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17 Scariest Rides at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure ~ Ranked for Families

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Disneyland is best known for sweet characters and rides that please kids and kids-at-heart. But there is a more intense side to Disneyland that even the most adventurous thrill seekers can appreciate. The fear factor isn't just about speed, either. Plundering pirates, pretend poisonous snakes and ghostly ghouls can make rides seem scary to kids. Buckle your lap belt because we're taking a look at the scariest rides at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, ranked for families.

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17 Scariest Rides at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure ~ Ranked for Families!

1. Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout

Location: Hollywood Land in California Adventure. FASTPASS available. Minimum height: 40 inches.

Long-time fans of Twilight Zone Tower of Terror were horrified when their beloved thrill ride left Anaheim. Now it's back at California Adventure Park and scarier than ever as Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout. The theming is less creepy and more playful. The ride's free-falls, however, have become less predictable, more chaotic and more scream-inducing.

Join Rocket the raccoon hero on a mission to release his fellow guardians from the movie series' villain, Taneleer Tivan—a.k.a. The Collector. It's not a roller coaster. Rather, this attraction takes riders to the middle and top and middle of the tower again and again. It drops riders at speeds up to 39 miles per hour. Did I mention that the biggest drop is a whopping 130 feet?

If you've got kids who love the movie but shy away from scary rides, I'd warn them that this ride makes grown-ups scream and cry involuntarily like babies, as you can see in the video of yours truly above. For a more mellow version of the same dropping sensation, go for a ride on Jumpin' Jellyfish on Paradise Pier in California Adventure (40-inch height restriction). If your kids or you don't like that one, do not attempt Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout!

Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout tops is one of the scariest rides at Disneyland for sure!

Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout tops is one of the scariest rides at Disneyland for sure! (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. California Screamin'

Location: Paradise Pier in Disney California Adventure. FASTPASS and Single Rider Line available. Minimum height: 48 inches.

You will hear a whole lot of screamin' while you wait in line for this baby. This roller coaster takes off with a blast, going from zero to 55 miles per hour in four seconds. This speed makes it the fastest ride at Disneyland Resort and one of Disney's fastest coasters anywhere. It's also the only roller coaster that does an inversion in the California Disney parks. California Screamin' is more of a straight-up, old school roller coaster than Disney's typical themed attractions.

California Screamin' is the only roller coaster at Disneyland with a loop-the-loop ~ 17 Scariest Rides at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure

California Screamin' is the only roller coaster at Disneyland with a loop-the-loop (Photo credit: Disneyland Resort)

3. Space Mountain

Location: Tomorrowland in Disneyland. FASTPASS available. Minimum height: 40 inches.

Although Space Mountain tops out at a fairly mellow 28 miles per hour, riding in darkness increases this ride's scary factor. Would-be astronauts launch into a faux outer space, experiencing rapid turns in utter blackness, save for some twinkling stars and effects. You can't see where you're going next, which provides an extra dose of thrill. There are no significant declines, though. For people who loathe that sinking feeling in your stomach caused by big drops, Space Mountain may be for you.

Riding in darkness adds to Space Mountain's scary factor ~ 17 Scariest Rides at Disneyland

Riding in darkness adds to Space Mountain's scary factor (Photo credit: Disneyland Resort)

4. Goofy's Sky School

Location: Paradise Pier in Disney California Adventure. FASTPASS available. Minimum height: 42 inches.

This sweet-looking coaster is surprisingly terrifying. Goofy's Sky School‘s top speed is just 27 miles per hour. Jolting turns and odd seating, however, make you feel like you're going to fall off the ride at any moment.

Don't be fooled by Goofy's Sky School's sweet appearance ~ 17 Scariest Rides at Disneyland

Don't be fooled by Goofy's Sky School's sweet appearance (Photo credit: Disneyland Resort)

5. Matterhorn Bobsleds

Location: Fantasyland in Disneyland. FASTPASS and Single Rider Line available. Minimum height: 42 inches. 

Beware of the Yeti! At just 27 miles per hour, it's not necessarily the speed that will scare your kids on Matterhorn. An abominable snowman creature pops up and growls at riders on Disneyland's oldest roller coaster. Plus, it's a pretty jerky ride.

Beware of the Yeti on Matterhorn ~ 17 Scariest Rides at Disneyland

Beware of the Yeti on Matterhorn (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

6. Splash Mountain

Location: Critter Country in Disneyland. FASTPASS available. Minimum height: 40 inches.

