Step-by-step thrill-ride plan for a nervous kid

I’m taking a 9-year-old to Disneyland and DCA in April. He was last there at age 7, and he was terrified by the big drop on Splash Mountain. He said the scary part was feeling like he was going to fall out of the ride-- I think that was a combination of the free fall and no restraints.

He’s feeling braver now that he’s 9, but we’d still like to build up to the scarier rides so we can gradually find his comfort level.

If you were going to construct a touring plan that starts with the least scary drop in the DLR parks and slowly builds up to the scariest one, what would it look like? (For purposes of this particular kid, “scary” seems to be defined as “the feeling that you’re going to fall out of the ride” rather than anything else)

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My younger daughter learned to love roller coasters by riding Gadget’s Go Coaster. That was at age 7. We then introduced Big Thunder Mountain a couple of years later. If he digs that, then try Space Mountain. The thing about Splash is you’re riding by yourself unless you’re in the last row. On these other rides, the child is side-by-side with the adult which I think can make it way less scary. Especially if the adult has a hand on the child’s leg for instance. I’ve done that with my kids when they were younger and my little nephews. Goofy’s Sky School is not my fave, but the kids seem to love it and it’s just a little bit more of a coaster than Gadget, so maybe thrown that one in before Big Thunder. Matterhorn is not too scary with drops, but I think the Yeti is pretty scary for some kids (and, okay, for me too - i still scream every time!). I would not try Guardians or Incredicoaster unless he discovers a new passion for thrill rides. I’m interested to hear what others think!


I agree with starting on the go-coaster. In order to ease my kids into things we started there, then Big Thunder, which ended up being their favourite ride. By the end of the trip my 8 year old went on every ride in both parks, and my 4 year old was happily doing everything except for height restricted Indy and Incredicoaster. We found the noise was worse for him than the speed and he was good after getting him ear phones…Matterhorn especially was too intense for him the first time without those.

I sympathize with the dilemma. I was nervous and planned for this ahead of time, after I was the 8 year old who wouldn’t go on anything when my family took our only disney trip growing up.


I think that splash is the only one that feels like that, I think I would do Gadgets and BTMR first, and then Space Mountain and Mattahorn. I have heard people say that Goofy’s Sky School makes them feel like the are going to be thrown from the ride, so if its that he doesnt feel safe maybe try some of the others before that one. If he does all of that maybe you can convince him to try Gaurdians or Incrediacoaster at that point?


Thank you, everybody! I really appreciate all the info. I’ll report back after our trip. (Which won’t be for a couple of months-- I’m one of those people who feels like planning the trip is part of the fun, and why should the fun start as early as possible?)


You are in the right place! Good luck. I will look forward to your update.

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My son is very sensitive to thrill rides and so we had to take it easy over multiple trips. Keep in mind that every child is afraid of different things, so what bothers one may not bother another (some kids hate Snow White, for instance). That said, here is my general grouping. Each group gets progressively more scary and within each group I’ve listed it in order from least scary to most:

Mild water rides:

  • Pirates

Mild simulator rides:

  • Soarin’
  • Millennium Falcon
  • Star Tours

Mild Coasters / rides:

  • Gadget
  • Radiator Springs Racers

Moderate water rides:

  • Grizzly Peak
  • Splash Mountain

Moderate coasters / rides:

  • Matterhorn
  • Space Mountain
  • Indiana Jones

Major Thrills:

  • GotG
  • Incredicoaster

Note that my kids were not scared by Star Tours but were terrified of Gadget the first time through. But that might not be the case for all kids. You should try the mildest ride in each category before moving on and see what your kid is most affected by.


Thanks, Jeff! That’s extremely helpful, and gives me a concrete plan to work with.

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How do you feel about watching POV videos together of the rides before you go on them? You will have spoilers, but they might be useful to create enthusiasm and/or know how scary things will be. I am 28 years old and I still need to watch videos before I go to feel safe at rides :joy:

A great thing about Gadget is that it is incredibly short. He will either leave the ride wanting more or his fear will be very short lived.


Thanks for the suggestion! He watched some POV videos before his last trip and they helped, but the challenge is that they don’t (usually) convey the feeling of falling, which is what scared him most laugh time. But it can never hurt to know more about a ride before going into it!


I think they are useful for “safe” rides. You can tell from the POV video that BTMRR and Matterhorn don’t have any drops (which is usually what creates the falling feeling). So you will know that even if the ride starts with a very scary hill, it will actually continue with a soft decent.


We tell kids that Uncle Walt will always try to trick you by scaring you but he would never hurt you.

If a kid is borderline scared we say you’re not going to let Uncle Walt win are you?