Have you been asking yourself “is Tower of Terror scary”? If you’re nervous about checking out this thrill ride, this in-depth guide will answer all of your questions!
If you can’t get enough of the fastest rides at Disney World, then you probably have your eye on the Tower of Terror.
It’s billed as one of Disney’s most impressive thrill rides. And for this reason, you might be wondering: “is Tower of Terror scary?”.
And that’s where I come in!
As a ride that’s based around the spooky Twilight Zone series, there’s definitely an eeriness to this attraction.
But is it something you can handle?
In this deep dive, I’ll explore everything from the ride mechanisms to the general experience (and a few fun facts!).
This should help you figure out whether the Tower of Terror is too scary for you or whether you’ll try it!
Now let’s do this.
What Is the Tower of Terror?
The Tower of Terror is a popular drop-based thrill ride that can be found at Disney parks around the World.
You’ll find it at Disneyland California (in a changed form!), Disneyland Paris, Tokyo DisneySea, and Walt Disney World.
It’s set inside the uneasy halls of the Hollywood Tower Hotel and it transports you way back to the 1930s.
Although you might expect top-notch hospitality from a gorgeous hotel, this hotel has fallen into disrepair.
And so have the staff!
It features fast and sudden drops inside an elevator-like mechanism. The ride is also almost entirely dark which just adds to the spook factor.
Is Tower of Terror Scary?
Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I DO find the Tower of Terror scary.
That’s partly because the theming is eerie, but I’m not a huge fan of thrill rides and rollercoasters in general.
I’ll say that I love the spooky vibes inside the Haunted Mansion, but there’s something far more realistic about the hotel décor.
Plus, there’s something freaky about the paranormal activity, darkness, and “unfriendly” staff that work the rides (it’s part of it!).
I’ll dive more into what makes the Tower of Terror scary in a moment, but you’ll also want to know that it drops – fast.
Unlike rollercoasters where you can tell exactly when dips are coming, drops on the Tower of Terror are pretty random.
So, you never know exactly how far you’ll fall or for how long!
If you’re wondering whether it’s too scary for kids, I’d say that it depends.
Some kids are way more into spooky theming than others, while some simply won’t be able to handle the sharp drops.
You’ll also need to consider height restrictions that’ll automatically take toddlers and young children out of the mix.
What Makes the Tower of Terror Scary?
I’d say the main thing that makes the tower of terror scary are the drops.
If you ride all the way to the top of the elevator, you’ll rise an impressive 199 feet before you get taken through to watch a scene.
After this happens, you’ll suddenly drop a level – which is where the party really starts.
At this point, your elevator will ride up to a certain level before suddenly dropping. As the ride is automatically operated by computers, you’ll never predict how far you’ll fall.
If you have the big drop, you’ll fall approximately 130 feet right to the bottom (at 39 miles per hour, BTW!).
If you have a smaller drop, you may rise again before dropping several times.
In some instances, you may drop a single level before plummeting to the bottom.
Generally though, you won’t know when you’ll drop, how far you’ll drop, or how many times you’ll drop – it’s nuts!
Because you’re riding in an elevator, you also won’t know how high up you are as the ride is dark.
Once you reach your drop zone, the window on the ride will open and you’ll see how far you’ll fall!
So, if you’re asking yourself “is Tower of Terror scary?”, you’ll want to take those drops into account!
I don’t find the theming particularly scary, but I’d definitely say it’s eerie and isn’t for the faint of heart.
The Imagineers filled the entire ride with props that are covered with cobwebs and designed to look old-school. Think raven statues, worn furniture, and spooky chandeliers.
Because the entire ride is also dimly-lit, it can make things feel scarier.
In case you were wondering, the ride is modeled after iconic buildings like the Biltmore Hotel – but it looks super dilapidated.
It’s also worth mentioning that the scene you’re going through takes place on Halloween 1939. So, there’s definitely a bit of a spook factor in the setting.
