When it comes to planning your Disneyland vacation, every family has their list of must-do’s. If your kids have all reached the magic height where every attraction is open to them, the list probably includes all of the mountain ranges (Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Grizzly River Run, and Matterhorn Bobsleds), as well as California Screamin’ and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (while you still can, but that’s another story).
You probably have Peter Pan’s Flight on your list, because that 45 minute wait doesn’t just happen on accident. And you probably include Toy Story Midway Mania and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, because those attractions are fun to do with the whole family. And of course you are going on Radiator Springs Racers because it’s definitely one of the greatest recent Disney attractions anywhere.
But there are several really great attractions at Disneyland that may not make your “must do” list because they don’t have the visceral thrill of the roller coasters or the nostalgia of being part of the original “Club 55” attractions that opened with Disneyland in 1955.
Here are five attractions that may slide under your radar, but are guaranteed to add a huge amount of fun to your next trip.
5. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue. Don’t wait long for this one. If the queue is more than five or ten minutes, forget it. But if the queue is short and you have time, take this one for a ride. It’s easy to overlook, hidden in a very underused section of California Adventure, with its main entrance hidden by the stage of whatever nighttime party is currently using the space. The attraction itself is much like other Disney “dark rides,” in that it features animatronic versions of the characters bringing to life the events of Monsters, Inc. Kids like it anyway, but adults will enjoy the details in the queue (monster humor is quite funny), the hidden Mickeys along the way (there are several), and the witty workplace signage throughout. But the real highlight is Roz, the gravelly-voiced HR director, who interacts with your taxi cab at the end. Usually insulting and very entertaining, she makes the attraction worth it.
4. Pinocchio’s Daring Journey. I don’t add this simply because Pinocchio is Disney’s greatest animated film. Inside Disneyland’s Fantasyland, the left side (after walking through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle) is pretty neglected due to the popularity of Peter Pan’s Flight and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Walt Disney’s first and second animated films are both represented in these neglected attractions, but Pinocchio’s Daring Journey is superior to Snow White’s Scary Adventures in every way. It’s a beautifully designed attraction, with features calling to mind Gustaf Tennegren’s stunning art direction of the film, and the murals along the entrance and exit are some of the best in the entire park. The whole room dedicated to Pleasure Island is a real tribute to this classic style of attraction, bringing the film to life in a stunning way, and featuring a fun hidden Mickey. Jiminy Cricket’s guidance through the attraction is a fun addition, while the voice work of the characters throughout is quite good. It’s also the only attraction to feature the de facto Disney theme song, “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Next time the line for Toad is too long, take the journey with the little wooden puppet instead.
3. Flik’s Flyers. Yes, it’s a clone of Dumbo the Flying Elephant without the ability to control anything, but it’s an entirely charming little attraction based on Pixar’s second animated film, and hosted by one of its most likable heroes, Flik the ant. If the queue isn’t long, hop into one of your own boxes (including animal cookies, raisins, or Chinese takeout) and let Flik’s contraption give you an all-too-short flight over A Bug’s Land. Again, it’s the small things that make this such an enjoyable experience: oversized seats so six kids can ride together, humorous detailing in the attraction (100% DV of fun is part of the serving size), Randy Newman’s great music, and a welcome by Flik himself. There’s not much to it–it goes up, spins around in the air, and brings you back to the ground. But while you’re up in the air, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and the best attraction in this whole area. (Skip the sad and forgettable Heimlich’s Chew-Chew Train, which takes one of the best Pixar characters ever, and gives him one of the worst attractions in the history of Disney.)
2. Main Street Vehicles. They may not get you anywhere very quickly, but any of the vehicles traveling up and down Main Street, USA, are not only a delightful throwback to the history of Disneyland, they are also a lot of fun. With choices ranging from the horse-drawn carriage (usually the most popular) to a horseless carriage (an early automobile), or an old fire truck (one of my favorites) to the omnibus (double decker, with the best views of Main Street), there’s something for everyone. And when the park gets busy, skip the long lines everywhere else and enjoy the charm and easy-going feel of these classic attractions. Although the trip is only one way, it’s worth it–especially if you get onboard with an older Cast Member who’s been working these attractions for awhile, because they have great Disneyland stories to share. Beautifully restored, fun to ride in, and a great way to retrace some of Walt’s footsteps, the vehicles on Main Street are easy to skip as you race to your next big attraction–but they are worth your time. Remember, they only operate from park opening to early afternoon, so don’t miss your chance!
1. Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters. This brand-new attraction is easily the most fun I’ve had on a “simple” attraction in a very long time. Taking the place of the sadly executed Luigi’s Flying Tires, this trackless ride features Frizaante roadsters (created by Disney Imagineering, and based on rear-engine Italian cars of the 1950’s) from Luigi’s hometown of Carsoli, Italy, dancing traditional dances. Sounds extremely ridiculous, and it is. But it’s also beautiful, simple, and hilarious. The cars are all beautifully detailed and have a personality of their own, the songs they dance to are all quite catchy (and some are original, sung by Luigi himself), but it’s the trackless system that makes it work so well. The cars spin, move, and dance in perfect rhythm and unison with each other–when one group starts to dance down the middle while the rest spin around the outside, it’s pretty cool to see. The system has been in use in several Disney parks outside of the United States, so it’s great to see it see it finally show up here. We rode this one several times in a row during our last visit, while the queue for Radiator Springs Racers kept getting longer and longer. Even on a peak day in the early evening, the wait was no more than 10 minutes. Do not miss this attraction. When the Carsoli cousins end their dance with a wild group spin, it will likely be one of your favorite Disneyland memories.
There are my five underrated Disneyland attractions. What are yours?
Photos copyright The Walt Disney Company.