Here are a few things that scare me: heights, roller coasters, The Dark.

Imagine my terror, then, when I rode Space Mountain on my first trip to Disneyland in 1987. I had just graduated from high school, and was in Anaheim for the annual convention of the Future Business Leaders of America (a high school club that boomed during the 1980s).

I’d already been on Pirates of the Caribbean, which I loved. (In fact, I still love Pirates so much that to this day it’s the ride I want to do first and last when visiting the park. Once when a group I was with wanted to watch some silly parade, I rode Pirates over and over. It was awesome.)

Visiting Disneyland with my high school pals, we didn’t really have a method, and it took us til late morning to reach Tomorrowland. We rode Star Tours (newly opened at that point, I think), a Star Wars-themed ride, and watched Michael Jackson as Captain Eo. Then we entered Space Mountain.

“What’s this like?” I asked somebody who’d been to Disneyland before.

“It’s like a roller coaster in space,” he said.

I was a little worried, but not much. I stood in line, took my seat, and the ride began. I was in the rear car, and as we entered the dark core of the ride, I began to get nervous. Nervousness turned to fright as we took our first drop. The entire minute or two we whipped around, I clung to my seat as tightly as I could. I did not have fun.

I hated Space Mountain.

…time passed…

Kris’ uncle Bob works for Disney, and when we visit her parents in San Bernardino, he’s often able to sign us into the park. (For which we are very grateful. Thanks, Bob!) Over the past twenty years, we’ve visited Disneyland three or four times. In this time, I’ve made a discovery:

Space Mountain is a blast if you are seated in the front-most car.

On one visit I was seated in the front car by sheer chance. I knew I was going to be scared, but I was ready for how giddy the terror would make me. When you’re seated in the rear of the train, you can see what’s happening to the people in front of you a fraction of a second before it happens to you. This isn’t true when you’re in the first car. When you’re in the first car, you can’t see a thing. Everything that happens is unexpected. And it makes a huge difference.

Riding in front is scarier than riding behind, but it’s such an overwhelming fear that it’s fun. (Here’s a secret that Bob once told me: when you get to the front of a line, you can ask the “cast member” to seat you in a particular spot. They’ll often ask you to step to the side for a minute or two, but then will seat you in the spot you’ve requested. This is an excellent way to get the most out of your rides.)

All of this is just a belabored intro so that I can share this virtual recreation of Space Mountain that I found via Boing Boing. Enjoy!

Now I look forward to my next journey inside Space Mountain!

5 Replies to “Space Mountain”

  1. Rich R says:

    What a great ride! When we went to Disneyworld with the kids last year it was one of the things I looked forward to the most. I was not disappointed! I think I rode it 3 times in a 40 minute period one night as the park was closing.

  2. Tiffany says:

    I really like Space Mountain. I like the back car because you can feel the car ‘lift’ off the track in a number of places only to be bumped back into place. I often ride with my eyes shut, not out of fear, but that way I do not see what is coming, to make it more fun. In the last 5 years Disney added speakers to all of the seats so they can play high-adrenaline music during the ride. I think it makes a big difference.

    I was only on Space Mountain when the emergency break was used. I am not sure what happened. We when from 60mph to 0mph instantly. Talk about whiplash, I hurt for the rest of the day.

  3. I don’t clearly remember Space Mountain from before its recent renovation (I only rode it once or twice before then), but it is most excellent in its current configuration, with all the mirrors and the goofy 70s-style Dramatic Space Music.

    DisneyWorld in Florida has a different take on it: The interior is not entirely dark, so you can see the tracks a little bit, and the cars are all slightly fluorescent, so you can see them zipping around. And the ceiling of the loading bay allows you to see into the ride, too, with cars occasionally appearing, turning, and vanishing in the distance. Overall it’s an interesting difference, but I think Disneyland’s version is better.

    I’m also a big fan of California Screamin’, which I think is an even better coaster than Space Mountain. It’s the one I’m most likely to go on over and over and over in a short span of time.

  4. Lee says:

    I love the PotC ride too. Once when I was at Disneyland with my mom, we ate at the Bayou (name?) restaurant that you see when the ride begins. You know how everyone screams at that first little dip near the beginning of the ride? You can hear that clearly in the restaurant dining area. Boatloads of screaming passengers, every 30 seconds, for the duration of the meal. Add an interesting je ne sais quoi to the dining experience, non?

  5. kel says:

    i think i was 7 when i rode space mountain in fl, around 1980. our parents barely got us on the ride. we only agreed because they said, “walt disney loved kids, he wouldn’t make anything scary, he only makes things for kids to have fun.” i have almost no visual memory of the ride. i briefly opened my eyes, realized my terror was justified, and finished out the ride closed eyed. anyway, my memory of it is mostly tactile. i rode behind my sister, and the plastic balls on her ponytail holder smacked me in the mouth throughout the ride. for a long time now, i’ve wanted to try it again. i can only imagine that being in the front would be best, for more than one reason.

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