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I like to think that Disneyland is just for kids. It’s for the kids that are … well, still kids. But, it’s also for the kids that still reside inside all of us, and it’s healthy to let that kid out once in a while and remember what fun is all about. So, put work, the laundry, the finances and all the other stress away, pull out your inner kid, and let’s go to Disneyland!
One of the things I love the most about Disneyland, is, the attention to detail and imagination which has been put into each and every aspect of the park. Not one thing has been overlooked, from the window dressings of Main Street, the costumes of the staff, the princesses who roam the park freely at designated times, Mickey and Donald and all the rest, and the general cleanliness and precision of the landscape all intertwine to make Disneyland a magical experience.
The first time I went to Disneyland, I was 16-years old. I can still remember walking up to the ticket area and hearing the strains of “When You Wish Upon a Star”, and being unbelievably emotionally moved because I was finally there. My parents had surprised me with the trip, and it wasn’t easy for them financially, but they knew how badly I wanted to go. I hope my parents, to whom I was very close, wherever they are, know how much I appreciated that trip.
I must say, that as a Disney veteran, my fun now often comes from watching others enjoy the experience for the first time. I was on It’s a Small World two days ago and was entirely enchanted and almost brought to tears by watching a Kindergarten-aged little girl waving as our boat floated effortlessly out the exit of the final display.
I have been to Disneyland several times since my first visit, and I can honestly say that my heart still skips a beat as I walk up the entrance to the park and hear the strains of Disney-themed music. Here’s a list of my 10 favourite rides and what they have to offer.
Pirates of The Caribbean – opened in 1967
Which came first, Pirates of the Caribbean or Johnny Depp? Well, if you are as old as dirt like me, you know that the answer is Pirates of the Caribbean. However, the ride has been changed over the years to reflect the success of the movies that bear it’s name. This remains my all-time favorite ride, floating through the waters and feeling the mild breeze as if you are on the Caribbean itself with the lovely fireflies flitting and swaying off in the distance. The creativity and authenticity of the displays are a treat in originality and detail, and it is the first ride I head to on every visit!
The Haunted Mansion – opened in 1969
When one envisions a haunted house, in true carnival form, they expect to experience ghouls and goblins jumping out at every turn to scare the pants off unsuspecting visitors. But, no, Walt Disney was far too creative for that! The Haunted Mansion is a true experience, not just a ride. The ghosts and creations of all things paranormal are more fun than they are scary as you ride your Doom Buggy through the haunted halls, so the faint of heart are safe, but still enormously entertained. The ghosts appear thanks to a technique called Pepper’s Ghost. If you are hungry for more information about this technique (and some other interesting facts about the Haunted Mansion, check out this link on doombuggies.com Secrets of the Haunted Mansion. Another great read is The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion by Jeff Baham from goodreads.com. The Haunted Mansion is really a very fascinating ride and there has been a lot written about it!
It’s A Small World – opened in 1966
I still count this ride as one of my favorites. I really enjoy this leisurely and well worth the line-up ride after a long, busy day at Disneyland. I actually think, having just ridden it two days ago, that it is one of the longer rides in the park. The theme, of course, is that everyone in the world is fundamentally the same, even though we all come from very unique backgrounds and celebrate very different cultures, and I love how this is represented through both music and display. I also think this simple message is as vital today as it was when the song was first written by Robert Sherman in 1964.
Matterhorn Bobsleds – opened in 1959
One of the veteran rides at Disneyland, the Matterhorn Bobsleds is a high-speed roller coaster-style ride around a mountain shaped like the Matterhorn. One of the most amusing aspects of the ride is the Yeti which jumps out beside riders and yells a very distinctive growl-like sound. During one of my visits to Disneyland, my husband, his brother, and I were camping across the street from the park, and I still remember falling asleep and hearing the growl of the Yeti over and over again! Another great aspect of this ride is that the bobsled track runs through the mountain and also out of it, and the view of the park as you round the outward stretches is outstanding!
Space Mountain – opened in 1977
I haven’t ridden Space Mountain in a number of years, but I am proud to say that I was one of the very first riders. It was brand spankin’ new when I visited Disneyland for the very first time, having opened just three months prior. It is a wildly fun space and galaxy-themed roller coaster which is experienced largely in the dark. The track is not visible, so the ride gives the illusion that one is in a rocket speeding through the stars (which are visible). I’m not a huge fan of roller coaster drops, and the beauty of Space Mountain is that although there are two lifts where the trains are ascending to quite a high level, the ride down, although fast and with sharp turns, is gradual so there is no huge drops.
Splash Mountain – opened in 1989
Ok, ok, I admit it, I’m a bit of a wimp and have never ridden Splash Mountain. As I have already alluded to, I am not a fan of large drops (or exiting a ride soaking wet for that matter!) However, my daughter, who is a scary ride connoisseur, assures me that Splash Mountain is not to be missed. It is a water ride based on the Disney movie Song of the South and it features a 50-foot drop. Here is a great YouTube video of the ride by TheCoasterViews – Splash Mountain POV Disneyland Resort California.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – opened in 1979
The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad offers the premise that you are riding a runaway train through a mine and over mountainous terrain presumably during the gold rush. This is a roller-coaster style ride, but is not a scary one and overall offers bumps rather than drops. There is an earthquake, falling rocks and various “critters” to contend with that make the ride very creative and fun.
Indiana Jones Adventure – opened in 1995
Eek, it’s just a baby! I rode the Indiana Jones Adventure for the first time on my most recent trip to Disneyland. It is again, a roller coaster-style ride without drops, but it is very bumpy with many sharp twists and turns. The line-up runs through a temple with many artifacts and decor along the way which mimic the movies including snakes (of course!), rock carvings and diamond shapes on the floor which visitors are warned not to step on. My son has ADHD so I will give you one guess as what happened there …. but nothing perilous occured! To the amusement of one of the ride operators, I was a bit panicked that my seatbelt would not fasten prior to the beginning of the ride, but eventually we figured it out, and my recollection is of laughing the entire time as each twist in the road occurred on the actual ride portion.
Jungle Cruise – opened in 1955
One of the earliest rides from the park’s inception, the Jungle Cruise is a boat ride through the jungles of Africa with a very lively and humourous guide. It offers views of a large elephant, a tiger, giant spiders and crocodiles, amongst other assorted wildlife in their seemingly natural habitat. I always love this ride, because it offers a leisurely boat cruise with built-in entertainment and a break from the hot sun of Southern California as much of the ride is in shaded areas (there’s even a waterfall)! The jokes of the guide are somewhat silly, but the overall experience is a lot of fun and is great for kids.
The Disneyland Railroad – opened in 1955
The Disneyland Railroad is as old as the park itself, and it circles the park in it’s entirety offering stops at Main Street, New Orleans Square, Mickey’s Toontown and Tomorrowland, so it is a great way to get around the park. There are two running commentaries at different points during the journey depicting information and images of the Grand Canyon at one point, and of Prehistoric times at another. It is a great opportunity to regroup, relax, take a load off and get out of the sun!
There are many different Disneyland experiences that have not been included in this list, and are not to be missed, as the park has so much to offer. The ones noted above are, I think, the most popular and although the lines can be lengthy, they are well worth the wait!