Things that might scare little ones at Disney World

(Article last updated: August 30, 2017)

There are several attractions at Disney World that may seem harmless and if you go purely off of the height requirement you may think it is suitable for your child. However, even though they look fun you may find that they are a bit more than you bargained for.

Of course, every kid is different so yours may like all of these but many of these are things might scare little ones at Disney World. 

Let's take a look...

We left some attractions off that either had taller height requirements or don't really require much explanation (like Splash Mountain). If there's anything not listed here that you'd like to see, please mention that in the comments.

Magic Kingdom

Pirates of the Caribbean
Height requirement: none | Scare level: 3/10

Why it could be scary: in the beginning, there are lots of skeletons that some kids might find scary. Also, the ride is dark and there's a scene in the middle where canons are being fired which could be scary to some kids.

Tips: have a small child sit in the middle of the row during the ride, preferably not in the front row

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Haunted Mansion
Height requirement: none | Scare level: 4/10

Why it could be scary: the darkness, haunting audio, and images of skulls and ghosts could scare some

Tips: try to redirect a child's attention by telling them to help count how many ghosts they spot

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Tomorrowland Transit Authority (PeopleMover)
Height requirement: none | Scare level: 1/10

Why it could be scary: this ride is really mild but there are parts that go through complete darkness

Tips: let kids know that this ride is a tour through Tomorrowland and that you have to go through some buildings in the dark

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Stitch's Great Escape
Height requirement: 40" | Scare level: 7/10

Why it could be scary: guests are strapped to their seat while there's scary imagery, sounds and smells

Tips: don't ride it. Not only is this an attraction that might scare little ones at Disney World it is also an attraction that might gross out an adult.

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Space Mountain
Height requirement: 44" | Scare level: 7/10

Why it could be scary: roller coaster completely in the dark (with a 44" height requirement, many little ones won't be tall enough to ride anyway)

Tips: probably should avoid this ride altogether if you have a child that is scared. Even some adults get a little freaked out about sudden roller coaster movements in the dark.

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Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Height requirement: 38" | Scare level: 4/10

Why it could be scary: this roller coaster is the most intense attraction in Fantasyland so it might take a little one by surprise

Tips: have your child test the roller coaster waters with Barnstormer first; if they like that one then they will probably love Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

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Epcot

Spaceship Earth
Height requirement: none | Scare level: 1/10

Why it could be scary: mild ride but it's very dark in parts

Tips: this ride will not scare many kids but you might want to just explain that the slow ride up is looking at the past and then there's a slow ride down that is about the future

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Mission: Space
Height requirement: 40" (Green Mission), 44" (Orange Mission) | Scare level: 5/10

Why it could be scary: guests are harnessed and the simulation includes feeling g-forces and a semi-rough ride through space (though the more family-friendly "Green" mission is milder than the Orange side)

Tips: have them focus on pushing the buttons in front of them when they light up

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Test Track
Height requirement: 40" | Scare level: 3/10

Why it could be scary: sudden stopping and turning plus a high-speed lap around the track

Tips: I've only occasionally seen a child be upset by this ride but just let kids know that it's a car ride that ends with a fast drive on a highway

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Animal Kingdom

It's Tough to be a Bug
Height requirement: none | Scare level: 8/10

Why it could be scary: dark theater, bugs dropping from the ceiling, seat movements that feel like bugs crawling

Tips: if your child has any fear about bugs or the dark, you should probably avoid this. Otherwise, you might want to just remind them that all of the bugs they see are pretend.

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Expedition Everest
Height requirement: 44" | Scare level: 8/10

Why it could be scary: big coaster that goes backward during part of the ride (though many 5-6 year olds will meet the 44" height requirement, it's too intense for many of them)

Tips: be sure to try out other easier coasters first to see about your child's comfort level. If this is their first, they may never get on another one again.

