Disneyland Park: Attraction Overview

By: Adam F Manfredo

“To all that’s come to this place: Welcome.”  On July 17, 1955,  Walt’s lifelong dream was achieved, as Disneyland park opened to the masses.  Over the next 60+ years, this would alter the course of the Disney Company for years to come.  A beautiful, ever-changing theme park that has a little bit of something for everyone.  From the second you step foot on Main Street U.S.A., the sights, sounds, and smells draw you into something amazing. Disneyland is a place a family can go to, dream, and experience together.  It may not be the same as it was in Walt’s original dream, but the ideas are the same; it is a “source of joy and inspiration to all the world”.  Hop aboard this journey with me, as I take you through each attraction.

Walt

Just like we have done for each of the other theme parks, we have created a list of each attraction in Disney California adventure and alongside each attraction, you will find our ratings on a 10-point scale, as well as, how important it is to use a Fastpass on the attraction.  Fastpasses are in ticket form; just as they were in Walt Disney World prior to Fastpass+.  Our ratings may not be exactly in line with other guide books or Disney websites, but hear us out.  The ratings are based on overall impressiveness, fun-level, ability to immerse the audience in another world, and add in a pinch of nostalgia.

Disneyland Park – Attractions and Shows

Alice in Wonderland (6/10)

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to join the White Rabbit, Alice and the gang in Wonderland? Step inside the over-sized caterpillar and take curvy and twisty journey down the rabbit hole.  Meet up with some of your favorite characters from Alice and Wonderland, but make sure to avoid angering the Queen of Hearts, or it’s off with your head!  A beautifully themed attraction for the whole family, and one that children will enjoy.  The animatronics are a bit dated, but there is certainly some charm in those old characters.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Astro Orbitor (5/10)

Located in Tomorrowland, Astro Orbitor allows guests to pilot a rocket ship high in the sky, while orbiting a constellation of planets.  Not a particularly thrilling attraction, but kids will love to ride it, and it gives them the ability to raise or lower the rocket as they Astro Orbitersee fit.  However, it may just be me, but I do like to ride this attraction at night because it allows you to get a beautiful view of Tomorrowland and other areas lit up for the night.  I think it is worth the ride day or night for the Disney fans who would like a much better view of the park.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Autopia (4/10)

Feel the wind rush through your hair as you cruise down the road, while watching the adventures of the Humanoid Robot and Bird unfold before your very eyes.  This area always seems a bit outdated to me because you get in a car that is on a track, the cars are slow, and they sound and smell like they are running on  lawn mower engines.  I am sure someone with kids would review this differently because a child getting a chance to drive a car is always going to be happy, but this is not a memorable attraction.  Also, you have to watch out for other guests because even though you are not supposed to; people tend to bump into each other’s cars.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (8/10)

Board a runaway train as it races through a gold-mining town, and hold on to your “Ears” because this here is the wildest ride in the wilderness!  Not your average train ride, Big Thunder Mountain will not disappoint.  From the moment you walk up to this attraction you feel as though you have entered a California gold rush town.  You hop aboard the train, and you’re off at speeds of up to 35 mph whipping through the canyons and caverns of the an old mine.  This coaster is exciting and thrilling, but one the whole family can enjoy.

*Fastpasses offered and should be considered.

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (9/10)

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to join Buzz Lightyear in a daring adventure to defeat the Evil Emperor Zurg?  Step in the Buzz Lightyear themed space Buzz Lightyearships, and grab a space cannon and prepare for battle. Take aim with your space cannon at the many Zurg symbols to rack up points, and see where you rank at the conclusion of the attraction.  Not all of the Zurg symbols are worth the same amount of points, so try to find those ones that will give you the biggest scores.  This attraction is open to all guests, so the whole family can join in on the adventure to see if anyone can become a galactic hero.

*Fastpasses offered and should be considered.