The idea behind the setting is to make you feel uneasy (because it’s based on the Twilight Zone!).
This isn’t necessarily to scare you, but the ride depends on visitors feeling slightly off-kilter as they walk through.
The Cast Members
It might sound weird, but the Cast Members are part of what makes the Tower of Terror scary.
I know that Cast Members are typically bright and peppy, but they’re quite spooky around here.
There’s one particular Cast Member at Disneyland Paris that really takes his role seriously and it’s hilarious.
They also tend to be dressed as traditional 1930s bellhops and wear makeup around their eyes to create dark circles.
The story and characters
I’ll say that the entire story behind the Tower of Terror is relatively scary as it’s essentially based on a whodunnit.
As you walk through the ride, you’ll see discarded belongings of missing guests and even a creepy Ouija board to contact the departed.
The ride’s story has been pulled from an impressive 156 episodes of The Twilight Zone, making it eerily accurate and super atmospheric.
The narrator (Rod Serling!) will tell you about the hotel and how there are surprises around every corner.
It’s said that lightning struck the elevator one day and caused different people in the hotel to mysteriously disappear.
When you’re riding, you’ll discover what happened to one of the following people: a girl, a bellhop, a governess, and a young couple.
Sadly, you’ll only get to see one story each time you ride (and they’re random!). But there’s nothing stopping you from riding more than once!
I’d say that the creepy disappearing characters are spooky, but it’s the narrator’s foreboding voice that takes things to a new level.
I think the pre-show is one of the scariest things about the Tower of Terror and I’m so glad it’s back after the pandemic.
It’s only a few minutes long, but it’s relatively elaborate.
When it starts, you’ll hear the words:
“You are passengers on a most uncommon elevator…”
And then, you’ll be taken through to the library where Rod Serling tells you what you should expect on an old-school TV.
Once it rounds up, you’ll be taken through the Boiler Room and then onto the service elevators where the real fun begins.
I feel like the crackly TV makes the whole thing way more ominous. And the fact that you hear Rod say “wave goodbye to the real world” straight after is freaky.
What to Expect on the Tower of Terror
When you board the ride itself, you’ll be taken through elevator doors and seated on an Autonomous Guided Vehicle where you’ll belt up.
This is basically the thing that looks like an elevator!
Once you’re all strapped in (and the Cast Member has checked your yellow tabs), you’ll rise and fall 13 stories until the ride is over.
But not before surprisingly shunting forward and dropping a single story!
Overall though, I’d prepare to expect:
- Dark rooms and ride vehicles
- Sudden drops and several of them
- A theme that follows The Twilight Zone
- A variation on the story that follows one of four characters
- A preshow, a main ride, and a post-show
How Long Does the Tower of Terror Drop Last
Annoyingly, it’s almost impossible to tell how long the Tower of Terror drop lasts.
The ride is pre-programmed to follow one of 4 possible outcomes.
Sometimes, you’ll fall quickly and then be zipped up to the top of the tower to fall again. At other times, you’ll go right to the top and stop halfway before dropping for a second time.
You can’t choose which ride sequence you’ll take each time, but you should admire the park views if you hit the top.
Trust me – you won’t find better views of Hollywood Studios from anywhere else in the parks.
Just don’t try to take photos. They’ll be blurry and you may well lose your camera in the process!
In terms of how long the ride lasts, the entire thing lasts approximately 4 minutes. And believe it or not, the drop sequence takes virtually no time!
What Does the Tower of Terror Feel Like?
The drops on the Tower of Terror are relatively smooth and your body essentially moves straight down.
This means you won’t get the “up and over” feeling that you get during a rollercoaster’s ascent and descent.
You’ll still get the typical stomach drop that comes from your nerves registering a feeling of weightlessness. Also, your stomach and intestines are basically floating more loosely in your body when you drop.
It’s a bit gross, but that’s what causes the classic “G-Force” feel!
