DISNEYLAND’S TOP TEN RIDES
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Expectations were high ahead of the opening of the flagship attraction at Disney’s $1 billion, 14-acre Star Wars- themed land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. After some lukewarm reviews of the land and its first attraction, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, all eyes have been on Rise of the Resistance, with critics wondering whether it would deliver. For the record, we’ve visited Galaxy’s Edge at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and love it—check out our comparison of the two versions.
Like everyone else, we had high hopes that Rise of the Resistance would make all our Star Wars dreams come true—and it did. The nearly 20-minute attraction is so much more than a ride—it’s an experience—and one that outranks every other attraction at Disneyland. Set between episodes 8 and 9, Rise of the Resistance enlists guests as recruits to join the Resistance in the fight against.
Incorporating a whopping four different ride systems, epic movie-caliber sets on a scale never before seen in a Disney theme park, upwards of 65 Audio-Animatronics, audio and visuals featuring original Star Wars cast and an original score by John Williams, this attraction is truly mind-blowing. Currently, the only way to experience Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland Park is by arriving at the park before opening and joining the virtual queue. To join a boarding group, be sure to have the Disneyland app loaded onto your smartphone before you arrive and start refreshing once you’re in the park just before the official park opening. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can join a boarding group at select locations throughout the park.
PHOTO: Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park. (photo via Rob Sparacio/Disneyland Resort)
Disneyland’s Best Rides
Disneyland’s newest and most ambitious ride ever, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, officially opened Jan. 17. On day one, this groundbreaking attraction easily joins the ranks of the best rides at Disneyland. Curious where it falls among the rest of the resort’s must-do attractions? Here’s our list of Disneyland’s 10 best rides, ranked. Read on to find out where Rise of the Resistance lands on our list.
Peter Pan’s Flight at Disneyland (Photo via Loren Javier / flickr)
Peter Pan’s Flight
This opening-day attraction—the ultimate nostalgic favorite that has stood the test of time—still boasts some of the longest wait times of any ride at Disneyland, nearly 65 years after opening on July 17, 1955. A classic slow-moving Disney dark ride, Peter Pan’s Flight takes guests high above the rooftops of London in flying pirate ships, past the most memorable scenes from the 1953 animated Disney classic film.
This is one of the most popular attractions that doesn’t utilize fast pass, so your best bet to avoid extremely long wait times is to arrive at Disneyland Park opening and head straight to the ride.
Space Mountain at Disneyland (Photo via Disney)
The success of Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds sold Walt Disney on there being a place for more thrill rides in his theme parks. Disney Legend John Hench began designing this attraction, a high-speed coaster through near pitch-black “space,” in the 1960s, but it took some time for technology to catch up with his designs, and the first version of the ride wasn’t opened at Walt Disney World until 1975.
Disneyland’s Space Mountain opened in 1977, and even though the attraction is smaller than its Florida counterpart, it’s also much better. In addition to more comfortable ride vehicles—riders sit side by side instead of straddled single file. Disneyland’s Space Mountain is also a much smoother ride.
An original score by famed composer Michael Giacchino plays through speakers in the ride vehicles, except when it gets changed up for seasonal overlays like Star Wars-themed Hyperspace Mountain as well as Halloween and Christmas versions. Disneyland’s Space Mountain height requirement is 4 inches shorter than Disney World’s, so kids too small to ride at Magic Kingdom may be tall enough to ride this one.
haunted Mansion at Disneyland (Photo via Disneyland)
It’s pretty safe to say no attraction enjoys a more zealous cult following than Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. Opened in 1969, the eerie Southern plantation-style manse in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square was conceived under Walt Disney’s direction but wasn’t completed until after his death in 1966.
Begin your visit in the stretching room with a preshow that sets the stage for your creepy visit. Board a “Doom Buggy” and embark on a tour, led by your “Ghost Host,” through the cavernous home to “999 happy haunts.” Iconic scenes include Madame Leota’s séance, a rousing afterlife celebration in the ballroom, a murderous bride, and a “Swinging wake” out in the graveyard.
This one is always a must-ride, but if you get the chance, don’t miss “Haunted Mansion Holiday,” a spectacular seasonal overlay themed to “The Nightmare Before Christmas” that typically runs from early September to early January.
Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland (Photo via Disneyland)
Few rides are more synonymous with Disney parks than Pirates. If you’ve only ridden this ride at Walt Disney World, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve been there, done that at Disneyland. At nearly twice the length of Disney World’s version, Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean is the ultimate swashbuckling adventure. So beloved it inspired the nearly $4.5billion five-film franchise, this ride has remained a favorite for guests of all ages for more than 50 years. Begin your journey by floating through the perpetual twilight past Blue Bayou, the Cajun-style restaurant that opened alongside the attraction in 1967. Two thrilling drops plunge you into stormy seas where you’ll float past skeleton pirates and cursed treasure before reaching the most iconic sights and sounds. Sail through the crossfire of a raging cannon battle before entering the village where marauding and carousing Audio-Animatronic pirates wreak havoc on its residents, all while singing “Yo ho! Blue Bayou, the restaurant that overlooks the start of the ride, is a Disneyland favorite for good reason—the always-nighttime atmosphere, with its twinkling lights and fireflies, is magical, and people are fanatical about the restaurant’s Monte Cristo sandwich. If you have any interest in eating here, make sure to sang a reservation 60 days before your stay.