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Avatar Flight of Passage
Height requirement: 44" | Scare level: 7/10

Why it could be scary: Riders are strapped in onto individual seats making it hard to offer much comfort (if needed), ride simulates falling and the feeling is very realistic and may be too intense for some

Tips: there is a ride vehicle you can test outside of the attraction so try that first

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Dinosaur
Height requirement: 40" | Scare level: 8/10

Why it could be scary: rough, dark ride where dinosaurs suddenly appear and make very loud dinosaur noises

Tips: don't ride if your child scares easily but have them sit in the middle of a middle row if they ride and want to minimize the scariness

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Hollywood Studios

Fantasmic!
Height requirement: none | Scare level: 3/10

Why it could be scary: Disney villains play a part in the show which scares some kids

Tips: focus on the other less scary elements of the show - have them look at the water features, lights, Glow with the Show ears

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Tower of Terror
Height requirement: 40" | Scare level: 8/10

Why it could be scary: Aside from the 13 story drop, the Twilight Zone imagery that riders see before the drop could be scary. This ride only has a 40" height requirement so many little ones will be able to ride.

Tips: probably best to avoid this ride if kids seem hesitant as it's pretty intense

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Voyage of the Little Mermaid
Height requirement: none | Scare level: 3/10

Why it could be scary: the Ursula character in this show scares some little ones

Tips: remind little ones know that Ursula is not real but sit near an exit door if you think you will want the option to leave

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Kylo Ren at Star Wars Launch Bay 

Height requirement: none | Scare level: 4/10

Why it could be scary: most character meets at Disney World involve friendly characters but Kylo Ren stays true to his movie persona which may be a little intense for both little ones and adults

Tips: if they are Star Wars fans remind little ones that The Force will keep them safe

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Advice for handling things that might scare little ones at Disney World

If your little one scares easily, you can handle it a couple of different ways.

  • Avoid the attractions.
  • Frame scary attractions in a way that's less scary for them using some of the tips and info mentioned above.
  • Give them a key ring flashlight to use on darker rides. If they're scared of the dark, let them have a tiny flashlight that won't bother other people but will give them the chance to turn on a light and let them feel more in control.
  • Show them videos or tell them how the attraction will go so there are no big surprises or try a guide that's designed for kids, by kids like Birnbaum's Walt Disney World for Kids book which has pictures and ride ratings.
  • Start small when it comes to the roller coasters. Barnstormer is a good test to see how your little one handles the thrill rides.coaster intensity - Things that might scare little ones at Disney World

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Are there any other attractions that you think you should be on this list? Or do you have advice for handling things that might scare little ones at Disney World?

We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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38 Comments on "Things that might scare little ones at Disney World"

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Heck, it’s tough to be a bug made my then-59 year old mom (:3 she’s 60 now!) jump when the spiders descended and the bugs rattled out the door under your seats. I cackle. I love that show. I hope it stays forever. They can get rid of the stinkbug nastiness. That and that skunk garbage in Imagination. Stop making us smell disgusting stuff, guys.

Everest at Animal Kingdom was a very scary experience for both me and my 5 year old grandson. Avoid.

Just one more addition to HM section- I can still vividly remember a six-year old me whimpering into Mom’s stomach as the “Ghost Host” tells you that there’s no way out and then the rafters reveal a hanged (I know, bad grammar, but ‘hung’ doesn’t sound right) corpse… that part was rather terrifying. Truth to be told, I would bump the scare rating up to 5/10.

We took our daughter a few years ago so I don’t know if it’s changed, but the Enchanted Tiki Room blind-sided us. We had gone years ago on our honeymoon prior to that and remember it as benign (and rather boring) animatronics. So we took her hoping for a cool place to rest and maybe even shut her eyes for a few minutes. Wrong. Move. She had asked over and over if it was scary and we assured her it was nothing close to scary. We were liars it turns out! It was “under new management” of Iago and Zazu… Read more »
Great ideas – I think my mum would agree on it’s tough to be a bug, to this day she hasn’t seen the show properly. As the first time we went on as a family I had a meltdown and she had to try and calm me down. Best tips my mum gives everyone before this ride remind the kids that the bugs are pretend and also that they can take off their glasses whilst this doesn’t take away from the special effects it did help me calm slightly. To this day I still won’t go on it’s tough to… Read more »

An AED symbol next to an attraction in a good indicator that it may be scary (and raise your blood pressure).

