UPDATED: October 2020
We’ve had the amazing opportunity to travel to all Disney parks in the world, twice! Along with that, we’ve also been passholders for 8 out of the 12 parks! We’re critics – and thus can’t help but compare every experience at each Disney park. We’ve reasoned back and forth and have taken the changes over the past couple of years in account to create this list ranking all Disney parks in the World. (Please note that this article has been completely rewritten from our January 2019 edition).
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12. Walt Disney Studios – Disneyland Paris Resort
It may not come as a surprise, but Disneyland Paris Resort’s second gate is the least exciting Disney park around. While the park may have trended up with my personal experience this last visit in 2020, there’s no denying it is mostly a side-show to the vast superior park next door. Though their lineup of rides is shaping up to be unique, the park is currently a big construction zone, and way too small. Its minimal lineup of rides simply can’t carry the operation.
While this park remains the least-attended park in the chain, the park’s low-capacity ride roster still presents the parkgoer with long wait times that, with a few exceptions, are not worth enduring. The studio-themed gate is currently home to a few highlight attractions, including the re-imagined Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a signature dark ride Ratatouille, and Crush’s Coaster. – All three vastly entertaining, but simply insufficient for a Disney park.
This park, however, is quickly expanding. Soon the park’s Rock ‘n Roller Coaster conversion to an Iron Man launch coaster will accompany a Spider-Man dark ride in the new Marvel Land. A Cars-inspired Route 66 Studio Tour-esque attraction will also add yet another thing to do. Covid-19 project delays notwithstanding, this park will also add an impressive expansion with a lagoon-show, a Star Wars Land and a Frozen Land in the next few years.
11. Magic Kingdom – Walt Disney World
I am not trying to lose you early in this list, but for someone that’s very familiar with all twelve Disney theme parks, Magic Kingdom just isn’t it for me. The World’s most attended theme park fails to surprise and create ‘magic’ like the other Disney parks do. Of all the castle parks found around the world, Florida’s versions of classic Disney staples (rides) are often the least polished, and quite frankly the whole lineup lacks originality. Walking around this massive park, especially if Walt Disney World is your first Disney resort, is overwhelming. Very little, however, is unique or new.
Even at their worst renditions, Disney parks classics are great rides. But, of all the Big Thunder Mountain Railroads, Magic Kingdom’s is the roughest, the least detailed, and the most in need of a serious refurbishment. When it comes to Pirates of the Caribbean, this instillation is nearly an insult at the original, and far behind the others. Space Mountain, though a personal favorite, lacks updated effects that we’ve seen on newer installations. Overall, as a Disney fan, I expect more.
This is not to say that there aren’t highlights at the park – the additional space and grandness compared to the original Disneyland sure has its advantages when it comes to crowd control. A polished newer attraction is Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, though even that has a clone elsewhere (Shanghai). Tomorrowland is outdated (though they’re working on that). Adventureland is the messiest of them all and quite frankly combines way too many exotic themes and lumps them together without any sort of regard for realism. Fantasyland may be a bit more polished, but it too throws too many themes and architecture styles together. If it weren’t for Liberty Square, Peoplemover and Carousel of Progress, the park would be totally devoid of unique characteristics.
I will add that with high-quality additions, the park’s overall quality will increase too. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was a great example of that. Once TRON: Lightcycle / Run opens, I really think the park will be a much more exciting place, and I can’t wait to discover the differences compared to the Shanghai original.
10. Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Walt Disney World
Disney’s other studio-themed park is a few years ahead of Paris’ with their expansions. Once upon a time this park truly was dead last in the lineup of Disney theme parks, but recent additions place it above Magic Kingdom. The studio theme has aged poorly, and Disney instead has gone a different direction. New assets such as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway have made the park more pleasant.
However, I can’t help but get frustrated at this park. Whether it’s the nerve-wracking process of getting a Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding group assigned, the park’s strange and annoying layout, or the lack of shade and concrete as far as the eye can see. (I mean, it’s Central Florida).
Luckily, the park is now home to several well-established and fan-favorite themed areas, including my favorite: Sunset Boulevard. Toy Story Land added a much needed family component to the park, though the oversized toys theme lacks detail I have come to expect from Disney, and the lack of shade is a serious experience-killer. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is an astonishing feat, however, and despite not having the largest roster of rides, Disney’s Hollywood Studios still places above Magic Kingdom.
9. Tokyo Disneyland – Tokyo Disney Resort
As the 3rd highest attended theme park on earth, Tokyo Disneyland is a highlight of Japanese pop culture and has beautifully maintained its feel and look as a classic Magic Kingdom park. This means, however, that a lot of Tokyo Disneyland is more copies of existing attractions. Luckily, this ultra-efficient gate is also home to some very special exclusives.
Tokyo Disneyland features near-duplicates of the Anaheim Space Mountain (original), Toon Town and Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as Florida’s Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Haunted Mansion, and Jungle Cruise (just to name a few). Tokyo Disneyland does have the more polished versions of everything we can find in Florida. – Better maintained, and more detailed.
This infamous Japanese resort has a plethora of things going for it, and though it may be challenging for Tokyo Disneyland to stand out with the amazing Tokyo DisneySea next door, it is not without its unique draws. The park is home to several Tokyo-unique attractions such as Pooh’s Hunny Hunt (one of the best trackless dark rides in the world), as well as Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek, a phenomenal “shooting” dark ride where themed elements are activated by the use of individual flashlights. This year the park’s new Beauty and the Beast trackless dark ride opened, adding yet another exclusive to their lineup.
