Ranking Every Dark Ride at Disney World

Hello, Disney BFFs! You know, there’s a lot more to Disney than just the heart-pounding, adrenaline-filled roller coasters and water rides. If you ask us, some of the best magic happens in the dark – Dark Rides, that is!

Picture from the wild west scene and Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, where both characters are riding horses and leaping across desert canyons. Walt Disney World Hollywood Studios

These treasures, often overshadowed by their flashier E-Ticket siblings, are the heart and soul of Disney parks, weaving storytelling and imagination in a way that can only be described as pure Disney magic. And the best part? They’re perfect for just about everyone, from the smallest Mouseketeers to the oldest Disney veterans. Well, okay, maybe give Haunted Mansion and DINOSAUR a second thought if your little ones are easily spooked. But otherwise, strap in and prepare for an immersive adventure!

Our Ranking System

You can’t play the game if you don’t read the rules first, right? For this ranking, we’re going to use a tier list, because it’s not nice to compare your children. There are so many different types of Dark Rides, that it would be like comparing apples to oranges.

Our Tiers are as follows:

S – I will wait over and over, or otherwise pay my way, to ride this on repeat

A – I’ll need to ride this or the trip didn’t count

B – I like it, I’ll ride it if the line is under an hour

C – It’s a good ride and I’ll wait up to 20 minutes for it

D – Time filler, I’ll ride it – if there’s nothing else to do

F – Absolutely not, no thank you. Enjoy yourself, I’ll go find a Dole Whip

What is a Disney Dark Ride?

A Dark Ride is any ride in an enclosed area with dim to no lighting. That’s a bit broad though and would encompass rides like Space Mountain and Cosmic Rewind. Which are great – but they’re not Dark Rides. For our purposes, we’re going to define Dark Ride as a dark or dimly inclosed ride that tells a story. We’re also going to separate them into categories because there’s honestly a ton of Dark Rides at Disney World.

New Age Disney Dark Rides

Let’s start with the new-age rides. These are a new generation of Dark Rides at Disney. They have cutting-edge technology that allows for new experiences. Namely – they’re trackless.

Photo of two storm troopers surveying guests as the move through the queue for the dark ride Rise of the Resistance

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (S)

Location: Hollywood Studios, Galaxy’s Edge

Lightening Lane: Individual Purchase

Average Wait: 90-120 minutes

No surprises here – Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is top tier, God tier, ‘take my money now’ tier. Galaxy’s Edge is one of the reasons I started this site. I’ve always been obsessed with Star Wars, well up through the prequels anyway, and the idea of walking into the films blew my mind. It was the first experience I could not contain my excitement for and need to scream from the rooftops – and it wasn’t even built yet. Now, when Galaxy’s Edge actually opened I was wildly disappointed. But then, Rise of the Resistance opened and they won me back.

Now the trackless ride system allows your vehicle to move through a traditional dark ride, a lift ride, a simulator, and a drop. I’m on the fence about whether or not it counts as a dark ride, but it’s so good that I’m including it regardless. There’s also not one, not two, not three but four interactive immersive queues. First, you receive a message from Rey asking for your help. Next, you board a transport which is taken hostage by the First Order. You’ll pass by the iconic Storm Trooper museum and be assigned to a holding cell. Once you’re in the holding cell you’re visited by Kylo Ren, before being rescued by the resistance and finally loaded into the actual ride vehicle.

Rise Against the Resistance is worth every minute in line and every penny of the Lightening Lane purchase price. Honestly, it should have its own Rise of the Resistance tier.

Photo of the dark ride exterior for Remy's Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (F)

Location: Epcot, World Showcase – France

Lightening Lane: Genie+

Average Wait: 90-240 minutes (yes, truly. I’ve seen it)

Not all of the new rides are winners, though. A fancy trackless system does not a God their ride make. Unfortunately, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is at the bottom of our tier list. I know we’re going to rouse a few Remy revolutionaries, but we’re dissenters here.

It’s not really fair to the attraction, or movie that it’s based on, that it’s so bad. Ratatouille is a great IP for a ride, the France Pavilion in Epcot is perfect placement thematically, and the new technology used is pretty cool. The problems (there are a few) start with the footprint available. Epcot is already established, and most of the pavilions are already established. There isn’t much room to drop an immersive dark ride where ever you want. So, Disney created the illusion of space by using screens. The entire ride is simply moving around from one screen to the next, with a dash of whiplash.

