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JOE TOURIST - Worst. Ride. EVER.

What makes a really bad attraction really bad? Here's a look at some of the qualities that can ruin a ride or spoil a show. What ride do you think is the worst ever?

Written by Joe Lane
Published: June 22, 2004 at 8:48 AM

JOE TOURIST – Worst. Ride. EVER.
REALLY Bad Theme Park Attractions.

Theme park fans really enjoy talking about the best of the best. Rides that are imaginative, fun, thrilling--these are the attractions and shows that captivate our minds--that keep our interest in theme parks fresh. Perhaps the only thing more enjoyable than talking about your favorite ride is ragging on the ride that done you wrong. I'm talking about real stinker attractions or shows that appear to serve no gratifying purpose other than wasting space.

The Park Listings/Top Attractions here on TPI feature the top 25-rated attractions out of the hundreds listed on the site. Also included is a top ten listing of up and coming attractions--rides and shows that haven't gotten a minimum vote on the site but are getting nice reviews. And just below that, we have the ten worst attractions.

The list fluctuates as votes are tallied. Currently, Viper is number one on the list. The Six Flags Great Adventure coaster reportedly suffers in two areas: length and roughness. Apparently, the wait is sometimes too long for a ride that runs too short--and gives its riders a violent trip to boot. After a total of twenty-five votes, the ride currently sits at a lousy 3-Weak.

Of course, it's tough to automatically call this coaster a bad ride simply because of its low score from a small number of votes. What help back the system up are the User Comments. A lot of folks say the ride is painful, but there are one or two who still give the coaster a respectable nod.

Some folks can make error judgments in what makes a bad ride. One also needs to take into consideration the target audience an attraction may be intended to appeal to--like Disneyland's it's a small world, for example. The ride currently has an overall score of 7-Good, but TPI realizes the variations in younger audiences--that's why some attractions have ratings for kids and toddlers (which, incidentally, rate small world an 8 and 9, respectively).

It's not that us older folk are completely oblivious of what kids may or may not enjoy. Take, for instance, another contender on the top ten list of worst theme park attractions: Tuck & Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies at DCA. The attraction in question is bumper car-style, themed after the Disney/Pixar film A Bug's Life. Instead of taking the power from the ceiling, like traditional bumper cars, these vehicles take their low voltage current from the floor. They also move at half the speed of a regular bumper car, making the ride less bumper than car. The attraction garners a 3-Weak after sixteen votes, and actually rates at a 5-Average for kids. Some parents commented their little ones enjoyed the ride, while other folks feel that even the kids won't get a kick out of this attraction.

In sixth place on the list is Innoventions at Disneyland. This attraction is more of a display showcase, featuring futuristic products and such. Many folks view this as a marketing exhibit and an overall waste of space at DL. It rates a 4-Mediocre with only 17 votes, but the User Comments speak for themselves. Meanwhile, Innoventions at Epcot, on the east coast, rates a 6-Fair. One could contribute the difference to a use of practical space. Epcot has the room to amiably accommodate the exhibit, while the Innoventions at DL is more filler. Disneyland's Tomorrowland is already suffering from a poor stage presence in terms of design and attractions (check out the three part photo essay Tomorrowland, Then and Now at SaveDisney.com to see the difference for yourself).

Story sometimes plays a major roll in a good theme park attraction--there's a strong connection between theme and atmosphere regarding this aspect. While some rides can succeed in thrills alone, others rely on the story to help their popularity. A bad example would be R.L. Stine's Haunted Lighthouse at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. This is a 4-D attraction, so all it has to go on is story to begin with--it's the sole driving force behind this attraction. Ironic how a successful kids novelist like R.L. Stine can write a script for an attraction that, story-wise, doesn't produce positive results. User Comments also attribute the poor story to half-hearted acting and bland humor. The attraction rates a 4-Mediocre, which is actually one point short of the 5-Average that the BGT version holds.

An attraction's old age alone can be its downfall. Some rides are timeless, and age well like a fine wine--the nostalgia stays strong and the effects are convincing even today (if but a little hokey). Others, not so much. Take for instance Python at BGT, currently number five on the TPI worst ride list. The 1977 coaster features a double corkscrew--at the time, this was state-of-the-art. Many folks cite the ride's old age for its roughness and shortness. It has been completely outdone by its evolved cousins Kumba and Montu.

