Top 10 Disney Rides
It’s hard to list Disney’s 10 best rides. Disney has hundreds attractions in Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, so it’s quite the list from which to choose. Obviously, not all of these attractions were created equally.
At their best, Disney attractions are timeless classics that have multi-generational appeal. At their worst, they’re dressed up versions of amusement park staples. I thought it would be fun to put together a list of what I consider the 10 best attractions–solely of the ride variety–worldwide. As there are literally more Disney parks than there are attractions on this list, some great ones are bound to be snubbed, but I’m keeping to a strict 10 attraction limit.
Even if I had a list with 40 more honorable mentions, I’d be still be snubbing some very worthy attractions. As it’s a multi-continent list, it’s not like this top 10 has any functional utility anyway…it’s more geared at being a fun conversation piece for Disney theme park fans. I want to do more worldwide lists like this, so if this one is popular, it will be the first of many more to come. I enjoy comparing and contrasting all of the different parks, and want to do more posts like that, anyway. They’re a nice change of pace from the normal trip planning material here.
A few notes about the list before we get started. First, while it’s my personal list, I’m considering not just what I like the best, but also what I consider to be objectively the most impressive and captivating attractions. I don’t have any specific scoring criteria–it’s basically just a mix of my gut reaction and analysis. Second, only attractions that are currently operational are eligible.
It’s easy to say Horizons or Journey into Imagination should be #1, but there’s no perfect way to tell how those would have aged or if opinions today are clouded by the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia. Third, only the best version of each attraction (we’ll call this the “Tower of Terror” rule). Finally, this list is a moving target based partially on how I feel when I’m writing it. If you ask me my top 10 tomorrow, you might get different answers.
With that said, here’s the list in no particular order!
American Adventure, Epcot
American Adventure was the last attraction to make the list, and it edges out several attractions that I actually prefer to American Adventure. However, objectively, seeing as American Adventure is an only-of-its-kind achievement that represents the best of the incredible Imagineering that went into bringing EPCOT Center to fruition, I felt it deserved a spot on the list.
Powered by an impressive “war wagon,” The American Adventure is an Audio Animatronics-driven montage stage show of key moments in American history. The scenes are detailed and insightful, and impressive as they rise from the stage and engage the audience. This is a powerful show that may make the eyes of patriotic Americans leak a bit.
Monster’s Inc. Ride & Go Seek, Tokyo Disneyland
Ride & Go Seek is probably the only attraction on this list that receives mixed reviews from people who know what they’re talking about (negative reviews of the American Adventure are common, and prove there is such a thing as a “bad opinion”), but I just do not see the basis for any of this criticism. Its Audio Animatronics are advanced and lifelike with very fluid motions. Sets are immersive and include a ton of detail.
The interactive twist of revealing monsters and other effects by shining a flashlight on them is fun, and adds to the re-rideability of the attraction, as you likely will not see it all on one ride-through. These flashlights are also the controversial element, but since they’re optional, I don’t see the harm. Apparently most Tokyo Disneyland guests agree, as it’s the most popular attraction there.
Radiator Springs Racers, Disney California Adventure
Okay, maybe there are two controversial picks, but this one only seems controversial with those dead-set against this big of an attraction (and an entire land) based on Cars. Radiator Springs Racers makes the list because of its scale and scope, with both a beautiful outdoor section through the mountains and well done indoor dark ride.
The outdoor section alone would be enough to put it among the upper echelon of Disney coasters, but the way that is integrated with the dark ride scenes put it over the top. This will be the most popular attraction at Disney California Adventure for years to come, and for good reason.
Indiana Jones Adventure, Disneyland
From the incredible queue to the hilariously dry pre-show (my favorite part of the attraction) to the special effects-laden adventure, Indiana Jones Adventure still is one of those attractions that leaves me impressed after each time I ride it. It’s one of those rare attractions where, while you’re on it, even as an adult you suspend disbelief and feel as if you’re participating in an adventure.
As Sallah would say, “it is unlike anything you have ever experienced, I assure you!” Several special effects upgrades it received in the last few years push it ahead of the Tokyo DisneySea version for me, but it’s still a tight race. All things considered, it’s my favorite attraction at Disneyland, which is a feat since Disneyland has so many attractions.
Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, Tokyo Disneyland
Pooh’s Hunny Hunt is the gold standard for Fantasyland dark rides, and I will never look at the rest the same after Hunny Hunt. The trackless ride system is key, and the way Hunny Hunt’s ride vehicles dance with one another and engage their environments makes this one of Disney’s most immersive attractions.
