Each Walt Disney World park has its own icon, and at Hollywood Studios, that icon is the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™.
Based on the classic TV show hosted by Rod Serling, this attraction is one of the most thrilling in the park.
Here, you’ll step inside the abandoned Hollywood Tower Hotel and take a ride through an elevator shaft where, on Halloween 1939, some of the hotel guests mysteriously disappeared. Complete with a creepy atmosphere and 13-story drops, this attraction has remained a must-do for guests for nearly 30 years.
Ready to move into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas? Come on and cross over into our guide to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Quick Facts
Description: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is a free-fall thrill ride that takes guests through a series of randomized drops from different heights after traveling through an elevator shaft.
The attraction captures the glitz and glamour of the golden age of Hollywood, and the hotel’s lobby seems frozen in time after it was abandoned on that fateful Halloween night. It’s a little spooky, and those drops aren’t for everyone, but the Tower of Terror offers classic thrills and an amazing view of Hollywood Studios right before the drop (especially at night).
You can find Tower of Terror at the end of Sunset Boulevard, and since it towers over the park (pun intended), you can’t miss it. Here’s the location on the map.
How to Ride The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
If you want to ride Tower of Terror via standby, it’s a good idea to get in line as soon as the park opens, since the wait times here do end up growing to an hour or more pretty early in the day.
Like most attractions at Disney World, the middle of the day will see the highest wait times here.
Those who aren’t early birds or have a different priority for their first ride of the day may also find luck with a short line during the last hour before closing, and riding in the dark makes for a much spookier experience!
Do I Need To Use Genie+ at The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror?
Given how popular Tower of Terror is, even during slow seasons, it’s a good idea to make this one of your Genie+ selections.
If it’s in your top attraction priorities for Hollywood Studios or if you’re not planning to arrive at the park at opening, you’ll want to book a Lightning Lane.
The good news: Tower of Terror Lightning Lane times are usually plentiful into the afternoon. So, you should feel comfortable making your first selection of the day a super popular ride like Slinky Dog Dash or Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, which does sell out, and waiting to book Tower of Terror second or third.
Don’t forget to check out our touring strategies for Hollywood Studios for more tips on using Genie+.
Rider Switch/Child Swap
Rider Switch is available to use for Tower of Terror. This is Disney’s system that allows people traveling with someone who doesn’t meet the ride’s height requirements or doesn’t want to ride to wait with another member of their party.
The adults will be able to switch places to ride without having to start that long wait over again from the beginning.
While you wait, checking out the attraction’s gift shop and soaking up the atmosphere on Sunset Boulevard can be fun, since the theming extends well into the merchandise store.
What To Expect When You Ride
The Tower of Terror queue is a fun one — though the first stretch of it can be hot, if you happen to be traveling during, oh, most months of the year to Florida.
You’ll start your journey in the courtyard of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, walking through a set of creaky gates and blowing right past that “keep out” sign before you wind through an area of lush, overgrown greenery.
After you pass through the rose garden, you’ll walk around the outside of the abandoned building and cross into the lobby, which is where the real fun starts.
Everything looks just as the hotel guests and employees left it… just a lot dustier than it was in 1939.
Even under all those cobwebs, you’ll find that you can still see glimpses of old Hollywood glam here, from the ornate ceilings to lighting fixtures, along with details that show how quickly this place was abandoned (people didn’t even stop to grab their suitcases).
Before you know it, you’ll be headed into the pre-show, where Rod Serling will warn you about exactly what you’re about to experience, and there will definitely be some creepy surprises ahead.
Each ride vehicle is designed to look like an elevator car, and they seat a pretty big group: 21 people in total.
The rows seat seven people, with an aisle going between all but the back row. You’ll be safely fastened in with a belt that goes across your lap (don’t forget to pull that yellow tab when the Cast Member asks you to!).
There are also bars beside each seat that you can hold on to to feel a bit more secure during the drops, but you’ll be just as safe without holding on, so feel free to throw those arms up!
Guests in ECVs must transfer into a manual wheelchair and then transfer to the ride vehicle. The front row would be the easiest to transfer to, otherwise, you will need to be able to walk up a step or two to ride in the other rows.
Video captioning is available, and service dogs are not permitted to ride.
Expectant mothers should not ride, and those with conditions like high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, or those who experience motion sickness are warned that this ride could exacerbate those issues.
Tower of Terror offers both an on-ride Photopass photo and video, which will appear in your My Disney Experience app shortly after you ride, as long as you’re wearing your MagicBand or MagicBand+, or if bluetooth is enabled on your app.
The photo is taken during one of your drops, when the doors to the elevator open so you can see Hollywood Studios down below. The pictures are usually pretty hilarious.
When you head toward the exit, you’ll get to see the photos on monitors mounted on the wall. You can purchase your ride photo at the Tower Photo counter, located right before you head into the merchandise shop you’ll pass through on your way back out to the park.
You can also buy the ride photos and video through the app, and they are included with the purchase of Memory Maker.
They’re stored on your app for 45 days, but if they don’t show up, you can visit the Photopass office in the park for help. At Hollywood Studios, this is at Sid Cahuenga’s One-of-a-Kind Shop near the park entrance.
