Home » Which Disney and Universal Parks Have the MOST Dark Rides? You May Be Surprised…

Which Disney and Universal Parks Have the MOST Dark Rides? You May Be Surprised…

Here at Theme Park Tourist, we’re all about seeing the parks we love differently. One of the lenses we’ve used is our “By The Numbers” mini-series, with each entry offering a unique lens for comparing the incomparable Disney and Universal Parks around the globe! From the number of rides to the number of surviving “Opening Day Originals” and the number of certifiable E-Tickets, these just-for-fun comparisons offer new ways to discuss the industry.

Today, we’ll add another: the number of dark rides each park offers. Counting a park’s dark rides isn’t easy, and it isn’t objective. Traditionally, a “dark ride” is a genre of amusement park ride wherein riders travel through indoor, painted or projected, theatrically-lit scenes. But in the 21st century, it’s a lot more complicated than that…

What is a dark ride?

Depending on your definition, dark rides can be traditional (like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride) or technological (like Dinosaur); they can be slow (like Haunted Mansion) or thrilling (like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey). Dark rides can be interactive and screen-based (like Toy Story Midway Mania), or immersive and physical (like Rise of the Resistance)! …or simulators (like Soarin’)! …or walkthroughs (like Poseidon’s Fury)! …or water rides (like Na’vi River Journey)! …or roller coasters (like Revenge of the Mummy)! A dark ride doesn’t need to be dark (think “small world”) and argubly, it doesn’t even necessarily need to be indoors (after all, wouldn’t Jungle Cruise fit the bill?)!

Of course, we need to settle on a definition for our purposes today, so we’ll start with our list of each park’s rides meaning no walkthroughs, films, or non-ride “attractions” – a guest has to actually be moved by a ride system. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll also say no simulators – though like walkthroughs, you might personally consider them a sub-genre of dark ride, and that would be fine! We’ll also require that indoor, theatrically-lit scenes that established a sense of place or storytelling must be a more-than-incidental part of the experience. (Feel free to invent your own definition and recalculate!)

Got it? Then place your bets as to which parks will come out on top as we explore another new way of seeing how our favorite parks compare by the numbers…

15. Disney’s Animal Kingdom

  1. Dinosaur
  2. Na’vi River Journey

In what may be a surprise, it’s Disney’s Animal Kingdom that lands in last place on our list, with just two dark rides. What’s perhaps even more surprising is that for the park’s first twenty years, its only dark ride was the terrifying Dinosaur (originally, Countdown to Extinction). We set off into the full story of one of Disney World’s scariest rides in our DINOSAUR in-depth feature, but the pulse-pounding, off-roading ride through a steaming prehistoric jungle filled with loud, angry, hungry dinosaurs has never exactly been a family favorite… 

Blacklight Award: The arrival of NA’VI RIVER JOURNEY in 2017 as part of Pandora: The World of AVATAR represented a much-needed reprieve. The slow moving boat ride through the glowing, bioluminescent Valley of Mo’ara is a rare breed indeed – a ride where nothing “goes horribly wrong”! The tranquil, reflective journey is a great “Pandora 101” primer, providing glimpses into the otherworldly flora and fauna of the distant moon, and the lives of the indigeonous Na’vi people who connect with it. 

After weaving layers of rainforest soundscapes into a musical tapestry, the ride concludes with an encounter with one of the Best Audio-Animatronics on Earth – the Na’vi Shaman of Songs, who orchestrates the living world around her in a symphony of sights and sounds. The colorful, thoughtful, and emotionally captivating ride suffers from just two things: it’s way too short, and its line is way too long. 