For lighter guests, you might slightly bounce in your seat. Don’t worry though, you’ll be fully protected by the metal bar and sturdy seats – you won’t go anywhere!
If you don’t particularly like this feeling but still want to ride the Tower of Terror, sucking on hard candy can help. Just unwrap one while you’re in the queue and make sure it’s finished before you go on the ride.
This is meant to settle your stomach and keep you calm.
Just be warned that the accelerated drop can be a lot for children to handle if they haven’t experienced vertical rides before.
What Is the Best Age to Ride the Tower of Terror?
I’d say that tweens and teens will have an incredible time on thrill rides as their bodies will handle the jolts better.
If you’re a Disney adult, you’ll also have an awesome time with the adrenaline.
You can technically take young children on this ride if they meet the height requirement. But I honestly think that the mixture of spooky theming and extreme drops may frighten them.
And once you’re on – there’s really no way out!
Not sure how they’ll handle it? It’s worth showing them a POV video of the ride before visiting the parks. This way, they’ll have an idea of the ride’s movement and theming before riding.
At the end of the day, you know your kids best. If you think they can handle it, they should be fine!
Is the Tower of Terror Closing?
The original Tower of Terror is still operating at Disney World and Disneyland Paris and there are no plans to change it (yet!).
You might have noticed that Disneyland’s Tower of Terror transformed into Mission: BREAKOUT in 2017.
There’s not a huge change to the actual mechanics of the ride, but the story and idea behind the attraction are so different.
It follows Rocket on his mission to save the Guardians from The Collector’s Fortress.
It’s a lot less spooky, but it still operates as a drop tower dark ride (so, bear that in mind!).
I’d say I personally prefer the original Tower of Terror as it’s a staple, but seeing The Collector’s treasures is a cool touch!
Tips For Making the Tower of Terror Less Scary!
Watch a video first
If you’re even remotely worried about the ride, I recommend watching a video of the entire experience first. This might spoil the spooks and surprises, but it’ll show you whether you can handle it or not!
Remember the theming isn’t real
You might not struggle with drops, but reminding yourself that the theming is make-believe can help things feel less eerie. If you can’t make yourself believe it, ask a member of your party to try and calm you down as you ride.
Know you’re safe
I get that this can be difficult at times, but it’s worth remembering that all Disney rides are SUPER stress tested. This means that they’re designed to be completely safe. So, if you’re worried about being put in danger during your experience – don’t be!
Look at those around you
As you look around your ride vehicle, you’ll spot everyone from old-timers to 5-year-olds. They might find the ride scary, of course. But knowing you’re in mixed company proves that there’s nothing to be afraid of!
So, Is the Tower of Terror Scary?
Honestly, I’d say that YES – the Tower of Terror is scary.
That’s partly down to the extreme drops, but it’s mostly because of the eerie atmosphere and carefully crafted stories.
If I’m being totally transparent, I’d say it’s far scarier than Space Mountain, Expedition Everest, and any other thrill ride.
And that’s because it’s designed to be!
Personally, I’m a big fan of slightly morbid and creepy rides.
Seriously, Disneyland Paris’s Phantom Manor was my favorite ride at just 4 years old (I know, I know!) – and it’s not usually one of the best rides for young kids.
So, if you’re not into spooky vibes, darkness, and big drops then this is a ride you’ll want to avoid at all costs.
If you’re feeling confident in the queue and change your mind last minute, just step off to the side just before the elevator section.
There’s a carefully-placed exit to take you out of the mix!
Fun Facts About the Tower of Terror
The Tower of Terror is just under 200 feet
And that’s because structures over 200 feet would require a flashing beacon on top to alert aircraft! Disney felt this would probably affect the magic – so, 199 feet it was! It’s also one of the tallest attractions in the parks.
The ride is packed with actual antiques
While the ride was being built, Imagineers headed to local auction houses to grab legitimate antiques to deck out the attraction!
The sculptures have famous roots!
Many of the lobby’s sculptures are created by the 19th-century sculpting genius Auguste Moreau!
