Things That Are Scary for Kids at Disneyland
There is so much to see, do and experience at the Disneyland Resort. If this is your first vacation to Disneyland, you might not be aware of what things may scare kids. Some frightening elements are easier to detect from the outside of the attraction, like the foreboding Haunted Mansion or big drop on Splash Mountain. Other rides and attractions may seem innocent enough, but still have alarming sections.
What are the scariest rides at Disneyland? – That answer is going to vary for each kid! Of course, only you know your children and how far to push things when it comes to trying new experiences. For more advice about encouraging kids, keep reading for my tested tips.
This guide will offer additional suggestions on what rides to try instead. I’ve also included ideas on easing fears with your kids inside the Parks.
Too Scary for Kids at Disneyland – Helpful Tips to Ease Fears
Just because your child reaches the Disneyland height requirement, doesn’t mean they are prepared for all attractions. You’ll need to judge whether your child is ready to ride or not. Consider watching YouTube videos online when trip planning. This way you can view the attraction to determine whether riding is a good idea.
Is your nervous kid expressing some worry about your upcoming Disneyland vacation? Stressful emotions can escalate quickly, especially when your child doesn’t know what to expect. Read these helpful tips on calming scared and nervous kids at the Disney parks.
Maybe your child is scared to ride because they tend to get motion sickness? That’s a very valid concern that can be bypassed using these tips for avoiding nausea at Disneyland.
Character distancing is one of the newer changes that have come to the parks. For kids that didn’t like the traditional meet ‘n greets of close up characters, this isn’t happening anymore. If you’re going to Disneyland this year, be sure to read up on what’s changed.
Do fidget toys help ease some of the anxiety for your scared children? Pack in a Mickey Mouse Pop-It! Kids can use them while waiting in line or even on some slower moving attractions or during shows to help ease an induced stress.
Disneyland Dark Rides
Dark rides are exactly what they sound like. These are indoor rides with the lights off. They are generally slow moving and the vehicle you ride in moves through different rooms and scenes. While some “dark rides” are bright and have a lighthearted theme, others might be frightening (or have certain scary scenes).
These are dark rides with scarier elements:
- Haunted Mansion – ghosts swirl about in this dark haunted house, scene through a graveyard is mostly lighthearted with occasional ghosts that pop up from behind tombstones.
- Haunted Mansion Holiday – this attraction “lay over” takes place from September through December. The ride features Jack Skellington and friends from the movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Some kids who are frightened by the regular Haunted Mansion prefer this brighter and more colorful version.
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – Dark and swift moving, guests take a ride through Mr. Toad’s mischief making, including face to face with an oncoming train! Ending “Devil” scene is warm and steamy as the toad goes to…H-e-double-hockey-sticks.
- Snow White’s Enchanted Wish– The new makeover for this attraction make the ride less scary, though the Evil Queen and her witch transformation remain.
- Pinocchio’s Daring Journey -Darker elements of the film including turning into a donkey and a large crate and cage close around ride vehicle.
Try these Dark Rides First
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – It’s a dark ride that’s more brightly lit and has a sweet theme. It’s the perfect first dark ride for Disneyland with toddlers.
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters – Wield a laser to aim at targets throughout the ride. Kids who don’t like the dark will be so enthralled with shooting the targets they probably won’t even notice how dark it is.
- Alice in Wonderland – Dark inside, but still lots of bright and whimsical moments. There is also a break mid-ride that takes your caterpillar vehicle outside for a ride on the leaves.
Attractions That Have Potentially Scary Moments
These rides at Disneyland are mostly tame, but there are some features that kids might not appreciate. Check out the tips explaining next to each of these possibly unnerving attractions.
Disneyland Railroad – For the most part the Disneyland Railroad is all outdoors, with an overview of the Park. There is one section that you may want to avoid if you have a skittish kid. The section of the train that leaves from Tomorrowland Station takes you through a dark diorama.
This is the Grand Canyon and Primeval World – Land of the Dinosaurs. It’s a very realistic scene that lasts about 5 minutes but includes large Animatronic dinosaurs, dramatic music and an erupting volcano. Dinosaur loving kids will likely be enthralled but some skittish children may want to avoid it.
The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure – Most of the ride is bright and fun, with cheerful music. There is one section where you’ll go “under water”. The individual clam shell vehicle gently tips backwards. This slight movement always made my toddler daughter very nervous. There is also a dark section with Ursula the sea witch.
Soarin’ Around the World – My young son was somewhat nervous to ride this after hearing that he’d be “flying”! Kids might be worried about the initial lift which takes you off your feet. Guests are safely buckled in and once lifted, there is minimal movement.