14. Walt Disney Studios Park

  1. Crush’s Coaster
  2. Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy
  3. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Not yet counted: Web-Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure (2022), Unconfirmed Frozen ride (TBD), Unconfirmed Star Wars ride (TBD)

Perhaps the park you’d expect to be in last place (it usually is, after all), the  Declassified Disaster: Walt Disney Studios Park at last bucks the trend. After being the smallest Disney park with the least rides at opening (just three) and the lowest E-Ticket count, it has at last been elevated to next-to-last position in our Dark Ride Count! Of course, when the park opened in 2002, it had none (a rare distinction), with each of its current three having been a metaphorical Band-Aid meant to bolster the very broken park.

CRUSH’S COASTER meets our definition thanks to an opening act of simple dark ride scenes, all encountered before it devolves into a “cute but dumb” spinning family coaster in a darkened soundstage. Likewise, THE TWILIGHT ZONE TOWER OF TERROR meets our requirements because a more-than-incidental part of the experience is far more than a drop ride, with riders ascending to two floors of the haunted Hollywood Tower Hotel to relive its history.

Blacklight Award: Listen – we dedicated an entire feature to REMY’S RATATOUILLE ADVENTURE not because it’s an infallible masterpiece of Imagineering (it isn’t) but because it represented exactly what the French park needed: a new footing. Ratatouille is a trackless dark ride “shrinks” guests to the size of a rat, then sends them scurrying along the rooftops of Paris and through the kitchen of Gusteau’s restaurant.

It’s a fun, frenzied family dark ride, sure. But more to the point, it’s a pivot point for the park, at last shifting from its piecemeal, “Studio”-stylized solutions into bringing to life idealized, romanticized lands with immersive, Disney-quality rides. That’ll continue with a multi-phase expansion bringing versions of existing AvengersFrozen, and Star Wars mini-lands to the Parisian park. But for now, there’s no question that Ratatouille was the show of faith Walt Disney Studios needed.

13. Hong Kong Disneyland

  1. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Nano Battle
  2. “it’s a small world”
  3. Mystic Manor
  4. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Not yet counted: Frozen Ever After (2022), Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs (2022) 

It’s probably no coincidence that Walt Disney Studios is followed on this list by another low-budget park built just a few years after… Hong Kong Disneyland. Disney’s first Chinese theme park opened in 2005 without much celebration. That makes sense, because the park was pretty quickly identified as the third strike in then-CEO Michael Eisner’s infamous era of underbuilt, underfunded theme parks (he exited the company just a few months after its opening). Almost unbelievably, at the park’s debut, it had just two dark rides – the omni-present Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, and just one Fantasyland dark ride: THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH. That’s right – a Disneyland without a Pirates, Mansion, “small world,” Snow White, or even a Peter Pan’s Flight.

Like its sister parks from the early 2000s, Hong Kong Disneyland has required hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to become even a modest little Disney Park. That has included adding IT’S A SMALL WORLD, Autopia, Toy Story Land and Grizzly Gulch (with a Big Thunder-esque roller coaster), and a mini-Marvel land with the Iron Man Experience simulator (not included here) and a pretty cringey ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: NANO BATTLE! dark ride built on the bones of Buzz. A Frozen themed mini-land is well on the way, which will add two more dark rides to the park’s count. Even once they’re done, Imagineering enthusiasts will have the park on their bucket list for one reason…

Blacklight Award: Opened in 2013 as the culmination of the park’s first mega-expansion, Mystic Point is a mini-land bringing to life the remote jungles of Papua New Guinea where the elusive retired Lord Henry Mystic – longtime member of S.E.A. – has built an eclectic Victorian residence filled with oddities. We explored every room of MYSTIC MANOR in an in-depth Imagineering entry, but this mythic, musical spiritual sequel to the Haunted Mansion instantly became the must-see masterpiece of Imagineering.

12. Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  1. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
  2. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
  3. Toy Story Mania!
  4. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

You may or may not be surprised to see that Disney’s Hollywood Studios offers so few dark rides given that so much of its ride lineup feels like indoor, cinematic experiences. However, both Star Tours and Smugglers Run would be excluded from our count for primarily being motion simulators, and despite it being in the dark and having sets, it would be a super-stretch to classify Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster as a dark ride. 

