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Complete Guide to Everything Scary for Kids at Disneyland

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 scary for little (and not so little!) kids. If you have some concerns with your kids and the possibly scary things at Disneyland, keep reading. I’ve outlined the rides, shows and attractions that might be too scary for kids at Disneyland. I’ve made additional suggestions on what rides to try instead. I also have ideas on easing fears with your kids inside the Parks.

Things that Are Scary for Kids at Disneyland

There is so much to see, do and experience at the Disneyland Resort. For newbies at the Parks, you might not be aware of what things may scare kids. Some are easy to detect from the outside of the attraction (Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain). Other things may seem innocent enough and still have frightening elements. But, what are the scariest rides at Disneyland? That’s 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. For more advice about encouraging kids, keep reading for my tested tips.

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Headed to Disneyland but concerned that certain rides, shows or attractions might be too scary for your kids? If you have a kid who doesn't like fast rides, drops, spinning and frightening elements this is a must read guide with tons of helpful tips. #Disneyland

Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree is faster than it looks.

Disneyland Dark Rides

Dark rides are exactly what they sound like. These are indoor rides with the lights off. They 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).

These are dark rides with scarier elements:

  • Haunted Mansion
  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
  • Snow White’s Scary Adventures
  • Pinocchio’s Daring Journey

Dark Rides – Start with These:

  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – It’s a dark ride that’s brightly lit and has a sweet theme. It’s the perfect first dark ride for Disneyland with toddlers.
  • 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.
  • 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.
Headed to Disneyland but concerned that certain rides, shows or attractions might be too scary for your kids? If you have a kid who doesn't like fast rides, drops, spinning and frightening elements this is a must read guide with tons of helpful tips. #Disneyland

Interestingly, the Haunted Mansion Holiday during Halloween is LESS scary than the usual Haunted Mansion!

Attractions That Have Potentially Scary Moments

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 dinosaurs, dramatic music and an erupting volcano.

The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure – most of the ride is bright and fun, with cheerful music. There is a section where you’ll go “under water” and your clam shell vehicle gently tips backwards. This slight movement made my toddler daughter very nervous. There is also a dark section with Ursula the sea witch.

Soarin’ Around the World –  My son was very nervous to ride this after hearing that he’d be “flying”! Kids might be worried about the initial lift off which takes you off your feet. You will be safely buckled in and once lifted, there is minimal movement. Your ride vehicle will rock back and forth gently, coordinated with the film you’re watching. You may not even notice that you’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.

Scary Moments – Start With This:

Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room – While the majority of this attraction is sweet, with fun songs 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).


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Headed to Disneyland but concerned that certain rides, shows or attractions might be too scary for your kids? If you have a kid who doesn't like fast rides, drops, spinning and frightening elements this is a must read guide with tons of helpful tips. #Disneyland

Grizzly River Rapids – steep drops and you will get drenched!

Disneyland Rides with 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 drops on Guardians of the Galaxy can’t be predicted. Each ride varies and there are multiple drops both big and not-as-big.

  • Pirates of the Caribbean 
  • Splash Mountain
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout!
  • Grizzly River Rapids

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. Plus they can control the dips themselves.

Jumpin’ Jellyfish – This one is all up and down, but it’s outside where you can get a good vantage point of the Park. Most kids like this tummy-tickler!

Headed to Disneyland but concerned that certain rides, shows or attractions might be too scary for your kids? If you have a kid who doesn't like fast rides, drops, spinning and frightening elements this is a must read guide with tons of helpful tips. #Disneyland

The unpredictable drops are sure to be a fright for most kids.

Disneyland Thrill Rides

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Space Mountain
  • Indiana Jones Adventure :Temple of the Forbidden Eye
  • Goofy’s Sky School

Thrill Rides – Start with These:

Gadget’s Go Coaster – If you think your little one is ready for their first coaster, I recommend starting with Gadget’s Go Coaster in Toontown. It’s super-short (one minute long), has just a few tummy tickling dips and max speed of 22 mph.

