lamb Bobotie, and Banana Bread Pudding. Jiko’s menu includes dishes such as Grilled Wild Boar Tenderloin, Chermoula-roasted Nigerian Prawns, and Lime-scented Crème Brulée. For those who have an appreciation for fine spirits and find it thrilling to try new or different varieties, look no further than La Cava del Tequila® at the Mexico pavilion in Epcot. There tequila aficionados have the opportunity to choose from 70+ varieties of Tequila, the distilled beverage made from the 100% agave. Here several uniquely flavored margaritas such as Jalapeño, Cucumber, Avocado, and Blood Orange. If you prefer an alcohol-free, adventurous drink, stop by the Kabuki Café® at the Japan pavilion in Epcot for a Kakigori, which is Japanese shaved ice, flavored with a choice of fruit syrups much like Hawaiian Ice. For a unique experience, order the Kakagori with sweet milk on top. For those who are thrilled to have of a great cup of full-bodied coffee, head to Boma at the DAK Lodge for Press Pot African Coffee (Kenya AA), one of the world’s finest Arabica coffees. It is exceptionally smooth, never bitter, satisfying with a light winy taste of berry and citrus to finish. Whether hot or cold, spirit-enhanced or non-alcoholic, choose an adventurous beverage to compliment a daring meal, or to start or cap a thrilling day.
While there are many “pay-to-play” options such as waterskiing, parasailing, snorkeling with sharks, etc. at WDW, there are three opportunities that offer very unique experiences to thrill seekers:
- Richard Petty Driving Experience®—Here, a guest has the option of driving or riding with a professional driving instructor in a NASCAR or high-performance exotic such as a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Audi or Porsche. While those who choose to drive will have the opportunity to reach speeds of up to 120 mph, those who opt for passenger status can hit up to 165 mph as they fly around the mile-long, tri-oval race track. For in-depth information on this opportunity, read Makena Wolcott’s exclusive coverage of her father’s experience in her post, “The Fastest Ride in Walt Disney World isn’t in the Parks”.
- Wild Africa Trek®—Participants in this experience will take a three hour trek through the Safi River Valley of DAK. During the adventure, participants cross a rope bridge that hangs just ten feet above massive hippos and menacing crocodiles. When not on foot, the journey continues in a safari vehicle through the wide open savanna. Following the trek, guests sit down at a private safari camp to observe the wildlife and sample authentic African Cuisine. The cost per person, including food and a photo CD, varies from $189-$249 depending upon the season. Reservations are required, as each trek is limited to 12 guests, and there are a limited number of treks per day. For in-depth information on this experience, listen to WDW Radio Show #206 – Disney’s Wild Africa Trek Review – January 23, 2011.
- Characters in Flight…Operated by Aérophile®—This tethered helium balloon attraction is located at Downtown Disney® where it ascends 400 feet in the air several times daily. It is an eight to ten minute experience that affords daring guests incredible 360° views of the entire WDW Resort and beyond as the peak height allows for a ten mile viewing distance. The balloon’s basket holds up to 29 riders and one Aérophile pilot, but the maximum capacity can vary depending on wind speed. Please note that the balloon will not fly if wind speeds exceed 22 mph or in stormy weather. Also, children under age nine are required to have an adult ride with them. Weather permitting, Characters in Flight operates daily, at costs of $12.00 per child and $18.00 per adult.
Hopefully, for thrill seeking skeptics who question whether or not a Walt Disney World® vacation is for them, this post makes WDW enticing enough to consider booking an upcoming trip to give these suggestions a try. The goal here was to disprove the notion that “Everything at Walt Disney World is for kids!” Tick the box. No longer in the dark about WDW thrill seeking opportunities, skeptics who travel to WDW just might find that it is more thrilling than some of those “other” theme/coaster parks. After all, there is oh so much “More to the World” than kiddie rides and adventures.
(Photos from the personal collection of Kendall Foreman.)
WDW fans, what do you find most thrilling at WDW? Was it on this list or do you have other suggestions for the thrill seekers? Please leave your suggestions in the comment section below.
Kendall began visiting Walt Disney World in 1991 with her family and has continued to visit the resort with her husband. As a child, she and her family filled vacations with challenges such as “How many times can we ride Splash Mountain during SpectroMagic and the fireworks?” (Answer: 7) Now, after marrying a converted Disney skeptic, she and her husband enjoy challenges such as “How many hours can we eat nonstop at the Food & Wine Festival?” (Answer: 4)