Kidding Around: Just Say NO… to Thrill Rides
By Alex Koma, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist
This article appeared in the March 21, 2006, Issue #339 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
There are several things that every person thinks they know about teens on vacation: that they like to sleep late, eat a lot, and ride nothing but thrill rides. I heartily agree with the first two points — sleeping as late as possible and clearing out buffets, like the one at Animal Kingdom Lodge's Boma, are some of the best parts of my Disney experience. But I take issue with the last part. I find that I'm a very easy-going person who just wants to have a good time and not be scared silly by the rides I choose to go on. In short, I admit it — I'm a thrill ride and coaster wimp. Some may say, "Without thrill rides, what could you possibly do in Disney World?" I say, "Don't you worry about me." I find that there is more than enough to occupy myself with. In fact, I've been going to Disney parks in Florida, California and even in Paris, for almost 12 years, without riding a thrill ride that has made me very uncomfortable, and I still love going. The way I see it, there's a lot to enjoy in Disney World that does not involve screaming your lungs out. (EDITOR'S NOTE: We won't mention the unfortunate episode several years ago when Alex's parents coerced him to ride the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror — an unsavory incident that the author has clearly blocked out of his memory, and one that we, too, wish we could forget!)
While they may be hard to see at first, one of the things that Disney does best is creating alternatives. At almost every major thrill ride, for example, there is something for the younger, or less screaming-inclined, to participate in. I have found that by seeking out these places, you will always have something to do while the other members of your party ride a particular thrill ride. Disney's biggest, and best, example of this point is a little thing in Epcot called World Showcase. World Showcase is a relaxing, and often quiet and peaceful, area of the park that has beautiful scenery, interesting shops, exquisite and exotic restaurants — and no thrill rides. I find that it is the perfect place to go when I'm looking to calm down, get a bite to eat, ride some gentler rides, or even get away for a few minutes from my thrill ride-happy companions who want to stay over in Future World running back and forth between Mission:SPACE and Test Track. Epcot provides another good example in Innoventions. With its hands-on and educational exhibits, Innoventions provides a wide variety of, well, innovative activities, and it's only a quick walk away from the thrills of Mission:SPACE and Test Track. When I'm in the Magic Kingdom, and the thrill-riders are hitting Space Mountain, I linger in the Tomorrowland Arcade. And now that I'm a little older and have my own cell phone, I can strike out on my own without my parents worrying too much. I can even wander over to ride Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin or the Tomorrowland Transit Authority or Carousel of Progress (all personal favorites) while I'm waiting. The parks aren't all about getting your heart racing, and finding alternatives is never hard in Walt Disney World.
As much as I dislike thrill rides, many people I travel with (Mom, for example) don't find them so objectionable, and at times my like for them (the people) must override my dislike of the rides. And so I find myself standing in the line of a ride I don't want to ride. While that used to be a very big problem for me when I was younger, I now realize that Disney has, again, made my avoidance of thrill rides much easier. At almost every line for thrill rides in Disney World, Cast Members will allow anyone who does not wish to ride to exit before boarding the ride vehicle. That still allows the non-rider to view the attraction's queue. I have used this option many times in the past, and I still find it to be an excellent way to stay with your companion, but not actually have to ride. Thank goodness! I was happy to see the preshow for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, but I have NO desire to get on that coaster, Aerosmith or not. Conveniently, at the end of most rides, there is a gift shop or some activity (like the video postcards and games at the end of Mission:SPACE) that I can occupy myself with. Sometimes I get lucky and my companions will be riding a thrill ride that takes pictures of the passengers, like Splash Mountain or Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. Then I get to see photos of my foolish family and friends screaming their heads off while I wait comfortably for them. It really makes waiting the few minutes it takes that much easier.
Luckily, there are many other rides in Disney World besides thrill rides. There are educational rides like "Living with the Land", happy rides like "it's a small world," and adventurous, but rather tame, rides like Kilimanjaro Safaris. I have found that by going on the milder rides like these my tolerance for rides in general has built up. As I'm getting older, my growing understanding of how things work has allowed me to begin to try other rides that may not be considered extreme by some, but are rides that I would never have dreamed of trying before. I actually have been on Mission:SPACE a few times now, and I managed to keep my eyes open through most of Dinosaur the last time I rode it. The set-up that Disney has not only allows me to enjoy myself at my own pace, but also to grow and change in my choices of rides. Who knows? Maybe one day I'll enjoy thrill rides, like Rock 'n' Roller Coaster or Expedition Everest. And when I'm ready, Disney will have the selection of rides for me to do so. And if my tastes stay the same, I know I'll still be covered. Disney provides for not only my views now, but can help me to see things in a new way and give me a large selection while doing so.