LOVE your tip about stitch’s great escape – that should go for everyone, scared or not! Also great tip for the great movie ride, my 5 year old self laid on the floor of ye car when the bad guy came.

I would add both Peter Pan’s Flight and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It’s very dark in Peter Pan, and that scared my kids. Winnie the Pooh is also in the dark, and it has the spooky nightmare scene with the heffalumps and woozles. Buzz Lightyear is also quite dark, so that at least needs a warning. Soarin’ can be scary for kids who are afraid of heights. The initial rise of the whole structure is surprising, and then the feeling of flying can be scary. As you may be able to tell, my kids scare easily. When… Read more »

when i went my daughter was 18 & i had her watch her 6yr old brother (big mistake) she took him on tower of terror. he cried so hard & it ruined the whole day. now we are going back he reminds not to go on it. i am going to plan the rides very carefully with no dark & scary. just my son & i this time.

Maybe its just me but I have a 5 yr daughter and to this day I don’t know her level of scare I think she is sort of a daredevil with rides at nearby carnivals but another day she will have a nightmare about a elf like elf on the shelf seriously an ELF. So I’m totally lost on what rides to try do I do that Dinosaurs ride or no? Any opinions?

I can give input on what scared me to death when I visited Disney at 7 (this is in the mid-80s, so things might have changed.) My main memory of my visit is of being terrified during the Snow White ride, and also being scared of the spooky sounds of the haunted house (we were just walking by, we weren’t even inside – yes, I was a sensitive child.) Also, I caught sight of a picture of a skeleton holding a rifle, with a bird’s nest on it’s head in a brochure of some kind (was the ride Pirate’s of… Read more »
We went to Animal Kingdom with a family member who works there, and he assured us that the ‘Its Rough To Be A Bug’ video experience wasn’t scary, that it was just bugs in 3D. Well! My poor noise-sensitive 5-year-old was in hysterics by the 2nd bug (it was pretty intense for me, too!) and we had to make a hasty escape out the door. I feel a ton of mommy guilt for putting him through that. I will definitely research rides more before I go anywhere else in Disney. He also was very nervous on the ride in Asia… Read more »
I made the mistake of taking my 3yo on Dinosaur (she LOVED Dinosaur Train and loves coasters). I honestly think it was the impending doom storyline that got her- as soon as the ride vehicle started bouncing around and the red warning lights started, she immediately turned to me and yelled “I don’t like this- I want off”. Luckily, there is enough mobility to the way you are seated that I could lean over and cover her face with my neck and essentially hug her while blocking her view completely- so she didn’t freak out. But she was suspicious of… Read more »

My 5 year old daughter wanted to go on the Stitch ride with the idea that it was a fun and happy ride. When we went on it, she cried the whole time. Do not ride it with small children or even on your own because if you ride on your own or with older children, it is really uninteresting.

I think Splash Mountain should have been on here. It’s not the scariest thing ever, but I think the vultures and the part before the drop could scare a lot of kids.

I’m curious about Splash Mountain too. How bad is the drop at the end? Is there scary stuff leading up to that?

Thank you sooo much for this post and everyone’s helpful comments! I have an easily scared 3 & 5-yr-old so all these tips will be extremely helpful in our upcoming trip.

My husband and I honeymooned at WDW and went on Dinosaur. We were both terrified the entire time. We won’t be returning to that ride, for sure!

On our first Disney trip with kids, when one of my sons was 4, we started our first day with Figment in EPCOT. I thought it would be an innocuous way to start, but instead he completely freaked out because it was dark at times. Not a good start to our trip, and it turns out that there are many harmless-seeming Disney rides that are at least partly in the dark (e.g., Peter Pan). Wish I had known the flashlight trick, but with some trial and error we learned that having him close his eyes worked. We were able to… Read more »

When my daughter was 3, we brought her on most of these rides (if she was tall enough). Needless to say, when we returned with her at age 5, she remembered which rides scared her and couldn’t get her on any of them.

I never brought her on Dinosaur because I knew it would freak her out.

Great post! I wanted to add to Expedition Everest. My son rode when he was 5 and loved the ride…until the yeti figure came out and “ripped up” the tracks. That terrified him on a rollercoaster he otherwise was enjoying. Any kids scared of monsters should definitely avoid it, even if they like rollercoasters.

