It doesn’t matter if it’s your first trip to Disneyland or the millionth time you've visited.

There's one thing you can always count on:

Really long lines.

It sucks, but it's a fact. You're going to spend a lot of your time waiting around and standing in line.

But, thankfully, there are plenty of ways to entertain yourself, and the kiddos. And, it doesn't involve trying to find the "Hidden Mickeys."

Disneyland has a long and storied history, with a lot of fun and hidden facts you may not know.

Booking.com

While the park itself has a ton of interesting facts...

Example:

Did you know Steve Martin worked at one of the magic shops on Main Street?

There are even more facts about Disneyland rides that you've probably never heard.



Disneyland Facts



Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955.

While today many of us probably regard that as the start of something big, it was not a good day in Disney history. In fact, that day has been nicknamed “Black Sunday” because of how awful it was.

Some of the misfortunes included:

  • Only 10,000 people were expected, but 30,000 showed up (some with fake tickets).
  • There were shortages of food, water, and bathrooms.
  • It was so hot that some of the pavement melted, causing women wearing high heels to get stuck.
  • The Mark Twain Riverboat was overloaded with passengers and nearly tipped over.
  • The landscaping wasn’t complete, so the park created fake signs for the weeds that were there.

Suddenly, a three-hour line doesn’t seem so bad, now does it?

Fortunately, Disneyland has come along way since that opening day. It’s grown from 18 rides simple rides to dark coasters, scary adventures, and water rides. It’s also earned an iconic and unique place in Americana.

old photo of Walt Disney during the opening day of the Disneyland

Footage from opening day at Disneyland Image: CC by 2.0, by Loren Javier, via Flickr


Where to Begin

There are a lot of ride options at Disneyland which means there’s something for everyone.

But, let’s face it. The happiest place on earth is a favorite place.

And that means a lot of lines.

The fact is:

You may not be able to hit every ride in Disneyland in one day.

So, you need to plan and figure out what rides you absolutely have to hit, which ones you’d like to go on, and which ones you can skip.

To do that, you need to understand how FastPass and MaxPass work. We’re not going to cover it in depth. But, there are some basics you need to know before you plan your day.

And, because there are so many rides to cover, we’re only examining Disneyland Rides. Adventure Park is for another post!

If you’re familiar with FastPass and MaxPass, you can skip that part and jump directly to the ride information. Please note that we didn’t cover every ride. Not included on this list are shows like Fantasmic! or walk around attractions, like Donald’s boat. We also skipped some of the rides that don’t have an interesting story behind them or are less popular.



FASTPASS AND MAXPASS



If you haven’t been to Disneyland in ages, you’ll be surprised to learn that you can skip the lines on some rides. This is thanks to their FastPass system.

You're probably saying to yourself:

"What is this sorcery? Skipping lines at Disneyland? Tell me more!"

Oh, we will!

FastPass is a virtual "you" standing in a virtual "line." You make a reservation, and FastPass tells you what time you show up and ride the ride.

It absolutely beats standing in the real line.

WHAT IS FASTPASS


The FastPass system has been around since late 1999. Basically, it’s a reservation system. However, unlike a restaurant, you can’t reserve the time you want to come back.

And, it’s got some weird rules:

You can only hold three FastPass reservations at a given time.

You can’t get new FastPass reservations until you’ve either gone through all three rides or, the time window has passed.

You have to wait a certain amount of time until you can pick up new FastPass tickets.

Unlike at Disney World where you can book FastPass reservations in advance, at Disneyland, you can only make FastPass reservations on the day of your visit to the park.

  • HOW DOES FASTPASS WORK?
  • WHAT’S NEW WITH FASTPASS

For a long time, FastPasses were paper tickets that had a bar code and return time. You needed that ticket to enter the FastPass lane. If you lost it, you were out of luck.

Speaking as part of a family, when it’s four of you, and you’ve got three ride reservations, that means you’re holding on to 12 tickets.

That sucks.

So, now, they’ve switched to a new system that saves the FastPass reservation on your general admission ticket. You still get a paper ticket, but that’s mostly a reminder. You scan your ticket, store the FastPass information on it, and scan the general admission ticket when you return.

fastpass ticket for the Buzz lightyear laser blast

Image by lul via Wiki Commons

But, it gets better.



