Walt Disney World for Wimps

  • 01 of 05

    What Scary Rides Should You Avoid at the Florida Resort?

    Splash Mountain at Disney World
    ••• Wait. What? I'm going on that? Wimps may want to think twice before boarding Splash Mountain at Disney World. Garth Vaughan/Disney

    There is no delicate way to put this. You are a wimp.

    Not about everything. Among your redeeming qualities, you may be noble and brave about many things. But when it comes to roller coasters and other theme park thrills? Not so much. Like gazillions of other people, you will be visiting Disney World. Unlike many, however, you are worried about whether you will be able to have a good time. You know, because of your wimpy tendencies.

    Relax. There are plenty of things you will be able to do without facing your fears (or succumbing to more unmentionable unpleasantries). If you are deathly afraid of coasters and other thrill rides, it might be hard to have much fun at a more traditional amusement park such as Six Flags. Disney World, however, is loaded with wonderful low-thrill, low-stress activities. But you will need some advice.

    That's where this article come in. You'll learn how to avoid rides that you may find challenging, and we'll steer you to rides, attractions, shows, and...MORE other things that you wouldn't want to miss.

    Hey! Who are You Calling a Wimp?

    There is no shame in being a thrill ride wimp. In the grand scheme of things, it's not going to make that much of a difference. (Although some coaster-loving comrades would find life without thrill rides utterly inconceivable.)

    While there is no indignity in avoiding thrill machines, if you really want to face your demons and work up the courage to one day ride the rails, check out this article about how to conquer roller coaster fears.

    How is theme park wimp defined in this context? Children are exempt, and young children who don't meet the height requirements aren't even allowed on thrill rides. And as they develop (and grow tall enough to ride), kids may work up the nerve to board pulse-quickening rides on their own. Since children mature at different rates, be patient and let them call the shots. Take heed of this sage advice: Never coerce your theme park companions, regardless of their ages, to ride something against their wills. Or, in the case of wimps like you, never allow yourself to be coerced. It's a potential prescription for disaster.

    By theme park wimps, we're talking about adults who, for whatever reason, just can't handle thrill rides. There are a number of possible underlying causes. Nearly everyone, even theme park junkies, has some irrational fear that borders on phobia. Claustrophobics, for example, have a problem being confined in tight spaces such as the ride vehicles for Mission: SPACE. Others may fear extreme heights, speeds (or the illusion of extreme heights and speeds), the dark, the sensation of airtime, going upside down, loud noises, or simply the feeling of losing control and the fear of the unknown that attractions can deliver.

    These fears are completely normal. When humans are placed in situations where they perceive danger, they react by releasing hormones as part of what's known as the fight-or-flight response. Ride designers capitalize on this by building attractions that simulate danger and extreme situations but are completely safe. Even though ride passengers rationally understand that they are safe, their nervous systems nonetheless kick into overdrive. That's part of the what makes thrill rides thrilling, and it's what many park fans crave. But what ride nerds crave can paralyze wimps who don't have the tolerance.

    OK. OK. I'm a Wimp. So What Can I Do at Disney World?

    The sections that follow take a park-by-park look at what to avoid and what to try at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom. But Disney World is a mega-resort with a, well, world of vacation options. Consider venturing beyond the parks, and take advantage of the many opportunities to have low-thrills/no-thrills fun. Here are some possibilities:

    • Go to the water parks.
      Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach are wonderful, lushly landscaped, highly themed places to relax in the Florida sun, float around low-impact lazy rivers, bob in some fairly tame wave pools, and cool down in some refreshing water. Depending on your distress triggers, you'll probably want to steer clear of the extreme speed slides and other thrill rides, however. In fact, Summit Plummet at Blizzard Beach could be considered the most thrilling ride at any Disney World park.
    • Plan some sumptuous meals.
      With so many choices, dining at Disney World can be a joyful experience. And it doesn't involve safety restraints or scream-inducing inversions. With so many choices, it can also be overwhelming, so consult this rundown of the ​best restaurants at Disney World.
    • See Cirque du Soleil.
      What the performers do in the exclusive Disney World show, La Nouba, is beyond thrilling. Their daring acts of bravery are mind boggling. But as an audience member, you can passively watch the wild feats of derring-do from the comfort and safety of your chair.
    • Go shopping.
      Venture to Disney Springs (or to the smaller BoardWalk area near Epcot) and peruse the unique shops. Proceed with caution, however, wimps. You wouldn't want your credit card bill to swell to thrill-inducing levels, right? Disney Springs also has a large multiplex theater where you could catch up on the latest movies.
    • Go golfing.
      Disney World has five onsite golf courses (and the golf carts never reach coaster-like speeds) as well as two highly original miniature golf courses. Other recreational activities include bike rentals, fishing, tennis, and boat rentals.

