“That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” That famous Neil Armstrong quote has always stuck with me — and not just because he decided to use my name. Ever since I was a tadpole, I've always dreamed of venturing lightyears above the pond. Luckily, at Walt Disney World, there are plenty of places where I can travel off-planet and explore what lies beyond the stars. At each theme park on Disney property, you'll find rides, restaurants, shops, shows and more that are truly out-of-this-world. I'm gonna break them all down by park for you here. So if you have a hankering to venture to the final frontier, grab your space suits and oxygen tanks and keep reading. In the words of Buzz Lightyear: To infinity and beyond!
A Space Traveler's Guide to Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World
According to Walt Disney himself, the Tomorrowland attractions were designed to give you an opportunity to participate in adventures that are a living blueprint of our future. That future includes the Atomic Age, the challenge of Outer Space and the hope for a peaceful, unified world. As an ever-evolving dedication to the Space Age, Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom offers more than a few opportunities to blast off into the furthest reaches of outer space.
Board your rocket and prepare for blast off because this rip-roaring roller coaster is about launch you into the inky blackness of deep space. Set to a futuristic soundtrack, the darkest attraction in Walt Disney World (especially during special events) sends you speeding past shooting stars, wayward comets and migrant meteors on a two-and-a-half-minute thrill ride through the cosmos. One cool fact about this ride is that when it was given the green light, Mercury 9 and Gemini 5 astronaut Gordon Cooper joined the creative team as a consultant to make sure it incorporated information gleaned during NASA's early space missions and that the ride experience felt like actual space flight. The intense pull of gravity and the impeccable theming have made Space Mountain a not-to-be-missed attraction since it opened all the way back in 1975.
Speaking of theming, I'd be remiss not to mention the queue and the post-show which would make any future astronaut giddy! As you make your way to Mission Control and the load area, you pass through the Star Tunnel where distorted windows allow frogs to look out into the stars. That's followed by another room that contains star maps showing various intergalactic space lanes and another set of distorted windows containing views of spacecraft, astronauts at work fixing a satellite and a jaw-dropping view of Earth, galaxies and meteors. After you disembark from your rocket, you pass by the robot-manned Command Center and baggage claim before passing by intricately designed dioramas advertising various planets accessible by the spaceport. I can stand in that hallway for hours and dream about settling down in a galaxy far, far away ...
Want to pilot your own spacecraft — or just get an unparalleled view of Tomorrowland? Climb aboard Astro Orbiter, an aerial carousel that levitates you into the air and picks up speed as you begin orbiting a galaxy of planets. Control how high you fly by pushing or pulling the lever inside your rocket. With no height requirement, this ride is perfect for the tiniest of tadpoles but those with a history of motion sickness may want to stay on the ground. (The circling motion hasn't been kind to Mommy Frog's stomach once or twice in the past.) For a truly cosmic experience, I recommend hopping on this ride at night when the land is lit up and you really get to fly amongst the stars.
You can't leave Tomorrowland without visiting your favorite Space Ranger! This dark, slow-moving ride pits you against Buzz's arch-nemesis, the Evil Emperor Zurg, who's stealing batteries from helpless toys to power his destructive new weapon. As a Junior Space Ranger, you'll hop inside your very own star cruiser and voyage deep inside the Gamma Quadrant where you'll battle huge robots and take aim at glowing "Z" targets with your infrared laser cannon. Use the vehicle's joystick to spin a full 360 degrees and rack up as many points as you can. Do you have what it takes to save the galaxy before it's too late and become a full-on Space Ranger? Remember, the universe is counting on you. Best of luck, recruits!
A Space Traveler's Guide to Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World
When Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opened in 2019, we rejoiced in the opportunity to visit Black Spire Outpost on the remote frontier planet of Batuu. From the droid and lightsaber building experiences to the delicious food and drinks (are you Team Green Milk or Team Blue Milk?) to the incredibly immersive attractions, this land is truly the peak of Disney Imagineering. Now, it could take millennia to talk about everything Galaxy's Edge has to offer — luckily, we have a blog that already covers it — so I'm just going to focus on the highlights and let Tad guide you through the rest. Without further ado, let's make the jump to lightspeed!
