My favorite theme park ride vehicles

Theme park ride vehicles come in all different sorts of shapes and sizes. They have the ability to create various sensations and trick our minds into believing we’re experiencing something that may just be an illusion. A lot of the time, the ride vehicles become part of the story that the ride is telling. Here are a few of my favorite different styles of theme park ride vehicles.

Ever since the first time I rode Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye at Disneyland, I was completely obsessed with its ride vehicle. This Enhanced Motion Vehicle may look like a regular truck, but it has the ability to create bumps and curves in the road that don’t actually exist by use of the motion simulator onboard the vehicle. Using motion simulator technology that typically has you remaining in one location aboard an actual moving vehicle created a new and fantastic sensation that really makes you feel like you’re on an adventure.

Another detail that I always appreciate aboard a ride vehicle is an onboard audio system. The moves of the truck and simulator in perfect sync with the onboard music makes you feel like you’re actually driving through an Indiana Jones movie.

While most ride vehicles use a track on the ground, one sensation that many folks seem to have fallen in love with is the idea of hanging from above, instead. This technique is often used to create the sensation of flight. Whether it’s flying off to Neverland in a boat or bicycling through the air to bring E.T. back to his home planet, most folks love the sensation of flying. But using a ceiling track can be used for various other reasons, including my favorite example.

This one brings us back to the early days of Universal Studios Florida and their Kongfrontation attraction. Guests would board an open-air aerial tram vehicle. As a kid, I do remember this absolutely freaked me out as I had a fear of heights. But I also remember feeling as though this ride experience was unlike any other, and I absolutely loved it. As we were suspended, gliding through the streets of New York and eventually confronting King Kong, this ride vehicle had the ability to raise and lower us from great heights in order to create the illusion of our transportation being knocked off course by Kong. It was a super-smooth ride vehicle with a lot of thrills, and I still miss it to this day.

theme park ride vehicle - harry potter and the forbidden journey

I think the most surprising ride vehicle I’ve ever been on is used in Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The KUKA robocoaster technology used to create the sensation of flight is actually connected to the floor instead of the typical ceiling track. This ride system pivots the seats being held above the ground track using a robotic arm. This mind-blowing technology allows for the ride vehicle to move in almost any way imaginable. At some points you’re flying through the air in a typical seated position and the next you’re laying flat on your back. Although there a lot of portions in this ride where you’re looking at a projection screen, my favorite moments would be when I get to fly through traditional dark ride sets, but in a completely different way.

theme park ride vehicle - tower of terror

Another ride system that truly shocked me the first time I rode it belongs to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I knew going into it that the ride system was essentially a souped-up elevator allowing you to fly up, then drop down at speeds faster than gravity, but what I didn’t expect was the forward motion. In the original Tower of Terror, there’s a fifth-dimension sequence that propels your “elevator” forward instead of simply up and down. To this day, I’m sure it still shocks guests if it’s their first time riding. The fact that this ride vehicle begins in one elevator shaft, then moves forward on a trackless path, and then enters a second elevator shaft for the grand finale is still very impressive. It seems so complex that I’m honestly surprised it doesn’t break down more often.

I could go on and on about cool ride vehicles like the untraditional “vehicle” of a spinning theatre in Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, or the Enhanced Motion Vehicles used in The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.

One of my favorite things when it comes to theme park rides is experiencing something new in the most current attractions. Oftentimes it’s finding new ways of using the same types of ride vehicles. It’s always impressive when the perfect mode of transportation is selected for each ride. What are some of your favorite ride vehicles? Leave a comment and let me know.

If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.

Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.