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Disney World and Universal Orlando:
The Only Rides You Need to Try

by Tony · 36 comments

Best Rides at Disney & Universal

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I already gave you the inside scoop on how adults can dominate Disney World and Universal Orlando… but now you need to learn about the only rides you need to ride while there.  These are the rides that you focus on and ride repeatedly before the parks get busy and the lines get long.  The quality of rides after the ones I list falls off drastically so tread lightly and only try more if you have little kids to entertain.

Pro tip: I know it sounds ridiculous but if roller coasters make you nervous/sick – sit in front.  The first car of any roller coaster experiences the slowest ride and fewest g-forces since it has to pull the rest of the train.  Try it once and you will feel that the front is actually well over the first drop before it reaches top speed.  However, if you are in the back… that last car will be whipping over the top at full speed and with all of the tear inducing g’s that accompany it.

Bonus tip: If you love roller coasters… still ride in front.  Best views and the reduction in g’s is more than made up for by the sheer joy of feeling alone while you dive, dip, and turn at 70 mph.

Universal Orlando

Universal Orlando

1) Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket: Most pure joy I have ever received from a roller coaster.  It was able to limit the number of stomach compressing g-forces and simultaneously increase the thrills.

As you approach the ride from ground level, you see the riders in the coaster before you being pulled straight up, 90 degrees.  Read that again.  The coaster starts by being pulled straight up into the sky and you have to watch those going before you deal with this traumatizing experience.  Amazing.

When it is your turn to hop in, you realize that instead of the now customary over the shoulder harness you only have a waist bar to stop you from you hurdling into space.  The mad geniuses at Universal have designed a new safety bar technology that is safer that a shoulder harness while also making you feel less secure… those bastards.

Each seat has its own private head speakers with 30 popular songs to choose from.  Each song is calibrated to hit its crescendo as the coaster dives out of that first 90 degree climb.  The rest is a blur, but trust me, you are going to want to ride this more than once.

Song recommendation: Kanye’s Stronger is a great starting song, but if you happen to be around for a ride near sunset, try Fergie’s Glamorous… just don’t tell your friends about it.

2) Incredible Hulk: It’s hard to miss as it feels like half of the park is designed so that you walk under the Hulk’s spine tingling turns.  So why try to avoid it?  If you are are someone who can’t deal with the anticipation of that first agonizing climb to the top of the coaster than the Hulk solves this for you… by launching you from 5 mph to 60 mph up to the first twist and drop.

With insane amounts of loops and twists, it is definitely not for the coaster novices.  But if you are nervous, try our pro tip and ride in front.  You will get a much better view and the wild loops will feel much easier as you will only experience half of the g-forces.

Ride the Hulk, but just be sure to do it before you eat… or your seatmate might not be too happy.

3) Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: The best non-coaster you will ever see!  You are on a 4 person car that can be lifted 30 ft in the air and pivoted in any direction while moving forward on a track.  This is key since you are following Harry and friends through Hogwarts while trying to avoid man-eating spiders and Dementors.

The wizards at Universal blend 3D graphics and insane amounts of movement so that you are tricked into thinking that you are falling hundreds of feet, racing through the air at 100 mph, or being hit by a bludger.

I found out after the ride that the trick in making the brain think you are actually experiencing all of the wild events is to have screens that move with each car.  So when the screen shows you falling, it actually pivots under the car as your car rolls forward and then falls mildly.  The physical effect might be light, but the mental effect is truly extraordinary.

Great for all ages, so it is one of the few rides that parents might actually want to ride repeatedly, even after their kids have had their fill.

4) Dueling Dragons: Who would have thought that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter would have 3 ridiculously good rides?  How?  Well Dueling Dragons is actually two coasters in one, each with their own unique track.

These were my first hanging coasters where your feet are dangling into the air, so I was nervous… and with reason!  The coasters intertwine and are timed so that each ride has several moments where it feels like the coasters have no choice but to collide.  There is a moment where you will not be able to stop yourself from trying to lift your feet for fear of hitting the other coaster twirling beneath you.

But no worry, nobody has yet lost a toe on Dueling Dragons.

5) Jurassic Park: This is Disney’s Splash Mountain updated for the 21st century, which is not a bad thing.  A lazy river ride around some animatronic dinosaurs followed by a 50 ft drop into a pool of water.  A great ride to do before lunch, just make sure to ride the Hulk after so you can air dry quickly.

