Disneyland (CA)

2022 Awards: Best of Disneyland Resort

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As we say goodbye to 2022, we’re taking a look at how visitors viewed the various offerings at Disneyland Resort last year.  Because our site relies heavily upon statistics, numbers and “hard data” for a lot of what we do, I feel compelled to point out that this will be a little different from our norm. Simply stated, we do not have enough survey results — especially for some of the less popular attractions — to talk about everything with the sort of statistical “certainty” that we normally do.  With that said, we DO have enough to recognize trends and get a general sense of how you all feel about Disneyland’s attractions.  So, without further ado, let’s see the results!

Attractions at Disneyland Resort

Overall Attraction Satisfaction

What’s the best attraction in all of Disneyland?  According to you in 2022, it’s Rise of the Resistance, narrowly beating out Radiator Springs Racers for the top spot. It’s worth noting that 4 of the top 5 are attractions that deliver some level of visceral thrill, and if we were to continue beyond 5 that trend would continue to some extent. Clearly, Disneyland guests enjoy getting their heart rate going!

Rise of the Resistance. (Matt Stroshane, photographer) (c) Disney
  1. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (Average 4.82 stars out of 5)
  2. Radiator Springs Racers (4.80)
  3. Big Thunder Mountain (4.64)
  4. Incredicoaster (4.62)
  5. Fantasmic! (4.56)

Rise of the Resistance is the overall attraction leader, and it turns out that it’s at the top of every list for which it qualifies. Partly for that reason, and partly because it doesn’t neatly lend itself to categorization (is it a thrill ride? is it a dark ride?  is it a simulator?), I’m going to leave it out of the more specific lists.  Just know that it remains the big dog at Disneyland, despite the opening of more recent next-gen attractions like WEB SLINGERS: A Spiderman Adventure.

Beyond those heavy hitters, here are our readers’ top 5 overall for each park in 2022:

Disneyland Park

  1. Pirates of the Caribbean (4.55)
  2. Space Mountain (4.55)
  3. Disneyland Forever (4.47)
  4. Splash Mountain (4.38)
  5. Main Street Electrical Parade (4.34)

California Adventure

  1. Soarin’ Around the World (4.55)
  2. Toy Story Midway Mania (4.51)
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT! (4.51)
  4. World of Color (4.45)
  5. Grizzly River Run (4.34)

Thrill Rides

Three entries from the top 5 overall make an appearance in the top thrill attractions, joined by classic coaster-in-the-dark, Space Mountain, and way-more-than-just-a-drop-ride, Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT!  Other notables that narrowly missed the top 5 include Splash Mountain, Grizzly River Run, and Star Tours.

Radiator Springs Racers. Photo: DisneyParkSavvy
  1. Radiator Springs Racers (4.80)
  2. Big Thunder Mountain (4.64)
  3. Incredicoaster (4.62)
  4. Space Mountain (4.55)
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT! (4.51)

Dark Rides

No surprises when it comes to dark rides in 2022, with the classic Pirates of the Caribbean coming in first. Notably, 3 of the top 5 have you floating on the water, and even Peter Pan puts you in a boat although you’re flying through the air.

  1. Pirates of the Caribbean (4.55)
  2. Peter Pan’s Flight (4.33)
  3. Haunted Mansion (4.28)
  4. Jungle Cruise (4.16)
  5. “it’s a small world” (4.01)

Interactive Attractions

Feeling competitive? All four of the interactive attractions at Disneyland are highly rated by our readers. Even Buzz Lightyear, an older attraction with a retro vibe by today’s standards, still averages more than 4 stars.

Buzz Lightyear’s Astroblasters
  1. Toy Story Midway Mania (4.51)
  2. Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run (4.32)
  3. WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure (4.26)
  4. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (4.13)

Nighttime Spectaculars

Whether it’s a parade, a fireworks display, or some other sort of nighttime spectacular, Disney’s nighttime shows are consistently some of the highest-rated attractions at the parks. Both Disneyland Forever and Main Street Electrical Parade were retired this past fall, and Mickey’s Mix Magic will be returning in 2023 once the holiday shows wrap up. While not as highly ranked as Disneyland Forever, it remains a great show that has an average of more than 4 stars with our readers. Note that depending upon the day, it may or may not include fireworks; during slower times it is commonly run with projections only on weekdays and with fireworks limited to the weekends.

  1. Fantasmic! (4.56)
  2. Disneyland Forever (4.47)
  3. World of Color (4.45)
  4. Main Street Electrical Parade (4.34)
  5. Mickey’s Mix Magic (4.09)

Shows & Diversions

I’ve intentionally grouped what we would characterize as diversions — i.e., quick, transient experiences that do not require you to queue up or find a seat — along with traditional, sit-down shows in order to highlight that if you’re in the mood for a show, it can be something that you can do without a lot of planning. Indeed, three of the top five such attractions are the sort of thing that you can just walk up to at the time it’s scheduled to start (or even just stumble upon it) and still have a wonderful experience.

  1. Disneyland Band at Main Street, U.S.A. (4.28)
  2. Dapper Dans (4.26)
  3. Turtle Talk with Crush (4.18)
  4. Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room (4.07)
  5. Avenger’s Assemble (3.89)

Simulation-Based Attractions

Disneyland doesn’t have a huge number of attractions that rely upon motion simulation, but those that do are among the most popular attractions in the parks. All have an average score of at least 4.32, and Soarin’ Around the World is tied for #6 overall among survey participants.

