What Are the Best Rides at Disneyland?
Now that Disneyland packages are available for 2024, this seems like the perfect time to debate an age-old question.
Disneyland has defined the entire theme park industry since its opening in 1955.
For nearly 70 years, The Happiest Place on Earth has expanded and improved, perfecting each themed land with new attractions.
Which ones are worth your time, though? Here are the nine rides I consider the best at Disneyland Park.
Any discussion of the most iconic Disney attractions must include Haunted Mansion.
Since the first one debuted at Disneyland, that’d be reason enough for its inclusion here.
Similarly, until Magic Kingdom adds the Hatbox Ghost, that part of the attraction remains exclusive to Disneyland.
That’s not the only thing, either. Each fall, one of Disneyland’s best attractions ever evolves into something that’s somehow even better.
Haunted Mansion Holiday reinvents the ride into an experience themed to Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Honestly, both versions of Haunted Mansion deserve a spot on this list, making the ride’s inclusion a no-brainer.
Indiana Jones Adventure
Over the years, Disneyland and Walt Disney World have typically shared rides.
When there are exclusives, most of them reside at Walt Disney World due to the sheer volume of extra acreage available there.
Nearly half of the entries on this list disprove that notion, though. In fact, when we include Haunted Mansion Holiday for partial credit, it IS half the list.
That’s not accidental. I believe that Disneyland’s exclusive attractions stand apart for the others.
When you’re visiting this park, you want to check off everything on the list that’s not available at Walt Disney World, right?
One of the best examples is Indiana Jones Adventure, which allows guests to watch the world’s most adventurous archaeologist at work.
As an Indiana Jones superfan, I’m always up for a visit to the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.
“it’s a small world”
I generally don’t spell this attraction the way that I should. However, I’m making an exception here to make a point.
When Walt Disney conceptualized this attraction at the behest of Joan Crawford, he had humble aspirations.
Disneyland’s creator wanted something that would remind all the visitors to the 1964 New York World’s Fair that we’re all friends here.
He had no need to capitalize any part of the ride’s name to make it sound ostentatious. Instead, Disney chose friendly and welcoming.
That humility resonates during every boat ride of “it’s a small world.” You’re home among friends here, no matter where you’re from.
Importantly, the Disneyland version of this ride IS the one from that World’s Fair, which makes it culturally significant as well.
That mountain in the middle of Disneyland isn’t supposed to be there.
In the late 1950s, Imagineers built that structure from scratch. Nobody could have imagined an artificial mountain at a theme park at the time.
Walt Disney never allowed something as simple as an impossible challenge to stand in his way.
Somehow, that’s not even the remarkable part of the story, either.
With the advent of Matterhorn Bobsleds, Disney unofficially started the coaster wars that remain in place to this day.
Every new iteration of a roller coaster must surpass the previous alpha, and that theme park arms race began due to the brilliance of Matterhorn Bobsleds.
As a word of warning, this one’s a bit rougher than most coasters you’ve tried. And I mean that in a good way.
Walt Disney wanted you to feel it when you zoomed down the tracks. Roughly 65 years later, you still do!
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Disneyland’s newest ride deserves a place on this list because it takes the park back to its roots.
Remember that Walt Disney fondly described his entire empire as starting with a mouse.
That’s only part of the story, though. It also started with Walt Disney’s ability to create short-form animated cartoons.
Had the technology existed in 1955 to build a ride eerily similar to a cartoon, Uncle Walt happily would have built it. Alas, that wouldn’t be possible for decades.
Thankfully, we have that technology now, though. And it allows us to enter a three-dimensional Disney cartoon starring Mickey & Minnie Mouse.
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Here’s another Disneyland Park exclusive, one that causes me to taste bile when I acknowledge that fact.
I say this because Magic Kingdom once hosted its own version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, which I consider Disney’s darkest dark ride.
Sadly, this ride died in the 1990s so that The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh could live. I’ll never understand why we couldn’t have both.
Obviously, I’m head over heels in love with Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, which tells the story of an automobile-obsessed barrister with a taste for adventure.
Sadly, Mr. Toad makes poor decisions, which ultimately lead him to jail…and then Hell.
Seriously, this ride is twisted and decidedly un-Disney. That’s why I like it.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Come on. Admit it.
You would have come at me with torches and pitchforks if I hadn’t included this one.
Perhaps no attraction is as closely connected with Disney’s theme park empire as Pirates of the Caribbean.
I consider this attraction the definitive Disney dark ride. The way that it presents a story via dozens of characters was unprecedented in the 1960s.
The premise and confident style remain impressive to this day, and Disney isn’t afraid to update the attraction to keep it new and fresh.
Out of everything discussed today, I am devout in the belief that no Disneyland visit is complete without a boat ride on Pirates of the Caribbean.
Snow White’s Enchanted Wish
You can think of Snow White’s Enchanted Wish as the anti-Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
An earlier iteration of this experience, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, embraced the darker elements of the Disney fairytale.
In that way, Scary Adventures worked as a kindred spirit to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
Recently, Imagineers updated the Snow White story to make it more uplifting.
Now, Snow White’s Enchanted Wish includes a magical kiss and a happily ever after. It’s a much friendlier tale now and a multi-generational charmer.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Again, older isn’t always better. That’s why Disneyland’s two newest attractions earn a spot on this list.
When Imagineers created Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, most of the early attention focused on Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.
Few people remember that now, as Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance has evolved into THE alpha theme park attraction in the world.
This sweeping epic of storytelling involves multiple ride carts, unique cast member interactions, and unforgettable encounters with Star Wars icons.
Any conversation about the best ride in the world starts and likely ends with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. It’s that simple.
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