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The Best "Old School" Disney Rides You Can Still Experience Today

4. Peter Pan’s Flight

Image: DisneyEvery person sometimes shuts their eyes and imagines that they can fly. It’s a defining characteristic of our hopelessly grounded species. The glory of Walt Disney is that he takes the impossible and somehow brings it to life. Peter Pan’s Flight is among the most historically significant attractions ever because it ably simulates the sensation of flight.

Over the years, Imagineers have built better versions of the same premise such as Soarin’ and Avatar Flight of Passage. Their improvements are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, though. Peter Pan’s Flight was the first and most important of all flight simulators. It’s an unheralded titan in the field of theme park design.

3. Jungle Cruise

Image: DisneyThe importance of Jungle Cruise in theme park history is sadly understated. It was once a straightforward celebration of nature, but even Disney Imagineers couldn’t craft realistic sets during the 1950s. Cast members started to crack wise about the ludicrous nature of some imagery. Park officials took notice and encouraged their employees to lean into the silliness. In this way, Jungle Cruise became proof positive that humor elevates any theme park attraction.

From a historical perspective, Jungle Cruise matters a great deal more than its “he’ll get the point in the end” gags. It’s also arguably the oldest true boat ride still in existence…or at least tied with a couple of other opening day Disneyland attractions. Every theme park boat ride that you’ve ridden exists in part because of Jungle Cruise. And then there’s the Disney’s Animal Kingdom element.

Walt Disney aspired to keep live animals on the set of this attraction. Imagineers convinced him it wasn’t feasible at the time, but his loyal employees never forgot his greatest wish. The construction of Animal Kingdom hearkens back to that one seemingly impossible request from Uncle Walt. How much credit does Jungle Cruise receive for something it never had? I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

2. Matterhorn Bobsleds

Image: DisneyDo you love steel roller coasters? Anyone who answered no is reading the wrong site. And all of us who are passionate about the most thrilling rides in the world have the Matterhorn Bobsleds to thank for their existence. It was the first continuous track steel coaster ever built, and it stands side by side with Space Mountain as the most important coaster of the modern era for this reason. It’s also stood the test of time and remains a total joy to ride.

1. Monorail

Image: DisneyTo some people, choosing this ride will feel like a cheat. To others, leaving it off the list would have been an abomination. In simplest terms, no ride is more closely associated with Disneyland than the monorail. Even iconic attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain fall a level below the monorail in terms of industry significant.

When Walt Disney planned the world's first theme park, he knew that he would need a hook. He settled on the monorail as the selling point that would entice theme park tourists to see the future of transportation.

During the early days, the monorail was a paying ride, too. It required an E-ticket, a first for Disneyland. Over the years, it’s switched to a free form of transportation, one that’s indelibly linked to all things Disney. When guests see a monorail sliding down the track, they know that they’ve reached the Happiest Place on Earth. It is unquestionably the best of all Disney rides created during the 1950s.

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