That leaves just four dark rides in the park… albeit, each a pretty significant one! The original TWILIGHT ZONE TOWER OF TERROR has arguably never been surpassed despite three imitations; TOY STORY MANIA! remains an incredibly popular and novel ride; MICKEY AND MINNIE’S RUNAWAY RAILWAY is the park’s newest, and the trackless, zippy, animated, and joyful “2½-D” ride is seriously fantastic good time from start to finish. But c’mon. There’s no competition here…

Blacklight Award: Easily the dark ride “anchor” of Disney’s Hollywood Studios (and all of Walt Disney World) is STAR WARS: RISE OF THE RESISTANCE. This epic attraction is quite literally of a different caliber than anything Disney (or anyone) has built before. A masterclass of Imagineering tricks with an almost unfathomable commitment to immersion, Rise is the kind of experience where it’s unclear where the queue ends and the “ride” begins. During the attraction, guests board two distinct ride vehicles with no less than four embedded ride systems, plus components of a walkthrough, an immersive theater show, and at least two “pre-shows.” 

In other words, DIsney’s Hollywood Studios’ dark ride collection may be relatively small, but boy is it mighty, with at least three world class – and incredibly diverse – dark rides in its portfolio. Not bad considering it opened with just one – the Lost Legend: The Great Movie Ride.

11. Universal Studios Hollywood


  1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  2. Jurassic World: The Ride
  3. Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride
  4. Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash
  5. TRANSFORMERS: The Ride – 3D
  6. Universal Studio Tour (featuring Earthquake, Kong Encounter, and Fast & Furious: Supercharged)

Not yet counted: Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge (2022)

Universal Studios Hollywood is unique among “Studio” parks because it’s… actually a movie studio. Since the 1960s, Universal’s Hollywood campus has offered tram-led tours of its backlot. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, the iconic Studio Tour added staged special effects demonstrations and encounters with larger-than-life movie monsters like King Kong, Jaws, an Earthquake, and more. Gradually, the little visitor complex grew to full, standalone rides, like the Lost Legends: Back to the Future – The Ride and Jurassic Park – The Ride, even as the Studio Tour really remained the reason to visit.

In the last decade, Universal Studios Hollywood has undergone an intentional metamorphosis meant to help it look more like a modern, master-planned theme park than one cobbled together from backlot remnants.

That largely hinged on the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2016 (six years after the original in Florida), making HARRY POTTER AND THE FORBIDDEN JOURNEY and its ultra-complex ride system the park’s signature experience. The addition of THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS: OFF THE LEASH earned tremendous good will for Universal Creative, dispensing with their oft-criticized screens in favor of sets and animatronics that surpass Disney’s recent family fare. But we’ll give this park’s Blacklight Award not to the anchoring Potter ride or the new Pets project, but something a little more prehistoric…

Blacklight Award: Universal Studios began construction on the Lost Legend: Jurassic Park – The Ride even before Spielberg’s Jurassic Park had made its blockbuster debut. For decades, the water ride on the Studio’s Lower Lot was a fan favorite. But in 2018, it officially went under the knife, planned to reemerge themed to the newer, trendier Jurassic World film series.

Premiering July 2019, JURASSIC WORLD: THE RIDE manages to improve on an already-beloved classic, strengthening existing scenes, replacing several others, and bringing to life the trilogy’s Indominus rex with staggering realism. Basically, Jurassic World – The Ride is an exercise in how to “plus” a classic the right way, elevating Universal’s old dinosaur ride into the upper echelon of dark rides in the country.

