Monday Top 10: The best family rides in America
Parents who love theme parks often don't want to wait until their children are tall enough for thrill rides to bring their kids to the parks. That's why some of the most beloved theme park attractions are ones that the entire family can enjoy.
This week, we honor the top-rated rides in the United States that do not have a minimum height requirement for all riders, as rated by Theme Park Insider readers. Please note that, although they don't have a minimum height requirement for all riders, some of these rides might require that children under a certain height be accompanied by a responsible adult — so don't plan just to send the kids alone on these attractions. But why would you? Plenty of grown-ups love riding them, too, even without kids.
As always, we present our weekly Top 10 list on one page, and not in one of those annoying slideshows. As the Mickey Mouse Club theme song says, "Why? Because we like you!"
10. Calico Mine Ride
Knott's Berry Farm
Knott's reopened Bud Hurlbut's classic dark ride earlier this year, following a million-dollar-plus refurbishment by Garner Holt Productions. It's not attracted that many votes from Theme Park Insider readers yet, but we're giving it a spot on the list because, once more fans get the opportunity to experience the new Calico Mine Ride, we're confident it will move even further up this list.
9. Bayside Skyride
SeaWorld San Diego
"Skybuckets" used to be a staple at all theme parks. But, these days, SeaWorld San Diego is the last major park in Southern California to offer this classic ride. Once an additional charge, this aerial tour across Mission Bay is now included with your SeaWorld general admission.
8. Spaceship Earth
Let's "thank the Phoenicians" for our ability to write easily how much we love this trip through Epcot's iconic geosphere, taking a trip through time to learn about our common history.
7. Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Kids adore this tour above the Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland, as it allows them to see above the crowds that so often block their view in the parks. Grown-ups love the ride, too, for its gentle change of pace. Now, if only Disney could see its way to revive the Disneyland original.
6. Toy Story Midway Mania
Disney California Adventure
What's more fun on this wildly popular video game-inspired dark ride — getting the high score in your car on the ride, or watching your child beat you for the high score for the first time? Repeat riders learn to work together cracking the Easter eggs to boost both of your scores, making this one of the great family-bonding experiences in the parks.
5. Kilimanjaro Safaris
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Enjoy the thrill of discovery as you and your family look around to find the many animals awaiting you in this Disney's Animal Kingdom habitat. For extra fun, make a bet with your spouse on how long you'll make it through the ride before the kids will grab the iPhone from your hands to take their own wildlife photos.
4. Studio Tour
Universal Studios Hollywood
With nostalgia for the grown-ups and plenty of special effects and humor for everyone, Universal Studios Hollywood's signature Studio Tour appeals to fans across generations. And with an often-changing order and line-up, the tour keeps those fans coming back. Expect this ride to become even more popular next year, as Universal adds a new Fast & Furious 3D experience, as well as a special night-time version of tour.
3. Haunted Mansion
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
The Disneyland original just celebrated its 45th birthday, but readers give the edge to the slightly longer Magic Kingdom version. Which makes sense, because fans simply can't just enough of the 999 grim, grinning ghosts.
2. Pirates of the Caribbean
A near-perfect blend of music and stagecraft, the Disneyland original launched a multi-billion-dollar entertainment franchise. With many refurbishments over the years, Pirates has retained its appeal and continues to thrill its original fans, their children, and even, now, grandchildren.
1. Hogwarts Express
Universal Studios Florida
Sure, it only been open for six weeks, but that hasn't stopped the Hogwarts Express from attracting enough votes to steam to the top of this list. Universal's first Harry Potter-themed ride without a height restriction, the Hogwarts Express allows even the youngest Muggles to enjoy the trip between London and Hogsmeade.
What's your favorite family ride that didn't make this top 10 list? Remember, please rate and review the theme parks you've visited to help us build an even more helpful collection of attraction and restaurant ratings.
"It's a Small World"
I rode the Bayside Skyride for the first time in forever last month and it was great. Beforehand, I was trying to explain the ride to my kids and realized they had nothing to compare it to as the Disneyland skybuckets of my youth closed before they were born! And all of the rides on your list are great!
Calico Mine is in this list but Seven Dwarfs Mine is not. Disney is losing in family rides!
I'm a little sad that Six Flags over Georgia's Monster (Plantation) Mansion didn't make the list. When I was a wee child, a trip through the then Tales of the Okefenokee Swamp was a highlight of my day. Since Mizzy Scarlett and the gang took up residence new generations have fallen in love with this ride. I'll chalk it up to the fact that all the other rides are found in Califlorida parks.
