11. Disneyland Railroad
The story of Walt’s love for trains has been told time and again, and his excitement over the building of the Disneyland Railroad still shines through 65 years after its construction. Both a classic way to see Disneyland and a nice break from the day, the best legs of your grand circle tour are the scenic route from New Orleans Square station to Fantasyland/Toontown, next to Small World, and from Tomorrowland Station back to Main Street, as you pass the enormous and stunning Grand Canyon and Primeval World dioramas. The railroad and its stations feature all kinds of Disneyland secrets; if you arrive early in the day, head to City Hall and ask if rides in the exclusive and historic Lily Belle caboose are availablel before jumping aboard.
10. Mr Toad’s Wild Ride
Our surprise winner of the Disneyland Dark Ride Derby goes to a ride that’s every bit as unpredictable as this result. Mr. Toad is a particularly beloved piece of Disneyland history; it’s been here since opening day in 1955, and is duplicated in exactly none of the other Disney parks, unlike so many other Disneyland attractions (it’s cousin in Florida shut down in 1998). Mr. Toad is particularly noted for its ending, in which Mr. Toad quite literally goes to Hell on its way back to the queue. Nonetheless, it’s a favorite of many hardcore Disneyland fanatics, and it somehow even outstripped Peter Pan in our poll.
9. Star Tours
The original Star Wars ride was shut down in 2010 for a much-needed refurbishment and facelift, and while the classic flight through a comet and another Death Star battle is sorely missed by purists, Disney’s 2011 revamp of the ride into a randomized 3-D run through several favorite planet options is a fitting tribute to a franchise whose universe continues to expand under Disney’s care. Recent additions like Jakku and Crait have appeared in updates to promote new films and enhance the ride possibilities, and with over 50 possible ride combinations, you’re almost guaranteed to never go on the same adventure sequence twice. As a bonus, listen closely: every scene has some reference to the original Star Tours script Heroes, villains, high return value, adventure, and
8. Radiator Springs Racers
This is it. By our math, this is the best ride in California Adventure. Part scenic road trip, part incredibly immersive dark ride, part rollercoaster, Racers delivers a complete package for everyone in the family, and does it with majestic music and stunningly realistic depictions of Cars’ beloved characters, before engaging in a drag race with another car that you suddenly deeply care about winning. Bringing everything about the signature Cars character and movie designs to life in the heart of one of Disney’s best-designed and most cohesive lands in any park is a recipe for smashing success.
7. Splash Mountain
That the third-place finisher in the Disneyland Mountain Range drops in in the seventh spot tells you a ton already. From the time it was introduced in 1989, Splash Mountain became an instant classic, and the towering foundation on which Critter Country is built. Despite being themed to one of Disney’s more infamous properties in 1946’s Song of the South, which even the most die-hard Disney fans have likely never seen, Splash Mountain’s adventures with Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and Brer Bear have long been crowd-pleasers, and the classic flume-style ride ends with a 70-foot drop in which you will get wet. Our more recent experiences with the ride also suggest that they’ve raised the water level somewhat for that express purpose, so pack your ponchos, folks.
6. Jungle Cruise
Another of the 1955 originals still standing, Jungle Cruise is delightful from the time you walk through the queue entrance to the moment you’re thrown out of your boat at the dock. On this nice, shady tour of the world’s greatest rivers, your skipper will introduce you to the second-most feared animal in the jungle, show you natural wonders like lions keeping watch over sleeping zebras, and take you to see the famed 8th wonder of the world. It’s a relaxing and funny romp that is a favorite among cast members and guests alike, and was an occasional favorite of Walt’s to step in and pilot. It’s a bummer they’ve announced that the Jingle Cruise will not be returning at the holidays this year; the Christmas additions and new material for the skippers was a hit that created hours-long lines that were worth waiting through for the punchlines.
5. Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye
Fun fact: This was neither Disney’s first nor last attempt at an Indiana Jones ride, but it remains the runaway best. The indoor queue is wonderful for hot days, and using the Disney Play app, the symbols on the wall can be decoded with warnings and messages for careful and careless travelers alike. After a film informing you of the dangers ahead, you’re loaded into a Jeep and off on a search for youth, knowledge, and treasure. Beware the eyes of Mara, though–once you lock eyes with the idol, there will be no escape!
4. Pirates of the Caribbean
Even with some recent controversial changes to the ride, the iconic scenes and beloved music still make this ride a well-loved classic, and a nice break from the Southern California sun. It’s hard to imagine this was once intended as a walkthrough wax museum–it’s hard to imagine talking about pirates without being aboard a boat now, especially with the initial drops down into the caverns and the famous pirate skeleton scenes.
3. Space Mountain
Speaking of rides that have been through some changes, Disneyland has recently rarely let Space Mountain be itself. In the last 15 years, it’s gotten a Rock N Roller Coaster overlay, has regularly been host to the Ghost Galaxy at Halloween, and more recently has spent the majority of the year as the Star Wars-themed Hyperspace Mountain. But no matter its configuration, projections, or music, Space Mountain is a fast, smooth, enjoyable coaster in the dark, and always has long waits for a reason: It’s one of the best roller coasters Disney’s built, no matter which park you ride it in.
2. Big Thunder Mountain
You know how we said Space Mountain was “one of the best” Disney coasters? Meet our champion in that category. With its recent touch-up for the 60th anniversary, it’s stellar vistas, and its combination of hills and speed with magnificent effects and scenery both inside and out, Big Thunder is a justified must-do, with the added benefit of not having lines nearly as long as you’ll find at any of the other Disneyland peaks. And as good as Disneyland’s original is, its cousins at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris take it to another level. But if you get to one coaster while at Disneyland, this is the one to hit.
Welcome, foolish mortals. There really can’t be another #1 here. While purists may wish to dock it points when the Mansion is in its Nightmare Before Christmas configuration from September to January, in either skin, the Mansion perfectly balances iconic music, a brilliant queue, iconic scenes, just a hint of real fright, some truly fantastic urban legends, and a classic theme. It’s no wonder Hatbox Ghost and his friends are such icons among the Disneyland faithful–Haunted Mansion has it all.