As chosen by… us. Yep, why rely on ‘best of’ lists where 1000s of votes have been cast when you have a family of 3 that is perfectly willing to give you their opinion. It is not as crazy as you might think. There are several reasons our opinion might represent your likes and dislikes better than the typical big website list.
Firstly… we are not locals. If you live in Southern California and go to Disneyland a lot, it is natural there will be rides you get tired of and you’ll always be searching for new experiences. The most we’ve every gone to Disneyland in a year is 3 times and typically just once a year when we went a lot. These days we typically are doing Disney Cruises as our main vacation and only get back to Disneyland every few years. This keeps it fresh to us.
Secondly… we provide a nice range of ages and preferences. Leanne and I have been coming to Disneyland since our honeymoon in 1987. As we’ve gotten older our tolerance for just the thrill rides has lessened, especially for Leanne since her motion sickness is still bad. Alex, who has been going to Disneyland since he was 14 months old, as an older teenager still will rank the roller-coasters high on his list.
If you’ve never attended Disneyland, we recommend Birnbaum's 2020 Disneyland Resort: The Official Vacation Guide. We always buy the latest copy of the Disneyland Birnbaum book if we haven’t been to Disneyland for a while.
Before we get into the list… we have not attended Disneyland since Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has opened. We all expect to rank Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in our top 10 after we ride them for the 1st time.
And now… the Top 10 Disneyland Rides:
#1 - Indiana Jones Adventure
Located in Adventureland the Indiana Jones Adventure ride was number 1 on all our lists. Indy is dark, loud, bumpy and can be scary. It never gets old. I remember the year it opened we’d ride it over and over at park opening until the line got too long. It IS very jerky… be careful if you have back problems or are pregnant. That said, Leanne has had several neck surgeries and has no problems riding it currently. The best thing about Indy is that the queue is one of the best in Disneyland. The queue itself has 2 hidden effects the people in line can trigger. While I’m never a fan of waiting in line make sure it’s busy enough that you have time to see the queue; at least the inside portion. There is a height requirement of 46” (117 cm).
#2 – Haunted Mansion
Number 2 on two of our lists and the Teenager ranked it 4th best. The Haunted Mansion is in New Orleans Square overlooking The Rivers of America. The ride is slow, in the dark, and can be loud and scary to some young ones. There is no height restriction. You visit 3 parts of the mansion during the ride… the house itself where you visit Madame Leota then up to the attic which finally has the Hat Box Ghost then out to the graveyard. It is a long ride at 9 minutes. The queue outside the Haunted Mansion is fun for a 1st time visitor. The queue inside many people consider part of the ride even though you haven’t entered the ride vehicle yet since it introduces the story. Eddie Murphy made a movie about the Haunted Mansion which wasn’t half bad and Guillermo del Toro has a on again/off again movie project based on the Haunted Mansion Hat Box Ghost that we hope really gets made.
In fall the Haunted Mansion is transformed into Haunted Mansion Holiday where Jack Skellingon has turned the normal ride into a Nightmare Before Christmas ride. This version of the ride is #2 on all of our lists.
#3 – Pirates of the Caribbean
At 14 ½ minutes Pirates of the Caribbean is the longest ride on our list. This ride is our last ‘consensus’ top 5 ride between the 3 of us. Even though it has a few small drops, this water ride is not a thrill ride. The ride starts with a slow leisurely ride through a Louisiana bayou at night, through several rooms and then into a battle between pirates and a fortress in the Caribbean. The popularity of this ride in all the parks lead to the very popular Pirates of the Caribbean movie series starring Johnny Depp. To the irritation of some (not us) the success led Disneyland to ‘plus’ the ride with characters from the movie; notably Captain Barbosa and Captain Jack Sparrow. Leanne and I wrote an article Pirates of the Caribbean: The Ride - The Movie
which was published in Moving Pictures magazine in 2006 about the synergy between the ride and the movies.
The queue is nothing special which doesn’t really matter because it moves fast. Pirates of the Caribbean is one of the highest capacity rides in Disneyland so don’t be worried if it seems like it has a long line.
#4 – Star Tours
This ride tied with another ride for 4th place but that was such miscarriage of justice that I made the executive decision to call it the 4th best ride. Alex had it ranked #2. I had it ranked #3. Both of us in the past have ranked it as the best ride in Disneyland. Leanne did not rank it because she has not ridden it since testing out the 2011 3D upgrade with all new film and adventures. Star Tours is a motion simulator where you sit in the cabin of Star Speeder 1000 shuttle which moves in ALL directions as you watch your adventure to various places in the galaxy on shuttles view screen in 3D. The ride is pretty smooth but those can affect people prone to motion sickness. What makes this ride unique is when the redesigned ride opened in 2011 it had eleven different ride segments that were chosen at random usually resulting in a different story each time you rode it. With the opening of Star Wars: A Galaxy’s Edge they have included the number of segments to twenty-one meaning that there are 54 different ride paths.
