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The 25 best Disneyland rides

We rank the happiest place on earth's best attractions, from classic Disneyland rides to thrills at California Adventure

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Tyler

Tacosdriving shortcuts, burgers—Angelenos tend to pick favorites, and Disneyland rides certainly aren’t exempt. We’re counting down the best attractions—in order—at both Disneyland and California Adventure. Consider this your to-do list for the next time you venture down to Anaheim.

Think your favorite ride should be ranked higher? Cast your vote and let us know. And make sure to check out these 8 essential Disneyland tips.

For tickets to both Disneyland and California Adventure, click here

 

25
Storybook Land Canal Boats

Storybook Land Canal Boats

You’ll encounter castles, open countrysides and allusions to classic characters on this grand boat tour of Disney fantasy lore. Oh, did we mention it’s all at diorama scale? It sounds a little lame on paper, but step aboard this leisurely, narrated cruise—an opening day original—and you’ll discover an undeniable charm as you try to spot Lilliputian renditions of Geppetto’s workshop and the seven dwarfs’ cottage.

Location: Fantasyland (Disneyland)
Best boat name: Flower, as in the skunk from Bambi

24
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage

Plunge deep into the South Pacific for a submarine voyage full of talking fish and colorful coral. If you can wait out the slow boarding process and slightly overlong ride time, there’s an adorable experience awaiting as Nemo, Dory, Squirt and a whole slew of recognizable movie characters—or rather, their impeccably integrated digital projections—briskly swim through jellyfish fields and bubbling volcanoes.

Location: Tomorrowland (Disneyland)
Best seagull one-liner: Mine!

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23
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree

Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree

Get whipped around by anthropomorphized tractors on this deceptively fun carnival ride. Set amongst Americana bric-a-brac, the simple but surprisingly lively attraction takes on the guise of a square dance. What can we say—we’re suckers for Mater’s (Larry the Cable Guy’s) off-key country tunes.

Location: Cars Land (Disney California Adventure)
Best on-ride song: “Big Bull Dozer”

22
Mickey’s Fun Wheel

Mickey’s Fun Wheel

A Ferris wheel might not seem so out of the ordinary, but a 160-foot-tall wheel with sliding gondolas isn’t exactly your average carnival attraction. Take your pick between two experiences: The stationary gondolas offer sweeping views of the park, but the swinging ones offer a one-of-a-kind experience as they weave through the wheel on a suspended roller coaster-like track. Plus, that pie-eyed Mickey plastered on the front is awfully charming.

Location: Paradise Pier (Disney California Adventure)
Most worrying ride feature: Barf bags

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21
The Little Mermaid - Ariel's Undersea Adventure

The Little Mermaid - Ariel's Undersea Adventure

Life is de bubbles in this under-the-sea retelling of The Little Mermaid. A more modern version of the slow-moving dark rides in Disneyland, this conveyor belt of clam shells takes visitors through vibrantly recreated scenes from the movie, complete with nearly every selection from its uplifting earworm of a soundtrack.

Location: Paradise Pier (Disney California Adventure)
Most impressive animatronic: Ursula

20
Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise

Like vaudeville on water, Jungle Cruise combines animatronic animals and cheesy commentary into a hilariously groan-inducing experience. The attraction transports riders on a world-spanning river cruise through exquisitely lush jungle environments, all under the guidance of a hapless and humorous skipper. While not the most riveting ride, it will more than meet your need for pop culture references and dad jokes.

Location: Adventureland (Disneyland)
Worst pun: "It’s actually made of limestone, but most people take it for granite."

19
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Take a bumpy drive through London in this unexpectedly twisted dark ride. While your carriage starts in Toad Hall, you’ll end up getting into all sorts of trouble and stumbling into some startling places—we don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say it’s fiery and arid but not the Inland Empire.

Location: Fantasyland (Disneyland)
Best use of blacklight-reactive paint: The entire ride

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18
Grizzly River Run

Grizzly River Run

Sometimes you walk off this rapid ride soaked, sometimes you don’t—it’s the uncertainty that makes it such a thrill. What starts out as a tranquil drift through a mountainous forest quickly descends into a choppy plummet.

Location: Grizzly Peak (Disney California Adventure)
Best place for your socks: Anywhere but on your feet

17
California Screamin'

California Screamin'

A 0-to-55 launch, a 100-foot-plus drop, one inversion, sky-high views of the entire resort—this is a thrill ride. But Disney elevates the attraction above your typical mammoth roller coaster; for every thrill there’s a lighthearted carnival-esque element to match the ride’s setting on Paradise Pier, including a faux wooden coaster aesthetic, a satisfyingly long ride time and boardwalk-meets-metal backing music—with some voiceover work from Neil Patrick Harris.