Radiator Springs Racers – This hybrid dark ride and roller coaster has a cool 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!

Headed to Disneyland but concerned that certain rides, shows or attractions might be too scary for your kids? If you have a kid who doesn't like fast rides, drops, spinning and frightening elements this is a must read guide with tons of helpful tips. #Disneyland

Radiator Springs Racers is a high speed race that most kids will love.

Potentially Scary Rides That Spin

If your kid doesn’t like the feeling of being out of control, these spinning rides may be frightening. Note that the Mad Tea Party and Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin can be controlled slightly, so spinning can be minimized. Kids can also control the up and down movement on the Astro Orbitor.

  • Mad Tea Party
  • Astro Orbitor
  • Golden Zephyr
  • Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
  • Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin

Rides That Spin – Start With These!

  • King Arthur Carrousel
  • Flik’s Flyers
  • Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters
Headed to Disneyland but concerned that certain rides, shows or attractions might be too scary for your kids? If you have a kid who doesn't like fast rides, drops, spinning and frightening elements this is a must read guide with tons of helpful tips. #Disneyland

Flik’s Flyers in “bug’s land” is a great first spinning ride.

A Ride With Height

Mickey’s Fun Wheel – I’m not a fan of heights and the Ferris wheel is top of my list of scary rides! However these gondolas are fully enclosed and you can choose the swinging or non-swinging version.

Ride With Height – Start With This!

Silly Symphony Swings – This ride smoothly combines height, spinning, drops and lift. Consider the tandem chair that seats you right next to your child so you can hold hands or comfort them if they’re nervous.

Headed to Disneyland but concerned that certain rides, shows or attractions might be too scary for your kids? If you have a kid who doesn't like fast rides, drops, spinning and frightening elements this is a must read guide with tons of helpful tips. #Disneyland

Nervous of heights? Try Mickey’s Fun Wheel at night when you can’t judge the height as well! (Photo Credit: Jeff Holz)

3-D Disneyland Ride

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!)

3-D Ride – Start With This:

Toy Story Midway Mania – While you’ll be experiencing 3-D 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.

Headed to Disneyland but concerned that certain rides, shows or attractions might be too scary for your kids? If you have a kid who doesn't like fast rides, drops, spinning and frightening elements this is a must read guide with tons of helpful tips. #Disneyland

The 3-D effects and simulator movements can be frightening for some kids (and adults!) – Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

Shows That Are Scary for Kids at Disneyland

It’s Tough to a Be a Bug! – I’ll admit it, I’ve never made it through this entire show with my eyes open. It take a tough kid to make it through this 4D live show that’s all about creepy crawlies! First off, it’s really loud. Second, it’s about bugs. And third, it features elements that are designed to scare you, like squirts of water in your face, clouds of fog, and the feeling that bugs are running underneath you.

Fantasmic! – It’s a nighttime show of good versus evil, which means lots of villain appearances and a huge fire-breathing dragon. It’s an impressive show with dramatic music and effects, which means it might be too intense from some kids.

Jedi Training – Trials of the Temple- Even kids who are familiar with the Star Wars franchise might still have a fingernail-biting moment when Darth Vader and Kylo Ren appear in person.

Shows Without Scary Elements:

  • Disney Junior Dance Party!
  • Mickey and the Magical Map
  • World of Color
  • Paint the Night
  • Frozen Live at the Hyperion
Headed to Disneyland but concerned that certain rides, shows or attractions might be too scary for your kids? If you have a kid who doesn't like fast rides, drops, spinning and frightening elements this is a must read guide with tons of helpful tips. #Disneyland

Mickey and the Magical Map live show…nothing scary here!

