Over the past few years, the Disneyland Resort has undergone a major transformation. Previously, it was dominated by the original Disneyland park, with neighbouring Disney California Adventure being criticised for its theme and lack of major attractions. However, a multi-billion dollar overhaul of California Adventure has transformed the park's fortunes, finally helping it to fulfill its potential.
The two parks host a wide variety of attractions, ranging from major roller coasters to tame flat rides aimed at young children. Since we launched our theme park guides last year, we've been collecting ratings and reviews from our readers for all of the rides and restaurants at the Disneyland Resort (as well 90+ other theme parks). In this article, we've highlighted the resort's top 10 attractions, as rated by Theme Park Tourist's readership.
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10. Haunted Mansion (Disneyland)
A true Disney classic, the Haunted Mansion places guests in an old bayou plantation house haunted by "999 happy haunts with room for a thousand." This frightfully funny family attraction features state-of-the-art affects, even forty five years after its opening.
The Haunted Mansion pioneered the high-capacity Omnimover ride system, which has seen been used by many other Disney attractions. It consists of a series of small vehicles that are linked together in a continously-moving chain, and has two main advantages. Firstly, the ride's capacity is extremely high due to its non-stop motion. Secondly, the cars can be spun, enabling the attraction's designers to control the riders' line of site. Both are used to great effect in this Disneyland favourite.
Full details: Haunted Mansion guide
9. World of Color (Disney California Adventure)
Disney did not taken California Adventure's initial lack of success lying down, choosing instead to embark on a massive $1.1 billion programme of updates. World of Color's debut marked the completion of the first major phase of that programme - the reimagining of Paradise Pier. Criticised by Disney fans for aping the seaside amusement parks that Walt Disney himself sought to distance Disneyland from, it was always likely that this area would be among the first to receive an upgrade. And what an upgrade.
The centrepiece is World of Color. In development for over 6 years, and costing an estimated $75 million, the show is a stunning technical achievement. It has been compared to the famous water fountain display at the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas, and indeed fountain expert WET Design was involved in both projects. However, Disney's production combines the Bellagio show's powerful fountains with lighting arrays and fire effects - all synchronised with music from classic Disney movies.
Full details: World of Color guide
8. Toy Story Midway Mania! (Disney California Adventure)
While it suffers from serious capacity issues, which can lead to some very long wait times, Toy Story Midway Mania! has proven to be one of the most popular rides at Disney California Adveture since its 2008 debut.
Riders step right into a living board game, watching as their favourite midway games (break the plate, land the ring on the bottle, etc.) come to life in stunning 3-D and featuring well-known Toy Story characters. Many become hopelessly addicted to this interactive 3-D game, which challenges guests to best their high score.
Full details: Toy Story Midway Mania! guide
7. Splash Mountain (Disneyland)
While it may have been inspired by Knott's Berry Farm's classic Timber Mountain Log Ride, Splash Mountain takes the concept of a heavily-themed water ride to a new level. Aboard hollowed-out logs, riders pass animatronic scenes depicting the Walt Disney film Song of the South, travelling along with Brer Rabbit as he outwits Brer Fox and Brer Bear.
The first half of the ride may be somewhat akin to a traditional, gentle Disney dark ride - but there's a big thrill to come at the end. Riders plummet down a five-storey drop in a briar patch, leaving the majority of them soaked from head-to-toe.
Full details: Splash Mountain guide
6. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue (Disneyland)
Star Tours: The Adventures Continue (often dubbed Star Tours 2) sits on the site of the original Star Tours, which opened at Disneyland back in 1986. An all-new plot, 3D special effects and a host of new characters have been introduced as Disney seeks to exploit the enduring popularity of the Star Wars universe, taking riders for a spin through some of sci-fi's most famous locations.
Physical changes have been made to the original Star Tours ride system, which was derived from military flight simulation technology. This includes the introduction of a greater range of movements, which are synchronised with the ride movie. The movie itself is now presented in high-definition Disney Digital 3D, rather than the 2D presentation of the original attraction.
Full details: Star Tours: The Adventures Continue guide
5. Space Mountain (Disneyland)
The second roller coaster to open at Disneyland (after the Matterhorn Bobsleds), Space Mountain still offers the same core ride experience as it did back in 1977. It may not be the most intense roller coaster in the world, but the indoor setting and theming adds another level of immersion.
Space Mountain simulates an outer-space adventure, featuring high speed turns, dips, and drops in the dark. Riders sit in "rocket" sleds and embark on an "interstellar" journey inside the white dome of Tomorrowland.
Full details: Space Mountain guide
4. Soarin' Over California(Disney California Adventure)
Soarin' Over California opened at Disney California Adventure in February 2001, becoming one of the headline attractions at the new park. An identical attraction, known simply as Soarin', opened at Epcot in 2005. The attraction is a simulator-style ride which sees guests hanging from the ceiling as they "fly" over big-screen projections of California landmarks.
Located in the rusted aviatian hanger of Condor Flats, this high tech attraction places guests on a hang-gliding adventure over the incredible sights and smells, from mountains and seas to orange groves, and finally to Disneyland Park.
Full details: Soarin' Over California guide
3. Fantasmic! (Disneyland)
The nighttime Fantasmic! show offers an incredible visual spectacle, being hosted on Frontierland's Rivers of America. Mickey Mouse himself acts as the host, as his dreams take physical form.
Each night, the waterfront comes alive with fire, water, music and projection effects, as virtually all of Disney's most popular characters are brought to life. The highlight is a towering, fire-breathing dragon, brought to life amidst fireworks.
Full details: Fantasmic! guide
2. Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye (Disneyland)
A dark ride affixed to a motion simulator base, the Indiana Jones Adventure carries guests into the darkness of the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, an ancient lost Bengalese temple that has become the new vacation hotspot for would-be adventurers in 1935. Inside, rumor has it that the ancient god Mara promises to grant one of three gifts to any who enter his Hall of Promise: eternal youth, earthly riches, or visions of the future. But legend also speaks of a curse: whosoever looks into the corroded and dark eye of Mara will be sent to the Gates of Doom.
Riding in jeeps holding sixteen passengers, guests on the Indiana Jones Adventure come face-to-face with skeletons, lava, giant snakes, rats, a giant rolling boulder, and the disfigured god himself via a number of special effects and the motion-base EMV (enhanced motion vehicle) that simulates rough terrain, quick turns, and quick acceleration. It may have opened back in 1995, but it still feels cutting-edge.
1. Radiator Springs Racers (Disney California Adventure)
Installed at a staggering cost of $200 million, Radiator Springs Racers is the headline attraction in the new Cars Land Expansion at Disney California Adventure. Reusing the ride system from Epcot's Test Track, it adds another dimension to the experience with its impressive desert setting and life-life Cars characters.
This off-roading, fast-paced adventure ride places guests behind the wheel of their own Cars character and through a dark ride past the movie's most well-loved scenes. An outdoor finale race, in which the result is randomised, caps off the exhilarating experience.
Full details: Radiator Springs Racers guide
What do you think?
Are you surprised that one of favourite attactions is missing from our Disneyland Resort top 10? Why not head over to our Disneyland Resort guide and start adding your own ratings and reviews.