For the most part, Splash Mountain is a mellow journey through the 1946 film, Songs of the South. It ends, though, with a 50-foot drop, plummeting at 40 miles per hour. There are no seat belts, so hold on tight and brace yourself for a big splash. My husband and I convinced our kids to ride this with promises of ice cream when they were ages 5 and 8. Years later, I think they may be ready to forgive us.

The drop at the end of Splash Mountain will make your heart race ~ 17 Scariest Rides at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure

The drop at the end of Splash Mountain will make your heart race (Photo credit: Disneyland Resort)

7. Haunted Mansion

Location: New Orleans Square in Disneyland. No height requirements.

The scariest part of this ride is the hanging body that dangles above your head before you even board. If riding with youngsters, tell them NOT to look up and cover their eyes while in the mysteriously stretching room. After the spooky start, you'll board slow moving cars for a tour of a mansion and graveyard haunted by some fairly creepy ghosts. I was positively horrified by this ride at age 4, when I believed in all of the magic of Disney — Mickey Mouse, ghosts and all. If you're not sure if your kids can handle this one, give it a go during a fall visit to Disneyland. That's when the ride transforms into the more playful Haunted Mansion Holiday with Jack Skellington and other characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Haunted Mansion's scariest moment occurs before you even board the ride ~ 17 Scariest Rides at Disneyland

The Haunted Mansion's scariest moment occurs before you even board the ride (Photo credit: Disneyland Resort)

8. Radiator Springs Racers

Location: Cars Land in Disney California Adventure. FASTPASS and Single Rider Line available. Minimum height: 40 inches.

Radiator Springs Racers go up to 40 zippy miles per hour, but there aren't any huge drops or creepy elements to this ride. Sitting in race cars from the Cars movie series, riders take a low-key spin through Radiator Springs complete with a turn inside Ramone's House of Body Art or Luigi's Casa Della Tires.

Then it's time for a race, with a different winning car each time. Despite the speed, most kids will like this one. Just make sure they meet the height requirement before investing in a very long wait. Check out my video of this ride above.

Radiator springs starts out mellow and turns into a speedy race ~ 17 Scariest Rides at Disneyland

Radiator springs starts out mellow and turns into a speedy race (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

9. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Location: Frontierland in Disneyland. FASTPASS available. Minimum height: 40 inches. 

The most easy-going of Disneyland's full-sized roller coasters, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad makes a good choice for the whole family to ride together if everyone meets the height requirement. At 40-miles-per-hour, it's faster than some of the other coasters but there aren't any crazy drops, loop-the-loops or scary characters. Plus, it's a train. And all kids love trains!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad takes upgrades the typical theme park choo-choo ride ~ Scariest Rides at Disneyland

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad takes upgrades the typical theme park choo-choo ride (Photo credit: Disneyland Resort)

10. Pirates of the Caribbean

Location: New Orleans Square in Disneyland. No height requirements.

Pirates of the Caribbean is another one that terrified me as a kid. Pirates shoot (fake) guns right at you. Smart kids probably should be a little afraid of this one. And then there's the creepy voice howling, “Dead men tell no tales.” There are a couple of drops in the dark at the beginning of the ride too.

Pirates of the Caribbean may scare young riders ~ Scariest Rides at Disneyland

Pirates of the Caribbean may scare young riders (Photo credit: Disneyland Resort)

11. Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye

Location: Adventureland in Disneyland. FastPass available. Minimum height: 46 inches.

This ride doesn't go extremely fast, but it's quite the adventure with lots of twists and turns. Make believe snakes and bugs add an ick factor. Then there's a giant boulder that looks like it's going to crush your vehicle. The scariest thing about Indiana Jones Adventure may be how often it breaks down. Seriously, beware that wait times often stretch on and on if something falls on the track and must be retrieved before riding can resume.

Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye features scary theming and a raucous ride ~ 17 Scariest Rides at Disneyland

Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye features scary theming and a raucous ride (Photo credit: Disney/Lucas Film Ltd.)

12. Grizzly River Run

Location: Grizzly Peak in Disney California Adventure. FastPass available. Minimum height: 42 inches. 

Want to try whitewater rafting but aren't sure if you can handle the adrenaline rush? Take a spin on Grizzly River Run to see if you've got what it takes. There are a few drops, but nothing overwhelming. The fear of getting doused with water from mini waterfalls adds to the fun, unless you're the only one who gets wet. It always seems like there's one passenger per raft that gets doused, much to everyone else's delight. That can be super funny if it's Daddy getting soaked. Or it could cause a major meltdown if your child is the one who has to walk around with soggy socks for the rest of the day.

