Disneyland is called the “Happiest Place on Earth”. However that doesn’t mean it’s all happy, all the time. In fact, there are some rides, shows and attractions that might be downright frightening for little (and not so little!) kids. This complete guide outlines the things that might be too scary for kids at Disneyland.
This article was originally published on March 5, 2018 and has been updated and republished with a new date.
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 at the Southern California theme park may seem innocent enough, but still have alarming sections.
What are the scariest rides at Disneyland?
The scariest attractions at Disneyland go beyond just the thrill rides. And the 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.
This guide will offer additional suggestions on what rides to try if you have hesitant children. I’ve also included ideas on easing fears with your kids inside the Parks. For more advice about encouraging kids, keep reading for my tested tips.
Too Scary for Kids at Disneyland – Helpful Tips to Ease Fears
So your child reaches the Disneyland height requirements? That doesn’t mean they are prepared for all the attractions. You’ll need to judge whether your child is ready to ride or not.
Put Nerves at Ease
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 more of these helpful tips on calming scared and nervous kids at the Disney parks.
View Rides Ahead of Time
Consider watching YouTube videos online when trip planning. This way you can view the attraction to determine whether riding is a good idea. Viewing rides ahead of time is one of the best ways to prepare kids for a Disney trip.
Concerned About Motion Sickness?
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.
Scared of Characters
Many younger children have a fear of the characters. Favorite characters like Mickey Mouse might be enjoyable for kids on television. The larger-than-life characters that walk the theme parks are a different story!
It’s easy enough to avoid meet ‘n greets of close up characters: Just don’t stand in the lines for them. Also, avoid booking Disneyland character dining if you have a child that’s nervous around the characters.
Ways to Reduce Stress at Disneyland
If you know that your child is going to be worrisome at Disneyland, despite your best efforts, these ideas to minimize anxiety can help.
Bring Stress Toys
Do fidget toys help ease some of the anxiety for your scared children? Pack in a Mickey Mouse Pop-It!
Kids can use this simple travel toy while waiting in line or even on some slower moving attractions or during shows to help ease any induced stress.
Use a Stroller
Even if your child doesn’t generally use a stroller at home, it’s a great idea to have one just in case. A Disneyland trip includes lots of walking, as well as loud music, flashing lights and new sights. Tired and overwhelmed kids are more emotional kids.
Use a stroller for kids to take a break off their feet. When my daughter gets overstimulated, she climbs into the stroller and pulls down the sunshade for a break from the commotion.
Minimize the Exposure
You know your child best – figure out ahead of the trip what elements generally cause them discomfort. Use noise cancelling headphones if your child is sensitive to loud noises. Bring sunglasses and a ball cap if the bright sun causes uneasiness in your kids.
Work in Plenty of Breaks
The go-go-go pace of a Disney vacation can stress anyone. For especially apprehensive children, the early mornings and late nights outside of their regular daily routine can add to the worriment.
Consider taking frequent breaks to regroup. There are plenty of locations around the theme parks to play or relax. I’ve included ideas on places to rest in my post about Avoiding the Disneyland Meltdown.
Potentially Scary Disneyland Attractions
The following sections will break down many of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure park rides and shows. I’ve including notes about the scare factor of each attraction and what to be aware of when traveling with nervous kids.
When able, I’ve also included the seating arrangements for each attraction. Children may appreciate being able to hold hands or be comforted, which some rides allow due to the vehicle style.
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Disneyland Dark Rides
Dark rides are exactly what they sound like. These are indoor rides with the lights off.
Dark rides 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).
Disneyland Dark Rides with Scarier Elements
Haunted Mansion – The attraction begins with a ride in the stretching room with a lights-out finale. Guests then board a doom buggy, which seats 2 or 3 on a bench seat with a single pull-down bar.
Images of ghosts swirl about in this dark haunted house. The ending scene through a graveyard is mostly lighthearted with occasional ghosts that pop up from behind tombstones.
Haunted Mansion Holiday – this Haunted Mansion 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 coming 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– Formerly Snow White’s Scary Adventures, the new makeover for this attraction makes the ride less scary. The Evil Queen and her cackling witch transformation remain, which may still be off-putting to little kids.
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 Disneyland Dark Rides First
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway – A mostly lighthearted jaunt through the world of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. There is some mild peril but it’s handled comedically. Guests sit on a long bench seat with a single pull-down bar.
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. Guests sit 2 or 3 to a row on a bench seat with a single pull-down bar.
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. Guests sit 2 to a row on a bench seat with a single pull-down bar.
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. Guests sit 2 to a row on a bench seat with a single pull-down bar.
Attractions That Have Potentially Scary Moments
These rides at Disneyland are mostly tame, but there are some features that young children 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. Each guest sits in an individual seat with a locking seat belt.
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).
Bonus: Guests can bring their Dole Whip treats from the Tiki Juice Bar or Tropical Hideaway, located near the attraction!
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.
How Big Are the Disneyland 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 huge 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 – Two drops in the dark, this attraction also includes skeletons and dark/foggy scenery. Guests share a bench seat without restraints.
Splash Mountain – Swift moving log ride on the water – you will get wet! This attraction will soon close in a retheming to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. The big and small drops will remain. Guests sit in individual seats in a row without restraints.
Star Wars – Rise of the Resistance – Multiple “Dark Side” scenes including intimidating characters, peril and trackless movement. Guests sit in a row of individual seats with locking seat belts.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! – Loud rock music and all those drops. The height restriction on this attraction is lower than other thrill rides in the theme park, so be aware. Guests sit in a long row of individual seats with locking seat belts.
