The Best Disneyland Rides | IGN

With Disneyland and the neighboring Disney California Adventure theme parks finally set to reopen today after over a year of COVID-induced closure, we thought it’d be fun to assemble IGN’s biggest Disneyland superfans to rank our top 10 favorite rides across both parks. We took everything into consideration: present-day fun factor, nostalgic value, theming, and even how good the experience leading up to the ride itself is (here’s looking at you, Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye). Bottom line: the next time you head back to Disneyland and California Adventure, these are the top 10 attractions you shouldn’t miss.

10) Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

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Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

Every time I step into line for Star Tours and spot the audio-animatronic C-3P0 in the distance, I can’t help but recall one of my favorite quotes from the golden protocol droid and his squat friend in Force Awakens: “Oh, my dear friend. How I’ve missed you.” I grew up with this theme-park jaunt through the galaxies far far away, treasuring every dip and dive and jump to hyperspace. It practically grew up with me, as it debuted at Disneyland only three years after I was born and was a must-visit throughout my life. Its changes reflected my journey through the Star Wars universe in my youth and was the only immersive Star Wars experience available to me for the first 35 years of my life until Galaxy’s Edge opened in 2019. That said, Star Tours is a historical touchpoint that extends far beyond my own memories: it was one of the first seeds planted that later blossomed into Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, it spans the eras before and after the hand-off, and it covers the entire Skywalker saga thanks to repeated updates that now allow you to experience one of dozens of different permutations every time you ride. There’s not another attraction on this planet that offers the variance and expanse of stories that the collective Star Tours rides across planets boast. Now that I have a daughter, it’s incredible to see her fall in love with Star Wars as I have, and she gets the same joy at five years old that I experience at 37. So I’m following Yoda’s advice – “The Force runs strong in your family. Pass on what you have learned.” – John Borba

9) The Incredicoaster

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The Incredicoaster

I’ll be honest: I liked the Incredicoaster better when it was called California Screamin’ for one simple, admittedly petty reason: the lines to ride it were a lot shorter. Once The Incredibles theme was added, interest in this ride clearly spiked the next time I visited the park (and every time since). But no matter what name is on the marquee, it’s a phenomenal thrill ride. The new Incredibles theming is really well implemented, as you zoom around at superheroic speed trying to corral Jack-Jack. But while the story is fun, the thrill of the Incredicoaster has always been its high speed. It’s the fastest ride in either of Disney’s California parks, topping out at 55mph, which is most delightfully evident after rounding the corner past the introductory diorama, then stopping for a five-second countdown. You’re launched from a standstill like you’re taking off in a performance-model Tesla, and the ensuing couple of minutes is quite simply a blast – including the upside-down loop in the middle of the ride (fun fact: it’s also the only attraction at either of Disney’s California parks that puts you upside-down). The only downside is that its thrill is over all too quickly. – Ryan McCaffrey

8) Haunted Mansion

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The Haunted Mansion

One of the most classic Disneyland attractions to this day, Haunted Mansion is still a marvel of the Disney Imagineers’ design capabilities. The mix of animatronics, projection work, and creative use of space makes Haunted Mansion a thrilling adventure even before you’re sitting in one of its cars. Striking a macabre, iconic look while you wait in line outside, Haunted Mansion opens up into its pre-ride show with a wonderful use of space, unsettling distortion of what you think you know, and a rush off to something much more mysterious than what waited outside the mansion’s doors. From the Hatbox Ghost to Madame Leota to a banquet hall of dancing ghouls to ghosts that sneak into your car as the ride ends, there’s no shortage of iconic moments. And that’s not even mentioning the elaborate and enchanting makeover the mansion receives for Christmas, with a Nightmare Before Christmas seasonal overhaul that practically becomes a new, but equally memorable (some would even say better!) ride. – Jonathon Dornbush

7) Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

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Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad sits somewhere comfortably in the middle of many of Disneyland’s classic rides and concepts. It’s a smaller-scale roller coaster ride with enough thrills to be fun if not daunting while telling a story of its own that is a delight to experience at any time of day or night. When the sun’s out, Big Thunder plays out like a frenetic ride through the Old West, past unexpected corners through exciting stretches and falls, and even into the mountains for a slow-burning fuse of a climb before the ride’s explosive end. And at night, it’s a dazzling, panoramic view of Disneyland lit up like the theme park of your dreams, from the austere Magic Castle to the naturalistic Batuu and more – it’s a delightful ride that acts as a theme park tour as a nice bonus. – Jonathon Dornbush

6) Radiator Springs Racers

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Radiator Springs Racers, aka The Cars Ride

Most rides at Disneyland either fall into the category of either a thrill ride or a dark ride, but Radiator Springs Racers asks the all-important question: “Why not both?” The Cars ride begins with a leisurely stroll through the titular Radiator Springs, introducing you to its four-wheeled residents in fun and magical ways that make wonderful use of what are perhaps the most impressive animatronics in the whole park, and letting you experience first-hand some fun bits from the movie, like watching the cow-like tractors tip over after getting scared by Mater’s horn. But the best part is when you reach the starting line of the race, meet eye to eye with your competing passengers on the neighboring track, and hit the gas as you compete against them in a thrilling outdoor race that does a great job of scratching that thrill-seeking itch for those looking for something just a little more intense than your standard dark ride. It’s got great technology, excellent theming, solid thrills, and even a fun competitive aspect to it. Radiator Springs Racers checks all of the boxes – it’s no wonder the lines for it are always so long. – Mitchell Saltzman

