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What are the best (and worst) high-motion dark rides for visitors with upper-torso weakness?

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Published: May 1, 2013 at 10:59 AM

Guests with upper-torso weakness should be aware of the forces that certain rides will give to their bodies. If you are one of them, you are lucky to have me as your theme park ride dummy. I am generous enough to try all the rides (well, almost all) so you can avoid the ones that may be challenging for you -- those ones you will not enjoy because you will be more worried about staying in an upright position than enjoying what is happening around you. Let's go down the list of hellish experiences.

Your worst bet would be Indiana Jones Adventure (Disneyland) and Dinosaur (Disney's Animal Kingdom). Those vehicles (which run on identical tracks) have very rough movements in all directions. If you have a weak upper-body, there is no way you can keep sitting straight by your own. At Dinosaur, my brother-in-law (who is big in size and strength) had to grab me very tight to keep me in place. I was lucky to have him next to me. At Indy, there was no brother-in-law, and I ended up over my mother's lap for the whole ride. I only was able to see the ceiling and listen to John Williams' score. Your better, more affordable choice is to stay away, put on a copy of the soundtrack album and just watch the ceiling at home… or find a big and strong brother-in-law.

Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland
Not the best choice for visitors with upper-torso weakness

Next in line is Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios. I was too worried about leaning sideways or bending forward that I did not enjoy the ride as much as I wanted to. The simulator moves a lot, and the seatbelt will keep you on the seat but you will have to do a constant effort to stay in an upward position. Not as bad as the previous rides, but a nuisance nonetheless.

The Cat in the Hat at Universal's Islands of Adventure? Ask for the wheelchair accessible vehicle! If not, you will make the same huge mistake that I made the first time I rode it. It spins like crazy! Don't let the family-friendly façade fool you. It is much safer if you stay in your wheelchair. The first time I rode it, I started to slide to the side-open section of the vehicle. It was scary.

Your best bet for a safe and enjoyable ride on a high-motion dark ride is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal's Islands of Adventure. With its over-the-shoulder restraint, you will feel safe and it will keep you sitting straight. The beauty of it all is that the bench (which is mounted over a robotic arm) has more movement than all the previous rides I just mentioned, but it is safer and more enjoyable. It is a dream come true for people like us -- a dark ride that is thrilling and doesn't give any concerns at the same time. Ah, and it is a dream come true for the rest of the population as well.

Daniel Etcheberry writes each month for Theme Park Insider about theme park accessibility issues.

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Readers' Opinions

From 132.3.57.78 on May 1, 2013 at 11:06 AM
I agree with your analysis of HPATFJ. Although many people complain about how quesy/sick the ride makes you, it does not jerk you around like the previous rides mentioned. There is so much going on, that you really do not focus on the movements of the ride vehicles.
From Luke Dunsmore on May 1, 2013 at 12:00 PM
Fascinating article, and I must admit that this is an issue I'd never really considered before. Great that you can reference your personal experience for anybody that is worried about this as well.
From 98.17.116.52 on May 1, 2013 at 11:31 PM
Very helpful and interesting read. Could you maybe comment on the SpiderMan ride at IOA? I'd like to hear your feedback on that one as well.
From 198.51.125.3 on May 2, 2013 at 7:47 AM
I can't remember what it's called, but the Soarin knockoff at Busch Gardens Williamsburg is the worst I've been on. I'm a large man with decent strength. That ride threw me all over the place.
From 85.150.173.168 on May 2, 2013 at 8:29 AM
Thank you for this great article!
Although I don't have the same handicap I have the same problems with the rides you mentioned.
Especialy Dinosaur I hate with a pasion because I think it could be an awesome ride with beautiful animatronics in there.
Not sure but I thought The Cat in the Hat ride is made a bit less spinny the last few years so I'm not sure when you have been on it.
From Anon Mouse on May 2, 2013 at 8:30 AM
What do you mean by "upper-torso weakness"? It sounds like a medical condition, but it could mean many things like upper arm weakness or upper body weakness from multiple sclerosis. Other than avoiding rough rides for the discomfort, it shouldn't have to hurt your enjoyment of the rides.
From Daniel Etcheberry on May 2, 2013 at 1:58 PM
Spider-Man is alright. There is a part that spins a lot, but I was able to stay seated in an upright position. Transformers is even better because there is no spinning.

What I mean with upper-torso weakness is just not having enough strength from the waist up to keep an upright position. Maybe I should have said trunk or just torso since I include the abdominal muscles.

From 71.81.132.171 on May 4, 2013 at 7:43 AM
Thanks so much for your informative article. Personally, I have a recurring back problem, so I do worry about how much a ride jerks you around. Haven't been on Harry Potter yet, so it's good to know I won't have any problems there. Even though I loved Dinosaur, I did have a major problem with being thrown around by that ride. I assumed Indiana Jones was similar. Good to know that it is. I had no problem with Spider-Man or Soarin, but I didn't care for Primeval Whirl, too much trouble staying upright with all the spinning.

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