Take A Break From The Thrill And Relax On Disney World's Most Calming Rides

A visit to Walt Disney World (WDW) can be magical. It can also be overwhelming. When the crowds, sounds, sun, and excitement get to be a little too much, there are rides and experiences at the parks to help calm fried nerves. Some of these are even personal favorites, making them both a relaxing and joyful experience.

On top of being some of the most relaxing attractions at the parks, they're also largely appropriate for little ones, too. Since they're not as overwhelming as other rides, they're less likely to overstimulate kiddos. Some, like "It's a Small World," may even help lull a little one who's having a rough day. At the very least, you'll get some air-conditioned relief.

Guests notoriously refer to several of these attractions as "nap breaks" — which are great for brain health. However, these attractions are still worthwhile to stay awake for even if they aren't thrilling like "Rock 'n' Rollercoaster" or "Flight of Passage." Choices made here are informed by personal experiences at the parks as an Annual Passholder and a person who gets easily overstimulated.

Living with the Land

A slow-moving boat ride in The Land Pavilion at EPCOT, "Living with the Land" is a calming journey through the greenhouses of the pavilion. Here, you'll learn about the ecosystems garnered by EPCOT to promote a more environmentally conscious world. You'll get a closer look at some of the plant and ocean life that is cultivated in the pavilion and later served elsewhere in the parks.

Fans of the PeopleMover will particularly love this ride because it shares a narrator in Mike Brassell. Brassell's soothing voice enhances the ride's calming qualities. As he gently guides you through the intricate Disney ecosystems, you'll learn all about food cycles and wish you could live in the ride's farmhouse set all at the same time.

If you get hungry after the ride (we wouldn't blame you), you may be able to grab some grub at Garden Grill. This character dining experience that sometimes has walk-up availability includes seating that overlooks "Living with the Land" — just in case you missed it already.

Carousel of Progress

Debuted at the New York World's Fair in 1964, the "Carousel of Progress" in Disney's Magic Kingdom takes guests through a series of family scenes across decades in the 20th century. Although people jokingly say this is a great place to take a nap, folks like us who adore the "Carousel of Progress" strongly disagree. After all, "it's a great big beautiful tomorrow" on the inside!

For about 20 minutes, you'll journey through four separate periods in the family's life. The animatronic storytellers let you know what newfound technological advancements awaited them in that period. From electric snap-on lights to the voice-activated oven, you can see how far we have come technologically in less than a century. Although parts of the ride are obviously dated, it's still a fan favorite despite its ever-advancing age.

Not quite as obnoxious as the "It's a Small World" theme song, "It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" may be as big an earworm. Those familiar with the songs and the, at times, hokey dialogue find this attraction doubly relaxing, though newbies may also be lulled into its rotating joy.

Muppet Vision 3D

A 3D film-based attraction in Disney's Hollywood Studios, "Muppet Vision 3D" is a sweet little presentation by the Muppets themselves. See them put together a fun, yet relaxing, showcase as Statler and Waldorf roast the little puppet pals from their balcony.

This attraction is even more special because it was Jim Henson's final directorial and voice acting work (as Kermit) before his death in 1990. The film has been updated a bit through the years since it opened in 1991, but the general chaos of Kermit and the gang remains the same.

While the show has some loud moments, it's still fairly relaxing. It's just a film, after all, with some animatronic puppet work and a live appearance from Sweetums. For Muppets fans in particular, this attraction is frequently a must-visit experience. Not to worry, though, as the theater is never totally full unless it's downpouring outside. There's nearly always plenty of room to relax in the plush theater seats without bumping elbows with other guests.

It's a Small World

This is far from a personal favorite ride. The earworm of a theme song makes it difficult to leave "It's a Small World" in Magic Kingdom without having it stuck in your head for a while. Still, the slow-moving boat ride with the kinda cute and kinda scary animatronic dolls is calm, comparatively speaking.

Vibrant colors envelop you as you float along the "Small World" river and traverse through different parts of the world before arriving at the culmination room that combines them all. "It's a Small World" is a quintessential Disney World ride. Since it's always moving, it also frequently is a walk-on. It rarely has a wait longer than 10 minutes, so when you really need a break without waiting too long, bee-line it to "It's a Small World."

If the wait is a bit too long for a right-now break, pop across the walkway to "PhilHarmagic." This is also a 3D film-based attraction like "Muppet Vision" that takes you through various favorite Disney musical moments.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Forgetting for a moment that there are mild scary elements in this ride, like the canons and splashing effects, "Pirates of the Caribbean" is still fairly tame. This is one of the most calming rides at Magic Kingdom, especially for anyone who loves the smell of the ride (it's a thing). Once again, this is a slow boat ride with slow-moving elements within the frame of a familiar song: "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)."

