It’s a Small World, I recently declared, is the best ride at the Disneyland Resort.
No other ride, I argued, so clearly represents the artistry of those who created it, as the dolls, the atmosphere and the critters are all in the style of whimsy and bold colors of Mary Blair. It’s also a ride that’s likely weirder than you remember it. It’s a world of tears, hopes and fears, the irresistible song tells us, reminding us we’re alike in both our hopes and what stresses us.
It’s a Disneyland original, and there’s no other ride quite like it at the theme parks. Times readers, however, had a slightly different pick for the best ride at the Disneyland Resort.
It turns out that it’s a pirate’s life for many of you. Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean — our No. 2 ride at the resort — received the majority of votes for the top ride at the park, with readers singling out its sense of adventure — instantly recognizable from the ride’s musty scent — humor and light thrills as what makes it deserving of the top spot. But I don’t feel too bad. Not only do I love Pirates of the Caribbean, but It’s a Small World came in at No. 2 in our reader poll, indicating that Disneyland die-hards love the classics best.
“I too love It’s a Small World, but it is another boat ride that has always been my favorite,” wrote Kammie Rivera. “As a child, standing in line for that ride I felt both scared and excited. I knew there was the drop at the beginning of the ride and it frightened and thrilled me. I also knew once we past the drop, then the smaller drop the music would come roaring on and you went through a romanticized vision of what pirate life was like.”
“It’s fully immersive,” wrote Rebecca Mabee. “The scent snaps me right back to childhood as does the feel of the air. The darkness forces your senses to stay engaged, and there are small thrills along the way — it has it all!”
The poll, however, wasn’t overwhelmingly unanimous. Turns out, picking a favorite ride at Disneyland isn’t easy. Does one vote for personal nostalgia, historical importance or modern wizardry? Readers singled out 18 different attractions, including two that are no longer at the resort — the Carousel of Progress and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, rides that live on in Florida at Walt Disney World.
In agreeing with me regarding It’s a Small World, reader Jan Lloyd wrote, “Not only is it a joyous ride, it is the ride that helps break down the barriers in this world, reminding us we are all here on the planet earth as one family.”
Pirates of the Caribbean led with about 26% of the votes. As a runner-up, It’s a Small World, received about 16% of No.1 votes. A few rides were tied with 7% of the votes, including the Haunted Mansion, the Disneyland Railroad and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. That last one and Indiana Jones Adventure were the only modern rides to receive multiple votes, as Times readers who took the survey tend to favor the attractions with historical importance.
Still, we loved Rise of the Resistance in our rankings, placing it at No. 4. We argued that if It’s a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion represent Disneyland’s past, Rise of the Resistance represents its future.
Reader Iris Polak agreed. “The first time I rode [Rise of the Resistance] was a constant barrage of, ‘Wait, they can do that?’ I rode a motion simulator as part of the pre-show, got arrested by the First Order, watched the walls be struck by blaster fire and had my trackless ride vehicle drop into a motion simulator for the finale. The wait may be twice what I’d wait for even my second favorite, but there’s at least three different rides in there, so it’s a deal.”
If there was one thing many of the votes had in common, it’s that readers highlighted rides that emphasize world-building over high-speed thrills. In making the case for the Haunted Mansion, Shawndra Kuffel wrote, “The theme of this deathly attraction in the happiest place on earth shouldn’t work and yet the macabre humor and spooky vibes of this haunted house thrills in every way.”
While Big Thunder Mountain, the Matterhorn and the Incredicoaster received some attention, the resort’s pure thrill rides seemed to split the vote. It was old-fashioned Disney storytelling that our readers gravitated toward.
“There are certainly superior technical and sophisticated rides and attractions at Disneyland and California Adventure, but the sheer non-technical nature of the Storybook Land Canal Boats is precisely why I love it,” Gail Robillard wrote. “From the moment you enter Monstro’s mouth, reality is suspended and you enter a fantasy world of fairy tales. No tech, no drops, just lazy water and detailed miniatures.”