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For many, Disney conjures up visions of princesses and Mickey Mouse, a fantasy for the young at heart and their parents who share the experience with them. But Disney isn’t just for the preschool set. On a recent trip to Disneyland with my nine-year old daughter, we had a chance to discover a side to Disney beyond the Mad Tea Party spinning cups and the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride.

If your pre-teen thinks they’re too big for Disneyland, checkout these not to miss rides. We’ve put them in order of scream factor (according to my daughter) with 1 being a scream of fun and 5 being a scream of fear (and fun).

  1. Star Tours – The Adventure Continues

    The updated version of Star Tours is sensational. This 3D simulation ride has you escaping the powerful clutches of Darth Vader and zipping through space under the questionable piloting skills of C3-PO. You can guess there are a lot of near misses, dives and bumps in this simulation. Disney does a great job using the 3D technology, making you feel as though you are traveling at light speed or you’re on the verge of being stomped on by an AT-AT. I’ll admit, we are Star Wars fans but fan or not, the simulation experience is great. My daughter, and the row of older girls in front of us, got right into the experience. Even the ending made me jump in my seat. This is a popular ride so hit it early morning or evening. And be sure to grab a FastPass. We only had time to hit this ride once but I’ve heard the experience changes, giving you a new adventure.

  2. Indiana Jones Adventure

    Huge Indy fans we’ve seen the Indian Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular in Disney World and love it. Disneyland doesn’t have the show but instead offers the Indiana Jones Adventure experience. Strapped into a jeep, this ride reminds me of Disney World’s Dinosaur ride at Animal Kingdom (withouth the dinosaur jumping out at you). You have to be up for a lot of bumps (a lot of bumps) and sharp turns as your jeep navigates through underground caverns and over rocky terrain. Indiana Jones makes a few appearances throughout the ride too as he guides you to safety (that’s if you can make it out before being crushed by a big rolling boulder). We loved this ride and it’s obvious we weren’t the only ones as there were often long wait times to get on. And since this ride doesn’t exist at Disney World, it’s a must ride when visiting Disneyland.

  3. Space Mountain

    So your child is a big fan of roller coasters? What about riding them in the dark? Like being in an open-air rocket, Space Mountain shoots you through the blackened night sky with just the stars to guide your way. The futuristic space music that plays through the in-seat speakers really revs you up too. Unlike other roller coasters that have long straight tracks with up and down drops, Space Mountain’s track does at lot of turns, spiraling up and down the confined dome where the coaster rides. You can’t see this, but you can feel it. Unlike Space Mountain in Disney World, riders sit side-by-side (two per row). I actually prefer this to the single seat in Disney World. You might think that since this coaster is in the dark a front row seat doesn’t make a difference. You would be so wrong. You may not see the turns but you get a full view of the stars as they wiz by you and nothing beats the full on wind affect on the face. It really added to the whooshing through space feel.

  4. California Screamin

    As your child grows older (and taller), a whole new ride experience opens up to them. I’m talking roller coasters. My nine-year old daughter is a huge roller coaster fan. Disneyland and it’s sister park California Adventure has a few of these wild rides to offer the older Disney fan. One of my daughter’s favourites is the California Screamin located on the Pier in California Adventure. Unlike other roller coasters that slowly build the anticipation with that long climb to the first hill, the California Screamin shoots you off like a rocket. The speed for the whole coaster is fast – no slow moments here – and the drops are vertical with a loop tossed in for good measure. Our stomach’s flopped up and down on this one but it was with sheer pleasure (or maybe fear). Expect long lines on this coaster, especially in the evening. Even the FastPass lines were long as dusk arrived for riders wanting the thrill of riding the California Screamin with the glow of the carnival lights. Some rides on the pier close early due to the World of Color show that happens so be sure to plan you experience accordingly. And you won’t find a ride like this in Disney World.

  5. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

    Also located in Disney’s California Adventure park you’ll find the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, my nine-year old’s favourite ride. The Tower of Terror isn’t for the faint of heart as it drops you, many times, from dizzying heights while seated in the dark. If you think dropping in the dark is scary, wait until they open the elevator doors and you see just how high up you are, before they drop you at super fast speeds yet again. Although my daughter rides this hands-free, I’m usually gripping the handrails. Even the trip up to the elevator is a treat as it sets the stage for the scary experience. If you like freefall rides, you’ll love Tower of Terror and the technology behind it means that each drop experience will be different and unpredictable.

Of course there are other rides we enjoyed, such as the Matterhorn Bobsleds and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad but if my daughter could only go on five rides, the five listed above would be at the top of her list.

So just because your child isn’t into Mickey Mouse or princesses doesn’t mean they won’t have a screaming good time at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure. Add these rides to your agenda and you’re sure to be the cool mom, even if you scream the whole time you are on the ride together.

Thanks to the folks at Anaheim/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau and The Walt Disney Company (Canada) Ltd., Parks and Resorts for co-ordinating our visit.

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