Ranking the Disney theme parks: What is the world's best Disney park?
Published: July 31, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Over the past 12 months, I've had the good fortune to visit 10 of the 11 Disney theme parks around the world. (And, yes, that is just as much fun as it sounds!) So why not wrap up my Grand Tour de Disney
with a blog post ranking the 10 parks I visited?
To rank the parks, I considered each of them head-to-head against each other, then ranked them in the order in which I'd most want to visit each of them for a full day. In doing that, I tried to consider each park on an equal basis - assuming a sunny, 78-degree day with an average crowd level, no rides down for refurbishment, and an equal amount of time since I'd last visited all the parks. In other words, on a perfect day. :^)
The weather factor is important, because, let's face it, if you've got one day in February to visit any Disney theme park in the world, you're probably going to pick Florida, simply because of the weather. But I wanted these rankings to reflect the quality of the parks themselves, and not where they sit on the globe.
Also, Hong Kong Disneyland's not on the list because it is the 11th park - the one I didn't visit this year. (FWIW, I'm thinking about a visit to HKDL in 2014, after the park finishes its current expansion next year.)
What I decided was that there was one clear winner at the top of the rankings, one clear loser at the bottom, and the eight other parks bunched pretty close together in between. But I nitpicked to get a 2 through 9 ranking for those, anyway.
So here it is: Robert's rankings of theme parks at Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort, Tokyo Disney Resort, and Disneyland Paris Resort.
1. Tokyo DisneySea
Theme Park Insider readers named DisneySea not just the best Disney park, but the best theme park in the world overall this year, and I wholeheartedly agree. By any standard I can imagine, Tokyo DisneySea offers the world's premiere theme park experience, with lushly decorated and immersively themed lands hosting some of the world's most engaging theme park attractions. The clear number one.
2. Tokyo Disneyland
Now, we start the tough decisions. I think Theme Park Insider underrate Tokyo Disneyland - its attractions simply don't get many votes on the site, leaving it ineligible for consideration on our top parks and attractions lists. But I rate Tokyo Disneyland as the best of Disney's "Magic Kingdom" parks. Not only does it offer as many attractions as the original Disneyland in Anaheim, it offers what I think are the best versions of several classic Disney attractions, including Splash Mountain and my beloved Tom Sawyer Island. Tokyo's Pooh's Hunny Hunt (which was down for rehab when I visited) has won raves for its innovative ride system and clever setting, and I think Tokyo Disneyland offers the best staffing and food selection of any Magic Kingdom park, by far.
The original Disneyland's nearly as good as Tokyo Disneyland, but falls behind it on several details. The closed fort on Tom Sawyer's Island. Fewer cast members staffing queues. Food that's good, but too rarely great. Disneyland does have the new Star Tours and a better Tiki Room, but I loved the Monsters Inc. flashlight tag and the awesome Queen of Hearts restaurant in Japan, so I'm still giving the nod to Tokyo. But if I can't go to Japan, there's no other Disney parks I'd rather visit than the original.
4. Disney California Adventure
You can't call DCA in the fourth slot a shocker, since Theme Park Insider readers have named it the third-best park in the world this year, after DisneySea and the original Disneyland. Cars Land gets so much of the recent attention, but I think it's Buena Vista Street that's elevated California Adventure to elite status, making this one of the most comfortable theme parks in the world to visit. It's just a fun place to hang out - and so many of the new rides, including Radiator Springs Racers, Toy Story Midway Mania and, yes, even Luigi's Flying Tires, are just awesome.
5. Disneyland Paris
The next four spots might as well be ties, as far as I'm concerned. But I give the nod to Paris because of its best-in-the-world version of Big Thunder and Space Mountains, as well as its innovate takes on the Mansion and Pirates. (Of course, if you visit in winter, when Thunder and the Indiana Jones coasters are closed, Paris falls far in the rankings. But I said I wouldn't consider weather.) The mediocre counter service food almost cost Paris the fifth spot, but the wonderful Walt's kept Paris in the top half of all Disney parks for me. Plus, you gotta love a castle with a dragon in the basement.
6. Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
It's really hard for me to rate this park right now, with the much-anticipated Fantasyland expansion nearing completion. The Magic Kingdom ties Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios among Walt Disney World Resort theme parks in our ratings for the number of highly-rated attractions, but the park's depth puts it in the lead among WDW parks for me. And the one-two combination of the fried chicken waffle sandwich and citrus swirl helps seal the deal, too.
