Ranked: The 10 Best Rides (for adults) at Walt Disney World (before Tron arrives)

Ahead of the arrival of the highly anticipated roller coaster TRON Lightcycle / Run, on April 4th (tomorrow!), we’re counting down the 10 best rides (for adults) at the four Disney theme parks in Orlando, Florida.

We do have to start out with an honourable mention to Splash Mountain, which would have originally made this list, but is currently undergoing renovations ahead of a redesign around the film Princess and the Frog. The updated attraction is set to re-open late 2024 as “Tiana’s Bayou Adventure”. This has long been one of the best rides at the park, and I eagerly anticipate its return under the guise of an otherwise unutilized IP at Disney Parks.

Another honourable mention is Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, at Hollywood Studios, which is currently undergoing renovations. It’s still the only coaster at the four parks in Orlando that includes any inversions – with two loops and a corkscrew included in the experience. It’s expected to reopen this Summer.

So, moving on to the rides that are currently open at Walt Disney World…

10. Soarin’ Around The World (EPCOT, 2016)

We start with a ride that’s certainly one for the whole family, young and old alike.

The ride originally debuted at Disney’s California Adventure in 2001, as Soarin’ Over California, before being ported (as is) to EPCOT as Soarin’ in 2005. But a decade later, the experience was already showing its age, and with technology like it now being used in attractions from Vancouver to Times Square, it was no longer a case of “you can only experience this at a Disney Park”, but rather, “come see the best version of the experience”.

Soarin’ Over The World opened at EPCOT in 2016, to better fit in at a Disney park that’s all about experiencing the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of cultures all over the world. And indeed, that’s what you get to do on this ride – as you “fly” over a variety of natural and man made spectacles from all corners of the globe. And they do it while they bombard you with the smells, and feelings (wind, water and more), of being in the actual locations.

The ride also features one of the more engaging group activities that’s available through the “Play Disney Parks” app while you wait in line – and that’s playing world trivia, with your scores displayed as you make your way through the queue.

9. Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain (Animal Kingdom, 2006)

Orlando’s answer to Disneyland’s classic Matterhorn, Expedition Everest is as solid an outdoor coaster as you get – bringing in elements from other Disney rides of the ilk, including Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – another classic Disney attraction. Though in this case, it joins the version in Hong Kong (where it’s called Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars), as one of only two coasters in the international Disney Park Universe where you get to go backwards for a short time.

Arriving 8 years after the park opened, Everest is now one of the most recognisable attractions at Animal Kingdom, and one of only a handful of rides at the park, which focuses more on its animal themed experiences, like the Kilimanjaro Safari, which is another must-do for all guests.

8. Haunted Mansion (Magic Kingdom, 1971)

If you want to talk about classic Disney rides, there is none better than Haunted Mansion. It remains one of the best experiences in the park. Though some of the effects remain the same as on opening day (of course maintained with plenty of upkeep), plenty of others have been rethought and reinvented. There’s probably more eras of innovative technology and technical trickery on display by the Imagineers here than any other ride in the park.

And that elevator loading experience is as enjoyable now as it was when I was a frightened little tot. Don’t let its age fool you – Haunted Mansion remains a must ride attraction. And they’re soon to make another movie out of it! And Jamie Lee Curtis is going to be in it!

7. Slinky Dog Dash (Hollywood Studios, 2018)

While it might be easy to expect a family roller coaster in the Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios to be a little too kid friendly, the Slinky Coaster is a joyful, exciting and surprising outdoor roller coaster that plays well with the IP, while delivering a fun experience for everyone.

While there’s no inversions to be found here, it impressively reaches 64 km/h, making it currently the third fastest ride at Walt Disney World, behind Aerosmith and Expedition Everest. Though with speeds of 97 km/h, the TRON coaster, which opens tomorrow, will take the top spot and move Slinky Dog into fourth position. Sorry buddy!

Oh and like a couple of rides in the Disney parks, this is one best enjoyed at night (and hot tip: you’ll find much shorter lines in this part of Hollywood Studios as you get closer to closing time!).

6. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (EPCOT, 2021)

Easily the best family ride at any of the Disney parks in Orlando, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is as impressive a ride from a technical aspect, as it is a surprisingly fun experience. In fact, many of the technologies employed for the ride were rehashed for what sits as the number one attraction on our list.