Despite some of the more eerie effects, such as pirates battling it out, this slow-moving attraction is a favorite for getting out of the heat and park chaos. Especially since the queue quickly takes you into the air-conditioned indoor space, a visit to "Pirates of the Caribbean" is an excellent choice. Even if the line is a bit longer, it's well worth just spending time in line. For reference, the overall average wait time for the ride is about 30 minutes. From personal experience, this is true, though it can also pop down to walk-on status — especially as folks start waiting around for fireworks or parades.

Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival

Over in EPCOT in the Imagination Pavilion is the oft-forgotten Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival, an underrated Disney attraction. This 4D movie attraction inside the Magic Eye Theater shows audiences three shorts in a row with platform seats that move slightly throughout the movies. Think of a mild motion simulator with Mickey and the gang on the screen. The shorts shown during the festival are "Get a Horse," "Feast," and "Piper."

Even if you arrive with some time to kill before the next showing, you can take a seat on the carpet in the gathering area. TVs hung throughout this space show some fascinating information about the history of shorts between Pixar and Disney. You'll learn how many awards they've won, the vastness of the collection, and maybe even reminisce about old favorites.

Plus, you'll often find Mickey Mouse himself doing a meet-and-greet near the entrance of the festival. Before you enter the theater, you can say hi to the Big Cheese, who rarely has a line. There's almost never even a wait to see Mickey because a lot of people don't realize he's over there.

Spaceship Earth

Another personal favorite is "Spaceship Earth" aka The EPCOT Ball Ride, which is another slow-moving dark ride. This one takes you back through time, demonstrating mankind's advancements through the ages. Starting from the Stone Age and ending in Bill Gates' garage, you'll witness the rapid advancement of humanity from your handy time venturing Omnimover. Narrated by Dame Judi Dench, it's easy to see how this gentle ride can lull one into a midday slumber.

Unlike "Pirates of the Caribbean," this ride doesn't have any unsettling elements. The most you'll get is the scent of fire and low-tech fire effects during the short burning of the Great Library of Alexandria scene. Otherwise, you're just coasting at a sometimes glacial pace through history. There are frequent total stops during this ride, too, since it is always moving, often to accommodate passengers just arriving or exiting.

Like with "It's a Small World," "Spaceship Earth" is an excellent option for immediate relief. Whether you're escaping the loud EPCOT day drinkers, the humidity, or need to sit for a minute, you rarely have to wait more than 10 minutes to ride. Also, a fun piece of Disney trivia, this is a terrific place to hide out during a rainstorm since the lines you see on the dome collect rainwater!

Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover

Most folks don't refer to this attraction by its full name, but the PeopleMover is technically called the "Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover." Located over in Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland, this tram takes you through different parts of the park area, including glimpses into attractions like "Spaceship Earth."

You'll spend about 10 minutes aboard the tram as it passes through the land. The seats aren't the most comfortable for WDW rides, though sitting at all is a luxury on a Disney Parks day. Unlike the other attractions we've mentioned so far, this ride is a combination of an indoor and outdoor attraction. You won't get the total comfort of air conditioning for the duration of the ride, though you will get brief moments of respite when you enter tunnel areas.

Surprisingly, the PeopleMover does often have a line. With an average wait of just under 15 minutes for all of 2023, the tram-traction is obviously still getting a lot of attention. A word of warning, though: The queue outside can be deadly hot on a summer afternoon, so time your PeopleMover journey wisely.

Gran Fiesta Tour

Back in EPCOT at the Mexico Pavilion, the "Gran Fiesta Tour," aka "The Three Caballeros Ride," is a gentle boat ride adventure to find Donald. Between the music, the atmosphere, and the very slow-moving boat, the "Gran Fiesta Tour" is easily one of the most calming rides in all of Disney World. Unlike the PeopleMover, the queue is virtually nonexistent. Even when there is a line, it's rarely over five or 10 minutes, and in the borderline too-cold A/C of the Mexico Pavilion, you won't mind a wait.

At about seven minutes long, the "Gran Fiesta Tour" isn't a long, calming duration. Even so, its positionality on the World Showcase, where other rides can have waits over 90 minutes, makes it one of the best attractions. You can easily duck (pun intended) into the ride for a quick breather in the air conditioning to get away from the noise. The day drinking phenomenon around the World Showcase can get overwhelming, which is why the Mexico Pavilion as a whole is a personal favorite place to decompress.

When you're done with the ride, stick around near the front of the pavilion. You'll discover an area dedicated to Dia de los Muertos and the film "Coco." You can even design your skeleton persona before returning to the heat and crowds of EPCOT.

The Haunted Mansion

Like "Pirates of the Caribbean," "The Haunted Mansion" has scary elements. However, the slow-moving dark ride is still significantly more calming than most rides at Disney World. In Magic Kingdom, this ride transports you through the mystical haunted mansion to tunes like "Grim Grinning Ghosts (The Screaming Song)." The absolute personal favorite, "The Haunted Mansion" is always worth the wait even in a sticky Florida summer.

