Decades after people first ventured off the planet, space travel comes down to Earth with a realistic flight simulator that takes adventure-seekers on a mission to Mars. Disney's newest attraction, Mission: Space, delivers a stomach-churning, gravity-laden ride, complete with virtual reality flyovers of the Red Planet. But it's not all thrill and spill at Disney's parks. There are tamer, more educational experiences that rank right up there with the faster, more heart-pounding rides.
Disney spent $100 million to answer the question most asked of astronauts: What does it feel like to be in space? The pros should know, and dozens on hand for the attraction's opening gave it a solid thumbs up. Even NASA doesn't train astronauts with sustained g-forces, such as what passengers experience in this ride aboard a giant centrifuge (NASA's tests last only a few seconds at a time). You'll feel about twice your weight right through the chest as you blast off from Cape Canaveral, then swing around the moon for a rocky landing on Mars. Watch for flybys of the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station during the journey.
Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom
You've seen these folks before: Mickey, Donald, Peter Pan, Aladdin, Ariel the mermaid. But this show, set in Fantasyland Concert Hall, animates these characters in a bold and unusual perspective. Portrayed on a 150-foot wide screen and filmed in 3 dimensions, Mickey and company fly around as free as Tinkerbell. There's more than sight and sound, however. Special effects such as blasts of air and squirts of water make the show multi-sensory and full of surprises.
Test Track Pavilion, Epcot
Is the testing that automobiles undergo before being deemed road-worthy truly rigorous? Now, in a unique partnership with General Motors, Disney allows guests to find out firsthand while testing cars in Test Track, a simulated auto proving ground. Computer-powered vehicles steer guests through a hair-raising, mile-long course in a 5-minute ride that features hills, hairpin turns, bumpy roads, and speeds reaching almost 65 mph. Before the thrills of this ride are over, passengers will have experienced impact testing, road handling, suspension testing, wild skids, and a 50-degree banked curve.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Pay a visit to the Hollywood Tower Hotel, where you can hop aboard the rickety elevator for a lift to the 13th floor. Along the way, you'll encounter ghostly guests wandering dark, eerie corridors before being transported into the fifth dimension. As darkness befalls the elevator shaft, it seemingly loses control and shoots skyward. The sights and sounds of cables snapping fill the elevator as it begins to vibrate just before plunging 13 floors at a speed that's faster than the force of gravity. But instead of landing safely and letting passengers off, the rampant elevator shoots skyward again and again until finishing with a memorable finale.
Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Adventureland, Magic Kingdom
The mystique of Disney's Aladdin is brought to life in Adventureland's Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride. Sixteen magic carpets extend from an enormous, animated genie bottle and are rider-operated, allowing passengers to swoop their carpets up and down or tilt forward and backward. Music from the motion picture Aladdin fills the air as the magic carpets swirl around the genie bottle, and fanciful camels spit water at riders.
Tomorrowland, Magic Kingdom
For an out-of-this-world roller coaster experience, hop aboard Space Mountain, where you'll twist and turn through virtual darkness whipping past meteor showers, planets and stars. Other spaceships carrying passengers whiz past on other tracks, adding to the intensity of this popular ride. This space age coaster will leave you breathless, from the moment you enter the initial tunnel of blinking strobe lights, to the precipitous twists and turns of the tracks, until the final landing strip.
The Haunted Mansion
Liberty Square, Magic Kingdom
The Haunted Mansion is a kooky, spooky, ghoulish good time. Ghost hosts lead passengers on doombuggy tours, which are packed with ghoulish activity and sure to amaze even the least-spookable park-goer. Tours take visitors up creaking stairs, past mysteriously moving suits of armor and by a very ghostly ballroom. Thrills and chills peak as the doombuggies travel past the library, music room, parlor and graveyard. Keep an eye out for a mysterious, reappearing raven, and beware of the hitchhiking ghosts!
It's a Small World
Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom
In our fast-paced world, we often need reminders of the similarities that make us all human. And Disney has created the perfect showcase with It's a Small World, a true celebration of humanity that was originally created for the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. It's hardly a visit to Disney World without taking the 10-minute boat ride through displays of different cultures from around the world. With the infectious tune playing in the background, guests will hear different languages, see traditional costumes and learn about other ways of life.
Future World, Epcot
Coined by many as The Ball, Spaceship Earth is the enormous geosphere that has become synonymous with Epcot. Inside this gargantuan structure is a fascinating ride that takes visitors on a 15-minute journey through time, exploring the forever-evolving history of communication among humans. Travel back to the days of the Pharaohs, to the fall of Rome, into the era of the first telephones and finally through the modern telecommunications revolution.
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Starring Aerosmith
Sunset Boulevard, Disney-MGM Studios
One part roller coaster and 1 part rocking sound system, Disney's Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith will take you on 1 heck of a wild ride. Start by hopping into a limo that quickly revs up and speeds from 0 to 60 mph in less than 3 seconds. Then sit back as your ride zooms along more than a half-mile of looping, corkscrewing track. The rockin' sound system in each car pumps Aerosmith songs through 120 speakers throughout the duration of the ride.