Grizzly River Run can be a dry or a VERY wet ride ~ 17 Scariest Rides at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure

Grizzly River Run can be a dry or a VERY wet ride (Photo credit: Disneyland Resort)

13. Mad Tea Party

Location: Fantasyland in Disneyland. No height requirements.

Children and adults who have no fear of motion sickness will enjoy spinning in circles in a giant tea cup on the Mad Tea Party. Kids' sense of equilibrium tends to readjust faster than it does for us old folks. Keep that in mind before you grab the wheel and send your family into a tizzy.

The Mad Tea Party isn't necessarily everyone's cup of tea ~ 17 Scariest Rides at Disneyland

The Mad Tea Party isn't necessarily everyone's cup of tea (Photo credit: Disneyland Resort)

14. Mater's Junkyard Jamboree

Location: Cars Land in Disney California Adventure. Minimum height: 32 inches and accompanied by another rider 54 inches or taller.

Similar to a Tilt-A-Whirl, Mater's Junkyard Jamboree sends riders spinning in crazy circles. It's less dizzifying than the Mad Tea Party, though. And in my family's opinion, it's a lot more fun. Cars character favorite Mater sings a square dancing song while you zig this way and zag that way.

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree is like a Tilt-A-Whirl but way better ~ Scariest Rides at Disneyland

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree is like a Tilt-A-Whirl but way better (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

15. Gadget's Go Coaster

Location: Mickey's Toontown in Disneyland. Minimum height: 35 inches.

If you want to coax your children to brave their first thrill ride, Gadget's Go Coaster makes a good starter coaster. At its fastest, it goes a reasonable 21.7 miles per hour. Plus it's a short ride. Even timid riders can handle 44 somewhat thrilling seconds.

Gadget's Go Coater is a good starter roller coaster ~ Scariest Rides at Disneyland

Gadget's Go Coater is a good starter roller coaster (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)

16. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Location: Fantasyland in Disneyland. No height requirements. 

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride typically has a shorter queue than the rest of the rides in Fantasyland. And for good reason. It's scary. When my son was a baby, I strapped him into his Baby Bjorn and took him on this ride. Bad idea! He clawed at my face in fear with his little baby nails the whole time. Why? First of all, it's super dark. Second of all, the storyline is freaky and unknown to most kids and adults. It's based on the 1949 Disney movie, The Adventures of Ichobod and Mr. Toad. Expect jerky movements, loud noises, and a heated room filled with devils.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride includes scary elements ~ Scariest Rides at Disneyland

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride includes scary elements (Photo credit: Duke Remington, Wikimedia)

17. Mickey's Fun Wheel

Location: Paradise Pier in California Adventure. No height requirements. 

Those who fear heights will have a tough time at the 160-foot top of Mickey's Fun Wheel. For the rest of us, it's an easy-going and fun way to get a bird's eye view of California Adventure Park. Control freaks and motion sickness sufferers should avoid the swaying gondolas. The line for the fixed gondolas tends to be much shorter anyway. This is the only ride that made both our scariest rides at Disneyland list as well as our list for best attractions for babies and toddlers at Disneyland. Ironic, I know.

Mickey's Fun Wheel with California Screamin' in the background

Mickey's Fun Wheel with California Screamin' in the background (Photo credit: Disneyland)

Are these the scariest rides at Disneyland for your family?

It really depends on your definition of scary. Of course, the make-believe factor will freak out little ones on rides that adults find innocuous. California Screamin' is a bit too fast and loopy for my liking, but Space Mountain is my all-time favorite. My daughter loves Screamin' but hates that Yeti on the Matterhorn. Meanwhile my 73-year-old mom refuses to ride any roller coasters anywhere ever besides Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad because they lack significant hills. Scariness truly is in the eye…and the stomach of the beholder.

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What do you think are the scariest rides at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: I recently attended a Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout media event at Disneyland. All opinions are mine, as always.

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, “The Travel Mamas’ Guide,” she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the “Today” show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments

  1. OMG. These rides are really scary

  2. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

    LOL – Disney has a scary side after all!

  3. Ellen Lanin says:

    Excellent write-up that will be enjoyed by all Disney park lovers ( and who isn’t ). The video on the Cars ride made me feel like I was actually enjoying the motion.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Thanks! 🙂 Leo was so afraid I would drop my phone while recording that video!