7. Disney's Animal Kingdom
With Kilimanjaro Safaris and Maharajah Jungle Trek, Animal Kingdom offers two of the better attractions that are unique to a single Disney theme park. And I love the Finding Nemo and Lion King live shows, as well. If Disney would just fix the damned Disco Yeti, Animal Kingdom would move into the number five spot on my list. And Avatar might push it even higher. But I refuse to move Animal Kingdom any higher until Disney fixes some of the troubling maintenance issues in the park, including the Yeti, the disintegrating Tree of Life, and the scummy waterways.
8. Disney's Hollywood Studios
My first draft of this list placed Epcot much higher. But as I started looking at your attraction ratings, I realized that I love Epcot as a great place to spend a couple hours in the evening: Watch Impressions de France and eat at one of half a dozen great restaurants. But beyond that? Epcot's really fallen behind the other Disney parks - there's just not enough to do here. It's telling that Epcot's most popular attraction - Soarin' - is a dupe of an attraction that's not even among the top three at California Adventure.
So Hollywood Studios moves ahead of it by default, even though it still has some of the inherent theming flaws of a studio theme park. But DHS still has the world's best version of the Tower of Terror ride (though I continue to prefer DisneySea's theme and preshow) and great attractions in Toy Story Midway Mania and the new Star Tours.
10. Walt Disney Studios Paris
And speaking of Tower of Terror, here's another big drop. ;^) I said all have I to say about this woeful theme park here.
Not rated - Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland opened with a fraction of the attractions we've come to expect from a Magic Kingdom park, but the park's in the midst of a major expansion that just added the Grizzly Peak land and will see a new Mystic Manor attraction next year.
I hope you'll notice that all of the Walt Disney World theme parks ended up in the bottom half of my list. And that's the message I'm hoping to send with this list: If you're a Disney theme park fan and the only Disney resort you ever visit is Walt Disney World, you're missing out on the best that Disney has to offer.
Yes, visiting Japan or France is expensive for Americans. But if you love theme parks, I think you'll be thankful one day if you do make the effort to plan a trip to one of the top Disney theme parks. Maybe it'll take 10 years put aside the money. Maybe you'll have to wait until after the kids are grown (and you won't have to pay the airfare to take them along). But if you get started planning now, you're bringing yourself closer to the day when you can walk into Tokyo DisneySea and enjoy the world's best theme park.
Even if Japan's out of reach now, perhaps it's time to consider a trip to Southern California, in the meantime. I think every American family ought to experience a cross-country roadtrip at least once in their lives. You can find good hotel rooms in Anaheim for the same price as in Orlando - and many of those rooms are within walking distance of the parks. The food's better and cheaper than Orlando, too. If you still need to stretch your vacation dollars, spend a day or two at one of Orange County's free beaches. (They're closer than any beach in Florida is to Disney World.) If you love Walt Disney World, I think you'll be amazed by what's happening now at the Disneyland Resort. And spending your dollars in Anaheim helps send a message to Disney that the public supports theme parks that get billion-dollar investments. :^) Maybe if a few Disney World fans switch to Disneyland, Disney will send some more love out Orlando's way to catch up. (And we'll get a better Avatar land out there, sooner rather than later.)
Great theme parks are waiting for you.
You Might Also Like:
Published: July 31, 2012 at 12:20 PM
It's an interesting point you make about Epcot. Going into your list I assumed the two Tokyo parks were 1 & 2 and then I figured Epcot would be 3. When I finally found it in there at 9 and read your reasoning, it really got me thinking.
In a "think fast" scenario, I could honestly call Epcot my favorite place in the world...but it really is lagging behind. Maybe Disney figures it's perfect as it is and doesn't need much improvement or something.
Considering my last two visits, I rode Soarin once, saw Captain EO once just because I never had before and ditto Turtle Talk. Then I didn't even bother with the rest of Future World. The Spaceship Earth update is annoying, Mission Space isn't really my thing, and I've done everything else so many times over the years that there was really nothing I felt I needed to see.
World Showcase is a perfect place to do exactly what you said: catch a show, have a nice dinner, maybe stroll the promenade with a beer, then watch fireworks. I'm not someone who thinks they need to add another country or anything. But they definitely need to add something else to Future World to keep people interested. Maybe a complete upgrade to Imagination or Energy, replace Wonders of Life with something, or even bring some "bigger" more marketable things to Innoventions. The new Test Track is something but I don't know if it would be enough to push it much higher on your list.
Definite food for thought.
Published: July 31, 2012 at 12:34 PM
When I visited Disneyland Paris last December, Big Thunder was certainly open my entire stay, and, if I recall correctly, even on the days it snowed. The fact that you can see the Chateau in the snow is a plus for me, rather than a negative.