    Okay, let's move on to the parks.

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  • 02 of 05

    The Magic Kingdom for Wimps

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    ••• There isn't any engineer driving this crazy runaway locomotive! Wimps at the Magic Kingdom would want to sit Big Thunder Mountain Railroad out. Disney. Used with permission.

    Modeled after Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom is all about beloved characters, classic fairy tales, and innocent fun. It also features, perhaps, the wimpiest ride of all time, "it's a small world." What could go wrong?

    But like the wolf in "Little Red Riding Hood," there is danger and evil lurking beneath the surface. We've already determined you are a wimp. So, you'll probably want to steer clear of rides that would have you saying, "My, what big g-forces you have!"

    Rides to (Probably) Avoid at the Magic Kingdom

    In general, it's likely you wouldn't want to head to the mountains. In Disney terms, that means you should stay away from the big four rides that form the park's "mountain range":

    • Splash Mountain
      It's a delightful, character-packed, highly themed ride -- that includes a 52.5-foot drop at about 40 mph. There are many wonderful, signature Disney World rides that more people (read: wimps) would be able to enjoy if they didn't include thrill elements. Splash Mountain may be at...MORE the top of that list. But the drop really isn't all that high or fast compared to other thrill rides. And it is over in a matter of seconds. There is also a great second act following the drop that gives riders a chance to calm down and collect their nerves.
    • Space Mountain
      One of the most famous Disney World attractions, the enclosed roller coaster is made to seem all the more thrilling because passengers can't see most of the track and can't anticipate the drops and other elements. For wimps, it combines the quadruple whammy of height, speed, darkness, and fear of the unknown to deliver a potentially terrifying coaster experience. What wimps and non-wimps may be surprised to discover, however, is that Space Mountain reaches a relatively wimpy top speed of only 27 mph. Just try going that slowly in a car. Compare the poky Disney World ride to a true coaster behemoth such as the 128-mph Kingda Ka. Still, the darkness makes it seem much faster and more out of control.
    • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
      The classic Disney World ride chugs along at a somewhat perkier top speed of 36 mph, but that is still bush league when it comes to coasters. Because it is outside and filled with light (at least during the day), Big Thunder Mountain feels slower than Space Mountain, however. Like its space-themed counterpart, the mine train coaster doesn't include any huge drops or inversions. But at 3:30, it's a fairly long ride. Wimps may find the experience interminable.
    • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
      This one straddles the line a bit. Disney doesn't make its speed available, but the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is probably a bit slower than either Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Still, it is faster than a kiddie coaster and does include some (relatively minor) drops and moderately thrilling turns. The middle part of the ride includes some charming scenes featuring the Seven Dwarfs. You could try to suck it up and tough out the fairly brief and fairly smooth coaster sequences, or you could sit this one out. If you are unsure, you probably should forget it.

    Rides to (Possibly) Give a Try at the Magic Kingdom

    • The Barnstormer
      It's only 2 mph slower than Space Mountain, but this fairly gentle coaster should be accessible to all but the most wimpish wimps. It climbs a mere 30 feet, has a mild drop, delivers moderate g-forces, and is over in a minute flat. If you've never ridden a coaster, or haven't tried one in a while, The Barnstormer could be a good test for you. It may also serve as a proving ground and act as a gateway coaster to bigger thrills, depending on how you handle it.
    • Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
      The gentle ride takes guests on a "grand-circle tour" of Tomorrowland and enters into the show buildings of some of the attractions. You may freak out when the PeopleMover enters the Space Mountain building, but rest assured you are just passing through. If you don't think you'll ever work up the nerve to board Space Mountain, the PeopleMover at least allows you to get a close-up look at the ride.
    • The Haunted Mansion
      Despite its name, the ride is really more silly than scary. Very young kids may freak out at the somewhat dark scenes and imagery, but adults, even those who tend to be wimps, should do fine. As one of Disney's classic, all-time great attractions, you wouldn't want to miss it.
    • Pirates of the Caribbean
      It is dark and a bit foreboding, and (spoiler alert!) it does include a fairly mild flume drop, but virtually all wimps should do just fine. This is another gotta-see Disney classic. So ride it.

