It’s called “The Happiest Place on Earth," but you see danger lurking just beyond Main Street U.S.A. For whatever reason, you just can’t handle high-thrill rides. Perhaps it is a fear of heights, fast speeds, the dark, going upside down, the thought of losing control, the fear of the unknown, or some combination that paralyzes you.
So, when your friends and family suggest a visit to Disneyland, you break out in a cold sweat. The mere thought of blasting off on Space Mountain is enough to provoke an anxiety attack. And whatever the heck is going on inside that Guardians of the Galaxy ride that’s causing all of those piercing screams gives you the willies.
But you can have a ball at the California landmark. Unlike thrill-centric amusement parks such as Six Flags Magic Mountain, Disneyland is jammed with low-impact things to do. How do you separate the low-impact from the high-stress experiences? Let us be your guide. We’ll identify the attractions you would likely want to avoid, and direct you to the rides that shouldn’t be a problem. We'll assign a rating for each ride at Disneyland using our 10-point thrill scale, where 0 refers to ones that deliver virtually no thrills and 10 designates ones that would challenge even the most hardened ride warriors.
Nobody should feel pressured to go on a ride. If you're traveling with someone who doesn't like thrill rides, don’t try to coerce your theme park companions, regardless of their ages, to do something against their wills. Remember, parks are supposed to be about having fun. It’s not supposed to be about torture. But if you want to face your demons and work up the courage to ride the rails, click over to our article about how to conquer roller coaster fears.
Ride Guide to Disneyland Park
Let’s begin our journey in Walt Disney’s original theme park, Disneyland. When it first opened in 1955, it didn’t really feature anything that would have been on the scare spectrum. But through the years, Disneyland has assembled a collection of rides that gets pulses racing. Mind you, there is nothing that comes close to the thrill-tastic coasters found at other parks, but you’ll definitely want to steer clear of some of the park’s more aggressive offerings.
Rides to (Probably) Avoid at Disneyland
We’ll start with the four rides that form Disneyland’s “mountain range.” You will likely want to remain at the base camps for all of them. There are other attractions at the classic park that should also give you pause.
- Matterhorn Bobsleds: Due to its jarring roughness, Disneyland's first roller coaster, which debuted in 1959, is not an especially comfortable ride. And with its relatively slow speed and lack of huge drops or inversions, it’s also not especially thrilling. But you’ll want to steer clear anyways—it is a roller coaster after all. Thrill rating: 4.5
- Splash Mountain: There is only one thrilling element throughout the entire log flume ride, but it’s a doozy. The vehicles take a 52.5-foot plunge at about 40 mph. It’s over in a matter of seconds, but the anticipation of the drop would probably be enough to drive you bonkers. It’s a shame, because the rest of Splash Mountain—which is packed with animatronic characters, a rousing soundtrack, and compelling story—is delightful. Thrill rating: 5
- Space Mountain: Originally opened in 1977, this is one of Disney’s most iconic rides. You may be surprised to learn that Space Mountain chugs along at a relatively poky speed of about 30 mph. But the indoor attraction keeps passengers in the dark, and that makes the ride seem all the more terrifying. Thrill rating: 5
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: At 28 mph, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is even slower than Space Mountain. And like Matterhorn Bobsleds and Space Mountain, it has no big drops or inversions. But with three lift hills, it's a fairly long ride. The sheer length alone may make you recoil in horror. Thrill rating: 4.5
- Indiana Jones Adventure: It’s not a roller coaster, but the attraction’s “Enhanced Motion Vehicles” are zippy and feature plenty of jostling. In addition, much of the action takes place in the dark, and there are plenty of in-your-face effects including hissing snakes, whooshing darts, and a giant rolling ball that threatens to squash passengers. Thrill rating: 4.5
Rides to (Possibly) Give a Try at Disneyland
- Gadget's Go Coaster: Yes, it’s a roller coaster. But with a height of 28 inches and a top speed of 22 mph, this is a very gentle ride. It barely qualifies as a “junior” coaster and is really more of a "kiddie” coaster. Plus, the whole thing is over in 44 seconds. If you’ve never been on a coaster, or haven’t ridden one in a while, Gadget's Go Coaster could be a good test for you. It could perhaps be a gateway coaster to bigger thrills, depending on how you tolerate it. Thrill rating: 2.2
- The Haunted Mansion: Despite its scary-sounding name, the Haunted Mansion is really more silly than frightening. Young children may freak out at the somewhat dark scenes and imagery, but adults should do fine. As one of Disney’s all-time great rides, you really wouldn’t want to miss it. Thrill rating: 3 (for the scares, not the physical ride experience)
- Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run: One of the featured rides at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Smuggler’s Run is a motion simulator. It pretends to blast passengers off into space, but its ride vehicles never really move more than a few inches in any direction. Unlike other simulator attractions, Smuggler’s Run is interactive, and all passengers have assigned roles (pilots, gunners, and engineers). You might find the task that you are asked to perform to be distracting enough to make you forget about the minor thrills. Thrill rating: 4.5
- Pirates of the Caribbean: It is dark, a bit disquieting, and (spoiler alert!) includes a couple of fairly mild flume drops, but you should do just fine. This is another gotta-ride Disney classic. So, go ride it. Thrill rating: 2
- Star Tours: One of the original motion simulator attractions, Star Tours was given a great makeover in 2011 and now features a random sequence generator. You never know where in the Star Wars universe you might be heading. If you are okay with Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run (see above), you should be okay with Star Tours. Thrill rating: 4.5
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance: Perhaps the most sophisticated attraction in the world, Rise of the Resistance uses multiple ride systems (including trackless vehicles) and unfolds over a generous 17 minutes. You will experience some thrills, but they are relatively mild. Thrill rating: 4.5
All the Other Attractions
You would likely be fine trying everything else at Disneyland Park, and there are tons of other great rides and shows available, including Peter Pan’s Flight, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Jungle Cruise, and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.
