My Disney Parks Ranking

So, now that I've finally visited every Disney park (humble brag) I thought it felt only right to sit down and rank them, because that's the kind of person I am. This was actually a super hard list to put together, and when I ranked my castle parks on twitter a few weeks back it cause a lot of controversy and discussion. "Why did you rate Tokyo Disneyland SO LOW!?" people were asking. "Why isn't [insert your favourite park which differs to my opinion here] higher?!"

The truth is, with any list like this - something has to be at the bottom. And being the worst Disney park is like being the worst flavour of pizza - none of them are truly awful but some of them do outrank the others. I guess what I'm saying is, I'm not hating on any of these parks based on where I rate them, I just think it's an interesting thing to look at seeing as Disney are pretty much off in their own league when it comes to theme parking. Let's get into it shall we?

And to clarify - I'm not including water parks or other secondary attractions. These rankings are also based on my personal experiences of the parks which may differ from yours - and remember some of these parks may have changed or added a lot since my last visit so bear that in mind too! I'll be counting down from worst to best, here we go.

I don't think this will come as a surprise to many - it's unanimously agreed upon by Disney geeks and coaster enthusiasts alike that this park kind of...blows hard. It's weird to me because I visited this park a few times with family when I was younger and always kind of enjoyed it, and it was only when I really thought about it that I was like wait a minute, this place kind of sucks?

It's off because don't get me wrong - there are some rides here I really love: Tower of Terror (but of course), Cinemagique (RIP), Rock n Rollercoaster, Ratatouille. I'm also a huge film nerd, so I love the little nods to extremely early cinema like the inclusion of George Melies street and the clips from some of films' earliest pieces used in the Cinemagique movie. That stuff I love.

But my complaint I guess is that the whole place is soulless and kind of ugly? When you have the beauty that is Disneyland Paris a stone's throw away I think Walt Disney Studios' ugliness is amplified in comparison, but still it's unforgivable. I'm so glad we have such an incredible looking expansion coming our way in the not too distant future to give this park the boost it so badly needs!

Let me get one thing straight before I dive in here - after Walt Disney Studios I truly believe there are no other 'bad' Disney parks. Tokyo Disneyland is just my least favourite, and I'll tell you for why. Firstly, aesthetically I think it's quite ugly. I really do not like the World Bazaar covered Main Street thing they have going on, I don't like Haunted Mansion being in Fantasyland, I don't like the weird gold/brown colour of some of the buildings in Tomorrowland, I don't like how wide the paths are (although I understand they're needed to be that way for practical reasons etc etc).

Similarly to Walt Disney Studios, I think Tokyo Disneyland suffers a lot from having the incredible Tokyo DisneySea right next door. Like I say - this is not a bad park by any stretch of the imagination. The rides are like a 'greatest hits' of the other Disney parks that came before it, the Disney culture the locals get into is so much fun, the merch is to DIE for. But yh, there's just something about it that left me a little cold. I think it says a lot about a park when I'm not constantly taking photos of it and that was definitely the case here!

On paper I think I should love this park. I adore anything tacky or kitsch, and hell a whole Disney park themed to California should have that by the bucketload. But it lacks heart and felt quite half-assed in many places. When we visited Cars Land was just a week from opening and I definitely think that was a much needed addition to the park.

There were big areas that I really enjoyed the theming of - for some reason I've always felt an affiliation with the great American outdoors (definitely theme park related but I've never figured out what) so I loved the whole area over by Grizzly River Run, but apart from that on the whole I found California Adventure to be pretty forgettable?

Ah, Big Bertha herself. My distaste for this park has grown over the years as I've visited other 'castle parks' and the differences have become more and more apparent. Disneyland Paris is beautiful - Magic Kingdom feels dated and ugly. Disneyland is teeming with nostalgic magic, Magic Kingdom is not. Hong Kong Disneyland is cute and chilled out, Magic Kingdom is not.

As the years have passed and with every visit to Magic Kingdom the whole place has felt more and more like a corporate money-making machine to me. And look, I'm not stupid, it's DISNEY - of course that's what it is, but in my experience the other parks do a better job of hiding it than Magic Kingdom does. My most recent visit in 2016 the park just felt so damn crowded - in the Florida heat that's just not that pleasant?

Again - there are attractions here I absolutely adore. Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain - some of my all time favourite rides are at this park and I always have a good time when I visit. It's just not my favourite.

Ah god this is where it gets really hard to rank, so sorry Animal Kingdom you're probably slightly unfairly in position five. Now, y'all know that I LOVE animals. I think Animal Kingdom is one of the best themed parks Disney have ever done if only for the incredibly designed animal enclosures (and the fact that they in no way look like animal enclosures). It's an absolute marvel of design if you're into that kind of thing.

I think it comes down to, when I think of my favourite Disney rides, only one (Dinosaur) is at this park. Everything else is great, of course, but nothing mind-blowingly phenomenal like the rest of the rides on that list. Gorgeous park, stunning theming, awesome animals, a fantastic day out but definitely not up there with the best. Maybe I'll think differently after I experience Pandora this autumn!