MAXPASS


Disney’s MaxPass is an optional ticket add-on that combines FastPass and PhotoPass. 

WHAT THE HECK IS MAXPASS?


MaxPass is a newer program that is intended to make things easier for guests.

How does it do that, you ask?

Look:

Unlike the FastPass system, you can reserve MaxPass return times via the app on your smartphone.

 

Good news:

This means that if you want a FastPass for, say Pirates of the Caribbean, but you’re all the way over at Space Mountain, you (or someone else) don’t have to run all the way across the park just to get a FastPass.

You can even make reservations for everyone in your group. Just link all the tickets together on the app and select who is riding what and when.

Like FastPass, you can only use MaxPass the day of your visit, and you can’t use it until you’re in the park. MaxPass links to your general admission ticket, so it won’t be active until you get to the park and scan your ticket at the gate.


BUT, YOU MAY NOT WANT MAXPASS

HOW DOES MAXPASS WORK?



WHICH IS BETTER



Since MaxPass isn’t free, you should consider whether or not this add on is right for you.

The advantage to MaxPass is that you can cancel and change FastPass reservations within the app. No running across the park to get a reservation.

If you have FastPass, you can cancel a reservation in the app, but you can’t rebook.

While FastPass is free, MaxPass isn’t. However, MaxPass also includes PhotoPass. PhotoPass gives you free downloads of every picture you take in the park. So, if you want to save time getting FastPass reservations and capture that look of surprise when you hit the drop on Splash Mountain, MaxPass may be the way to go.

Splash Mountain ride in Disneyland

Image by Cd637 via Wiki Commons




WHAT RIDES DO I HAVE TO RIDE?



You’ve got your tickets, you’ve got your dates. Now you just need to figure out what rides you have to ride, and what rides you can skip.

But, we’re not going to tell you what you should and shouldn’t ride. You’ve got to figure that out yourself.

Instead, we’re giving you a little bit of information about each ride. But, more importantly, we’re telling you some fun facts about each ride that you probably don't know.

A lot of these facts are about the standing in line part of the ride. Because, if you don’t have a FastPass, that’s where you’ll be spending a lot of time.

Fortunately, the Imagineers know this and have tried to make the wait just as fun as the ride.

Since this isn’t a primer on the best way to use FastPass, we’re not going to cover how to use the system.

Instead, we’ve divided the list into two categories:

Rides that accept FastPass and rides that don't.



Rides with fastpass


The rides listed here all take FastPass. Most of these should not be a surprise. However, there are few shocking entrants on this list. And a few interesting omissions.

BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN RAILROAD

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: 40 inches

Thrills include: some fast parts, some darkness, and a few scares

A fun ride that takes place in a possibly haunted goldmine. Board the train and take a wild ride through this abandoned town.


Bored while you’re waiting in line?

Set off an explosion!

When you’re in the “Explosives Magazine” room, find the instructions that tell you how to use the cranks and plungers.

Push, pull, and turn them to find out what happens.

BUZZ LIGHTYEAR ASTRO BLASTERS

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: none

Thrills include: darkness, loud noises, and lots of spinning

Oh, yeah. And, you can shoot things!

This interactive ride allows you to join Buzz Lightyear and battle Zurg in outer space. Board your space cruiser and fire your weapon, earning points along the way.

At the end of the ride, find out your score and your rank in Star Command.

Fun fact

You can use the joystick in the middle to make your space cruiser spin!  Use it to your advantage (and your opponent’s disadvantage!

HAUNTED MANSION

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: none

Thrills include: darkness, some scary elements (have you seen some of those ghosts?), loud noises

I would be remiss if I didn’t add that the cast members on this ride never smile.

As you work your way through the line, you’ll wander past a few interesting items.

Like:

There’s the “pet cemetery” which contains no pets, but humorous tombstones.

There’s also a carriage pulled by an invisible horse. If you listen carefully, you can sometimes hear the horse.

You’ll also see several tombstones with names on them. Those names are the names of the Disney Imagineers that helped design this ride.


Inside the ride, you’ll board the “Doom Buggy,” and take a wild (but slow) ride, through the mansion, and out into the courtyard, where you’ll meet three hitchhiking ghosts.

They are named Ezra, Phineas, and Guy.

