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Disney's Newest Thrill: Expedition Everest

Adventure to Mount Everest in the Heart of Orlando, Florida

by Jessica Howell

The ninety-degree weather and sticky summer humidity confirmed the fact that we were in Central Florida, but one glance at our surroundings was cause for a much-deserved double take. Somehow, after a morning of exploration through Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park, we'd landed ourselves smack in the center of Serka Zong, a tiny village that rests in the Himalayas, nestled at the base of looming Mount Everest.

Of course, the village is technically a replica and this Mount Everest is made of 1,800 tons of computer-molded steel, not layer upon layer of ancient metamorphic rock. Small difference, really.

Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom

Tashi's General Store and Bar, Norbu and Bob's Himalayan Escapes, replicated Himilayan homesteads and a proud, yet slightly decrepit museum are scattered throughout the mythical village - created after months of detail oriented research and a lengthy trek by Disney Imagineers (clever Mickey slang for "engineer") to house the park's newest roller coaster thrill ride, Expedition Everest.

Built as a scaled-down version of Nepal's grand Mount Everest, Disney's snow-capped peak rises nearly 200 feet high. The excursion up the mountain, courtesy of the Anandapur Rail Service (a rickety railway that holds 34 passengers,) might be a scenic, relaxing one, but word on Serka Zong's twisted pathways is that the rail service might disrupt the widely feared, legendary yeti -oversized and hairy protector of Nepal's sacred landmark. Then again, you've made it this far, why not chance it?

The train begins its ascent passing haphazard signs that warn of danger and serious peril scattered among tokens of yeti memorabilia, left behind in hopes to appease the monster. In the tattered train cars you're carried up, up, up - allowing gorgeous views of the park as you cross over a bridge to the mountain's many sharp peaks.

The fast, fun ride (just over three minutes) winds you in and out of the mountain's rocky terrain, only to find half-way through that the tracks have been ripped from the ground by the menacing yeti - whose shadow looms eerily close by - and he doesn't look happy.

In an unexpected move (we certainly want to avoid that scary thing) the train brakes to a sudden, screeching stop, then races backwards through the cool, foggy mountain air in a race to avoid the monster's wrath.

Don't think you've seen the last of the yeti, however, as he makes a second appearance before the ride's end - coupled with an 80 foot drop (Expedition Everest's prime thriller) before being transported (whew! - in one piece) back to the train station.

Coaster Thrills: the yeti has torn the tracks!

An exhilarating coaster and great mid-day pick-me-up for Disney-goers, Expedition Everest is a fascinating look at modern-day Himalayan culture and life. The kids will dig the yeti lore and adults will marvel at the Imagineer's ability to recreate the tiny village with startling authenticity. In fact, you'll find over 900 bamboo plans and 120 species of Himalayan greenery transplanted in Florida's soil.

Keep eyes open for other details too - 2,000 handcrafted Asian goods were imported as Serka Zong props for the ride's Spring 2006 opening. You'll be able to get a good look at them as you meander through the museum during your wait in line for the ride. A FastPass line is also available, but we found that time flew by as we admired the yeti memorabilia, hiker's equipment and clever, authentic touches.

For near-by accommodations, consider Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, a safari lodge resort whose guestrooms provide unmatched, close-up views of animals like giraffes and zebras roaming in resort-exclusive savannahs. The resort also boasts three restaurant options: upscale Jiko, buffet style Boma and pool-side cafeteria style Mara - all of which offer food selections varied enough to satisfy the pickiest of eaters. An 11,000 square foot pool is filled to the brim with cool, turquoise waters and looks out over the Uzuima Savannah - friendly to both kids and adults, and worth the mad scramble for key location lounge chairs.

Park-wide free bus transportation got us to the theme park from our hotel in about five minutes and run every 20 minutes.
Not bad timing for a globe-spanning jaunt to Nepal.

Fast Facts: Expedition Everest
Roller coaster thrill ride
Theme Park:

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Highest Point:
Near 200 feet
Rider Height:

44 inches

Just over three minutes
Nearby Rides:

Maharajah Jungle Trek
Kali River Rapids


Nearby Lodging:

Disney's Animal Kingdom Resort

Spring 2006
FastPass Line:


Find Out More:

To find out more on leaving Disney and trekking Nepal - for real - click here.