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Disneyland in California is a wonderful place for families to play together. It is much smaller and less overwhelming than Disney World, but there is still a ton of things to do. If you have kids, you will probably not get through it all in one day. So, it’s important to prioritize. This list is here to help you do that. This is my list of the most magical must-do’s at Disneyland. Please note: because this list is family-friendly, you won’t see some of the bigger, more thrilling rides that Disneyland has to offer. Everything on this list is appropriate for almost all ages.
1. Haunted Mansion
Don’t let the name fool you. The Haunted Mansion is not scary! This New Orleans Square attraction is a classic Disney dark ride through a mansion inhabited by ghosts. You tour the mansion and observe them in their world. The ghosts do not jump out at you or attempt to scare you. So, kids may be apprehensive, but there is nothing intended to be scary about this ride. As a bonus, during Halloween and Christmas, the Haunted Mansion gets a Nightmare Before Christmas overlay. During this time, Jack Skellington takes over the ride and completely changes it into his version of the holidays. It is worth experiencing both the original and the holiday overlay.
2. Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean is another classic Disney ride. While both Disney World and Disneyland have this ride, the Disneyland version is better. This boat ride is an impressive example of Disney storytelling at its finest. This is just one of those ride that you have to ride when you visit Disneyland. Pirates of the Caribbean is also located in New Orleans Square.
3. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
What could be more fun than being inside a video game? Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters turns the video game into a theme park ride! Here, you use a laser gun to shot targets placed by Emperor Zurg as you ride through the various show scenes. Your car keeps track of your score, so you can compete with your family and friends. This is just good clean fun for the whole family! Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters is located in Tomorrowland.
Full disclosure here: I love Fantasmic! It is my all-time favorite nighttime show at any Disney park. So, it’s no wonder it is on my list of magical must-do’s at Disneyland. And while I prefer the Disney World version, I enjoy the Disneyland version too. I think everyone should see this show at least once. It is a little bit different in California than in Florida, but both of them feature Mickey versus the villains. Both share the same messages: you are in control of your imagination and good triumphs over evil. I love the combination of fireworks, live actors, water, projections, and story telling that this show has. It is the perfect way to end your night at Disneyland. Be sure to pick up a fastpass for this so you can get a decent viewing spot.
You can’t go to Disneyland and not ride Dumbo! It is the most iconic ride of them all! For kids, it is the ultimate experience! For adults, it will make you feel like a kid again! So, be sure to take time to go for a spin on everyone’s favorite flying elephant! You will find Dumbo in Fantasyland.
6. it’s a small world
The next attraction on this list of magical must-do’s at Disneyland is it’s a small world. Like Dumbo, this is an iconic ride that you have to experience when you visit Disneyland. This Fantasyland attraction is such a beautiful example of artistry in motion. There are three big differences between it’s a small world at Disneyland and Disney World. First, the Disneyland version has an outdoor portion that the Disney World version lacks. Second, Disneyland has added some favorite Disney characters among the dolls in the ride. Be sure to look for those! And third, at Christmas time, the Disneyland version gets a holiday overlay that is simply beautiful and fitting for celebrating the “peace on Earth” message.
7. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is one of my son’s favorite rides of all time. It is a roller coaster, but is one the mild side. This is great because it allows younger kids (who are at least 40″) a chance to experience a coaster without being too scared. This one is fast, fun, and perfect! The Disneyland version has some extra special effects that put it over the top. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is in Frontierland.
8. Matterhorn Bobsleds
The Matterhorn Bobsleds is a mildly thrilling bobsled ride through a mountain environment located in Fantasyland. This is one of the magical must-do’s at Disneyland partly because it is a fun ride and partly because it is exclusive to Disneyland. And whether you are a complete Disney rookie, or you are a Disney World fan, you need to experience the rides exclusive to this park. The seating in the bobsleds is pretty tight. You will be fine if you are riding with kids. But, it will be too tight if you try to sit with another adult. In that case, I would recommend riding as singles instead of together. The bobsleds have a height requirement of 42″.
9. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Disneyland has many rides that do not exist at Disney World. Of them all, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is one of the boldest. In this dark ride, you board an old-fashioned car and take a ride with Mr. Toad from the streets to the courtroom to hell itself! Kids will love “driving”, while adults can appreciate some of the more mature elements throughout the ride. All in all, it is a fun little ride in Fantasyland!
10. Indiana Jones Adventure
Most Disneyland fans will tell you that Indiana Jones Adventure is one of the greatest rides ever invented. I don’t quite agree with that, but do think it is good enough to make the list of the magical must-do’s in Disneyland. In this one, after walking through a long and detailed queue, you board a truck with other guests and go on a bumpy race through some of Indiana Jones’ more thrilling moments. It is fun and exciting without the drops and inversions of roller coasters, so most members in your family will be able to ride this one. There is a height requirement of 46″. Indiana Jones Adventure is in Adventureland.
Bonus: Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run is the newest ride at Disneyland. You will find it in the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Being able to board the Millennium Falcon and go on an adventure is a dream come true for any Star Wars fan. But, even if you aren’t a Star Wars fan, I think you will enjoy this immersive and impressive ride where you take the position of either a pilot, gunner, or engineer and go on a mission through space. There is a height requirement of 38″.
Any trip to Disneyland with your family is going to be fun and memorable. But, this list of magical must-do’s at Disneyland will ensure you have an even better time. While these attractions are not necessarily the most thrilling rides in the park, they are the ones that will appeal to most people regardless of age. They are each special in their own way, but collectively, they will give your family lots of laughs. To get tickets, see Disneyland’s website. For more ideas on what to do during your visit, see my magical must-do’s at California Adventure, and the most unique quick service restaurants at Disneyland. To determine whether you should visit Disneyland or Disney World, see my views on which is better. Happy travels!