Location: Frontierland, Disneyland
Opening Date: September 2, 1979
Height requirement: 40″ or taller
Who it’s for: Any thrill seekers, but especially gold prospectors
Ride Length: 3 minutes
Fun Fact: The miniature town at the end of the ride is called Rainbow Ridge and was an original attraction when Disneyland opened.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (often referred to as “Big Thunder” or just “Thunder”) is one of the “four mountains” of Disneyland. Big Thunder is a thrilling roller coaster themed to a fictional gold rush town. Much like the gold rush towns of the Wild West, there was no gold to be found and now all that is left is an abandoned mine train to take you on a thrilling ride.
Big Thunder is one of the works of Imagineer Tony Baxter, who led the design of many of the best attractions from the 1980’s until his retirement. The original attraction was greatly enhanced in 2013, when the entire track was replaced, and fantastic new special effects were added to the final lift hill. These renovations added some new excitement to the ride, and elevate Disneyland’s version of this ride above the Big Thunder Mountains at other Disney parks.
The Official Word
If you’re interested in the official spiel, here’s how Disney’s site describes the attraction:
Hang Onto Yer Hats!
Legend has it that after gold was discovered in the 1850s, eerie incidents took place in the mine. Trains would take off and race through tunnels… by themselves.
As you enter the cursed cavern, your train speeds up along the rickety track. Shoot under a booming waterfall and dodge a falling boulder from an unexpected landslide as you swoop around sharp turns and drop into desolate canyons.
On this rip-roaring adventure, you may learn that some legends turn out to be true…Official Disneyland Website
Big Thunder is a favorite of mine! It’s probably one of the rides I go on most often at Disneyland. I tend to prefer outdoor roller coaters (like Thunder) to indoor coasters (like Space Mountain). It’s also a great light coaster — there are no inversions, corkscrews, or other “wild” features which you’d find at a thrill park. Like all Disney attractions, Thunder focuses on theming and mild thrills versus trying to shake your brain out.
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