  1. Soarin’ Around the World (4.55)
  2. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue (4.33)
  3. Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run (4.32)

Appeal to Younger Visitors

We know many of our readers have small children, so we wanted to call special attention to highly rated attractions that appeal in particular to the younger set. In addition to obvious favorites like character meet and greets, visitors rated Peter Pan’s Flight and Turtle Talk with Crush as the best for younger kids at Disneyland Park and California Adventure, respectively. Because smaller kids aren’t always into things like thrill rides and motion simulators, doing individual lists for the little ones for each genre above wouldn’t be helpful (and I’m not sure we even have a sufficient number of ratings from that age range to get any meaningful guidance anyway). Instead, here are the top 5 in each park:

Disneyland Small World
Disneyland’s “it’s a small world”

Disneyland Park

  1. Peter Pan’s Flight (4.33)
  2. “it’s a small world” (4.01)
  3. Dumbo (3.92)
  4. King Arthur Carousel (3.84)
  5. Alice in Wonderland (3.77)

Disney California Adventure

  1. Turtle Talk with Crush (4.18)
  2. Mickey’s Philharmagic (4.14)
  3. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree (4.05)
  4. Silly Symphony Swings (4.01)
  5. Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (3.90)

Disneyland Dining

As you’ll see below, guest satisfaction when it comes to dining can be a bit of a mixed bag. In the parks, Quick Service restaurants rate far higher than Table Service locations. In fact, only one in-park restaurant that was rated — Carthay Circle — gets more than a 90% guest satisfaction rating. That would only barely crack the top 5 overall in California Adventure if Quick Service restaurants were included. Table Service restaurants at Downtown Disney fare much better, with 3 restaurants scoring 94% or above with our readers.

There could be a number of reasons for this — readers might not find time spent in a restaurant “worth it” compared to the time they could spend doing attractions. Or it could be as simple as the food at Quick Service places being better than Table Service offerings. Regardless, it seems pretty clear that there are ample food options in the parks if you’re just wanting to grab something quick and tasty, but if you’re looking for a high-quality Table Service meal then your best bet is to step out to Downtown Disney.

Disney California Adventure
©Rikki Niblett

In-Park Table Service

  1. Carthay Circle (93%)
  2. Cafe Orleans (88%)
  3. Carnation Cafe (87%)
  4. Wine Country Trattoria at the Golden Vine Winery (83%)
  5. Blue Bayou (80%)

In-Park Quick Service — Disneyland Park

  1. Tropical Hideaway (99%)
  2. Stage Door Cafe (98%)
  3. Bengal Barbecue (98%)
  4. Ronto Roasters (97%)
  5. Little Red Wagon (96%)
  6. Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe (92%)

In-Park Quick Service — Disney California Adventure

  1. Award Wieners (97%)
  2. Pacific Wharf Cafe (96%)
  3. Angry Dogs (95%)
  4. Paradise Garden Grill (94%)
  5. Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill (92%)

Downtown Disney & Resort

  1. Splitsville Luxury Lanes (97%)
  2. La Brea Bakery Cafe (94%)
  3. Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen (94%)
  4. Storytellers Cafe (88%)
  5. Napa Rose (87%)

Disneyland Hotels

If you’re wanting to stay at a Disney-branded hotel at Disneyland Resort, you really only have three options. In decreasing order of what you can expect to pay, these are: the Grand Californian (including its Disney Vacation Club Villas), the Disneyland Hotel, and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. Perhaps unsurprisingly, guests’ views on the properties more or less track that same progression.  Here’s how they break down:

Grand Californian Hotel

  1. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa (91% would stay again, Satisfaction: 4.54/5)
  2. Disneyland Hotel (87% would stay again, Satisfaction: 4.55)
  3. Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel (74% would stay again, Satisfaction: 4.22)

The biggest takeaway for me is how closely the Grand Californian and the Disneyland Hotel scored.  Their satisfaction scores are essentially identical, and both score highly when it comes to guest satisfaction. If you’re trying to pick between them, you should be driven more by personal preference, theming, and cost than by any concerns about the properties.

The story of Paradise Pier, on the other hand, is far less clear. Even though its guest satisfaction score isn’t horrible (4.22 out of 5), only 74% of the readers that responded would stay there again. Put differently, more than 1 in 4 would not stay at Paradise Pier again. As noted at the outset, we are basing all of this on limited reader data, and that is even more the case with respect to Paradise Pier — we had far fewer responses about that property than we did the other two. It’s also worth noting that Paradise Pier has been undergoing refurbishment, with visible construction on the property and major amenities such as the pools and fitness center unavailable for several months. We would definitely expect to see that reflected in survey results.

Still, this rather dim view tracks with our own assessment of the property. Unless you are adamant about staying at a Disney property and Paradise Pier is all that your budget allows, your money could probably be better used at one of the third-party properties surrounding Disneyland. Many of these are even more or less the same distance to Disneyland Park as Paradise Pier, if not closer.

One further note about Paradise Pier, however, and perhaps some good news for 2023 and beyond — during the summer of 2022, Disney opened a dedicated entrance to California Adventure for guests of Paradise Pier, making it much easier to access that park. Now, instead of walking through Downtown Disney and through the main entrance, guests will take a walkway that deposits them right by the Corn Dog Castle. And all that construction is part of the hotel’s transformation into the Pixar Place Hotel. Will these changes sway guest opinions? We’ll keep you posted!

So, what do you think? Are visitors on the right track? Any glaring omissions? Let us know in the comments!

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Jamie Rosemergy

When not planning for or traveling to Walt Disney World with his beautiful wife and impossibly adorable child, James practices law in St. Louis. He also really likes cheese -- and loathes kale. He can be found on twitter at @jrtoastyman.

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