The Ultimate List of the Best Disney Rides in the World
Disneyland Railroad and the Monorail are glorious, sure, but we’re talking rides — the thrill-filled, action-packed, can’t-miss experiences that are worth traveling the globe for.
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From hometown favorites and innovative vehicles to tech-savvy enhancements that can’t be missed, there’s a little of everything among the cream of the crop, along with some rides you’d never think would become top contenders.
Whether you’re dreaming of traveling to Paris, China, or Japan in the name of Mickey Mouse or just making sure you don’t miss Disneyland’s best, consider this your ultimate checklist of Disney must-dos from Walt Disney World to Hong Kong Disneyland and back again.
Indiana Jones Adventure — Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea
Between the fiery explosions, serpentine predator and the oversized boulder rolling straight towards riders, there are enough familiar sights from the Indiana Jones films to deem this ride one of Disney’s best, regardless of if you’ve seen the movies. As the twelve-passenger transport careens around corners and bounces over a rickety bridge in Disneyland, in Anaheim, and Tokyo DisneySea, it crams the danger, adventure and excitement of a blockbuster film around each corner of the believable journey. And, unlike most other attraction, Indiana Jones Adventure varies a bit with each ride, guaranteeing it’ll still thrill even if you’ve been on dozens of times — which, unsurprisingly, many southern California residents have.
Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for Sunken Treasure — Shanghai Disneyland
The original swashbuckling adventure was met with fanfare when it debuted at California’s Disneyland in 1967, becoming an icon even before expanding to nearly every Disney park worldwide. Having predated the movie franchise — yes, Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow came decades later — the newest iteration at Shanghai Disneyland is the only Pirates ride to open after the cinematic interpretation, incorporating groundbreaking technology into a twist on the iconic boat ride that, with realistic audio-animatronics, immersive underwater screens and realistic cannon battle, serves as Disney’s boldest step outside the box in its ride history.
Space Mountain — Disneyland
Space travel through a ‘70s lens has proven to never get old, at least where this speedy attraction is concerned. At its core, the ride is simplistic — it is, after all, just an indoor roller coaster — but the boundary-pushing design and deep space immersion by way of a lack of lighting remain as exciting now as they were in its heydey. From the gust of wind in one’s face to the glimpse of shooting stars in the great beyond, the unpredictable pitch black drama held within its eye-popping cylindrical roof will forever solidify Space Mountain among the all-time best.
Haunted Mansion — Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland
This delightfully disjointed narrative, spawn through a compromise of Walt Disney Imagineers’ ideas that took nearly a decade to finalize, gives the ride two distinct halves that emerge to benefit from the sum of its parts. A journey through a spooky yet albeit not-too-scary manor culminates in a majestic cemetery filled with humorous references and ghastly musicians. Haunted Mansion has many international iterations — Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris is a beloved favorite among domestic Disney fans having visited overseas parks — but the classic versions at Disneyland, Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland still reign supreme.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror — Disney's Hollywood Studios
From the dusty lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel to the top of its haunted elevator shaft, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror has become a classic Disney attraction in every sense of the word. The palpable anticipation as riders travel through the Fifth Dimension and catch a glimpse of the outdoors while repeatedly plunging towards their ultimate fate immerses so much story into a simplistic design, making for an emotional build up that pays off in dividends. Walt Disney Studios at Disneyland Paris hosts an amended version of the ride without the dimensional traveling, but while Disney California Adventure’s recent Marvel-themed version has garnered plenty of praise and Tokyo DisneySea’s magical twist on the ride is a fan favorite, it’s the original version at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida that takes the cake.
