Top 10 Dark Rides in Florida
Other than roller coasters, dark rides are among the favorite attractions for theme park enthusiasts, so today we’re taking a look at the theme park capitol of the US, and seeing how Florida’s dark rides stack up. This list is only comprised of Disney and Universal attractions, because as of now, no other Florida park has built a dark ride that compares. Hopefully the regional parks will join in soon, but for now, here is my list of the top 10 dark rides in Florida.
- Men in Black Alien Attack
Men in Black Alien Attack is widely agreed to be the best shooting ride ever created, and the ride holds up still to this day. The sheer amount of animatronics is enough to get this ride recognition, but the impressive integration of the shooting technology into the ride, and the creativity of the targets and aliens is excellent. The theming is also great, with a clever pre-show and fun scenes in the ride using almost entirely practical effects. This has become a must-do attraction at Universal Orlando, and with minimal wait times this is a no brainer to ride every time.
- Pirates of the Caribbean
A very different type of ride than the rest of the attractions on this list, Pirates is the perfect example of what a classic dark ride should be. A simple and immersive queue, a fun ride vehicle, and storytelling that could have only come from Imagineering in the 60s. The scenes are whimsical and highly detailed, with my personal favorite being the ship and fort battle after the drop. The animatronics in Pirates are also a lot of fun, and the added scenes featuring Jack Sparrow fit into the classic scenes well.
- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
The most recent addition to Hollywood Studios is one of the best rides at the resort, it takes new technology and blends it with classic dark ride storytelling. The first attraction based on Disney’s most famous characters fits perfectly into the Chinese Theater in the center of the park, and through clever projection mapping, the characters are brought to life. The trackless ride vehicles and giant projection surfaces immerse riders into the cartoon, and there are some cute easter eggs throughout as well. The pre-show is also one of Disney’s most notable, and the transition from real world to cartoon world is done beautifully.
- Transformers: The Ride- 3D
Transformers at Universal Studios Orlando is the evolution of the ride technology of another attraction that may or may not be coming up on this list, and it joins the park’s lineup of screen-based movie themed attractions. The screens are very convincing on this ride, but what really sells it is the movement of the ride vehicle. The dynamic twists, jolts and omnidirectional spinning is impressive to this day, and is the perfect level of intensity without being too much for family demographics.
- Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
This placement may be swayed by my personal Star Wars bias, but stepping onto the Millennium Falcon will never get old, and being in that cockpit is a dream come true for millions of people worldwide. The ride controls are groundbreaking, this is the first time that riders are actually able to control their ride vehicle, and determine what happens inside the ride film. While the pilot positions are definitely more fun than the gunners and engineers, every seat has something to do, and I admire the effort in creating an attraction where everyone is working together to achieve a goal. The movement is very fun, and the challenge and scoring presents a great re-rideability factor.
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
This highly themed drop tower is what most non-theme park enthusiasts may consider to be the scariest ride they have ever been on. While we in the community may not agree, we can all admire the incredibly impressive theming and forceful fun of falling faster than gravity. The fifth dimension scene is one of the most interesting elements of the ride, having a drop tower where the ride cart can move forwards through a space is very impressive even for modern standards. The randomized drop sequences are also a lot of fun, you’re never sure whether you’ll be falling or launching first. My one gripe has always been that the ride is too short, a good 3 or 4 more drops would really make the wait feel more worth it.
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
In the conversation of impressive ride technology and blending screens with real props, Forbidden Journey should always be the first ride mentioned. The Kuka arm technology stands out as one of the most unique ride vehicles ever created, and is perfectly suited for the ride. The development of domed screens that move with the ride vehicle is nothing short of genius, and the transition to real, gigantic sets is breathtaking. I think this ride could really benefit from a 4K screen upgrade, but it doesn’t feel outdated yet because of how well the animatronics and physical sets hold up.
- Avatar Flight of Passage
The absolute peak of “screen rides” has to be Avatar Flight of Passage. There is just no sensation like it, the feeling of the Banshee breathing under you as you go through hyper-realistic aerial stunts in a stunning alien planet with sights, sounds and smells all contributing to making the experience as viscerally real as possible. An extremely impressive queue and (admittedly long-winded) pre-show perfectly set the tone for what’s to come, and every rider has the same reaction at the end of the ride, “It’s over already? I wish this never had to end.”
- The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
The fact that this attraction was created in 1999 doesn’t quite seem to make sense, it’s almost too good to be true. This attraction is certainly the most impressive ever built for its time, and the fact that it still ranks so high to this day just reinforces this fact. The props literally blend with the screens, with some props actually connecting to the screen itself. There are fire effects, water effects, heat effects and more, fully immersing the rider in the story being told. Just like with Transformers, the ride vehicle sells the story, with the range of motion being incredibly versatile, and moving seamlessly from scene to scene.
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
What is there to say about this attraction that hasn’t already been said? It’s not even an attraction, it’s a full on experience. What really impresses me is the daringness of this ride, the sheer boldness of even attempting something like this. Someone said, “What if we had a trackless ride vehicle attach to a drop track that then became a motion simulator?” and someone else said “Okay let’s do it.” And that’s just the finale of the ride. Everything leading up to that are some of the best physical sets ever made, and what can only be described as absolute technical wizardry that I still don’t know how it works despite riding it on a regular basis. Thinking about the creation of this ride makes my head spin, but more than anything I am excited about what this ride will lead to, and what boundaries will be pushed next.
What did you think of this list of the Top 10 Dark Rides in Florida? Do you agree? Let us know in the comments section below!