Then there's the Swiss Family Treehouse at the Magic Kingdom--a simple walkthrough attraction depicting rooms in the faux tree of the Swiss Family Robinson. The attraction has been around since 1971--a clone of the original at Disneyland which opened in 1962--two years after the release of the Disney movie Swiss Family Robinson. One of the reasons the treehouse suffers is its connection to such an old film--the younger generation can't identify well with the attraction. That's just another reason why the DL version was overhauled in 1999 to coincide with the release of Disney's Tarzan. Incidentally, both treehouses rate a 4-Mediocre, so theme has little to do with it.

So we can infer several things from these selections. A ride has to have a decent length to it. It needs to be comfortable--ergonomically-minded. It needs to have some excitement to it--to make it worthwhile and enjoyable for people of all ages, be it in design, execution or theme. It needs to be sensible--to have meaning other than simply existing to take up space. A good attraction can also benefit from a strong story, plot, or credible acting. And in most aspects it needs to be current and fresh.

Out here in the Central Florida area, there are a few attractions that I personally feel fall into the category of a bad ride. I'd be quick to say the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway is an attraction that we can do without--the space can be used to build at least two attraction for the Magic Kingdom, but I'm apt to remember that a lot of the little ones enjoy being able to drive on their own. The ride, however, is the second-lowest rated attraction at MK (Swiss Family Treehouse is number one).

The recent incarnation of Journey Into the Imagination With Figment at Epcot rates pretty low on my personal list--especially compared to the original attraction, which I feel was much more imaginative than the garbage Disney stuck the public with after the integration of the Imagination Institute theme.

Here's something different: Poseidon's Fury at IOA. Here's an attraction that's new and different, fresh, and features some truly remarkable theme park effects. Yet the complex nature of the new version, along with an unimaginative storyline, make this experience not worth two trips.

It's time to hear you folks sound off. What is the worst ride ever built--and why? Better yet--what makes a really bad ride? Share you thoughts! And keep on ridin'!

Readers' Opinions

From Matt Smeltzer on June 22, 2004 at 9:14 AM
I absolutely hate IoA's Poseidon's Fury (the current flavor of it anyway). I enjoyed the old one and the surprise at the end the first time through it was excellent. The new version completely stinks. I hate nearly everything about new version, from its dopey archaeolgist to the complete waste of what used to be major surprises during the show. How did they make it better by not 'magically' transforming a live actor into a 30 foot tall animated Zeus in front of your eyes? Same with 'magically' transporting you back to the safe room... Did people really hate it that much before?

I'd also give my worst ride vote to every cemented down Spin 'n' Puke carnie ride at Holiday World. I know they're growing beyond those now...but the sooner they move on, the better.

From Robert Niles on June 22, 2004 at 10:13 AM
Haunted Lighthouse would have been an enjoyable nine-minute 4-D movie. But at about 17 minutes, the show forces viewers to endure too much dead space and too many ill-conceived gags. That just kills the attraction. Four-D shows should never be boring. But this one, too often, is. That's why it deserves its place on a "worst attractions list."

Tomorrowland Indy Speedway earns my enmity thanks to Tony George, owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speeway, sponsor of the Tomorrowland track and the man who destroyed open-wheel auto racing in the United States by splitting the Indy Racing League from Champ Car. How about those foreign drivers, engine leases and road courses now, Tony?

One more point to consider, and debate: It's hard to get too worked up over a modest attraction that underwhelms visitors. True hatred is often reserved for more ambitious attractions that promise excitement and deliver none.

