Picture of Space Mountain - is it scary?

First off let’s get you the tl;dr answer: no, to most riders Space Mountain is not scary, but it could be scary or too much to handle for younger kids and riders who don’t like twists, turns, drops, and rides in the dark.

Personally I don’t think the ride is scary at all, but because it’s a subjective question we also combed through every answer to this question we could find across several websites and found that of those who had ridden who had offered an analysis of whether Space Mountain was scary or not:

A pie graph of responses to the question "Is Space Mountain Scary?"

  • 43 people answered no
  • 15 answered with a variation of “it depends” (frequently either that it may be scary for small kids, or that it depends if you like roller coasters)
  • 1 answered yes (this was one very tall person who mentioned being “scared” putting up their hands that they may get cut off by low clearance (this does not seem to be a valid concern based on how the ride is constructed and it actually did seem like they were joking)

But, there is more to it than that.

I have two kids. You can get a sense of their relative excitement about fast rides at theme parks in this picture of them after getting off of Rockin’ Roller Coaster a few years ago (which is now closed and rumored to be rebranded):

A picture of kids after a ride at Disney World.

‘My daughter has gotten much more comfortable with faster rides since this post ride photo, but you may have a similar dilemma when it comes to certain rides: is the ride too scary for a member of your group?

This can be a difficult question because what’s “scary” isn’t always the same to everyone. Just in my family:

  • My wife hates 4d rides (they make her sick)
  • My son doesn’t like spookier stuff
  • My daughter doesn’t like super high speeds or rides that go upside down (which means she’s good to go for most versions of Space Mountain which don’t go upside down)
  • I don’t like rides that are “jerky” and pull too quickly

Not all of this is being “scared” strictly speaking, but for smaller kids things like high speeds, sudden drops, or mature ride themes can be frightening sometimes (but not always).

Space Mountain is a great example of all of this: it’s one of the most popular rides across Disney parks and takes you through an exciting ride through space, but it’s not necessarily at the very top of most people’s lists when it comes to scary rides or thrill rides.

So is it actually scary?

In this guide we’ll answer the question “is Space Mountain Scary?” but also give the information you’ll need to answer whether it will be scary for your kids (or members of your party…or maybe yourself).

Is Space Mountain Scary?

No, Space Mountain isn’t scary for most riders.

That said, Space Mountain has a height requirement of 44 inches, feels like it moves very quickly and jerkily, is in the dark throughout the ride, and has sudden drops so it can be intense, particularly for ride-shy kids.

A screenshot of the description of Space Mountain in the Disney World app
A description of Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World from the Disney World app. The height requirement is only 40 inches at Disneyland’s Space Mountain ride.

Will It Be Scary For You (Or Your Kids)?

Maybe! Let’s look at the different elements of the ride and you can determine if you or your little ones will find it scary.

NOTE: For most of this next section, I’ll be referring to Space Mountain at Disney World (I’ve actually never been to Space Mountain Disneyland, sadly) but in the next section I’ll highlight key differences between the ride at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom vs. Disneyland if you’re making your trip to California, and will even hit on key differences for Space Mountain’s Paris and Tokyo Disneyland locations as well.

Is It Fast?

You can check out our in-depth article on how fast Space Mountain is for more detail, but Space Mountain at Disney World hits a top speed of about 3o miles per hour. That’s less than half the speed of the fastest ride at Walt Disney World (Test Track, which tops out at 65 miles per hour).

In fact, Space Mountain is about 12 miles per hour less than Slinky Dog Dash in Hollywood Studios! (Truly shocking).

That said: having ridden it many, many times I can tell you that Space Mountain feels fast and it moves quickly throughout the entire three minute or so ride.

Test Track hits that top speed on a straight-away – Space Mountain is whipping through turns and drops and moves very quickly in what feels like a small space as an indoor roller coaster. The fact that the ride is in the dark gives it a different feel as well.

And, in fact, while its top speed is less than rides like Slinky Dog Dash or Splash Mountain, the ride height requirement for Space Mountain is tied for 2nd in all of Disney behind just Rockin’ Roller Coaster (which may come back at a different speed of course), and tied with Expedition Everest.

That’s a good indication that while it doesn’t top out as fast as the top rides in Disney, it is relatively intense.

Does It Have Sudden Drops?

Yes, there are sudden drops. In general, I find the ride fairly herky-jerky. It’s not as tall and doesn’t have as intense of drops as some rides like Everest or even Splash Mountain, but there are drops.

Are the Drops Big?

Not relative to the largest drops in Disney World (and even within Magic Kingdom). Space Mountain’s biggest drop is 26′. The biggest drop from Expedition Everest is 80′ with Splash Mountain at 49′,

Again though while top speeds and drops don’t rival some of the other coasters, Space is in the dark and the thrust of the ride is persistent.