The ride vehicle will rock back and forth gently, coordinated with the film you’re watching. Most guests may not even notice that they’re moving once the film begins. Have your kids pay attention to the pre-boarding video which shows exactly what happens during the lift off.
Attractions with Scary Moments – Start With This
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room – The majority of this attraction is sweet, with a fun sing-along. However, there is a small dramatic section at the end. See how your child reacts to the surprise change in mood (loud drumming and a thunder storm).
Discounted Disneyland Tickets!
My travel partners at Get Away Today offer both discounted Disneyland tickets and Anaheim-area hotels to fit any budget! Many hotels include exclusive discounts like free parking, complimentary breakfast or even free nights, just for booking through Get Away Today.
Disneyland tickets purchased now are good through December 31st, 2023. We never know when Disney will increase prices so there’s always a potential savings of hundreds of dollars for families. Purchase your multi-day tickets through Get Away Today now.
When you’re ready to book your full Disneyland vacation, my friends at Get Away Today are ready to help! Mention code REWRITTEN to receive an extra discount off your SoCal vacation package of two or more days.
Disneyland Rides with Drops
Can your kids handle the drops? These precipitous attractions might be enough to send your hesitant child off the deep end. Here’s what you need to know about each of these Disneyland rides with a drop.
Exactly how big is that drop on Splash Mountain? It’s a steep 52.5′ from top to splash down! The drop inside Pirates of the Caribbean on the other hand is a shorter 14′ – but it’s in solid darkness.
The drops on Guardians of the Galaxy can’t be predicted. Each ride varies and there are multiple drops both big and not-as-big. Spoiler alert: Star Wars – Rise of the Resistance has a surprise drop that may cause some guests to let out a scream!
If your child can’t handle drops, these are the attractions to be aware of before you get into line.
- Pirates of the Caribbean – Also includes skeletons and dark/foggy scenery
- Splash Mountain – Swift moving log ride on the water – you will get wet!
- Star Wars – Rise of the Resistance – Multiple “Dark Side” scenes including intimidating characters, peril and trackless movement.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! – Loud rock music and all those drops.
- Grizzly River Rapids – Swift moving ride that spins along with drenching sprays of water.
Rides with Drops – Start With These:
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant – Yeah, this might look like a “baby ride” but for kids who don’t like the feeling of drops, this mild ride is a perfect place to start. Plus children can control the dips themselves using the on-ride joystick.
- Jumpin’ Jellyfish – This one is all up and down. The high elevations outside give guests a good vantage point of the Park. Most kids like this tummy-tickler!
Disneyland Thrill Rides
These roller coasters fall firmly into the Disneyland thrill ride category. No denying – these are the most intense and/or fastest rides in the parks.
Adventurous kids will be ready to give them a try. Nervous children might need to hold off. Consider using Rider Swap so that parents can take turns on thrill rides.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – High speed with lots of turns and simulated explosion.
- Matterhorn Bobsleds – High speed along with a ferocious, roaring Yeti that appears several times.
- Space Mountain – Very high speeds in the dark.
- Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye – Dark and bumpy ride with threatening elements including snakes and poisonous darts.
- Goofy’s Sky School – Very high speeds with sharps stops and perilous blind turns.
- Incredicoaster – Very high speed roller coaster including a backwards, upside-down loop.
- Rise of the Resistance (the newest attraction, located inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge) – Menacing characters including Stormtroopers and Kylo Ren along with an intense storyline.
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run – Jerky movements that coordinate with video-game type controls along with explosions, loud noises and the feeling of falling.
Try these Thrill Rides with Kids First
Gadget’s Go Coaster – If you think your little one is ready for their first coaster, I recommend starting with Gadget’s Go Coaster in Toontown. It’s super-short at just one minute long. This beginning coaster has just a few tummy tickling dips and max speed of 22 mph.
Radiator Springs Racers – This hybrid dark ride and roller coaster has a neat indoor/outdoor effect. Maybe because you’re sitting inside of a low sports car vehicle, my young ones weren’t scared of the roller coaster section. Plus you’re racing against the car that’s on the other track, so the competition element might encourage your kids to want to go faster!
Potentially Scary Rides That Spin
If your kid doesn’t like the feeling of being out of control, these spinning rides may be frightening. Note that the Mad Tea Party and Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin can be controlled slightly, so spinning can be minimized. Kids can also control the up and down movement on the Astro Orbitor.
- Astro Orbitor – Spinning along with up and down movements.
- Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree – Ride vehicles move swiftly along a circular track, with guests inside the cart swinging sharply behind.
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin – Control the in-ride wheel to spin the vehicle as you wish. Dark themes might also frighten children.
- Mad Tea Party – This classic Fantasyland attraction uses an in-ride wheel to control the speed of the tea cup. The vehicle does spin on its own, even without spinning the wheel.
Rides That Spin – Start With These!
King Arthur Carrousel and Jessie’s Critter Carousel– The traditional merry-go-round is a familiar ride that gets kids used to spinning, along with up and down movement and loud music.
Golden Zephyr – These in-line vehicles spin in a circle, drifting slightly over Paradise Pier. The ride is smooth and most kids won’t balk at the movement.
Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters – This trackless vehicle ride turns and spins riders on the “dance floor”, accompanied by boisterous Italian music. It’s a smooth and fun ride most kids will enjoy.
Ride With Height to Avoid with Nervous Kids
Pixar Pal-A-Round – I’m not a fan of heights and the Ferris wheel is top of my list of scary rides! These gondolas are fully enclosed and you can choose the swinging or non-swinging version. The swinging version is not for the meek!
Ride With Height – Start With This!
Silly Symphony Swings – This ride smoothly combines height, spinning, drops and lift. Use the tandem chair that seats you right next to your child. This way you can hold hands or comfort kids if they’re nervous.
3-D Disneyland Rides
Star Tours: The Adventures Continue – This indoor 3-D ride simulator puts you right into the action of a Star Wars feature. This can be incredibly intense with loud noises and the feeling of flying (and crashing!)
WEB SLINGERS – A Spider-Man Adventure – Located inside the new Avengers Campus, this interactive ride combines 3D along with intense peril. The moving and spinning ride vehicle can add to the energy. Most kids will recognize that the Spider-Bots inside the attraction aren’t real. Children (or adults) who don’t like creepy-crawly things may feel anxious at the hundreds of 3-dimensional creatures.
3-D Ride to Start With
Toy Story Midway Mania – This interactive ride is also a competitive game where you shoot at the screen simulator to score points. There is plenty of spinning and 3-D elements but it’s all done in a fun and playful atmosphere. Plus the familiar and encouraging Toy Story characters add a whimsical touch.
Shows That Might Be Scary for Kids at Disneyland
Fantasmic! – It’s a nighttime show of good versus evil. This means lots of villain appearances and a huge fire-breathing dragon. It’s an impressive show with dramatic music and effects. It might be too intense from some kids.
Shows Without Scary Elements:
- Disney Junior Dance Party! – This lively indoor show is custom made for toddlers and preschoolers. Nothing to induce anxiety here, just a lot of dancing, clapping and familiar character appearances.
- World of Color – This nighttime water show at California Adventure highlights popular movies onto sprays of water. Yes, there are some intense theatrics including dramatic sequences and pyrotechnics on the water. But each section is brief and nothing lingers too long before moving to something more lighthearted. For hesitant kids, I recommend not standing too close to the action.
Is Oogie Boogie Bash Okay for Kids?
The Disneyland Halloween party, Oogie Boogie Bash takes place annually during the fall season at Disney California Adventure park. This nighttime special ticketed event includes trick or treating, a special Halloween parade and all guests are permitted to dress in costume.
While the Oogie Boogie Bash is considered family entertainment, there are some creepier elements to be aware of. The Disney villains are in full force during the night time event, appearing frequently in the treat trails on on parade floats.
If your young kids are deeply spooked at the sight of a villain like Maleficent or characters from Haunted Mansion, there are details about the event you’ll need to know before you go. Read this article for additional information about doing Oogie Boogie Bash with kids to help you decide.
However for most kids, they’ll get caught up in the not-so-scary fun of the night and focus on the pleasurable parts of the evening (candy, rides without lines). There are a great many perks for children at Oogie Boogie Bash as well as entertainment options that are geared for younger kids.
If you find that your child’s still nervous, consider taking a break to regroup. I’ve included ideas on places to rest in my post about Avoiding the Disneyland Meltdown.
Disneyland With Kids Digital Magazine
Prep for the ultimate Disneyland vacation by subscribing to the Disneyland With Kids Digital Magazine. Issues will include Disneyland park tips, hotel reviews, news, and more, straight to your inbox. Fun activities to do at home, and a special kids corner activity section, to get the rest of the family excited for the upcoming trip!
An annual subscription includes 4 issues of the quarterly magazine plus monthly emails with exclusive content. Or grab a single copy to check it out! Subscribe to the Disneyland With Kids Digital Magazine.