10. Disney California Adventure

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
  2. The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
  3. Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue
  4. Radiator Springs Racers
  5. Toy Story Midway Mania
  6. Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure

Not yet counted: Unconfirmed Avengers attraction (TBD)

In what’s becoming a recurring plot point in the story of Disney’s theme parks of the ‘90s and 2000s, when Disney California Adventure opened in 2001, it was with just one single, solitary dark ride. And not just any dark ride… Remembered as the worst dark ride ever to reside in a Disney Park, the Declassified Disaster: Superstar Limo was a hilariously awful drive through a Day-Glo comic book version of Los Angeles populated by Latex puppets of C-List celebrities. It was so awful, it closed after just a year, even without plans to replace it. California Adventure was simply stronger with no dark ride than with Superstar Limo.

Given that, the park’s come pretty far! In fact, as our two-part epic history of Disney California Adventure reveals, waves of transformation have brought serious investment to the park… Superstar Limo’s remains were repurposed as a cute, classic MONSTERS INC. MIKE & SULLEY TO THE RESCUE dark rideTHE LITTLE MERMAID ~ ARIEL’S UNDERSEA ADVENTURE was built in a turn-of-the-century aquarium alongside Paradise Bay; TOY STORY MIDWAY MANIA! took up residence on the park’s Pier, and recently, the fun-if-familiar WEB SLINGERS: A SPIDER-MAN ADVENTURE stands as the newest ride in the heroic Avengers Campus alongside GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – MISSION: BREAKOUT!, a surprisingly inspired reimagining of the park’s Tower of Terror.

Blacklight Award: Though California Adventure is still not quite complete, it’s obvious that its anchor attraction resides in Cars Land – the first of Disney’s “Living Lands” (borrowing the Wizarding World model). RADIATOR SPRINGS RACERS is an absolutely incredible family dark ride through the Ornament Valley desert, rolling through the town of Radiator Springs then racing along the sunset-hued rocks of the Cadillac Range. Radiator Springs Racers is pure joy from beginning to end, and surely one of the best Disney dark rides in the world. 

9. Tokyo DisneySea

  1. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  2. Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull
  3. Journey to the Center of the Earth
  4. Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage
  5. Tower of Terror
  6. Toy Story Midway Mania

Not yet counted: Unnamed Frozen attraction (2023), Unnamed Tangled attraction (2023), Unnamed Peter Pan attraction (2023)

For all the praise leveled on Tokyo DisneySea, you may be surprised to find that it has just two more dark rides than Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the same number as Universal Studios Hollywood! Frankly, on paper, we couldn’t blame you for wondering what’s so great about the theme park that many call the unrivaled best on Earth. After all, every dark ride in its lineup save one or two sounds a whole lot like a ride you could find at a U.S. park. But DisneySea subscribes to a different kind of criteria – ”the park as an E-Ticket.” The rides are just cherries on top.

What else the park’s dark ride lineup can’t convey is how every ride that shares a domestic counterpart is, in Tokyo, a “Blue Sky” version; the most layered, detailed, physical, and “real.” Even “clones” are presented in a jaw-dropping context. The TOWER OF TERROR (here, without the Twilight Zone at all), features an original story wrapped into the mythology of S.E.A., while Soarin’ (though not counted here) is set in an Italian Museum of Flight connected to the same frame story. TOY STORY MANIA! is located in an entire Coney Island-themed Trolley Park.

It’s the same with INDIANA JONES ADVENTURE (an original Temple of the Crystal Skull overlay, building physical sets where California’s settles for plywood), SINBAD’S STORYBOOK VOYAGE (an unlikely “small world”-esque retelling of the adventurer’s travels set to the tune of an original song by Alan Menken of Disney Renaissance fame), and 20,000 LEAGUES (in Tokyo, a unique suspended dark ride that’s spectacular in scope). The new Fantasy Springs expansion is set to bring no less than three entirely new dark rides, each of which is likely to be world-class. Even still, there’s a pretty clear winner…

Blacklight Award: At least until the new generation of Disney Parks dark rides, there was no question that one of the undisputed best dark rides on the planet was JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH. Based on Jules Verne’s 1890s adventure novel of the same name, the ride sends guests deep into Captain Nemo’s underground laboratories to board steampunk mining vehicles that travel through crystal caverns, forgotten forests, underground oceans, and into the bowels of Mount Prometheus for one of the most impressive Audio Animatronics encounters ever. 

