Coaster review: Tower of Terror

Tower of TerrorThe Tower of Terror ‘coaster’ is in Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park, Orlando Florida. To give it its full title, it’s called “The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror“.

If you’re old enough, you may have seen The Twilight Zone, an American TV show hosted by Rod Serling which originally aired between 1959-64. I’m not old enough to have seen the original, but I remember enjoying the re-runs of this ‘horror’ show in the UK while I was young.

This ride centers round the Hollywood Tower Hotel, a fictional hotel featured in a specially commissioned mini-episode of the Twilight Zone show.

The majority of your queuing is done outside the building (fast-pass available), in an old-style hotel garden with atmospheric mist sprays. The hotel itself, from the outside, has an old 1930s look to is and scorch marks on the outside, where the lift shafts should be.

When you finally get inside the abandoned hotel, with authentic dust and cobwebs, you’re almost at the start of the ride. s you wait the final few minutes, you can see the ride staff are kitted out in bell-hop outfits, adding to the authenticity of the hotel look-and-feel.

First, you are led, en masse, into the library, where you are locked in, in the dark. Then a TV comes on in the corner of the room and you get to watch our old friend Ron telling you a bit of the history of the hotel, and how it was struck by lightning in the 1930’s, causing an elevator and it’s occupants to disappear into the twilight zone.

At the end of the short film, another door opens and you join the queue again in what appears to be the boiler room of the hotel. Here, you await your journey on the ‘service elevator’.

Tower of Terror Coaster Vital Statistics

  • Type of ride: Sudden drop coaster
  • Height: 199 feet
  • Riders: 21 per ‘service elevator’
  • Ride time: 3:10 minutes
  • Height requirement: 40 inches
  • Opened: July 1994
  • Manufacturer: Disney

When your time comes, you’re ushered in to an elevator, where there are three rows of seats. You can get the preferred front row by standing in the ‘1’ or ‘2’ positions at pre-boarding, if you get the option. Once you’re in it’s a lap-strap seatbelt for all, which doesn’t seem much really. The bell-hop, in true wanna-be actor style will bid you farewell in their own unique style while closing the doors – some are quite imaginative.

Then the entire elevator then trundles into position, in the pitch darkness; first to a point to allow you to see the next part of the ‘show’, giving a bit more of the twilight zone experience, then to its final position for the commencement of the ride proper. You can tell the fun is about to begin when you see the image of an old TV ‘closing down’ to a vertical bar of light then compressing to a single dot in front of you. A few more clunks, in complete darkness, and we’re good to go.

This is a sudden drop coaster, with a difference. Well two differences really.

  1. The drops are fairly random and unpredictable, and between drops, you are hauled back upwards rapidly.
  2. They’re not plain old gravity-drops, some are forced pull-drops, meaning you drop faster than gravity.

These to differences make for a more interesting ride really, especially if your 8 year-old insists on going on again, and again, and again. You actually lift out of your seat and if, as I did, you leave your waterproof jackets on the floor, you will have to search for and retrieve them from somewhere else later.

The doors on the side of the building open randomly while you are begin dropped and lifted too, which gives you a bit of perspective on the height you are being dropped from. This is even more impressive in the evening, when the rest of the park’s lights are on, so I’d recommend trying it in the dark too.

The final time we rode this coaster on our recent trip there was a huge thunder and lightning storm in progress. As we neared the doors to go on the ride, my 8 year-old turned to me and said, “This is just like the movie”, with a grin. That’s my boy!

Definitely recommended.

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