Published: July 31, 2012 at 12:54 PM
We were just visiting DCA and I have to agree with you. It really is one of the more comfortable Disney Park experiences.
Published: July 31, 2012 at 1:25 PM
I have not been able to travel to the parks outside of the US, but I have to agree on all your assessments. I just got home yesterday from a trip to DLR and DCA and agree. DCA is finally a park that I can spend a whole day in. I do like the new entry (even though it is strongly similar to DHS) but the Carthay Circle Theater and the Red Trolleys make it really enchanting. I will be returning to the parks in early December to see if I can actually ride Radiator Springs with my group rather than opt for the much shorter Single Rider lines (175 min vs. 45). I was disappointed that Luigi's Tires was so short. I would have liked at least 1 more minute (and then another...)I absolutely loved the available character meetings but would like to see a bit better food selection (I had teens that would not eat at FLO'S- EVER!). I disagree about the food overall. When you compare Florida with California, there is no comparison. Our favorite is the French Market. Unique options and fresh choices.
One last thing..after reading your tips on traveling to Paris, I have no desire to go. It just did not give me any reason to spend ANY money there. I know that you put DLP up high but I would rather give my money to Tokyo.
Published: July 31, 2012 at 2:31 PM
I went to Disney Land California and DCA this spring for the first time ever. I will have to say that it may have been because of the short time I had (just one day at each park) or maybe the fact that there were so many more locals in the parks or I don’t really know for sure, but the parks just did not seem nearly as magical to me as the Florida parks. The cast members running the rides didn’t seem to be into their part nearly as much as at the cast member in the Florida parks either, and seeing the cast members walking through the park wearing something that didn’t fit the theme also took away from the feel a little bit. I will say that Cars land was not open yet so it is hard for me to judge DCA to its new potential. My wife and I just didn’t feel the "magic" nearly as much as in Florida. That being said we did have a great time and it is really hard to judge the U.S. parks because they are all so great in their own way. I also will say that World of Color was our favorite night time show by far that we have ever been to. It was awesome!
Published: July 31, 2012 at 2:39 PM
I feel that your rankings are pretty much on the mark. Not sure how one working animatronic could move Animal Kingdom two places up, but then I'm not a particularly big fan of Everest or AK. Busch Gardens Tampa is the superior park in my mind.
It is kind of a travesty how neglected WDW has become in the last decade or so. Even more so in relation to how Universal has been at the forefront of ride development and growth in Central Florida. This couldn't be more evident than in the slow decimation of Epcot.
If you asked me in the 90's, Epcot would have been neck-and-neck with Disneyland for the best theme park in the world. It had a unique World's Fair-style. A leisurely pace with attractions that had little to no lines. Plus, those rides were breathtakingly encompassing and detailed.
The rush to make Epcot more thrilling has instead had the adverse effect of making it more... boring. Mission:Space is a glorified & uncomfortable centrifuge with none of the beauty of Horizons. Test Track, while fun, was a bland ride that lacked the humor contained in the World of Motion. The vastly overrated Soarin' has turned the formally warm, peaceful Land pavilion into a cold, clinical mall. The less said about the destruction of the Imagination pavilion the better. The corny ending of the third iteration of Spaceship Earth has ruined one of the truly great Disney classics. The only actual improvements were to The Living Seas & The Universe of Energy, but that's not saying much. It is the only Disney park without what I would consider a AAA attraction. One hopes that a return to the transportative Epcot of old is in the cards, but I have little confidence.
WDW management has been concerned with the bottom-line & the status quo for way too long. Southern California is clearly where the preeminent Disney resort in the US is at this time. Heck, Universal has now become the best resort in Florida. Tokyo DisneySea and the refurb of California Adventure show that it's not the fault of Imagineers, but of management. However, with WDW still posting incredibly strong attendance figures, I see little in the way of drastic change happening in the near future.
Published: July 31, 2012 at 2:49 PM
Long post alert: ye be warned
Hi, my name is Dustin and I 100% agree with EVERYTHING you have said in this artical. I haven't been to the international parks yet, but this has nailed everything. I'm a HUGE Epcot fan and yet I agree with this. Also, I know we are only talking DIsney parks here, but another way to stab Disney WORLD right in the heart is to just go up the street and spend 2 or 3 days at two really amazing theme parks called the Universal ORlando resort... trust me, if you have an open mind to all theme parks (aka not just a DIsney lover), you will NOT regret it. I'm sure Robert will back me up by saying this Islands of Adventure is one of (if not thee best) theme park in orlando, and if Disneyland didn't exsist then probably the whole United States.This is another resort that has made and is STILL making A LOT of capital improvments to the resort like building a huge phase two to Harry Potter, and (99% sure this is happening) they are building a new ride called TRansformers: the ride.
