Editor's note: Kristen Carr was a guest of Get Away Today which paid for her admission to Walt Disney World. All opinions expressed below are entirely hers and were not subject to review by Get Away Today or Walt Disney World.
I have waited years for all four of my children to be at a collective age (5-9 years old) where they could enjoy many of the rides at Walt Disney World side by side, (while simultaneously making my husband and I feel better about the price tag of such a trip). The choice of this fabled destination in Central Florida leads one to think the magic will just naturally find them. However, once the tickets are purchased and the hotel room reserved, the pressure is on for executing the ultimate Disney World family vacation. And serious planning is in order to make as many magical memories as possible.
The four main theme parks at Disney World— Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom — offer well over 100 rides, shows and other attractions combined. With so much to see and do, how can you make sure to get on all the best rides? And which live shows should you carve out time for? Unless you plan on living out an extended summer at the resort, there is almost no chance you will be able to experience everything each park has to offer in one vacation.
Luckily, there are some rides and attractions you shouldn't feel bad about skipping. If you're planning a visit, we ranked 30 rides and shows from worst to best — from a family perspective with multiple kids of different ages — so you know which ones to prioritize and which ones to skip. Keep scrolling to see which 20 Disney World rides came out on top and which 10 fell flat.
Best Disney World rides and attractions for families
20. The Haunted Mansion (Magic Kingdom)
Although a legendary fan-favorite ride, The Haunted Mansion is not really geared toward little kids (although my 9-year-old son considers it a must). The ride takes you on a slow-moving trip through a haunted house and, as far as Walt Disney World rides go, can be scary. Despite opening in 1971, it's got plenty of modern bits to wow guests with. If your little one enjoys the creepier side of things, this one is worth checking out.
19. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Magic Kingdom)
This well-themed roller coaster was added to the long list of Magic Kingdom rides in 2014, and takes you into the diamond mine with Snow White's best friends. My daughter found the details hidden in this ride to be sweet and creative, while my boys found it to be a much-needed thrilling addition to the land. It’s a mild coaster, devoid of any scary bits, and worth adding to your list of to-dos for a wide range of ages, provided they are at least 38 inches tall.
18. Pirates of the Caribbean (Magic Kingdom)
In this golden-hued, Spanish-style fort, you'll ride a classic Disney ride that inspired the blockbuster film franchise. My kids loved the queue of this version much more than Disneyland’s original, with two unique sides leading to Pirate's Cove where all guests load into boats. This slow-moving dark ride is filled with animatronics,and fragrances are even pumped into some sections of the ride, further immersing you in the scenes of pirate merriment.
17. Jungle Cruise (Magic Kingdom)
This family-friendly riverboat ride comes with a large side of dad jokes. Once on board one of the uniquely named boats, you’ll encounter wild animals (of the animatronic variety) while your skipper narrates a quick and quirky cruise along tropical rivers of the world the whole family will enjoy. There's a reason this ride is an enduring icon of Disney's parks.
16. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios)
I grew up loving this attraction, but it's pretty intense as the theme is based on a dilapidated Hollywood hotel that is struck by lightning and sends its guests plummeting in an elevator. To my surprise, my kids really enjoyed it. The ride vehicles here look and feel like an elevator that moves through show sequences into a drop shaft, where you launch up and down numerous times — and it's ideal for thrill seekers and engineer-minded kiddos who will attempt to figure out how the attraction works.
15. Remy's Ratatouille Adventure (Epcot)
Walt Disney World rides have been given an upgrade in recent years with the integration of motion-based trackless attractions like this one. Remy's Ratatouille Adventure 4D ride experience, located in the France area of Epcot's World Showcase, is based on the Disney-Pixar animated film "Ratatouille," which was set in that country. My kids loved how each portion of the ride offered its own scent effects, especially as we zipped and dashed through the bustling kitchen, dining room and walls of Gusteau’s famous Paris restaurant.
14. Turtle Talk With Crush (Epcot)
What kid or adult, would turn down a pleasant conversation with a sea turtle? This 15-minute fully improvised, interactive show is well executed, with computer graphics and image projection casting a wide net of laughs and entertainment. No two shows are the same and little kids will especially be enthralled as they chat with this fan-favorite character from "Finding Nemo."
