The Disney Parks dark rides are some of the most beloved attractions in all of the Disney Parks — and for good reason! They’ve endured the test of time with simple, but ageless technology that takes us into the heart of our favorite Disney movies and creates memorable moments for guests.
Which of these dark rides is the best of the best, though — the creme de la creme? We’re going to be counting down the list from worst to first!
Here’s our rankings for every single dark ride in Disney World!
Gran Fiesta Tour
While we’re all for Donald Duck shenanigans (that’s why Mickey’s PhilharMagic is still so fun to watch), the Gran Fiesta Tour doesn’t make it as high on this list because it doesn’t have the advantage of time or a thrill element. This slow-moving boat ride across Mexico sets up a Three Caballeros tour as the focal point of the story, but Donald is missing!
It’s great to see The Three Caballeros back together in this celebration of Mexico, but the search for Donald takes us from one part of the country to the next too fast (ironic for a slow-moving boat ride) to learn about the culture.
Journey Into Imagination With Figment
The third iteration of an attraction that has been an Epcot staple since 1982, Journey Into Imagination with Figment brings the mischievous purple dragon Figment back after his strange absence from Journey Into Your Imagination to combine forces with Eric Idle’s Dr. Nigel Channing.
This trip into the imagination is a step in the right direction, especially with the Sherman Brothers’ “One Little Spark” back as the attraction’s musical theme and with Figment taking us off the rails to his own open house. Older fans might still be wishing for the return of the Dreamfinder, but we’re glad the Figment of our imaginations is still going strong.
The Seas With Nemo and Friends
How many fish does it take to keep Nemo from getting lost? The Seas with Nemo and Friends retreads a lot of the same ground as the movie it’s based on with projection effects to make it seem like the stars are floating on physical sets.
This is a cute ride for fans of Finding Nemo, but it does get a little tiring watching most of the action happen on projection screens. This ride should definitely be experienced at least once to see the jellyfish “forest” and the ending where Nemo and pals are swimming with real-life fish in The Seas’ massive aquarium.
Na’vi River Journey
While neighboring Flight of Passage may be the attraction in Pandora drawing the most brutal wait times, Na’vi River Journey is still a visually-stimulating attraction that needs to be experienced. In a park full of high-speed and thrilling rides, Na’vi River Journey is a breath of fresh air by allowing us to actually, well, breathe.
The bioluminescent flora of Pandora comes to life in beautiful ways, and the Na’vi shaman animatronic at the end is truly life-like in a way that’s blazing a trail for the future of robotic animation.
Frozen Ever After
Maelstrom may live on only in our hearts now (RIP trolls), but Frozen Ever After keeps the spirit of the attraction by incorporating the old ride track with new scenes augmenting the story of Frozen.
Whether you love or hate this attraction may depend on how you feel about the movie, but the animated face-mapping on the animatronics allows for greater displays of emotion that we’re used to now, and you still get sent backward over a waterfall!
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
The newest member of the dark ride club, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway had the same hard job as Frozen Ever After of taking over for a much-loved attraction.
From the moment you walk through the silver screen, you feel like you’ve been transported into the cartoon world where anything can happen with vibrant colors and the impressive trackless ride system. We only wish it wasn’t over quite so fast!
Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid
Did you know you can actually tell how old you are based on if you rode Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid before or after “Dole Whip hair” Ariel? Ariel’s adventures under the sea may not reinvent the wheel, but that music is just so catchy!
Every one of your favorite songs, from “Part of Your World” to “Poor Unfortunate Souls” to, of course, “Under the Sea” is featured and ready for karaoke in the parks. The only thing that holds this attraction back from going the distance is a rushed ending that sees Ursula defeated in the background right before Ariel and Eric’s wedding.
It’s a Small World
The happiest cruise that ever sailed has become a Disney Parks staple since arriving at Disneyland in 1966. It’s a Small World has gone on to appear at almost every single Disney resort worldwide because of a unifying and timeless message.
This attraction also represents another musical hit for the fabled Sherman Brothers with their positively infectious main theme sung by the children of the world.
Test Track is not usually the first thing you think of when someone says “dark ride”. This fast-paced attraction allows a lot of folks (mostly adults) the ability to live out their fantasies of putting the pedal to the metal out on the open road, but it does take place predominantly in black-lit physical sets.
Designing your own vehicle to test before you board adds a fun interactive element to the ride and Test Track now has a unique, almost Tron-like aesthetic to its design. We may miss the old ground feel of the GM proving ground, but Test Track is still one of the more exhilarating dark rides.
The time-travel rescue mission we embark on in DINOSAUR is another unconventional dark ride, but the jungle night of the Cretaceous period provides the perfect backdrop for towering reptilian animatronics to give us more trust issues.
The speed at which the dinos move and the increased immersion from the enhanced motion vehicle Time Rovers are both big parts of why this attraction continues to impress.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Many fans of Disney World’s version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride cried out when it shuttered to make way for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, but we think that the silly old bear and the other residents of the Hundred Acre Wood are a welcome addition to the Disney dark ride family.
The attraction features all of our favorite friends in a story that combines several of the Winnie the Pooh stories into one, but it generally feels like a coherent experience and not a mish-mash of ideas. The ride also has a lot of impressive scenes that utilize space well, most notably the colorful Heffalumps and Woozels segment.
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Most of the rides on this list throw you in the middle of the action, but Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin actually allows you to take part in the fun. Taking the role of Space Ranger recruits, guests board star cruisers to battle the Evil Emperor Zurg and his minions with laser blasters.
There are so many different ways to ride this attraction: compete against your partner by spinning them when they line up a shot, work together, go for the high score. It can be a blast to come back ride after ride and try to go for that elusive Galactic Hero rank.
“Like a grand and miraculous spaceship…”, okay, we’re not going to quote the whole ride script to you! Spaceship Earth has endured in our hearts because it’s the journey of humanity, and who doesn’t like talking about themselves?
The attraction fits right into Epcot’s theme by showing us where we’ve been and the potential for communication in the future. The current version is set to get an update as part of Epcot’s grand transformation, so we’re eager to see what new life this icon takes on.
Pirates of the Caribbean
If you can remember the first time you emerged from the grotto caves into the midst of siege on a small island fort, you know why Pirates of the Caribbean is on this list. You really do feel like you’ve been transported back to the golden age of piracy under a moonlit night and the vast ocean just stretching beyond.
This was the first attraction that really utilized Audio-Animatronics on a grand scale with a sweeping cast of scallywags and cutthroats and you can’t forget about the iconic theme song from X. Atencio that ties everything together, Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me). When a whole boatload of people is singing along, you know an attraction’s special.
The Haunted Mansion
The number two and three spots were tough to hammer down, but we think that the Haunted Mansion barely squeaks ahead of Pirates because of its two-part tone. There’s just something about being scared (or watching people react in fright) that we humans love.
While this attraction may start as a journey in the dark macabre story-telling of Claude Coats, it quickly becomes a light-hearted look at the supernatural through Marc Davis’ characters. Throw in another catchy theme song from X. Atencio in the form of the ever-changing “Grim Grinning Ghosts” and you’ve got a frightfully fun dark ride.
Peter Pan’s Flight
The lines speak for themselves. Peter Pan’s Flight is probably what most of us think of when we think Disney dark ride. The magical journey aboard a flying pirate ship over London and Neverland brings us into the story of Peter Pan through simple, but still-visually impressive models, lighting, and animatronics.
Disney World got a brand new interactive queue that takes you through the Darling’s nursery in 2014 to bring some pixie dust to this classic attraction and let it live on for generations to come.
What do you think of our list? Let us know down in the comments!