Yeah, WDW is a huge resort with lots to do, but trust me, there are better resorts out there. We are no longer in the Walt Disney World decade (90's).
Published: July 31, 2012 at 4:03 PM
Where would you have ranked DCA before Carsland was added, taking Paris into consideration? I have never been to DCA so I can't really debate with you, but outside of Radiator Springs Racers, the rest of the park still sounds "meh" to me, with much of it still consisting of recylced WDW attractions.
As for the list as a whole, I generally agree with your order. One thing to consider though is that every park is taken on its own terms. Tokyo Disneyland may be the second ranked park, but would I not go to WDW to see JUST Tokyo DL Park (as opposed to the entire Tokyo DL Resort)? No-in this case I would settle for the WDW's Magic Kingdom because I get three additional parks as well. Since every DL Park, save for Hong Kong at moment, is part of a larger resort, I think the other park options are something to consider.
Also, to this end, was DCA ranked so highly this year just because of the new additions, or because of these and the fact that it's right next door to DL? In other words, would it be ranked as highly if it was in isolation? Obviously, DCA is not in isolation; just asking for argument's sake.
Interesting read-keep up the good work.
Published: July 31, 2012 at 4:15 PM
This is my first post on Theme Park Insider - I've read the site for a long time, but have never previously felt compelled to contribute. However, ever since reading mention that Robert would be ranking the Disney parks I've been anticipating this article, and I'd like to commend him for a great if unexpected analysis. I do however have a couple of comments. As a small piece of background, I've always been enamored with theme parks, but for many years rollercoasters were my main focus. However, over recent years I've found myself more concerned with overall theming and environment over big thrills, and have found myself drawn to the ultimate 'themed' parks - most notably Disney and Universal.
I live in London, and have visited all the Disney parks worldwide, excluding Hong Kong Disneyland (which I do plan to visit after the expansion is complete) and Walt Disney Studios Paris (which I'll visit when Ratatouille opens). In the past 12 months I have visited WDW and Tokyo Disney Resort, and later this year I have a trip planned to visit Disneyland and California Adventure. These trips aren't cheap, require a fair amount of planning, and perhaps most importantly take a real time commitment - if you're flying 8+ hours, it really isn't worth it unless you are spending a good number of days.
Disneyland Paris is a train ride away for me - I could be there tomorrow lunchtime without breaking a sweat. It's comparatively inexpensive for me to visit, and does not require a long trip to make it seem worthwhile. Despite all this, I haven't been in years, and have no plan to return anytime soon.
Ignoring the apparent train wreck that is Walt Disney Studios Paris, Disneyland Paris itself holds no draw over me. The counter service food has been beyond awful every time I have visited, the 'cast members' surly and unpleasant (and I am well aware of the French customs Robert mentioned in his exceptional coverage of the park), and the crowds unruly. Say what you will about Americans, they behave much better in theme parks than Europeans. The nail in the coffin for me is the lack of Splash Mountain, which is without a doubt my favourite classic Disney attraction. It frustrates me that I am so close to a Disney park I have no interest in visiting. Personally, Disneyland Paris is an easy pick for my least favourite 'Magic Kingdom' style Disney park, for lack of a better descriptive term.
I agree with Robert's overall assessment of the Tokyo Disney resort - those really are Disney Parks done right. I implore any American tempted to travel overseas to visit a Disney park to pick Tokyo. Tokyo Disneyland really is a 'greatest-hits' park with some incredible bonuses - I'm a 25 year old male and I rank Pooh's Hunny Hunt as one of my favourite attractions anywhere in the world. However, I can't help but feel that Tokyo DisneySea is very slightly overrated - while it is without a doubt the most impressive theme park visually in the world, I feel that it only has three real headline attractions, only one of which is truly unique. I do however agree that it is, all things considered, the best Disney park worldwide, and needs to be seen for scale alone. It's an incredible place, but I feel that people occasionally get carried away when praising it.
