5. Animal Kingdom – Walt Disney World
We made it to our top 5! Despite generally feeling like Walt Disney World is too large for its own good, taking away of some of the quality of each park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a clear exception to the rule. The reason that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is so high on the list is quite simple: immersion. No other park on resort transports you to a different world the way Animal Kingdom does. With some of the world’s best themed areas, sightlines aren’t something to worry about. Copies of rides from other parks aren’t found at this park, either. In fact, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the only park in the entire Disney chain with a 100% unique attraction roster.
While Dinoland U.S.A. is a nightmare and an ugly mess, it doesn’t hurt the brilliance of the rest of the park. Areas such as Africa, Asia and Pandora are so immersive and beautiful that you do not need to ride a single ride to feel fulfilled. Amazing queues, walk-through animal trails, safari rides, train rides, dark rides, water rides and roller coasters – Disney’s Animal Kingdom has it all without any sort of disruption of the exotic themes.
The cohesion and perfect integration between rides and animal experiences is particularly clear in the park’s Africa and Asia areas. In Africa the park’s Kilimanjaro Safaris and Rafiki’s Planet Watch train ride are met by the impressive Gorilla Falls animal trails. In Asia, beautiful Kali River Rapids is surrounded by the Maharajan Jungle Trek and monkey exhibits along its flume. The park’s signature Expedition Everest rollercoaster makes for the most beautiful backdrop. Despite not having any animals, Pandora has two of the resorts best attractions that also truly transport you away from this planet: Na’vi River Journey and Flight of Passage. – The park is almost too amazing to be at Walt Disney World.
4. Disneyland Park – Disneyland Resort
Ah! While we understand if you’d disagree with this ranking, please note it was an incredibly close call between Disneyland and Parc Disneyland (Paris). At this point in the list we’re simply looking at the best of the best in the world. Disneyland deserves credit for being Walt Disney’s dream-come-true theme park and is home to many industry revolutionary attractions and ‘firsts’ that we’ve since seen at other parks around the world. Disneyland has an atmosphere unlike any other park, a stellar lineup of attraction, a classic feel, and our hearts.
From the moment you enter Disneyland it’s clear that the park is much smaller than the new parks. The castle is tiny, Main Street U.S.A. feels crammed, the entrances to themed lands are all at your fingertips. Yet the attendance of Disneyland Park in Anaheim is the 2nd highest in the world, just behind Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. This creates for some bottlenecks, but also an unbeatable atmosphere. The park’s ride roster is incredibly dense, and all these amazing attractions are at your immediate disposal. – To top it off, there are hardcore Disney fans, and Easter eggs as far as the eye can see.
Disneyland’s very limited real estate means that rides are towering on each other. It also means that every ride is very well maintained, and nearly every inch of the park is detailed and clean. The original Disney park is home to unique attractions such as the original Monorail, which doubles as a ride and transportation service between Tomorrowland and Downtown Disney. Other unique rides include the Nemo & Friends Submarine Voyage, the amazing Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and our personal favorite: Matterhorn Bobsleds, an iconic roller coaster of unparalleled significance and one of the best Disney rides.
Disneyland also features many other rides for which it became famous, including the highly iconic Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, as well as the thrilling Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Other major attractions include the smaller version of Space Mountain, the original Splash Mountain, and highly detailed Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. In 2019 the park added Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which is a better version of the one located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In true Disneyland spirits, this version of Batuu is narrower, has better transitions with neighboring themed-lands, and has more detail and cast interaction.
To defend the number 4 spot on the 2020 edition of this list: The immense crowds and limited infrastructure unfortunately do mean that queues are often on the midways, and that crowd control can get frustrating during nighttime parades, firework shows, or Fantasmic!. This and the fact that some upgraded versions of the iconic Disneyland rides elsewhere are simply even better, is why the original Disney park is just shy of the top 3.
3. Parc Disneyland – Disneyland Paris Resort
Unlike the misery that is Walt Disney Studios next door, Parc Disneyland is one of the best Disney parks. Disney knew when entering the European market that winning the hearts of the tough French and rivaling well-established European themed resorts wasn’t going to be easy. Every dime they had, every detail they could dream up, and every improved version of the original Disney classics made their way into this castle park. Parc Disneyland encompasses European attention to detail for landscaping and architecture while continuing the dreams that started in Anaheim.
Every area of this Disney gate has thoroughly well-rounded lineup or design quirks. The entrance to the park is a gorgeous set of gardens and the impressive Disneyland Hotel. Main Street U.S.A. has two accompanying indoor arcades with beautiful theming that help with guest flow with staying warm in the winter. Every themed land has at least one detailed walkthrough attraction to explore, and no two areas bleed. Every transition seems clever, every themed area manages to stick to a singular theme, aesthetic, and atmosphere. This is so highly unique for Disney that we need to mention this.
Disneyland Paris Resort is also home to the best-in-class Disney classics. The unique Jules Verne inspired Discoveryland has a launched looping coaster: Hyperspace Mountain, that’s quite frankly out-of-this-world good. The park’s Frontierland features Phantom Manor (best version of Haunted Mansion) that tells a story completely in-line with their Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (which is even seen during the Phantom Manor ride). Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Parc Disneyland is uniquely situated on an island in the middle of Rivers of the Far West, meaning the thrilling coaster must dive below the water at several points to enter and exit the island.
