Soarin’ for your Highly Sensitive Child

Will your highly sensitive child enjoy Soarin’ Around the World?

Are you planning a trip to Disney World and asking yourself, “will my highly sensitive or sensory sensitive child enjoy Soarin’ Around the World”?

Then you’ve come to the right place!

Soarin’ Around the World, or otherwise referred to as just Soarin’, is found at Epcot inside the Land Pavillion. The Land Pavillion is also known for the popular character meal at Garden Grill and the Living with the Land ride. 

Soarin’ is a simulated hang glider tour of the world, inside a 180 degree, 80-foot diameter IMAX digital projection dome. The places you get to “visit” while riding Soarin’ are experienced in this order:

1) Matterhorn in Italy and Switzerland
2) Isfjord, Greenland
3) Sydney Harbor in Australia
4) Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany
5) Kilimanjaro National Park in Tanzania
6) The Great Wall of China
7) The Great Pyramids of Egypt
8) The Taj Mahal in India
9) Monument Valley in Arizona, USA
10) Lau Islands in Fiji
11) Igauzu Falls in Argentina
12) Eiffel Tower in Paris, France
13) Spaceship Earth at Epcot in Orlando, FL

The origins of the ride came from the Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, CA, where it was an opening day attraction! This version opened in Epcot in 2005 and has become one of the most popular rides at this theme park. There is a 40” height minimum, and this attraction is not recommended for pregnant mamas.

Image of the front of the Land pavilion at Epcot, featuring Soarin', for article about riding Soarin' with a highly sensitive child.
Photo credit: magicguides.com

Previewing Disney World rides on YouTube POV videos is generally helpful. But it is REALLY challenging to get the full picture for Soarin’, as there are a ton of non-visual aspects to this attraction. Let’s break it down with a “Moms Make it Magical” rating, and figure out if Soarin’ will be a good experience for your highly sensitive child.

Sudden Noises 4/5

Highly sensitive kids often startle easily with sudden noises. Soarin’ has quite a few instances where sudden noises might be a problem.

The transitions between scenes are pretty abrupt, and are usually accompanied by sudden sounds. For example, in the Greenland scene, it ends with a large whale jumping out of the water and feeling like you’re about to get splashed on. My daughter, K, really didn’t enjoy that part.

At the end of the Sydney Harbor scene, there is a small but loud aircraft that appears to almost crash into you. There is also a screeching hawk (or eagle?) that appears out of nowhere in Monument Valley scene with the hot air balloons.

Definitely be mindful of these unexpected transitions if your highly sensitive child really dislikes sudden noises. A little reassurance with a squeeze of the hand, and an invitation to close their eyes, might be enough to get through it.

Noise Level 3/5

In addition to sudden noises, the noise level can impact whether your highly sensitive child will enjoy a ride or not. Soarin’ is not too loud overall—the background soundtrack music is awesome, and I know there are lots of Disney goers who are huge fans of this specific soundtrack.

However, there are small moments here and there, where the noise level is much higher. The splash of the whale breaching in Greenland. The small aircraft motor while flying over Sydney, Australia. The screeching bird in Arizona. And the loudest of all is the finale, when you are flying towards Epcot’s Spaceship Earth with fireworks booming all around you. K had shut her eyes for pretty much this whole scene!

Darkness 2/5

Some children, especially highly sensitive ones, are more fearful of the dark. There are some who don’t enjoy any indoor dark rides at all. Soarin’ shouldn’t be too bad for those who don’t like being in the dark. Once you start “flying”, the scenes are mostly brightly lit aside from the Eiffel Tower and Spaceship Earth, which are set at nighttime.

There are some areas of the queue that are a little darker, including the pre-show. And it is also a bit dark when you first enter the projection dome to get to your seat. But it is not pitch-black by any means. 

Bright & Flashing Lights 2/5

Bright and flashing lights can be extremely bothersome to some highly sensitive kids. While on Soarin’, the scenes are brightly lit and your visual stimulation is definitely off the charts! But, it’s mostly pleasant.

The whiteness of the icebergs of Greenland might appear extra bright to your highly sensitive child. And the fireworks scene at the end does have a small element of flashing and brightness that might bother your child.

Aside from those two scenes, your child with light sensitivity should be able to enjoy the other parts of the Soarin’ experience.