    Wimps should feel free to sample nearly everything else at the Magic Kingdom, and there are plenty of other great rides, shows, and attractions available, including the nightly fireworks show, Peter Pan's Flight, the retro Carousel of Progress, and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.

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  • 03 of 05

    Epcot for Wimps

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    ••• The positive g-forces aboard Mission: SPACE at Epcot can be quite unnerving, particularly for wimps. Disney. Used with permission.

    Perhaps the most unusual major theme park anywhere, Epcot more closely resembles a world's fair than a traditional amusement park. There isn't a roller coaster to be found among its vast two lands, World Showcase and Future World, for crying out loud. But that doesn't mean wimps like you are completely off the hook. There are some attractions that may give you the willies. And one in particular that delivers a unique and intense kind of thrill.

    Rides to (Probably/Possibly) Avoid at Epcot

    • Mission: SPACE
      This wild attraction uses an enclosed capsule in a rapidly spinning centrifuge to simulate space travel. It can be unnerving for a whole lot of reasons, not the least of which is that the spinning action can induce motion sickness in some unfortunate riders. Also, the ride delivers fairly intense and sustained positive g-forces. Most roller coasters pour on the forces for a few seconds, but Mission: SPACE keeps it coming -- and coming. As explained earlier, the capsules are very small and...MORE can make things uncomfortable for people who are prone to claustrophobia. It's a very unusual (but still wonderful) ride, but wimps should probably remain on terra firma. However, shortly after it opened, Disney converted a section of the attraction to non-spinning pods. You may want to consider trying those, but the capsules would still be quite confining.
    • Test Track
      It's true that Test Track reaches speeds approaching 65 mph, which is fairly intense for a thrill ride. But the track has no roller coaster dips or inversions, and aside from slight banking, it's really focused on acceleration and speed. It's not a heckuva lot different than revving up to speed in your Toyota on an interstate. Before the high-speed finale, there are some minor peel-outs and abrupt stops inside the show building, but they are not that intense. Wimps who are on the line about this ride should probably give it a whirl.

    Rides to (Possibly) Give a Try at Epcot

    • Frozen Ever After
      This boat ride based on the mega-popular animated film sounds benign enough, but (spoiler alert!) there is a small, backwards drop -- in the dark no less. Still, it is very brief and not steep. As long as you know it's coming you'll probably be fine. (But keep the surprise from your non-wimpy companions, okay?)
    • Soarin'
      To wimps, the description of Soarin' probably sounds positively horrifying. The ride vehicle raises you up as high as 40 feet and dangles you in front of a domed screen that simulates hang gliding. Yikes! But after the initial launch, nearly everyone -- even you, you wimp -- quickly acclimates to the experience and goes along for the (mostly) tame ride. It's breathtaking and an incredible Imagineering achievement. Give it a shot.

    You should do fine with just about everything else at Epcot, including Spaceship Earth (yes, the ride vehicles ascend to the top of the enormous geodesic sphere, but it is very slow and gentle), The Seas with Nemo and Friends Ride, the nighttime Illuminations show, and The American Adventure.

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  • 04 of 05

    Disney's Animal Kingdom for Wimps

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    ••• Wimps need not apply for this expedition at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Disney. Used with permission.

    It's mostly a zoo. Piece of cake, right? Wrong. There are some rides at Disney's Animal Kingdom that'd rattle the cage of any wimp.