From Jet Nitro on June 22, 2004 at 10:58 AM
Flashback at SFOT, (In comic book guy voice)Worst coaster...ever. The ride breaks down often and it rides rough. Time to yank it out.
From John Franklin on June 22, 2004 at 12:09 PM
The wrost ride ever designed has to be CA Adventures' Superstar Limo (or as I like to call it Superstar lemon). This dark ride was so bad that it was shut down not even 1 year after it opened in 2002 and Disney still doesn't know what to do with the thing.
From joe simons on June 22, 2004 at 2:54 PM
I cant say anything about superstar limo I never went on it (and for the better if what you all say is true) so I have to say the worst ride I have ever been on is grizzly at paramounts great america. they need to tear that thing down.
From Chuck Campbell on June 22, 2004 at 4:14 PM
The biggest problem with any "ten best/worst" list is the temptation to compare apples to oranges, or funnel cakes to turkey legs (to use a theme park food analogy). Lumping together the Swiss Family Treehouse walk-through with the Viper rollercoaster doesn't really work, but you can certainly compare, say, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin with MIB or PKD's Scooby Doo ride.

I usually don't bother rating flat rides--no matter how many flames, fountains, or strobe lights you use, a spinning teacup ride is a spinning teacup ride.

That being said, Haunted Lighthouse is definitely the worst 4D flick I've ever seen, and Superstar Limo the dumbest dark ride.

From Eric Lefebvre on June 22, 2004 at 5:15 PM
For me, the worst ride ever would have to be at Magic Kingdom. Indy Speedway was a total waste of our precious time... The heat was horrific, the waiting line seemed to take forever to move(at least 75 minutes) and the ride was such a let-down...

You can't go fast, so why call it Indy? You can't drive the car outside the rails, it's bumby and boring. And the waiting line is not protected from the sun, which was a real bummer on a 105 degree sunny afternoon in august...

Overall, the WORST ride ever for me and my family...

From Robert Niles on June 22, 2004 at 7:59 PM
Setting aside my dislike for Tony George's "Indy," why do theme parks keep open drive-over-the-rail attractions like this, after what Legoland's done with its Driving School? Legoland's proven that you can let the kids drive without the rails. And for the adults, well, what's the point of these rides anyway?

Now, if someone wants to create an attraction where I can get behind the wheel of a full-size F1 or Champ Car-style racer and take it for a spin around the track, well I'm down with that. But mini Tin Lizzies and GTOs? No thanks.

From Joe Lane on June 22, 2004 at 8:16 PM
Disney did that, too. It's called the Richard Petty Driving Experience.
From David Klawe on June 22, 2004 at 8:42 PM
Knott's Kingdom of the Dinosaurs is another "hated" attracion, but I think that a good part of it had to do it replaced a ride that was very highly rated, Knott's Bear-y Tales...

I think that the DLR version of Pooh is weak, but it gets slammed since it replaced some awesome AA's......

Innoventions is just a Circuit City with an AA, but gets slammed more than the Mission Tortilla's or Boudin Bakery (And how many AA's are in Pacific Wharf?) stuff since it replaced a much better attraction....

From mark walker on June 23, 2004 at 1:26 AM
I've never been on Viper before, can anybody tell me what it's like?
From Bryan Cardonick on June 23, 2004 at 3:13 AM
Mark-
Viper was a heartline coaster that was extremely short. While I never had any problems with the ride myself, many folks did. The way that it twisted often made people's heads slam against the overhead restraints. Another complaint that I heard was of back pains and the like.

It's now currently SBNO (Standing But Not Operating) Although they did try to reopen a few times over the past couple fo years it's never remained that way.

I'm fairly sure they're going to get rid of it or sell it off for scrap.

From Kevin Baxter on June 23, 2004 at 3:50 AM
Now, there is definitely an apples to Snapples stuff going on here. I absolutely loathe both Pirates of the Caribbean and SFMM's Psyclone. Overall, Psyclone's a boring ride and jerky as hell, but I would still ride it before I ever climbed on PotC again, mainly because DL's version, while visually better than MK's, just takes FOREVER. At least I am off the dreaded Psyclone in a couple minutes and never bored you. I ain't paying $50 to be bored.

We have non-ride attractions on here, but what about shows? As bad as many Paramount and Six Flags shows are (What's Up, Rock? is a seriously wretched piece of "entertainment"), I still don't think there is much out there worse than Beauty and the Beast at Disney/MGM. I enjoy Playhouse Disney even more. I guess I expect more from a good property like Beauty and a good park operator like Disney.

Which I guess is why I can hate Disney mistakes so much more than Universal mistakes and Universal mistakes more than Busch mistakes and so on down the theme park food chain. That doesn't mean I don't think PGA's Grizzly or SFMW's Kong can't be burned to the ground, but I just can't bring up the emotion that a halfassed Disney or Universal ride can.

