(October 1, 1971 - present)
History and photos of the Tomorrowland Speedway ride in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
Located in the corner of Tomorrowland and on the edge of Fantasyland is the Tomorrowland Speedway, an interactive driving ride that lets youngsters drive a gasoline engine car around a guided track. Drivers are responsible for operating the gas pedal and also some of the steering.
The concept for the Tomorrowland Speedway dates back to July 17, 1955 and the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Known as the Autopia in Disneyland, that original version of the ride represented the future of the American roads and multilane highways. Construction on the national Interstate Highway System would not be authorized until the following year in the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956.
Anyway, the original version of the Autopia ride was used as an educational tool to teach kids not only about the Interstate Highway System but driving in general. This was actually more interesting than it sounded because unlike today's versions of the ride around the world, the first version of the ride at Disneyland did NOT have a guide rail for the cars. The *drivers* were completely responsible for controlling their cars, and the cars themselves were constantly beaten and abused. It didn't take long before the cars were fitted with spring-loaded bumpers, and a guide rail was installed along the track.
The Disneyland version of the car ride had multiple changes and relocations throughout the years. By the late 1960s the ride was still popular with the crowds. The Disney Imagineers planned for a duplicate version to be built in the new Magic Kingdom theme park under construction at Walt Disney World in central Florida.
The Grand Prix Raceway opened with the rest of the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971. Instead of focusing on freeways and the Interstate Highway System, the Magic Kingdom's version of the ride instead focused on racing. The racetrack was themed to an international speedway and the kids became amateur racecar drivers.
The Grand Prix Raceway has only seen minor changes here and there throughout its history. The track was initially expanded two years later in 1973, but it was slightly shortened in 1987 to make way for Mickey's Birthdayland. The track would again be slightly altered in early 2011 to make room for the expansion of Fantasyland in what used to be Mickey's ToonTown Fair.
Tomorrowland received a major upgrade to become New Tomorrowland in 1994, but this change wouldn't be reflected in the Grand Prix Raceway for a few more years. Around 1997 the ride was renamed the Tomorrowland Speedway, and it was given some new racing theming. The ride would be renamed a few years later in 2000 to that of the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway.
The conversion from Tomorrowland Speedway to the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway began in 1999 with the partnership between the Walt Disney Company and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Now instead of having generic racing theming, the racetrack had theming specific to the Brickyard including the Yards of Bricks, the Scoring Pylon, and the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway winged logo. However, the cars themselves still maintained that classic look from 1971.
In early 2009 the ride's name was changed back to the Tomorrowland Speedway.
The experience for the Tomorrowland Speedway attraction begins with approaching a structure that looks like it belongs more on a racetrack than in one of the world's busiest theme parks. The line queue snakes back and forth in the structure before going outside and then up and over the track itself. Take note that this part of the line queue involves climbing and then descending a flight of stairs. The same occurs again when exiting the ride.
Drivers must be at least 32" / 81 cm tall to drive a car, and 54" / 137 cm to drive a car solo. I don't know if this is still true today, but the workers used to allow kids as young as toddlers to sit behind the wheel and "steer" while mom or dad sat next to them and controlled the gas pedal (and usually helped with steering, too).
A steel rail along the middle of each of the four lanes physically keeps the car in its lane, so there's no worry about drifting into other lanes of traffic. Drivers are responsible for turning the wheel enough to maintain a smooth ride, otherwise it'll be a rather jarring experience each time you hit the center rail. It's also up to the driver to use the gas pedal and move the car along the track. The cars only reach a top speed of 7.5 mph, but it's still thrilling enough for the younger drivers.
Some people think that it's best to go as slowly as possible around the track so that their ride lasts a little bit longer. Do NOT use this technique. Be considerate of the cars behind you. Those people waited their turn in line just as long as you did. Do not ruin their experience just because you feel like being selfish. Keep your foot on the gas and the car moving at full speed around the track, just as it's intended. You're always welcome to get back in line and ride the Tomorrowland Speedway as many times as you desire.
Tomorrowland Speedway continues to be very popular with kids, preteens and young teenagers. This is an opportunity to drive a car, and many of them love the experience, even if it's slightly limited. It's still a racecar and they have fun driving around the track. That being said, the Tomorrowland Speedway is normally busiest from late morning through the mid to late afternoon. As the sun sets, so do the crowds. If you want to avoid the long lines, then ride this attraction in the morning or later at night.
|HEIGHT REQUIREMENT||You must be 32" / 81 cm to ride the Tomorrowland Speedway, 54" / 137 cm to ride it alone.|
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