Finally, I'd like to touch upon Epcot. Epcot isn't about rides for me, and I don't think you need great rides to make a great theme park. Epcot is a fantastic place to spend time, and truly is a 'themed' park. Not an amusement park, not a fair ground, a theme park. For me the attraction is the place itself. I can't remember the last time I rode anything in Epcot - but I don't go there for rides. I go there because it's truly unique, and has a distinct character that has not been successfully emulated in any other park. No other park gives me that same feeling. So, while I agree with what Robert's written regarding the park, I respectfully disagree with his ranking. As far as I'm concerned, a park where I can have as much fun with my parents as I can with my friends is doing something right.
Published: July 31, 2012 at 4:37 PM
California Adventure higher than Magic Kingdom? No no no no NO.
Published: July 31, 2012 at 5:00 PM
Hey Andrew, I'm sure Robert may have a different view, but I think it's also possible that being so close to Disneyland can also hurt it.
DCA was actually a fairly decent park before the Carsland / Buena Vista additions. I think it's walking proximity to Disneyland simply made it's shortcomings stand out more (as it's directly compared to DL)
The additions have just made it a more complete & stronger park on it's own, but (with the exception of it's first couple of years) I think DCA was always a solid "B +" style park. I liked it before the additions & now it's even better
Published: July 31, 2012 at 5:09 PM
Good point-I hadn't thought of that, but Disneyland Park's greatness certainly may have made DCA look worse than it was before Carsland. Like I said before, I've never been to DCA (only DL Park), so I was going by online videos and reviews. The park probably was/is better in person.
Published: July 31, 2012 at 5:54 PM
Thanks for the comments, everyone. Something I'd wished I'd written:
"The parks on the top half of the list are the ones where I'm suggesting to fans, 'Please visit these parks.' The parks on the bottom half of the list are the ones where I'm suggesting to Disney, 'Please fix these parks.'"
The Disney World parks, and WDSP, are the parks in the chain I think most need some love in additional and refurbished attractions and restaurants.
And Epcot, a park I love more than any other at WDW, needs some additions badly. The new Test Track should help. But World Showcase needs fresh attractions, too. TPI readers have given just two Epcot attractions ratings of 9, compared with four such attractions at each of the other WDW parks. Epcot has just 7 attractions with an 8 or 9 rating, compared to at least 10 such attractions at each of the other WDW parks. Epcot's just too thin on attractions.
As for the other WDW parks, DHS needs some "placemaking" help throughout the park (and to put the stump of a Studio Tour out of its misery). DAK needs to fix the Disco Yeti and repairs throughout. The FLE should help the MK immensely, the I'd love to see a great replacement for Stitch, too.
Published: July 31, 2012 at 6:03 PM
Toy story mania! in disneysea!
Published: July 31, 2012 at 7:58 PM
I disagree. I feel that the Florida parks are ranked too low, especially after TPI's favorite punching bag:DCA
To be sure, the Tokyo Parks should be near the top. I hear they take the Disney parks to a new level. Ironically, they only two that are not fully owned by Disney. Here is my ranking (based on the ones I have been to):
1. Magic Kingdom
3. Disneyland Paris
4. Animal Kingdom
Published: August 1, 2012 at 6:14 AM
Why is DHS always ranked so low? I genuinely love it so much and is way better than Animal Kingdom.
Published: July 31, 2012 at 9:27 PM
I enjoyed reading through these rankings although the only one that causes controversy with me is Tokyo D-land over the original D-land. A quick countown of the attractions missing in Tokyo D-land, but found in Anaheim include:
Indiana Jones Adventure
The new Star Tours 3-D
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
Alice in Wonderland
I've never been to Tokyo, but I guess Monsters Inc. and Pooh's Hunny Hunt must be awesome for them to make up for the lack of the aforementioned Anaheim rides.
One more thing that was touched upon and I said it before, the two best Disney parks in the country are in Anaheim.
Published: July 31, 2012 at 9:31 PM
California Adventure has ALWAYS been a better park than EPCOT, Disney Animal Kingdom and Disney Hollywood Studios. The park opened in 2001 with more attractions than the later two parks offer today. I would agree that California Adventure has now passed Magic Kingdom.
Published: August 1, 2012 at 3:42 AM
EPCOT at number 9 ? Really ?
This only goes to prove how subjective the process of assessing and ranking anything can be. I mean.....EPCOT.........number NINE ???
I suppose we all have our favourites and each person's criteria for evaluation is different too. So different, in fact, that I'd speculate that for every 100 people, sorting this very short list of Disney Parks, we'd probably still get a whole raft of different permutations.
I can't take part because there are many on there that I have never visited. In fact I've only ever visited the Parks in the US..........despite being from the other side of the pond.
But EPCOT at number 9 ? Really ? Much higher for me.
