Terror-iffic Fun! – Exploring the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror!

Posted:  Parks Recreation

The story begins as you turn the corner onto Sunset Boulevard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  The dilapidated, yet still grand Hollywood Tower Hotel looms over you in the distance.

Exterior picture of the Tower of Terror

You can tell that in its heyday, the building was once a luxurious hotspot for the elite; however, the cracks and fading of the building’s exterior become more apparent as you approach the gates.

Exterior picture of the Tower of Terror

As you get closer, an interesting mix of anticipation, dread, and curiosity starts to take hold of your mind.  Though it is faint, your ears make out what seems to be screams in the distance.  Though your heart is starting to beat a little faster, you continue making your way to the entrance of the hotel grounds. Once you arrive, gloomy bellmen standby, waiting to welcome you as you pass through the wrought-iron gates.

Tower of Terror sign

Though it is overgrown, the garden path to the hotel’s entrance is still quite beautiful.  Lush, green foliage has overtaken the grounds, twisting and turning around lampposts, railings, and statues.

You pass under a pergola covered with intertwining vines that sits over a now empty fountain.  Other hotel patrons gather around as they await their chance to enter the lobby.

Garden vines and plants around the Tower of Terror

As you make your way through the doors and enter the hotel lobby, it’s as if you have been transported to the past.  The once grandiose, lavish lobby, is now covered in cobwebs, seemingly frozen in another time.  The abandoned front desk overlooks the wilted plants, dusty furnishings, and eerie statues and carvings. Forgotten luggage cases and suitcases are left piled in the corners, and the mystery of what may lie ahead seems to crackle in the atmosphere as you are directed through the hotel.

Tower of Terror lobby Tower of Terror lobby

The guest elevators are out of order, yet the bellmen will be happy to assist you with using the service elevator to get to your room.  As seats are limited, you are instructed to wait in the library.

Out of Order Elevator at the Tower of Terror

Building directory at the Tower of Terror

The shelves are lined with dusty volumes and knick-knacks, with a small television in the corner of the room.  Your exploration of the library is cut short as the lights suddenly go out!  The television covers the room in a wash of dim light, as Rod Serling appears on the screen to tell the haunting, mysterious story of the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

Library television at the Tower of Terror

As a storm seems to stir up outside the library windows, we learn that on a night full of glitz and glamour in 1939, some of the hotel’s most illustrious guests entered the elevator after a party.  A tumultuous storm raged outside that night, and as lighting struck the building, the guests riding the elevator were never seen again!

No one knows exactly what happened, but it is believed that they entered The Twilight Zone.  The hotel was closed, and has been abandoned – until now!  The time has come for you to retrace the steps of the missing guests and explore the happenings of The Twilight Zone yourself!

Service elevator entrance to the Tower of Terror

A member of the hotel staff leads you from the library through the back hallways and to the service elevators. Once you’re seated, the bellman ensures that you’re strapped in tightly…you never know what unexpected events may happen on the journey!

Bellhop at the Tower of Terror

service elevator entrance to the Tower of Terror

As the elevator rises, the doors open, and the ghostly guests who disappeared in the hotel elevator appear.  Lightning strikes again, as the otherworldly hallway returns to darkness.  The elevator proceeds to travel further up the hotel tower, and Rod Serling’s narration continues: “you are about to discover what lies beyond the fifth dimension, beyond the deepest, darkest corner of the imagination…in the Tower of Terror.”

The Florida heat permeates the elevator shaft, yet you are still surrounded by darkness.  All of a sudden, the elevator car starts to vibrate with excitement.  The car begins to move, but you find yourself disoriented as you’ve reached the point of no return.  There’s no turning back now, you’ve entered the Twilight Zone!

Exterior nighttime picture of the Tower of Terror

The elevator car speeds up and down through the height of the Tower of Terror, as the guests around you scream in both fear and delight!  Some are hanging on to their seats (or loved ones) for dear life, while others have their arms raised to enjoy the sensation of the free-fall fully!

The drop sequence in the Twilight Zone cannot be predicted, as it is completely randomized.  After a few moments, you just don’t know which way is up!

As you reach the top of the tower, the windows open, and you get a quick, bird’s eye glimpse of the park you came in from.

Exterior picture of the Tower of Terror

Soon enough, the elevator slows and comes to a halt in a creepy, dimly lit storage room in the back hallways of the Hollywood Tower Hotel.  “A warm welcome back to those of you who made it” rings in your ears as you catch your breath after your experience.  You’ve conquered the fifth dimension and have successfully made your way back from the Twilight Zone!  You gather your belongings and exit the elevator doors, rushing to check-out of the hotel!

As you make your way to the exit, you’ll have the chance to view the memory of your trip to the Twilight Zone that the hotel staff have been kind enough to capture!  Oh yes, they took your picture, and it is great fun to check out everyone’s reactions to the drops you experienced just moments ago!

Ride picture from the Tower of Terror

Beyond that, you’ll find the hotel’s gift shop, where you can find a variety of souvenirs, including Hollywood Tower Hotel towels, mugs, front desk bells, do not disturb signs, T-shirts, and more!

Gift shop at the Tower of Terror

Gift shop at the Tower of Terror

It’s now time to make your way back out into the Florida sunshine, with the stormy night of 1939 behind you.  If you’re anything like me though, you’re going to make your way back to the gates of the tower as soon as you can for another trip to the Twilight Zone!

Exterior picture of the Tower of Terror with the Standby wait time showing

From check-in to check-out, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is, in my opinion, one of the best rides at Walt Disney World!  The Imagineers have gone above and beyond to give guests an immersive experience that goes further than your average thrill ride.  It is a shining example of storytelling at its finest, as visitors to Hollywood Studios get the chance to live a chilling nightmare set in the golden age of tinsel town’s history.  The amazing atmosphere, spooky story, and heart-pounding free-fall come together for a truly exhilarating ride experience, and I can’t wait for the next chance to visit the Hollywood Tower Hotel!

Tower of Terror flag


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