Location: Paradise Pier (Disney California Adventure)
Best time to ride: Twilight

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16
Dumbo the Flying Elephant

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

There are no surprises in store on this classic, kid-friendly attraction, but the ability to pilot Dumbo up and down never gets old. Timothy Q. Mouse conducts a cavalcade of flying elephants around and around—magic feather optional.

Location: Fantasyland (Disneyland)
Best Dumbo car color: Turquoise

15
Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

Journey down, down the rabbit hole in this dark ride filled with a talking door knob, a smoke-puffing caterpillar and that mischievously grinning cat. Though the ride had always been a whimsical black light trip, a recent refresh has left it brimming with hand-drawn animation and surreal special effects.

Location: Fantasyland (Disneyland)
Best place to celebrate a very merry unbirthday: The rooftop section of the track during a parade

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14
Matterhorn Bobsleds

Matterhorn Bobsleds

The first steel coaster ever constructed, this reckless bobsled tumbles along the caverns, cliffs and splash pools that comprise the mock Matterhorn. A roaring encounter with the Abominable Snowman isn’t even the most terrifying part of the ride—no, that honor goes to every sudden dips and tight turns that keeps the ride painfully, frightfully fun.

Location: Fantasyland (Disneyland)
Least uncomfortable spots: Second and third seats in the front car

13
Star Tours

Star Tours

After a 2011 refresh, this Star Wars-themed ride went from a jerky motion simulator to a, well, slightly less bumpy but significantly more awesome 3-D motion simulator. The Star Wars fan service is strong with this one: your Starspeeder visits two of six locations, from Hoth to the Death Star, chosen at random, while a saga mainstay pilots your ship. With 54 possible combinations to tear through, expect to ride this attraction multiple times—just maybe not back-to-back.

Location: Tomorrowland (Disneyland)
Best meta-joke: A narrowly-avoided collision with Jar Jar Binks

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12
Enchanted Tiki Room

Enchanted Tiki Room

Birthed from the West Coast’s mid-century obsession with all things Polynesian, this thatched-roof hut has played host to the same quartet of melodious macaws since 1963. True, it's more of a show than a ride. But an assortment of birds, flowers and tikis sing a tropical serenade over the clickety-clack of animatronic beaks—a technological first—that’s simply too charming to pass up.

Location: Adventureland (Disneyland)
Best part of the line: The dedicated Dole Whip counter

11
Radiator Springs Racers

Radiator Springs Racers

Even if you have no interest in the Cars franchise, this adrenaline-fueled trip through the film’s Route 66 setting is a blast. The ride’s split up into three parts, each better than the last: a serene outdoor joy ride, a manic meet-and-greet with unbelieveable animatronics of Cars characters and a high octane race. Is it worth the often two-plus-hour wait? That’s debatable. But consider this your one must-FastPass attraction.

Location: Cars Land (Disney California Adventure)
Best Cars character cameo: Guido and his Italian flag afro

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10
Toy Story Midway Mania!

Toy Story Midway Mania!

The concept for Midway Mania is simple: Pull a drawstring on a swiveling blaster to shoot targets in a 3-D projection. But this whirly, rollicking tour of boardwalk-style games brings the whole Toy Story crew into the mix to create an experience that’s far more amusing than your average plate-breaking, balloon-popping sideshow. It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be coming back to chase your high score over and over again.

Location: Paradise Pier (Disney California Adventure)
Best mini-game: Alien ring toss

9
Soarin’ Around the World

Soarin’ Around the World

With a steady wind and the scent of roses wafting in your face, this hang glider-meets-IMAX dome experience is the type of technical feat that only Disney can pull off. The ride simulates flying over some of the world's (formerly California's) most beautiful assets, everywhere from the Matterhorn (the real one) to the Eiffel Tower, all set to a triumphant score that has us walking off the ride with a serious case of wanderlust.

Location: Grizzly Peak (Disney California Adventure)
Best seat in the house: Section B, Row 1

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8
Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion

"Haunted" is the key word here: From doorknobs to candelabras, seemingly every part of the ride is alive—or rather, undead. The Haunted Mansion trades scares and creeps for hints of dark humor and practical effects that are still mystifying almost 50 years later. Though its biggest draw comes around the holidays with a Nightmare Before Christmas makeover, nothing can beat the regular version. In fact, we'll take the slow creep of those classic organ blasts over a Danny Elfman-inspired score any day.

