6 Disney rides that scare the snot out of little kids

It’s almost Halloween, which has my thoughts turning toward things that scared the snot out of me as a young kid. It took me years to work up the courage to go on one particular Disney attraction and there is at least one attraction where I still get chills on the back of my neck.

I decided to conquer my fears by listing all the rides that might scare little kids and why. For criteria, I’m including attractions that are dark, feature loud noises, contain spooky content, disturbing imagery, and / or have a perceived intensity that is just too much to overcome one’s fear. Some attractions were excluded because warnings or height limits means smaller kids are unlikely to experience them anyway.

Dinosaur – This attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom meets almost all of the criteria. From dark rooms, to loud noises, and up close encounters with giant dinosaurs, this attraction has been known to make even large kids cry.

It’s Tough To Be A Bug – this attraction deals with the creepy crawly world of insects in an up close and personal manner. As such it might be too much for some young children. For those who have arachnophobia, it’s definitely too much.

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Haunted Mansion – Walt Disney wanted his haunted mansion to be full of quirky, spooky fun, but you have to ride your omnimover through some of the most effective haunted effects ever created for a themepark to get to the fun. Back in the day, they sometimes even had a cast member dressed as a knight to jump out and scare unsuspecting guests. This one definitely qualifies for the list.

Space Mountain – You ride in near complete darkness through what was once believed to be the fastest ride at a Disney themepark, darn right it’s scary. For a young kid with no experience on roller coasters beyond Disney’s tamer kiddie coasters, the prospect of diving into the dark for the first time is anxiety inducing to say the least. That was the case with me until I was 9 years old and that’s why Space Mountain is on the list.

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Stitch’s Great Escape – The chili dog breath is enough to frighten nearly anyone, but this ride suckers kids into a potentially terrifying experience another way – unexpected complete darkness when you’re locked into your seat. Disney doesn’t want little kids to get up and run around in the dark, so they lock them in place with shoulder restraints. What makes this one bad is that it takes one of Disney’s best original characters in years and associates bad memories with it.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – There’s nothing more terrifying than the feeling of being out of control; add 13 stories of freefall in an elevator to the equation and you have one scary ride. At least this one has terror right in its name, that’s a clear sign to any trepidatious kid that they may want to avoid it until the next vacation.

The following attractions didn’t make the list, but they get honorable mentions: Fireworks, Mission Space, Test Track, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. How about you? Which rides scared you as a kid, or even still scare you now?

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11 thoughts on “6 Disney rides that scare the snot out of little kids

  1. Omar

    Stich’s escape is one of the biggest flops currently in existence at WDW. However back in the day when it was an alien’s horror ride, that definitely scared the bejesus out of me..

  2. Patricia

    Love all of them except I’ve never been on mission space (I’m a bit claustrophobic), and stitch was so much more frightening when it was Alien Encounter.

  3. Kevin

    It’s a small world.

    The first time I rode it, not so bad. That night however, mad scary nightmares with the kids breaking free to capture me and that incessant song always playing in the background, in a slightly minor key mind you.

    Also, how many times have you had a young kid on your boat and as you head into the dark, before the first room, the kid absolutely loses their mind. Screaming as if we are headed toward absolute doom, a blood chilling scream and looking at their parent as if to say “why hast thou forsaken us to this horrible death”. Poor kids…

  4. Ammy Woodbury

    Athena likes the Haunted Mansion, but Peter Pan is terrifying. I think it’s that you’re in bright sunlight and then pitch black flying over London. Bonus: I never have to wait in that too-long line for her sake!

  5. Mike

    Getting stuck in “it’s a small world’ ride for 20 minutes for technical issues and listening to “it’s a small world song” was scary enough

  6. Jack Carson

    Just got back from Disneyland Paris. Your list doesn’t hold a candle if haven’t ridden Space Mountain at Disneyland Paris. Pitch dark, very fast with fast turns, a large loop and a corkscrew roll followed by a hard stop! Once is enough for me.

  7. EdMouse

    I have seen many children being taken out of Fantasmic! (WDW Version) in tears. Dragons + Evil characters + loud noises!

  8. Lizzie

    This is a strange one but I was always freaked out by PoTC when I was little. The scene where the pirates have guns and they ‘go off’ a few feet from your head used to scare me. Also every time one of the cannons went off I would jump and lastly the scene where they are dunking the guy into the acid well. Looking back on it now it seems kind of silly but then again I am much older.

  9. Disney Mike

    We have three boys — all exactly the same age — and it was fascinating to watch them when they were younger and see what they loved and what scared them. It wasn’t always what we’d expect. One boy LOVED anything that involved Omnimovers, from the Haunted Mansion to Spaceship Earth to Peter Pan. He didn’t want to get on the train, though, because he was terrified of really loud, sudden sounds, and he wouldn’t even let us ride in the very back of the train.

    Another boy LOVED anything that involved boats, including Pirates, but wouldn’t go near characters. The thought of even seeing a character roaming the parks would send him into total panic. We had to explain to him before each attraction that it would be an attraction with only “robots” (audio-animatronics) and no live characters. No MuppetVision 3D for him, because Sweetums would walk out into the theater.

    The third boy simply didn’t want to do anything that he called a “nighttime” ride, meaning attractions that were in the dark. Peter Pan, Haunted Mansion, Pirates, Spaceship Earth, etc.

    This was before they were tall enough to ride anything more thrilling than Pirates, of course. Once they reached a certain age, they got over the fear of dark rides or characters. All it took was one boy wanting to ride a “thrill” ride (I think Splash Mountain might have been the first) and then they all wanted to do it. Peer pressure can work in your favor sometimes, since having everyone want to ride everything made it a lot easier on us adults.

    Now, they don’t want to do the attractions that the adults want to do — Small World, the American Adventure, the Hall of Presidents, the Tiki Room, Journey into Imagination. “They’re BOOOOORRRRRINNNNGGGGG!”

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