Is Your Toddler Scared of Dark Rides at Disney? 6 Things You Can Do to Help!

Pandora at Animal Kingdom at Night

Is your toddler scared of dark rides at Disney World (or worried they may be)? Well, I got you!

I’ve been there. I have three little guys who absolutely LOVE Walt Disney World…but that doesn’t mean they haven’t gotten scared on some of the rides over the years. The good news is that when it’s all said and done, they’re usually very happy they went on the ride! But we’ve also learned not to push it if they’re really not feeling it.

So what happens if you come across scary rides at Disney World (in your kid’s eyes, of course…let’s not talk about how Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom still freaks me out! Ha!)? Here are my top 6 things you can do to help:

Disclosure: You may see affiliate links throughout this post, which means these are the things I handpicked! If you purchase something through these links, I will get a small commission at absolutely no extra charge to you. And that sure means a lot to me, so thank you in advance!

Toddler Scared of Dark Rides at Disney

Prepare ahead of time.

Prior to your trip, get an idea of what rides you think your kiddo might like. If they happen to be dark or seem a little scary, there are a few things you can do to prepare.

Watch videos.

Thankfully there are plenty of vlogs out there that have posted full rides on YouTube. And we definitely take advantage of those.

My kids like to know what’s going on. Sure, some surprises are fun, but they’re more comfortable having at least an idea of what to expect.

You don’t have to watch every single ride you’re planning on going on by any means. But if there are some that you think may make your little one nervous, plan on watching a video of those ahead of time.

Talk about the ride.

Of course, watching a ride on a video and actually being on the ride are two totally different things. So, make sure to talk about the ride and how it progresses, too.

If you know that a certain part of the ride gets pretty dark, let them know. And assure them that it will be light within just a few moments. Or what about that small drop? While you’re watching the video, point it out to them, so that they’re aware of it.

Get to know the characters.

Movie night! We love to do movie nights leading up to our Walt Disney World vacations. For each movie night, we make sure to pick a movie that some of the rides are based on. That way, our boys get to know who the characters are.

We also love a good bedtime story around here. And the same thing applies. We like to read Disney stories that feature characters we know we’ll see on the rides or in the parks.

This helps our boys understand what they’re seeing on the different rides. Plus they already know how the story ends, so they know the rides won’t be dark or scary forever.

Side note: reading books or having movie nights are also a fun way to countdown to your Disney vacation! Check out my favorite Disney vacation countdown ideas here.

Get them excited for the ride.

“…then there’s this really cool part where Emperor Zurg flies over the top of us, and we have to get him with our laser!”

I like to take the parts of the ride that I think will make them the most nervous and put a fun spin on it. Then, when that part of the ride is coming, I remind them of how cool it will be!

Turning scary moments into fun moments changes their perspective on the ride and helps them enjoy it a little more.

Assure them that you’ll be right there.

Make sure they know that you’re right there with them. And that they’re safe and you won’t let anything happen.

All the kid rides at Disney World allow you to sit close together. So let them know that they’ll be able to give you a big hug the whole time if they want. I also tend to talk to them during parts that may seem a little scary to distract them a bit.

Mom and Son in front of Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway

Ease into it.

Choose a couple of rides to start with that are dark at some points, but light at other points. And make sure it’s a slower-moving ride with no sudden drops or changes in speed.

For example, Under the Sea-The Journey of the Little Mermaid, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Na’vi River Journey tend to be good ones.

If those go well, then start making your way to others. If they don’t go well, that may be your cue to hold off on the dark rides for a while and find different rides and experiences to check out instead.

Figure out why they’re scared.

If the dark makes them nervous, bring along glow sticks. Those will be light enough to give them peace of mind, but not so bright that it bothers others.

If the noises are the issue, bring noise-dampening headphones to muffle any loud noises that may occur on the ride. I love these headphones because they don’t take up much room in your stroller (they fold pretty small!), and they fit all my boys since they’re adjustable.

If it’s more of a fear of the unknown, then really make sure to prepare ahead of time so they know exactly what to expect.

(Want to know what else I pack in our stroller for a day at the Disney World theme parks? Check out this post.)

Want to know EXACTLY what to pack for your upcoming Disney World trip?

Snag a free printable Disney World packing checklist by clicking the button below. (And how do I know it’s EXACTLY what you need? Well, it’s the list I personally use, so it’s been through plenty of trial and error.)

Don’t force them.

This is the biggest one of all! Don’t. Force. Them.

There’s really no need to push it if they’re still scared after you’ve tried these strategies. You want your kiddo to enjoy their time at Disney…not be terrified. This means you may have to pivot a bit if your initial plans don’t seem to pan out.