Does It Go Upside Down?

No, Space Mountain won’t go upside down.

Is The Theme Scary?

Space Mountain is an indoor, space themed roller coaster.

The ride is in the dark, which may be scary and off-putting for some younger kids.

Other than that though the theme isn’t scary at all – the basic premise is that you’re going on a space ship, and all of the space-themed elements are pretty vanilla. The queue has strong Tomorrow Land theming (and actually dovetails in a fun way with the People Mover which is one of my favorite rides, and not scary at all if you’re scoring at home). There’s no antagonists or implied peril at all to the ride story generally.

What’s The Recommended Age to Ride?

If you translate the minimum ride height to standard height for a child’s age, it would be around 6 or 7.

I think that’s a good range for a typical kid, but if your son or daughter doesn’t like fast coasters with a lot of twists and turns I’d say 8 or 9 is a better bet.

To give you some points of reference if your unsure rider has ridden some other popular attractions at Disney World:

  • If they can do Rockin’ Roller Coaster (or could), Fast Track, Expedition Everest or even Guardians, they’re definitely fine to ride Space Mountain
  • While I think Space Mountain feels a little more intense than some outdoor rides due to the fact that you’re in the dark, if your rider didn’t have issues with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Minetrain, and Slinky Dog Dash they’ll likely be fine with Space Mountain.
  • While they’re different rides, if your rider didn’t have issues with rides like Tower of Terror or Splash Mountain there’s a good chance they won’t have any issues with Space Mountain.

Disney World vs. Disneyland

Personally I’ve only been on the Space Mountain ride in Magic Kingdom at Disney World, but most people describe them as pretty similar. Here are some key differences that could impact “scariness” or how intense you find the ride:

  • Ride Vehicles – Disney World has single rider vehicles, Disneyland has two seaters (so your little one can sit next to you, if that’s something they typically find soothing). People seem to find the Space Mountain seats at Disneyland more comfortable by and large as well.
  • Minimum Height – Disneyland’s minimum height is only 40 inches – that’s a good indication that while the theming and general ride is the same, the Disneyland ride is a little tamer.
  • Sound – Disney World’s ride has an upbeat silly-sounding space soundtrack piped through the speakers of the ride, while Disneyland’s version has a symphonic score piped into speakers on each ride. It’s not likely either version is going to ramp up the scariness much, though.
  • Speed – While the ride height requirement is lower, the speed for Disneyland’s Space Mountain is actually 2 MPH higher at 32 vs 30. Most guests report that the Disneyland version is a much smoother ride than the Disney World version, however. I’ve heard

It seems like the “jerkiness” of the Disney World ride is likely to be the biggest factor in making it a little less palatable to people who don’t like fast-moving rides with lots of twists and turns.

What About Space Mountain in Disneyland Paris, Tokyo & Hong Kong?

I haven’t been to these attractions, but the Disneyland Paris version is particularly interesting here. It’s been rebranded somewhat to “Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain.” This ride goes significantly faster (44 MPH) than its counterparts in the states, has a much higher minimum height (47.2 inches), and there’s much more Star Wars theming integrated into the ride, so it’s likely a good bit scarier and more intense for kids.

Hong Kong’s version has the same Star Wars theming, but tops out at 32 mph rather than 44.

Tokyo’s version has almost identical top speeds and minimum heights to the US Space Mountains and seems to be themed very similarly.

Still Not Sure? See It For Yourself!

A great way to gauge whether a ride will be scary is to check it out for yourself! Fortunately there’s lots of videos showing you entire rides on the Internet, and Space Mountain is no exception.

Two caveats:

  1. Some of these videos are much less helpful for rides like Space Mountain that are in the dark as you don’t have the physical sensation and the visual is limited. To get a good look at the ride we’ve also rounded up the videos of Space Mountain with the lights on.
  2. Watching these videos be sure to look out for spoilers that will take away from some of the delight of riding the ride for the first time (there’s no real big spoilers for Space Mountain, but rides like Expedition Everest or Hagrid’s at Universal are a lot less fun if you know what’s coming your first time).

Here are a few different videos of what Space Mountain looks like at Disney World:


And one more:

And then a couple from Disneyland as well:


Here is a video of Tokyo’s version of Space Mountain:

And last but certainly not least, here is the ride at Disneyland Paris:

Looks super cool right?  I actually hadn’t seen the ride until I started writing this post but the theming, queue, and the Star Wars graphics integrated into the ride all seem very well done.

What if the Ride is Too Scary?

If you get to the ride and your little one is having second thoughts, Space Mountain does offer rider swap or rider switch. If you or your anxious rider is wondering the ride is relatively short in terms of duration – 2:30 at Disney World and 3:00 at Disneyland.

