Is Space Mountain Scary? – Dark, Speed, Intensity Explained

This photograph was taken by Michael from Countdown to Magic

When it comes to classic dark rides like Space Mountain, you may be wondering to yourself: is Space Mountain scary?  In this article, we’re going to answer that exact question, as we give details on this Disney World ride’s approximate speed, its intensity, and if it has any notable drops.

How Scary is Space Mountain?

Let’s get right to it.  On my personal “scary scale,” where I consider a 1 to be not scary at all and a 10 to be a terrifying ride experience, I would grade  Space Mountain as a 2.5 out of 10. 

Relative to other Walt Disney World experiences, a ride on Space Mountain is exhilarating and potentially scary for younger guests, but not so terrifying that timid Mouseketeers should avoid it entirely. On the contrary, it may serve as an effective developmental bridge between “kiddie” rides and roller coasters. Read on for a breakdown of this Scary Score by attraction theming, story, speed, roller coaster elements, and age appropriateness. 

– Theming: Space Mountain’s design kindles a sense of mystery and awe around interstellar travel. It will captivate young space voyagers and, for that reason, scores a non-intimidating 1 for theming!

— Story: On their journey from the entrance of Starport Seventy-Five, through the cosmos on a sleek spacecraft, and back to Planet Earth, guests encounter some turbulent galactic conditions, but no unfriendly extraterrestrials. In terms of narrative, then, Space Mountain scores a 2. It is a mild cosmic adventure well-suited for young Disney fans.

– Ride Speed: This is where some young and motion-sensitive guests struggle with Space Mountain. Riders tend to feel as if they are traveling faster than the ride’s actual speed, due to the dark setting. Thus, the (perceived) speed of the attraction scores a 3.

– Roller Coaster Elements: Despite its reputation as a historical roller coaster, Space Mountain boasts none of the drops and upside-down loops that characterize most intense coasters. However, due to the fact that there are some quick and sharp turns, we must bump the Scary Score for roller coaster elements up to a 2.

– Age Appropriateness: Space Mountain has the highest height requirement (44 inches) of any attraction in Disney’s Magic Kingdom! It is most appropriate for guests ages five and up, due to its intensity and theming. Families should note that children under seven years of age cannot ride alone; they must buddy up with someone 14 or older. Additionally, expectant mothers and guests with high blood pressure, heart problems, neck and back pain, and motion sickness are discouraged from riding.

Space Mountain Theming and Premise

Three…two…one…blast off! The first fully-indoor roller coaster and first computerized coaster, Space Mountain–like many Tomorrowland attractions–is a testament to technological advancement. The ride, built in 1975, rockets Magic Kingdom visitors into outer space. Comets and satellites wiz past as you careen through the star-speckled, pitch black of deep space on a sleek rocket ship. 

Space Mountain boasts a highly recognizable exterior: The conical, white spaceport with towering spires has become a landmark and symbol of Tomorrowland. After boarding a six-passenger rocket, you are transported into a technicolor tunnel of pulsing strobe lights, then shot into the cosmos. 

Your high-speed journey is accompanied by a soundtrack of futuristic music and sounds coordinated with the twists and turns of the coaster track. Mercury 7 astronaut Gordon Cooper has credited the accuracy of the Space Mountain experience, saying in a 1977 interview with People magazine, “Space Mountain is about as close as you can safely get to actually being in space”. 

A surreal and mysterious–yet welcoming–interstellar theme permeates all elements of the ride experience on Space Mountain. This captivating sense of otherworldliness begins the moment you enter the colossal, white space station, where a galaxy-print sign welcomes travelers to “Starport Seventy-Five: Your Gateway to the Galaxies”. 

Visitors find their way to the loading dock via dark pathways lined with red and blue fluorescent lighting. Through the windows, stars and distant galaxies speckle an obsidian sky like scattered fragments of broken glass. 

My personal favorite thematic elements can be found at the conclusion of the ride: As you exit the starport, you will pass a command center with an android operator, along with several immersive scenes depicting different extraterrestrial ecosystems, one of which houses a cyborg dog.

Space Mountain Speed and Safety

As you enter the Tomorrowland spaceport, the pleasant voice of a robotic, interstellar flight attendant can be heard spieling, “Attention Space Mountain Passengers! Space Mountain is a thrilling, high speed, turbulent roller coaster-type ride in the dark.” While this warning is very much warranted, given the age range of Walt Disney World guests, we must examine the “high speed” claim in more detail to determine the scariness of this ride. 