It’s okay, though! There are plenty of other things to do at Walt Disney World. Try out an outdoor ride, catch a show, or spend some time at one of the theme park playgrounds…the options really are endless.

And you never know, your little one might come around later in the trip and decide they’re ready to try a dark ride again once they trust that Disney is all about fun.

Which rides are scary at Disney World?

Of course, this is all my own opinion! Every kid is so different when it comes to what they think is scary and what they don’t. But I thought I’d give you some sort of guidance. Remember, these aren’t necessarily rides that are scary…just rides that might be scary to your little one.

Let’s break it down by park. (If a ride isn’t listed, that means it’s not on my radar for rides that kids might find scary.)

Note: I’m only going to go over the rides without height restrictions since those are the ones everyone can enjoy. Yes, I know that some toddlers or young children are tall enough to go on some of the bigger rides (my oldest is one of those kiddos that was tall enough for rides long before he was actually ready for some of them!), but I’ll leave those up to your discretion.

Scary Rides at Magic Kingdom for Kids

Astro Orbiter

This ride is VERY high up in the air. It’s basically the same as Dumbo the Flying Elephant and The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, but you take an elevator to get to it. My kiddos still haven’t gone on it because when they see it, they say it’s too high for them.

If your little one doesn’t like heights, this won’t be the ride for them.

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

This is SUCH a fun ride! But there is a section where Emperor Zurg is flying overhead while you’re in a big open room, making you feel like you’re flying in space. My boys absolutely love this ride, but that part, in particular, did make them a little nervous the first time. So, just a heads up!

Toddler on Buzz Lightyear at Magic Kingdom
Haunted Mansion

I feel like this one is pretty obvious. Yes, it’s slow-moving, but the whole theme of the ride revolves around ghosts. It’s dark the entire time, there are some creepy parts and spooky music/voiceovers, and a ghost even ends up in your buggy at the end.

If you do decide to go on this ride, here’s a tip that may help! Prior to the ride, you go into the “stretching room.” This room sets the stage for the spooky ride, ending with the lights going out suddenly (and everyone screaming) before you exit the room.

But…you can skip this room and head straight for the ride! Just let the cast member at the entrance know you’d like to skip the room, and they’ll direct you to where you need to go. This may help avoid any initial fear your little one may have on this ride.

Peter Pan’s Flight

Once you make your way out of the children’s bedroom and start your flight, it’s a little dark and gives the impression that you’re flying high over the city. There was a moment when my oldest was a toddler that he didn’t like this ride, but he’s been fine now that he’s a bit older. It helped to watch the movie ahead of time, so he had a better idea of what was happening.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Not only is a lot of this ride dark, but there’s also a small drop and a scene where canon balls are splashing right next to you. It gets a little lighter and funnier at the end, but the beginning may be a little intense for kids.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

How is Winnie the Pooh on a “scary rides at Disney” list? Well, this ride starts fun, but it does take a bit of a turn. The “weather” gets stormy, and it gets a little darker. Add in the fact that the ride is bouncy and it might be a little too much for some kids.

Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover

The only reason this ride made the list is because there are parts that are in the dark. And going from the bright sunshine to pitch black can be a little daunting for kiddos.

My kids didn’t have a huge issue with this ride but did get a little nervous when we were all of a sudden in the dark. Otherwise, this is a great ride to relax on!

Mom and sons on PeopleMover at Magic Kingdom
Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid

This ride is pretty tame, but it’s a little darker. And of course, no Little Mermaid ride is complete with Ursula and her eels! That part is so short-lived, though, that my kids haven’t had a problem with this ride (in fact, it’s one of their favorites!). I think this is a great ride to start on to ease into darker rides if you think your little one may have an issue with dark rides.

Scary Rides at Hollywood Studios for Kids

Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway

Let me start off by saying that this is my kids’ favorite ride in Disney World! Okay, with that being said, the ride does move quickly at times and can jerk you around a little bit. There are also moments of feeling like you’re falling due to the special effects. While my kids ended up laughing at those parts, they can be a little overwhelming for some little ones.

Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway at Hollywood Studios

Scary Rides at EPCOT for Kids

Frozen Ever After

This is one of the most popular Genie+ attractions! But I still can’t get over the picture of my then 15-month-old on this ride! Poor guy! (We had no idea he was making this face until the PhotoPass came through!)

Parents and son Frozen Ever After on Disney

The photo on Frozen Ever After is taken as you go down a small drop. Right before the drop, the boat floats backward…in the dark. As much as he loved the movie, Frozen, the ride was a little much for him.

