Big Thunder vs. Space Mountain

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Orlando may be flat as a pancake, but Disney World Orlando is filled with mountain peaks! With so many mountains to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which is best – which is why it pays to plan ahead. Big Thunder vs. Space Mountain is precisely what we’re talking about.

Today, we’re taking a look at two exceptional and mountainous roller coasters to decide which is best! Of course, that’s just the opinion of this Nerd – you’ll never find a consensus among any group of people on this issue. But it’s still a fun exercise!   

So, will our winner be a classic minecart ride through the Wild West that has held strong as a favorite for 40 years? Or will it be a newer, high-speed, science fiction thriller through outer space? That’s right, it’s Big Thunder vs. Space, the Battle of the Mountains! (I’m sorry Splash Mountain and Matterhorn, maybe you’ll make it into the competition next time).  

Big Thunder vs. Space Mountain Criteria 1: The Line Experience 

Our first category is the experience of waiting in line. These popular mountain rides usually often have wait times in excess of 30 minutes, which means an entertaining and on–theme waiting area can make the wait less painful. But more importantly, a great line experience can build anticipation, tell a story, provide enteratinment, and get riders more emotionally invested in the adventure that awaits once the ride begins. 

Both Big Thunder and Space Mountain utilize creative and amusing decorations. Big Thunder Mountain offers beautiful scenery to reinforce its western theme. The ride blends seamlessly with the surrounding area and walking through the hills of mine country is a deeply immersive experience. By the time you arrive at your mining car you’ll feel like you really are in the Wild West. The glimpses you get of runaway minecars racing past (and the screams of their delighted occupants) builds excitement. 

There is a story behind Big Thunder Mountain, and you gather details mostly through osmosis as you wind through the scenic line. According to the story, Big Thunder Mountain used to be an old mineshaft from the 1800s, and the railroad was used to transport gold along the track. However, after an earthquake devastated the town, the mineshaft and the town were abandoned and left to rust. Many years later, the railroad was found to be moving on its own, and riders can ride along the possessed railcars. Again, the ghostly story of Big Thunder Mountain isn’t directly told to the guests, but the atmosphere surrounding the hints at the story and adds an air of mystery.   

Space Mountain takes a more direct approach in its decorations, story, and style. As a Star Wars fan, the Nerd loves to experience what it feels like to be in the Star Wars universe and Space Mountain does a great job of achieving a Star Wars-esque experience. The waiting area creates genuine anticipation and excitement as you approach the loading point. From the moment you walk through the doors, you immediately feel like you are a rebel pilot fighting against the evil First Order. Even the safety videos shown in the waiting area feature Admiral Ackbar in all his holographic glory. Despite the generally longer wait time, it’s hard not to be entertained throughout. 

This Nerd rates Big Thunder Mountain Railroad an 8.5/10 for its “line experience”. This Nerd rates Space Mountain a 9/10 for its “line experience”. While both rides provide a great sense of mood and atmosphere, the small attention to detail and the stronger storyline make Hyperspace Mountain the better experience. On Hyperspace Mountain, the long wait isn’t just bearable – it’s fun. 

Big Thunder vs. Space Mountain Criteria 2: The Ride Experience 

Big Thunder Mountain is a classic Disney theme park ride and there are many for whom no other ride is better. The thrill of the Old West, coupled with Disney’s impeccable attention to detail, is hard to beat. The set is beautiful and realistic and natural. The thrill of looking out over the reddish-orange buttes of Big Thunder while speeding though caverns is a foundational theme park experience for many Nerdlings. It is a smooth and timeless ride.  

That said, Big Thunder Mountain is relatively mild for a ride of its caliber, topping out at just 35 miles per hour (56 kilometers per hour). This is where personal taste will play a strong role, because there are some who prefer a little more speed, noise, and even fear in their roller coasters. While Big Thunder hints at all those things, it is a qualitatively different type of roller coaster than Space Mountain. 

Space Mountain definitely lives up to the “hyper” part of its name. The fully-enclosed indoor track plunges riders into the dark, mimicking the feeling of flying through outer space. The use of visual effects are creative and create the sensation of zooming through the Galaxy alongside a platoon of X wings. This completely immersive experience was and remains unique, and frankly, it never gets old. Reaching high speeds of 44 miles per hour (71 kilometers per hour), the ride noticeably faster than Big Thunder, especially when couples with the ride’s sharp turns and rapid accelerations are a guaranteed thrill. The ride is also notably louder, adding to the sense of chaos and excitement. 

This Nerd rates Big Thunder Mountain Railroad a 9.5/10 for ride experience. This Nerd rates Space Mountain a 8.5/10 for ride experience. As someone who appreciates scenery and nature, this Nerd is always moved by the detailed set of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

This was a tough decision for The Nerd, as Space Mountain is, in this Nerd’s opinion, a more exciting ride. However, when compared with classic, genuine beauty of the Big Thunder Mountain experience, Space Mountain’s reliance on darkness, speed, noise and visual effects start to feel like they’re just hiding something. 

Big Thunder vs. Space Mountain Final Verdict 

These are both truly outstanding rides that will continue to withstand the test of time. But since we need a winner, this Nerd announces that the victor of the Battle of the Mountains is …. 

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad!  

The masterfully crafted set combined with a smooth and sensational ride are what have made Big Thunder such an iconic attraction. Although it was an extremely close call, it looks like the minecart beat the spaceship in this challenge. 

Let us know if you agree! 

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