From the vehicles “gathering” around for story-time to bouncing with Tigger to spinning in Pooh’s dream with Heffalumps, you feel like an actual participant in this highly imaginative ride. It doesn’t hurt that all of the sets and Audio Animatronics are highly detailed and advanced, either. To me, this is a game-changer for Fantasyland dark rides, and it’s hard to believe that 15 years after its debut, the technology utilized in Hunny Hunt hasn’t made its way to the United States.
Tower of Terror, Tokyo DisneySea
Being a huge Twilight Zone fan, it was difficult for me to place this version on the list and leave off the original, but this one is the best and my personal favorite, despite lacking that tie-in. Here, the New York City Preservation Society gives tours to the hotel previously owned by dubious explorer and collector of exotic artifacts, Harrison Hightower. The story centers on Hightower’s disappearance, which was supposedly caused by idol Shiriki Utundu.
The sheer amount of detail in the queue and different pre-show rooms, plus the various styles of storytelling here (newspaper clippings, live tour guides, pre-show room, artifact rooms, the main show itself, and the post-show) make this Tower of Terror the best overall attraction in Disney’s best overall park. It’s so layered that it’s easy to forget that the “highlight” is supposed to be that drop sequence. Take a look at every version of the Tower of Terror in this blog post.
Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage, Tokyo DisneySea
What can I say about Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage that I haven’t already said? How about that whether I made this list solely in terms of objective quality without considering my personal feelings, I still think Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage would make the list.
Sindbad’s deserves this spot because the boat ride features a cast of over 100(!!!) Audio Animatronics, a catchy song, and lovable characters. Each of the scenes is well-presented in a storybook style, and there’s so much to see that the attraction has incredible re-rideability.
Haunted Mansion, Magic Kingdom
One of only a handful of early-era Disney attractions that have truly stood the test of time, the Haunted Mansion is as impressive today as when it first opened in Disneyland in 1969. The debate over which Haunted Mansion is best is interesting, as each version has its strengths and arguably could be #1.
The Magic Kingdom’s not only takes the cake for me, but is one of the best attractions in the world. Its approach through Liberty Square and the upgrades made during its last big refurbishment/plussing are key for me. Some of the changes to it since have been a mixed bag, but the Walt Disney World version is still king.
Pirates of the Caribbean, Disneyland Paris
Pirates of the Caribbean is another one of those early-era attractions that still holds its own, but in this case, the version from the 1990s is the clear winner for me. Pirates of the Caribbean is housed in a beautiful, bunker-style fortress in Disneyland Paris, with an elaborate queue containing a lot of detail.
It has most of the same “extra” scenes as the Disneyland version and the arrangement of these scenes is better. Add to that a handful of new effects that take the attraction to the next level, and make this the best attraction at Disneyland Paris and one of the greatest Disney attractions of all time. The fact that it is the only version without Captain Jack Sparrow and his rag-tag band is not outcome determinative, but it doesn’t hurt.
Mystic Manor, Hong Kong Disneyland
Mystic Manor put Hong Kong Disneyland on the map, and on the radar of theme park fans everyone. Its opening was essentially the coming out party for the previously much-maligned park. Mystic Manor combines great special effects with excellent music, memorable characters, and great gags.
The trackless ride system is used perfectly, and ties the attraction together as an immersive tour. As I wrote in our Mystic Manor Photo Tour & Review, Mystic Manor is the pinnacle achievement (so far) of this generation of Imagineers.
Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list of the best Disney attractions out there, it’s just my personal top 10. Even now as I finish it, I am really tormenting myself over how I left off X or Y, but such is the nature of making a strict top 10 list, I suppose! Regardless, it was fun to give some thought to my top 10, even if I wish it were a top 10 with an asterisk with about 20 additional picks snuck in there.
What are your top 10 Disney attractions? It doesn’t matter how many parks you’ve been to, I’m still interested in knowing some other favorites. Do you think I missed any that should have made the list, or made any poor choices? What other worldwide top 10 lists would you like to see? If you have any other questions or comments, please leave them below.
Hey – any plans to update the list with the new attractions in Shanghai? I would think Pirates and possibly TRON would be contenders
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Pretty good choices and I agree with the addition of Kilimanjaro Safaris by some reader. I’d have to say the best DIsney roller coaster in the world is Grizzly Run in Hong Kong so it should be added. MIssion: Space in Epcot is pretty good, too. I have not ridden Ratatouille in the Paris Studio but I hear good things. I agree, Mystic Manor is the best Disney attraction to date.
