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The Top 10 Best Rides at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure

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Are you planning a trip to the Disneyland Resort in California? Do you want to know which rides and attractions are must-sees at the two theme parks? Herewith is a list of the ten very best Disneyland rides (plus two honorable mentions).

While we are on the subject of what's best, you may want to take a look at Disneyland's Top Ten Best Table-Service Restaurants, Top Ten Best Counter- and Quick-Service Restaurants, and Top Ten Best Snacks and Desserts.

1. Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean
© 2003 Arthur Levine, licensed to About.com.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 2.5
    Small splashdowns, mildly frightening images.
  • Height Requirement: None
  • Location: New Orleans Square in Disneyland
  • Fastpass: No
Dead men may tell no tales, but Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean have entertained millions with their salty tales. A landmark achievement in theme park storytelling when it debuted in 1967, Pirates remains one of Disney's--and all of parkdom's--most beloved attractions. First-timers and those returning with nostalgia-tinged memories alike adore its timeless tales and pitch-perfect presentation.

2. Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion
Disney. Used with permission.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 3.5
    More silly than scary, the ride is dark, loud...and haunted! Very young children may find it disconcerting.
  • Height Requirement: None
  • Location: New Orleans Square in Disneyland
  • Fastpass: No
Coming on the heels of the wildly successful and innovative Pirates of the Caribbean and Disney's New York World's Fair attractions, the Haunted Mansion was part of an incredible burst of creative energy from the company and one of its high watermark moments. An overnight sensation (that was actually many years in the making), the classic ride has remained enormously popular; casual and ardent fans alike typically pair it with Pirates as the archetypal Disney attractions.

3. Indiana Jones Adventure

Talk about stinkeye! The deity Mara unleashes its wrath on riders aboard the Indiana Jones Adventure
Disney. Used with permission.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 4.5
    While there are no coaster drops or inversions, the vehicles are fast, and the ride is action-packed with quick starts and stops and plenty of jostling. Also, many of the scenes are dark, and there are all kinds of dark ride gotchas, such as snakes and "poisonous" darts.
  • Height Requirement: 46 inches
  • Location: Adventureland in Disneyland
  • Fastpass: Yes
An E-Ticket tour de force, Indiana Jones Adventure immerses guests into the world of the popular movie series through the use of Disney's innovative Enhanced Motion Vehicles, highly elaborate sets, and a stunning array of effects. It is one of Imagineering's crowning achievements.

4. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Arthur Levine. Licensed to About.com
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 7
    Multiple freefall drops and launches, sensations of weightlessness, psychological thrills.
  • Height Requirement: 40 inches
  • Location: Hollywood Pictures Backlot in Disney's California Adventure
  • Fastpass: Yes
The Tower of Terror is a modern-day classic Disney theme park attraction. Combining a thrilling freefall ride, dazzling effects, and an inspired and fiendishly clever storyline based on the seminal "The Twilight Zone" television series, Disney Imagineers have created a ride that, like a select few E-ticket attractions, is so much greater than the sum of its parts.

5. Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage

The subs are "Mine!" "Mine!" "Mine!"
©Arthur Levine. Licensed to About.com
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 2
    Some scenes are dark, loud, and could be a tad frightening to wee ones.
  • Height Requirement: None
  • Location: Tomorrowland in Disneyland
  • Fastpass: No
With its Finding Nemo overlay, the classic ride appeals to today's Pixar-lated kids as well as their nostalgia-fueled parents. The combination of deft storytelling and Imagineering magic makes the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage an alluring, sea-worthy E-Ticket attraction.

6. Soarin' Over California

Soarin' Over California is one of the most popular attractions at Disney's California Adventure.
Arthur Levine 2004. Licensed to About.com.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 2.5
    Gentle motion simulation, moderate height and "soaring" simulation.
  • Height Requirement: 40 inches
  • Location: Golden State in Disney's California Adventure
  • Fastpass: Yes
An instant classic, Soarin' Over California is the definitive Disney's California Adventure attraction: It's a captivating Disney E-ticket ride that incorporates technology in a new and exciting way; it's all about the Golden State's legendary sights; and it's a charming and giddy adventure that'll engage your senses and figuratively, if not damn near literally, send you soarin'.

7. Radiator Springs Racers

© Arthur Levine, 2012. Licensed to About.com.
Part immersive storytelling dark ride, part thrill ride, Radiator Springs Racers perfectly blends the classic theme park attraction features to deliver a remarkable experience in the grand tradition of E-Ticket rides. Based on the charming Pixar film, Cars.

8. Star Tours - The Adventures Continue

Disney, 2011. Used with permission.
Star Tours - The Adventures Continue improves on the original Star Tours (which was the first major motion simulator ride in a theme park) in every way--and sets a new standard for movie rides. Blast off to a galaxy far, far away and marvel at the technology that allows for multiple story lines. A truly astonishing Imagineering achievement.

9. Space Mountain

Space Mountain
Disney. Used with permission.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 4.5
    Coaster turns and dips (although no big drops); illusion of high speed; darkness hides track and riders don't know what's coming next.
  • Height Requirement: 40 inches
  • Location: Tomorrowland in Disneyland
  • Fastpass: Yes
The classic indoor coaster got a major makeover in 2005 that made the ride much smoother, the interior darker, and the whole experience more of a seamless blast through the cosmos. Without the effects, it's a fairly poky junior coaster; with the Imagineers' pixie dust, it's an exhilarating mindbender of a ride.

10. Toy Story Mania

Toy Story Mania at Disney's California Adventure
©Arthur Levine, 2008. Licensed to About.com.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 1.5
    As the ride vehicles travel between the game screens, they move somewhat quickly and partially spin. Also some of the scenes between games are briefly dark.
  • Height Requirement: None
  • Location: Paradise Pier in Disney's California Adventure
  • Fastpass: No
The next generation in interactive theme park attractions, Toy Story Mania takes ultra-flashy video game technology, embellishes it with 3-D graphics (yep, riders wear dorky 3-D glasses), presents a game play experience that appeals to everyone from toddlers to the most experienced gamers, and wraps it all together using the engaging characters from the Toy Story films.

11. it's a small world

it's a small world
©Arthur Levine, 2005. Licensed to About.com.
Honorable Mention
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 0
    The prototypical "family" attraction, it's a small world has absolutely nothing that should cause even the most thrill-averse riders any concern. (Although the song has the potential to cause post-traumatic stress for years--decades, even.)
  • Height Requirement: None
  • Location: Fantasyland in Disneyland
  • Fastpass: No
"Small" is a relative term. It may indeed be a small world after all, but since it debuted at the 1964 New York World's Fair, about a gazillion denizens of our diminutive planet have boarded the wonderful it's a small world--and subsequently tried in vain to get the cloying theme song out of their brains.

12. Turtle Talk with Crush

Turtle Talk with Crush
Disney. Used with permission.
Honorable Mention
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 0
    This is a charming show with no gotchas or scary moments.
  • Height Requirement: None
  • Location: Hollywood Pictures Backlot in Disney's California Adventure
  • Fastpass: No

Some might find it odd to choose the "Finding Nemo"-themed show above classics such as Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain for a top-12 list of best Disneyland attractions. But Turtle Talk with Crush, in which the surfer dude interacts with audience members via real-time animation, is an astonishing Imagineering breakthrough. Between laughs, adults scratch their heads in bewilderment, while young kids nonchalantly, if delightedly, chat with the witty reptile.

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