It's a Small World is a very polarizing attraction, and is probably not on the list because there are quite a few people out there that truly HATE it, and will give it a "1" rating.
@Rob - Half the attractions on the list are from California and the other half are from Florida. 2 of the 5 in California have a clone (Toy Story Mania, or close copy (Pirates) in Florida, while only 1 in Florida has a close copy (Haunted Mansion) in California.
@Russell: Is "Small World" polarizing? That's the worse criticism of such a beloved ride. The haters do not have veto power.
Very good list there full of legendary rides!
Fine list. However, for me, one of the best family ride was the WDW monorail in the pilot cabin. Yes, I know, this is not "technically" a ride as it is a transportation system. Also, it it is no longer possible to do it. However, I can tell you that we made it twice and it's still one of our best souvenir as a family.
"Is "Small World" polarizing? That's the worse criticism of such a beloved ride. The haters do not have veto power."
Your reasons and rationalizations do not describe what constitutes a family ride!!! It is especially obvious when you describe Pooh as being for too young kids. If it isn't obvious, the whole family can ride it with their very young kids.
So are you arguing that Toy Story Mania and the Haunted Mansion (and perhaps Pirates of the Caribbean) are not "family rides", and should be replaced by Small World, Pan, and Pooh (or Mermaid) on this list?
"What's your favorite family ride that didn't make this top 10 list?"
...and I merely commented on why I wouldn't place those rides in the top 10, and provided 2 examples of my own that I think belong.
Disney rides don't have narratives. That you're asking for something that never happens does not make sense. Their rides are a series of scenes. Nothing more. I agree they made a mistake with The Little Mermaid. They attempted to stage a 1.5 hour movie as a 15 minute ride by incorporating important scenes as if they are part of the story. Just forget they tell a story. They are mere disconnected scenes. In fact, to fix the assumption of the narrative, they need to remove more scenes like "Ursula" and "Kiss The Girl" and replace them with more sea-scapes and ambience.
Many Disney rides do have narratives including the ones you mention. I agree that many Disney dark rides are a series of scenes from books or movies, but they are told in a staged, chronological order, which makes sense in an over-arching narrative. If you're not going to present the ride in a narrative fashion, then why bother presenting the scenes in a chronological order that builds to a climax, and then ultimately gloss right over the climax to the "happy ending" (like in Snow White and the Little Mermaid)? Why have "Kiss the Girl" after "Under the Sea"? Because that's how it happens in the movie and makes sense in the narrative of the ride. So why completely ignore the climactic scenes in the narrative of the movie after presenting the source of tension (Ursula), going from "Kiss the Girl" to the wedding with just a tiny shadow in the background of Ursula dissolving? If you were to just present scenes from The Little Mermaid, "Under the Sea" would most likely be the ending scene as it's the most well-known and exciting number of the movie, but that's not how it's presented on the ride. At least in Peter Pan, the designers cleverly use the sails to stage the before and after climactic scene on the Jolly Roger, it's the setup of the narrative in Pan that creates the disconnect that probably could be solved if the ride could be moved to a better space with a real queue.
There are no narratives, yet you keep saying there are narratives. The Little Mermaid and Peter Pan has no narrative. Whatever story you think exists was from your memory of the movie. Why not just experience the ride with no knowledge from the movie?
"There is a bit of a Journey. Let's see what she experienced. A very basic outline."
"Sounds like a narrative to me..."
"you just described the scenes of the ride without the story. Funny how you didn't make your case. A story is the little mermaid wants to have legs, meet the prince, and get married. All you got is going under sea, "under the sea" song, Ursula, kiss the girl, celebration. Essentially, the highlights."
"ride didn't have "enough" narrative"
Must be nice to cherry pick and distort instead of admitting that you're off-base...
Disney attractions are spectacular without further explanation or exposition. I had plenty of online debates with others about this topic in which I was arguing the other point of view. There is nothing wrong with believing in a storyline. That's the main point of imagination and inspiration that Disney engenders. People can fill in the blanks themselves. The short rides don't allow much opportunity to explain a story. It would stop the flow of the ride.
The Calico Mines ride must have gotten one hell of an update because I've been to every theme park in California and WWoHP, and it's still the worst ride I had ever been on when I went in 2010.
We love the People Mover, with three boys under 10 sometimes it was great to just be able to sit back and enjoy. When the older boys went off with my husband my youngest and I would just continue on the people mover because at least he felt we were on a ride.
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