6) The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman: A bit of a throwback as this is a 3D ride based on the cartoon series from when I was a kid.  The amazing way they make you feel like the characters are jumping on to your moving car is not to be missed.  Lacking the thrills of some of the coasters, Spiderman makes up for it by sheer uniqueness in the way it blends real effects, like water spraying and fire erupting, with the 3D effects of Spidey and friends jumping all over you and your seatmates.

Disney World

Best Rides At Disney World

1) Space Mountain: No loops, you ride single file on an eight person train, and you can bring your backpack in the seat with you.  Seems like a ride built to those specifications would be terrible, right?

Nope!  The entire ride is in pitch black with only glimmers of twinkling stars off in the distance.  The ride zigs when you think it will zag and is old enough to be all kinds of rickety.  The 8ft drops feel much bigger when you can’t see them coming and your head will be spinning by the time the ride finally halts.

2) Expedition Everest: Over at Animal Kingdom we were not expecting much, so this blew our minds!  The ride can be seen from any point in the park as the mountain climbs obscenely high into the air.

The first half of the ride seems lame as you are constantly being pulled up… and up… and up.  Every now and then the coaster will come to a crest and drop 15 ft and do a few turns, only to find another pulley that lifts the coaster ever higher.  After 3 lifts, the coaster finally drops and speeds up to coaster speeds.  However, right as you get comfortable you realize it is heading towards broken tracks.  The ride stops just short of spilling over the edge and crashing to the park below.

Ten seconds pass until you hear a click and the coaster starts barrelling backwards with twists, sharp turns, and half inside the mountain.  When the coaster jarringly stops, you are facing utter blackness with only a small portal of light in the distance.  Another click and you start crawling towards the light, picking up speed on the way.  As you emerge from the mountain’s belly you are going 50 mph straight down hill, through a hair pin turn, and then whipping in and out of the mountain.

Disney definitely loves to spice up its coasters with darkness and for good reason.  By the time the ride is over, you will have had one of the more unique roller coaster rides of your life.  Going backwards and forwards?  Badass.

3) Rock ‘N’ Rollercoaster Starring Aerosmith: Surrounded by darkness (see the theme with Disney coasters?) with only neon guitars and Hollywood signs to light your way, this coaster is just pure fun.  Way too short for my liking but ridiculously smooth with its magnetic propulsion system and with tons of interesting thrills.

All of the Disney rides let you bring your backpack with you, so you would think none go upside down.  At least I did.  So when the Rock ‘N’ Rollercoaster does a complete loop after the first drop, I was more than a little shocked.  Hold on tight to your bags!

4) Tower of Terror: You might wonder how Disney is able to differentiate the Tower of Terror from all of the other up-and-down rides you see at theme parks.  They do it by the art of surprise.

The ride starts with a slow moving tour in the elevator as it drifts through the hotel seeing ghoulish phantoms.  Then, right when you question if you are on the correct ride, the lights go out and you drop 3 stories!  Yes, they somehow start you 3 stories up so that when the lights go out and you expect to shoot up, they actually drop you.  After that all you can do is hold on to the limited armrests they provide as you are shot up at lightening speed only to be dropped, repeatedly.

Also, another ride you might want to try BEFORE lunch.  You would not be the first to get sick on the ride, but you could at least try to avoid the embarrassment.

5) Splash Mountain: Lacking the thrills of the other rides, Splash Mountain makes up for it in pure nostalgia of childhood stories.  A nice lazy river guides you through some animatronic bears, foxes, and alligators while you experience some mild dips and climbs.  It is punctuated by a 50 ft drop into a pond where you will most certainly get soaked.  Do it once, enjoy it, and then get on with your day.

Bonus tip: DO NOT try Soarin’ at Epcot.  You will be tempted because it is the most popular ride in all of Disney and the 120 minute lines will seem to be proof of its greatness.  Do not be tempted.  Here is the ride summed up in one sentence: A two minute hang gliding simulation through different parts of California while you hang in a warehouse studio and slightly turn left, right, and tilt forward.  That’s it!  Seriously, do not do it.  As Meg famously said: “My bus ride back to the hotel was a more thrilling adventure!”

About Tony
Quit his job to try actually following his dreams for once... and is currently loving it. He is working hard to to make this life-style permanent by writing about his adventures and brainstorming money making opportunities with his partner-in-crime, Meg.

Julie June 26, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Love your commentaries! Your writing is so descriptive. I can’t want to read your novels!