IT’S A SMALL WORLD

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: none

Thrills include:  loud noises

And some might say “annoying.”

But, at least you know what you’re getting into!

Keep an eye out for Disney characters while you float through the different scenes. You can find Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Jiminy Cricket, Aladdin, Woody, Bullseye, and others throughout the ride.

If you pay attention to the outside of the ride, you’ll notice gold accents.

Believe it or not, that’s real gold!

Imagineers realized early on that the upkeep of all those gold accents would be challenging to maintain with paint. So, they opted for real 24-carat gold accents instead.

INDIANA JONES™ ADVENTURE

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: 46 inches

Thrills: small drops, loud noises, darkness, scary

It’s Indiana Jones. Of course, it’s thrilling!

This ride consistently ranks as a “must ride!”

Warning:

Lines can be up to 3 hours long.

Because it’s such a long wait, you’ll need to entertain yourself.

You ask:

"Well, what can I do to entertain myself?"

We've got you covered!

When you’re in the room with the spikes on the ceiling, pull the bamboo pole on the left side as hard as you can. Watch what happens to the ceiling.

Then, as you’re walking through, any time there’s a sign that says “Do Not Touch!” Touch it.

Seriously.

When you’re in the movie room, keep an eye out for an Eeyore sign.

Why?

This ride sits on what was once the Eeyore parking lot. The lot may be gone, but it’s not forgotten!

Fun fact

The props used in Indiana’s office are from the movie!


Source: TripSavvy

MATTERHORN BOBSLEDS

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: 42 inches

Thrills include: some small drops, water, loud noises, darkness, some scares

Board a bobsled and take a thrilling ride around the Matterhorn mountain. Try to outrun the Yeti before you splash down into the lake.

It’s a fun coaster that you should ride more than once. 

No, really you should, and for good reason:

The track changes depending on which entrance you use!

Make sure you go through each entrance once. You can go through the Fantasyland side and the Tomorrowland side. 

Also, keep your eyes and ears open when you’re near the top. You’re not looking for the Yeti, though.

At the top of the Matterhorn, there’s an attic space that houses a basketball court! However, it’s for employees only (and maybe the Yeti) to use between shifts.

SPACE MOUNTAIN

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: 40 inches

Thrills: some drops, loud noises, darkness, somewhat scary

However, I beg to differ with the above description.

Booking.com

It’s very, very dark and pretty darn scary.

Ok. It’s not that scary.

The drops aren’t that big, and the darkness isn’t awful. It’s like being in space, so there are stars.

But, it’s dark enough that you can’t see the drops coming and that’s what’s scary.

Check this out:

Space mountain is the world’s first indoor roller coaster. While it might feel like you’re dropping forever, you’re really not. Space Mountain is only 183 feet tall.

Not only is Space Mountain the first indoor roller coaster it’s also the first roller coaster to be controlled totally by computers.

At the time, it was considered cutting edge and set the tone for other computer operated coasters yet to come.

But, Space Mountain isn’t the fastest roller coaster at Disneyland. That honor belongs to another ride.

Can you guess which one is?

Splash  MOUNTAIN

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: 40 inches

Thrills: some drops, loud noises, darkness, somewhat scary

Yep! You guessed it!

While this ride is technically not a roller coaster, Splash Mountain clocks in at 40 miles per hour.

That may not seem very fast, but when you get to the end of the ride and drop five stories, you’ll be singing an entirely different tune.

STAR TOURS - THE ADVENTURES CONTINUE

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: 40 inches

Thrills include: small drops, some darkness, some loud noises

I will also include from my experience, that you get bounced from side to side, and a member of your party might be a rebel spy!

You start in the ride queue. It seems like you’re just another space tourist going for a day trip. Pay attention while you’re in the line.

First, listen to the announcements. You’ll hear them page a Mr. Egorge Sacul.

And get this:

That’s “George Lucas” backward.

As you get closer to your ride, you’ll see familiar faces. R2D2 and C3PO are waiting for a tour, just like you.

If they look familiar, it’s because they are actual movie props.



Rides without fastpass


You’re probably shocked to see that some of the rides you were expecting aren’t on the FastPass list.

So was I.