From David Franzen on June 23, 2004 at 5:29 AM
In a couple of weeks I'm heading to Louisville to visit the In-Laws. We're planning on spending a day at Kentucky Kingdom. I'm sure I'll come back with a whole grocery list of worst rides. Stay tuned.
From Andrew Swanson on June 23, 2004 at 6:37 AM
Kevin called Disney 'a good park operator?' OMG, what's the world coming to??? ;-)
From Robert Niles on June 23, 2004 at 10:12 AM
The Richard Petty Experience is stock cars. So what's the point? (Ducks as he anticipates the wrath of NASCAR fans.)

Plus, it is an extra fee and outside the park. I want something inside the park -- a regular attraction. Note also that I said "-style" racers. Perhaps this could be done best using some form of moving simulator or Robocoaster technology. I want something more real than what I can find at GameWorks, but I'll settle for less than Driving 101.

Also, I've had a policy on TPI that we don't rate a lot of the live shows. They are just too many of them, changing too often, to track. Basically, a show has to be held in a dedicated attraction venue (someplace you can't just go walk into and sit down while the show's not on) in order to be listed. At Disney, for example, that includes stuff like Aladdin and Snow White, while keeping out castle shows and stuff like the Buzz Lightyear review. But this policy does have the effect of keeping a lot of the utter garbage shows at the smaller, regional parks off the worst list.

From Robert OGrosky on June 23, 2004 at 10:43 AM
While SFKK isnt a good park overall and suffers from bad employee's and other typical SF problems, the park does offer some good rides, especially the Thunder Run roller coaster. I dont think you will find any just awful/worst rides but alot of rides that can be found in any other SF park.
From Joe Llorens on June 23, 2004 at 11:04 AM
Indy Speedway is pretty awful. But the ride I´ve never been able to stand is Earthquake at Universal Orlando. That ride tops my list of rides I hate that I´ve been forced to ride at least 3 times in my life. Yechh!

The only reason I didn´t list It´s a Small World at the top is because if you sit in that boat, close your eyes and clear your mind, the near ear-shattering singing actually induces hallucinations which could be fun, if you know how to handle them.