8. Universal Studios Florida

  1. E.T. Adventure
  2. Fast and Furious – Supercharged
  3. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
  4. Hogwarts Express
  5. MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack
  6. Revenge of the Mummy

Universal Studios Florida is often criticized for having too many screen-based rides, but omitting straight-up simulators from its dark ride lineup reveals a collection that’s actually pretty diverse and has some real standouts.

E.T. ADVENTURE – the only opening day ride left at the park – is a classic, retro heart-warmer. MEN IN BLACK: ALIEN ATTACK is certainly the best “blaster” ride in Central Florida. TRANSFORMERS: THE RIDE is an action-packed (if redundant) headliner. And of course, we consider REVENGE OF THE MUMMY one of our favorite rides, period – a great “pre-Screen Era” addition that makes you want to ride again and again.

Blacklight Award: HARRY POTTER AND THE ESCAPE FROM GRINGOTTS debuted in 2014 as the anchor attraction of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. At the time, fans criticized the temperamental ride for a seeming lack of innovation and thrills, especially compared to the groundbreaking Forbidden Journey that had launched with Hogsmeade four years earlier. It’s true that Gringotts is “simpler” (though it’s still impressive – rotating cabs affixed to a coaster chasis, with unprecedented trick track elements). But Gringotts is also a very agreeably fun ride, with excellent pacing, great physical sets, and a real sense of place.

7. Disneyland Paris

  1. Blanche Neige et les Sept Nains
  2. Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast
  3. Disneyland Railroad (featuring Grand Canyon Diorama and Pirates Caverns)
  4. “it’s a small world”
  5. Les Voyages de Pinocchio
  6. Peter Pan’s Flight
  7. Phantom Manor
  8. Pirates of the Caribbean

Disneyland Paris is often regarded as the most beautiful of all “Disneyland-style” parks – a poetic mix of the original Disneyland’s charm and coziness with the grandeur and efficiency of Magic Kingdom. That’s all true. But the thing most Disney Parks fans associate Disneyland Paris with is the notion that, when it opened in 1992, its financial freefall caused decades of cancellations and closures across the Parks division.

Given that Paris was just barely getting back on its financial feet when the disastrous Walt Disney Studios Park opened and siphoned away any capital investment, it’s no surprise that Paris’ dark ride lineup comes across as fairly simplistic – basically, the “starter pack” of “Castle Park” dark rides without any additions post 1992 except BUZZ LIGHTYEAR LASER BLAST.

Blacklight Award: Even if it looks a little bland on paper, Paris’ dark ride lineup has something going for it: several “tried-and-true” dark rides were reimagined for the park, leaning into the more romantic, fantasy, European context. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, for example, is basically a full rewrite of the version U.S. fans know. But the most notable of its dark rides is easy to decide…

One of Paris’ “bucket list” rides for Imagineering fans is a ride we celebrated in its own in-depth feature – PHANTOM MANOR. Though the ride follows the layout and key scenes of the Haunted Mansion, it’s a sort of hauntingly sad reinvention; a melodramatic Western opera set in the park’s Frontierland, recontextualizing the Mansion’s most well-known scenes to tell the story of a family cursed by the spirits of Big Thunder Mountain and a sinister Phantom who haunts a doomed bride for all eternity.

6. Universal’s Islands of Adventure

  1. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
  2. The Cat in the Hat
  3. Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
  4. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  5. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
  6. Hogwarts Express
  7. Jurassic Park River Adventure
  8. Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Islands of Adventure is just the kind of park industry observers never expected from Universal… one based not on movies, but on timeless characters and stories. It’s filled with incredible settings, secret spots, and hidden gems. And since its opening in 1999, what’s happened at Islands has directed the movement of the entire theme park industry.

