Blasts From the Past: Classic Rides at Orlando Theme Parks
Orlando has always been a forward-looking destination, but we also love our past ... particularly when it comes to classic theme-park rides. On your next visit to Orlando, make time for these legacy attractions — including several that have been entertaining guests since their parks first opened!
These rides at Disney's original Orlando theme park have been around since opening day in 1971, albeit with some upgrades through the years. What's more, 12 other day-one attractions and shows are still there.
It's a Small World (Debuted 1971): Charming animatronics and a well-known theme song have made this all-ages boat ride a part of the national zeitgeist.
The Haunted Mansion (Debuted 1971): This classic, in which you board a "Doom Buggy" and party with 999 happy haunts, was most recently refurbished in 2015.
Jungle Cruise (Debuted 1971): In addition to simulating river passage in Asia, Africa and South America, this attraction offers a "Jingle Cruise" version at Christmastime.
This park was originally named EPCOT Center when it debuted in 1982. Only two of its opening-day rides remain, in part because this has long been the most evolutionary of Disney's theme parks.
Spaceship Earth (Debuted 1982): The famous geodesic sphere houses one of the park's original rides, in which you journey through the history of communication.
Living With the Land (Debuted 1982): Part ride and part greenhouse tour, this slow-moving boat attraction focuses on innovative agriculture.
Test Track Presented by Chevrolet (Debuted 1999): The most recent update to Epcot's giant slot-car ride invites you to design a concept car before racing through a series of performance tests.
Disney's movie-centric theme park premiered as Disney-MGM Studios in 1989. It's done more than change its name in the time since, as just one first-year ride is still available.
Star Tours — The Adventures Continue (Debuted 1989): When this frequently updated Star Wars ride debuted, few would have guessed that Disney would one day own the franchise.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Debuted 1994): This elevator-based attraction will take you to "the Fifth Dimension" before plummeting 130 terrifying feet.
Rock ‘n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (Debuted 1999): This enclosed-launched, steel roller coaster features the titular, multi-platinum-selling band's music and iconography.
Disney's zoological theme park opened on Earth Day 1998. Until last year, it only offered daytime admission, but it has since expanded to nighttime hours. You can still enjoy two original rides.
Kilimanjaro Safaris (Debuted 1998): One of Disney's most unique rides is also one of the most unpredictable, taking you through a savanna of real-life exotic animals.
DINOSAUR (Debuted 1998): This enhanced motion-vehicle attraction features dinosaur animatronics on a turbulent ride through the ancient past.
Kali River Rapids (Debuted 1999): Simulating a river expedition, this raft ride shares an important message about the dangers of runaway logging and the destruction of natural habitats.
In 1990, Universal Studios debuted its first Orlando theme park. The film-and-television-focused park has changed continuously, but one of its first rides remains one of its most popular.
E.T. Adventure (Debuted 1990): Get ready to phone home as you help Steven Spielberg's famous alien. The ride's most recent upgrade occurred in 2012.
Men in Black Alien Attack (Debuted 2000): Paying homage to the blockbuster film franchise, this attraction recruits you to blast aliens on the streets of New York City.
Revenge of the Mummy (Debuted 2004): Universal's third-oldest current ride came 14 years after opening day. The enclosed roller coaster is based on the movies.
Universal first gathered this park's collection of super-heroes, magical creatures and ferocious beasts in 1999. Its first-day attractions and shows, including the following, actually outnumber new additions.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (Debuted 1999): One of Marvel Comics' most popular characters takes center stage in this motion-based, 3D ride.
The Cat in the Hat (Debuted 1999): The most Seuss-ical attraction in Orlando sends you on a wild ride with the title character and his wacky friends.
Jurassic Park River Adventure (Debuted 1999): Take a thrilling river journey on this raft attraction based on the movies and Michael Crichton's novel.
Orlando's second-oldest theme park has been in business since 1973. In addition to animal entertainment, it has a solid lineup of attractions, one of which has been there since the beginning.
Sky Tower (Debuted 1973): Standing 400 feet tall, this retro-cool original provides a bird's eye view of Orlando.
Journey to Atlantis (Debuted 1998): This flume ride/roller coaster hybrid explores a sunken city, but fair warning: You're going to get wet!
Kraken Unleashed (Debuted 2000): Originally called the Kraken, this roller coaster received a virtual-reality upgrade in 2017.
Orlando's newest theme park opened in 2011 with a focus on kids. Built at the site of the former Cypress Gardens theme park, it also kept and updated three of its predecessor's rides.
Coastersaurus (Debuted 2004): This wooden roller coaster debuted as the Triple Hurricane. It rolls through a jungle filled with life-sized LEGO dinosaurs and animated versions.
The Dragon (Debuted 2004): Originally called Okeechobee Rampage, this roller coaster was upgraded with an indoor section and large LEGO models.
Flying School (Debuted 2004): This suspended coaster, which simulates the feeling of flight, was known as Swamp Thing when it was part of Cypress Gardens.
Written by Nate Shelton, consumer content writer at Visit Orlando. He's an experienced journalist and native Floridian who enjoys the entertainment, cultural and culinary aspects of Orlando and Orange County.
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