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Top 10 Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Thrill Rides

What Are the Most Scream-Worthy Rides at the Parks?

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If it's thrills -- and only thrills -- you're after, you'd probably want to head to Six Flags Magic Mountain or Knott's Berry Farm. Unlike "iron parks" such as Six Flags, which are largely all about scaring the bermuda shorts off of its guests with its white-knuckle rides, Disney's more toned-down thrills typically contribute to an attraction's overall story. The Disney parks are largely all about dazzling guests with its elaborate, highly themed stories.

But that doesn't mean that the parks at the Disneyland resort are devoid of thrills. Let's take a look, in reverse order, at the ten most thrilling rides (plus one honorable mention) among the two parks.

Honorable Mention: Indiana Jones Adventure

Indiana Jones Adventure
Disney. Used with permission.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 4.5
  • Height Requirement: 46 inches
  • Location: Adventureland in Disneyland
There aren't any huge hills or other coaster-like thrills, but the groundbreaking Enhanced Motion Vehicles are quite zippy, and the action-packed ride is filled with sudden stops, starts, and jostling to and fro. The psychological thrills, including dimly lit scenes and "poisonous darts" add to the scare factor.

Indiana Jones Adventure ride review

Number 10: Radiator Springs Racers

Radiator Springs Racers
© Arthur Levine, 2012. Licensed to About.com.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 4.5
  • Height Requirement: 40 inches
  • Location: Cars Land at Disney California Adventure
The first half of the ride is quite tame. But the slot car-like vehicles really pour it on for the outdoor racing finale. There are even some mild airtime moments as the cars zoom over a couple of bunny hop hills.

Radiator Springs Racers ride review

Number 9: Goofy's Sky School

Disney. Used with permission.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 4.5
  • Height Requirement: 42 inches
  • Location: Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure
One of the few attractions at the Disneyland Resort that actually is like a ride typically found at an amusement park. The Wild Mouse- style coaster reaches a fairly tame 27 mph, and the hills aren't all that steep. But the hairpin turns nonetheless deliver some scream-inducing moments -- especially for younger riders.

Number 8: Star Tours - The Adventures Continue

© Arthur Levine, 2011. Licensed to About.com.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 4.5
  • Height Requirement: 40 inches
  • Location: Tomorrowland at Disneyland
A big-budget tour-de-force-be-with-you, Star Tours will knock your socks off more with its highly impressive 3D imagery, random sequence generator, and other cool effects than with its thrills. But the motion-simulated free fall, hyper-speed, and other sensations are thrilling in their own right.

Star Tours ride review

Number 7: Grizzly River Run

© Arthur Levine, 2012. Licensed to About.com.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 4.5
  • Height Requirement: 42 inches
  • Location: Grizzly Peak at Disney California Adventure
Really more wet than thrilling, the drop finale can be disconcerting to the thrill-averse. It's not as steep or as long a drop as Splash Mountain, but it's a drop nonetheless.

Number 6: Splash Mountain

©Arthur Levine, 2007. Licensed to About.com.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 5
  • Height Requirement: 40 inches
  • Location: Critter Country at Disneyland
The animatronics and themeing are stunning. The music is joyful. But there is an ominous patina of dread that permeates Splash Mountain because you know the big drop is coming. And at five stories, at a 45-degree angle, and reaching a top speed of about 40 mph, it's a pretty decent drop. See an exclusive About.com video of Splash Mountain.

Number 5: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

©Arthur Levine, 2007. Licensed to About.com.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 5
  • Height Requirement: 40 inches
  • Location: Frontierland at Disneyland
One of Disneyland's famous mountain rides, the Old West-themed coaster offers what would appear to be a runaway mine car ride that's loaded with thrills. But looks can be deceiving. How fast do you think Big Thunder reaches for its top speed? Would you be surprised if I told you it's 28 mph? Combine its relatively wimpy speed, its tame drops, and its almost non-existent airtime, and it's clear that the Disney classic is solidly in the "family coaster" category.

Number 4: Matterhorn Bobsleds

©Arthur Levine, 2007. Licensed to About.com.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 5
  • Height Requirement: 40 inches
  • Location: Fantasyland at Disneyland
It's in the same wimpy speed/tame drops/no airtime territory as Big Thunder. Matterhorn holds a special place in roller coaster history for being the first tubular steel track ride. Subsequent thrill machines have gone on to much greater heights (literally) as well as speeds, and features such as inversions have added new dimensions for ride designers and park fans to explore. None of the steel coaster innovations we now enjoy would have been possible without the Matterhorn prototype, but the original steelie is fairly mild.

Number 3: Space Mountain

Space Mountain
©Arthur Levine, 2007. Licensed to About.com.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 5
  • Height Requirement: 40 inches
  • Location: Tomorrowland in Disneyland
It is arguably the most famous indoor roller coaster (and one of the most famous -- and popular -- roller coasters of any kind). Space Mountain offers more psychological than kinetic thrills, but a 2005 redesign made the ride much smoother and the entire experience more of a cohesive romp through the cosmos. It clocks in at a somewhat faster 30 mph than the other Disneyland mountain coasters, but it is still pretty slow by coaster standards. Because it is enclosed, quite dark, and includes some nifty effects, it feels much faster.

Number 2: California Screamin'

© Arthur Levine. Licensed to About.com.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 7
  • Height Requirement: 48 inches
  • Location: Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure
Coaster fans would classify California Screamin' as being a family coaster, which would theoretically make it suitable for riders of most ages (the height requirement automatically discounts younger children) and thrill tolerance levels. But let's be honest: It's at the upper extreme of the family category. With a potent launch that accelerates riders from 0 to 55 mph in 4 seconds, a top speed of 55 mph, and a loop element that sends the train upside down, California Screamin' is considerably more thrilling than its Disneyland coaster counterparts.

Number 1: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

© Arthur Levine, 2012. Licensed to About.com.
  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 7
  • Height Requirement: 48 inches
  • Location: Hollywood Pictures Backlot in Disney's California Adventure
The ride is essentially similar to tower rides found at many amusement parks, but the Tower of Terror's themeing is spectacular, and its multiple drops and rises make for one unsettling and thrilling experience.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride review
Comparing the California and Florida Tower of Terror

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