2010’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter jump-started the era of “Living Lands” that are now industry standard. But it also introduced HARRY POTTER AND THE FORBIDDEN JOURNEY – a nearly inexplicable dark ride based off of a technology so astounding, most guests probably can’t explain what the ride is or how it works. In any other theme park, Forbidden Journey would win the Blacklight Award without blinking an eye… but Islands of Adventure also happens to have a ride that arguably altered the course of ride design as we know it…

BLACKLIGHT AWARD: There can be dark ride to better represent Islands of Adventure than the THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF SPIDER-MAN. Unthinkable in 1999 (and still amazing today), the ride is essentially a roving, motion-based dark ride that uses embedded screens to build out physical sets, bringing to life the comic book streets of New York. A technological marvel and an industry-changing innovation, Spider-Man remains one of the greatest modern dark rides on Earth – an icon from beginning to end.


  1. Frozen Ever After
  2. Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros
  3. Journey into Imagination with Figment
  4. Living with the Land
  5. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
  6. The Seas with Nemo & Friends
  7. Spaceship Earth

Not yet counted: Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (2022)

Once upon a time, EPCOT was home to a collection of world class, interconnected dark rides that represent some of Imagineering’s best work ever. Each of its Future World pavilions was anchored by a lengthy, informative dark ride telling the story of its area of science and industry from the past into the future. Those Lost Legends: Universe of EnergyBody WarsWorld of MotionJourney into ImaginationThe Living Seas, and Horizons are still remembered by many fans as embodiments of EPCOT’s truest self.

As EPCOT’s somewhat random assortment of dark rides today shows, each has been replaced one-by-one by piecemeal solutions as part of the park’s various waves of reimagining. From character overlays to outright replacements with more thrilling, semi-scientific attractions, EPCOT today is defined by an odd mix of experiences. While the foundational redesign under way now seems poised to at least aesthetically reunite the remains of Future World, it isn’t science and industry that dictate the park’s content, but Disney, Pixar, and Marvel.

BLACKLIGHT AWARD: At EPCOT, there can be no dark ride more worthy of being labeled the park’s best but Spaceship Earth. Theoretically, it’s the only remnant of the “original” EPCOT (albeit, updated several times; most recently in 2008, positioning Dame Judi Dench as its narrator). The ride inside EPCOT’s park icon is a thoughtful, reflective, 12-minute journey through the history of human communication from the Stone Age to the Internet Age. Like the best EPCOT classics, it’s educational and inspiring, maybe even making you feel small. After all, “Like a grand and miraculous spaceship, our planet has sailed through the universe of time; and for a brief moment we have been among it’s passengers.”

Also, it’s worth saying: enjoy it while you can. Though perhaps delayed or outright cancelled by pandemic cost-cutting, Disney had officially announced their intentions to give Spaceship Earth another facelift in 2020: one that would shift the ride’s focus from “communication” to “storytelling,” adding homages to (you guessed it), Disney and Pixar films.

Interestingly – but maybe not surprisingly – that leaves just four parks to round out the top of our Dark Ride Counts… and all four are “Castle Parks.” Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo, and Shanghai… Which order do you think the “Castle Parks” come in when it comes to their dark ride collections? Read on…

4. Shanghai Disneyland

  1. Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue
  2. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  3. Peter Pan’s Flight
  4. Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Sunken Treasure
  5. Roaring Rapids
  6. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  7. TRON Light Cycle Power Run
  8. Voyage to the Crystal Grotto

Not yet counted: Unnamed Zootopia attraction (2022)

Shanghai Disneyland opened in 2016 as the legacy-leaving landmark of Bob Iger’s tenure, finally bringing a permanent Disney installation to the highly-guarded mainland China and its rapidly-expanding middle class, ready to consume Disney stories and products. More importantly for fans of Imagineering, though, the Chinese government’s majority stake in the park allegedly added an interesting caveat to the park’s design… In addition to removing the Americana inherent in the “Disneyland” formula (i.e. no Main Street or Frontierland), the Shanghai park was reportedly required to feature only original anchor attractions, not copies of stateside classics.