5) Pirates of the Caribbean

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Pirates of the Caribbean

Is there really a better way to capture that Disney magic than with the Pirates of the Caribbean ride? It may not be the most thrilling or highest-tech ride anymore (despite small updates over the years), but the all-time classic is both a literal and emotional roller coaster. Pair the serene boat ride (Pirates is also one of the longest-duration rides in either California park) with the charms of the ever-changing environments taking you through the swamps of the Blue Bayou, pirate battles at Isla Tesoro, post-battle plunders of a broken village as pirates sing jaunty tunes, and the ghostly underground caves filled with tantalizing booty in Dead Man’s Cove. There’s nothing quite like this timeless ride. It’s no wonder, in hindsight, that it inspired a multi-billion dollar film franchise. – Brian Malkiewicz

4) Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout

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Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout

It’d be an understatement to say I was skeptical of the Guardians of the Galaxy ride when it converted from the beloved Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. How could Disney possibly mess with such an atmospheric classic? But somehow, Mission Breakout forged its own fun-loving identity and made this classic drop ride even more special. Don’t get me wrong, Tower of Terror was and will forever be amazing, but what Disney has been able to do with Mission Breakout is exceptional. From the wonderfully interactive lobby to the incredible Rocket animatronic, to the handful of different variations of the ride experience itself (note: if you ever have a chance to visit California Adventure during Halloween season, the Monsters After Dark version of the ride acts as a stellar sequel to Mission Breakout, story-wise, and swaps out ’70s classic rock for ’80s heavy metal). It’s truly joyous and, barring a surprise from the upcoming Spider-Man ride, will instantly become the best ride within the Avengers Campus section of the park when it gets folded into the new land this June. – Michael Huynh

3) Indiana Jones Adventure

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Indiana Jones Adventure (The Temple of the Forbidden Eye)

Since its debut in 1995, I’ve made a point to visit The Indiana Jones Adventure multiple times on each trip to the mouse house. Every time I step up to the ropes, I feel excitement swell at the chance to plunge myself into an ancient Bengalese temple in search of the cap and whip that captivated me as a kid. I’ve found that the adventure within The Temple of the Forbidden Eye provides a unique and nostalgic experience from others within the park. From the incredibly immersive in-queue ambiance’s series of telegrams and newsreels to the blooming pyrotechnics and creepy lighting effects and dangerous environments of the ride itself, Indy’s Disneyland attraction puts me right in the action of the iconic pulpy environments – something I tried to recreate in my backyard a hundred times as a kid. But even my imagination never allowed me to come face-to-face with the audio-animatronic stand-in for Henry Jones Jr. The Indiana Jones Adventure is so immersive that I still feel like someday, if my entire car can avoid gazing into the eyes of the temple goddess Mara, something else will happen. After happily embarking upon this adventure what seems like hundreds of times throughout my life, I can honestly say that this ride certainly doesn’t belong in a museum. – John Borba

2) Space Mountain

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Space Mountain

Some rides at Disneyland may offer a better-themed experience that tells a story or brings you into its world, and some rides may elicit bigger screams or offer bigger thrills. But few if any combine the two together quite as well as Space Mountain. The cornerstone of Tomorrowland sends riders off on a memorable thrill ride that makes exceptional use of both light and darkness, both to accentuate the feeling of speed and also to really sell the sensation of traveling through space. Add on top of that the excellent music, the fantastically themed queue line, and the voiceover that sets the tension as you climb up to the first drop while they countdown from 10, and you’ve got one of the best rides in both Disneyland and California Adventure – and in all of Disney history. – Mitchell Saltzman

1) Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

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Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

Fun fact: every single IGN editor who participated in this feature ranked Disneyland’s newest e-ticket as their #1 ride. A few folks haven’t been on it yet (after all, it was only open in California for two months before the pandemic shut the park down), but let that sink in a moment: it didn’t just make everyone’s list, it topped EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON’S. LIST. We reviewed it when it opened and gave it a 9.5 out of 10. After riding it for the first time, the jaws of my entire extended family group – eight of us between the ages of 8 and 50 – were on the floor. And for good reason. Rise of the Resistance might be the Disney Imagineers’ greatest achievement yet. It combines cutting-edge holographics, motion simulation, and animatronics with a bewildering sense of scale to create a ride that’s both exciting and awe-inspiring – an instant classic. You really are in Star Wars. As a bonus, there are at least a few notable variations in the ride, so you might see some different stuff when you ride it again and again. I dare not say any more than that. In fact, I strongly advise you to go in blind if you can; it’s best experienced without knowing what to expect. But the bottom line is that Rise of the Resistance doesn’t just make up for the underwhelming Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run that opened with Galaxy’s Edge, it is an instant inner-circle Disney Hall of Fame ride that will be beloved for generations to come. – Ryan McCaffrey

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Did any of your favorites not make our list? Splash Mountain narrowly missed our cut, as did Toy Story Midway Mania. Let us know in the comments below!
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