Look out for Mickey Mouse
Believe it or not, the young girl in the elevator is carrying a vintage Mickey Mouse doll that’d be worth a lot of money these days!
When did the Tower of Terror open?
This iconic first opened on 22 July 1994 in Disney’s Hollywood Studios!
Where is the Tower of Terror?
The Tower of Terror is inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios (at Disney World) and Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris. If you’re heading to Tokyo, you’ll find this ride at Tokyo DisneySea.
Can a 5-year-old go on the Tower of Terror?
There’s no real age restriction for the Tower of Terror, but children under 7 years old are told to attend with a teenage or adult guest.
You’ll also need to check whether your child meets the minimum height requirement of 40 inches.
If they’re too short – it’s game over!
How many times do you drop on the Tower of Terror?
This totally depends on the pre-programmed ride you take, but you’ll drop at least once.
Most of the time, you can be dropped somewhere between 4 and 6 times during the ride.
How fast do you fall on Tower of Terror?
You fall at an impressive 39 miles per hour which makes this one of the fastest rides at Disney World!
Although you might think cables are being released to drop you, the ride mechanism is cleverer than this.
The ride doesn’t actually drop at all.
Instead, you’re literally inside a REAL elevator that’s operated by regular pulleys and brakes.
According to Popular Mechanics:
It still operates with motors and pulleys, and the car stops and starts at specified points. For safety, the “fall height” of the ride is just 90 feet out of the building’s entire 200-foot height.”
It’s also worth knowing that large induction motors accelerate the ride up and down, with drums holding the cable steady.
Does the Tower of Terror shake?
The attraction rumbles and shakes a tiny bit as you ascend and descend.
But it’s part of the theming and isn’t anything to do with poor mechanics!
Overall though, the drops are extremely smooth and nothing to worry about.
Has anyone ever gotten hurt on the Tower of Terror?
There have been a couple of riders that have experienced back and neck injuries (this was mainly in 1998 after an accident).
There was also an incident where a 16-year-old girl had a heart attack minutes after riding.
But because there are so many safety details like emergency brakes, the ride is super safe.
Does Tower of Terror make you feel dizzy?
I honestly feel dizzier on rides like Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure because of the 3D effects and the way the ride pulls.
But as there are several sudden movements and drops, I wouldn’t recommend this ride if you have motion sickness.
I also suggest taking your time exiting the ride as you might feel slightly lightheaded.
Is Tower of Terror scarier than Expedition Everest?
I’d say that the Tower of Terror was scarier than Everest because it’s a drop ride.
Everest is pretty predictable once you know what to expect, but you never know what you’ll get with the Tower of Terror.
But if you hate riding backward on rollercoasters, you should skip Expedition Everest!
Has anyone ever died at the Tower of Terror?
Luckily, no one has ever died on or after riding the Tower of Terror.
What are the health and safety advisories for Tower of Terror?
Because there are sharp drops in this ride, Disney advises that guests should be healthy and have no motion sickness conditions.
You should also have normal blood pressure and not suffer from heart, back, or neck conditions at the time of riding.
Disney’s official guidance also states that expectant mothers should not ride the Tower of Terror.
What are the height restrictions for the Tower of Terror?
As long as you’re above 40 inches (or 102cm!), you’ll be able to ride Tower of Terror.
What is the best time to ride the Tower of Terror?
If you can (and don’t mind missing out!), I’d try and ride the Tower of Terror during Fantasmic! or other large shows.
This will clear out tons of guests and let you ride without massive lines.
If you’re not able to, it’s worth trying to hit the ride at rope drop or just before the park closes.
Otherwise, you’ll probably be waiting up to an hour to ride if you’re not using a Lightning Lane entry with Genie+.
There you have it: everything you need to answer the question “is Tower of Terror scary?”.
Have you managed to conquer this thrill ride? Which Disney park was the first place you rode the Tower of Terror? I’d love to hear all about your experiences!
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