The result is a Disneyland more untethered from Walt’s 1955 standards than we’ve ever seen before – one without a Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, “small world,” or any “Mountains.” The park’s three “classic” dark rides – POOHBUZZ, and PAN – are all upgraded with new aesthetics and projection mapping, while new age thrills – like SEVEN DWARFS MINE TRAIN, ROARING RAPIDS, and TRON LIGHTCYCLE POWER RUN – integrate dark ride scenes into unique attractions. The park’s oddest ride is probably VOYAGE TO THE CRYSTAL GROTTO – a sort of mix between a Jungle Cruise, World of Color, Mickey’s Philharmagic, and a parade with a single true “dark ride” scene as its finale.

Blacklight Award: Though TRON Lightcycle Power Run captured the attention of audiences immediately, there’s no doubt that the park’s coolest ride is PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: BATTLE FOR SUNKEN TREASURE. Based on the Pirates film series and little more than an homage to the classic theme park ride, this new age ride is pretty much a modern masterpiece. Battle for Sunken Treasure blends massive physical sets with totally-integrated, impossibly-scaled projection and stunning Audio-Animatronics. 

3. Magic Kingdom

  1. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  2. Haunted Mansion
  3. “it’s a small world”
  4. Jungle Cruise
  5. Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh 
  6. Peter Pan’s Flight
  7. Pirates of the Caribbean
  8. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  9. Splash Mountain
  10. Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover
  11. Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid
  12. Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress 

Not yet counted: TRON Light Cycle / Run (TBD)

Based on its ride collection and dark ride list, it’s hard to argue that on paper, Magic Kingdom is the least interesting of the “Castle Parks.” Its dark ride collection is quite literally the standard set shared by nearly every Disneyland-style park plus the Little Mermaid dark ride (copied from Disney California Adventure) and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (which easily meets our requirements for a dark ride thanks to the charming dark ride scenes that serve as its second act). It’s a quality line-up, just not an exceptional one. 

That said, very notable are the Peoplemover and Carousel of Progress – neither of which really sets out to be a dark ride primarily, but both of which fit the definition when you get right down to it. Both are also pretty legendary, and certainly standouts in Magic Kingdom’s otherwise much-duplicated set. TRON won’t be a Magic Kingdom exclusive, but it’ll at least give the park a distinctive quasi-dark-ride E-Ticket! In the meantime, the Blacklight Award has to go to a classic…

Blacklight Award: Though Magic Kingdom’s dark ride lineup isn’t particularly inspiring on paper, its HAUNTED MANSION is. Pretty inarguably the superior of the three Haunted Mansions, Orlando’s version was designed at the same time as Disneyland’s, but is a more complete experience with added scenes and notably, much more consistent care and upkeep. If ever you question the artistry or sincerity of Magic Kingdom’s version of the ride, may we direct you to Foxx Nolte’s Boundless Realms – a love letter to the ‘71 Mansion that begs to be read on your next flight to Florida, and a must-have for Imagineering aficionados. 

2. Tokyo Disneyland

  1. Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters
  2. Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast
  3. Haunted Mansion
  4. “it’s a small world”
  5. Jungle Cruise: Wildlife Expeditions
  6. Monsters Inc. Ride & Go Seek
  7. Peter Pan’s Flight
  8. Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
  9. Pirates of the Caribbean
  10. Pooh’s Hunny Hunt
  11. Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
  12. Snow White’s Adventures
  13. Splash Mountain
  14. Western River Railroad (with Grand Canyon Diorama and Primeval World)

In the development of Tokyo Disneyland, executives from the Tokyo-based Oriental Land Company reportedly visited both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, compiling a “wish list” of rides to copy from both. That’s pretty clear in its dark ride lineup – Tokyo Disneyland has many of Magic Kingdom’s dark rides (Buzz, Mansion, “small world,” Peter Pan, Splash, and Pirates) plus several of Disneyland’s (Pinocchio, Snow White, and Roger Rabbit).