Casey Jr. Circus Train (6/10)

An original attraction from 1955, board a festive animal cage or ornate sleigh and join brave engine Casey Jr., from the Disney Classic, Dumbo, and explore Storybook Land featuring locations such as the Dwarfs cottage and Toad hall, among others.  This Disney classic is definitely geared towards kids, but is a fun experience and definitely one for the Disney original fan.  I wonder if Casey Jr. will be able to conquer that hill; I guess you will have to ride it to find out.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Disneyland Railroad (10/10)

Call me crazy, but I love the classics and that is why this gets the rating I gave it.  Now I know not everyone appreciates the classics the way that I do, but this is something Walt Disney had a deep love for, and it something that is worth ride for any true Disney fan. Take a ride on an authentic steam-powered train for an 18-minute journey by some breathtaking views inspired by 4 of America’a majestic rivers.  Included in the train ride are Walt Disney’s legendary dioramas of the Grand Canyon and Primeval World that have been restored back to their original beauty.  Making stops on Main Street, U.S.A., Tomorrowland, New Orleans Square and Mickey’s Toontown make this a convenient and fun way to travel around the park.  There are five beautifully restored narrow-gauge trains to ride, and four are named after some locomotive legends, while the fifth is named after Legendary Disney Animator, Ward Kimball, who nurtured Walt’s passion for trains.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (6/10)

Make your way into a theater, passing through a large room of models, artwork and artifacts showcasing the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. The show begins with a screening of a film composed of dramatic paintings depicting President Lincoln’s life from his humble rural upbringing to the White House. Then, Honest Abe takes center stage and delivers highlights from some of his greatest speeches.  An educational and inspirational attraction that should give hope to the future for all who listen to our former leader’s words.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant (7/10)

This attraction seems like a right of passage for more families.  I know a tradition was born on this attraction that continues today for my family, as my father and sister ride this attraction together on every trip.  For fans of the Disney Classic, Dumbo will allow guests to soar high in the sky above Fantasyland.  Families will enjoy this timeless attraction, and maybe even begin a tradition of your own.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Enchanted Tiki Room (6/10)

A Disneyland classic, the Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room opened in 1963, and has been performing for audiences ever since.  You enter this area, and you feel as though are in heart of the Polynesian islands.  Head into the ceremonial house where tropical birds, tiki gods, and beautiful flower come to life, and sing songs that are sure to have singing them for years to come.  The show runs for roughly 15 minutes, and is one that worth your time.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage (7/10)

Take a plunge in a submarine deep into the world of Finding Nemo.  Climb down the open hatch inside the submarine operated by the Nautical Exploration and Marine Finding Nemo Submarine VoyageObservation, N.E.M.O., and look out the porthole.  The journey begins as you are studying the newly discovered volcano, then the sub dives down further, and you meet some familiar fish friends.  Follow along as Marlin and Dory search for Nemo, and other sea creature that you love join in.  A family attraction for sure, but it is one of some amazing technology and you feel as though you have taken a deep-sea journey without ever leaving the park!

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Gadget’s Go Coaster (6/10)

Twist and turn around curves on kids roller coaster designed by Gadget from Chip ‘n Dale’s Rescue Rangers.  Not a super thrilling coaster, but one that children will love, and one the adults will feel as though there is a bit of thrill too it.  Disney did really well with the setting of this coaster, as you enter the house of Gadget and hop on the acorn train. The coaster ride lasts about a minute, but does reach speeds of up to 22 mph.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Haunted Mansion (10/10)

As you walk on the grounds the of Gracey Manor, you get that feeling that there might be ghosts around.  Slowly move your way into the Haunted Mansion, and you enter a dimly lit room, where a ghoulish voice explains the that you are going on a tour of the famous Mansion.  There are 999 ghosts eager to meet you, and you could join them, as there is alway room for one more. Also, beware of hitchhiking ghosts as you take a ride in a doom buggy on your ghoul-guided tour of the Haunted Mansion!

*Fastpasses offered and should be considered at the busier times of the day.

Indiana Jones Adventure (10/10)

Board a specially designed transport vehicle, and travel deep into the cursed Temple of Indiana Jones Adventurethe Forbidden Eye.  This fast paced thrill ride will keep you guessing as danger lurks around every turn.  With the help of Indiana Jones, you just may make it out of the cursed temple alive, maybe! People lucky enough to ride this attraction will find that it is a ride that you are going to want to ride over and over again.  As you get in line, you wind your way through the jungle, and that gives way to cave, which you enter and you are fully immersed into the Indiana Jones setting.  Sallah gives you some instructions, and  the back story on the cursed temple you are about to enter.  It does tend to break down, but this one face-melting journey you dare not miss!

