What is best at the Disney parks is really a subjective matter, but most people will agree that just about anything you do at Disneyland is fun!
Opened in 1955 by Walt Disney, himself, Disneyland was a vision of family fun.
Walt wanted to create a place where both children and their families could enjoy a day out, filled with magic.
Several rides and attractions on this list were Disneyland originals – there on opening day.
The park had its growing pains and even though the concrete wasn’t quite set and women’s high heals kept sinking into the streets, Disneyland was a hit from the start!
Here is a countdown of 17 of the best rides at Disneyland, California!
Hey! Want more Disneyland content? Check these out!
- 12 Best Rides and Attractions at California Adventure
- 17 Best Things to Do at Disneyland Resort, California
17. Disneyland Fireworks
Weather permitting, Disneyland sets off a grand fireworks display every night!
The park spends over $50 million per year on pyrotechnics!
The shows vary by season and the music and displays are re-themed from time to time.
Inevitably, a giant Mickey head fireworks display is the highlight of the show!
If you have the chance to be driving past the park while the fireworks are being set off, you can witness the three-dimensional fireballs in the sky.
But the very best place to see the fireworks is right in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
You’ll have to find your spot early, or you may purchase a viewing package at the Tomorrowland Skyline Lounge with a view of the Matterhorn with the fireworks behind it and to the side.
Enjoy the show while you snack on a cheese plate, dessert and drinks.
Another, less crowded spot to watch is near It’s a Small World.
The display is set off from behind the attraction in Toon Town and this spot lends a different experience for viewing the fireworks.
If you would like a viewing area where you’ll easily be able to leave the park right after the show, stand on the platform at the railroad station on Main Street and watch all the way down the street to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
For an “out of this world” viewing experience, stand above the Millennium Falcon at Galaxy’s Edge and watch the fireworks burst over the Black Spires.
Animated projections are displayed all along Main Street, on Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, the Matterhorn and the It’s a Small World façade.
If you aren’t in the parks, a couple great places to catch the show are at the north side of the Disneyland Hotel and at the sidewalk near the Howard Johnson Hotel on Harbor Blvd.
This fantastic, Fantasmic, show was first released to Disneyland guests in 1992, over the Rivers of America.
This show, featuring Mickey Mouse and a host of characters including Maleficent as a 45-foot dragon, delights spectators almost every evening, as weather permits.
Crowds gather along the south end of the Rivers of America near New Orleans Square and Pirates of the Caribbean, to enjoy this 25-minute show.
Dining packages are available for Fantasmic at the River Belle Terrace or the Blue Bayou Restaurant.
15. It’s a Small World
This attraction was originally designed by the Disney Company for the 1964 New York World’s Fair UNICEF pavilion.
It was titled “Children of the World” and featured a colorful boat ride through a collection of animatronic dolls singing the iconic song by the Sherman Brothers, “It’s a Small World”.
The ride was such a hit that Walt Disney decided to install the attraction at Disneyland. Filled with designs by Mary Blair and characters by Marc and Alice Davis, the attraction quickly took hold in the hearts of all the guests who experienced its wonder.
No one can deny the song is catchy and you’ll be singing it for hours after experiencing the 15-minute, slow-moving boat ride through a world of singing children, celebrating various cultures.
During the holiday season an overlay is installed to add to the festivities around the park.
The iconic clock is dressed up with a Santa hat and the façade is lit up in colorful, twinkling lights.
14. Splash Mountain
Prepare to get wet on this exciting ride through the Briar Patch!
Based on the movie, “The Song of the South”, this ride was first opened in 1989 and was designed by a team of Imagineers headed up by Tony Baxter.
One of four mountains at Disneyland, this log flume ride starts off slow and cheerful though the marshy bayous of the South, with singing animals finding fun at their “Laughing Place”.
Then the ride gets rough as you drift through the jagged briar patch to a sudden drop (smile for the camera!) and it lands with a SPLASH as the log boat settles into a calmer bit of river.
You are once again greeted by happy characters singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”.
The ride is due to be re-designed and re-opened in 2024 as Adventures with Princess Tiana.
The ride experience will essentially be the same, but the entire attraction will be re-themed to the movie “The Princess and the Frog”.
With Imagineer Charita Carter at the helm, and with input from the original ride creator, Tony Baxter, this new version is sure to be a jazzed-up hit!
13. The Mad Tea Party Tea Cups
Swirl around and around as you ride this dizzy attraction in giant teacups – this is definitely one of the Disneyland rides that cause motion sickness!
Based on Disney’s classic, “Alice in Wonderland”, guests can spin the center wheel for a faster ride or just sit back and let the teacups whisk you away to Wonderland as you celebrate your UNbirthday.
This ride is one of the original opening day attractions from 1955 and is located on the edge of Fantasyland next to the Matterhorn.
The ride lights up at night and is a popular photo spot with its colorful lanterns and swirling teacups.