Published: August 1, 2012 at 2:54 AM
I haven't been to all Disney parks, only the EU and the Florida ones so I can't judge them by visiting them.
But the best Disney park is Islands of Adventure. Yes I know but it's imagineerd mostly by the awesome people who gave us the Disney parks but it has the guts to put there some amazing attractions in there that are wonderfull and themes that amaze me every time.
The best Disney park is Animal Kingdom for me. The Dino land should be gutted (incl ALL the attractions) but this park is so beautifull and different, I love it.
The rest of the parks in Orlando I regard better then the EU parks (hate them) but are defunct attraction wise. Even the Magic Kingdom misses a new E-ticket (the new expansion doesn't have one either and most attractions and shows will have a to low capacity (like the coaster) to live the quint theming because of the winning kids). My top 4: Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, ..... Disney Studios.
Published: August 1, 2012 at 2:58 AM
Wow Robert I agree with your listing 100%
About hong kong I predict that it will easily take the 6th or 7th slot after its expansion is complete. It may not have as many attractions as other Parks but ultimately quality triumphs quantity and it is getting top quality and unique attractions now. Of course some Parks have both like Disneyland ca/Tokyo.
About Epcot, wouldn't the ratattouille ride be a no brainer for the France pavillion? And hopefully a new (and HD) soarin ride will help freshen the park.
About IOA. Yes Potter and Spiderman is excellent but the other 3/4 of the park is average at best. No way would it be in the top 5 ratings or best in America.
About DCA this is the big surprise of the list but Robert is right. Its small sized but packed with excellent themeing and rides like its next door neighbor. Although the Hollywood land still needs to be corrected and is rumored to be in the phase 2 expansion. They need to get rid of the cheesy painting at the end of the land that's clearly "old" DCA and build a permanent looking theater for the excellent alladin show instead of the Hyperion facade it has now. And of course replace muppets and the back lot waste of space. But phase 1 is so successful they probably wont do it for a few years unfortunately.
Published: August 1, 2012 at 6:04 AM
Can really agree with much of this list, but can't really say anything for most of the list(only been to USA parks). But there is NO CHANCE AK is better than DHS. Also Robert(and any other commenter who feels like responding), did you notice how you were mostly ranking resorts, not parks? Tokyo parks-1 2 California parks-3 4 WDW parks-6 9. Robert, if you were to rank the DLP resort, would it be before or after WDW?
Published: August 1, 2012 at 10:27 AM
I think Epcot should be higher on this list, it has the best dining options of any park in the world. The world showcase, although lacking in attractions, makes up for it with all of its dining and drinking possibilities.
When you look at the resorts as a whole I feel WDW is easily the best because of all it has to offer with resorts, dining, golf, waterparks etc etc. The other resorts don't offer nearly the complete experience you get from a trip to WDW.
Published: August 1, 2012 at 10:33 AM
I agree with most of it, except for TDL over DL. TDL has hardly it's own identity, or at least that's the way I see it. I don't think that cloning most of the things DL has makes it better than DL.
Published: August 1, 2012 at 10:35 AM
What a great review! Thank you for posting this! This is my first post here and I found your site by accident.
I embarked on a similar trip this year and your review reminded me (and made miss) of my recent trip. Let me tell you, HK Disneyland is worth the trip. I've been there 3x in the last 5 years and it's no longer empty. The lines are long and the park is full. It's actually not that small and has enough rides/attractions for a fun filled day. I don't know why everyone has this negative view about HK Disneyland and why everyone thinks it's small. Every Disney fan needs to visit it. I'm curious to see where it would land in your ranking. I am going to do a review on my trip, probably on DIS boards, soon.
During my month long Disney vacation, I visited Tokyo Disneysea, Tokyo Disneyland, HK Disneyland, Disney Magic cruise to Walt Disney World, Epcot and Hollywood studios in a span of a month (May to June 2012) and that is my proudest moment yet! I've visited all theme parks except for the two parks in Paris and the two newest Disney ships.
I visited the two theme parks in CA when I was very young so I don't really remember it. But, after my most reecnt trip, I have to agree with you and rank Tokyo Disneysea as my most favorite. Everything is just so nicely done and the rides/attractions are great. Also, I can't forget to mention the food and the fact that the Japanese dress up! I also loved how the lines were so orderly and the children were so well behaved.
Thank you for reading! And please do visit HK Disneyland. It's worth the trip if you're a true Disney fan.
Published: August 1, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Let's break down TDL vs DL because, well, because we're geeks.
