I think all Disney parents understand me when I say that a height requirement is just one step in a list of many when determining whether or not a ride is fit for your child. Every kid is different; some love the Tower of Terror while others cry on It’s a Small World (I kind of get it). And most of the time, you have no idea where your child will fall on the thrill-seeking spectrum until they buckle up and give them a go for themselves. Before we left for Disney World in February of 2023, we measured Ryder to get a better idea of the rides he would be able to enjoy. To our surprise, he was just over 42 inches, which meant that he qualified for most of the rides at Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando. In Ryan’s mind, it was a massive win; we would really get the most out of our six-day stay in Florida. But I had my fears. Would Ryder really be up for the Tower of Terror? Could he seriously stomach The Escape from Gringott’s over at Universal? And even scarier, what was I getting him into when it came to Cosmic Rewind? Because the first time he rode it, I would be riding it for the first time too. 

My understanding of Cosmic Rewind before riding it was wildly wrong. People kept telling me, “They’ve never used this technology before on a Disney ride,” and that’s true! This is truly a new type of ride. But everyone kept talking about the technology of the cars themselves, not necessarily the train or the track, so I had no idea that we would be riding an indoor coaster.

I presumed that it would be more like Ratatouille – maybe trackless? – just faster, and with super heroes for characters.

Let’s [cosmic] rewind a moment…

…and discuss other Disney World indoor coasters and how they compare to this technology. The truth is, with most Disney coasters, what you *don’t see* is what you get. I realize this doesn’t make much sense, so let me try again. What you assume to be true is true about most Disney indoor (dark) coasters. For example, you expect some dips, some curves, some sudden drops and sharp turns, and this is more often true than it isn’t. Space Mountain’s coaster doesn’t move exceptionally fast, but the unknown and the interstellar atmosphere keep you on the tips of your toes. On Big Thunder, the word that comes to mind is: jerky. Lots of sudden movements, and no matter how many times you’ve ridden it, you can still be thrilled. A personal favorite, Expedition Everest, goes fast and (SURPRISE!) backward. I suppose this ride is the only one that can somewhat compare to Cosmic Rewind due to that “backward” qualifier (Cosmic Rewind is the first and only backward-launch coaster at Disney World). But for the most part, Cosmic Rewind is a different beast entirely. 

Have you ever ridden Escape From Gringotts? That Universal Studios Orlando coaster near Diagon Alley with the huge fire-breathing dragon on top of it? Well, if you have, I want you to close your eyes and retreat back into your memory. Remember how, regardless of your position on the ride, sometimes your car would rotate on the track toward the screen? It made you feel like you were riding in the front few rows rather than in a longer link of cars making up a train. So while your train remained on the tracks, your car spun on the train, and you felt independent of the train itself even though you weren’t. This is what Cosmic Rewind is like, but it happens simultaneously, as the train itself moves full-speed on coaster tracks. At the same time, you’re trying to follow a storyline that is happening all around you—literally in the dark, with specs of light and an awesome soundtrack and a few floating planets. The premise is that you’re going back in time to the moment of the Big Bang; therefore, you are being rewound and spun through space, with the cosmos and explosive elements happening all around you. 

Now, as you can probably tell, this coaster experience is information and sensory overload. You feel like you’re being hurdled through space. And my son, my barely 42-inch four-year-old boy, is a thrill-seeker for sure, but even he looked overwhelmed. I’m not sure “scary” is the word for this ride, unless kids are scared of the dark, in which case this would certainly be scary. I think not knowing where you’re headed is a lot for kids to try to wrap their heads around. But overwhelmed—that’s a great word! Maybe even a perfect word. Ryder felt overwhelmed, and when we got off the ride and stepped back onto steady ground, Ryder turned to me and said, “That was fun, Mommy! But maybe we can ride that next time, when I’m a bigger boy.” 

Hmm. My thrill-seeking boy was not yet impressed by the great-but-intense Guardians of the Galaxy ride in Epcot. Me, on the other hand—it immediately became a top three ride for me. 

Ryder enjoyed every single ride in Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando with the exception of two. Both of them were in Epcot. Cosmic Rewind seemed to be a lot for him, but Test Track was truly just plain uncomfortable. And I’ll be honest. Seeing him get jerked around in our chunky racecar on Test Track, I found myself wondering how he was tall enough for that ride. The seatbelt barely kept him comfortable, and the seats were downright painful. He left the ride and immediately threw up—but that turned out to be a 24-hour stomach bug, so I digress. 

So, is your child ready for Cosmic Rewind?

Here’s what I’ll say. You know your kid better than anyone else; don’t let a height requirement tell you what your child is ready for. Is he squirming when he gets buckled in on Soarin’? Does she throw up her hands on Big Thunder in excitement? Read your child’s cues while at Disney World. Maybe don’t ride Cosmic Rewind first thing in the morning, and just wait to see which rides he or she enjoys in the interim. Just know that Cosmic Rewind isn’t for the faint of heart—and as a five-foot-four adult, I couldn’t be more excited about the thrill! As for Ryder, we’ll take it one Disney vacation at a time.