Grizzly River Run – Swift moving ride that spins and drops on waterfalls, along with drenching sprays of water from all sides. Guests sit in individual seats without restraints.
Disney 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.
Children can control the dips themselves using the on-ride joystick. Two to three guests sit on a bench inside the elephant ride vehicle with a strap restraint.
Jumpin’ Jellyfish – This ride is all up-and-down. The high elevations outside give guests a good vantage point of the Park. Most kids like this tummy-tickler! Two guests sit side-by-side in individual seats with locking seat belts.
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 ride (I share more about Rider Swap later in this article).
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – High speed runaway train with lots of turns and simulated explosions. Guests sit two or three on a bench with a single pull-down bar.
Matterhorn Bobsleds -High speed bobsled ride through a mountain, along with a ferocious, roaring Yeti that appears several times. Guests sit in individual seats inside the bobsled vehicle.
Space Mountain – Very high speeds in the dark, with simulated outer space imagery. Two guests sit side-by-side in an individual seat with a separate pulldown bar.
Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye – Dark and bumpy ride with threatening elements including giant snakes and poisonous darts. Jeep-type vehicle in which guests sit in a row of individual seats with separate seat belts.
Goofy’s Sky School – Very high speeds with sharps stops and perilous blind turns. Guests sit side-by-side in a small ride vehicle with individual pull-down bars.
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. There are multiple attraction rooms in which guests pass through, including a trackless ride vehicle.
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run – Jerky movements that coordinate with video-game type controls along with explosions, loud noises and the feeling of falling. Guests sit in individual seats with seat belt restraints.
Incredicoaster – Very high speed roller coaster including a backwards, upside-down loop. Each guest sits side-by-side, with overhead pull-down restraints.
Try these Disney Thrill Rides with Kids First
Chip & Dale’s Gadget Coaster – If you think your little one is ready for their first coaster, I recommend starting with Chip & Dale’s Gadget 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. Up to two guests sit side-by-side on a bench seat with a single pull-down bar.
Radiator Springs Racers – This hybrid dark ride and roller coaster in Cars Land 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! Guests sit in a row of three, in individual seats with a locking seat belt restraint.
Potentially Scary Rides That Spin
If your kid doesn’t like the feeling of being out of control, these spinning rides may be frightening. Several of the attraction vehicles can be somewhat controlled.
Astro Orbitor – Spinning along with up and down movements. Guests sit two or three in line within each space ship-themed ride vehicle, with strap restraints. Control the up and down movement on the Astro Orbitor with a joy stick.
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree – Tractor ride vehicles move swiftly along a circular track, with guests inside the cart swinging sharply behind. Guests sit two or three on a single bench seat with a pull down bar restraint.
Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin – Control the in-ride wheel to spin the vehicle as you wish. Dark themes in this movie-inspired attraction might also frighten children.
Mad Tea Party – This classic Fantasyland attraction uses an in-ride wheel to control the speed of the tea cup. Up to around 5 guests sit around the wheel on a bench within the tea cup. The vehicle does spin on its own, even without spinning the wheel.
Disneyland 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.
Each guest rides their own horse or critter with a strap restraint. Adults may stand next to children. There is also a static bench chair on each carousel.
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. Guests sit in a row on a bench seat.
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. Two guests sit on a bench seat within the car, with a strap restraint.
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! Guests sit 2-3 on a bench seat without restraints.
Ride With Height – Start With This!
Silly Symphony Swings – This ride smoothly combines height, spinning, drops and lift. Guests that meet the height restrictions may ride in individual seats with a locking bar.
Children that don’t meet the height requirement may use the tandem chair. This arrangement seats you right next to your child. This way you can hold hands or comfort kids if they’re nervous.
3-D Disneyland Rides that Might Be Scary
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!) Guests sit in a long row of individual seats with a locking seatbelt.
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. Guests sit in a long bench with a single pulldown bar within an enclosed ride vehicle.
3-D Disney 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.
The familiar and encouraging Toy Story characters add a whimsical touch. Two guests sit side-by-side on a bench seat with individual pull-down bars.
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 special 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 (ie: 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.
Using Rider Switch at Disneyland
Disneyland park and Disney California Adventure offer a helpful service for parents who have children that wish to sit out from certain attractions.
The Disneyland Rider Switch Service isn’t just for little kids that don’t meet the height requirements. This rider swap program available on all attractions, for these guests:
Disneyland Resort website
- Doesn’t meet boarding requirements.
- Has a service animal that cannot board the attraction or wait in a provided kennel.
- Cannot wait the duration of the queue and needs another member of their party to do the waiting for them.
Here’s how Disneyland Rider Switch works
1.Find the Cast Member at the entrance of your chosen attraction. Let them know you’d like to use Rider Switch.
2. Divide your group into two. Group 1 goes on the ride first, either through the regular stand-by line or the Lightning Lane (if you have this scheduled).
3. The second group waits behind with the non-riding guests. Group 2 can consist of up to 3 people, one of which must be over 14 years old.
4. After the groups are reunited, Group 2 may board. The Cast Member will scan the tickets of the guests in Group 2 and instructs them which entrance to use (it might be the Lightning Lane or via the exit). Group 1 then waits with the non-riding guests.
Looking for More Ways to Prepare Everyone for Disney?
READ MORE about the best ways to prepare kids for a Disney trip, with lots of fun pre-vacation planning ideas to do as a family!