Big Thunder Mountain at Disneyland (Photo via Disneyland)
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Forty years after opening at Disneyland on Sept. 2, 1979, the “wildest ride in the wilderness” is still one of the best—and not just because it’s a nostalgic favorite. Board a runaway mine train and hold onto your hats and glasses as you speed through the mountains of the Old West, inspired by Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park. Walt Disney didn’t work on this ride, but his legacy is honored in the Rainbow Ridge Mining Town you’ll race past, which includes some original set pieces from the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train that later became Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland. Thanks to a 2014 update that upgraded the track, restored the Rainbow Ridge ghost town, and added some additional theatrical elements using projection mapping technology and plenty of smoke, this ride is better than ever. For the most thrilling experience, request row 15, the last row of the train.
Splash Mountain at Disneyland (Photo via Brooke Geiger McDonald)
A next-generation classic, Splash Mountain opened at Disneyland on July 17, 1989. The attraction is based on the 1946 animated film “Song of the South,” which, having faced ongoing criticism, has been kept out of circulation by Disney for the past 30-some years. But while the film may have fallen out of favor, the attraction certainly hasn’t.
The log flume-style ride takes guests on a journey with Br’er Rabbit as he tries to outwit and outrun Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear. A series of thrilling drops interspersed with Audio-Animatronic–packed scenes and uber-catchy tunes make for a jubilant build-up to a climactic 50-foot drop. You WILL get wet—the question is just how wet.
Plan to ride this one during the hottest part of the day or pack your poncho if you don’t want to spend the day wet and cold. And, if you don’t want to get soaked, avoid the front row at all costs.
Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland (Photo via Disneyland)
Indiana Jones Adventure
Whether you’re an Indy fan or not, this attraction is an Imagineering marvel on a grand scale. After weaving through one of the most immersive and elaborately themed queues at any Disney park, board an Enhanced Motion Vehicle, a 12-passenger computer-guided car, and set off on an adventure into the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. (You’ll recognize the ride vehicle and motion profile if you’ve ridden Dinosaur at Walt Disney World, though Indy is the far superior ride).
An original plotline incorporates scenes and elements from the beloved film franchise (expect mummies, giant insects, the requisite boulder and—you guessed it—snakes) all tied together seamlessly by John Williams’ iconic Indy melodies. This ride breaks down a lot, so don’t wait until the end of your visit to try to ride it or you could be disappointed.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT! (Photo via Disney)
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT!
It was a tough pill to swallow when Twilight Zone Tower of Terror devotees learned their beloved attraction at Disney California Adventure would be rethemed to Marvel property Guardians of the Galaxy, the park’s first Marvel-themed attraction. (It will become one of two when Avengers campus opens summer 2020, with a third major attraction to open years later during phase two of the expansion).
But thanks to impossibly elaborate queue retheming, an awesome soundtrack and scenes filmed with the original “Guardians” cast, including Bradley Cooper who voices the real star of the attraction, and Audio-Animatronic Rocket Racoon, this ride takes all the thrills of the original and makes it way.
more. fun. You don’t need to see the Guardians films to enjoy it, but it does make it more fun, and fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will lose their minds over all the Easter Eggs hidden throughout the queue. The ride features varying ride profiles with six different catchy songs, making this attraction seriously re-ridable.
Radiator Springs Racers (Photo via Disneyland)
Radiator Springs Racers
The centerpiece attraction within Cars Land, which opened in 2012 as part of Disney California Adventure’s $1.1 billion five-year renovation and expansion, is the ultimate example of Disney-branded intellectual property turning a “fun” ride system (read: Test Track at Walt Disney World) into one of Disney’s best attractions.Part dark ride, part high-speed thrill ride, set against the breathtaking backdrop of Ornament Valley, the attraction begins with a joyride just like Lightning and Sally’s in the 2006 Pixar film “Cars,” right down to music and big waterfall reveal. Cruise through downtown Radiator Springs past favorite characters before getting a tune-up from Luigi or Ramon and a pep talk from Doc Hudson, and you’re ready to race. The big finale is an exciting head-to-head matchup against another car, so be ready for some friendly competition. This is one of the most popular attractions at Disneyland, and FastPasses almost always run out early in the day, so make snagging a FastPass, either in person or digitally using max pass, priority when you first arrive at the parks.
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