At its core Disney Parks were made to experience with people who are closest to your heart. As many know, Walt grew fond of the idea of a theme park while thinking of his two daughters. Since Disneyland’s gates opened in 1955, the park has been an ultimate family destination. Of course, Disney Parks are still great trips to take with friends or as a couple, but today’s post will be all about families.
There are some great attractions all around Disneyland Resort. Some aren’t fit for kids, some aren’t fit for adults. But many of the attractions are fit for both! In this post, I’m going to give my top-10 attractions that the whole family can go on.
While making this list, I had a generic family in mind with both a little boy and a girl. Obviously, this isn’t the case for many families but I thought it’d be the most interesting to try to keep these attractions fairly gender neutral. I also assumed that the children were fairly young but tall enough to experience all of the attractions (California Screamin’ at 48 inches and Indiana Jones at 46 are the only attractions with a height requirement over 42 inches, and they wasn’t going to make the list because it might be a little too much of a thrill). I also assumed that the family was 4-6 members. Of course, many of us go with extended family but I wanted to stick to a smaller family for this post. With all that in mind, I tried to pick the attractions that were of the highest quality and that the whole family would love. I’m also not including shows. I love you, Tiki Room, but I’m strictly talking rides here.
Last of all, is a quick disclaimer: All families are going to be different. The chances that your family will have the exact same preference as my family is slim to none. I will try to not let personal preference affect my list too much but no promises!
I guess it’s time to start this wild, daring, and sometimes mad adventure!
Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough – Many kids, and parents really, haven’t had the pleasure of walking through a castle. This experience offers that opportunity. It’s a pretty unique experience to walk through such a landmark. With that being said, it doesn’t make the list because kids may find it a little boring and there are quite a few stairs. It’s also not technically a ride so… Mainly I just want everyone to experience this and not skip it!
Space Mountain/Big Thunder Mountain Railroad/ The Matterhorn – Okay, okay. Confession coming. I was one of those kids who was terrified of every ride. I still am (that’s what you call a half-serious joke). I imagine there are other kids out there that are terrified of those fast-moving things that go around, inside, and down those giant mountains. If your kids (and/or spouse) aren’t terrified of coasters, these absolutely should make the list. They are well themed and a lot of fun. I will say that Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Magic Kingdom does a better job of theming a coaster for a whole family, which was its goal unlike the rides listed above. We’ll save the Mine Train for our Disney World post though. My point was, these weren’t necessarily made as ‘family’ rides and that’s why they miss the list.
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – As long as your kids aren’t terrified of Hell then they will probably like this ride… Yeah, that’s why this didn’t make the list.
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters – This attraction doesn’t have the highest quality but it’s a lot of fun. It’s also a pretty good bonding experience when the whole family gets to compare their scores. The downside is only 2 people fit into the ride vehicle and the actual attraction is a little bit lacking.
Storybookland Canal Boats – Readers of the blog know how fond I am of a good boat ride. This is one of them, showcasing some of the worlds, in miniature form, that we have grown to love in the movies. It’s a quiet ride that is easy to relax on while taking in the sights that may leave kids wide-eyed. It doesn’t quite crack the top-ten because kids may think it’s a little boring.
Grizzly River Run – While this might be a little too much of a thrill ride, I’ve always thought that getting a whole family soaked on a ride can become a funny, favorite memory and a bonding experience. As I write that, I realize that this might just be a very personal thing. If it’s not, let me know in the comments!
Star Tours – The Adventures Continue – This barely misses the cut, at number 11. It’s a ride that boys can get behind (there aren’t a huge amount of those at Disney). I don’t think Star Tours would scare very often and your whole family gets to sit in a row next to each other. The reason it barely misses the cut is because I don’t know if this has much of an appeal to young girls. Maybe it does, but I don’t think it appeals to the whole family like the top-10 does.
10. Dumbo the Flying Elephant – The top-ten starts off with a classic ride that flies high through Disneyland’s Fantasyland. The kids will most likely get a kick out of deciding how high or low the elephant can go. Bonus points if they like Dumbo. Your family can probably fit into 2 or 3 different elephants on the attraction. Aside from that negative, this attraction probably isn’t going to be many adult’s favorites outside of nostalgic reasons.