Clearly, Walt Disney World has a lot to offer for people like me who are not big fans of thrill rides. There are things to do while others have their fun, things to do that do not involve anything too extreme, and room to change your point of view. Disney has everything I could possibly want, and this is all without roller coasters or similar thrill rides. Classically, this goes against the common perception of teens' vacation ideals, but I believe that this is a perfectly acceptable way to enjoy Disney and I intend to do so for as long as I can continue to visit Disney parks. So, for this teen, I'll be waking up at 10 a.m., eating more food than the $20 it costs to get into the Cape May Buffet, and happily riding around on Dumbo… enjoying every minute of my non-scream vacation. See you there.
Alex's Top Ten FavoriteNon-Thrill Ride Things to Do at Walt Disney World:
10. Pangani Forest Trail — Walking along the Pangani Trail is not only a great way to pass the time while waiting for your Kilimanjaro Safari FastPass time — it's a wonderful place for just chilling out. Whether you spend the time bird-spotting or gorilla watching, the trail is very relaxing and entertaining.
9. Streets of America — The Streets of America is a great place to walk around and enjoy the sights while some of your thrill ride-minded friends ride Tower of Terror or Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. It has some great scenery and special sounds, but most of all it has one of my favorite Disney shops: "Youse Guys Moychindise." Perfect.
8. Swiss Family Treehouse — The Swiss Family Treehouse is a great getaway from all the hustle and bustle of the Magic Kingdom that also features a very cool reproduction of the tree house from the classic Disney movie. I know that not many kids my age have seen this film, but it's always been a fave of mine, and the Treehouse captures its essence perfectly. Plus, I get some good exercise climbing all those stairs!
7. Club Cool — Club Cool is a unique experience that's perfect for chilling out on a hot day. The great selection of international soda is always refreshing — it's one of the few places where my parents actually don't mind when I drink soda — and the place looks even better now since last year's renovation.
6. Flights of Wonder — Flights of Wonder is an eye-popping show featuring exotic birds doing amazing things. It's nice and cool in the shade and who doesn't love a bird that sings "How Much is That Doggie in the Window?"
5. Frontierland Shooting Gallery — The shooting gallery is one of my favorite parts of the Magic Kingdom, and has been since I was a really little kid. It's perfect for waiting around while others take on "the mountains" and is great for aspiring sharpshooters, like me.
4. Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular — The Indiana Jones stunt show is just about my favorite show in Disney World. I never get tired of seeing it. It has great stunts, classic action, lots of humor, and big explosions. It gives you all the excitement of a thrill ride without having to ride one.
3. World Showcase — Like I said earlier, World Showcase is a great relaxation spot that has exotic scenery, delicious food and fun live shows. Browse the shops and look for a cool souvenir. Grab a snack in each of the counter service restaurants for your own "Junk Food around the World" tour. (My dad and I actually did this once.) Watch the World Showcase Players, listen to a set by Off Kilter, or try to catch any of the live entertainment around the pavilions. It is, in my opinion, the perfect complement to Future World.
2. Tomorrowland Transit Authority — The TTA is one of the most underrated attractions in the Magic Kingdom. It offers a great view of all of Tomorrowland with a taste of Walt's original dream for what Disney World would be like. And the best part is, if you wave your hands in the air and scream while you go around the curves, you might just convince yourself and those on the trains around you that you're riding a real thrill ride.
1. Spaceship Earth — Spaceship Earth is the king of all non-thrill ride activities. It's a ride that was envisioned by Walt himself that has some of the best audio-animatronics there are. It has a great portrait of communications throughout the years and is always one of my favorite things to do in all of Disney World.
Alex Koma, nearly 14, has been going to Disney parks since he was 2-1/2, and has been writing for ALL EARS(R) since he was about 8. He promises his thrill-ride loving mother that one day he will ride Rock 'n' Roller Coaster with her. She hopes it's before she turns 60.
Other Articles by Alex Koma:
TASTES OF THE *WORLD* from a Kid's Point of View: http://allears.net/din/rest_ttk.htm
Kidding Around: A Young Person's Look at Fine Dining: http://allears.net/din/rest_ttk1.htm
Kidding Around the 2004 Food & Wine Festival: http://allears.net/ae/issue265.htm
Walt Disney World for Wimps by Kelly Coyne: http://allears.net/ae/issue243.htm
Epcot's World Showcase — Not Just for Old Folks! by Pete Saroufim: http://allears.net/ae/issue175.htm
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.