Tony August 7, 2012 at 12:18 am

Oh the novels are coming, Julie… just you wait.

Bob August 4, 2012 at 4:54 pm

I enjoy Soarin, and many people ride it again and again. I would agree that I wouldn’t wait 120 minutes to ride it, but there is always the Fast Pass. It’s also true that it’s not a roller coaster, but it does more than just tilt you a little this way and that. It begins by lifting you very high off the ground, as much as 30 feet I would estimate, based on which row you’re in, and dangles you out in front of a huge IMAX screen. The simulation includes controlled fans to give the feeling of flight, air bursts and even scents. When you’re flying over an orange grove you can smell oranges, and when you’re over a river through a pine forrect you can smell the forrest, and when you’re over the ocean, you can smell the salt air… and feel the mist from water spray that is an added effect. True, it’s not a coaster, but it is an excellent ride.

Tony August 7, 2012 at 12:21 am


I love the passion. I definitely think we were burned out with the ride partially due to the long lines… just didn’t feel like a ride that was worth a 2 hour wait. Trust me though, my opinion is probably in the minority. Everyone always talks about how wonderful Soarin is.

For me though, I would much rather spend my ride time at Epcot doing the space trip to Mars mission… yes, I know. HUGE nerd alert. Meg definitely mocks me for enjoying that one.

Thanks for the great comment!


Dunza October 7, 2012 at 9:37 pm

AGREED (except for the Soarin’ part)

Tony October 7, 2012 at 11:22 pm

Thanks! Ok… Apparently I need to be enlightened on Soarin. How am I the only one that thought it was so lame?

What did you like about Soarin? I’m so curious now as to what I missed!!!

David Ruiz October 12, 2012 at 11:52 pm

Hearing your opinions on the rides were very intersting and many things were true. Some information was misleading but what really bothered me was your little paragraph about Soarin’. This ride it truly an innovation yet some people fail to see that. Get a fastpass and your in line for 5 minutes before your taking a multisensory flight of a lifetime. Its pretty obvious that you like Universal Studios rides better, however I would have to disagree. First of all, without Disney, there would be no Universal. Your top rides are both rollercoasters which show that you take quantity over quality. Disney World provides an experience while Universal is an attraction. Disney will strive to make your vacation perfect, an escape from the hardships of the real world. There is a reason Disney World is the number 1 destination in the world for attendance. Disney does it right.

Tony October 13, 2012 at 2:54 am

Hi David! Thanks for your insightful comment.

If you read some of the other comments here, you can definitely see that our opinion about Soarin’ is in the minority. I still don’t get the appeal, but fully understand that everyone else loves it.

Disney is wonderful and if you really want a full experience, I would always recommend Epcot. That being said, we were viewing the parks from the perspective of a young couple without kids. With that view, Universal definitely has more “bang for your buck,” with regards to exciting rides.

Thanks for reading and commenting!


Ramy January 21, 2013 at 2:00 pm

I definitely agree about soarin’. Save you self a drive to disney, an $89 ticket, and a two hour line; just watch the history channel in a recliner.

Tony January 21, 2013 at 2:11 pm

People get so upset if you share this opinion! Glad to see that you agree though. I really couldn’t believe the ride gets so much hype!

Lizzy February 2, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Hi Tony. Soarin’ is great but not worthy like you said. Like 2 hours for that?! Enjoyed, but not worthy. I love both parks, and all ride, but I lovee universal better than Disney.

Tony February 15, 2013 at 10:44 am

Universal definitely had way more to offer adults. We only really enjoyed 2 rides per disney park… and some of that was just nostalgia from childhood!

Dan February 15, 2013 at 2:05 am

Hi Tony,

Great reviews and advise as with all of your articles. I ask one question though….why no Mummy ride? I feel it is one of the most underated, unique and fun coasters in the whole of the world never mind Orlando. Did you not enjoy it?

Tony February 15, 2013 at 10:48 am

I might be wrong, but the mummy ride was much more of an experiential ride than a coaster. It was a fun ride, but for my tastes and when compared to something like the new Harry Potter ride, wasn’t even close.

The mummy is a classic, but we did the Potter ride first and had a hard time comparing any of the other similar rides… it was that good!