If you don’t feel like getting dizzy, there is a fun, stationary teacup located outside the ride entrance for a fun photo opportunity.
Bonus fun: Look for the old mushroom ticket booth, located next to the ride.
There are several of these old ticket booths left from when Disneyland used ride tickets, scattered around Fantasyland.
Try to find the caterpillar on the roof . . . or at least, his shoes!
12. Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters
Get ready to defeat Zerg as you blast your way through space with Buzz Lightyear.
This ride is very interactive and takes a bit of skill to get a high score at the end.
It’s definitely one that people return to, visit after visit, to break their own record as one of Buzz Lightyear’s Space Rangers.
Aim at targets located on space monsters, rockets, planets and little green aliens.
The harder the shot, the more points you earn.
Be sure to look behind you! Secret targets can pass you by!
At the end of the ride, look for your photo and score. You can email your photo to yourself for FREE!
This popular ride will take you to infinity, and beyond!
Bonus fun: As you exit through the gift shop, notice the rocket display shelf near the entrance. This is an original ride car from the Astro Orbitor that was once located on the top of the building. Also, the front counter façade is an old People Mover car!
11. Star Tours
This Tomorrowland attraction has been a hit with Star Wars fans since it’s opening in 1987 and quickly became one of the best Disneyland attractions.
It was the first rides at a Disney Park with a non-Disney theme (although Disney later purchased the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas).
Guests board the StarSpeeder 3000, a 3-D motion simulator disguised as a tourist transport, to one of several Star Wars planets.
Originally the ride had one story with Captain Rex at the helm, but has since been updated to randomly choose several stories and locations to entertain guests who experience a different ride each time they re-board this attraction, now with C-3PO as the pilot.
Who is the Rebel Spy?
Will it be you?
10. The Jungle Cruise
From the very beginning, the Jungle Cruise has been one of the most popular rides at Disneyland.
Walt Disney originally wanted live animals featured in his ride through the jungles and rivers of the world, but quickly realized the hazards and cost of upkeep and changed his focus to audio animatronics.
The inspiration for this ride came from Disney’s nature documentaries that were so popular at the time.
The “True Life Adventures” film series brought the wild world into living rooms across the nation and now guests could travel through these destinations without leaving Southern California!
The ride is filled with slap-stick comedy and corny jokes by your jungle boat skipper. Adventure awaits as you pass hungry piranhas and ear flapping hippos.
Enjoy the “eighth wonder of the world” as you float through the back side of water at Schweitzer Falls.
Each skipper has their own take on this adventurous tour, so be sure to ride again for more puns and hilarity!
9. The Enchanted Tiki Room
Although this isn’t a thrill ride of any sort, it is definitely one of the best places to cool off and rest your feet in the park.
Grab a Dole Whip from the stand outside this colorful attraction and sit back in this tropical hideaway as the birds sing words and the flowers croon . . . in the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room!
The attraction was opened in 1963.
The show was originally created as entertainment for a restaurant that never came to be.
Because of the amount of computerized technology and machinery contained within this attraction, it was Disneyland’s first fully air-conditioned building.
The show features audio animatronic birds, flowers and tiki gods singing a selection of fun, upbeat songs.
The show is hosted by four macaws: Jose, Michael, Pierre and Fritz, who share silly puns and poke fun at each other between songs.
8. Peter Pan’s Flight
It’s off to Neverland in this magical ride that whisks you away in a pirate ship with Peter Pan and the Darling siblings.
Another one of the park’s original opening day rides, this attraction always has a long line as families enjoy the tradition of joining Peter Pan for a ride over London and through Neverland.
The pirate ship ride vehicles are suspended from a rail, the only one of its kind at Disneyland.
Guests really feel as if they are flying through the night’s sky with miniature buildings of London lit up below.
7. The Matterhorn Bobsleds
The Matterhorn is one of Disneyland’s four mountains, and it is also one of the best rides at Disneyland for adults, reaching speeds up to 27 miles per hour.
The ride system was designed by Imagineer, Bob Gurr, and it was the first tubular-steal continuous-track rollercoaster in the world!
The ride actually has TWO tracks and many people have their own opinion on which side is better.
Choose the shorter line and try that one.
The ride cars were recently re-designed to minimize back and neck pain that people complained about for many years, after riding the Matterhorn.
Look for the Yeti in the mountain as you zip down the icy caves and through Alpine streams.
Occasionally, climbers (Disney Cast Members) ascend the mountain wearing traditional Swiss lederhosen and wave at the guests down below.
Bonus fun: Yes! The legend is true! The ride DOES have a basketball hoop located inside the mountain where only Cast Members may enter.
6. Indiana Jones Adventure
Are you ready to hunt for lost treasure with Indiana Jones?
This motion vehicle dark ride is one of the most thrilling at Disneyland Park.
Guests board a military transport vehicle on an adventurous quest through a lost temple.