Too Scary for Kids at Disneyland – Helpful Tips to Ease Fears

Headed to Disneyland but concerned that certain rides, shows or attractions might be too scary for your kids? If you have a kid who doesn't like fast rides, drops, spinning and frightening elements this is a must read guide with tons of helpful tips. #Disneyland

King Arthur Carrousel is a nice ride to start with that gets kids used to spinning, up and down movement and loud music.


CLICK THE IMAGE TO RECEIVE YOUR FREE DISNEY VACATION PLANNING VIDEO


Headed to Disneyland but concerned that certain rides, shows or attractions might be too scary for your kids? If you have a kid who doesn't like fast rides, drops, spinning and frightening elements this is a must read guide with tons of helpful tips. #Disneyland


5 Helpful Tips for Calming Scared and Anxious Kids at Disney

You’re so hyped to take the kids to Disney! Perhaps this is your first visit there or maybe you’ve been before. What do you do if they’re scared at Disney and your child is terrified of the attractions? Or refuses to get on a ride, even if he’s been on it a dozen times before? Your kid is “too-scared-to-ride” but that doesn’t mean your vacation is doomed. This is my helpful guide for kids who are scared at Disney with my tried-and-tested tips.

Scared at Disney?

When I took my son (who is now 12) to Disneyland for the first time, he was 14 months old. He loved toddling at Disneyland, getting wet at Dot’s Puddle Park and climbing stairs and rocks on Tom Sawyer Island. What he didn’t like were the rides. At all. Not even a LITTLE BIT!

He simply was unfamiliar with the quick and unpredictable movements of the rides and there was nothing we could do or say that would help him to relax on the ride. So what can you do if your child refuses to ride, or worse bursts into tears at the very thought? You don’t want your kid having bad memories about his Disney vacation, right?

Please note that this post includes affiliate links. Clicking through and purchasing helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Kids are scared at Disney? Check out these 5 tested tips to help kids who are nervous, anxious or scared at Disney enjoy their vacation.

My formerly “too-scared-to-ride” big kid comforting his little brother who was nervous his first time on Flik’s Flyers.


CLICK THE IMAGE TO RECEIVE A FREE DISNEY VACATION PLANNING VIDEO


1. Plan Ahead

You know your child and if there is any doubt in your mind that you might have some issues at the Park, do everything you can before the trip to prepare them. Show them videos online about the rides. Get a Disney Vacation Planning DVD (click the image above). Watch it over and over so your child can be comfortable with more of the aspects of the place.

Check out my post on TravelingMomHow to Encourage Shy Kids to Be Brave at Disney for lots of tried-and-true advice on encouraging reluctant children.

I’d also advise against setting huge expectations. Don’t expect that you’re going to jump right on Space Mountain with a nervous kid! Plan your day intentionally with a slow start. Don’t expect that your kid is going to run into Mickey’s arms to give him a huge hug if he’s never seen these larger-than-life Characters. As your children become more comfortable in the Park throughout the day, you might be able to get them to try new experiences.

Kids are scared at Disney? Check out these 5 tested tips to help kids who are nervous, anxious or scared at Disney enjoy their vacation.

No need to be scared at Disney. And no pressure during character meet n’ greets…Mickey’s cool!

SCARED KID TIP: Read up about the rides, attractions and shows in advance so you’ll have an idea if your child would want to ride them or skip them. The The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2017 and The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2017 offers tips on the possible “scare factor” of certain attractions at the Disney parks.

   

2. Tried and True…Maybe Not So Much

Even if they loved a particular ride in the past, that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll still enjoy it on this trip. My son rode the Pirates of the Caribbean dozens of times but one day (at age four) he got in the boat and screamed until we took him out! For whatever reason something scared him and he refused to get on the ride for years. And then one day, just like that that, he was fine! You just never know.

Your kids might be fine with the spooky Haunted Mansion but suddenly be terrified of Dumbo. And they might be 10 years old…just sayin’. There’s not much you can do about this issue, just let it go and move on to the next attraction.