The crown jewel of Galaxy's Edge, Rise of the Resistance is, without a doubt, the most complex and advanced attraction at Walt Disney World. In this 25-minute experience featuring four interworking ride systems, you'll join Rey, Poe, Finn and other Resistance fighters in their battle against the First Order. Your travels will take you from Black Spire Outpost to an imposing First Order Star Destroyer where you'll come across a legion of stormtroopers and even Kylo Ren himself! (Don't. Say. Anything.) Part motion simulator, part walk-through, part trackless dark ride and part ... you know what, I'm not gonna spoil it. This ride is a unique, multifaceted adventure that beckons to be experienced more than once. May the Force be with you.
Space pirate Hondo Ohnaka needs your help to retrieve and deliver containers of coaxium (a material needed for hyperspace travel) in order to aid the Resistance. Your target? A First Order train on the planet Corellia. Your transport? The Millennium Falcon herself! Whether you're assigned an engineer, gunner or pilot, you'll blast off into space on a daring flight where you'll face danger at every turn. Keep an eye on the various buttons and levers around the ship which will light up when you're called to duty. How well you and your crewmates perform will determine the success of the mission, so ... you know ... no pressure or anything. Are you ready to climb aboard the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy?
While Batuu has a delicious quick-service restaurant where you can fuel up on galactic grub in the form of Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, our family personally can't leave Galaxy's Edge without hitting up Ronto Roasters — home of the famous Ronto Wrap (roasted pork, grilled pork sausage, peppercorn sauce and tangy slaw wrapped in pita bread). Located at the end of the marketplace, this quick-service counter offers breakfast, lunch and dinner for both omnivores and herbivores alike with options such as the Kyryll Pork Rinds, the Triple Suns Breakfast Wrap and the Andoan Fruit with Muja Sauce. Travelers from far and wide love frequenting this exotic meat stall while prepping for their next mission. Just follow the scent of grilled ronto toward the hanging pod racer engine.
Home to cosmic concoctions with ingredients sourced from around the galaxy, Oga's Cantina is where weary space travelers come to eat, drink and be merry (and maybe conduct a covert business deal or two). The galaxy's most infamous watering hole caters to bounty hunters, smugglers and rogue traders of all ages with an expansive menu consisting of classic and unique spirits that are sure to liven your taste buds. My go-to drink is the T-16 Skyhopper made with Tito's Handmade Vodka, Bols Melon Liquor, Kiwi and Half and Half (essentially a boozy version of honeydew milk tea). But you can't go wrong with any of them — especially the Fuzzy Tauntaun, a citrusy mix of Cîroc Peach Vodka, Bols Peach Schnapps, Simply Orange with Tangerine, Pure Cane Sugar and "Buzz Button Tingling" Foam that's sure to leave quite the impression on your tongue. I also love ordering the Rodian Ration, an electrifying provision made with Tito's Handmade Vodka, Dekuyper Pucker Sour Apple, Green Apple, Sprite and Boba Balls with a Pop.
If you want to be frugal with your credits, forego a lightsaber from Savi's and leave Batuu with a droid of your very own. Droids are one of the galaxy's most indispensable sidekicks and a perfect travel companion for your Outer Rim adventures. I loved getting to stand alongside Tad as he constructed his BB-series astromech, F2-0G. (You can also choose to construct an R-series unit.) Whichever you choose, you'll be provided with a basket and blueprints for your droid. Next, you'll proceed to the Parts Station to select your components and then the Build Station to assemble your droid in the proper sequence. Watching your droid come to life is an incredibly cool experience. Carry it around Black Spire Outpost to see it interact with other elements in the land and even fellow droids! You can even further customize it with a personality chip and choose whether it's loyal to the Light Side or Dark Side.
