Set just next to the Jungle Cruise in Disneyland Park’s Fronteirland is the entrance to Indiana Jones Adventure. It seems unassuming – just a sign amongst the trees and a few attendants managing two lines for stand-by riders and FASTPASS holders. But beyond the palm fronds and thick vines is a complex series of passageways that wind through catacombs and open halls.

Indiana Jones Adventure ride review
Disneyland” by Jeremy Thompson licensed under CC BY 2.0

Indiana Jones boasts one of longest and most detailed paths of any ride in existence. And though many wait lines, such as Space Mountain, have been well designed to fit within the style and feel of the ride, none have as much to do with the overall experience as Indiana Jones Adventure. It is immersive, exciting, dynamic and exhilarating. And has remained a must-ride since it opened in 1995.

The Temple of the Forbidden Eye

For anyone who is a fan of the Indiana Jones trilogy, just the mention of the name will bring to mind the iconic theme song. Indiana Jones is a professor of archeology who ends up taking a number of adventures in foreign lands during the 1930’s. 

Archeological digs that uncovered artifacts from lost cultures in Egypt and North India during that time-period made travel to those locations glamorous and mysterious. It is this concept of tourism that the ride is based on. And it doesn’t disappoint. 

Set in the Bengalese Temple of the Forbidden Eye, Indiana Jones Adventure has an extensive background story that guests learn about along the journey to the loading dock. Dr. Jones discovered an ancient scroll with the location of this temple that contains valuable artifacts that have remained buried for two thousand years. 

Funding for the dig has run out. In an attempt to offset the cost, and keep the Sallah, an old friend of Indiana, has started taking tourists through the temple so they can find their own good fortune. Only some of the tourists have gotten lost. Having gone in after them, and on his own search for the temple’s prize possession, the Jewel of Power, Indiana has been missing for a week. 

Experiencing Indiana Jones Adventure

As you set off on your journey, you pass through the entrance to the temple, which is a stone structure that stretches up to the sky. As old-time music plays, you follow a string of flickering lights that seem to be powered by a dodgy generator. Bamboo posts have been used to shore up the stone passageway, and turned into railings tied together with thick rope. 

As you walk deeper into the temple, you start to see some of the ‘obstacles’ Indiana Jones has had to overcome in every one of the three movies, such as spikes with the skulls of those who couldn’t escape fast enough. It’s a reminder to beware of booby-traps the old temple builders used to keep thieves from robbing them of their precious artifacts. Petroglyphs are etched into the walls of the big hall you enter halfway through the queue.

They tell the tale of Mara, the temple deity who watches over the artifacts and can reward seekers with one of three gifts: The Fountain of Eternal Youth, Chamber of Earthly Riches, and the Observatory of the Future. 

Once you’ve walked nearly half a mile into the depths of the temple, you reach a loading dock where guests are boarding transport trucks by the dozen. This is the point of no return!

Each transport truck carries twelve passengers in three rows of four. The jeeps are outfitted with extra gas tanks and metal boxes that surely contain excavation tools. The guest, who sits in the front row on the right side, will be behind the wheel. So when things go bad, as they always seem to where Indiana Jones is concerned, you can blame them!

After a quick seat-belt check, you’re on your way. As soon as you turn the corner there are three doors marking the real entrance to the temple. Each door represents a different reward – The fountain of Youth, the Chamber of Earthly Riches, and the Observatory of the Future. The reward your party receives is chosen at random. 

You’ll either go right, left or straight. It really does change jeep to jeep, and it really is random. This is one of the benefits of riding this attraction over and over again. You never know which way you’re going to go!  

Once inside the Hall of Promise, the jeep stops to bask in the glory of your reward: sparkling blue light for the Fountain of Youth, glowing gold light to represent Earthly Riches, and a beautiful sky of stars in the Observatory of the Future. 

Except, Mara appears at the other end of the hall, where it’s nearly impossible not to look in her eyes. Thunderous noise and bolts of light illuminate the now blackened hall as you start your escape. The jeep immediately veers off to the right at full speed. Bouncing around in the darkness, you enter a cavern where Indiana Jones is fighting to keep stone doors closed. 

Clearly unhappy with your mistake of looking Mara in the eyes, he motions for you to dive up a set of stairs until you arrive at the edge of a huge lava pit with a questionable suspension bridge spanned across. You weave in and out of a series of catacombs, until it’s finally your turn to cross the bridge while dodging green lasers that shoot out from the eyes of Mara’s crumbling statue. 

The other side of the bridge isn’t any better. Towering cobra’s threaten to eat you alive, and since Indiana Jones is frightened of snakes, he tells you you’re on your own from here one out. You plunge down the cavern’s edge into another completely dark catacomb full of bats and bugs until you get to the edge of a passageway lined with Aztec skeletons holding spears.  

As you rush through, puffs of air hit you in the face as you just barely dodge poison darts shooting across your path. Finally, you find Indiana Jones hanging from a rope in mid air. As he sees you drive up, he begs for a ride out of the temple, but just as he’s about to jump in, a giant – and I mean giant – boulder at the other end of the cavern starts rolling toward you. 

The jeep backs up and at the last minute drops below the boulder to safety. This last drop is the biggest one of the ride and where your picture gets taken. Before you get back to the loading dock, you’ll see Indiana Jones standing next to the cracked boulder. Listen for any one of a number of his sarcastic remarks about tourists before you make it back to safety and disembark. 