Honestly, that would be bearable – but it gets worse. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure breaks down constantly. On a recent trip, the ride broke three different times. Each time the queue is evacuated and complimentary Genie+ reservations are added to your Disney World account – that means a ton of extra Genie+ reservations are circulating for this ride. This effectively turns the Genie+ queue into a standard wait. After the thrice breakdowns we were finally able to ride, after having waited in line for over 2 hours total. And we’d purchased Genie+ for the day, so this was not the standby line.

To me, the ride is not that great and it’s absolutely not worth the wait, the trouble, or the expense to try and experience it. The hype for this one will diminish in a year or two, and I might move it up the tier list then.

Photo of Mickey and Minnie falling down a waterfall from Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway in Hollywood Studios.

Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (S)

Location: Hollywood Studios, Hollywood Boulevard

Lightening Lane: Genie+

Average Wait: 60-100 minutes

I wasn’t expecting to love this ride nearly as much as I do. In fact, I had extremely low expectations going into it the first time. It was just another dark ride featuring some of the worst animated versions of the Fab Five in history (seriously, have you seen the new Goofy?!) But it’s so freaking cute, I can’t even stand it. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway also utilizes a trackless system and screens, but they’re used so much better.

The vehicle’s ability to move freely allows it to spin (and dance!). The scenes are predominately screens, but instead of one large screen showing the characters the characters (and sets) are built into the scene and updated with projection mapping. The effect is that a single scene can completely change in the blink of an eye, like the carnival scene that quickly goes awry. And don’t even get me started on the waterfall! Top tier, must do, I’ll buy the Lightening Lane if I need to.

Interactive Disney Dark Rides

Our next group are the Interactive Dark Rides of Disney. These attractions not only bring you into the story, they ask you to be part of it! Both of these rides are based on the same IP, Toy Story, but they are at least in different parks.

Toy Story Mania! (B)

Location: Hollywood Studios, Toy Story Land

Lightening Lane: Genie+

Average Wait: 45 – 60 minutes

Toy Story Mania was a top-tier Dark Ride when it first opened. We’d never really had anything quite like it. Yes, the next ride had been open for a bit – but Toy Story Mania! takes it to a new level. Whizzing between different carnival scenes, throwing rings and darts and balls. I’ve queued for several hours for this ride before, but I wouldn’t do it again.

It’s still a good ride, and if you haven’t ridden before you need to! For me, it’s just a bit tried and tired. I’m not very big on video games in general though (except for Dreamlight Valley, obviously). Bottom line, I’d love to take a trip through Toy Story Mania! – so long as it doesn’t take up my entire day.

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (C)

Location: Magic Kingdom, Tomorrowland

Lightening Lane: Genie+

Average Wait: 35 – 60 minutes

Interactive rides are fun, they bring your group together to play a game and enjoy a story only Disney can tell. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is the first truly interactive Dark Ride at Disney and it’s great! You’ll move through the ride in a vehicle equipped with a toy laser gun, which you can use to shoot down targets hidden throughout the ride. It’s cute and I’m a fan, but I’m not a stan.

Good Enough on Their Own

The best rides at Disney, to me, are those that stand all on their own! They don’t need a movie, they aren’t built around IP. These Dark Rides are so good at evoking emotion and storytelling, they don’t need to rely on familiar faces to pull you in.

Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress (F)

Location: Magic Kindom, Tomorrowland

Lightening Lane: None

Average Wait: 0 – 10 minutes

Starting off this category by ruffling a few feathers. Carousel of Progress is really only a ride in that there are no live performers, but you’re basically watching a play in three stages. It’s air-conditioned and sometimes squirrels break in and guest star, so there’s that. But otherwise, this is not on my to-do list and is actively on my avoid list.

Photo of the entrance and queue for Living with the Land in Epcot

Living with the Land (A)

Location: Epcot, The Land Pavillion

Lightening Lane: Genie+

Average Wait Time: 10 – 20 minutes

Perfection, thy name is Living with the Land. Yes, I’m one of the weirdos who loves this little boat ride and I’m not ashamed to say it. Living with the Land epitomizes Epcot. It tells a story, provides a fun ride, and teaches you something along the way. It’s not a thriller and it doesn’t contain any princesses, but it’s adorable and I love plants. I will not apologize.