*Fastpasses are offered, and will most likely be needed at every time other than early in the morning.  Keep in mind that Fastpasses do go fast for this attraction, so it could be several hours before your time arrives for your Fastpass.

“it’s a small world” (8/10)

This attraction was built for the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair in honor of UNICEF. Walt personally oversaw the creation of this attraction, and was shipped back to Disneyland where it opened May 28, 1966.  It is the epitome of a Disney classic attraction, and one that I simply must ride each and every time I visit a Disney park.  Board a small boat and take a journey through seven continents, as you sing along to one of the most iconic Disney songs of all time.  One of the most beautifully built attractions, the outside facade quite creative, and at Christmas time; it has its own light show as they hang thousands of bulbs on it, which becaome syncronized to music.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Jungle Cruise (9/10)

Board a boat, and set sail on cruise that takes you through some of the worlds most dangerous rivers.  Your skipper will take you on this guided tour, and be careful because the jokes may make you laugh the whole journey.  Each boat ride is never the same, as each skipper has a clever joke or two up their sleeve.  The attraction opened in 1955, and Walt Disney hands are all over this classic attraction.  He enlisted one the of the most skilled animators at his studio, Marc Davis, to design his clever gags throughout the attraction.

*Fastpasses are not offered, but this line can get up around and hour-long during busy times.

King Arthur Carousel (5/10)

Climb onto a beautiful horse and gallop around this iconic theme park attraction inspired by King Arthur and the Knights of the roundtable.  The horses go around to some classic Disney songs, and enjoy the classic merry-go-round experience.  The cool thing about this attraction is that Walt Disney purchased the it from Toronto, Canada, and it was built in 1922.  This is truly a Disney Classic.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Mad Tea Party (5/10)

Pour yourself into a very large teacup, and spin wildly in a way that some may say is mad. The attraction inspired by the classic Disney film, Alice in Wonderland, allows guests to take part in the Mad Tea Party.  Guests that do not like the to spin too much, don’t fret, you do not have to spin if you do not want to.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Main Street Cinema (7/10)

A classic theater set in the heart of Main Street, allows you to take a trip back to the golden age of Disney animated classics.  The classic Disney animated films that can be seen are Steamboat Willie (1928), Plane Crazy (1928), The Moose Hunt (1931), Traffic Troubles (1931), the Dognapper (1934), and Mickey’s Polo Team (1936).  If you are looking to see all of the films, don’t worry as they run continuously throughout the day on six separate screens.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

The Many Adventures Winnie the Pooh (6/10)

Have you ever wished for a chance to go to the Hundred Acre Woods?  Well, her is your chance!  Climb into an oversized beehive, and start you journey.  Join Pooh, as he Winnie the Poohsearches for more honey, and maybe see some more familiar faces along the way.  This attraction takes you through some of the most popular scenes and settings from Winnie the Pooh.  There is a character greeting spot right out in front of the attraction, which allows you to meet some of your favorite characters from the Hundred Acre Woods.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Mark Twain Riverboat (3/10)

Set on the scenic Rivers of America, step aboard the Mark Twain, a classic steam-powered paddler.  The boat itself is cool, but the ride seems a bit dated .  It is a boat ride that is worth taking once, but not one that you would need  to take time out to go on again.  It did open in 1955, so it is an original attraction, which is why I think it should be experienced at least once.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Matterhorn Bobsleds (10/10)

Watch out for the abominable snowman, as you explore Switzerland’s most famous peak, Matterhorn mountain.  This attraction is a thrilling, high-speed bobsled run down the icy Matterhornslopes of Matterhorn mountain.  Take in some views, as this attraction goes inside and out, but keep your eyes peeled because the abominable snowman could be waiting around any curve.  The queue is fun, as it was designed as a traditional, chalet-inspired rail station, including music.  I found this attraction to be very fun, and a slightly better experience at night.  The views are better, I am sucker for the park lit up at night.  Also, I believe it enhances the theme at night because the darkness makes the scariness of the abominable snowman seem more dangerous.

