Scariest Rides at Disneyland: What to Know Before You Go

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The thrilling Incredicoaster at Disney California Adventure Park brings guests the first ride-through attraction in the world featuring characters from Disney•Pixar’s “The Incredibles.” Anchoring Pixar Pier, the Incredicoaster takes guests on a super adventure with the Parr family to capture the elusive baby Jack-Jack. Exciting character figures, special effects, lighting, new music and distinctively colored vehicles make the thrills on this coaster even more incredible. (Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort)

Heading to Disneyland with kids? In the words of Scar, “Be prepared.” Only you can know what will scare your own kiddo but we’ve rounded up all the information you need including height requirements, scariest ride moments, loud noises and some tips on handling fear. Discover what might be too scary for little kids so that you can make an informed decision before your Disneyland vacation.

Could a ferris wheel ride with Mickey Mouse be one of the scariest rides at Disney?
Could a Ferris wheel with Mickey Mouse be too scary? (Photo Credit: Ame Stanko)

Scariest Rides at Disneyland

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure park are family oriented theme parks. Each of these Disney parks offer rides and entertainment for all ages, including many attractions that don’t have any height restrictions. But does that mean everything is appropriate for your kid? Not necessarily! Some Disneyland rides do have dark elements, special effects, or thrills that might prove too scary for some kids.

Planning a Disneyland vacation? These are the top thrill rides including height information, Genie+ availability, scare factor and what to look out for. These are the tips on the scariest rides at Disneyland – the list might surprise you!

big thunder mountain railroad disneyland
The dips and turns on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad can put kids on edge (Photo Credit: Orange31 on Pixabay)

Disneyland Park – Thrill Rides

This list of rides includes rides that move fast, contain ideas that many kids may consider scary, or have lots of darkness.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – 40″ or taller (Genie+ Lightning Lane offered)

Like its Walt Disney World counterpart there are some small drops on this runaway train ride that are tummy tickling. Inside of the mountains is a dark and perilous dynamite scene that might frighten some kids.

Gadget’s Go Coaster – 35″ or taller

Intended as a “first coaster” for preschoolers and young children, this Toontown coaster is a quick one-minute ride. There are some drops and swift turns but it’s over before you know it!

Haunted Mansion – No height restriction (Genie+ Lightning Lane offered)

The Haunted Mansion is filled with bone chilling thrills that are sure to frighten some kids. Interestingly, the Nightmare Before Christmas inspired version from September to early January is more colorful and quirky. Kids may enjoy it more than the traditional version.

Indiana Jones Adventure – 46″ or taller (Genie+ Lightning Lane offered)

This rocky ride into the Temple of the Forbidden Eye is inspired by the movie series, with mummies, snakes and other frightening images.

Matterhorn Bobsleds – 42″ or taller (Genie+ Lightning Lane offered)

Quick turns and small drops on this bobsled ride through the iconic mountain, the roaring Yeti (aka: Abominable Snowman) is spotted near the track on several occasions. One fun fact is that there are actually two tracks for this ride, one on the Fantasyland side and one on the Tomorrowland side.

Splash Mountain – 40″ or taller (Genie+ Lightning Lane offered)

Note: Splash Mountain will be closed for refurbishment from January 10th to March 7th 2022. 

You can’t hide that fact that this one is a thrill ride, as guests walk past the long, deep drop on this wet and winding log ride. There are tame moments inside with cute creatures but that drop is a steep one that may give some kids a pause.

Space Mountain – 40″ or taller (Genie+ Lightning Lane offered)

This indoor thrill ride is fast and dark, with inspiration taken from rocket ships zooming through outer space. The rocking soundtrack is thrilling but many don’t enjoy the blind twists and turns (no loops though!).

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance- 40″ or taller (Individual Purchase for Lightning Lane Entrance)

With drops, darkness, constant excitement and lots of noise and surprises this ride is action-packed. Story immersion is really well done so if your child loves Star Wars they may get sucked into the story line.

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Potentially Scary Rides at Disneyland

This group of rides may not incite fear in every child but there are a few things you should know about each of these rides before your first time riding them.

Astro Orbiter – No height restriction

Similar to its Orlando Magic Kingdom counterpart this rocket-inspired ride can be challenging for those with a fear of heights. It is very fast spinning but each rider can control the up and down motion. Younger guests are able to sit in their parents lap, which is comforting, despite the speed.

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run – 38″ or taller (Genie+ Lightning Lane offered)

This ride inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge isn’t particularly scary, but there are some thrilling moments. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is a motion simulator ride with interactive elements. Younger kids may not appreciate being seated in an individual chair, out of reach of their parents. But many youngsters will enjoy the “video game” style of this attraction and get involved with pushing buttons.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – No height restriction

This quirky ride is mostly just fun but has a few moments that might frighten kids, including a loud oncoming train and a devilishly steamy scene at the end.

Pinocchio’s Daring Journey and Snow White’s Scary Adventures – No height restriction

You might not expect these two rides from Fantasyland to make the list, but they are both slightly on the dark side with several scary elements (Evil Queen and Monstro the whale).

Pirates of the Caribbean – No height restriction

True, there’s no height restriction on this leisurely boat ride, despite that there are two small drops in the dark. The dips might set off nervous kids, in addition to the eerie music, creepy skeletons and realistic animatronic pirates.

Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin – No height restriction (Genie+ Lightning Lane offered)

It’s dark and there are some scary elements (threats of “The Dip”) but otherwise kids will like the colorful spinning ride.

Star Tours – The Adventures Continue – 40″ or taller (Genie+ Lightning Lane offered)

Folks that aren’t big fans of bumpy motion simulators may not enjoy this life-like ride through space, complete with shooting lasers and daring dives.