The ride opened in 1995 and features quick drops, giant boulders rolling toward you, missing rails and treacherous feats of heroism, all while safely strapped into your ride vehicle.
The attraction begins and ends within Adventureland, of course!
Indiana Jones wouldn’t have it any other way.
5. Rise of the Resistance
This is Disneyland’s newest thrill ride, and the experience is a good one!
The whole attraction experience is almost 20 minutes long, once you board the First Order Fleet Transport from Galaxy’s Edge.
Guests are given a mission by Rey and BB8 to meet up with General Leia Organa and help the Rebellion.
The attraction includes several different experiences and ride vehicles, a lot of interaction with various First Order personnel, and a tour through the First Order base on a free-moving vehicle, directed by RFID technology.
Though many would argue that this is the best ride at Disneyland, it is so new, many people have yet to experience the attraction for themselves.
Make sure to join the virtual queue and get ready to experience an attraction unlike any other.
May the Force be with you!
4. Space Mountain
For many who frequent Disneyland, Space Mountain is a rite of passage.
Finally, the day comes when you’re tall enough to ride Space Mountain and your parents ask, “are you sure you’re ready”?
For some, that day happens later in life when they finally have the courage to face the unknown and ride this classic attraction.
But then, it becomes a must for every visit.
This indoor, space coaster opened in 1977 and has thrilled guests through several versions over the years.
Whereas the version of this ride at Walt Disney World has two tracks and ride cars with single file seats, Disneyland’s Space Mountain is a single track with two seats per row.
As the ride begins up a long track into a star-filled tunnel, the music swells and then suddenly you are zipping around space to a fast, futuristic rock anthem and you land back on earth just a short three minutes later.
During what is now known as “Star Wars Month” (May), Space Mountain is transformed into a Hyperspace Mountain, a Star Wars themed ride with special projections and the famous John Williams soundtrack.
Don’t miss your chance to ride another one of Disneyland’s four famous mountains!
3. The Haunted Mansion
This beloved attraction is so popular, it has quite a fan following outside of the ride.
The Haunted Mansion wallpaper designs, stories and characters have been created into clothing, homeware and holiday decorations enjoyed year-round.
The ride was set to open in 1963 and the façade of the Mansion was built.
Guests saw the building from afar for several years before the attraction actually opened in 1969, due to Disney’s involvement in the 1964 World’s Fair and a redesign of the Haunted Mansion story after Walt’s death in 1966.
At last, the Haunted Mansion opened to record crowds, eagerly awaiting this ride that they’d been hearing of for many years.
Guests enter a stretching room, which is actually an elevator that lowers guests below ground level to the inner portion of the mansion.
You then board a “Doom Buggy”, your transport though an adventure with 999 Happy Haunts and the story of Gracey Manor and a wedding night gone terribly wrong.
Join Madame Leota, dancing spirits in the Great Hall, a cemetery of singing ghosts and a visit from a hitchhiking ghost, sitting next to you in your Doom Buggy!
As you exit the ride, ask the Cast Member for a Death Certificate.
You might just come away with a special souvenir!
2. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Yet another mountain to conquer at Disneyland, and this one is typically rated the best!
Set in Frontierland, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad takes guests on a thrilling roller coaster ride through the mines of the Wild West.
Twists and turns, ups and downs, offer an exciting experience on a DYNAMITE adventure.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was designed by Imagineers Tony Baxter and Bill Watkins. It opened in 1979 at Disneyland with a larger version opening the next year at Walt Disney World, known simply as Big Thunder Mountain (no Railroad).
However, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better!
With the addition of explosion effects in the main mine shaft and the tighter turns, due a smaller space, many find this original version to be more of a thrill than its larger counterpart in Florida.
Keep an eye out for the goat with the stick of dynamite.
Many say, if you stare at him as you make the wide turn, you’ll feel even more disoriented.
This is known as “the goat trick”.
1. Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean has become one of the most beloved attractions at Disneyland.
The ride was opened in 1967 with the very famous song “Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life for Me” written by George Bruns and Xavier Atencio.
It was the last ride that Walt Disney, himself, had a part in designing, having passed away just three months before the ride’s opening day.
The ride starts in the bayous of the southern states and takes guests on a ride through swashbuckling, pirate adventures in the Caribbean.
You slowly drift past diners in the Blue Bayou Restaurant and watch the fireflies flicker and listen to crickets chirp with soft banjo music in the background.
Then it’s a sudden drop into another world as you join the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Famous scenes include the jail, the burning town and a large boat battle with cannons and splashes.
In 2006, the ride was refurbished to accommodate the new characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise featuring Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa.
On occasion, Johnny Depp, the actor who plays Jack Sparrow, has been seen in the ride, interacting with guests in real-time!
The smell of the water, the thrill of swashbuckling pirates, and the love of the characters brings guests and their families back to this ride year after year.
Truly a Disney classic!
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