Rider swap / switch is pretty simple but I find it easier to describe with a tangible example:

Let’s say two dads named Jim and Jack are at the ride with their kids Pete and Paulina (Jim and Jack are huge alliteration guys and are not at all apologetic about it). Pete decides he doesn’t want to go on the ride. Jim can wait with Pete while Paulina and Jack go on the ride, then when they’re done Jim can go on while Jack and Paulina wait with Pete. Paulina can actually even go on again, since Jim can take one person with him since he was the only one waiting.

Make sense? Yes, I will use more varied names for that kind of example next time.

Anyway if you want to use the rider switch / swap option on Space Mountain just let a cast member know.

What Makes a Ride Scary? Tips for a Scared Rider

I have been accused of telling my kids things like “toughen up” or “it’s not scary you’ll be fine” in these kinds of situations, but obviously that’s not likely to be the best blanket approach if your kids are scared of rides.

Child psychologist Dr. Susan Bartell created a whole guide to dealing with kids’ anxiety about going on rides and worked with employees at LEGOLAND (which is not, in fact, owned by Disney). She said:

“Dismissing a child’s fear, comparing them to a sibling or friend, bribing them with gifts and money, or labeling a child with a negative name based on their reluctance won’t make them any braver,” says Bartell.  “In fact those strategies often cause greater anxiety, and resentment and make them more reluctant, not to mention ruin what should be a great day for the family.”

She recommended showing your kids some elements of rides they may be anxious about before your trip, tell them positive stories about rides you like, let them tell you when they’re ready to ride a specific ride (without pushing), and if they decide to skip a ride then express regret remind them there’s a next time (don’t scold them for skipping the ride this time).

BONUS: Seasonal Space Mountain “Scariness”

As a bonus fact: Disney sometimes customizes the ride based on the season. Our family went on during Disney’s Boo Bash Haloween party, and it was completely jet black during the entire ride (typically there are different lights and stars adding to the space theme and guiding you through).

Additionally there is sometimes an “outer-space ghost” theme if you ride close to Haloween.

Generally these tweaks are pretty minor and won’t add much to how scary the ride is, but either could make it marginally “scarier” for a younger child if you’re at the parks at those times.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Space Mountain an intense ride?

Space Mountain is a somewhat intense ride, particularly for younger kids or riders who don’t like dark roller coasters or lots of twists and turns. That said it’s not one of the fastest roller coasters at Disney World.

Is Space Mountain OK for a 7 year old?

It depends on the 7 year old. Six or seven years old is likely right on the line of making the minimum height requirement for the ride. My son who loves fast coasters absolutely loved Space Mountain at age 7, but a 7 year old who is intimidated by faster rides may want to hold off.

Is Space Mountain a dark ride?

Yes Space Mountain is a dark ride – essentially the entire ride is in the dark.

How extreme is Space Mountain?

Space Mountain is not an extreme ride. It is less than half the speed of the fastest rides at Disney World, but it does feel faster than its actual speed and is probably one of the handful of most intense rides at Disney.

How scary is Space Mountain Disneyland?

Space Mountain Disneyland isn’t very scary to most riders, but it does hit speeds of 32 miles per hour, is in the dark, and has drops and twists and turns. As a result it may be scary for younger kids.

Is Space Mountain Paris scary?

Most riders will not find Space Mountain at Disneyland Paris scary. That said, Space Mountain Paris goes 44 miles per hour, has a relatively high height requirement (47.2 inches), takes place in the dark and has drops and twists and turns. It’s also significantly faster with significantly higher minimum height requirements than other Disney Parks Space Mountain rides in Tokyo, Disney World, and Disneyland.

Additional Sources & Resources

– “Space Mountain” by Martin Smith, Disney Editions (2002): A comprehensive look at the history of Space Mountain and its design.

– “Disneyland’s Space Mountain: From the Magic Kingdom to the End of the Universe” by Bruce Gordon and David Mumford, Theme Park Press (2008): A detailed look into the history, design and evolution of Space Mountain.

– “Space Mountain: The Official 30 Year Pictorial History” by Jeff Kurtti, Disney Editions (2005): A photographic journey featuring images from every version of Space Mountain throughout its history.

– “Disneyland Secrets: Facts and History of Space Mountain” by Ryan Teeter, CreateSpace (2017): A comprehensive guide to the history and secrets behind Disneyland’s Space Mountain.

– “The Making of a Disney Ride: The Creation of Space Mountain” by Richard D Williams, Theme Park Press (2002): An insider look into the creation of Space Mountain from concept to completion.

– “Space Mountain: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Making of an Icon” by Bruce Gordon and Dave Mumford, Theme Park Press (2001): A look into the design, development and construction of Space Mountain.