Location: New Orleans Square (Disneyland)
Best ghostly effect: The ballroom-dancing ghosts

7
Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain

Follow the Song of the South-inspired story of Brer Rabbit on this wonderfully wet log flume. Its cheerful display of critter friends and bold colors is balanced with a steep plunge into the briar patch and some downright trippy stretches, namely the neon-filled Laughing Place, which feels like it mocks how soaked you just got. But you’re sure to step off the ride with two things: wet socks and a Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah day.

Location: Critter Country (Disneyland)
Driest seat: As far back as possible

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6
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

This runaway mine train coaster weaving through rainbow caverns and craggly canyons always manages to feel faster and more exhilarating at night; chalk that up to tight turns and sudden dips that seem to come startlingly close to rock faces. Though the coaster lost a little bit of its lovably rough ride after a 2014 refurb, it gained an explosive—literally—final lift hill that’s made the attraction even more of a must-do.

Location: Frontierland (Disneyland)
Wildest seat in the wilderness: Last three rows

5
Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean

The storytelling on this boat ride is arguably more compelling than the swashbuckling film series it would inspire: the lull of the firefly-lit bayou and a gently plucked banjo gives way to the mystery and magic of a talking skull and crossbones and treasure-filled cave. It’s a long ride, to be sure, but it’s filled with spectacular sights that’ll stick with you, from a plantation house (with a remarkably convincing night sky) to a ship battle—not to mention that fist-swinging “yo ho” chorus.

Location: New Orleans Square (Disneyland)
A pirate’s life for: Me

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4
Peter Pan's Flight

Peter Pan's Flight

For over a half-century these flying pirate ships have ferried parkgoers from an English bedroom to Never Land. Though Fantasyland is full of slow-moving, slightly too-short rides, Peter Pan has always been the most charming thanks to its music (“You Can Fly”) and ride system. With no track below you, the provincial rooftops give way to the London cityscape and, eventually, the star-filled floating island of Never Land. Sure, the line’s long and the ride’s short, but it’s a small price to pay for this innocent trip down memory lane.

Location: Fantasyland (Disneyland)
Best canine character: Nana the dog

3
"it's a small world"

"it's a small world"

If you can’t get past any disdain for that earworm of a tune—you know, only the happiest, most inspirational song in the world—then you’re really missing out on one of the most delightful rides ever. A mid-century explosion from the imagination of Disney animator Mary Blair, the slow-moving boat ride has been singing its song of global harmony since its debut at the 1964 World’s Fair. Today, you’ll find Disney characters subtly mixed in with the multicultural dolls, but it’s the playful color palette, whimsical set pieces and brassy-but-twinkly music that really makes this the happiest cruise that ever sailed.

Location: Fantasyland (Disneyland)
Best Disney character appearance: Surfing Stitch

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2
Indiana Jones Adventure

Indiana Jones Adventure

Disneyland isn’t short on nostalgic movie tie-ins, but there’s nothing in the park quite like Indiana Jones Adventure. The ride system itself is a bumpy thrill: a four-wheel-drive vehicle zips along a track as the seats jolt, rumble and careen around skeleton ambushes and fireballs. But the magic comes from an encyclopedic survey of Indiana Jones lore set to that familiar John Williams theme. We won’t spoil all of the temple traps, but plan on this wild adventure becoming a regular fixture during your park visits.

Location: Adventureland (Disneyland)
Best piece of advice: Look not into the eyes of the idol—that would be dangerous.

1
Space Mountain

Space Mountain

There’s a reason that weary parkgoers will line up for hours to go on this indoor, nearly pitch black coaster, even at the stroke of midnight. Space Mountain ratchets up the tension as your rocket climbs through a sequence of light-up tunnels and launch preparations; the music builds until it hits a cosmic crescendo just as you catch your first glimpse of the star-spattered darkness. And with a swift countdown, you’re launched downward into a series of sudden drops and tight turns—almost exclusively right hand, yet each still manages to feel unexpected. The coaster feels like it increasingly picks up speed—yet we’ve heard the ride barely breaks 30 mph—until you come clanking to a halt and want nothing more than to ride it another 16 times. Who needs to actually go into outer space when we’re almost positive Space Mountain is more fun?

Location: Tomorrowland (Disneyland)
Best seat in the galaxy: Front seat of the front car

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Comments

5 comments
David M
David M

This is the dumbest list I have ever seen! Really?? Dumbo above Screamin' and Peter Pan above RSR?

Erick R
Erick R

Disneyland really is the "happiest place on earth!"  I could spend all day, everyday here!  Thank you for putting this list together!!

Coach B
Coach B

Dumbo over California Screaming?

Sloppy Jew
Sloppy Jew

GO to the Aqwa sawx supa store righ now or ill chop ur balls off

Yujia T
Yujia T

Oh my Gosh! It is so cool and amazing,it makes my want to go to Disneyland more.