Only in Tokyo: Mickey's PhilharMagic, Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek, Country Bears (showing all three shows)
Better at Tokyo: Splash, Pirates, Mansion, Thunder, Pooh, TSI, Treehouse, StarJets (for the higher platform), Castle, and Snow White (for not wimping out by calling it "Scary")
Better in Anaheim: Tiki Room, Small World, Space Mountain, Star Tours, Autopia
Only in Anaheim: Matterhorn, Storybook Land, Casey Jr., Toad, Nemo, Columbia, Lincoln, Innoventions. (Indiana Jones is not in TDL, but is at TDS and is much better there than in Anaheim. Fantamic's at TDS, too.)
That's 13 for Tokyo and 13 for Anaheim. Throw in Tokyo's vastly superior food and service and that swings it to Tokyo for me.
Published: August 1, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Pirates better at TDL? No way!
Also, you forgot Alice in Wonderland
Published: August 1, 2012 at 3:23 PM
When I went traveling overseas, I never made it to a Disney theme park although I had the chance. It seems like there is a whole new world out there that doesn't involve Disney. The problem with the Disney theme parks is it tries to offer something that the foreign lands already has like more authentic theming and food. Disney works better in America where there is little to do except visit a theme park on occasion. Disney is best enjoyed with the family with children instead of as a tourist diversion especially in Europe where there are more things to see and do.
I think a trip to Disney in Europe and Japan is an extra excursion that's separate from the real reason to visit those countries. Thus, you need to include an extra few days or week to experience. This is different than a visitor that comes to the States where a theme park trip is almost expected. What else will they see here?
Published: August 1, 2012 at 7:37 PM
I think all of us Disneyphiles have waited for this list! Kudos to you Robert for putting it out there. Agree with it or not, you are the expert and have vastly more experience than most of us.
My husband does not ride rollercoasters. I do not ride spinning rides. They both make us sick. Disney is the one way that we can experience a theme park and enjoy it equally. IOA does not even come close for us. If I was going with my 22 year old son it would be great but even he said (in January) that after Harry Potter World, every thing he did after made him feel like he wasted his money. Things were dirty and sleazy feeling and don't even get me started on that ridiculous "attraction" having to do with Poseidon! We gave it a really good try and will now wait until Harry Potter comes west (we are in NV).
Having said that, EPCOT is my husband's favorite park. It provides the best experience for him without the "pressure" of making me ride the "scarier" rides by myself. He feels bad. After this list came out, we talked about the rankings. Even though EPCOT is his favorite, he still agreed with your assessment. We went through each of the lands and discussed their shortcomings or advantages. It really needs LOTS of money thrown at it and to be "reimagined"! It might even need a new name...Does this mean we will not go because it was ranked so low? Absolutely not. Disney is still the benchmark for family entertainment. It isn't about rides, it is about complete immersion. I have a saying to those Disney naysayers..."Disney is really, really good at many things. What they are truly best at doing is parting you from your money and making you happy you did it!" When asked why we go so often..."I can have exactly the vacation I want. I can slow down, have fun, be a kid, be safe and know exactly how much money I have to spend. It is the perfect vacation."
Sorry for the diatribe (sic). Just a happy Disney fan.
Published: August 1, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Anon ...I work at San Diego international airport and many people come to the States to visit New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, Boston and San Francisco. Many american cities have a mystique and unique charm to foreigners. Also many people come to visit natural wonders such as the california coast, red woods, grand canyon etc. So there's actually a huge tourist draw here besides theme parks, although that's a big draw too. Don't forget that the US is the second most visited country in the world after france.
Published: August 2, 2012 at 12:11 AM
I scrolled down this post expecting to see Epcot at number 2 after DisneySea. I am so relieved it wasnt. I say it time and time again - I just dont get it. The only draw there for me will ever be Illuminations, which is without doubt an incredible (and moving) night show.
I have been to Paris (twice) and Florida (countless times) and agree with the previous poster that I have not much desire to head back to Paris. And on this years trip will only be spending one day at WDW, while I have 2 days booked for Universal and will be in Seaworld as much as possible.
As a Disney and theme park fan its my dream to get to Disneyland, to walk in Walts footsteps so to speak, and I long to visit Tokyo.
So I think the rankings are spot on for me. Those of us that havent been need to get to these 'must see' parks, and hope beyond hope that the other parks are shown some serious love and money. (I want my beloved DHS to make a return to glory so much)
Published: August 2, 2012 at 9:49 AM
As of next week, the only one I will have not visited is Tokyo. I need to get there!
