Welcome to the Himalayas! Expedition Everest is an imagineering masterpiece that represents the mountainous region that contains the famous Mount Everest. Awaiting adventurous riders is the largest steel roller coaster in all of Walt Disney World. The mountain boasts an 80 foot drop, the steepest in the kingdom. However, there is something far more terrifying protecting this sacred Forbidden Mountain, the legendary Yeti!
Before I get into the ride in depth today I feel I must tell you this is not my favorite roller coaster in Walt Disney World. They can’t all be my favorite, right? I do highly enjoy riding Expedition Everest every time I am lucky enough to visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Actually, with it being one of the few rides currently available at this park, I often try to ride it at least twice when I visit. While the ride is wonderfully themed and certainly up there on the thrill scale, it just doesn’t hold the same childhood memories for me that some of the older Disney rides do. Still, when I asked my roller-coaster-loving brother-in-law what his WDW favorite was, he said Expedition Everest. So today we will discover what makes this a legendary ride for him and also why it fails to reach the summit of my thrill ride list. To start, let’s find out exactly what we are dealing with in the Yeti.
Unlike the friendly guy in my favorite Disney/Pixar film Monsters Inc., Expedition Everest’s monster is no agreeable snowman. No, he the fearsome abominable snowman also known as the Yeti. He lives among the seven peaks of the Himalayas and he protects his home with great gusto!
Before you meet this awesome creature, you must first make your way through the offices of Himalayan Escapes: Tours and Expeditions. Business partners Norbu and Bob started this venture together and began serving brave wilderness explorers after the local village of Serka Zong was abandoned. The village was once a peaceful plantation with a thriving tea trade. You can still see some tea growing on the side of the mountain if you approach the ride from Dinoland U.S.A. The Royal Anadapur Tea Company once ran a train through the mountains carrying that tasty product, but those days are long gone. It seems something or someone left a path of destruction. All that is left now is a cold wasteland.
In that wasteland is a collection of shrines to the Yeti and a makeshift museum with artifacts paying tribute to the mysterious creature. There is a strange balance of fear and reverence evident in those left living in Serka Zong. The Yeti Mindur, which is their Hindu temple dedicated to the Yeti, is full of intricately carved wooden images.
All of this gorgeous detail is designed to convince you there may be more to the Yeti than just legend. The queue of this ride is one reason my brother-in-law rates the coaster above the likes of Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. What I enjoy wandering through the queue of Expedition Everest is the attention to detail in chronicling the scientific exploration of the Yeti. Each case of trinkets and room of supplies tells a fascinating story. Still, as we are about to discover, there is no amount of tribute that will satisfy this furry beast.
Once you make it to the train station, your legendary expedition is about to begin. Along with 35 other brave souls, you climb into the tea train’s seats. You may notice that these are among the most spacious seats of any coaster at Disney. There is a net to place your belongs down by your feet before the lap bar is brought down to hold you securely in place. While you will get up to speeds of 50 mph, there are no loops or inversions on this coaster, so no overhead restraints are necessary. After all passengers are safely aboard, you gently roll out of the station and are immediately surrounded by the dense vegetation at the base of the mountain.
Here is your impress your family tidbit for this week: To create this dense forest, Imagineers planted 900 bamboo plants, 10 species of trees, and 110 different species of shrubs. You can share that fun fact next time you are in line waiting to ride!
You won’t be in this neck of the woods for long though. You will soon be at the base of the mountain, beginning the slow climb up to the Yeti’s lair. This is probably my favorite part of the ride which is strange because it is the slowest moving. The great thing here is that you have time to look out to your right and see the entire Animal Kingdom park below. If you look back to your left, you can see a good portion of the greater Walt Disney World arena in the distance. Take a good look while you can because things are about to speed up.
Once you reach the top, the train really picks up steam as you dart in and out of the cold caves and tunnels above. You will do so moving forwards and backwards, which is what makes this ride so unique. This is one of the reasons my brother-in-law enjoys this ride. For me, the effect of rolling out of control in the wrong direction is great, but it is the set up for this effect that I find disappointing. I won’t go into too much detail about the ride experience itself, but let’s just say the ride has to stop a couple of times to achieve the dual direction. I find the time spent at a dead stop breaks up the ride experience a little too much. Contrast this with Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith where you start the ride doing 60 mph and never let up, and you have two very different experiences. One thing this ride does have that that one doesn’t is the Yeti. As you trek through the mountain, you will see traces of his presence and catch glimpses of him before meeting him face to face right before you exit the Forbidden Mountain.
The Yeti is an impressive piece of audio-animatronics. He stands 22 feet tall and weighs a hefty 20,000 pounds. I guess that is a pound for every foot of mountain. You would think climbing 20,000 feet to make your dwelling would produce a slimmer frame! From the looks of him, he carries most of it in his shoulders. All joking aside, the Disney Imagineers went to great lengths to bring him to life. That is a tall task when you can’t go observe the animal first-hand and do sketches. He is a legend after all. Instead, they studied a variety of primates and combined those shared movements with the snowman’s documented history to create something pretty awesome!
So, what is the best seat on this coaster to catch a good glimpse of this awesome creation? Well, it may depend on who you ask. Some swear by the great views of the front seat while others applaud the g-force of the back seat. Having been in both I will say the back seat can be a little smoky from the train’s exhaust pipe found right behind your head. As for g-force, you do move both directions on this coaster making the front the back and the back the front at a couple of different points. For me there isn’t really a bad seat on this coaster because of the dual direction. My advice is to take on the adventure more than once and mix it up. See what you like best and let me know!
If you are a thrill seeker and coaster lover then Expedition Everest is the expedition for you! Getting to experience a rich story at the height of Walt Disney World’s tallest mountain is breathtaking. Add the thrill of speeding through the mountain in both directions, and you have a truly unique ride. I know I said it isn’t my favorite coaster but I do love this ride. If this heart-pumping high thrill sounds like something you will enjoy then you need to plan ahead. The lines are usually very long for Expedition Everest. I recommend using a Fastpass + or getting all the way back to Asia as soon as you enter the park to beat the crowd. The Animal Kingdom is part theme park and part zoo. If you get your major rides in first thing you can enjoy the shows and animal exhibits in the late morning and early afternoon with much less wait than you will find on the rides.
If you really enjoy the ride and want to ride more than once, I recommend taking advantage of the Single Riders line. The last time I rode, the wait in the standby line was pretty short so the Single Riders line wasn’t open. When the lines are long, you should have that option. You can utilize Fastpass +, the Single Riders line, and an early start to find your family’s perfect formula for multiple rides.
I hope this post gets you excited about planning a ride on Expedition Everest next time you are at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Please check out the Smart Guide link below for our Know Before You Go Essential Facts and ride gallery. Thank you for trekking up the mountain with me today! Check back next week as we continue exploring Walt Disney World one ride at a time. Until then, make each day a ride worth taking!