Relma March 29, 2013 at 10:40 am

Cool! I am going there on my trip onto the Disney cruise before my grandma passes away. Then I am going to Universal studios and then I am going to Disney world! I really like EPCOT cause Well I am Japanese and their is Japanese flip books! I just love Disney world even though I haven’t even seen a courter of it. Hehe yah! And if you are on Disney.com, then add me! My user is Meliaholsather and my password is M__________.
Goodbye guys!

Harman April 6, 2013 at 6:36 am

I am going Disney next year. I have never been before. What rides would you recommend?

Tony April 6, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Hi Harman… you’re going to have so much fun! Definitely make time to do the aerosmith coaster and tower of terror. They’re right next to each other so you can go back and forth a ton! I also loved the Yeti roller coaster at animal kingdom… it goes backwards!

Let us know how your trip goes and try to check out Universal if you have time… totally worth it!

Harman April 7, 2013 at 7:11 am

I am a 10 year old! have you been to busch gardens? we are thinking of going there too. we are going to go to Clear Water beach. have you been there before? Thank you for the advice. Which parks do the Fireworks and what times? Which park in disney has the scariest rides?

Tony April 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm

We never made it to Busch Gardens but I have heard it is great.

The fireworks are at Epcot at Disney at 9pm. They are incredible! They also have great food there so you’re going to have a great time.

Scariest ride? Definitely try Tower of Terror. You’re going to love it!!!

Harman April 27, 2013 at 6:53 am

okay. Where are the perfect places to buy tickets and which tickets shall we buy? There are 4 of us.

Tony April 27, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Make sure you buy direct from Disney and not from someone else online. The tickets only work with your fingerprints! I would go for the all park passes if you really want to do everything. It’s cheaper that way and lets you go anywhere you want!

Thanks for writing, Harman!

www.nickelcrunch.com April 19, 2014 at 1:59 pm

I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself or did you hire
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donna November 30, 2014 at 11:41 am

It’s actually an 84 ft drop on the Jurrasic ride not 50ft

Tony December 1, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Thanks for fact checking us, Donna! Not sure where we got that 50ft from… We’ll have to check :)


Kohl March 1, 2015 at 4:49 am

Hi Tony, a bit late posting on this thread, but I enjoyed your article, I thought it was very helpful and gave me an idea of what rides are fun. My girlfriend and I are going in a couple months and she has gone for the past 13 years while I haven’t gone once! We are both 19 years old and go to college together. She is soo excited to go, but I am a bit hesitant because I have never been and have always thought it was for kids. I am trying to get excited for it, is there any advice you can give for beginners and what areas are the best for young adults. Maybe I don’t know what to expect, I am a big fan of rides and roller coasters, but I know Disney World is more than that, it is supposed to be magical and all.. Thanks man.

Tony March 1, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Disney can be AWESOME for adults. If you stay at a Disney affiliated resort, you get early access to one different park each day and late access to one different park at night (they rotate). This lets you beat the lines and rides the good rides a lot before the crowds show up. Plus, epcot late at night is great with a big fireworks show, lots of food options (they have restaurants for every country of the world), and riding the rides at night.

My game plan is to be at the parks right when they open. Each park has about two roller coasters, so you go to one ride, grab the pass that lets you cut the line (comes out of a machine at the entrance) and then go to the second ride and ride it. Then you can go to the other ride and cut the line! We repeated this a bunch and ended up riding the good coasters at least 2-3 times each.

Definitely bake in some downtown during the middle of the day when the parks are most crowded.

Hope that helps! Be sure to check back here after your trip and let us know how it went!!!


JOVE May 18, 2015 at 11:26 am

Hi Tony,

Thank you for such insightful information on the Disney and Universal theme parks. Really informative and so detailed.

I am travelling this summer to Orlando for 5 days ( we are 2 adults and taking our 60 + parents, no kids )

We plan to take 2 multi park hopper ( Disney ) and 2 day Universal and one day to shop / relax.

Please could you suggest rides at the Disney / Universal parks for our parents.
My mom is not 100 % fit, she gets tired easily, cant walk for long so taking a wheel chair for her. Dad is fit but not a big of roller coaster rides. They both would love to do family rides or something easy for adults but not kiddy rides nor roller coasters.

looking forward to your expert advice !


JOVE May 18, 2015 at 11:28 am

Sorry , I meant 2 day multi park hopper ticket ( access to 4 parks ) Disney world

Regan March 19, 2017 at 1:27 pm

Thank you so much for all of your Orlando posts! My husband and I are going next week and this is helping us prep so much. Thanks! :)

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