Think you have a thrill seeker? These are the top thrill rides at Disneyland.

Could Radiator Springs Racers be one of the scariest rides at Disneyland?
Part dark ride, part thrill ride, Radiator Springs Racer is awesome (Photo Credit: James Hills from Pixabay)

Disney California Adventure Park – Thrill Rides

Do you have a little daredevil? They’ll love these thrill rides at Disney California Adventure Park.

Goofy’s Sky School – 42″ or taller (Genie+ Lightning Lane offered)

This jerky coaster offers riders swift drops and blind turns.

Grizzly River Run – 42″ or taller (Genie+ Lightning Lane offered)

Note: Grizzly River Run closed for refurbishment on January 24, 2022 and is expected to reopen in Spring 2022. 

Spinning and short drops with overhead water falls and blasts from the river. You will get soaked!

Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout – 40″ or taller (Genie+ Lightning Lane offered)

Formerly the Tower of Terror this ride has the biggest drops of any Disneyland Resort attraction. In fact with your eyes squeezed shut, you may not know if you’re going up or down!

Incredicoaster – 48″ or taller (Genie+ Lightning Lane offered)

Formerly called California Screamin’ this classic roller coaster is the only one with a loop-de-loop! Big drops and high speeds make this classic coaster thrilling but also a bit scary. The fun concept of helping the Incredibles catch Jack-Jack does engage kids.

Radiator Springs Racers – 40″ or taller (Individual Purchase for Lightning Lane Entrance)

This Cars Land favorite is a thrilling combo of coaster and dark ride. After a storytelling cruise inside, racers will line up at the starting line for a speedy race around Monument Valley.

Soarin’ Around the World – 40″ or taller (Genie+ Lightning Lane offered)

Kids who are afraid of heights may not initially enjoy this ride that lifts riders into the air. However once you are immersed in the film shown on the large screen, you may not notice how high up you are.

Potentially Scary Rides at Disney California Adventure

Jumpin’ Jellyfish – 40″ or taller

With the quick drops, this one is a good precursor to Guardians of the Galaxy. The ride itself is only 90 seconds long so kids will know exactly what to expect.

Pixar Pal-A-Round (formerly called Mickey’s Fun Wheel) – No height restriction

Fun fact: This ride has both fixed and swinging gondolas. Wondering how your child will do with heights? Try starting with the non-swinging gondola before moving to the more thrilling swinging gondolas.

WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure- No height restriction (Individual Purchase for Lightning Lane Entrance)

This new ride located in Avengers Campus has no height restriction. There is a frenzied atmosphere as riders help to save the campus and the ride contains loud noises and darkness. It’s similar to Toy Story Midway Mania! with its interactiveness.

How to Avoid the Scariest Rides at Disneyland

If you have an anxious kid at Disneyland, you might consider having an adult ride first. This will give you an idea on whether you think it will be a good ride for your kid. Only you as a parent know your child. What might be too frightening for one kid is exciting and fun to another kid.

Use the Rider Switch option. One adult waits with the child while everyone else goes on the ride. Then when that ride is over, the adults switch places and enter the ride through either the exit or Lightning Lane line. See the cast member at the entrance for instructions on using Rider Switch (or “child swap”) for that attraction.

What to Do If Your Kid Gets Scared

Despite your best planning, sometimes kids are set-off and can get frightened. While most of the things at Disneyland are fun for all, there may be seemingly innocuous attractions that are scary for kids at Disneyland. These are some suggestions to get back on track if fear starts to take over the day.

  • Try taking a snack break. Buying a special treat and indulging in the best food at Disneyland is a welcome distraction for many kids.
  • Watch a ride video on YouTube. If your child just went on a ride that frightened them, try having them watch it again, this time behind the screen. YouTube has lots of on-ride videos that your kid can watch. Seeing it again (from the cozy lap of a parent) can help desensitize the scary parts.
  • Take a hotel break for a quick rest or pool time.
  • No pressure tactics work best when kids are anxious at Disneyland. If your kid was freaked out inside of a “dark ride” you might want to avoid those attractions for the rest of the day. Forcing a kid to continually ride something they are scared about isn’t going to make for a very magical day!
  • Check out the Disney Play app! A lot of rides have extra activities and achievements attached to them. This can sometimes motivate kids to give rides a change.
  • Switch gears and avoid the rides, if that’s what is triggering fear. There are plenty of other fun things to do including some sweet rides like it’s a small world and Dumbo that shouldn’t upset.
A travel writer who specializes in Disney and family travel destinations, Julie Bigboy also enjoys quilting, watching baseball, and spending time with her four children. A San Diego native, Julie writes with a detailed eye, to provide families with helpful tips and guidance for planning every aspect of a trip with children. Julie is the owner and content creator for the website Mom Rewritten, a lifestyle blog. She also co-owns Disneyland With Kids, a Facebook group and podcast for families.
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4 responses

  1. We took my 5 year old daughter and 9 year old son last summer to Disneyland. We went on Thunder Mountain first to see how she would react to a high speed roller coaster. She loved it. Then we went on Matterhorn and went to Space Mountain. At Space Mountain she hit her head against the seat because she couldn’t see the twists and turns, but she loved the ride otherwise. So if you have littles, make sure they are close to you or prepared for the turns. At California Park, We went on every single ride we could at her height. She loved them all. Unfortunately, she was only 43″ so she missed out on Indiana Jones and Incredicoaster. But when we got to Guardians of the Galaxy. She wanted to go on that ride over and over. It was her favorite. Everyone knows their kids. Make sure you test out a medium thrill ride before you take them on a scarier ride.

  2. I just ook my 3 1/2 year old on Radiator Springs Racers and it was a bit much for her, but she loved Soarin!

  3. 5

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