Kids are scared at Disney? Check out these 5 tested tips to help kids who are nervous, anxious or scared at Disney enjoy their vacation.

Too scared at Disney to ride the Silly Symphony Swings (which has now become his favorite!)

SCARED KID TIP: Ask your child in advance which rides they most want to go on and which rides they’d rather skip. Let them keep a journal (like the Kid’s Travel Journal -Disney Edition) with their top 10 attractions where they can take notes or draw a picture of their favorite experiences. Allowing your child to document their happy memories might encourage them to try something new or more adventurous.

3. Backing Out

You’ve waited in line for Space Mountain for 90 minutes and finally reach the end…and that’s when your child decides they just don’t want to ride. We’ve had to back out at the last minute of several rides with my daughter when she decided after waiting that she really didn’t want to ride.

Just go with the flow and don’t get upset. Let the Cast Member know that you need to step aside. Wait for a bit. You know your child and whether they’d prefer to collect them self alone or need a hug. Let your child know that they can make the next move, whether it be to leave the attraction or try to ride.

Kids are scared at Disney? Check out these 5 tested tips to help kids who are nervous, anxious or scared at Disney enjoy their vacation.

Taking a swim break mid-day is one way to take the pressure off kids scared at Disney.

SCARED KID TIP: A stressful situation may escalate so don’t let one blow-out ruin the day. Move on and don’t dwell upon it. Offer a drink or a snack to relieve some of the tension. When we’ve had a particularly upsetting moment with one of our kids, we take that as a cue to get a treat or go back to the hotel for a swim. You could also try resting for a bit in one of the quiet Park areas (read my post Avoid the Disneyland Meltdown for more ideas).

Kids are scared at Disney? Check out these 5 tested tips to help kids who are nervous, anxious or scared at Disney enjoy their vacation.

My daughter was comforted by having her Minnie Mouse from home with her on all the rides.


Save Money on Your Disneyland Vacation!

Purchase discount Disneyland tickets and vacation packages from my affiliate Get Away Today. Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount).


4. Use Rider Switch

Just because your kid meets the height requirement doesn’t mean they’ll want to ride! Make good use out of Rider Switch and that way anyone in your group can take turns on a ride and one of the grown-ups can wait with the child that doesn’t want to go on.

My friend Leslie at Trips with Tykes breaks down the Rider Switch process on her website.

Kids are scared at Disney? Check out these 5 tested tips to help kids who are nervous, anxious or scared at Disney enjoy their vacation.

While other family members are on a ride, we take the time for some fun photo ops in the park.

5. Switch Gears

So, despite your best efforts your kid is still too scared to ride. It’s time to switch gears and find things that your child will appreciate. Fortunately Disney is packed with entertainment that will occupy you for days. The Parks are full of entertaining attractions other than the rides.

The parades and shows are top-notch and appeal to a wide audience so everyone from your toddler to great-grandma can appreciate them. Make sure to grab a Times Guide when you enter the Park so you’ll know what events are happening that day along with the time schedule.

Kids are scared at Disney? Check out these 5 tested tips to help kids who are nervous, anxious or scared at Disney enjoy their vacation.

An ice cream break usually fixes everything!

Even things as simple as waving at the Characters as they pass in the parade (because your child is too nervous for an up-close meet ‘n greet) can be quality vacation memories for them. While other people in your group are on rides, take fun photos of your child in the Park and capture those memories. There are a bunch of great non-ride ideas in my post What Else is There to Do at Disneyland?

Kids are scared at Disney? Check out these 5 tested tips to help kids who are nervous, anxious or scared at Disney enjoy their vacation.

Waving at Characters from afar might be preferential to a face-to-face Meet n’ Greet for kids scared at Disney.

What tips do you have for easing the tension for your kids when they’re scared at Disney? Share with us in the comments!

Kids are scared at Disney? Check out these 5 tested tips to help kids who are nervous, anxious or scared at Disney enjoy their vacation.