Guests purchasing Genie+ will receive digital downloads of their on-ride photos taken in the park on the day of their purchase, at no additional charge.
Those who experience motion sickness may find that they also experience it here, on Tower of Terror.
Though the first part of the ride is pretty tame, with a slow-moving journey through the elevator shafts, the drop may make you queasy, especially thanks to the randomization feature, there’s no way to know exactly how many times your elevator will drop until you ride.
For more advice and tips, check out our guide to motion sickness.
On the Ride
There are spoilers ahead for Tower of Terror, so if you’ve never ridden before and want a totally fresh experience, you might want to skip this next part.
By the time you’ve made it to the pre-show, you’ve already been fully immersed in the Hollywood Tower Hotel vibes.
There’s something creepy about this place, and it only gets creepier when you find yourself in the library. This is where you’ll watch a video of Rod Serling, telling you the backstory of what happened here all those years ago with a hint of what’s to become of you.
But before you can take in all the details in the library, you’re whisked into the boiler room, where you’ll do a bit more waiting before you’re assigned a service elevator.
After you’ve boarded (and buckled yourself in) and the elevator doors close behind you, you’ll find yourself in total darkness before coming face to face with the ghosts of the hotel guests who disappeared on Halloween night.
Things will get really weird as you continue to travel through the elevator shaft as Rod warns you, “those doors are opening again, and this time, they’re opening for you.”
A couple ghost sightings later (along with plenty of Twilight Zone theme music and imagery), you’ll come to the stomach-dropping realization that you’ve made it to the top of the tower… and you can probably guess what comes next.
The number of times and height from which you drop depends on which random drop sequence you get, but you’ll make that 130 foot free-fall from the top of the tower at least once, with the ride’s speed topping out at around 39 mph.
At the end of the ride, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief as you make it back to solid ground, and when the lights come on, you’ll see that you’re back in the hotel again, perfectly safe (if not a bit spooked).
Is Tower of Terror Kid-Friendly?
Due to the height requirement, intentionally scary theming, darkness, and drops, Tower of Terror might be one of the least kid-friendly rides at Disney World. There are even some adults out there who avoid this one!
That said, if you have a kiddo over 40 inches tall who loves all things creepy and is a big fan of thrill rides, there’s a good chance that this attraction is going to be a hit for them — and kids in their teens and older do tend to love Tower of Terror, too.
For more info on what might be a bit too frightening for young kids, check out our guide to things that might scare little ones at WDW.
If your child is in a stroller and will be riding Tower of Terror, you’ll have to park it before getting in line. The designated stroller parking area is right outside the entrance along the wall outside.
Before heading into the ride, make sure you have all of your valuable belongings with you, like phones and wallets, and it’s a good idea to cover the stroller in case a pop-up rain shower happens while you’re inside.
Tower of Terror first opened at Hollywood Studios on July 22, 1994, when the park was still known as MGM Studios.
Not only is the ride inspired by popular and classic hit series The Twilight Zone, which first debuted in 1959, but there is, in typical Disney fashion, an overall story to the attraction.
The storyline is as follows (via Disney Parks Blog):
“On Halloween night in 1939, a thundering storm descended on Hollywood hills, trapping several guests in the lobby of the star-studded Hollywood Tower Hotel. A party of five entered the elevator — a couple, a bellman, a child actress and her governess — and with one crack of lightning, each of them vanished. Now, on a night ‘much like this,’ guests are welcome to follow in their footsteps and take a ride in a service elevator that leads ‘directly to … The Twilight Zone.'”
Through the years, the drop sequencing on the ride has changed several times.
When it first opened, the ride only dropped once from the top of the tower, but less than two years later, a second drop was added. The ride got a third drop in 1999, along with new features like rumbling and more time in the elevator shaft.
The randomized drop sequences as we know them today first debuted in 2003, and the scene you might see during those drops began to change, too.
Other Fun Details
- There are a lot of Easter Eggs to watch out for, including the inspection sticker right before you get on the ride with the number “10259.” This represents October 2, 1959, the date The Twilight Zone first aired. There are also props from episodes of The Twilight Zone, including the demonic fortune teller that was featured in the “Nick of Time” episode starring William Shatner.
- When you’re in the lobby, check out the hotel directory near the doors to the pre-show. You may find a warning message in the bottom of the sign, thanks to the fallen letters.
- At night when looking up at the side of the tower near the Joffrey’s cart, you’ll see the shadow of a man in the lit-upIwindow.
- There is also a Tower of Terror movie that was released in 1997 on “The Wonderful World of Disney,” starring Kirsten Dunst and Steve Guttenberg. Though fans hoped it would come to streaming on Disney+, so far, the movie isn’t available — bummer!
- The Tower of Terror’s exterior was actually designed with Epcot in mind. While standing in the World Showcase, the structure becomes part of the Morocco pavilion’s skyline, so the color makes it blend in seamlessly without looking out of place.
- There are plenty of Hidden Mickeys to be found here, too. One can be seen just before the drop, when a beam of light comes together to form a familiar mouse’s head.
- If you’re lucky, you’ll notice a 13-minute wait on the sign outside of the Tower of Terror when you’re walking by. That means the ride is basically a walk-on with no wait, so you should take advantage!