13. Frozen Ever After (Epcot)
We were excited to journey deep into our family's "Frozen" fandom by sailing through Troll Valley, up to Elsa's ice castle and back to Arendelle while immersed in a song-filled journey and cutting-edge animatronics. This slow, yet unique boat ride plunges you down short waterfalls both backward and forward, accompanied with great storytelling that kept everyone's attention.
12. Soarin' Around the World (Epcot)
If you've ridden Disney California Adventure's version of Soarin', you know what to expect here. You'll see stunning sites as you "hang glide," er, watch a massive screen as your ride vehicle realistically mimics that experience — with breathtaking aerial views from high above marvels of the world. The ride is smooth and breathtaking while scents are pumped in during certain scenes to help drive home the immersion.
11. Walt Disney World Railroad (Magic Kingdom)
Hop aboard one of four restored steam engines, each of which is about 100 years old, and take a break from walking on what Disney calls a "Grand Circle Tour" around the Magic Kingdom. A four-year closure just ended as the tracks were non-operational during the construction of the new Tron Lightcycle Run ride. All four of my kids loved the sights and sounds of this 20 minute, 1.5-mile ride around the edges of the park while I placed mobile orders for snacks. A win-win for everyone.
10. Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! (Hollywood Studios)
This action-packed live show is entertaining for the whole family. A longtime part of Disney's Hollywood Studios, stunt professionals invite you to watch behind-the-scenes demonstrations and complex action set pieces straight out of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." My kids were captivated by the entire 30-minute show, which has stadium-style seating in an enormous open-air theater.
9. Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway (Hollywood Studios)
My entire family enjoyed this quirky and fun trackless attraction that opened in 2020 and follows the most classic of Disney characters: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Daisy and Pluto. The storyline is loads of fun and the special effects are top notch.
8. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (Hollywood Studios)
When it comes to Disney World rides, this one takes it into hyperdrive. "Star Wars" fans of all ages will enjoy this ride from the moment they step into its immersive queue and experience the galactic story unfolding, all the way through the time they exit their ride vehicle. My children are still discussing how some of the effects were even possible. This version of the ride is basically identical to the one at Disneyland, so, if you're a regular visitor to the Anaheim resort, you might want to bump it lower on your priority list in favor of Florida-only attractions.
7. Slinky Dog Dash (Hollywood Studios)
Another recent addition to Hollywood Studios, my kids rated this Disney World ride as a top favorite due to its playful nature and heavy theming linked to "Toy Story." The unique double-launch of this coaster was an unexpected surprise, as was the difference in experiencing this during the day versus at night. Anyone over 38 inches tall can ride.
6. Avatar Flight of Passage (Animal Kingdom)
Only my older children were able to experience this incredible simulator attraction, due to its 44-inch height requirement. But with that said, the "Avatar"-themed ride is located in the Pandora section of Disney's Animal Kingdom. Itrequires 3D glasses for its immersive thrills which are experienced on the back of a Banshee, with the experience starting long before you load onto ride vehicles as you twist and turn through an elaborate queue filled with nods and references to the sci-fi franchise.
5. Fantasmic! (Hollywood Studios)
All my kids loved this nighttime show, following Mickey as he took them along for an epic battle of good vs. evil. Fueled by flashy pyrotechnics and an impressive use of water fountains, Fantasmic! is tucked away in its own outdoor amphitheater and runs twice a night. This is an impressive nighttime spectacular filled with beloved music and a star-studded cast of Disney characters brought to life in large-scale production segments.
4. Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain (Animal Kingdom)
A fantastic roller coaster trek through the Himalayas, filled with speed, an 80-foot drop and a groundbreaking ride track that runs cars forward and backward. The kids requested to ride this towering Animal Kingdom icon multiple times and confidently said it was one of their most enjoyable rides at Disney World. The height requirement is 44 inches.
3. Festival of the Lion King (Animal Kingdom)
Do not miss this Broadway-caliber production based on Disney’s animated classic, "The Lion King." Before the show even begins, character actors choose audience members to help set the tone for their storytelling. Then, they break out into colorful performances of live vocals, fire dancing, acrobatics and more. Every member of my family loved this 30-minute show that's held in an air-conditioned theater. It was the best non-ride attraction we experienced at the parks.