Great post, Shannon. We were in Disney last month with my 6 year old niece and 2 year old nephew. The fear of the unknown kept my niece away from alot of the things we thought she would want to do. She did do the Tower of Terror with us, and was okay for the drops– but as you mentioned, the part leading up to the drops terrified her. After that, she didn’t want to go anything that was inside a building for fear that there was something scary inside the walls. (My husband and I go every year, and… Read more »

my daughter had a big fear of “dark” rides. She’s still afraid of the dark. She loves the rides themselves but is afraid of the dark. She has a small keychain flashlight that she holds on the rides. As long as shes holding the light (we’ve used our cell phones when we forget the light) she enjoys her self…she just needs a little night light.

My grandson, when he was 4, thought it was really fun on the Safari ride when the bridge seemed like it was collasping. But….. what he doesn’t like and is fearful of to this day, and he is now 8, is any ride that has a drop feature. He doesn’t like the feeling it gives his tummy. We tell him to tighten his tummy muscles when he is dropping and he won’t feel it as much, but he still doesn’t like those kind of rides. He loves Pirates but rarely goes on it because of the waterfall drops. Yes, even… Read more »
When we went to WDW last year, we made sure to pack a couple of tubes of glowstick bracelets (10pk from Dollar Tree). We don’t have children ourselves, but thought the bracelets would come in handy, and they surely did! A young boy (4-5) was extremely anxious about riding Small World, so I quickly activated a green bracelet and offered it to him. I told him that Tinkerbell gave it to me, and it was filled with bravery, so just shake it at whatever is frightening and it will chase the scary away. He took it, and his young parents… Read more »

Yes, thank you for this idea. I have a “scared” child and i’m hoping that this idea will help him.

That is a great idea! So sweet of you to bring them for other kids. We will for sure bring some for our kids as well as some extras!

Honestly, my 10-year-old niece and I were a little freaked out during the Safari when they pretend that the bridge is washed out. We weren’t expecting that. My husband thought we were silly for believing it. 🙂

I’m pretty sure they still do this…? I was on it just last week…and countless times this year and I can’t think of a time when they did not do it. I would add it to the list! 🙂

Maybe we are talking about two different things? When I reread it…I guess I think the Safari should be added for the part where they say the bridge is old…and it shakes and you fall to one side and feel like the bridge is about to break. Not sure if that is what y’all were talking about. I saw “bridge” and that is what I was thinking you were speaking about. 🙂

I also agree that the Aliens section of the Great Movie Ride needs to be mentioned and the scare level possibly bumped up a bit. My wife and I forgot about that part of the ride and my daughter was in tears when one of them jumped out at her. If I recall correctly, one of them drops from the ceiling so the middle seat doesn’t provide any escape. I would recommend trying to distract little ones so that they are looking elsewhere during that portion of the ride.

I’m glad you added this about The Great Movie Ride. My husband & I had forgotten about the alien part. We took our 3 year old on it & she got scared & she doesn’t scare easy. Also, isn’t there a scene with the witch from The Wizard of Oz? If I’m remembering correcyly, that scared her too. We felt like horrible parents for taking her on that ride.
I agree, the scare rating for this ride should be higher.

That part of the ride is still scary to me and I’m 17 years old!

I learned my lesson the hard way that just because they’re tall enough doesn’t mean they should ride. I have very tall children (my daughter was 4 and able to ride almost everything my son will be 3 this trip and is 41 in). These are great tips.

Great article here Shannon! Every parent should read through this before taking their kids on some of these rides. We did the flashlight trick and that definitely worked for rides like Pirates. I agree 100% with the Space Mountain comment, my daughter is 6 and after I rode it I am very glad she did not.

Do people actually take their kids on Tower of Terror??? I wouldn’t even do that one 😉

The alien coming out of the ceiling in the great movie ride scares me so I don’t think it’s appropriate for toddlers.

Agreed! This was my first thought about the GMR. I’m an adult, I’ve been going on this ride since I was 6, and I still have to close my eyes and put my head down at that part! 🙂

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