Tokyo Disneyland is also particularly clean and tidy, and guests can expect stellar customer service. Countless popcorn flavors, amazing merchandise, and dazzlingly dressed parkgoers are also a Tokyo staple. This gate is a middle-tier Magic Kingdom with a fun mix of unique and classic Disney attractions, and the infrastructural and operational polish put it a cut above Magic Kingdom in Florida. The bleeding of themes and mishmash of attractions piled up, however, prevent it of being even higher on the list.
8. EPCOT – Walt Disney World
Another Walt Disney World park on our list – this time we’re at the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. This infamous park is home to a much different experience than almost any theme park out there. EPCOT combines a look at the future (somewhat) with culture. You don’t just go to EPCOT for rides, you go there to get a taste of the world.
Speaking of a taste of the world, EPCOT’s World Showcase and its many pavilions are home to elaborate festivals, including the International Food & Wine Festival, the International Flower & Garden Festival, and Festival of the Arts. The park’s spacious layout around the World Showcase Lagoon is not just perfect for festivals, it also makes for a very scenic park. The ambassadors, food, and culture-divine gems found at each country’s pavilion make for a great day of snacking, drinking and exploring.
EPCOT is also home to non-country specific pavilions that focus on education and the future. Over the years these pavilions have gotten more ride centric, and E-ticket attractions such as Test Track, Soarin’, Spaceship Earth and Mission Space can be found there. Currently, the park is undergoing a major renovation to take away all signs of the future and make it more about a celebration of the world all around the park. New areas will include World Nature, World Celebration and World Discovery to complement the World Showcase. This much needed upgrade doesn’t come without a fair share of construction walls and ugly facades, temporarily pushing back the park’s spot on our list to number 8.
Once the park’s new areas, nighttime spectacular, and E-ticket additions such as Ratatouille (France Pavilion) and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (World Discovery) have opened, the park may be one of Disney’s very best gates.
7. Disney California Adventure Park – Disneyland Resort
The first of the Californian Disney parks has made it to #7. Disney California Adventure Park offers guests an adventure through California, though it has a weird way of doing that. This park has had quite the transformation and is ever evolving. One thing is for certain, it is one of the stronger second gates in the chain. Disney California Adventure Park has several stellar themed areas, a good selection of E-tickets, and a near-completely unique attraction lineup.
Located right next to the cozy-yet-crammed Disneyland, Disney California Adventure Park’s genius infrastructure allows for the resort to host food festivals, and plays well with sightlines. In addition, the park’s somewhat unconventional park layout really transports you someplace else. Large expansive areas and their highlight attractions are woven together seamlessly, something that’s nearly impossible at Disneyland. Highlights include Soarin’ Around the World (flying theater), Incredicoaster (launched looping coaster), Grizzly River Run (river rapids ride), Radiator Springs Racers (stellar dark ride) and Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! (relaunch of Tower of Terror).
One of the ways the park really stands out is with its cohesive, clean, detailed themed areas. Some of the best Disney areas in the world can be found here, such as Grizzly Peak, Radiator Springs, Pixar Pier, and Buena Vista Street. Though some of the park’s areas are a bit inconsistent or have changed from being explicitly California themed, all areas of the park truly transport you to the American West Coast with their architecture, and it’s an overall cohesive product. Especially for a second gate.
6. Hong Kong Disneyland
Next, we’re finding the small but charming Hong Kong Disneyland. The park opened in ’05 and thus is relatively new, though it does manage to feel classic at the same time. The park’s beautiful location in the mountainous jungles of Hong Kong is quite a different environment, but for all other intents and purposes it feels a bit like Anaheim’s Disneyland. The nature is not the only way this park sets itself apart, the intense lack of crowds and unique-to-Hong Kong attractions set this resort apart as well.
One of the downsides of this park, much like Magic Kingdom, is the lack of originality. However, the park is beefing up a fun collection of Hong Kong-exclusive attractions that significantly elevate the experience at the park. This wasn’t always like this, as this gate opened with just Fantasyland (which didn’t receive a custom attraction until their unique rendition of it’s a small world in ’08), Tomorrowland with a simplified version of Anaheim’s Space Mountain (now Hyperspace Mountain), and a larger Adventureland with a custom Jungle Cruise. Nothing special – they played it safe after the over-spending on the Paris project 10 years prior. However, this meant that the only way for the park to ever become a full-day (or even multi-day) experience was to significantly add to their lineup. The park added a Toy Story Land (much like Paris and Shanghai) as their first major expansion.
Luckily the park has an agreement with the Hong Kong government to create special Hong Kong Disneyland exclusive attractions. We can thank this agreement for some of the resort’s best rides, like Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, the custom Vekoma coaster that combines Expedition Everest aspects with the best of the popular Big Thunder Mountain Railroad coasters. The park is also home to Mystic Manor, a trackless dark ride that continues the story of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers from Tokyo DisneySea’s Tower of Terror. The park is also the first with a Marvel Campus, including the new Iron Man Experience (think Star Tours, but through Hong Kong) and the Antman and the Wasp shooting dark ride.
Though the park doesn’t feel very special at first, the classic Disney rides along with many intimate areas make the park quite unique of an experience in the end. If you need a few more selling points, the park’s attendance is very low, and thus there is almost never a long line for any of the rides. In addition, some of the very best merchandise of any theme parks in the world can be found inside this Hong Kong Disney gate.
TO CHECK OUT THE TOP 5, CONTINUE TO PAGE 2.