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