Star Tours has one of the best queues. The queue is modeled as the inside of a Space Port with a lot of activities happening including R2D2 and C3PO working on a broken shuttle. They also reused a lot of items from the original queue (a great queue itself) including cameos from Captain Rex… the pilot from the original ride.
Star Tours does have a ride height restriction: 40” (102 cm)
#5 – Big Thunder Railroad
The only roller coaster to make all of our lists. Big Thunder is not as smooth as Space Mountain but much less jerky than the Matterhorn. Big Thunder is a great ‘1st roller coaster’ for young ones that meet the height requirements. (40” 102 cm) As you race through the mountain you’ll go over 3 separate ‘hill’ in a ride that is about 3 ½ minutes load.
The queue is nice as you make your way up the mountain to the loading zone but nothing special.
#6 – Splash Mountain
It’s a little surprising that Splash Mountain finished outside our top 10 because it is a great ride. Perhaps because it is all the way toward the back of the park in Critter Country. You also can get wet and if it is not a hot day it can take some time to dry out. This is a log flume water ride featuring characters from Disney’s Song of the South movie. It starts out mild with only a few small drops to warm you up with a climax of a greater than 50 foot drop at a speed of up to 40 MPH. You can then relax (or recover) with a final trip through the mountain where all the Song of the South characters are singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”
Chances are you will get wet during the ride. There are free lockers outside the entrance to place your items that are not waterproof. We tend to always have larger Ziplocs to place wallets/tickets/phones in or you can purchase small waterproof bags to your items in. It is well worth it to request and wait for the 1st position in the log. You will get wet… maybe very wet there.
Splash Mountain does have a ride height restriction: 40” (102 cm)
#7 – Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
In Buzz Lightyear you help Buzz prevent Zurg and his robots from stealing all the batteries as you ride your XP-40 space cruiser through the Gamma Quadrant.
This is an interactive ride where you and your ride-partner shoot various targets from a slow moving, 360 degree rotatable, vehicle.
Buzz Lightyear at Disneyland is much different then the Buzz Lightyear at Walt Disney World; and in our opinion much better. In the Disneyland ride you can hold the space blasters while at Walt Disney World they are attached to the vehicle and the various targets have different point values depending on their degree of difficulty to hit.
It is a relaxing attraction that Leanne would often ride while we were across the path on Space Mountain and Star Tours. She holds the record of over 1 million points. At the end of the ride it shows the point totals off all the players and you have an option of emailing your score to yourself. We have an article: Buzz Lightyear Tips
which has helped 1000s of Buzz Lightyear riders score big on this ride.
#8 – Space Mountain
This is a ride you’ll find near the top of most Disneyland top ride lists. In our case, Leanne has not ridden it in over a decade and it is no longer one of my favorites because I find it one of the few rides that can give me motion sickness. Alex rated it top 5 and you find most roller coaster fans would agree. It is a very smooth roller coaster that takes place completely in the dark as you loop throughout the galaxy through nebulas and star fields. The queue is long and generic although once you reach the boarding room it is a bit more interesting. Space Mountain has a ride height restriction: 40” (102 cm)
#9 – Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
Roger Rabbit tied for 9th place however wins out over the other ride because all 3 of us included it in our top 10. You know it’s a good ride when Leanne, who almost never rides it because of her motion sickness, included it on her list. Based on the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit (highly recommended for all ages) you ride on a vehicle that spins its way through the movies Toon Town. And it does spin… you can make it spin more or spin less; but it is almost impossible to not spin at all.
Roger Rabbit’s queue is a top 5 queue in Disneyland where you wind your way through the movies sets until you reach your vehicle.
#10 – Peter Pan’s Flight
Peter Pan is, in our opinion, the best Dark Ride in Fantasyland if not one of the best rides in Disneyland. A ‘dark ride’ is a short ride that tells the quick store of a Disney classic fantasy movie. Peter Pan has an unique ride vehicle that is suspended from the roof and ‘flies’ you through the various scenes of the movie. You start in London, following Wendy and Michael and John; though a sky with thousands of stars in a beautiful background. Then you head off for a tour of Neverland before returning back to your station. Peter Pan is a slow loading ride and is always popular so to ride it you need to be there early in the morning or late at night before Fantasyland closes.
And there it is. Our Top 10 Rides at Disneyland. Feel free you leave your own opinions below.