Splash Mountain — Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland
Whether you ride it in Tokyo, Florida or California, the nearly ten minute journey is entertaining, thrilling and above all, quintessential Disney. Nevermind that its origin movie is out of circulation or that its hundred audio-animatronics are all but unrecognizable; the whimsical storyline, winding mountain path and happy-go-lucky soundtrack juxtaposed against a significant drop has set the bar for water rides at amusement parks, solidifying its place as one of the best of all time.
it’s a small world — Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland
“The Happiest Cruise That Ever Sailed” may be as praised as it is lauded — we know, we know, the accompanying song is annoyingly addictive — but its historical significance for debuting at 1964 New York World’s Fair and holding a message that has endured the test of time is irrefutable. The slow-paced boat ride through glimmering sound stages filled with smiling faces and displays representing the cultures of Bali, Belgium and beyond continues to draw a crowd at five of Disney’s six theme parks, but is made even more magical at Disneyland Resort and Tokyo Disneyland, which retheme the ride with Christmas cheer each winter.
Soarin’ — California Adventure, Shanghai Disneyland
There may be no other ride on Disney property that induces euphoria than the leg-swinging, high-flying sensation of this interactive theatre. Its new iteration takes guests high above the globe’s grandest sights including Egyptian pyramids, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China, aided by scents meticulously added to specific scenes. Versions of the globe-spanning attraction at Epcot, Disney California Adventure and Shanghai Disneyland are the same — save for the final scene which “returns” to the park of origin — but it’s worth noting that of the three, Shanghai’s majestic starlit queue is decidedly more impressive.
Peter Pan’s Flight — Shanghai Disneyland
With every pinnacle scene from the famed story tucked within its quick journey and the feeling of flying above London providing nostalgia on high, Peter Pan’s Flight is as classic as they come. Despite opening with Disneyland’s first day, the decades-old ride still retains one of the longest lines at all five Disney parks it is located within. It’s good wherever you get it, but Shanghai Disneyland’s version is genuinely magical, utilizing the latest technology for extra pixie dust-tinged moments.
Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain — Walt Disney World
Rife with story, adventure, thrills and surprises, this coaster journey up, down, and through the mountain’s terrain is, in a sense, the perfect Disney ride — one that can only be experienced by bravely bypassing the screams of riders plunging down the Himalayan peak’s massive drop. Its fabled Yeti, one of Disney’s most advanced audio-animatronics, still remains out of order, but consider this: an attraction that remains one of Walt Disney World’s finest despite being in need of repair only solidifies its elite status above its stylistic predecessor, Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds.
Radiator Springs Racers — California Adventure
Tucked at the end of an eye-popping life-size rendition of Radiator Springs, this impressive car ride goes as far as to feature some of the Cars film trilogy’s best sights, including Ornament Valley’s waterfall. When its speedy chase scene kicks in and riders hugging the curves of a Route 66-adjacent mountain pass, Radiator Springs Racers feels eerily realistic, particularly due to the artistically crafted Cars Land exterior within Disney California Adventure. No matter if your anthropomorphic car loses the wind-whipped competition, Lightning McQueen and Mater will still be there at the end to cheer you up.
Ratatouille: The Adventure — Disneyland Paris
The most talked-about ride at Disneyland Paris’ Walt Disney Studios shrinks guests to the size of Remy, the heart of the culinary-focus animated film, for a journey through a Parisian kitchen. Stunning for its use of perspective paired with trackless ride technology — which twists and turns the mouse-shaped vehicles in unpredictable ways — Ratatouille: The Adventure makes for an authentic experience within Gusteau’s restaurant, as depicted in the 2007 Pixar film. If a trip to France isn’t on the horizon, don’t worry; its arrival at Walt Disney World’s Epcot in confirmed within the next few years.
Spaceship Earth — Epcot
Even with its first half serving as a low-key history class through the innovation of communication, this ride housed within Epcot’s emblematic silver-paned sphere just seems to never get old. That no matter how advanced our phones get, the on-ride interactive screens remain delightful is proof that this mashup of old Disney and new enhancements hit a critical sweet spot among fans of all ages.
