Whether a first-time visitor to Disneyland or a seasoned regular, picking the perfect set of rides to fill your magical day(s) can be a daunting decision. With thousands of people around you, it can be overwhelming to know which part of park to go to first and which rides to “Fast Pass” (check-in at the ride and receive a ticket to redeem at a pre-determined later time). Below are a list of 10 perennial favorites, with the very best at the beginning, to help you plan your next Disney-cation. Attractions were ranked based on family friendliness, accessibility, popularity, overall enjoyment and most of all, inclusivity for all ages and abilities. Here are the 10 best rides in Disneyland located in Anaheim, California.
1. Only at the Disneyland Park in California, the famous “Matterhorn Bobsleds” ride has developed a cult-like following despite not being featured in a Disney film and is one of the few big attractions left that is not able to be “Fast-Passed”. Appropriate for most people from ages 12 and up (or 35″ and taller), the Matterhorn has a notoriously long line so try to get there right when the park opens, or be prepared to wait. There are actually two lines that form, one on each side, so be sure to pick the shorter one. Popular opinion is that the line on the left is for those who are a bit more adventurous (watch out for the Abominable Snowman)!
2. “It’s A Small World” is at the very back of the Park and probably isn’t at the top of the list for new visitors because it also isn’t featured in a feature film. Appropriate for the whole family, this slower water-based ride requires the physical ability to sit in a boat and float through a series of buildings that feature the song of the same name. “It’s A Small World” is great for families with older or disabled companions or very young children and boats can accommodate four passengers across; perfect for groups. A word of warning: the song WILL be stuck in your head all day but the animated figurines are sure to put smiles on the faces of everyone.
3. One of the rides that was enjoyable and also a favorite before it was featured in a blockbuster movie was “Pirates of the Caribbean”. Head past Cinderella’s Castle to New Orleans Square where you might have to hunt a little for the entrance to this attraction. It is available on “Fast Pass”, so it can wait until a little later in the day, but the line can be quite long but quick-moving. A real positive for this ride is that in the warm Califiornia summer months, a good portion of the queue is inside so it can be a great mid-day cool break. The pirates may scare very young children, but it is otherwise appropriate for most of the family. For another family-friendly attraction, walk a few steps to “The Haunted Mansion” and for the nautically-inclined in your party, venture over to the “Mark Twain Riverboat” or “Sailing Ship Columbia”.
4. The relatively new “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage” is actually an updated version of the old Disneyland submarine ride. This is NOT a ride for anyone who is claustrophobic and the subs can be a bit warm, but it is easy-going and perfect for those of all ages and physical abilities. Little ones will enjoy seeing Nemo and friends and parents will enjoy that children are contained and entertained. Lines can be hours long and this ride does not have a “Fast Pass” option, so plan on arriving early or staying late if waiting in an hour-and-a-half or two-hour-line doesn’t sound appealing. In warm months, be sure to wear sunscreen; almost all of the line is in direct sunlight. Tip: head straight over to “Finding Nemo” after “Matterhorn”; they’re right next to each other.
5. While the Disneyland Train and Monorail could be viewed purely as forms of locomotion, they can also be a really nice break in the day and a great way to see the entire park. Lines usually don’t exceed 20 or 30 minutes at any stop and for the exhausted fun-seeker, rested feet are happy feet and both the train and monorail offer unique views of the park. If you stay at a hotel “on campus”, you’ll likely become very familiar with the monorail loop.
6. “The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh”, which can be found in Critter Country, is perfect for little ones. Like Fantasyland attractions, “Winnie the Pooh” is usually quite busy; be prepared to wait. Unlike the Fantasyland attractions, however, “Winnie the Pooh” is lesser known and toward the back of the park, meaning that it takes most visitors a longer period of time to find it. To continue the fun, be sure to meet the Winnie the Pooh characters after you’ve enjoyed the ride.
7. No visit to Disneyland is complete without the able-bodied and adventurous people in your party visiting “Indiana Jones Adventure”, which is reserved for those 46″ and taller and is age-appropriate for 12 years and older. Fast Pass is available for this attraction, but it is advised that the Fast Pass is obtained very early in the day because Fast Passes may be exhausted by the mid-afternoon. Be prepared for a jerky but highly entertaining ride in Indiana Jones’s Jeep, and for optimum viewing, try to sit in the front row. Be sure to stow all small belongings in the seat-back mesh bags!
8. If venturing over to Disney’s “California Adventure” is in your plans, be sure not to miss “California Screamin'”, the roller coaster centerpiece of the park. It’s tame enough for older kids and a real thrill for teens, young adults and those who enjoy mild coasters. Styled after a wooden coaster, this steel behemoth has a fantastic musical soundtrack that will keep everyone entertained.
9. “Space Mountain” is maybe the most well-known of the roller coaster rides at the Magic Kingdom and the length of the line reflects it’s popularity. While entertaining for those with an adventurous side, it can have a nauseating effect on those who aren’t upside-down or dark coaster enthusiasts so avoid food and drink a few minutes before and after the ride. The line dramatically decreases after 9pm so keep the older children awake and send the grandparents and little ones home if this ride is on your agenda.
10. The best of the Fantasyland rides is “Peter Pan’s Flight”. Interesting enough for older children yet docile enough for the smallest of kids, the “flight” takes place in a galleon that is suspended over London and beyond! Be prepared for a long, but quickly-moving line.