*Fastpasses are offered, and will most likely be needed at every time other than early in the morning.  Keep in mind that Fastpasses do go fast for this attraction, so it could be several hours before your time arrives for your Fastpass.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (7/10)

This attraction lives up to its name;  join Mr. Toad as he journeys to nowhere in particular.  It allows guests to take the place of Thaddeus Toad, Esq. from the Wind of the Willows segment of the classic film, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.  You really feel as though you are entering Toad Manor, and after being sentenced for you runaway crimes, will you escape your punishment? Be prepared for anything, as something more sinister could be waiting for you.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Peter Pan’s Flight (8/10)

All you need is faith and trust, and maybe pixie dust?  It’s off to Never Land we go aboard an enchanted pirate ship.  Fly through the iconic scenes from the movie, as it tells the story of kids that do not want to grow up.  Watch out for Captain Hook and his band of pirates because they are no big fans of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys.  Hopefully, you do not have to walk the plank!

*Fastpasses are not offered, but this attraction always has waits over an hour.  This may be an attraction that you ride early in the day when the crowds are not so heavy.

Pinocchio’s Daring Journey (7/10)

Hop inside  of a woodcarver’s cart, and join Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket as they take you through the loose story of the classic film.  Like most of the attractions in Fantasyland, this is pretty tame, but it is done well with some cool animatronics.  It is also my favorite Disney film of all time.  Will Pinocchio ever find his way back to Gepetto? I guess you will have to take the daring journey with them.  Oh, if you find yourself out to sea, watch out for Monstro!

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Pirates of the Caribbean (10/10)

On March 18, 1967, Pirates of the Caribbean opened , and it might very well be the most amazing attraction Disney has ever created.  Board a ship and head out to the seas where Pirates of the Caribbeanpirates are pillaging looking for booty.  This attraction is beautifully designed, and it is one that you will notice something different each time you ride it.  Some of your favorite character from the attraction inspired movies were added later on to enhance the experience. It is an attraction that is sure to keep you coming back for more, and you will be singing the classic, “Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a Pirate’s Life for Me” all day.  This attraction has some slight drops, and some amazing settings that you ride through, but remember watch out, for the seas can be rough and dead men tell no tales!

*Fastpasses are not offered, but this attraction’s lines can get long depending on crown size and at peak times of the day.

Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin (6/10)

Steer and spin a crazy taxicab through the streets of Toontown as you join Roger Rabbit on journey to rescue Jessica Rabbit, who has been captured by the Weasels.  Watch out as they are hot on your trail, and they armed with the toon-killing “dip”.  It is a wacky, wild attraction that features some really cool scenes and a fun experience, but I did not like that they excluded Judge Doom when he was such an important part of the movie.  All in all, this is a fun attraction with an amazing outside facade, and Roger Rabbit fountain in the attraction’s courtyard.

*Fastpasses are offered, but not needed.

Snow White’s Scary Adventure (3/10)

Join Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as they take you through the classic tale, without much deviation from the story.  The attraction is very quick, and there is not much to it, as you seem to speed through the different scenes before you have any time to digest what you have just seen.  Not much thought went into this attraction, and there is nothing that would make you want to come back again and again.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Space Mountain (10/10)

My favorite attraction in both U.S. Disney Parks, and one that is sure to have most people Space Mountainwanting to ride it over and over.  Blast off on a rocket through some of the darkest sections of outer space.  A very quick roller coaster attraction that is set in the dark, and it whips around like you are traveling through space.  An amazing themed attraction that is as fun to ride as it to walk through the ride queue.  You walk through areas that seem out of space, and it set to some amazing music that makes you feel like you are heading to the outer reaches of our galaxy.  Also, the boarding area is something to see as it features some cool neon lights, and a space ship suspended in the air above.  This is one attraction that I have to ride multiple times on my vacation, and you will too!

*Fastpasses are offered, and will most likely be needed at every time other than early in the morning.  Keep in mind that Fastpasses do go fast for this attraction, so it could be several hours before your time arrives for your Fastpass.