While not in Galaxy's Edge, this attraction is still definitely worth mentioning. An updated version of the original attraction which opened in 1989, Star Tours — The Adventure Continues is a flight simulator that combines motion with action-packed 3D video to send travelers soaring into an unfrogettable adventure. A run-of-the-mill sightseeing trip unexpectedly becomes a perilous mission to protect a Rebel spy from the First Order. Hope you trust C-3PO and R2-D2 because they're your captains on this jump to hyperspace and beyond! Will you elude capture and make it safely back to the base? (PS: This ride is one to hop on several times over because with its shiny new update, there are now 60 different combinations of elements from the films! From flying to different planets to interacting with different characters, you never know what you're going to get. Who knows ... you may even be the Rebel spy!)
A Space Traveler's Guide to Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World
While Disney's Animal Kingdom might best be known for celebrating the creatures great and small that call this planet home, there's one land at this park that immerses you in the flora, fauna, culture and cuisine of a planet far beyond our own. Welcome to Pandora — The World of Avatar. Inspired by James Cameron's record-breaking film series, the Valley of Mo'ara is a new destination for ecotourism and scientific research that travelers from Earth can visit via a partnership with Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE). After the war between the indigenous Na'vi and the destructive Resources Development Administration (RDA), ACE established the Pandora Conservation Initiative to preserve and study the native Pandoran species.
My all-time favorite ride in any theme park anywhere, Avatar Flight of Passage gives you the opportunity to genetically match with your very own avatar, climb atop a winged mountain banshee and soar above and through Pandora's breathtaking and bioluminescent landscape. On this thrilling 3-D simulator, you'll board a link chair and experience the swift and graceful movements of flight as the floor rises and falls below you and your banshee breathes beneath you. You'll also feel the wind blowing in your hair and the mist of the oceans as you skim by cresting waves. Plus, you'll smell the fresh Pandoran air and intoxicating aroma of the native plant life, and come face-to-face with 1,400 Pandora creatures throughout your seven-mile journey. At its conclusion, you might just walk away from this Na'vi rite of passage with joyful tears in your eyes. Sivako!
While hopping in the Lightning Lane queue might seem enticing, if you haven't experienced this attraction before, wait in the standby line. The queue takes you through the corridors of beautifully painted caves, abandoned RDA bunkers, a bioluminescent Pandora forest and a partially restored RDA laboratory where you'll find experiments being conducted on water purification and habitat restoration ... as well as a life-size avatar floating in a tank. Be sure to have your camera ready.
Tiny tadpoles or those with sensitive stomachs may have to sit Flight of Passage out, but there's still another stunning attraction in Pandora that's perfect for the whole family. Na'vi River Journey is a four-and-a-half-minute boat ride that sends you sailing down a mysterious river and through a beautifully bioluminescent forest as the creatures and critters of Pandora — along with the Na'vi — guide you toward an audience with the legendary Shaman of Songs (one of the most impressive animatronics in all of Walt Disney World). This 10-foot-tall Na'vi shaman demonstrates her deep connection to the life force of Pandora by sending out positive energy through the forest and singing of the sacred bond with nature both the Na'vi and humans share. A feast for the eyes and ears, this expedition is an experience that must be seen and heard to be believed.
A former RDA mess hall, now a peaceful dining facility adorned with Na'vi artwork and artifacts, Satu'li Canteen serves up healthful dishes and familiar flavors with a perfectly Pandoran twist. This quick-service restaurant is one of our favorites on Disney World property for its delicious menu filled with wholesome grains, fresh vegetables and hearty proteins. We also love how customizable the bowls are! (I opt for the Chili-Garlic Shrimp Bowl with noodles and creamy herb dressing.) I could seriously sit in here for hours just listening to the beautiful score by James Horner. Be sure to stop by and refuel as you venture through the Valley of Mo'ara.
We still have so much more frogciting, intergalactic adventures to get to so I'm going to make this quick: Order the Night Blossom and the Pongu Lumpia, and thank me later.
A Space Traveler's Guide to EPCOT at Walt Disney World
With the recent creation of EPCOT's four distinct neighborhoods, came the introduction of World Discovery: a land devoted to "stories about space, science, technology and intergalactic adventures come to life." A mix of experiences "old" and new, World Discovery is the perfect place to hone your cosmonaut skills and live your wildest interstellar fantasies.