Ads for speed, Space Mountain reaches a top speed of a little less than 30 miles per hour (about 27 or 28 mph, give or take). The majority of the ride is slightly slower than this maximum speed, but feels fast due to the intense darkness and choreographed lighting. The inability to see the roller coaster track leaves riders feeling as if they are moving free from the force of gravity; on two separate occasions, fluorescent lights compound this sense of uninhibited movement by palpitating in the shape of a tunnel through which guests fly in their spacecraft vehicles.

It is natural to question the safety of an attraction that hides its mechanical components under a cloak of inky darkness. Rest assured that millions of Disney park fans, myself included, can attest to the security of Space Mountain from personal experience. 

Additionally, Popular Mechanics writer David Grossman asserts the coaster track on this ride implements multiple reliable safety features. These protective apparatuses include brake runs, which are straight segments of coaster track with brakes intended to slow or stop ride vehicles. Brake runs enable ride operators to assert and maintain control over the movement of all guest-laden spacecraft from inception through the conclusion of their journeys through the cosmos.

Also, if you want to see Space Mountain with the lights on (perhaps to better judge how scary or not scary the ride really is), check out the video below:

Space Mountain Drops, Loops, and Turns

In seeming contradiction with its significant height requirement, Space Mountain is tame compared with other Walt Disney World rides like Magic Kingdom’s Splash Mountain and Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest, both of which have become notorious for their massive drops. 

The Space Mountain track rises and dips on several occasions, but lacks true stomach-flipping, nausea-inducing inclines and declines. Additionally, unlike Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the coaster track on Space Mountain does not loop guests upside down. This knowledge will come as a relief to Disney fans who fear intense roller coaster elements. Those who tend to avoid the bigger, adrenaline-inducing rides in Disney theme parks may find a sweet spot on Space Mountain. 

Despite the lack of true drops and upside-loops, there is no shortage of quick turns on this ride. The indoor, dark track jostles guests from side to side: These sudden movements may catch you (and your neck) by surprise. Seasoned Disney World guests recommend the front of the ride vehicle over the back for visitors wanting a smoother experience, as the back tends to be bumpier and more likely to induce whip-lash with abrupt turns. 

When in doubt, I advise you to follow the guidelines set forth by Disney’s Magic Kingdom park, which state that visitors with neck or back pain should not ride Space Mountain, among other roller coaster-type attractions. 

Space Mountain Experience

Overall, Space Mountain takes Walt Disney World guests on a quick, intense journey into the cosmos. The coaster is two and a half minutes long. By comparison, a ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad takes nearly three and a half minutes, and Splash Mountain boasts a length of 11 minutes.

Although Space Mountain is not intended to be scary, adults should consider the darkness, fluorescent lighting, and speed of this attraction before bringing children onboard. As previously discussed, the ride feels fast due to limited visibility. You may wish to temporarily remove your Mickey ears!

While the ride construction is perfectly safe for space explorers, in the inky darkness, kids and adults, alike, may fear colliding with an errant beam of the roller coaster track. To this day, after riding Space Mountain perhaps a hundred times, my inherent self-preservation instincts prevent me from raising my hands up into the air. Relatedly, we should note that the ride vehicle seats guests in a single-file line, rendering it impossible for adults to sit side-by-side with anxious kids. Fearful riders may benefit from being seated in the middle of a three-person car.

Before exiting the Tomorrowland spaceport for good, remember to pause and view your ride picture! A photo of your vehicle is automatically snapped within the first minute of your journey through the cosmos. If you are directed to the track to the left of the command center on Space Mountain’s loading dock, the camera will be located inside the first fluorescent-lit tunnel, on your left. 

If directed to the track on the right of the command center, look to your right inside the first tunnel for a distinctive camera flash. To see your ride photo, stop at the screen near the dock where you disembark from your spacecraft. This activity works wonders for distracting and imbuing humor into a potentially scary experience for timid theme park goers. 

Conclusion

So ultimately, is Space Mountain scary? The answer depends on your age, overall health, and feelings about the vastness of space. On my own Scary Scale, this attraction qualifies as a 2.5, due to the combination of thematic design, perceived ride speed, and roller coaster elements. 

Children and adults, alike, marvel at the inviting and awe-inspiring representation of outer space featured on this ride. However, guests with sensitivity to the dark, motion sickness, or other health conditions will need to be briefed on the lighting, speed, and turbulence prior to entering the queue. With proper planning and education (Reading this article was a great first step!), astronauts as young as five will enjoy a cosmic mission from Starport Seventy-Five. 

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