During quarantine, one of the things I’ve been doing to keep busy is reading the book Disney’s Land by Richard Snow. The book covers the earlier years of Disneyland including the park’s inspiration and inception, the infamous opening day, and beyond. While reading, I got to thinking about which opening day Disneyland attractions hold up the best today.
In this article I’m going to go through every ride that’s still in operation today and rank them from worst to best. Keep in mind this is just my opinion. Feel free to leave yours down in the comments below!
Oh, and one more thing. I’ll only be including attractions that you can actually ride. Things like the Main Street Band or the Main Street Cinema will not be included on this list.
11. Storybook Canal Boats
The Storybook Canal Boats is a small boat ride in the heart of Fantasyland. This was actually one of the first attractions I ever experienced at Disneyland, and it was decent. There’s nothing super special about it, but the concept of touring tiny dioramas of popular Disney movies is definitely a cute idea. The ride isn’t worth a long wait, but it’s still cool to try if you have extra time.
10. Casey Jr. Circus Train
This small train attraction is situated right next to the Storybook Canal Boats, and it is also a nice little supporting attraction. It doesn’t usually have too long of a wait, so it’s a good way to kill time while waiting for other rides in Fantasyland. That said, the much larger Disneyland Railroad that encompasses the park offers a better overall experience, so I don’t think there’s much of a reason to make Casey Jr. a destination.
9. Mark Twain Riverboat
The Mark Twain Riverboat is an iconic part of Frontierland. It’s almost impossible to walk across the land without seeing (or hearing) this majestic piece of transportation. It’s a great ride to just sit back and relax on. However, there’s not much more to it than that. It’s an attraction that focuses more on being a method of transportation than anything else.
8. King Arthur Carousel
Like all opening day attractions, there is a deep connection to Walt Disney himself in King Arthur Carousel. Walt was obsessed with finding a large carousel with four rows of horses, but the best he could find was three. Instead of settling, Walt and his crew purchased the three-rowed carousel and added an extra row to it. It’s the little bits of background that turn an otherwise basic carousel into something with a deeper meaning.
7. Mad Tea Party
The Mad Tea Party is far from my favorite attraction at Disneyland (I’m not the biggest fan of spinning rides). That said, tea cup rides are still a great addition for all theme parks, and the Alice and Wonderland theme that Disney gave his was definitely a smart play. I’m glad it’s here, even if I don’t ride it.
6. Snow White’s Scary Adventures
Only while writing this article did I truly realize how many opening day Fantasyland attractions there were. I was terrified of the Walt Disney World version of Snow White as a kid. The part where the queen flips around and turns into the witch freaked me out. Fast forward to riding it at Disneyland for the first time, and it was still pretty unsettling. I know I’m not the only one that was afraid of this, so it’s kind of surprising to me that Disney would create something that had the potential of scaring kids this much. It’s still a fun ride though, albeit short.
I love Autopia. The fact that it’s only at number 5 goes to show how good the rest of these opening day attractions are. Though the concept of driving your own car on a freeway isn’t exactly groundbreaking these days, Autopia still offers a relaxing ride around what is arguably the most scenic part of Tomorrowland. I love how the monorail zips above you as you ride, and how there are different pathways to take depending on which lane you’re in. Unlike the Magic Kingdom’s boring Tomorrowland Speedway, I hope that Autopia is here to stay for a while.
4. Peter Pan’s Flight
Out of all the opening day attractions, Peter Pan’s Flight is definitely the most popular in today’s world. This attraction consistently gets long lines, and I can mostly see why. It uses an innovative ride system, being a hanging car from a small monorail-like track, and the story-telling is excellent. If I have any complaints, it’s just that I wish the ride was a bit longer. It’s still a must-do if you’re visiting Disneyland.
3. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is by far my favorite classic Fantasyland dark ride. Everything about it is just so fun, even with the rather sinister themes of getting hit by a train and winding up in hell. Speaking of getting hit by a train, that part of the ride is still one of my favorite effects on any Disney attraction. It takes the simple idea of moving through a pitch-black hallway towards what looks like the light of a train, and makes it so that you think you are actually going to get hit. It’s a rather intense moment in what is otherwise a pretty cheerful Fantasyland ride, and I love it for that.
2. Jungle Cruise
The Jungle Cruise was, according to various sources, the only opening day attraction that wasn’t plagued with problems. It’s awesome that the attraction has held up so well today (with the exception of that one time a boat sank, but that was at WDW). The Jungle Cruise is also the perfect example of just how much an attraction can evolve for the better. What was once supposed to be a more serious expedition through the various rivers of the world on a quest to see “realistic” animatronic animals has now become essentially a comedy sketch where the skippers that drive the boats poke fun at just how silly and fake some of the animatronic animals look. The comedy routine varies a bit from skipper to skipper, but I almost always find myself laughing uncontrollably no matter what jokes are told. The Jungle Cruise skippers are truly some of the funniest people on the planet, and it makes for such a memorable experience.
1. Disneyland Railroad
The Disneyland Railroad is arguably the most important attraction in all of Disneyland. Without Walt’s love for trains, we probably wouldn’t have Disneyland at all. Though the ride is essentially just a train going around the outside of Disneyland, it still offers tons of great sights and set-pieces. The ride has been updated constantly to receive things like a prehistoric area in between Tomorrowland and Main Street USA and a relatively new waterfall section that serves as a re-route from what is now Galaxy’s Edge. The important history of the Disneyland Railroad combined with the updates it has received over the years shows us just how much Disneyland has grown.
And that…is truly exciting.
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