The Top 10 Disney Rides of the Year (Disney World Edition)
So 2021 was a year, and I, for one, found myself escaping on more than one occasion to my own happy place, Walt Disney World (masked, vaxxed, and quarantining afterward, just in case). I’ve still been finding my bliss in theme parks and rides since they’ve reopened. And Disney rides are my favorites, bar none.
“So Jenn,” I hear you ask, “where SHOULD I focus those crucial first seconds on Genie+?” Well, gentle reader, allow me to share with you my personal Top Ten Disney rides (Walt Disney World edition).
Mind you, this list is entirely subjective and based only on what I actually rode this year, so sorry fans of “It’s a Small World,” you won’t be seeing it here.
Top Disney Rides of the Year
10. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
The newest ride at Walt Disney World, the Ratatouille ride is a transplant from Disneyland Paris and has brought life to Epcot’s France pavilion not seen outside of the Food and Wine Festival! The ride (trackless – think Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway) shrinks you to rat size and guides you on a crazy adventure through the sights, sounds, and even smells of Gusteau’s.
Fair warning, though – Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is one of Epcot’s two Individual Attraction Selection attractions in Epcot, so be prepared to pay a little extra if you want access to that Lightning Lane.
9. Slinky Dog Dash
Located in the heart of Toy Story Land in Disney Hollywood Studios, Slinky Dog Dash is what I would consider a transitional coaster – more intense than The Barnstormer, but nowhere near the thrills of the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or the upcoming Tron ride. I’ll admit, the line usually makes me skip this one, but if you can get one of those coveted Lightning Lane passes, it’s definitely worth a turn!
8. Space Mountain
Flashing light warning.
Speaking of “transitional coasters,” Space Mountain is one of the classic Disney World rides and a must-do in the Magic Kingdom. It was the first “roller-coaster type ride” I ever rode, and it remains my favorite of the “big three” mountains in the Magic Kingdom (the other two, for those not in the know, being the Splash Mountain boat ride and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad).
Space Mountain is a fast, dark ride through the galaxy, interspersed with shooting stars, an incredible soundscape, and asteroids that look remarkably like chocolate chip cookies. The line can be long, but it is mostly indoors and airconditioned!
7. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Yes, this is the third coaster in a row. To me, it beats out Space Mountain for a few reasons.
One, as one of the newer Disney rides, it’s so much smoother and quieter than its predecessors. The wrenching and rattling of both Space Mountain and Big Thunder can be a little much after a long day, y’know?
Two, the mine carts literally rock, both with the motion of the train itself and with just a little effort on the part of the riders. However, both Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain are the Magic Kingdom’s Individual Attraction Selection rides, so you’ll be waiting in standby if you don’t want to pay extra.
A controversial choice, I know, but it’s my list and the Dinosaur ride is one of my long-time favorites. Readers more familiar with Disneyland will recognize the Time Rover as a slightly futuristic spin on the Jeeps from the ever-popular Indiana Jones ride in Adventureland.
A much darker and (to me) rougher ride than its west coast counterpart, it may be a little intense for smaller travelers, but it’s a heck of a ride and mildly educational to boot (where else was I supposed to learn how to pronounce “Compsognathus?”)
5. Kilimanjaro Safaris
Y’all, there’s a reason that this ride has hella long lines, and it’s not just that the trucks sometimes get stuck in “giraffic jams.” If you want amazing pictures, this ride is where you get them.
The animals are live, close, and pretty much roaming about where they will (within well-disguised enclosures). Disney uses amazing positive techniques to encourage the animals to hang out within sight of the vehicles, including treats, toys, and even air-conditioned rocks.
Try to aim for early morning, 2-3 pm, or right at dusk for the best views.
4. Expedition Everest
What my slightly less Disney-savvy friend calls “The Yeti ride,” and my personal favorite coaster at Disney World. It’s fast as the dickens, exhilarating, and at 199.5’, the tallest attraction at Walt Disney World.
The queue is intricately themed, though I usually miss the majority of it by taking flagrant advantage of the single rider line, which generally gets me on and off the ride in about 15 minutes. Despite the usually easy-to-navigate line, Everest is one of the two Animal Kingdom Individual Attraction Selection rides. I guess they just REALLY wanted two per park!
3. Tower of Terror
Now we’re at the best part of the list, my top three Disney rides. These three are neck and neck for me, each for different reasons. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is a drop ride unlike any you’ve ever ridden before, because you’re not ACTUALLY falling.
The drop(s) on the Tower of Terror are fully controlled and faster than gravity, so you’re technically being pulled down in a randomized sequence of drops. I love spooky, Old Hollywood, and the Twilight Zone, so I take any and every opportunity to ride this one as many times as I can manage!
2. Avatar Flight of Passage
Okay, the last thing I want to hear from anyone about this ride, or Pandora as a whole, is “but I didn’t see (or like) Avatar!” It doesn’t matter. The sights, sounds, and even smells of the entire area of the park are just stunning, whether or not you’re familiar with the IP.
This Avatar Disney ride is a technological marvel. This ride is Soarin’ on steroids. Once you’re locked in, you can literally feel your Banshee breathing beneath you, smell the alien plant life, and feel the water splash on your face.
Yes, the line is forever long, and yes, you’ll be paying extra for the Lightning Lane. But I have never once come off this ride with anyone who wasn’t gushing about the experience.
1. Rise of the Resistance (The Best of the Disney Rides!)
Okay, I’ll confess, unlike Avatar, it does help to be a Star Wars fan for this ride. But I am. An avid one. And this is my list. Rise of the Resistance is not a thrill ride, but it is 2.5 rides and a show all wrapped into one super immersive experience.
While Smuggler’s Run (Mission: Space, but the buttons actually DO something) is awesome, the sheer level of detail in RotR makes it a Star Wars fan’s absolute DREAM. Shocking no one, you will be paying extra for the Lightning Lane, and even those passes go quickly, so make sure to be on your Genie+ app right at 7am if you don’t want to be sitting through stand-by.
And that’s my top ten Disney rides for 2021. A deeply honorable mention goes out to the Haunted Mansion, which has long been near and dear to my heart.
But with Tower of Terror on the list, that’s one haunted mansion Disney ride too many to make the cut this year. (I know, I know. Come at me. I can take it.)
Which of your favorite Disney rides didn’t make it onto my list? Leave a comment below and tell me what you would have chosen?
I also love the Haunted Mansion ride!