Photo from the exterior of the Disney Dark Ride Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom

DINOSAUR (C)

Location: Animal Kingdom, Dinoland U.S.A.

Lightening Lane: Genie+

Average Wait: 20 – 45 minutes

If you just have to have some thrill in all of your rides, DINOSAUR has you covered. You’ll board a jeep-style ride vehicle and venture out to tour the lab, but things start to get a little scary hairy. This ride is dark, even by Dark Ride standards, and has the unwelcome bonus of giant dinosaurs that appear from the darkness to terrify you. It’s not exactly what I’m looking for from Disney and pales in comparison to the other jeep ride (Indiana Jones at Disneyland). I like it, but I don’t love it.

Photo of the attraction marquee for Disney World dark ride Journey into Imagination with Figment in Epcot

Journey into Imagination with Figment (A)

Location: Epcot, Imagination Pavilion

Lightening Lane: Genie+

Average Wait: 10-25 minutes

Anyone who doesn’t love this adorable purple dragon can scroll on by because I would like to embellish Figment on anything and everything I can find. Journey into Imagination is a pivotal part of Epcot history that everyone needs to experience. The concept is a classic Disney troupe – an average day interrupted by mayhem that turns it into an extraordinary afternoon. You’ll never wait more than 30 minutes for this one either, which certainly adds to the magic.

Spaceship Earth (D)

Location: Epcot, Future World

Lightening Lane: Genie+

Average Waite: 10-30 minutes

Well, here we are. It’s a good thing that Spaceship Earth is at the front of Epcot so that I can hop on before the line starts. This Dark Ride is okay. It’s the icon of Epcot, so you can’t not ride it. Can you? Seriously, can you – because I might skip it once in a while if that’s an option.

Photo showing the Africa section of it's a small world, featuring numerous animatronic animals backlit in vibrant purples and greens. Magic Kingdom.

“it’s a small world” (B)

Location: Magic Kingdom, Fantasyland

Lightening Lane: Genie+

Average Wait: 5-25 minutes

Another classic Disney Dark Ride that all guests should experience at least once. Small World is one of my favorite rides, in Disneyland, but it gets the B tier in Disney World. While the ride is celebrated in California it’s more of an afterthought in Florida, tucked into the interior of the tightly packed Fantasyland. I’ve also noticed in recent years that it’s a small world isn’t looking very fresh in Magic Kingdom, but that’s just a personal observation.

The Ride Came First

Next up we have Dark Rides so good that Disney played a reverse card and movies about the attractions. These are rides with storytelling so good, so incapsulating, so beloved – they basically wrote their own scripts for Hollywood. And one of them spurred a five-movie franchise, the other has singing ghosts.

Haunted Mansion (S)

Location: Magic Kingdom, Liberty Square

Lightening Lane: Genie+

Average Wait: 13 – 45 minutes

Grim grinning ghosts! Please note Haunted Mansion is the only non-new age ride to make the S-tier level, and it’s well deserved. From the interactive queue to Pickwick hanging from the dining hall chandelier, everything about this attraction is memorable. I can’t even begin to talk about all of the history seeped into The Haunted Mansion, or we’d be here all day.

Pirates of the Caribbean (A)

Location: Magic Kingdom, Adventureland

Lightening Lane: Genie+

Average Wait: 20-30 minutes

The ride so good it spurred a franchise, which was so good (at the beginning) that is spurred an update for the ride. Pirates of the Caribbean is one of those rides I have to experience in order for the Disney trip to count. I’m the proud owner of several brands of candles intended to make your house smell like this attraction. The first Pirates movie came out while I was in high school and went to DVD at the start of winter break, it is no exaggeration to say that I watched it until the disk broke. POTC has always been a fantastic ride, but the new movie additions have taken it to a new level.

Classic Stories

The final group of Dark Rides at Disney World are those based on established IP. Granted, several of the previous categories contained IP attractions – these are basically what’s left that I couldn’t think of a better category for. Enjoy!

