25. Snow White’s Scary Adventure
See that word “Scary” in the title? Doesn’t feel like it belongs in a Fantasyland dark ride, does it? But the winding run through the woods once the Queen hatches her evil plan is truly a thing of fright that sets Snow White apart. This ride has all the classic dark ride elements–memorable scenes, peril for the hero/heroine and the rider, and the happy ending. Snow White also kicks off the portion of the list where we spend a lot of time going “This feels like it should be higher, but what would you move it ahead of?”
24. Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
Speaking of dark rides, this is an awesome 4-minute romp through Toontown with Disney’s favorite comic rabbit, zinging through warehouses full of prop explosives and diving from way above LA before getting into trouble with the Weasels and being saved by portable hole. The spinning element leaves you with the impression an Imagineer came to a meeting one day with: “I got it. What if you took Mad Tea Party and put it on a dark ride track?” The queue is also engaging throughout, with in-jokes and callbacks to a number of Disney shorts as well as Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The result is all zany fun, provided you don’t mind the trek to Toontown.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Disney’s original mountain has always been a bit herky-jerky, but ever since the revamp for the 50th anniversary in 2005, it’s felt like there should be chiropractors at the exit. The interior redo a few years later that introduced us to a larger, scarier, and sometimes digital yeti was a nice touch (although some smaller riders might disagree), but the ride still beats you up on the way down in a way that keeps it down a tier from the other mountains in the Disneyland Mountain Range.
Ah, yes. The classic image of Disneyland. A parent and child–or sometimes Darth Vader and his stormtroopers–soaring over Fantasyland in the original flying elephant ride. It’s certainly a classic, but in the end, the marketing means people flock to this one, so there’s often a 15-20 minute wait for a 90-second flight in a circle that really has a view over Fantasyland for about half of that.
21. It’s A Small World
Speaking of classic images of Disneyland, I’m prepared for the hate here. This 14-minute Audio-Animatronic classic is usually a quick mover (the holidays are an exception, be prepared to wait as much as an hour), but half the fun of Small World isn’t the ride–it’s the clock, every 15 minutes, when the clock chimes out the time and a parade of little figures straight off the ride from around the world, or during the holidays, the light show at night at the same intervals. The ride should probably rank higher, but given that I’m pretty sure subjecting someone to 15-20 minutes of “It’s a Small World” on loop outside of this ride is listed as a form of psychological torture by the UN, it loses some ground.
20. Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes
How many times have you walked past the canoes? How many times have you missed that they were open? How many times have you decided you didn’t want to go to Disneyland for a workout and didn’t feel like rowing–or didn’t know how? You have missed OUT. This 8-10 minute paddle (depending on the rest of your crew) around the Rivers of America features guides every bit as funny as those on the Jungle Cruise, a free paddling lesson, a short arm workout that’s really not all that difficult as long as you have a full boat, and a memorable look at the scenery on the Rivers of America. Just plain fun, and a dark horse for one of our favorite Disney rides.
19. Mad Tea Party
A Disneyland icon, with classic theming, more spinning, less wait, and more history. A flippin’ staple–as long as you don’t get motion sick easily.
18. Toy Story Midway Mania
Astro Blasters came first and did the ride-along competitive shooting attraction well, but Midway Mania perfected it. Firing your pull cannon at 3-D targets in several themed carnival games, competing against everyone else in your car? Fantastic. Wait times often aren’t bad if you nab a Fastpass, and it’s genuine fun for the whole family, though your arm’s gonna be sore for a minute afterwards. A great little spin.
17. Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout!
We were part of a long line of skeptics when Disney announced they were re-theming the classic Tower of Terror at California Adventure, but… man, is this fun. While it lacks the spook factor from the Twilight Zone theming, Mission:Breakout! brings fun in its place that’s in lockstep with the fun of the Guardians of the Galaxy films. And the different scenes as you fling up and down the Tivan Collection promise a new gag just about every time you ride, and even add a little to the ride experience, as you don’t always know when you’re rising or falling. This ride might even get a boost up the list when the Avengers Campus opens in summer 2020, and the Guardians have more of their Marvel friends around and don’t feel so isolated (geographically and thematically) within Hollywood Backlot.
16. The Incredicoaster
Another re-themed original from the opening of Disney’s California Adventure, Disney cleverly sculpted a story for an existing rollercoaster, and even poked fun at themselves for doing it via in-queue videos. The real gem of what Disney did in the retheme was the way they worked in all the Incredibles’ unique power sets into the tunnels and story of the coaster (passing over the Jack Jack Cookie Num Nums stand while Mr. Incredible attempts to lure Jack Jack out with a cookie is a particular stroke of synergistic mastery–especially because man, those cookies smell good).
15. Alice in Wonderland
Alice is a standout wonder among the Fantasyland dark rides, especially after it got a bit of a revamp around the 60th anniversary. The ride shines brighter, the track takes some loopier turns, and it keeps all the classic references and characters we know and love in fine shape as your caterpillar cruises along. And the ending at the Tea Party as it drops you off next to the Mad Tea Party? Genius.
14. Peter Pan’s Flight
Speaking of the best in Fantasyland dark rides, here’s the heavy crowd favorite. Peter Pan never seems to have a wait time of under 25 minutes, and you understand why immediately in the first minute, which is spent flying over London in a room that uses miles and miles of fiber optic cable–reportedly as much as 200 miles of the stuff!
13. Grizzly River RunSo this will obviously be a bit more controversial if you’re not a water ride fan, but Grizzly River Run is a rollicking good time through some gorgeous mountain and tree scenery, and can provide a nice drenching on hot days–if you’re quick with a FastPass, or willing to wait anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. But it’s a great take on the classic raft-and-splash ride, and set in a scenic part of the park. Bonus points: If you’re staying at the Grand Californian, you’re right next to your rooms, so you can go get a change of clothes if you wish and jump right back into action.
12. Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
Are we overhyping the latest offering from Disney’s Imagineers? Not in the least. Imagine, if you will, taking Star Tours, laying over some friends from Disney’s recent animated Star Wars efforts, and then put you in the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon. The approach past a life-size model of the famed Corellian YT-1300 freighter is a breathtaking highlight for Star Wars fans the first time they see it, and the queue is littered with QR codes for playing along with the Datapad game in the Disney Play app, an ingenious augmented reality game within Galaxy’s Edge that immerses you more fully in the stories being told around you by asking you to find items, hack signals, and take jobs, either for the Smugglers, the Empire, or the Resistance.
The queue ends inside the iconic ride, complete with couches and dejarik table, so you can take your own “let the Wookiee win” photos. From there, your little pod of 6 is let into the cockpit of the Falcon itself, where you divide up into pilots, gunners, and engineers, from front to back of the pod, and all have jobs to do throughout your run to steal valuable fuel for Hondo Ohnaka. The further forward you are, the more you’re engaged in the action. Engineers hit buttons occasionally to repair the ship or get it back in working order, gunners… well, gunners shoot at passing TIE fighters and the train you’re out to rob, and pilots have their work cut out for them, as one pilot controls horizontal drift, and the other controls the vertical pitch. But the act of flying the Falcon is as adventurous as you’d come to expect from Han and Chewie, and leads to an exhilarating ride–one that, weirdly enough, goes longer the worse you are at your goals. Do not miss this one!