The walk out of the temple is much like the walk in, but with far less warnings and signs that say, “Beware.” Which is probably a good thing give you barely made it out alive!

Enjoying Indiana Jones Adventure

Despite the Indiana Jones Adventures ride being over twenty years old, wait times can still be upwards of two hours, though more likely you’ll wait about an hour to board. Indiana Jones Adventures consistently ranks amongst the best FASTPASS rides partially because it’s almost entirely indoors, which means it’s great rain or shine, but because it’s a thrill ride that falls somewhere between roller coaster and a slow-moving story-based ride, making it fun for almost the entire family. 

Indiana Jones Adventure is popular during all park hours, which means FASTPASS distribution will normally close by late afternoon. Be sure to keep an eye on FASTPASS availability through the Disneyland mobile app to ensure you don’t miss out. If for some reason you don’t make it in time, and your party is okay with being split up, consider using the Single Rider feature. 

One of the attendants at the entrance will give you a paper ticket and send you down the exit line toward the loading dock. You’ll merge with the mainline at some point, but almost always make it to the loading dock before the FASTPASS line. 

Because the jeep is open on both sides and a lap belt is the only thing holding you in, this ride has one of the most restrictive height requirements. You must be at least 46” (117cm) to ride. It’s also not recommended for people who are sensitive to jerking motion.

The jeep simulates riding over boulders and climbing rocks. It’s very similar to a 4×4 off-roading experience. And although it doesn’t seem like it, the jeeps can get up to 14 miles per hour. 

It’s also important to know that while you can take your bag on every ride at Disneyland Park and Disney’s California Adventure Park, the jeeps have the least amount of room for storage. If you can avoid bringing a large bag with you, you’ll have more legroom.

The small net is only big enough to hold a medium-size purse. If you don’t have anyone to leave your belongings with while you ride, consider renting a locker located inside the park.

There are long stretches of complete darkness, making it one of the Disneyland dark rides, and the entire ride takes place in extremely low light. Strobes and bursts of flame can be startling as can the general feel of the storyline. The minimum height requirement means the majority of passengers will be older, but for younger children, this ride can be considered quite scary. 

Three and a half minutes of large snakes, loud noises, flames and fires, bugs, skeletons and the extreme motion of off-roading in complete darkness might be a little too much for some people. But it is also what makes Indiana Jones Adventure so thrilling. There is only one significant jump scare at the end of the ride when the jeep plunges to dodge the large rolling boulder, but it isn’t as steep or as long as Pirates of the Caribbean. 

Indiana Jones ride vs Dinosaur ride

Many people have pointed out that Indiana Jones Adventure is very similar to Dinosaur ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. The vehicles are the same, although they are outfitted differently to match the style of the ride. While you ride a troop transport through the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, Dinosaur loads you into a Time Rover to make the journey back in time. 

The Dinosaur vs Indiana Jones ride: Why are they so similar?

Given the ride takes you over terrain trough an overgrown forest, you will experience a very similar ‘rough ride’ as you escape a series of dinosaurs in your path. The narration by the paleontologist is constant throughout the ride, more so than Indiana Jones adventure, but the backstory is about as well developed as the one for Indiana Jones. 

The greatest similarity is at the end of the ride, when you encounter the largest and most fearful dinosaur on your journey and just barely make it back to present time by plunging down underneath it the same way you avoid being crushed by the giant boulder. Aside from that, the only other similarity is that both rides take you back in time. 

Fun Details to Find

Because Indiana Jones Adventures is based on the series of movies, there are several hidden details along the way. Here are some not to be missed:

Crates with Significant Features – along the path to the loading dock, there are several crates stacked along the way. Some of these are non-descript, but a few have some unique markings. One is labeled with the number “990 6753,” which is the number written on the crate that held the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark. 

Nod to Star Wars – Because the Indiana Jones movies were collaboration between Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, there is another crate marked, “Deliver to Club Obi Wan.” This references something at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which itself reverences the character Obi Wan Kenobi from the original Star Wars. One can only imagine what is in it!

Mickey and Minnie – When you pass by Indiana Jones’ vacant office, look for a copy of Life Magazine. The famous Disney couple, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, appears on the cover. Seems Indiana Jones had vacation plans after all. 

Decoder Key – Throughout the passage to the loading dock, there are dozens of petroglyphs along the wall. They can be decoded using a decoder card that was handed out to guests when the ride began in 1995. Though the cards are no longer available, copies can be found online. And for those sleuths who are super-savvy, try cracking them on your own!

Old Hollywood – As you exit, be sure to look for the Mercedes-Benz diesel truck permanently parked just off to the side. For fans of the film, this is the actual truck that was used in the desert chase scene of the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

These are just a few of the hidden details that can be found as you walk deeper into the temple. Try finding your own!

Conclusion

Indiana Jones Adventure is hands-down one of the best rides at any Disneyland theme park. It was reproduced for Disneyland Tokyo, and has remained as popular there as has in Southern California. The first-time visitor should put this at the top of their list.  It’s a five-star attraction. It always has been and always will be. As long as Indiana Jones keeps searching for buried treasure at Disneyland Resort, you’ll always be part of the adventure.

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