Speed 2/5

Soarin’ does a very realistic job of simulating the sensation of speed while riding your “hang glider”. However, you are not actually physically moving quickly at all. The way the scenes are filmed along with the effects of feeling wind on your face easily makes you feel like you are flying quickly. But it is not going to feel like you are on Test Track or Space Mountain!

Drops 2/5

Highly sensitive kids might not enjoy the thrilling sensations on typical rollercoasters. Soarin’ is much milder than true rollercoasters because you are not physically moving much at all!

There are no real “drops” throughout Soarin’. Still, there are a few scenes where it does feel like your hang glider is flying downwards fast. For instance, while you are flying over the Great Wall of China, you suddenly lurch forward and it feels like you are speeding down along the path of those brick walls.

Some children could experience a slight sense of motion sickness, or that “weird feeling in your tummy”. Soarin’ does have a sign outside of the queue that suggests you should not ride if you are prone to motion sickness or have a fear of heights. But because it is a simulator, closing your eyes can help reduce the overall feeling of drops and movement. 

“Scary” Visuals 1/5

Highly sensitive kids are easily impacted by “scary” visuals. The overall content on Soarin’ is not too scary in itself. A lot of the scenes are actually quite beautiful. Your highly sensitive child may appreciate and enjoy the beauty and majesty of the world captured in this film.

However, as mentioned before, some of the abrupt transitions between scenes might feel scary to some kids. These include: the whale jumping out of the water, the near collision with a small plane and an eagle, and the final scene of flying straight into fireworks. But you won’t see any villains, violence, or conflict.

Proximity to Others 4/5

Some highly sensitive kids dislike feeling like they are in a big crowd, or in close proximity to strangers. It can feel overwhelming, and even claustrophobic for some. In Soarin’, there is a good chance of sitting close to strangers, unless you are riding with a large group and/or sitting near the end of a row. When K and I rode together, we had strangers to our left and right, but that didn’t bother her too much.

The seating is arranged in rows of 7 to 11 seats (depending on the section and row), with seats right next to each other. There are three sections—left, middle, and right—with three rows in each section. The least obstructed view will be in the front row of the middle section. Despite that, sitting in the this part is described to be the “most intense” experience as well.

Strong Smells 4/5

Disney is SO immersive that they use as many of your senses to make you feel like you are transported elsewhere. Smell is one of them! And highly sensitive kids are definitely aware of any changes of scents around them.

Soarin’ is one of those attractions that uses smells to fully immerse you into the ride experience. You’ll notice the smell of rose blossoms while you fly towards the Taj Mahal in India. During the African scene where the elephants are running, there is an aroma of grass in the air. And a breezy, tropical ocean scent is apparent while you go over the beautiful islands in Fiji.

The smells are really pleasant, in my opinion, but there are some people who feel nauseated around ANY strong fragrances, so take note of that!

Wetness 0/5

Getting wet on rides can be a totally unpleasant surprise for some highly sensitive kids. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about getting wet on Soarin’! Even though there are scenes where you are flying above water, there is no chance of getting wet.

Total 24/50

How do we understand the rating? A lower score means less sensory overload, while a higher score means a greater likelihood of being overwhelmed and overstimulated. It is clear that Soarin’ is filled with many new and unfamiliar sensations!

If your highly sensitive kids don’t do well with motion simulators, are really bothered by loud and abrupt transitions, don’t want to sit close to strangers, and are nauseated by any type of strong smells, this might be one you skip. But Soarin’ could be a good one to try as your kids explore slightly more thrilling rides… and give them reassurance that they can close their eyes or hold your hand, during the parts that make them feel nervous. 

K rode this was when she was 4.5 years old. She didn’t cry or meltdown during it, but it was obvious that she didn’t enjoy it because she refused to go again while my husband and I did rider switch. Her least favorite parts were the whale jumping out, and the fireworks. Now that she’s a little older, she is willing to try it again during our future trips to Disney World. We’ll see how she takes it this time around!

What has YOUR experience been on Soarin’ Around the World? Do you love it or hate it? Is it on your list of must-dos for your visit to Epcot? Join my private Facebook Group to share your opinion, ask questions, and get more tips on planning your Disney trip with your highly sensitive kids! And follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to get updates on my latest content.

And don’t forget to download your FREE copy of my must-have Disney ride planning tool! Use it so you can easily keep track of which rides you want to avoid and which you want to try with your highly sensitive kids. It will make planning your park days SO much easier! It is an editable and fillable PDF file, but there is an option to print a blank copy so you can fill it out by hand. 

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