Ride Guide to Disney California Adventure
Sorry, but many of the E-Ticket attractions at Disneyland’s sister park will likely be off-limits to you. However, there are still some great things to do and see at Disney California Adventure.
Rides to (Probably) Avoid at Disney California Adventure
- Incredicoaster: Nope, nope, nope. Don’t even think about riding Incredicoaster. It includes two launches (the first of which is a real screamer), hits at a top speed of 55 mph, and includes a loop. To make matters worse, it’s one of the world’s longest coasters, with more than 6,000 feet of track to navigate. Thrill rating: 6
- Goofy’s Sky School: The park’s other roller coaster, Goofy’s Sky School, isn’t nearly as intimidating as Incredicoaster—it only hits a top speed of 27 mph and does not include any inversions. Nonetheless, the single-car trains tackle very tight hairpin turns that make it seem as if they might fly right off of the tracks. Thrill rating: 4.5
- Grizzly River Run: Like Splash Mountain, Grizzly River Run is somewhat tame until its splashdown finale. As with river rapids rides at many other parks, its circular rafts randomly spin and bob in the flume, and passengers get wet in the process. The drop at the end isn’t crazy-tall, but you might find it disconcerting. Thrill rating: 4.5
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!: The former Twilight Zone Tower of Terror got a major makeover in 2017. It retained the drop tower thrills, but added a compelling story based on the Marvel film series. Passengers now experience multiple, gut-wrenching, airtime-filled drops and rises, but they are cleverly choreographed to the Guardians theme and include classic rock nuggets popularized by the movies. Thrill rating: 6
- Radiator Springs Racers: This is another one of Disney’s attractions that marries a wonderful dark ride that everyone could tolerate and would adore with a finale sequence that pours on the thrills. But really, the racing sequence at the end, while somewhat fast, doesn't include any coaster-like major drops and only hints at some minor airtime. If you think you might want to suck it up, you’d be rewarded with a wonderful, wow-filled experience. Thrill rating: 4.5
Rides to (Possibly) Give a Try at Disney California Adventure
- Soarin’ Around the World: The description of Soarin’ might sound positively horrifying to you. The ride vehicle, meant to resemble a hang glider, raises you up as high as 40 feet and dangles you in front of a domed screen that simulates flying above the world's most famous locales. But trust us: After the initial launch, nearly everyone quickly acclimates and goes along for the (largely) tame ride. It’s breathtaking and represents a spectacular Imagineering achievement. Go for it! Thrill rating: 2.5
- Pixar Pal-A-Round: Modeled after Coney Island’s legendary Wonder Wheel, the tall Ferris wheel looks intimidating. And the swinging cars, which move precariously to and fro as the wheel spins, would definitely give you pause. However, the ride also features non-swinging cars. If you don’t suffer from acrophobia, you could enjoy some wonderful views of the Disneyland Resort from the top of the wheel. Just make sure you get into the non-swinging cars line. Thrill rating: 2
All the Other Attractions
You should do well with just about everything else at Disney California Adventure, including Toy Story Midway Mania!, the criminally underrated "Turtle Talk with Crush" show, and The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure.
More Laid-Back Things to Do at the Disneyland Resort
While they may be the highlight, there is much more to experience at the Disneyland Resort than just the attractions. And virtually everything else has absolutely nothing to do with thrill ratings.
There are some wonderful places to dine inside the parks as well as at the Downtown Disney complex and the on-property resorts. Consider booking a reservation at some of the resort’s best table-service restaurants, such as Steakhouse 55 at the Disneyland Hotel, the Blue Bayou at Disneyland Park, or (our favorite) the Carthay Circle Restaurant at Disney California Adventure. There are some great quick-service spots also, including the Pacific Wharf Cafe and the Paradise Garden Grill at Disney California Adventure and the French Market restaurant at Disneyland Park. And don’t forget to indulge in some treats during your visit, like Mickey-shaped beignets at Cafe Orleans or the famous Dole Whip in Adventureland.
If shopping is your thing, there are some great shops inside the parks as well as in Downtown Disney. You could also roll some strikes at Splitsville’s bowling lanes, catch some entertainment at Splitsville’s Kingpin Stage or Flambeaux's Jazz Club in Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen, or try the extraordinary virtual reality attraction at The Void (all of which are in Downtown Disney).