9. Peter Pan’s Flight – Yeah, I can’t make a list without this on it. This flight through Neverland is simply just too good of an attraction to leave off the list. Children and adults will thoroughly enjoy this ride and it’s charm. The downside is that you probably can’t all fit in it together and that limits the family experience until you get outside and rave about it.
8. It’s a Small World – It’s a Small World is and will probably be pretty divisive for any family. Is it annoying or just catchy? Is it boring or is there more than enough detail? Chances are someone in your family will probably think the former to both of those questions and that’s part of the fun, as long as your family members don’t mind some good-natured teasing. The other benefits of the ride are that your family can sit close to each other and the ride is heaped in tradition that is fun to share with your family.
7. Pirates of the Caribbean – While Pirates may share a spook with some, most everyone seems to enjoy this attraction. Maybe it’s a bit scary, which is why it’s eighth on the list and not higher, but I don’t think it will frighten. If it doesn’t then families will definitely enjoy this boat ride through the Caribbean. There are plenty of sight gags to laugh at together. The theming will be something to marvel at together. Also, the whole family will be able to fit in a row or two. It’s a great ride to go on all together.
6. Mad Tea Party/Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree – These rides are included together because they are essentially just spinners, although some cool technology is used in both. No, neither of these attractions are as good as the ones that preceded it. Why is above them then, you ask? Because it’s impossibly not to laugh on these two attractions. I’ve never been able to hold in my laughter while on them. If you can then you should either lighten up or tell your child to stop spinning the cup so fast because of your motion sickness! Bonus points to the tea cups for being able to nearly fit in a whole family in a cup. Also, a word of warning to those that have never been. Mater’s Jamboree will throw you around a little. It looks innocent, it’s not.
5. Splash Mountain – This is as big of a thrill ride as the list gets. Some kids (and adults) are terrified of the last drop. For families that are a little bit older or families with kids that are more adventurous, this ride should probably be a lot higher. First of all, it’s arguably the best attraction in the park. Second of all, there’s a decent chance that your family will get a log (boat) all to themselves. That combined with the ‘getting soaked bonding experience’ makes this a close to perfect family ride. The only thing that brings it down is the drop for younger kids.
4. Soarin’ Over California – Soarin’ scores quite a few points as a family ride. You whole family can fit in one row. While it’s a thrill to ride, there aren’t any huge heart-stopping moments that will scare. Most of all, it will leave both kids and adults wide-eyed as they soar through the California skies. The downside is if someone is afraid of heights, it has a height limit (40 inches), and in my opinion there are just simply better rides out there.
3. Toy Story Midway Mania – I wasn’t sure if this should be so high because I don’t think this is as good of an attraction as some of the rides above it. But, as I went through the family I finally settled on the number 3 spot. The kids will be happy because they are combining one of the best animated films of all time with a fun, arcade style like game in an attraction at Disneyland. The father will be happy because he gets to play an arcade like game without seeming too much like a kid. The mother will be happy because all of her family is happy, she gets to relax, and play a fun game all at the same time! Add in the family bonding over their scores that they got in the attraction and we’ve got a real winner. I guess the real downside is that the whole family can’t all sit next to each other, though they might be able to fit all into a ride vehicle (they sit 4).
2. Jungle Cruise – This blog has done plenty of raving about Jungle Cruise in the last few months. Add another accolade to the list of reasons why we love Jungle Cruise. The adults and teens in the family can roll their eyes and laugh at the puns while the kids stare in wonder at the hippos that pop up right next to them. Like It’s a Small World, this attraction has a storied tradition behind it. Another plus is that everyone can sit next to each other.
1. Radiator Springs Racers – I debated on the top spot of this list for quite a while before eventually settling on Radiator Springs Racers. I wanted to make sure recency bias was putting the latest and greatest attraction on the top of our fact-based list. Part of that was a joke. But, really RSR, as the cool kids say, has it all. There’s a nice leisurely ride showcasing a waterfall for the people in the group who like to slow down. There’s a wonderful dark ride featuring iconic characters for the kids. There’s some exciting audio-animatronics for the theme park nerds. And there’s adventure and excitement at the end. The only downside is that there is a height limit (40 inches) but it’s not very tall. The whole family can fit into one car and enjoy the ride together. This ride is for everyone, especially families.
Do you agree or disagree with this list? What are your favorite rides for the whole family at Disneyland? Let us know in the comments.
Thank you for reading!