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Oh yeah, tough guy? Try staying composed down the free fall body slide at Disney’s Blizzard Beach.

By Jill E. Cooper

Decades ago, when Walt Disney sat on a park bench in California dreaming of a place that families could enjoy together, I wonder if he ever envisioned attractions that would scare the socks off most people.  There’s no doubt about it — you can have a real bonding experience with your tweens and teenage children as you tackle your fears together.  My dear friend and fellow Disney Moms Panelist, Lynn, gleefully expounds in the group video introducing the 2011 Panel that screaming her head off with her teenage kids on roller coasters is one of her favorite things to do at Walt Disney World.  So, as the end of the school year rolls into sight and countless thousands of families prepare for Disney vacations, consider some of the park’s scariest attractions that might just prove to your otherwise doubtful older children that their parents are still immensely brave and cool.

Let me start with the single most terrifying thing I think I’ve ever done:  Summit Plummet at Disney’s Blizzard Beach.  Mild-mannered high school science teacher by day, I had a tough time convincing my colleagues at work that I actually went down the tallest free fall body slide in all of North America.  The scariest part of this attraction is not the 12-story drop, but rather standing in line waiting for your turn.  If I hadn’t been trying to impress my then nine-year-old son with my bravery, I would have been out of that queue so fast heads would have spun.  In retrospect, it was an amazing experience that has earned me bragging rights among my son and his friends.  I would do it again in a heart-pounding second!

If speeding through the dark on an unpredictable roller coaster is more your idea of frightening fun, then you have to try the Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Here’s where the dark is definitely your friend, particularly if your stomach turns at the thought of going upside down on a ride.  It’s definitely easier to be brave when you can’t see the three inversions awaiting you as you board the stretch limousine-styled cars.  By contrast, the darkness surrounding SpaceMountain in the Magic Kingdom makes this recently refurbished ride scarier than it would be with the lights on.  The real scare factor here comes when you hit an unexpected drop or listen to others screaming in the darkness.  The least scary (but still ridiculously fun) of these three roller coasters is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which is also found in the Magic Kingdom.  While most of this runaway train ride takes place in full sunshine, there’s a particularly creepy part of the track that travels through a dark cavern infested with nasty-looking bats.  This little segment of the journey is almost guaranteed to give you the heebie-jeebies!

Think twice before taking your 5-year-old to see DINOSAUR, the creepy tyranosaurus inside DinoLand U.S.A.

If man-eating monsters haunt your family’s nightmares, you’re going to want to stay far away from Expedition Everest in Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park.  Here an ill-mannered and destructive Yeti awaits hapless guests riding a train ascending Mt. Everest.  If huge hairy beasts intimidate your younger children, then you might want to save this ride until your kids are tweens.  I learned the hard way that this warning also applies to another terrifying ride in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  In my opinion, Dinosaur, located across the park in DinoLand U.S.A., is the scariest ride in all of Walt Disney World.  In a moment of lapsed judgment, I took my son on this ride during his first trip to Disney when he was only 5.  What was I thinking?  (Yes, even Moms Panelists make mistakes at Walt Disney World).   I checked the height requirement and he was over the requisite 40 inches, but that didn’t mean the dinosaurs we encountered inside were of the friendly purple variety.  No siree!  I’m 67 inches tall and I still wasn’t prepared for the carnotaurus that jumped out at us unexpectedly during the ride.  If you have some spunky, fearless teenagers in your travel party who are looking for an effective scare, then this is your ride.  Parents of younger or more timid children, go spend some time in Fantasyland.

There are a few other rides on Disney property in Florida that cause you to doubt your personal safety.  Mission Space, over in Future World at Epcot, spins and jostles you so effectively in their space travel simulators that you might want to think carefully about what you eat before you experience this attraction.  I also found the culminating near-crash landing on Mars a bit unnerving, but if you’re looking for a ride to jump-start your sympathetic nervous system, this is a good option.  Adrenaline secretion is the likely side effect of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, too.  This landmark attraction in Disney’s Hollywood Studios will inspire sheer dread in anyone who winces at the thought of being dropped inauspiciously down an abandoned elevator shaft.  Who knew that such terror resides in the land of Mickey Mouse and his pals?

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Jill E. Cooper has been an aficionado of the Disney theme parks since age seven.  She is a deliriously happy addition to the 2011 Disney World Moms Panel.  She and her small family have recently added Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney vacations to their portfolio of magical Disney travel experiences.

Tagged: Disney, Family time, Florida

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