Things that Are Scary for Kids at Disneyland
There is so much to see, do and experience at the Disneyland Resort. For newbies at the Parks, you might not be aware of what things may scare kids. Some are easy to detect from the outside of the attraction (Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain). Other things may seem innocent enough and still have frightening elements.
But, what are the scariest rides at Disneyland? That’s 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.
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
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
- Snow White’s Enchanted Wish
- Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
Dark Rides – Start with These:
- 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
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 dinosaurs, dramatic music and an erupting volcano.
The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure – most of the ride is bright and fun, with cheerful music. There is a section where you’ll go “under water” and your clam shell vehicle gently tips backwards. This slight movement made my toddler daughter very nervous. There is also a dark section with Ursula the sea witch.
Soarin’ Around the World – My son was somewhat nervous to ride this after hearing that he’d be “flying”! Kids might be worried about the initial lift off which takes you off your feet. You will be safely buckled in and once lifted, there is minimal movement. Your 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.
Scary Moments – Start With This:
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room – While the majority of this attraction is sweet, with fun songs 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).
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Disneyland Rides with Drops
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.
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Splash Mountain
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout!
- Grizzly River Rapids
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 they can control the dips themselves.
Jumpin’ Jellyfish – This one is all up and down, but it’s outside where you can get 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 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
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Space Mountain
- Indiana Jones Adventure :Temple of the Forbidden Eye
- Goofy’s Sky School
- Rise of the Resistance (the newest attraction, located inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge)
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
Thrill Rides – Start with These:
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 (one minute long), 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 cool 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.
- Mad Tea Party
- Astro Orbitor
- Golden Zephyr
- Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
Rides That Spin – Start With These!
King Arthur Carrousel – this traditional merry-go-round is a familiar ride that gets kids used to spinning, up and down movement and loud music.
Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters – this trackless vehicle ride turns and spins riders on the “dance floor”, accompanied by boisterous Italian music.
Ride With Height
Pixar Pal-A-Round – I’m not a fan of heights and the Ferris wheel is top of my list of scary rides! However these gondolas are fully enclosed and you can choose the swinging or non-swinging version.
Ride With Height – Start With This!
Silly Symphony Swings – This ride smoothly combines height, spinning, drops and lift. Consider the tandem chair that seats you right next to your child so you can hold hands or comfort them if they’re nervous.
3-D Disneyland Ride
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!)
3-D Ride – Start With This:
Toy Story Midway Mania – While you’ll be experiencing 3-D 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.
Shows That Are Scary for Kids at Disneyland
Fantasmic! – It’s a nighttime show of good versus evil, which means lots of villain appearances and a huge fire-breathing dragon. It’s an impressive show with dramatic music and effects, which means it might be too intense from some kids.
There is one slightly scary scene in Frozen Live at the Hyperion when Kristof and Anna are being chased by wolves. Nothing too long or too frightening (but my three year old mentioned it for weeks after watching it!)
Shows Without Scary Elements:
- Disney Junior Dance Party!
- Mickey’s Soundsational Parade
- Mickey and the Magical Map
- World of Color
- Paint the Night (currently non-operational)
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.
- Your nervous kid is expressing some worry about your upcoming Disneyland vacation? 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? See my tested tips for avoiding nausea at Disneyland.
- 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.
- If special needs are a concern, be sure to read these ideas on how Disneyland’s Disability Access Service can work for your family.