My family loves riding theme park rides. While we love the characters, shows, and other attractions, we are really there for the rides.
When my kids were younger, we would divide up sometimes since my son wouldn’t necessarily be able to go on everything. But now, my kids are old enough to experience every ride, so we can go together on everything.
When I had the chance to visit Disneyland Resort with the AWEsome Retreat conference, I knew that I’d want to go on as many rides as possible. Luckily, the FastPass system is much more flexible at Disneyland than it is at Walt Disney World – the Disneyland app makes it so easy.
Even though I hadn’t made any advance plans, we were still able to experience most of the top rides at Disneyland. If you are planning a Disneyland vacation, here are 17 must-ride Disneyland rides.
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All opinions are my own. I had the opportunity to visit Disneyland Resort as part of my participation in the AWEsome Retreat.
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17 Must-Ride Disneyland Rides
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
My kids always loved the Dumbo ride at Walt Disney World. Even though it’s not the more unique ride, it’s definitely something that you’ll want to ride. It’s also a great way to see some of the sites of the park.
It typically gets very busy, so you’ll probably want to ride early. With the new movie out, it’s a great way for young kids to experience a little bit of Dumbo, and is a must-do when visiting Disneyland with toddlers.
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
I always loved Mr. Toad at the Magic Kingdom and missed it when it was transformed into the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Luckily, fans of the ride can still go on it at Disneyland. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride isn’t as wild as it sounds – rather, it’s a dark ride that goes nice and slow.
Indiana Jones Adventure (FastPass offered)
During my first trip to Disneyland, I wasn’t able to experience the Indiana Jones ride. Luckily, I was able to ride it during my second Disneyland trip.
It’s a thrill ride that is not exactly a roller coaster. It’s more similar to the Dinosaur ride at Animal Kingdom, rather than the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland Paris (which I’m still traumatized by). I absolutely enjoyed it.
Star Tours – the Adventures Continue (FastPass offered)
Star Wars fans will definitely want to go on Star Tours, where you can experience a different journey each time you ride. If you experience motion sickness, so may want to skip this one. The motion simulator can affect your balance when riding.
This ride has been at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland for a while – before the opening of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.
Splash Mountain (FastPass offered)
Splash Mountain is one of those rides that really optimizes what I love about Disney Parks. It’s a flume ride, but instead of being a standard ride, it incorporates a full storyline.
It’s about so much more than getting wet, but you will definitely get wet. This is an especially refreshing ride for a hot day at the parks. Remember to protect your cell phone and any other electronics you are carrying.
Even if you’ve been to Walt Disney World and Disneyland dozens of times, the following iconic rides are absolutely must-dos every time you visit.
it’s a small world (FastPass offered)
When I was younger, I always thought of it’s a small world as a kids’ ride. But as an adult, it’s something I always want to go on. The Disneyland version is different from the Florida one because it loads outside, and incorporates some of the beloved Disney characters throughout the ride.
Space Mountain (FastPass offered)
This was one of the first thrill rides I went on as a kid, and I still love it. It’s not as scary as other thrill rides, but it’s still so much fun.
Pirates of the Caribbean
I’d been on the Pirates of the Caribbean in Florida and Paris before going on the California version. But this one is definitely my favorite because it’s a longer ride with a bigger drop. You’ll absolutely want to experience it during your Disneyland vacation.
The Haunted Mansion
This spooky ride is always a must-do, even if you’ve been on it a number of times.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (FastPass offered)
Big Thunder Mountain isn’t the scariest roller coaster, but it’s a fun ride!
You’ll groan at the jokes and puns, but it’s still something you’ll want to go on.
Luckily, thanks to the proximity of the two parks, it’s easy to go between both Disneyland Resort and Disney’s California Adventure throughout the day.
Disney’s California Adventure
Toy Story Midway Mania (FastPass offered)
Ever since Toy Story Midway Mania opened, it’s been a popular family-friendly attraction. My family always has a friendly competition amongst ourselves, and it’s something we always look forward to.
Soarin’ Around the World (FastPass offered)
I admit that I’m still a big fan of the original Soarin’ Over California. However, this new version is a welcome change, and I am always impressed with how realistic it feels to be soarin’ over the world. Even if you’ve been this particular show before, it’s still worth doing again and again.
Incredicoaster (FastPass offered)
The only ride that goes upside at Disneyland Resort is the Incredicoaster, which is located on Pixar Pier. During my first visit, I loved staying by and watching it go through the loop over and over again. However, it’s also incredibly fun to ride also.
If you like thrill rides, you’ll definitely want to go on this ride! The premise of the ride is that Jack Jack has escaped, and you’ll need to race through the coaster to find him. It’s such a fun, outdoor ride.
The most iconic ride at Disney’s California Adventure is the Pixar Pal-A-Round wheel. There are two separate gondola types for this ride – one that is fixed for a more traditional Ferris wheel experience.
The other swings back and forth as the ride goes around and around for a much scarier experience. Guests can choose which gondola type that they want to go on.
Radiator Springs Racers (FastPass offered)
I absolutely loved Cars Land at California Adventure, and the highlight of the land is Radiator Springs Racers. This ride is extremely popular, so you’ll either want to get a FastPass or choose the single rider line.
While there is Cars theming and storyline as the ride starts, it’s really the end – when the car goes fast – that is the best part of this attraction. It’s also nice to stand at the entrance of Cars Land and watch the cars of Radiator Springs Racers drive by.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! (FastPass offered)
I admit that I was very skeptical when Disneyland transformed my beloved Tower of Terror into Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! However, I was so impressed with the ride and really actually love it. Mission: BREAKOUT is similar to the ride movement of the Tower of Terror. But it incorporates retro, energetic music, and the Guardians of the Galaxy characters.
Although I do love the ride, I’m glad that Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios still has the original version. I hope that one doesn’t change.
Bonus: Star Wars Rise of the Resistance
Since I originally wrote this article, Star Wars Rise of the Resistance has opened at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. This 15-minute attraction is so much more than a ride – it’s a full experience.
Currently, this attraction does not offer FastPass, a standby line, or a single-rider line. You’ll have to get a boarding group on the Disneyland app first thing in the morning, as soon as the park opens.
Maximizing Your Disneyland Ride Experience
While it’s certainly easier to plan a Disneyland vacation than a Walt Disney World vacation, you’ll still need to have a plan. Disneyland’s FastPass system is a paper system like the one that used to exist at Walt Disney World. Walk up to a kiosk, and get a FastPass reservation for the next available time during the day.
There’s also MaxPass, which is a system that isn’t offered at Walt Disney World. MaxPass is available for an additional fee. With it, you can use the Disneyland app to choose your next FastPass. You don’t even need to be at that particular park when you make the reservation.
Since it’s so easy to go from park to park, you can easily go between them to maximize your FastPasses throughout the day. With MaxPass, you’ll also get your PhotoPass photos that are taken during the day. Be sure to add the ride photos to your account so you’ll be able to download them.
Even though you won’t make your FastPass reservations in advance, it’s a good idea to research the rides in advance. Find out which ones offer FastPass, and put together a list. If you are going to use the free FastPass system, you can also make a plan outline with an ordered list of Disneyland rides.
That way, you’ll know exactly where to go when you arrive. Of course, that plan will change a bit as you start to see the FastPass availability for the day.
What is your favorite Disneyland ride?