The park, mainly due to its year-round operations in a relatively cold region of the world, does not feature any major “wet” rides. Not that water dark rides are missing however, as the far superior classic Pirates of the Caribbean is found at this park, and the beautiful alternate approach to it’s a small world can’t be missed either. This is also the only Fantasyland at any Disney park with one cohesive style and is a clear inspiration for Shanghai’s Gardens of Imagination. – The incredible drive from Disney to bring their American successes and tailor it to the European audience and expectations is what lead to the best-in-class versions of the Disney staple rides. We consider this Disney’s most polished and beautiful castle park.
2. Tokyo DisneySea – Tokyo Disney Resort
Another shocker? Perhaps. Most people consider Tokyo DisneySea to be the very best Disney park, and I completely understand. However, after having visited this immaculate theme park on several visits, there is an impression we developed that I think you’ll understand once explained below. First and foremost, let me agree with everyone else and state that Tokyo DisneySea is the most beautiful Disney park on the planet; realistic immersion with just the right amount of magic.
Tokyo DisneySea has a fabulous layout that just seems to make sense wherever you go. The park features life-sized harbors, themes not seen elsewhere, and continuations and elaborations on some well-known Disney attractions and themes. Tokyo DisneySea has not one area that feels remotely similar to that in another park. Whether you just walk around the park, or visit to ride some of the park’s unique attractions, there is so much to see and do. The famous Journey to the Center of the Earth is one of the world’s best dark rides, combining a plethora of amazing effects and physical scenes to immerse guests into an action-packed ride like no other. The park is also home to a special Tower of Terror, themed to New York, the unique rendition of Autopia on water: Aquatopia, and our personal favorite, Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage. The park’s line up features several of the world’s best dark rides, shows, transportation methods, and themed environments, and has recently expanded on that with their own version of popular Soarin’.
Tokyo DisneySea is also home to two roller coasters, the small but charming Flounder’s Flying Fish Coaster, as well as the more-elaborate version of Paris’ Indiana Jones coaster with Aztec theming and quite some effects: Raging Spirits. These coasters, however, are quite uninteresting. The local audience may find them thrilling enough, and surely DisneySea’s focus is not on roller coasters, but it’s important to note that the park lacks a signature coaster. In addition, Tokyo DisneySea features several boat rides (dark rides and transportation) but no flume rides that get you wet. No shoot the chute, no log ride, no rapids ride – what I’m getting at here, as you may have figured, is that though Tokyo DisneySea is stunning and has a lot to do, its lineup is missing two very important strong players.
Tokyo DisneySea is a feast for the eyes, hardly anything you’ll experience here can be experienced somewhere else. Amazing dark rides, food, entertainment, what else would you want? Let’s add a major thrilling rollercoaster to the lineup, or let’s add a rapids ride in the Cape Cod section of the American Waterfront. Then you’ve got yourself the very best Disney Park. DisneySea has a stellar lineup sure to entertain you for days, but the lineup is just slightly imperfect.
1. Shanghai Disneyland
The park that takes our number one spot is “Distinctly Chinese, Authentically Disney.” The 2016 opening of Shanghai Disneyland meant that the world had one more destination theme park to add to their bucket list – Shanghai Disneyland has bold, breathtaking atmosphere and an incomparable lineup of rides and entertainment.
Shanghai Disneyland brings us all that we love about the Magic Kingdom parks in a lovely new fashion. Instead of Main Street U.S.A. we have Mickey Avenue, whose shape is much more welcoming to large crowds and still features plenty of shopping, dining and of course a train station (but no actual train). The giant Enchanted Storybook Castle is 197 feet tall and home to an elaborate walk-through and a relaxing courtyard. The park features several classic dark rides such as Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, and a Jungle Cruise-type attraction with a new story-telling twist: Voyage to the Crystal Grotto.
The park’s outstanding accomplishments can be found with stellar theming throughout; Fantasyland is nicely spread out and features a carbon copy of Magic Kingdom’s Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Roaring Rapids, the world’s second longest rapids ride, perfectly blends in with South American-themed Adventure Isle and offers a great non-IP based ride experience. Soarin’ Over the Horizon is a version of the popular flying theater with a unique queue matching the beautiful aesthetic outside.
The park is famous for the incredible Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Sunken Treasure, a massive dark ride with roller coaster section featuring some of the best audio animatronics the world has ever seen, amazing physical sets all seamlessly integrated with crisp HQ screens that are some of the largest in the industry. Perhaps the park’s most famous attraction, TRON: Lightcycle Power Run is a great example of blending a dark ride with a roller coaster and showing the world an alternate (if dystopian) version of the future. The ride combines both the fastest coaster Disney has ever built with perfect music, lighting effects, atmospheric sequences, and a queue that is an experience by itself. These two attractions don’t carry the resort, but if they had to, they could.
Shanghai Disneyland took the number one spot because of its near-perfect lineup – not only did the resort open with several very unique attractions, it also re-imagined classic Disney rides that we have all grown to love. The thought that was put into designing the park is immaculate and the attraction line-up comprises (arguably) the best opening roster of any park in history.
We hope you enjoyed our flash tour to all the Disney parks in the world on this list. Let us know what your favorite Disney parks are in the comment section, or share the article with your friends. Thanks for reading!
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