Great list! Personally, I think Crush’s Coaster at WDS at DLRP is one of the most AMAZING attractions I have ridden! The spinning turtle shell along the EAC (aka Space Mountain in the ocean) with slower parts featuring Nemo characters make it delightful and exciting!! If only it could get a FP…
nice list! think it’s the ASTOUNDING animation that makes Aladdin swing…it’s unlike anything else… kind of horrible to think that breakthrough in fluid movement has to stay in tokyo, while they give us 3rd rate mermaid in fla… seriously? and with pooh’s hunny hunt a constant 2 hour wait (and worth it), couldn’t they have repeated it in orlando?
Journey to the Center of the Earth is possibly my favorite for detail and immersion, while my heart sticks with WDW’s space mountain and splash mountain (no doubt because of sneekily beautiful orchestrations that leave you happy as a clam)…
Tom, anxiously awaiting your next blog post! Maybe a Top 10 Disney Park Restaurants?
Wow! I myself have never been in such a Park. No, I was in Gardaland in Italy. Some expectations are that near Split in Croatia will be some aqua-park soon… But, I’m astonished with all that, must-see one soon! I have 5 children, we live in Podgora, Croatia, and ‘must take them to Disneyland!
I never know where your pictures are from, since they aren’t labeled. What is the first picture on this post?
Disneyland Paris’ Haunted Mansion.
Tom, I would love to see your “bottom 10” list also!
I was so happy to see Indiana Jones make the list. That ride is absolutely fantastic.
I’ve only been to the 4 parks in Florida and Disneyland (with Disneyland being just 1 day too), but this would be my top 10:
10. It’s a Small World, Disneyland
The outside facade just takes my breath away. I also like the immersion of Disney characters.
9. Festival of the Lion King, Animal Kingdom
I know this is a show and not a ride, but that show gives me chills every time. I love it. I’m excited for it to get its own theater because the parade float Pumba and Simba should really have permanent spots and not be…floats.
8. Expedition Everest, Animal Kingdom
Despite the fact that the Yeti seems to never want to work so they flash lights on him instead, the detail that went into this ride and it’s creative track reversal system make this one of my favorite coasters.
7. Haunted Mansion, Magic Kingdom
Just pray you never get stopped by the screaming headstone ghost like my family did. It always amazes me when I see the special effects of this ride and how they still hold up today.
6. Pirates of the Caribbean, Disneyland
Pirates has always been an attraction that I enjoyed and riding the Disneyland version after the Magic Kingdom version made me like the Disneyland version even more because I appreciated its “extra” scenes more than had it been the other way around.
5. Spaceship Earth, Epcot
Spaceship Earth has always been a favorite of mine and my family’s. I love the scenes and narration. It’s always been a magical trip through time for me.
4. Peter Pan’s Flight, Disneyland and Magic Kingdom
I couldn’t decide which version I prefer as I don’t remember large differences between the two. This is #4 mainly for nostalgia and my love of the Peter Pan story.
3. Space Mountain, Disneyland
While I love the Magic Kingdom version, I would argue that the Disneyland version was better.
2. Splash Mountain, Magic Kingdom
Splash Mountain has always been pretty much my favorite ride in Magic Kingdom. I love how it combines Disney storytelling while being a thrilling ride as well. Plus, it kicked up the perception of the traditional flume ride 100 notches.
1. Indiana Jones Adventure, Disneyland
It’s just so detailed and I hadn’t been in true awe from a ride in a long time until I rode this one. I thought it was incredible from a thrills, Imagineering, and details standpoint. Spectacular.
I totally agree regarding Festival of the Lion King. It’s a great show, and really deserves better (hopefully it’s getting better with the new location!). It also runs in Hong Kong Disneyland, and is in some ways a better show there because it isn’t just old parade floats. Great list!
I just wanted to ask you what’s the difference between Mystic Manor and the Haunted Mansion? I heard that they were very similar but I don’t know the difference. Great list by the way!
MM is more of a house of oddities than a “haunted house”.
Your list is good but as you say there will be differences…
My wife and I really like Midway Mania (DCA) where she seriously kicks my butt. I get in the Mid 400 thousands and she regularly gets 600 – 650 thousand!
Then on the other side (DL) we both like Astro Blasters where I get to return the favor! My current highest score is over 3,000,000 and that was without stops or breakdowns!
I do agree with the rest of your list and like others I’d like to see Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods removed, no only because of their past but because rides which may have a long lifetime shouldn’t include current references.