Sean: We’ve had the amazing opportunity to visit each Disney park in the world in the past year (in 9 months, actually). We’re critics – and couldn’t help but compare every experience at each Disney park. We’ve reasoned back and forth, and have ultimately decided to compile a comprehensive ranking to share with the world. Below is a list of all Disney parks, ranked from worst to best!
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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 a disappointment. With a minimal lineup of attractions, rough-looking areas, insufficient theming, lots of torn up concrete, and the smallest footprint in the Disney lineup, Walt Disney Studios doesn’t have a lot going for it.
The park is home to the better Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, a copy of Anaheim’s Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and next-gen dark ride Ratatouille – all three are good attractions but only Ratatouille screams “Disney quality.” Rat cannot carry this park.
Though it’s the least-attended Disney park, several rides manage to be capacity nightmares. Major attractions (for the park) such as the Toy Story Land rides and Crush’s Coaster punish visitors with terrifying waits in a park that they probably don’t want to spend much time in anyways.
The good news is Disney is painfully aware of the park’s status. Three major expansions are planned including a Marvel Land, Frozen Land and Star Wars Land around a large lake with a show similar to World of Color in California Adventure.
11. Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Walt Disney World
Next up is the United States’ studio-themed Disney park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It should be noted that once upon a time the idea of a studio-themed park was a well-loved concept at Disney, but the idea has aged poorly in both cases. Walt Disney World’s version is a mere few classic attractions and shows, making Hollywood Studios a half-day park at best.
The park recently opened Toy Story Land with the Slinky Dog Dash coaster, but the area fails to elevate the park to a higher rank. Toy Story Land is cute, but lacks shade, and is not nearly as detailed as some of Disney’s better new projects. Besides Toy Story Land and major shows, such Indiana Jones and Fantasmic!, the park has just three (not-kid-friendly) rides: Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror and Star Tours. Rides aside, the small park doesn’t exactly have the most enjoyable atmosphere, either.
The main issues with this park are outdated theme elements and lack of rides. It’s cleaner and better-developed than Disneyland Paris’ second gate, but it doesn’t have a whole lot going for it either (not ’til they open Star Wars’ Galaxy’s Edge next year and Mickey’s Runaway Railroad at least).
10. Magic Kingdom – Walt Disney World
Magic Kingdom’s ranking may be a bit of a surprise, but as of right now the world’s most attended theme park fails to surprise like other Disney parks do. Of all Magic Kingdom parks (“Disneylands”), Orlando’s versions of classic rides lack a feeling of originality. Sure, walking around Magic Kingdom is exciting, but very little of it is unique or new.
Signature Disney attractions are great, but of all Big Thunder Mountain Railroads, the Walt Disney World version is roughest, the least detailed, and the most in need of serious refurbishment. When it comes to Pirates of the Caribbean, the Walt Disney World installation is far behind the others, leaving Disney fans wanting more. Space Mountain is lovely, but lacks the updated effects of newer installments.
Magic Kingdom is a big version of the original Disneyland – the additional space and the grandness is definitely a positive aspect of the park. The most unique and exciting attraction would be Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, though it, too, has a clone. Tomorrowland feels outdated and disorganized, Adventureland is messy, Fantasyland has received a nice update but feels inconsistent, and, to put it simply, 95% of the rides have versions elsewhere (and most of them are better). If it weren’t for Liberty Square and Peoplemover, the park would totally devoid of unique characteristics.
Magic Kingdom is great, but it lacks a true marquee attraction… for now. Once TRON Lightcycle Power Run has opened, Magic Kingdom will suddenly be a much more modern and magical place.
9. Tokyo Disneyland – Tokyo Disney Resort
Next on our list is Tokyo Disneyland! The 3rd most attended theme park in the world (2017) is a highlight of Japanese pop culture and has maintained its status as a true classic Magic Kingdom. This characteristic is both a strength and a weakness; much like Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland features mostly copies of existing attractions.
Tokyo Disneyland features a duplicate of the Anaheim Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean, and Orlando’s Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise (just to name a few). The main difference between the versions at Tokyo Disneyland and US versions, however, is that the Tokyo versions are generally of higher quality – they feel better maintained and more detailed.
Of course the infamous Japanese resort has plenty of things going for it, and though it may be challenging for Tokyo Disneyland to stand out with Tokyo DisneySea next door, it’s not without its unique draws. The park is home to several Tokyo-only attractions, namely the wonderful trackless dark ride Pooh’s Hunny Hunt (one of the best dark rides around) as well as Monsters, Inc.: Ride & Go Seek, a phenomenal “shooting” dark ride where themed elements are activated by the use of individual flashlights.
Tokyo Disneyland is also a particularly clean and tidy park with stellar customer service. Among other things, amazing merchandise, countless popcorn flavors, and dazzlingly-dressed parkgoers definitely set this resort apart. It’s the middle-tier Magic Kingdom park that may not offer many unique attractions, but it’s infrastructural and operational polish makes it a cut above.