But, at least you’ll know some interesting facts about these rides while you wait in line.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: none

Thrills include: small drops, water, darkness, loud noises, somewhat scary

Also, if you happen to be right where the cannon hits the water, you get more than a little wet.

This is the most popular ride of all the Disney parks. No word if that was because of the movies or if it was always the most popular.

While the now iconic ride inspired an incredibly successful movie franchise...

Get this:

Initially it wasn’t going to be a ride. It was going to be a wax museum walkthrough featuring the history of pirates and other seafaring folks.

Good call, Disney. Good call.

Another interesting fact:

At one time, they were real bones that came from UCLA. The Imagineers felt the fake bones looked too fake, so they swapped them out for the real thing.

The bones you see now throughout the ride are fake.

Another good call, Disney.

However, the rumor persists that the skull and crossbones on the bed, are still real bones.

Alice in wonderland

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: none

Thrills include: some darkness, some loud noises

And, you have to outrun the queen who wants to chop your head off!

While it’s not original to the park, Alice in Wonderland opened in 1958 and has been a fan favorite ever since. It’s been updated and refurbished over time, but still maintains its original charm.

This is a “must ride” for many people.

Why?

It’s the only one in all of the Disney parks!

pro tip

The lines for Alice in Wonderland and Mad Tea Party are close together. Make sure you get in the right one.

Fun fact

Michelle Pfeiffer played Alice and greeted guests.

autopia

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: 32 inches

Thrills include: loud noises

This is another one of the original rides. Although, it has been updated since it first opened.

This is a slow moving car that you or your kid can drive.

The best part?

Anyone over 54 inches tall can drive their own car. Shorter folks can drive, as long as there’s an adult in the car.

The cars are on a track, so there’s no danger of running off the road. And, each car has bumpers.

Oddly, they don’t have brakes. Just take your foot off the accelerator to slow down.

And, remember:

No texting and driving!

CASEY JR. CIRCUS TRAIN

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: none

Thrills: not really

This ride is geared toward the six and under crowd, so there isn't much to it. That said, it’s a fun train ride through Storybook Land. The train drives through miniature versions of famous stories.

If the engine looks familiar, it should! Casey Jr. is the engine from Dumbo. And, just like in the movie, Casey Jr. faces a hill that he may or may not be able to climb.

This is another one of the original rides. However, it’s received many updates over the years. While the ride still goes through some storybook classics like The Three Little Pigs, you also get to check out Elsa’s frozen castle.

disneyland railroad

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: none

Thrills: some darkness, loud noises

Take a ride around the park with a real steam-powered engine.

Here's the interesting thing:

There are, in fact, five different engines, each with its own name.

Four of those names are titans of the locomotive industry. The fifth is named “Ward Kimball,” after the Disney Animator that helped ignite Walt Disney’s passion for trains.

Here's a hint:

While there are plenty of cars you can sit in, for a special treat, ask to sit in the secret Lillian Disney car.

This car, named after Walt’s daughter, is in use on the train but only a few people get the privilege of riding in it. If you go early and ask, you might just be one of the few.

Fun fact

The engines run on used french fry oil! When the cooks are done with the fry oil, it’s converted into fuel.


Via PureWow

dumbo

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: none

Thrills: spinning (but it’s the good kind)

And, you’re flying like Dumbo! What’s more thrilling than that?

This is, of course, one of the originals, and another family favorite. Interestingly, it was not ready to go on opening day!

Fun fact. The organ in the nearby circus tent is older than all of Disneyland. It dates back to 1915.

jungle cruise

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: none

Thrills: water, loud noises, bad jokes

The original Jungle Cruise ride was based on an education series Disney produced. So, the ride was more educational than fun. Over time, that changed, and now the ride is more fun than informative.

But, this doesn’t mean it’s not thrilling. The wildlife encounters can be pretty wild.

Fun fact

Fun fact #1: Kevin Costner was once a riverboat skipper on this ride.

Fun Fact #2: The hippo from the hippo encounter has a name: Bertha.

Fun Fact #3: You used to be able to “shoot” the animals.

king arthur carousel

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: none

Thrills: spinning, loud noises

But the spinning is fun and what’s a carousel without music?

While the carousel was at Disneyland on opening day, most of the 68 horses are older than Disneyland.