Unlike "Pirates," however, "The Haunted Mansion" usually has a long wait time. The average wait time for all of 2023 was roughly 40 minutes per day. So, this ride can bring some calm to your WDW day, but it will take a while to achieve. It also may not be suitable for younger kids who aren't used to creepy aesthetics. Also, during the "Stretching Room" scene at the beginning of the ride, there is almost always a guest who screams bloody murder near the end of the narration. Cover little ones' ears when the narrator says, "There's always my way" to help negate any terror caused by other guests.

The Seas with Nemo & Friends

If the other rides so far are calming, they've got nothing on "The Seas with Nemo & Friends," which has an aquarium after the ride exit. Located in EPCOT's Seas Pavilion, this slow-moving ride brings you along to look for Nemo. It ends with the adorable song "In the Big Blue World" as you look in on some aquarium fish. Once exiting the ride, you can go through the aquarium area for even more relaxing fishy-gazing or watching the manatees, which is a personal favorite part.

It'll often take longer to walk the queue inside than it will to actually wait in line. "The Seas with Nemo" is usually a walk-on ride. The whole Seas Pavilion makes for a good midday break between the ride itself and the aquarium. You can easily spend an hour here with the fish (and the air conditioning) if you want to. Though there is woefully little seating in the aquarium area, if you need to sit for a while, check out "Turtle Talk with Crush" before heading out.

Jungle Cruise

Endearing bad jokes aside, "Jungle Cruise" at Magic Kingdom is a fairly relaxing little venture. Once again, you're on a boat, this time meandering through the water to see animatronic animals and not-fake-laughing at your Skipper's 20th cringy pun. Even if it feels longer as the jokes get worse and worse (in the best way), "Jungle Cruise" lasts a little less than 10 minutes.

This won't get you out of the heat, though, as this is an outdoor ride. Still, bopping along the river will bring some relief on a hot day. Just try to get a seat closer to the front of the boat if you're a first-time rider since the engine near the back makes it hard to hear your Skipper.

Like "The Haunted Mansion," "Jungle Cruise" is a big favorite ride. That means it's nearly always a longer wait. The average daily wait time for 2023 was 50 minutes, so try to plan your day accordingly if you want to ride "Jungle Cruise." Your best bet is riding during parades, shows, and fireworks. Otherwise, try to scurry over at the park open or close for shorter waits.

Kilamanjaro Safaris

Finally, over in Animal Kingdom, the "Kilimanjaro Safaris" bring you through the park's zoo areas to see African animals in a curated wild environment. You may see giraffes right up next to your vehicle, spot lions napping in the sun, or watch a bloat of hippos relaxing in the water.

Since there are fewer rides at Animal Kingdom than at the other WDW parks, wait times can be longer. Since "Kilimanjaro Safaris" is a more popular attraction, the wait is, on average, about 30 minutes. That said, Animal Kingdom is also often the hottest of the WDW parks. The safari is a calming ride if the weather isn't scorching hot. During the summer or hotter days, the wait for the safari can make it more grueling than calming.

Even so, if you can manage to get through the line intact, the attraction is a favorite for good reason. Your safari guide can tell you all about the animals as you see them roaming around, and no two safaris are ever the same.

Na'vi River Journey

Last but certainly not least is Animal Kingdom's relaxing boat ride, "Na'vi River Journey." Flowing gently through the rivers of Pandora alongside the Na'vi, you can experience the effervescent planet. Accompanied by airy music, this ride is practically a dedication to calm itself.

When it first opened, the ride had astronomical wait times. Although it can still have a long wait, it frequently jumps below 30 minutes throughout the day. At least half to a third of the queue is inside, which brings some relief if you have a longer wait.

Even if you don't like the film "Avatar," "Na'vi River Journey" will mesmerize you. Visual effects for this ride are top-notch, down to the unbelievable "The Shaman of Songs" animatronic. "Na'vi River Journey" is the most fun when you are riding along with a toddler or baby, as they are beyond enchanted by the lights, sounds, and gentle sway along the river.

How we picked this list

As someone easily overwhelmed by sensory overload, many of these attractions are personal favorites. Whether it's gotten too chaotic elsewhere in the park or folks just need an air conditioner break, these attractions are delightful spots to hang out for a while. These attractions are also vastly different from one another. Some, like "Spaceship Earth," are actual rides, while others, like "Muppet Vision," are movie attractions.

Our choices reflect rides for a wider range of parkgoers by varying the offerings. From families with little kids who want to make good use of the 20 minutes of A/C in the "Carousel of Progress" to folks who love Disney/Pixar animation, even the pickiest WDW guest will find something on this list to appeal to their calming needs. Or, perhaps you'll find a new favorite ride that can bring you peace during a hectic day and spark joy like "The Haunted Mansion" does for us.