From melissa faulkner on June 23, 2004 at 12:08 PM
In my opinion and others may disagree, but the worst coaster I have ever rode was Ninja SFOG. This ride slammed my head so hard against the restraints I saw stars. I hate that ride. And personally, I hate the Georgia Scorcher mainly because this is the only coaster I have ever rode in my life where I came off really sick at my stomach. Thought I was going to throw up for an hour after riding it.
And I agree with everyone else about the 4-D at BGT, it was boring.
From Matthew M on June 23, 2004 at 2:58 PM
I really do not like Flashback and Six Flags Magic Mountain. That ride really hurts and just takes away all the fun.
From Adam Rose on June 23, 2004 at 3:50 PM
The current Journey Into Imagination ride at EPCOT. Not even bringing Figment back could save this ride. Prime example #1 of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"
From Joe Lane on June 23, 2004 at 4:40 PM
Which is funny you mention that, Adam, because even Disney is the type of corporation to say "If it is broke, board it up and hide it."
From Rhys Evans on June 23, 2004 at 5:04 PM
Another vote for Flashback at SFMM. An innovative idea, but an evil, painful ride. I'll be happy to see it become scrap. And speaking of painful, I didn't like Texas Giant.
From Robert OGrosky on June 23, 2004 at 6:48 PM
The most painful ride that i have ridden that comes to mind is The Demon roller coaster at Six Flags Great America, a real headbanger.
From J. Dana on June 24, 2004 at 1:44 AM
I agree with the "Imagination" vote. What a horrible waste of space. Yeah, it's a little better than the most previous version, but that's not hard. It's a Small World is pretty pitiful. But the Orange Stinger at California Adventure is just plane painful to bear. What about the Mexican Pavilion boat ride....it was out of date when it opened, now it's just painfully so. And the Oh Canada film in the Canadian pavilion is nothing more than nap-time.
From Tim Hillman on June 24, 2004 at 5:06 AM
I've got to agree with Melissa. Ninja at SFOG qualifies as my worst ride experience. Felt like crap after riding it.
From mark walker on June 24, 2004 at 6:23 AM
Thanks Bryan, I've had a look at the reveiw in park listings and most people seem to agree. I think they should ethier improve it, or demolish it.
From Joe Lane on June 24, 2004 at 7:08 AM
I hear you on that, J.Dana: El Rio Del Tiempo is in bad shape at Mexico in Epcot. The very beginning passing by the restaurant is beautiful and should stay as is, but everything after that needs bad help...
From Jayson Myers on June 24, 2004 at 2:09 PM
At what point does awful become good? The Mexico ride is like that to me. As is A small World.
From alex morehouse on June 24, 2004 at 3:05 PM
First, what I think makes a bad ride/ show is that the story is very pedictable. If you create a predictable storyline, how are people going to want to come back? Second, what makes a ride bad is the lack of technology put into it. For example, DCA's Superstar Limo uses cardboard- cut-out animatronics that rock back and forth instead of using life-like audio animatronics. And instead of any state-of-the-art movement to turn people around or smash them back and forth in like walls or dynamyte, it moves in the direction of the track. In other words, they should make it multi-sensory!
From cheryl hammock on June 24, 2004 at 6:17 PM
Knotts has the worst ride!! It's Kingdom of the Dinosaur!!!! Not only is the ride pure torture, but if you have been in the last 2 years, you are aware of the insane boarding practice. Apparenty, there was some trouble with people getting off the ride while in motion so the cut the # of cars to 2! Now, you wait FOREVER to board the worlds slowest car and to add insult to injury, you must now wear a shoulder belt! AND A RIDE ATTENDANT RIDES WITH YOU IN YOUR CAR!! I SWEAR!!! It's like a babysitter. But wait, there's more......because there are only 2 cars now, when they empty 1 car and re-board it, the car that is INSIDE the ride STOPS and just sits there.......yes, for at least 2min, you sit motionless......but wait, there's more....a voice comes over the speaker and says, while we have this time," let me tell you a little more about dinosaurs" intermitantly interrupted with "please stay seated". And yes, this sorry excuse for a ride replaced a good one. P.S. If you work for Knott's, your park is getting steadily more dirty.
From Chuck Campbell on June 24, 2004 at 7:10 PM
I agree with Joe about Rio di Tiempo--the Mexican pavilion is one of the most beautiful at Epcot (I like the restaurant, too), but the ride is pretty sad. This beautiful Mayan pyramid deserves a first-rate attraction.

Still, I have trouble working up too much vitriol about the boat ride. It is a good place to cool off, if nothing else.

From David Allen on June 24, 2004 at 7:59 PM
Kingdom of the Dinosaurs absolutely bites! It is SO bad that it is almost (yes, ALMOST) amusing a la "Plan 9 From Outer Space". Too bad it isn't just a little more bad so it can be good.

I was on it once, and during the stop when the babysitter gets off the car and shines a flashlight in your crotch, she told a group of young girls "if they didn't stop laughing and screaming, they would be ejected from the park"!

From John K on June 24, 2004 at 8:10 PM
Flashback at Six Flags Magic Mountain, hands down!!!!thank you. This ride is going bye-bye, when Magic Mountain opens up their new coaster next year
From mark walker on June 25, 2004 at 1:35 AM
Which coaster is that John?
From Matthew Armstrong on June 25, 2004 at 11:17 AM
I'm glad to see that Whiplash (er, excuse me), Flashback has received some votes. It's one thing to build a boring ride, it's another thing entirely to try and injure your riders. Flashback is without question one of the worst concepts to make it into a theme park.

I think you have to consider different types of rides differently as well. For example, Ninja at SFMM (which is was closed last I went) is pretty dull compared to the average coaster but itsn't too bad compared to other suspended coasters. Rides that are supposed to have a theme or a story can go awry when theme is either too complicated or just doesn't make any sense, like Poseidon's Fury.

I also think you have to consider which park the attraction is located in. Since Disney had been known for good (and sometimes great) attractions, the recent onslaught of mediocre to poor attractions sticks out more than they would at a smaller park. As SFMM has added bigger and more intense coasters, they have been wisely removing the older ones that were not of the same caliber.