Developed in association with former NASA advisors, astronauts and scientists, Mission: SPACE is the first ride system ever created to take guests straight up in simulated flight. That's right! In this one-of-a-kind attraction, you'll board the X-2 Deep Space Shuttle at the International Space Training Center and experience what it's like to train as an astronaut. Whether you're the navigator, pilot, commander or engineer, you get to operate a three-stage rocket that uses several real technologies in development today, including aerospike engines, solid hydrogen fuel, an aerobrake and carbon nanotubes.
For an awe-inspiring orbit around the Earth, choose the family-friendly Green Mission. This gentler adventure only moves slightly but still requires riders to manually navigate through a thunderstorm over the landing runway. For brave enough frogs with stomachs of steel, opt for the Orange Mission to Mars which uses a centrifuge that spins and tilts to simulate the speed and G-forces of a spacecraft launch and reentry. Trainees heading to the Red Planet will slingshot around the moon for a gravity-assisted boost, enter a brief period of simulated hypersleep and descend on the Martian surface where you'll need to manually control your rocket for a smooth landing. If you look forward at all times, keep your eyes open and breathe normally, you should be fine on this more intense mission, but for safety, frogs who have high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness or other conditions that could be aggravated should opt for the Earth adventure. Expectant mothers should sit this ride out completely.
Don't froget to put your skills to the test at the Advanced Training Lab after completing your Earth or Mars mission training. This high-tech play area features Mission: Space Race, a game where teams compete against each other to send their rocket from Mars to Earth, Expedition: Mars, a joystick video game where you locate other astronauts on the surface of Mars, Space Base, an interactive playground for the smallest space explorers and Postcards from Space, an area where you can email a short video of yourself with a space-themed background and send it anywhere in the world.
Board the Stellarvator and ascend 220 miles above Earth's surface for a dining experience that is truly out of this world. Brand new to World Discovery, Space 220 allows guests to dine among the stars in a one-of-a-kind table-service restaurant serving upscale, contemporary cuisine inside the Centauri Space Station. Enjoy star courses such as Galactic Salmon and Spaceghetti & Shrimp, supernova sweets such as Coconut Panna Cotta and Chocolate Cheesecake and atmospheric spirits such as the Celestial Cosmopolitan and Planetary Punch, all while peering out large, panoramic windows that offer amazing daytime and nighttime views of Earth (depending on the time of day). Opt for the Restaurant to be treated to a two-course lunch or three-course dinner (dining reservation required) or choose the Lounge (conveniently located near the bar) to order from an a la carte menu.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
Blasting off Memorial Day weekend 2022, Cosmic Rewind is Disney's first-ever reverse-launch coaster and one of the largest fully-enclosed coasters in the world. At EPCOT's first "Other-World Showcase" Pavilion, the Nova Corps has set up an exhibition at the Galaxarium to showcase the incredible wonders and technology of the planet Xandar. However, your anticipated hyperjump to Xandar goes awry when the Celestial Eson looks to "right a wrong in a big way." A story coaster that rotates 360 degrees to focus on the action, you'll be recruited by the Guardians of the Galaxy to help stop Eson from completing his grand plan and save the day!
We got the chance to rewind, rotate and speed along with our favorite band of former intergalactic outlaws and can't praise this new ride enough. It's the perfect addition to EPCOT, which pays tribute to Walt Disney World's past while also embracing the possibilities of its future. Your Starjumper will take you on a thrilling journey across space and time ... all while blasting tunes from Star-Lord's own personally curated playlist. Mommy Frog already took the liberty of answering some frequently asked questions about the new attraction so if you want to learn more, hop here!
While not in World Discovery, I'd be remiss to not mention the centerpiece of EPCOT itself, Spaceship Earth. Granted, this slow-moving trip through time is about the remarkable history of communication from the Stone Age to the computer age. However, the climax of this attraction is the glorious reveal of a star-filled night sky and the planet we all inhabit — as if viewed from hundreds of thousands of miles above.
That just about covers it! Are you ready to blast off into the night sky and explore what lies beyond our solar system? What planet are you headed to first? Let me know in the comments below!