The 3D video effects are fantastic, the motion-based trackless experience ensures you never know where you’re going to go next – and there’s enough elements that differ from ride to ride that every time you jump into the world of Ratatouille, it feels fresh. The animation and detail in every part of the “adventure” is nothing short of astounding. And I love how they incorporate both French and English language into it.

C’est bon!

5. Star Tours – The Adventures Continue (Hollywood Studios, 2011)

When the original Star Tours opened in California in 1987 (and two years later in Orlando), it was, at the time, the very first non-Disney IP to be integrated into the parks. It quickly became a fan favourite, while breaking technological ground in the space of motion simulator experiences.

It’s now one of very few Disney rides to feature at four parks around the world.

But for a long time – even through the prequel trilogy that kicked off in the 90s – it was an unchanged experience. Every ride was the same, and frankly, fans didn’t complain. But in 2010, after years of teasing the premise, the ride finally closed down to incorporate a completely new experience, one that promised to offer dozens of different experiences – randomly selected every time you ride. And in 3D now! With C-3PO as your pilot! (RIP Captain Rex).

Since the new version of the ride debuted in 2011, the park has continually added new “destinations” to the experience, incorporating worlds visited in the latest run of Star Wars films. The latest addition was at the end of 2019, to coincide with the end of the most recent trilogy, and already there’s talks of more to be added in the not-too-distant future. All of this sits within the park’s trend towards replay value within their rides, which I for one am here for. They say you could ride it hundreds of times and not see the same sequence of events once!

4. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (EPCOT, 2022)

I talk about this ride at length HERE, and I maintain it’s the most impressive indoor coaster that Disney has ever produced. And this isn’t just because of the ride experience itself, but an often awe-inspiring line, too. Click through to read more about this incredible roller coaster.

Photo by Larry Heath

3. Avatar: Flight of Passage (Animal Kingdom, 2017)

This ride is so popular, and has lines so long, there’s bathroom and water collection points in the queue. A ride so beloved by those who experience it that when I last rode it, we sat in a queue for almost three hours (due to a breakdown), but no one budged. Talking to a few people in the line, they all said that even with a wait like that, it was worth it.

While I would never condone to spend that sort of time in a queue – they are right. There’s just nothing quite like this ride, that sees you jump on the back of a banshee and fly over the Na’vi planet Pandora. The visuals are outstanding, and the load in procedure unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. They have very much taken the experience of Soarin’ and upped the ante here.

Like Star Tours, I wouldn’t be surprised if they made some changes to it down the line to take you to worlds visited in the new films, but frankly, it’s a pretty perfect experience how it is. Just be prepared to wait for it – it has a tendency to break down due to just how technologically advanced the whole experience is.

Photo by Larry Heath

2. The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios, 1994)

Whenever I ride the original Tower of Terror in Orlando, I find it hard to believe this ambitious ride launched in Summer 1994. I still even remember the TV ads promoting it – it was set to be a truly terrifying, thrilling experience. And almost 30 years later, it still sits as the park’s most genuinely scary ride.

So technically complicated is the attraction that by the time it was ported to LA in 2004 (reopening as the Guardians of the Galaxy themed Mission: Breakout! in 2017), in Paris in 2007 (revamped in 2019 to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – A New Dimension of Chills), and in Tokyo in 2006 (which doesn’t include a Twilight Zone tie-in), they had to essentially simplify the experience. Here, the vehicle you plummet in is autonomous, moving through the hotel between two elevator shafts – and implements technology never-before-seen (but now utilised in other attractions, including that of our #1 experience).

While the ride has reshaped itself elsewhere, here’s hoping the OG attraction lives forever. Because this is a perfect ride.

1. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (Hollywood Studios, 2019)

Speaking of perfect ride, we end our list with an experience that’s not just the best ride in Disney’s parks, but probably the best themed ride I’ve been on – full stop.

Rise of the Resistance is a marvel not just for the mechanics of the ride itself, but the extent to which they immerse riders in the experience of the Star Wars universe leading up to the attraction. You are made a part of the story – which is, honestly, pretty epic, and boasts the most incredible set pieces we’ve seen at a Disney park since Indiana Jones Adventure opened in California in the 90s.

I wrote more about the LA version of the ride (which is identical), HERE.

To book your next holiday to Walt Disney World, visit their official website.

All images supplied by Disney Parks unless otherwise noted. The author visited Walt Disney World as a guest of Disney Parks. While at Walt Disney World we stayed at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.