What makes the park a real must-visit for U.S. fans, though, are its three one-of-a-kind dark rides. The newest – Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast – was much-anticipated by Disney Parks fans, but received mixed reception when it defied expectations and established a whole new genre of dark ride: basically, a ride-through sing-along. A full-scale recreation of Monsters Inc.’s headquarters may be an outlier in Tomorrowland, but Ride & Go Seek is an absolutely delightful interactive dark ride that’s collaborative, not competitive! But the highlight must be…

Blacklight Award: Opened in 2000, POOH’S HUNNY HUNT was the first of Disney’s increasingly standard trackless dark rides. Unthinkable at the time (and still pretty darn cool), the ride sends guests whirling through the storybook pages of the Hundred Acre Wood, zig-zagging around sets, hopping along with Tigger, and seemingly randomly dancing through trippy dreamscapes filled with Heffalumps and Woozles. While the ride’s tracklessness isn’t so much the “gee-whiz” factor it once was thanks to the technology’s widespread use today, it’s still an absolute marvel of Imagineering… especially if you’re used to the bland, bumbling versions of a Pooh ride in Disney’s other “Castle Parks.” 

1. Disneyland Park

  1. Alice in Wonderland
  2. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
  3. Disneyland Railroad (with Grand Canyon Diorama and Primeval World)
  4. Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
  5. Haunted Mansion
  6. Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye
  7. “it’s a small world”
  8. Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  9. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
  10. Peter Pan’s Flight
  11. Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
  12. Pirates of the Caribbean
  13. Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
  14. Snow White’s Enchanted Wish
  15. Splash Mountain
  16. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

Not yet counted: Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (2023)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the original Disneyland reigns supreme. Yes, despite being one of the smallest Disney Parks on Earth, Walt’s original magic kingdom still manages to top our “By The Numbers” series and its lists of Ride Counts and E-Ticket Counts, now adding the crown for the number of Dark Rides, too. 

In addition to having all three of its 1955 originals – Snow White (closed in Florida), Mr. Toad (closed in Florida), and Peter Pan’s Flight – the park’s tiny, storybook Fantasyland also contains Pinocchio’s Daring Journey and the one-of-a-kind Alice in Wonderland. That’s all a testament to Disneyland’s more guarded, historic, preservationist lineup and the reverence and respect that guests, Imagineers, and executives have for the park.

On top of its Fantasyland lineup, Disneyland also has The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (in Critter Country) and Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin (in Toontown, soon to be joined by Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway), plus the last-of-its-kind Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and the original Haunted Mansion.

Blacklight Award: Among its legendary lineup, Disneyland has three pretty introvertible “best in the world” dark rides. The first and most obvious is PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. Disneyland’s version of the ride – the original – is often regarded as Walt Disney’s personal magnum opus. It’s truly the definitive ride of the ’60s (and for comparison’s sake, clocks in at about twice as long as Magic Kingdom’s version). Disneyland’s Pirates is pretty unanimously considered one of the best classic dark rides on Earth.

On the other end of the spectrum, Disneyland is also home to STAR WARS: RISE OF THE RESISTANCE – by most counts, among the best modern dark rides on Earth. Phew! Since Pirates won our Decade Award and Rise already snagged a Blacklight Award, let’s instead highlight Disneyland’s one-of-a-kind E-Ticket that serves as an anchor for the resort… 

Opened in 1995 – the height of the “Ride the Movies” era – the INDIANA JONES ADVENTURE was unlike anything that had been seen before. Debuting the cutting edge EMV ride system, the attraction sends guests deep into the heart of the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, where the lost god Mara promises eternal youth, Earthly riches, or future sight… but with a catch. The off-roading ride is one of the most incredible attractions ever developed by Imagineering – a breathtaking, captivating, and mesmerizing E-Ticket that’s pretty unmatched in scale and scope.