BUT I don’t want you to think, “Oh, great! That’s the one ride my kid is looking forward to! And now this girl is saying my kid will be terrified.” You can totally still do it. A lot of the ride isn’t scary at all. (Plus every kid is different! My niece, for example, loooves this ride.). But you may want to follow the strategies above and prepare them a bit for that moment of the ride.

Journey into Imagination with Figment

Ohhhh, Figment! This ride is all about your senses, so there are lights, sounds, smells, and everything in between on this ride…including a very loud sound with a strong blast of air in the dark at the end.

Yeah, I may or may not have forgotten about that part when I took my older two on this ride a couple of trips ago! Whoops! Thankfully, it only lasts a second, but they were both pretty freaked out.

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure

This ride uses the same technology as Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, so there are special effects that make you feel like you’re moving very quickly. Plus you have 3D glasses on!

Since the whole premise of the ride is based around you being the size of a mouse, there are moments when large people or things are coming toward you, which can be a little nerve-wracking for little ones.

Spaceship Earth

This ride really isn’t scary, but it is dark at times. So, if a dark ride might scare your little one, keep this one on your radar.

The Seas with Nemo & Friends

Similar to Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid, this is a slow-moving ride that has some dark parts. Overall, though, it’s a pretty easy one and a good starting point to ease your kiddo into riding on a dark ride.

Two boys looking into sea animal habitat at EPCOT

Scary Rides at Animal Kingdom for Kids

It’s Tough to be a Bug!

Okay, this isn’t a ride, but I needed it to be on this list! This is a 3D show that has a pretty scary part near the end…and by that, I mean that I don’t even like it as an adult! Ha! Between the bugs poking you and coming down from overhead, the fog, the dark, and the loud noises, I’ve seen my fair share of kiddos terrified during this show.

Na’Vi River Journey

First of all, this ride is gorgeous and relaxing! The only reason it even makes this list is because it’s a little darker. But I always just make sure to point out all the pretty colors glowing around us, and my boys get over the dark factor quickly.

Na'Vi River Journey at Animal Kingdom

FAQ: Scary Rides at Disney World

Are there any scary rides at Disney World?

Of course, this answer will vary by person. But I would say for most toddlers, there will be some rides (or parts of rides) at Disney World that they find scary. Follow the tips in this article to help calm their fears.

Which Disney park has the scariest rides?

You’ll find the scariest rides at Hollywood Studios, solely due to the fact that Hollywood Studios has the most thrill rides. However, most of the rides at Hollywood Studios also have a height restriction, so your toddler may not be riding those anyways.

Is Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway scary?

Some kids might find Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway scary, as it is a quick-moving ride and can give the illusion of falling due to special effects.

Is Na’Vi River Journey scary?

Overall, Na’Vi River Journey is not a scary ride. The ride is in the dark, which may be scary to some kids. But otherwise, it’s actually a very calm, slow ride with beautiful lighting.

Is Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure scary?

Similar to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, this ride could seem scary to some kids. The premise of the ride is that you’re the size of a mouse being chased by humans, so it may seem intense at times.

Is Peter Pan’s Flight scary?

This ride is dark and gives the illusion that you’re flying high over a city, which may seem scary to some younger kids. Overall, though, it’s a slow-moving ride.

Is It’s Tough to Be a Bug scary?

It’s Tough to Be a Bug can be very overwhelming, especially to little kids (heck, I don’t even really like it!). Toward the end of the show, it gets dark, foggy, and loud, and gives the sensation that bugs are crawling behind you, making it a scary moment for some.

Does Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway have drops?

Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway does not have any actual drops; however, this is one part of the ride that gives the illusion that you’re falling over a waterfall.

Is Your Toddler Scared of Dark Rides at Disney? – Wrap Up

While Disney World is very family-friendly and definitely aimed at kids, there are some rides that can be scary for little ones. Over the years, these tips and tricks have helped our boys enjoy the rides, despite some features like the dark or loud noises. Hopefully, these tips can help you too!

To skip a lot of these attractions’ standby lines, Genie+ might be a good option for you. Check out my full review of the Genie+ service here.

Planning a day at the Disney World parks can be overwhelming! But it doesn’t need to be.

Check out my FREE daily Disney World park planner to help prioritize and organize your day, so you can have the vacation you’re dreaming of.

Want to know EXACTLY what to pack for your upcoming Disney World trip?

Snag a free printable Disney World packing checklist by clicking the button below. (And how do I know it’s EXACTLY what you need? Well, it’s the list I personally use, so it’s been through plenty of trial and error.)

Similar Posts