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Disneyland Article
Does It Pass The Smell Test Rides Ranked By Their Scents
Julie Tremaine
In an era when social media has made everyone with an annual pass a theme park influencer, it seems like we’ve got rankings of every Disneyland ride, wait time, snack, souvenir and entertainment offering. But no one is talking about one of the most crucial elements to the park experience: the smell. Walt Disney himself knew that scents were important to forming positive memories. Just think about the irresistible aroma of baked goods on Main Street, or the popcorn carts in the hub, and how integral they are to the park experience. That philosophy has carried itself through Disneyland ride design for the past six-plus decades.

Well, for the most part. Some rides need a serious scent makeover. Here are the highs and lows of the ride scents at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, in a totally subjective ranking from best to worst, based solely on opinions I’ve formed on my many trips around the track.

The Great

1. Soarin’ Around the World

There can hardly be an argument about the fact that Soarin’ Around the World, the attraction that most prominently features scents, is the best smelling in Disneyland. I’m sure there are plenty of you who are totally incensed (see what I did there?) that Pirates isn’t No. 1. Don’t worry, we’ll get there, but for now, just take a moment to remember the pure bliss of being suspended in the air, surrounded by an 80-foot, 180-degree screen, as you breathe in the grassy savannah of Kilimanjaro National Park in Tanzania, the cool ocean breezes of the Lau Islands in Fiji, and the jasmine surrounding the Taj Mahal in India. Or, at least, Disney’s interpretation of what those places smell like.

2. Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!

Here’s the sleeper hit of this list. The Monsters, Inc. ride in Hollywoodland in Disney California Adventure has subtle scents, but it smells delicious. Next time you’re cruising through Monstropolis, take an extra-deep breath in the Harryhausen’s scene, when a sharp, pleasant scent of ginger pervades the air. In the ride finale Scare Floor, at the part where a door randomly opens to reveal a different scene each time, you’ll get a blast of sweet lemon if you happen to get the Adorable Snowman door. It smells so good that it sends me beelining to Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats for a Pixar Pier Frosty Parfait every. Single. Time.

3. Pirates of the Caribbean

OK, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. The scent of this iconic 1967 ride is, for many people, the defining scent of Disneyland. But what does it smell like? I can never quite put my finger on it, other than that it’s one part chemical (the bromine the park uses to clean the water), one part smoke and fog from the special effects, one part kitchen aromas from Blue Bayou, one part mustiness from the attraction’s 54 years of history and one part nostalgia. The scent is so deeply beloved that it has inspired candles, room sprays, even perfumes.

4. Haunted Mansion Holiday

I’m a Haunted Mansion purist. It’s not that I don’t love the seasonal overlay of Haunted Mansion Holiday, it’s just that I love the original spooky dark ride more. But when my Doom Buggy rolls into the Halloweentown-inspired ballroom scene and I get a whiff of the spicy-sweet air coming off that killer gingerbread house, I can’t help but feel excited. Does it feel too Christmasy at Halloween and too Halloweeny at Christmas? Of course, but that’s all part of the delightful conundrum that is “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

5. “It’s a Small World” Holiday

In a total reversal from my stance on Disneyland’s other holiday overlay, the festive version of “It’s a Small World” is my absolute favorite iteration of that ride. The coconut smell in the Hawaii scene, the jasmine in the India scene and the unmistakably Disney-at-Christmas gingerbread scent are all welcome additions for me.

The Good

6. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Heffalumps and Woozles don’t have a smell, but the honey pots in this ride definitely do. The sugary scent of Pooh’s favorite food is subtle on this ride, but it adds to the atmosphere in just the right way. It also gets your taste buds ready for a sweet treat from Pooh Corner, if you’re like me.

7. Disneyland Railroad

Maybe the Disneyland Railroad doesn’t have an aroma you can really pinpoint, but it’s second only to Pirates in what you might describe as “the Disneyland scent” you find on older attractions. Next time you’re chugging through the Primeval World section of the track, with the dinosaurs, take a deep breath. It’s part pleasantly musty, part like old plastic plants. To me, it smells like the field trips I used to take to museums when I was a kid, and I get a delightful sense of nostalgia every time I ride.

8. Jungle Cruise

If the backside of water had a smell, it would be this combination of foliage, flowers, animatronic animals and unapologetic puns. Jungle Cruise has less of a scent and more of a refreshing atmosphere. It’s not just a nice break from walking and from thrill rides — with the water and the shade, this boat ride is also a nice break from the dry California heat.

The Just OK

9. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Most of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad doesn’t have a particular smell, which, given that it’s based on the Wild West, a time not particularly remembered for its hygiene, is probably a good thing. There’s one part that does have an olfactory component to it, though: In the scene where the mine is about to explode, there’s a burning scent. The first time I smelled it after the ride was “plussed” to include the smoke smell, I thought maybe it was the machinery of the train itself. Now I know it’s just a haunted mine about to detonate with me inside. Much better.

10. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Just like on Big Thunder Mountain, the only part of Mr. Toad that has a smell is the most intense part — only instead of barely escaping an incendiary mine, you descend into literal hell. The blast of heat that comes with the appearance of the devils has a hot, dry scent that isn’t exactly pleasant but perfectly fits the netherworld scene.

The Bad

11. Casey Jr. Circus Train

This little kid ride in Fantasyland isn’t the worst smelling ride in the park, but it’s close. The smell of the engine of this narrow gauge train, which opened as an original attraction in 1955, is a little too strong for my preference. Maybe I’m just averse to squeezing myself into a kid-sized “monkey cage,” though. It’s a real toss up.

12. Autopia

You had to know this was coming, right? Jack Plotnick, who makes modern updates to classic “Wonderful World of Color” videos, described Autopia as “a ride for people who, I guess, like sitting in traffic.” The only difference is the exhaust on the kid-sized cars on this Tomorrowland ride actually smells worse than a freeway full of rush hour-trapped cars in the middle of a heat wave. Every time I get a whiff of this odiferous attraction I wonder why, when there are so many fumes coming off the cars, Disneyland still has it operating in fundamentally the same way it was when the park opened in 1955 (though the most recent versions of the cars to be implemented went in in 2000). The kicker? Autopia’s name is a portmanteau of “automobile utopia.” Oh, the irony.

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