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Florida's best rides

From Disney World to Universal Orlando, Norwegian’s new destination is the world capital of theme parks. The Orlando Sentinel’s rollercoaster expert picks Florida’s 30 best rides

Florida's best rides

Text by Barbara Nefer / Illustrations Miss Lotion

For old-school thrills

Splash Mountain
Disney’s Magic Kingdom
This legendary log flume ride is all about the contrasts, starting with a pleasant float through Brer Rabbit’s world, where cuddly critters siang a jaunty Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah that sticks in your head even as things turn sinister. It climaxes in a 16m, 65kph plunge, accompanied by a pair of vultures taunting victims before their soaking.
Best for A false sense of well-being

Space Mountain
Disney’s Magic Kingdom
Florida’s oldest rollercoaster, dating back to 1975, is still iconic for its total darkness, despite a meagre top speed under 50kph. In the blackness, with your other senses assailed by sound effects and meteoric light flashes, you don’t see the dips and turns coming. It was renovated in 2009, with extra strobes and better sound.
Best for Discombobulation

Spaceship Earth
Epcot
This Epcot signature, housed in the iconic sphere, is a 15-minute ride through time and the history of communication. While the gentle breaths of a sleeping audio animatronic monk may not be for everyone, creating and viewing your future on interactive screens during the ride’s finale is pretty cool.
Best for Zen surrealism

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The Tower of Terror was such a hit in 1994 that it inspired its own movie. Set in a creepy hotel beset by supernatural forces, its drop sequences are random, so you never know how many times your backside will lift out of your seat as you plummet a terrifying 52m-drop, or when you’ll be haunted by ghostly apparitions.
Best for Unpredictability

Haunted Mansion
Disney’s Magic Kingdom
Walt Disney himself came up with the concept for the Haunted Mansion as early the 1950s, though it didn’t open until 1971, with its Dutch Gothic Revival style based on classic American mansions. It mixes old and new – the Pepper’s Ghost technique, using cunningly created reflections, dates back to the late 1800s, though it still wows in the creepy birthday ball scene. Yet the phantom opera singers, hitchhiking ghosts and eerie hostess all use state-of-the-art audio-animatronics.
Best for Vintage horror 

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