Theme Park Yes or No — Disneyland
Have you spent much time at the Happiest Place on Earth? If not, you may struggle to conceptualize all the entertainment options here.
Disneyland Park features dozens of attractions, and you’ll feel overwhelmed with choices when you visit.
So, we’ve put together a handy list of things to try and even a couple to avoid. Here’s a Theme Park Yes or No for Disneyland Park.
The answer to this one depends on how much you care about theme park history.
During the earliest days of Disneyland, automobiles weren’t yet a widespread industry in America.
So, guests and especially children loved the idea of driving around in cars like they were important grown-ups.
At various points, Disney operated multiple versions of Autopia, all of which proved popular.
Nowadays, Autopia doesn’t offer much. I mean, you’ve driven a car before, right? Even your kids have played video games that allowed them to do that. The stylish theming of the vehicles adds to their appeal. Still, I’d say this one is a no unless you have young children whose eyes light up at the thought of Autopia.
You’ll get the right idea when you think about this railroad, but you won’t appreciate the entirety of it.
In a way, Disneyland Railroad mimics the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover at Magic Kingdom in the way that it provides some surprises.
At one point, you’ll watch the final scene from Splash Mountain. Later, you’ll encounter…dinosaurs. Not even joking.
This railroad packs in a surprising amount of theming during the indoor sections.
You’ll want to try this at least once…and for a full lap around the park!
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
I’m not much of a Finding Nemo fan, although I quite like Finding Dory. That may or may not play a factor in what I’m about to say.
Back in 1959, Disney revamped Tomorrowland with new attractions that it felt were worth a higher price to ride. These were the initial E-ticket attractions.
Submarine Voyage was one of them. It created the illusion that you submerged underwater and sailed around the waters of Tomorrowland.
In reality, no submerging occurred, but the aquatic backdrop provided many happy memories.
Over the years, the ride lost its appeal to most fans, though. So, Disney re-themed it with Finding Nemo and used some of the same elements as The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
Somehow, the EPCOT version of this ride towers above Submarine Voyage in terms of quality.
I say this one’s a pass unless you love the idea of a fake submarine ride or Finding Nemo characters.
You’ll know several Disneyland attractions simply by their names, as they’ve attained iconic status.
In most instances, the Disneyland version of the ride deserves prioritization because it came first.
Also, in some instances, Walt Disney worked on the ride! That’s partially true with Haunted Mansion, an attraction Disney wanted when the park opened.
In reality, Haunted Mansion wouldn’t open until 1969, nearly 15 years later!
You’ll want to ride this one, especially if you’re familiar with the one at Magic Kingdom.
I say this because the rides go in different directions and feature unique segments.
Also, you should definitely ride Haunted Mansion during the holidays if you can.
Usually, the ride shuts down late in August and then reopens around Labor Day as Haunted Mansion Holiday.
This version includes characters from Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s amazing!
Indiana Jones Adventure
Disneyland Park provides the exclusive American home to several attractions.
Arguably the best of them is Indiana Jones Adventure, which tells a previously unknown story of Henry Jones and some unfortunate tourists.
You’re the tourist in question as you wind up trapped in the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.
As a general rule, you don’t want to be in places with Forbidden in the title.
Thankfully, Indy is here as well, and while he suffers through his usual run of bad luck, he eventually helps all of you get out alive. It’s pretty great.
This ride gets the biggest of YES! Responses from me.
It’s a Small World
You may expect a no here, but you’d be very, very wrong.
It’s a Small World represents the best in Disney theme park history. The ride’s origins date back to the 1964 New York World’s Fair, which I consider the pinnacle of Walt Disney’s career.
At the time, Pepsi needed a pavilion attraction, Disney wanted money for his parks, and actress Joan Crawford put the two together. The output is It’s a Small World, which was initially the anchor experience at the UNICEF Pavilion.
Afterward, Pepsi thoughtfully boxed up the ride and shipped it to Disneyland, where it remains to this day.
Yes, you’re riding something in Anaheim, California, that once shocked the world in Flushing Meadows, New York.
This is the one true version of It’s a Small World. Don’t miss it!
King Arthur Carrousel
Speaking of rides that didn’t start at Disneyland, King Arthur Carrousel turns 100 this year, 2022. Disneyland opened in 1955. You do the math.
Yes, park officials purchased this carousel from a place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 1954 and transported it to Anaheim. It has remained there ever since.
So, history buffs will love riding something others had during the Roaring 20s. But, for the rest of us, it’s just a carousel and, therefore, a pass.
One of my three books starts with an introduction to the history of the roller coaster. In it, I recount the significance of Matterhorn Bobsleds.
This ride started the roller coaster craze that still powers the industry today. It was the first continuous tubular steel roller coaster ever.
That may not mean much now, but it represented the ultimate in theme park design in 1959.
Also, the rough ride continues to provide thrills to this day. You want to ride this one!
Pirates of the Caribbean
This attraction makes me melancholy, but I still recommend it wholeheartedly.
First, we’re talking about Pirates of the Caribbean, arguably the most famous dark ride ever.
Also, Johnny Depp has appeared in person as Jack Sparrow here on multiple occasions…which admittedly used to be a stronger selling point.
Long before then, another celebrity held court at Pirates of the Caribbean. Walt Disney himself worked on this even while suffering from cancer.
Imagineers built a rig and harness so that he could experience the ride the way that guests would.
When you ride Pirates of the Caribbean now, you’re watching it in the same way that Uncle Walt did in the months before his death. That’s pretty great, right?
Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
I would have answered this one differently not that long ago.
Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin provides a colorful whizbang introduction into the world of Toontown.
However, this attraction had grown quite dated and lost some of its luster over the years.
Then, late in 2021, Disney surprised fans with a sudden overhaul of the attraction.
Now, Car Toon Spin tells a different story, one involving private investigator Jessica Rabbit. She’s trying to uncover the truth about what’s happening in Toontown.
This one subtle change fundamentally alters the dynamic of the ride from a woman in peril in the trunk of a car to an empowered female searching for truth and justice.
Snow White’s Enchanted Wish
Snow White’s Scary Adventures has existed in some form at Disneyland since 1955.
Even then, the attraction confused guests who didn’t understand the underlying concept of dark rides.
Disney wanted people to experience Snow White’s adventures from her perspective. Instead, people exited the ride wondering why they never saw Snow White.
Over the years, guests also criticized the darker elements of the attraction, ones that tended to frighten children.
Before the pandemic, Disney chose to reboot the Snow White ride with a more uplifting theme.
Enter Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, a more upbeat version where true love wins in the end.
Imagineering legend Kim Irvine worked on this project. So, you can be sure of its quality. And yes, this one ends with a happily ever after!
Storybook Land Canal Boats
As a Disney fan, I’m supposed to love all attractions, especially the originals from 1955. But I don’t.
This one is too slow and outdated for my tastes. Unfortunately, its unmistakable charm is totally lost on me.
Still, some of you will probably like the gorgeous backdrop, clever use of Disney music, and miniatures on display.
Obviously, this one’s a no for me. However, if you do want to ride it, I’d strongly suggest a nighttime journey. It’s a much more magical experience.