Splash Mountain (10/10)

Board a log flume as it goes up and down hills through many scenes from the Disney classic, Song of the South.  It is another amazing attraction that’s theme is done in a way Splash Mountainthat you feel fully immersed into the story as you join Br’er Rabbit on his journey to find his laughin’ place.  Along the way Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox will try to capture Br’er Rabbit, and cook him up for dinner.  The music on this attraction is very catchy and the songs will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day.  The ride concludes with a large drop into the briar patch, where a camera is waiting to snap your picture.  You will get wet on this attraction, so be prepared for that, but it is a well-rounded attraction that will have you singing Zip A Dee Doo Dah as you exit and continue your day.

*Fastpasses are offered, and will most likely be needed at every time other than early in the morning.  Keep in mind that Fastpasses do go fast for this attraction, so it could be several hours before your time arrives for your Fastpass.

Star Tours – The Adventure Continues (9/10)

Have you ever wanted to take a journey to a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away? Well, join C3PO aboard Star Tours, a tour that takes you through the galaxies from Star Wars the films.  There is no set experience, as guests can find themselves in a number of scenarios, and meet many of your favorite characters from the films.  This is a  3D motion simulation attraction, so it is not for everyone, but it is an amazing experience that fully immerses you into the setting.  The ride queue is amazing, and there is a lot going on to keep your attention as you wait to board your tour.

*Fastpasses are offered, and will most likely be needed at every time other than early in the morning.  Keep in mind that Fastpasses do go fast for this attraction, so it could be several hours before your time arrives for your Fastpass.

Star Wars Launch Bay (6/10)

The launch bay is a place you can go to meet some characters from the Star Wars movies. There is also some displays set-up to allow guests to see some props from the films, and there is a documentary film being shown that takes you behind the scenes of the popular franchise.  Lastly, there is an area where all of the latest Star Wars video games are set up to play and see how high of a score you can achieve.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Star Wars: Path of the Jedi (3/10)

Just a short, ten minute movie taking you through a lot of the major scenes from the Star Wars films.  Not that thrilling, but if you want to see a medley of songs and iconic scenes from the films, it is there for the viewing.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Tarzan’s Treehouse (4/10)

Climb high and take a tour of Tarzan’s jungle home, which is built inside of an 80-foot-tall tree.  it is merely a jungle gym, but kids will love exploring the Ape Man’s home.  It does offer some cool views of the park, so have the camera ready.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

 

Nighttime Spectaculars

Fantasmic (10/10)

Fantasmic is a wonderful display of Disney Magic that combines water, lights, fire, and Fantasmicmusic, as you have the forces of good and evil battling inside of Mickey’s dream.  The show includes a large amount of Disney characters from past and present, and some classic scenes from some of you favorite movies.  The music will take you through the beautiful show, and even give you chills at times.  It is the perfect way to end a night at Disneyland Park, and it might become a must do show like it is for my family and I.  Hopefully good will win out, but that all depends on the power of your imagination.

*Fastpasses are offered and recommended.  You can get these Fastpasses at anytime, but I would recommend getting them early.  The good thing is if you get a Faspass for this, it does not affect other Faspasses, so you can get this one and still get one for any other attraction.  Also, I would recommend getting in the Fastpass return line early to ensure that you will get a good viewing area.  Another option to get a good viewing area for Fantasmic is to get a dining reservation that includes the reserved viewing for the show.

“Remember…Dreams Come True Fireworks Spectacular (9/10)

A show that will make you dream and wish for happy things, and allow you to relive some of your favorite Disney memories.  The show happens on Main Street, U.S.A. with a collection of music, fireworks, and projections on the castle.  It takes you through some Disney Classic films and attractions, and if you wish hard enough, Tinkerbell might fly through the night sky and sprinkle magical fairy dust on all who wished.  The carefully timed fireworks compliment the projections and music well, and it is a show that you are going to want to see on every vacation.

*Fastpasses are not available for this show. So, you may want to get a good spot early, as Main Street tends to get very crowded for the fireworks show.

 

 

 

 

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