I hold a special place in my heart for Epcot, but only really for World Showcase. I spend the most time in Epcot when I'm at WDW (of course it's not because of those margaritas at Cava Del Tequila). If they made some changes to Future World it would probably be my favourite theme park. I've still got fingers crossed for some sort of Tron: Legacy ride.
Published: August 3, 2012 at 5:40 AM
The enjoyment from theme parks is not all about the rides. The atmosphere is very important. This is particularly so for the Disney parks. While DCA may previously have been lacking in certain areas, I felt it still had a Disney feel to it, although not as strong as it should have been. The French parks are awful. They simply have no atmosphere, especially WDS where you just do not feel any Disney 'Magic'.
Published: August 3, 2012 at 6:09 AM
Now I have not been to any Disney parks outside the US and additionally I have not been to DCA post -refurb, but on here it seems that WDW isn't actually the vacation kingdom is soiled up to be. IMO, it's without a doubt my favorite vacation destination in the world. However, I am not blind to its flaws. Such as the constant DVC construction, constant land selling (come on Walt got 30,000 acres for a reason, stop giving it away), and the lack of maintenance on attractions. Look at it this way, WDW constantly ranks high in attendance so Disney does not think anything is wrong; however, of they actually conducted personal surveys based on experience they would see. Epcot is need of attractions, face it. There's a lot of dead space in Epcot. Mainly the "Imagination" pavilion and the Wonders Of Life Pavilion. World Showcase could use an E ticket. Animal Kingdom has made the step in the right direction with Avatar Land. I'll hold my breathe until then. I've given up on the Yeti. I guess it's to expensive for a multi-billion dollar corporation to fix so that's that. Magic Kingdom's west side is ok and New Fantasyland will help out, but Tomorrowland is quite a disgrace at the moment. Especially the eyesore that is Tomorrowland Speedway. If a Tron attraction could make its way onto this land, Magic Kingdom could quite possibly be complete. And now DHS. DHS needs an identity first. Is it going to be a movie studio or is it going to be a theme park. If its going to be a movie studio, then Disney should consider making investments into more soundstages and sets. Now if it takes the theme park route, the studio should take guest into adventures within showbiz. I'm not saying it can't be both, but Disney can't seem to make up its mind.
Even with these flaws, here are my rankings of my favorite Disney parks in the world (or US I should say):
1. Animal Kingdom
2. Disney's Hollywood Studios
3. Magic Kingdom
6. Disney California Adventure
Published: August 3, 2012 at 9:15 PM
This ranking is spont on as an international perspective. Most people here are just WDW fanboys here that they don't know anything other than "WDW is the best". I think HKDL should be in top 6 when Mystic Point is ready. And Epcot is definitly overrated as far as I am concerned. WDW is declining and other parks in CA and Asia are rising to a different level. Time has changed. WDW is no longer "the best".
Published: August 4, 2012 at 4:26 PM
Great article - really cannot wait to see the new DCA and really can't wait to one day get over to Tokyo
Published: August 6, 2012 at 12:51 AM
I'm sorry I can't agree with your decision to place Disneyland paris ahead of the Disney World Parks. Being from the UK its proabably easier for us to get to paris than the USA, but given the choice I'd chose the American parks any day. Maybe its seeing all the signs in French rather than English I don't know, but for me, the Paris park loses some of the Magic compared to Disney World and Disneyland. Also huge negatives for me for the Paris park are the numnber of people smoking everywhere (in restaurants, in ride queues etc - though I'm hoping this has changed in the last few years) and also the rudeness of some of the continental guests. Joining a line and waiting patiently without any queue jumping, pushing etc just doesn't seem to happen in the Paris parks and the character meet and greets there are a free for all, not as well organised as the American meet and greets which are well organised by cast members. Add to the fact that it is SO expensive to go to the Paris parks, it costs as much for a 3 day/4night stay there as a week in Florida, then its an easy decision as to which park to chose.
I'd be interested to hear if people who have visited the Hong Kong or Tokyo parks have similar views.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Previous article: Planning a trip to Disneyland Paris
Plan Your Vacation with Theme Park Insider!
Most Popular U.S. Theme Parks
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney California Adventure
Universal's Islands of Adventure
Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Hollywood
Popular International Parks
Universal Studios Japan
Hong Kong Disneyland
Walt Disney Studios Paris
Universal Studios Singapore
Features, News and Advice
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Theme Park Insider Awards
What's Under Construction for 2015/6?
How to Stay Safe at a Theme Park
2005 (Dec 27-31)
2005 (Jan-Dec 26)
Books and Shirts