Each horse is not only hand carved and hand painted, but they also have their own name. Some of those names are Fern, Hoot, Gypsy, and French.

Jingles was Walt’s favorite. In 2008, the horse was “given” to Julie Andrews for her work as Mary Poppins. He’s still there, but with a commemorative plaque. Check Jingles out. Looks kind of familiar, doesn’t he?

the lead horse of King Arthur Carousel at Disneyland

Jingles, the lead horse on King Arthur Carrousel – Image: CC by 2.0, by Anna Fox, via Flickr

And, in case you were wondering, this was the ride that inspired it all. Walt got the idea of building a theme park for families while watching his daughter ride a merry-go-round one day.

mad tea party

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: none

Thrills: spinning, spinning, and spinning!

Spin around and have a very merry unbirthday with the Mad Hatter and all his friends.

While you can control some of your spin with the center wheel, the cup still turns independently, so there’s no way you’re not spinning.

Be warned, though, not all the cups are the same.

If you hate spinning (raises hand), avoid the orange teacups with diamonds and the purple tea cups. They are the fastest spinners. Stick with the heart ones. They spin the slowest.

THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: none

Thrills: dark, loud noises, some strange parts

Take a ride through a Winnie the Pooh story. This is a slow ride, so it’s good for any age.

However, and this comes from personal experience, you end up taking a ride through Pooh’s dream. And let’s just say, it’s weird.

MR. TOAD’S WILD RIDE

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: none

Thrills: darkness, loud noises, a bit scary

Another one of the originals from opening day, Mr. Toad was saved from the wrecking ball by a group of fervent fans.

Take a ride through a Mr. Toad adventure in an open-air buggy. You’ll try to avoid police, a flock of sheep, and crash into some scaffolding.

peter pan's flight

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: none

Thrills: some small drops, darkness, loud noises

Board a boat, get a sprinkling of fairy dust, and you can fly!

Take a nighttime “fly” through London, to the second star on the left, then straight on till morning. Then you’ll take a trip through Neverland.

Given how popular this ride is, I am shocked there is no FastPass option for this one in Disneyland. Interestingly, you can use FastPass on this one in Disney World.

Also interesting: this is an original ride that did not feature Peter Pan!

The concept was that you saw the ride through Peter’s eyes. Over time, that didn’t seem to work, so he now appears in many of the scenes.

pro tip

Keep an eye out when you’re in the nursery. The blocks spell out Disney.

snow white's scary adventure

Ride Quick Reference Card 

Height requirement: none

Thrills: some loud noises, darkness, scary

Another original, take a ride in a mine cart and relive Snow White’s journey.

But, remember this:

While you’re waiting, find the brass book with the apple on it. It should be just outside the ride.

Touch the apple and open your ears!

Fun fact

The “old hag” (the one that tricks Snow White) is holding out an apple. That apple used to be a real prop. But, people kept stealing it. So, the Imagineers replaced it with a hologram!



planning your disney day



A trip to Disneyland is, for a lot of us, a big deal. It’s a lot of money, a lot of time and, a lot of planning.

So, you want it to be a lot of fun.

But, in addition to figuring out where to eat and what rides to ride when, you may want to check a few other things before you go.



check the renovation schedule


Disney is always refurbishing, renovating and fixing up the rides. That’s partly for safety and partly to keep things sparkling clean.

It could also mean that the day you go, your dream of hanging in the haunted mansion may not happen.

Bummer!

Here's the secret:

The refurbishment schedule is available on the Disney website. However, that particular list only gives you a list of what’s currently closed. That’s great if you’re local.

It’s not so great if you’re planning six months out.

Sometimes, refurbishment schedules are announced on the official Disney blog. But, not always. Disney is known to change the schedule without notice.

It’s best to check, and recheck regularly.



don't forget about special events


Special events are usually planned far in advance, and you can find the schedule on the Event Calendar page. Scroll through the months to find out if there’s something special happening when you want to go.

Bottom line:

While a special event won’t necessarily mean you can’t ride rides, it may change your plans for the day.




let's ride



That’s it!

Everything you need to know to enjoy your day at Disneyland.

Sure, you’re going to stand in a lot of lines. But, now you’re armed with enough information to keep even the most annoyed member of your group entertained.

And if all else fails, there’s always Dole Whip!

 

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