    Rides to (Probably) Avoid at Disney's Animal Kingdom

    • Expedition Everest
      Head over to the Asia section of the park. Take a gander up at the mountain. See those trainloads of coaster riders periodically popping out of the mountain and dropping 80 feet at 50 mph? Now, how about if you knew that prior to the big drop, they were soaring backwards inside the mountain -- in the dark? Wimps, as should be abundantly clear, would want to avoid this expedition.
    • Primeval Whirl
      This is a spinning coaster (the individual coaster cars freely spin as they navigate the track) that uses a Wild Mouse-like track. It's not an overly aggressive ride, but the hairpin turns combined with the spinning action should be enough to keep wimps at bay.

    Rides to (Possibly) Give a Try at Disney's Animal Kingdom

    • Avatar Flight of Passage
      Although it uses a similar ride system as Soarin', this...MORE flying theater ride is more aggressive and thrilling. If you think you might be up for it, give Soarin' at Epcot a try first. If you are okay with that, you'll probably be fine with Flight of Passage. Although it simulates long, sharp dives on the back of a banshee, passengers never actually move more than a few inches in any direction.
    • Kali River Rapids
      This is a fairly standard-issue river rapids ride found at many amusement parks, although Disney gussies it up with some nice themed scenery. It's not particularly fast, but there is a 30-foot drop finale. That may have some wimps second-guessing the wisdom of boarding Kali River Rapids. And fussy wimps may not like the idea of getting wet -- which they definitely would.
    • Dinosaur
      This is a tough one. It is a trackless, somewhat high-speed dark ride -- that is really pitch-black dark sometimes. The ride system is similar to the fabulous Indiana Jones Adventure attraction at Disneyland, although the ride itself is not as good. It features more psychological thrills, with in-your-face giant beasts than physical thrills, although it can get a bit wild. Some people who would never ride a coaster and are not even remotely a ride warrior are fine on this. Other mega-wimps nearly have a stroke while riding this attraction. Depending on your wimp threshold level, Dinosaur may test your mettle.

    All of the other attractions, including Na'vi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safaris, It's Tough to Be a Bug, and Finding Nemo- The Musical (which is not to be missed), as well as consorting with the animals, are quite wimp-friendly.

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  • 05 of 05

    Disney's Hollywood Studios for Wimps

    C3PO - Star Tours Meet-Up - Disney's Hollywood Studios
    ••• Josh Hallett/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    The final stop is the Tinseltown-themed Disney's Hollywood Studios. Instead of passively sitting in a darkened movie theater and watching films, however, guests often get in on the action here. And there are two rides that offer beaucoup action.

    Rides to (Probably) Avoid at Disney's Hollywood Studios

    • Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
      It is a launched coaster that goes from 0 to 57 mph before Aerosmith gets to the second measure of the song booming over the onboard audio speakers. It soars 80 feet tall inside a darkened building, delivers a brief but crushing 5 Gs, and includes two inversions. 'Nuff said, wimps?
    • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
      It includes some of the coolest effects that Disney's Imagineers have ever conjured, and it ingeniously tells a compelling story. But it also includes some wild thrills with a random-sequence drop tower finale that could leave you a quivering, semi-hysterical mess. If you are the least bit wimpish, you should run, don't walk, in the opposite...MORE direction down Sunset Boulevard.

    Rides to (Possibly) Give a Try at Disney's Hollywood Studios

    • Star Tours
      This is another close call. One of the original motion simulator rides (that was given a glorious makeover in 2011), it pretends to blast passengers off into space, but its cabin never really moves more than a few inches in any direction. The effect is fairly convincing, but most wimps should be OK with the attraction. But be warned you may still scream like a ninny on Star Tours. (Remember, in space, no one can hear you scream.)
    • Toy Story Mania!
      The clever and engaging ride has a few moments of aggressive spinning, but nothing that should bother wimps. You'll likely be too busy laughing and trying to score points to notice any vehicle movement. 

    All of the other attractions, including the superb Fantasmic! kiss goodnight show and The Great Movie Ride are all fair game for wimps.

    Well, it's been quite a whirlwind tour, hasn't it my wimpy friends? See, there is plenty for the thrill-challenged to do at the massive Florida resort. Enjoy your next visit. And try not to break out in a sweat at the mere sound of screaming riders, will you?