Mystic Manor — Hong Kong Disneyland
When the artifacts within the attraction’s enchanted mansion museum come to life by way of Lord Henry Mystic’s mischievous pet monkey Albert, it sets of a string of of events that’ll have rides of all ages on the edge of their Mystic Magneto carriage. This Hong Kong Disneyland gem is significant not for its technology — it, too, displays Disney’s state-of-the-art trackless ride system – or the surprises around every corner, but for its pure uniqueness. Unlike many new rides, Mystic Manor isn’t tied to a pre-existing film, characters or seemingly anything guests have ever seen, embracing its own whimsical concept for a brilliant result that often single handedly makes Hong Kong Disneyland a destination for Disney fans overseas.
Jungle Cruise — Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland
Jungle Cruise may have lost its luster a bit over the years, given that Walt Disney World now hosts a literal safari ride, but it’s one of Disney’s only attractions that is enhanced by the talents of cast members, who, as “skippers,” recite a spiel that soundtracks a boat ride through winding riverside surroundings with somewhat of a stand-up comedy routine. Important not just for its prominence when opening at Disneyland on its first day of operation — much of its vegetation, which was planted by revolutionary horticulturist Bill Evans, was brought into California for the very first time — but for remaining a lighthearted adventure at both stateside Disney parks with exciting variations on the model at Tokyo Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland.
TRON Lightcycle Power Run — Shanghai
Shanghai Disneyland’s most hotly anticipated ride puts riders on the back of the TRON films’ futuristic motorbikes for a speedy ride through the Grid and high above a futuristic Tomorrowland’s neon canopy. As an attraction, it’s not perfect — the indoor half of the ride proves less revolutionary and its source material is highly dated for the tech-savvy generations that will be riding it — but its legacy has only just begun. TRON Lightcycle Power Run will continue its significance among Disney fans when its revolutionary motorcycle-style vehicles arrive at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom for the park’s 50th anniversary in 2021.
Avatar Flight of Passage — Walt Disney World
Disney attractions have always been aided by real-life props and tactile experiences like audio-animatronics and impressive sets, but this digitized addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom has changed the model forever. Despite one’s feelings toward a land wholly dedicated to the Avatar film franchise, it’s impossible to deny the sincere fanfare surrounding the banshee flight simulator and its overwhelmingly transformative 3D journey. Since opening in 2017, Flight of Passage has consistently racked up wait times up to five hours and caused such a deep emotional response in riders that the often disembark the experience in happy tears, proving it’s unlike anything else Walt Disney World has on offer.
Crush’s Coaster — Disneyland Paris
Finding Nemo has more variation of attractions across Disney Parks than any other Disney-owned film, and while the others involve wrapping its characters around previously-existing rides, the Paris-exclusive Crush’s Coaster stands on its own as the most creative and thrilling of them all. The swaying movement and constant rotation of its roller coaster vehicle mimics the feeling of riding a turtle shell down the East Australian Current so closely that it’s nothing short of exhilarating, making for one of the only attractions where your seat — either forwards or backwards — entirely shifts your perspective of the attraction, deeming it necessary to ride over and over again.
Iron Man Experience — Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland excels at building upon old favorites — Iron Man Experience is essentially a souped-up version of Star Tours — but this iteration of the 3D simulator, which puts passengers in the midst of a battle between Tony Stark and Hydra, feels more like a movie come to life than the Star Wars-themed version ever has. As Disney’s first-ever Marvel ride, it also sets the bar for what to come next, provides the best look at what fans can expect from comic-inspired attractions in the future.
Journey to the Center of the Earth — Tokyo DisneySea
Located inside the gurgling Mount Prometheus volcano at Tokyo DisneySea, the impeccable second park at Tokyo Disney Resort, this Jules Verne-inspired attraction is full of thrills worthy of the international flight. An incomprehensibly good ride that starts slow and ramps up to a massive surprise, it’s not until the fiery climax that this unique experience proves to be different from all other Disney rides around the world.