From Bill Lentz on June 25, 2004 at 3:23 PM
By the sound of it, I must be the only adult who enjoyed the Haunted Lighthouse. I thought it was very good story, thought it was very well done.

My worst experience comes when pain is involved, most recently it is a toss up between Son of Beast and Mean Streak. I like a nice wood coaster you can feel...but the only purpose of these rides seems to be to cause a headache or backache.

From John Franklin on June 25, 2004 at 6:00 PM
Two comments,

First, SFMM still has the Revolution and Gold Rush their first two rollar coasters. These two are tamed when compared to Viper or Colussus or Batman or even Ninja. Fot those who don't know, The Revolution is the first coaster to include a loop in the track. Just one at that. (Remember, this coaster dates back to the 70's).

As far as kingdom Of the Dinosaurs, at least it is still running. Superstar Limo/Lemon was shut down about 11 months after it was opened. This is the worst dark ride ever. With Kingdom coming a close second. I agree , bring back Knott's Berry Tales.

From Ryan Williams on June 25, 2004 at 6:22 PM
X at Six Flags Magic Mountain is the worst ride ever!!!! nah nah just joking, i would have to say its a tie between Psyclone and Flashback,both at SFMM, those coasters suck,escpecially Psyclone that lap bar nearly beated my MAN TOOL too death.
From Kevin Baxter on June 26, 2004 at 5:25 PM
OMG, I cannot believe after making so much fun of the Not-Very-Great Movie Ride in my recent trip report that I didn't name it here. While it isn't so awful your first time out, it is one of those rides that makes you wonder what you ever liked about it. It's too bad Disney didn't treat the MGM license properly, because a Wizard of Oz ride would have made it one of the better dark rides around.
From Joe Lane on June 27, 2004 at 5:43 PM
I think at this point, replacing the Great Movie Ride with a Disney Villains attraction is the best bet to make Disney-MGM the best of the four parks at the resort.
From Robert Niles on June 27, 2004 at 10:58 PM
I can't believe that I've neglected to mention the horrible mark-over that Knott's gave to its Peanuts Playhouse last year. It took a dilapidated attraction and gutted it into a toddler's nightmare. Much, much worse than the tone-deaf Superstar Limo.
From Andrew Rector on June 28, 2004 at 4:26 PM
Tuck and Roll's Drive Em Buggies at DCA is the worst ride ever. The cars bearly move and the ride is less than a minute long, not enough time to make a full circuit around the track. Even for a kids ride, they would find it dull and boring. I can find more thrill riding a coin operated rocking horse at K-Mart than this ride.
From Adrian Walker on July 1, 2004 at 3:07 AM
Its a small world drives round the bend. Its so bad that those who saw the article "anxiety attacks on thrill rides" will see I start talking to myself because it drove me nuts with its music. (I'm kidding by the way but IASW is my worse attraction)
From Christian Nicely on August 2, 2004 at 5:27 PM
At Magic KIngdom I don't like Snow White's Scary Adventure it just looks to fake even if I saw it as a kid.
I also think that Body Wars at Epcot needs a huge update.

At Universal I believe EARTHQUAKE has to go it just isn't good enough.

From Christina Alexis on August 20, 2004 at 9:55 PM
I figure I'm the only one who despises The American Adventure at Epcot. I just hate how Disney-fied it is, how politically incorrect. I mean if your going to do a history lesson - why not actually cover some of the most important (even if devastating) parts of American history. I just hate when Disney tries to cover up the absoulute beauty and struggle of a country so strong as America. Hell, O' Canada wasn't so great either. Please, it doesn't really look like that :P
From Robert Niles on August 21, 2004 at 1:29 PM
When that attraction opened, I was stunned by how aggressive it was in addressing darker periods in American history. Mark Twain's hardly a Panglossian optimist, and the attraction acknowledged slavery, the Native American holocaust, the Depression and even offered an elegant anti-war statement while addressing the Civil War.

Granted, over the past two decades, I think we've become used to more aggressive questioning of America's behavior through recent history. (And an ultra-nationalistic, jingoistic backlash, as well.) But I do think we should acknowledge that American Adventure was an usually complete look at American history for a theme park attraction when it opened.