2. Kilimanjaro Safaris (Animal Kingdom)
As a family, we found this Animal Kingdom opening-day ride to still provide a unique and exceptional experience. An expert driver guides you on a 20-minute excursion along 110 acres of lush savanna. Wonder filled all our faces as we passed real elephants, hippos and lions, as well as animals like zebras and giraffes roaming free and almost touching our open-air vehicle.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (Epcot)
Picking the best ride at Disney World for families was not a close call. From my more timid 5-year-old to my bold 9-year-old, (as well as us grown-ups), we were all left speechless and obsessed with this Marvel-themed thrill ride that has a 42-inch height requirement and a thumping, randomized soundtrack. The intergalactic chase through space is completely void of jump scares or sudden drops, as riders sit in a rotating coaster vehicle that always ensures you're facing the action. Upon exiting our first ride on Cosmic Rewind, we immediately used our lightning lane passes to ride again.
Worst Disney World rides and attractions for families
10. It's a Small World (Magic Kingdom)
Although a beloved classic, I blame my children’s aversion to this one on comparison. If you have been on the more grand Disneyland version of "It's a Small World," Disney World's feels like a lower-budget copy. And the accompanying song on repeat is somehow more haunting in Florida. The kids were not fans and wanted to skip out before we even boarded the boat.
9. TriceraTop Spin (Animal Kingdom)
Waiting in line on the hot blacktop to sit in a dinosaur that circles the air for 90 seconds did not feel magical, or even on-brand for Disney to any of us. This one is an easy skip.
8. Swiss Family Treehouse (Magic Kingdom)
This classic attraction involves climbing stairs and walking and climbing more stairs in humid Adventureland. My kids were hoping for a payoff once they reached the top. I tried to convince them (and myself) it was the unique view of Cinderella’s Castle, but they said, "Never again."
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7. Astro Orbiter (Magic Kingdom)
The pattern you'll notice with the worst kid-appropriate rides as Disney World is that you wait in line for 40 minutes to ride something very short and unsatisfying. There are too many incredible attractions at these parks to waste time on these types of rides. My little ones felt Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland didn't offer enough to see from the spinning rocket's view to make Astro Orbiter worth waiting for.
6. Journey Into Imagination With Figment (Epcot)
Epcot’s Figment has a huge fan following, but his current Disney World ride left all four of my children confused and disappointed. The lack of a coherent storyline or connection to any notable character or film was made more pronounced by the lack of thrills in the attraction itself. This one is just a slow-moving dark ride with much need of refurbishment.
5. Tomorrowland Speedway (Magic Kingdom)
The simplistic track offered by this 1971 attraction may have been its downfall for my children — even though it gave them the chance to drive themselves around. For me, however, the on-ride views offered of the new Tron Lightcycle Run were a highlight. If you've ridden Autopia at Disneyland, you get the gist.
4. It’s Tough to Be a Bug! (Animal Kingdom)
My kids said this 4D theatrical show just tried to hurt you via the effects it used; but also, who wants to wait in line to be spit on by a bug? Despite it’s very cool location — buried inside the iconic Tree of Life in Disney’s Animal Kingdom — this rickety attraction is a skip.
3. The Magic Carpets of Aladdin (Magic Kingdom)
At this point, my 8- and 9-year-olds asked why Disney's "kid-friendly" rides are just a vehicle flying in a circle with different themes attached. This one is oddly placed between Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room and the Jungle Cruise, making it hard to miss, but we encourage you to indeed do just that.
2. Country Bear Jamboree (Magic Kingdom)
After 30 years of visiting the resort and experiencing the Country Bear Jamboree, I was interested to see what my kids would think of it. Clearly, my childhood memories were better left alone. This dated show of strange animatronic bears feels like it has no clear connection to the greater lore of the Disney World parks and left my children happy to share that they need not to experience it again.
1. Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress (Magic Kingdom)
This iconic attraction lasts a full 20 minutes — with a strongly worded commitment to staying seated once it begins. The original mid-'60s concept, dreamt up by Walt Disney himself, moves you through large passages of time in a single family's home — but this attraction lacks a lot for the modern parkgoer. Most children will find the animatronic-led show incredibly boring, not to mention a huge time eater. The best things the Carousel of Progress has going for it today is ample seating and air conditioning.
This story was edited by Hearst National Editor Kristina Moy;you can contact her at email@example.com.