Frozen Ever After (B)

Location: Epcot, World Showcase, Norway

Lightening Lane: Genie+

Average Wait: 60-90 minutes

This franchise is completely overrated, and you can’t change my mind. However, the ride is actually pretty cute. I’m not willing to wait all day for Frozen Ever After, but if I already purchased Genie+ or someone I’m with is a big fan – of course, I’m going to ride.

Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros (C)

Location: Epcot, World Showcase – Mexico

Lightening Lane: None

Average Wait: 10-15 minutes

The biggest perk of the Gran Fiesta Tour is that the queue is entirely indoors, and the wait is non-existant. The ride itself isn’t much to write home about, but it also won’t get a catchy song stuck in your head all day. This is actually a con for me, as I love a good tune. All in all, it’s a cute attraction to fill some time in your day between the S tiers.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (D)

Location: Magic Kingdom, Fantasyland

Lightening Lane: Genie+

Average Wait: 30-40 minutes

Listen, Winnie the Pooh might be my favorite IP – but I’m not waiting more than 20 minutes for this Dark Ride. It’s adorable! You ride inside a honey pot and follow Pooh and the crew through an adventure on a particularly blustery day. Kids love it, adults love it, I do – in fact – love this ride. I just don’t love it enough. Maybe it’s because I’ve ridden it so many times that I’m comfortable skipping it, if need be. Regardless, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is planted firmly in the D-tier.

Photo of the woven art installation at the entrance to Na'vi River Journey in Disney World's Epcot

Na’Vi River Journey (C)

Location: Animal Kingdom, Pandora

Lightening Lane: Genie+

Average Wait: 50-80 minutes

Another disappointing execution of otherwise impressive tech. Na’vi River Journey’s claim to fame is the magnificent animatronic Shawman near the end of the ride. It moves so well that you might mistake it for a liver performer. This is the first use of the new generation of animatronics that, eventually, gave us Rise of the Resistance. Unfortunately, the rest of the ride is just screens.

Peter Pan’s Flight (B)

Location: Magic Kingdom, Fantasyland

Lightening Lane: Genie+

Average Wait: 60-75 minutes

Fun fact – I had not ever ridden Peter Pan’s Flight, in any Disney park, until 2023. I’m not sure how it happened, but I was taking it for granted. I finally had this epiphany and was determined to check it off of my Disney to-do list. I made the right choice. This classic Dark Ride in Fantasyland is like an injection of nostalgia straight to your veins, and I’m here for it.

Photo of the marquee for Disney World Dark Ride The Sea's with Nemo and friends, in Epcot

The Seas with Nemo & Friends (C)

Location: Epcot, World Nature – The Seas Pavillion

Lightening Lane: Genie+

Average Wait: 10-15 minutes

Finding Nemo is a cute franchise, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends is a cute ride. It’s not anything spectacular and the IP might be getting a little, stale. The first movie came out 20 years ago and the attraction doesn’t really add anything to the story. Disney could update it to include more of Finding Dory, but they haven’t. And for that, I’ll wait for a short while to experience The Seas with Nemo & Friends.

Photo of an Ariel animatronic from the Disney World Dark Ride Journey of the Little Mermaid at Magic Kingdom

Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid (C)

Location: Magic Kingdom, Fantasyland

Lightening Lane: Genie+

Average Wait: 20-40 minutes

Last, but certainly not least is Ariel’s ride – Journey of the Little Mermaid. Some films get stale after 20 years, others get remakes. Under the Sea is a quaint little attraction that just gets you in the spirit to have a good time. Something about singing along to your favorite songs at Disney makes long waits, expensive snacks, and that Florida heat worth every lyric.

As long as the wait is less than 20 minutes.

And there you have it, fellow Mouseketeers – a deep dive into the magical world of Disney’s Dark Rides. Now, don’t you feel like you’ve uncovered a whole new layer of Disney magic? While they may not hold the same heart-pounding reputation as other E-Ticket attractions, we can assure you, Dark Rides hold their own special place in the Disney realm, one full of imagination, storytelling, and charm.

The next time you find yourself at a Disney park, remember to step out of the sun and into the enchanting world of Dark Rides. And hey, who knows, you might find yourself falling in love with them just as we have!

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