  4. robin rue says:

    For me, it’s Splash Mountain. Or Tower of Terror. I don’t like to drop, so those terrify me.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Big drops scare me too! I can handle Splash Mountain but Guardians of the Galaxy (formerly Tower of Terror) is too much for me. As you can tell from my video! 🙂

  5. I will not go on Tower of Terror. I don’t like the feeling of my stomach in my throat. It just doesn’t do it for me. My husband and kids will ride that stuff all day, though.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Tower of Terror is now Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout at Disney California Adventure. Your husband and kids would love it, I’m sure. Meanwhile, you and I could go get a glass of wine at the Golden Vineyards! :-)-

  6. I am dying to go to Disneyland with my son. I am thankful that there are posts like this so I know there are rides to avoid with him when we get there.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Jeanette – You don’t necessarily need to avoid all of these. For example, we took our kids on Pirates of the Caribbean when they were really little, with no problems. It got a little scarier for them when they were preschoolers and now we’re back to riding it. These tips will hopefully help you decide whether to give the ride a go or not. 🙂

  7. I would add Snow White’s Scary Adventures to this list. While it’s a kid ride, the evil queen and evil hag scare the crap out of kids and there is always screaming when we go on the ride. All though I’ve learned that there will always be a kid scared of EVERY ride at Disneyland. We were once on a boat with a kid who was screaming and crying on the Storybook Canal Boats because of Monstro and another kid screaming on Dumbo because it flies and they had to put theirs all the way to the ground. Disneyland is such a great place for families.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      My son was one of those kids who was afraid of every ride when he was little. As a baby, we brought him on most of the rides at Fantasyland and rides like Pirates of the Caribbean but once he was able to speak…he refused to even go on a carousel for years. We spent a lot of time watching the shows and parade at Disneyland during those years!

  8. Love your list. We are definitely a Disney family through and through.

  9. TColeman says:

    I love that you have shared these like this! It is good to know so that when you have a group you know which to ride.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Yes, it’s always good to have a ride plan before you visit Disneyland. You definitely want to maximize your fun time!

  10. Jenn Mitchell says:

    I never really thought of Disney as having scary rides but I guess they do. Nice ranking system!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Thanks, Jenn! There certainly are some scary rides at Disneyland if that’s your thing. Of course, you could always avoid these rides and go the mellow route, for sure.

  11. Jenna Wood says:

    I may be old school but Space Mountain is a classic and still delivers a good jolt to this day. What a fun list!

  12. I would enjoy going on all of these rides. I love all kinds of rides, especially those that are thrill rides. I haven’t been to Disneyland before, but I have always wanted to go there.

  13. Amy Desrosiers says:

    I have always wanted to ride Splash Mountain. To me, it looks mega fun and right up my alley.

  14. Thanks for ranking these rides by how scary they are. Now my kids know exactly which rides to go on!

  15. Claudia Krusch says:

    This is a great guide fr people with younger children. I loved Guardians of the Galaxy Mission. I was one of my favorites.

  16. Elizabeth Lampman says:

    We are excited to go to Disneyland this year. The kids are teenagers now and love the rides.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Elizabeth – It’s so funny how the Disneyland experience changes as our kids get older, isn’t it?!

  17. This is good to know for when bringing the family. I hate when its behind closed doors and you dont know what to expect.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Glad to be able to provide some tips on navigating which rides will work or not work for your family, Tess!

  18. Reading this has made me feel like heading to Disney immediately for some awesome rides! I know I loved Space Mountain when I was a kid but there are bigger and better rides now for sure.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      If you love thrill rides, you’ll have to give Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout and California Screamin’ a try!

  19. I have been to Disney Paris and I really liked Space Mountain and Tower of Terror. Reading this blog wants me to go again to experience that. 🙂

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Mangesh – It has been about 20 years since I visited Disneyland Paris. I hope I can visit again soon!

  20. brianne says:

    This is such a great list! My son loves all the thrill rides too so I get to have a buddy!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      So great that you and your son can enjoy Disneyland’s scariest rides together!

  21. My daughters would love these rides. They enjoy the thrill of it all.

  22. I am definitely not one for scary rides. Motion sickness gets the better of me. They look like fun.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean sound like more your speed, Sherry!

  23. When I first visited Disneyland as an 8-year old the 1970s, my mother did not allow me to go on the Snow White ride. I resented that omission for YEARS, until I went back as a newly-married adult 20+ years later. I went on that ride, and realized that my mother had been right all along. I would have been terrified and nightmare-ridden if I’d done that ride all those years ago!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Oh my. I’ve heard other people say that they’re terrified of that ride. Maybe I should add it and change the list to “18 Scariest Rides at Disneyland”! Have you ridden Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride? In my opinion, it’s the scariest of the Fantasyland dark rides!

  24. Awesome list. I would agree that the Guardians of the Galaxy ride should be #1, although I never technically rode it (only rode it when it was The Tower of Terror). I love quick read lists like these, thanks for sharing!

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