8. Disney California Adventure – Disneyland Resort
We find our first of the Californian parks in spot #8, Disney California Adventure! This “second gate” is one of the few to offer a complete full-day experience. The park is home to almost all original unique attractions, many of which paying homage to the state of California. The park has had a troubled past, but compared to Disney’s Walt Disney Studios (Paris) and Disney’s Hollywood Studios (WDW), it could have been a lot worse.
Being located right next to the cozy, yet crammed Disneyland, Disney California Adventure’s wise midways and unconventional layout are accentuated – there’s plenty of room, with large attractions taking up much more space than they could next door. Highlights include the park’s Soarin’ Around the World flying theater, Incredicoaster looping launch coaster, Grizzly River Run river rapids ride, and one of the world’s best dark rides: Radiator Springs Racers. The park is also home to a newly redesigned Tower of Terror with a much better story, theming, and ride program than other versions of the ride: Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!.
Some of our favorite themed areas in the world can be found in this park, such as the uniquely Californian Grizzly Peak (home to two E-ticket attractions), as well as Radiator Springs – one of Disney’s most impressive environs – in which guests explore the world of Cars with multiple attractions and amazing scenery, entertainment, shopping and dining.
There are still sections of this once-troubled park that need some work: Paradise Gardens Park and Hollywood Land lack consistency, and Pixar Pier is one of the most disappointing recent Disney products. But luckily the park as a whole still delivers to be a lovely and unique Disney park. It isn’t quite as grand or well-executed as some of the following parks on the list, but definitely a wonderful second gate to the original Disneyland.
7. Hong Kong Disneyland
We’re getting to the middle of the list, where we find ourselves at the small but charming Hong Kong Disneyland. The park is relatively new but looks very classic, which has its pros and cons. The park’s location is beautiful, situated in the humid jungle mountains of Hong Kong – the feeling of Anaheim’s classic Disneyland, elevated by a natural setting, is one of the few ways this resort sets itself apart. While not so great for Disney, the lack of crowds at this resort make for a wonderful experience with minimum waiting.
A con of this park, much like Magic Kingdom, is the lack of originality. The park is now beefing up a collection of Hong Kong-exclusive attractions that elevate the quality of this resort, though it definitely didn’t start out that way. The park opened with a Fantasyland much like the others, a Tomorrowland with a simplified version of Anaheim’s Space Mountain, and a large Adventureland with a combination of Jungle Cruise and Rivers of America. As part of a major expansion project, the park opened Toy Story Land, which has now been duplicated at multiple parks around the chain. Though these areas are all a tad different from the original in Hong Kong, they still fail to feel unique.
Luckily the park has an agreement with the Hong Kong government to create special Hong Kong Disneyland exclusive attractions. We can thank the agreement for some of the resort’s best rides, such as Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, the custom Vekoma coaster combines some of Expedition Everest‘s best aspects with the popular Big Thunder Mountain Railroad coasters. The park is also home to Mystic Manor, a trackless dark ride with unique story and theme that offers one of the best dark ride experiences in the world.
The park recently added the Iron Man Experience, a unique simulator ride that has jumpstarted the new Marvel Land coming to the park (replacing Tomorrowland). Though the park may not feel very special at first, the classic attractions combined with the new-age attractions make for a lovely alternate experience to the nearby Tokyo Disneyland.
6. EPCOT – Walt Disney World
We’re back at the Walt Disney World Resort with our next park on the list, EPCOT, a beloved park that offers more than just beautiful attractions. EPCOT is home to a unique theme park concept that hasn’t been done much since; it offers a refreshing combination of a (somewhat) futuristic themed side of the park, with a permanent World’s Fair-style collection of pavilions. You don’t go to EPCOT just to ride rides, you go there to get a taste of the world.
Speaking of taste of the world, EPCOT is home to many elaborate festivals, the most popular being the International Food & Wine Festival, which perfectly compliment what the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow stands for. The park’s spacious layout allows for big lagoon shows and all of the special events.
What makes EPCOT so great is the combination of things to see and do, you could spend an entire day at the park just exploring cultures and eating, or you could plan on enjoying some of the park’s major attractions such as Soarin’ Around the World, Mission: Space, Frozen Ever After, or one of our favorites: Spaceship Earth. The majority of the attractions at the park are unique in a way that they manage to be educational.
Though EPCOT can feel a bit dated in spots, (it’s challenging keeping up with the future), and the park isn’t very ride-centric, though they’re adding several major new attractions such as the Ratatouille ride as well as the Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster. It may not be everyone’s kind of theme park, but there is no denying EPCOT offers something to do for everyone, has enough for multiple days of diversions –the same can not be said for all Disney parks.
TO CHECK OUT THE TOP 5, CONTINUE TO PAGE 2.