Don't get me wrong, in a few years when all the work is finished in this park it'll be an absolute banger. I absolutely adore that classic Hollywood theming, and was sooo gutted when Disney announced that the Great Movie Ride was closing. For me, Disney Hollywood Studios is one of those places I could go and happily spend all day just walking around eating snacks and taking pictures. On top of that, the best ride at Walt Disney World, Tower of Terror, lives there! It was never meant to be stacked full of things to do - it was only ever meant to be a half day park but obviously Walt Disney World has outgrown that model now so I'm glad to see they're taking action.

I think I have a soft spot for this park because of nostalgia - ToT and Rock n RollerCoaster were two of my fist ever thrill rides and part of the reason my obsession with theme parks began. Add on top of that the incredible Fantasmic night time show, awesome themed dining experiences in the Sci Fi Drive In Diner and 50s Prime Time Cafe and the simple magic of the movies, I think I'll always have a soft spot for this park.

It's CRAZY to me writing this list to only have Disneyland Paris in spot six - I think its a testament to just how incredible the parks about it are! But that doesn't detract from how absolutely fucking awesome in every way Disneyland Paris is. let's not beat around the bush, for a while this park was a bit of an ugly duckling on the Disney park CV. But since Disney took back control of the place it's gone from strength to strength and is easily one of the most beautiful parks in the world. Any place that puts such a heavy emphasis on a fantasy pastel colour palette.

I think I just adore how fantastical everything is? I adore fairytales and the way the park is stylised to reflect that is just an absolute dream. Stunning place!

Oh god, how I adored Hong Kong Disneyland. All the classic cuteness of Disneyland in Anaheim, the whimsy of the Asian Disney parks, the gorgeous backdrop of the real mountains and the insane goodness of Mystic Manor and Grizzly Gulch. For me it feels like the perfect balance between the Disney we all know and love interjected with some epic originality. There's nothing I love more in a Disney park than exploring the attractions and rides that are unique to that place, and Hong Kong has some truly spectacular ones.

Plus, the food is obscene! We ate so, so well in that Resort - from Disney dim sum to incredible duck and rice dishes to delicious sweet treats. Honestly was such a pig and I adored every minute of it. Incredible.

My friends always have a go at me for how high I rate EPCOT, but I can't help it. You guys know I love bizarre dark rides and wacky and unusual themes and for me EPCOT has all of that and more. As a Disney geek I love the history behind the place and how it even came into existence. I love the weirdness of it. Why does The Land pavilion look like a shopping mall food court? Why are there manatees? Why is the fastest ride at Disney World in THIS PARK?! When I wander around EPCOT I always have this underlying sense of excitement that I might wander around a corner and stumble across some strange and unusual attraction I've never experienced before.

And then you have the World Showcase! The food! The booze! Like, come on, what's not to love?

I've already spoken at length of my experience in this park on various podcasts and blog posts and god knows what else, so I won't bore you with the details again here, but I do honestly believe that if it weren't for the behaviour we experienced of the guests at this park Shanghai Disneyland would easily be in my top two. The park is, simply put, stunning. I DO think Disneyland Paris slightly pips it for me as there are some 'emptier' feelings areas in Shanghai Disneyland, but it truly is incredible. It feels like a Disney park through and through whilst still managing to maintain an unbelievable sense of originality.

It's so much fun experiencing a different take on the Disney classic lands and attractions. There were several actual "WOW" moments for me during our two days here. Again, one of those parks I could wander around all day just soaking it all in and taking photos and eating and just...yh, it's fucking great. Too bad the guests are disgusting.

I mean, there's a lot to be said about never being able to top the original, and Disneyland is a testament to that. Never before have I been to a place I've never visited before and been so overcome with such a wave of nostalgia. How is that possible? I think it's because, as a Disney fan, I've read and watched so much about the creation of the place - the love that poured into building it, the fact that such an impossible dream became a reality and essentially took over the world - it's all incredibly overwhelming and you really sense that seeping through the walls as you enter the place.

And there really is nothing like riding the ORIGINAL iterations of all my beloved Disney rides. The first Pirates, the first Haunted Mansion, the first It's A Small World. Everything is just so bloody wonderful it's impossible not to fall in love with the place.

Truly the happiest place on earth! Well, except for one...

Yh, had to be didn't it. I always say this park is like one of the long lost Disney projects you hear about on Defunctland, except this one miraculously actually got built. It's ridiculous, the detail is absolutely outstanding and the closest you can get anywhere to being actually, physically transported into a true world of fantasy. It's one of those places that you walk into and your jaw is just consistently dropping until you think it can't drop any more, and then you turn the corner and there's something else ridiculous and amazing.

And then there's the rides! Oh god, how does there exist a park with this many excellent dark rides? Unbelievable animatronics, stunning sets, thrilling ride movements and motion and incredibly detailed narratives to tie everything together. Tokyo DisneySea is a park I believe every theme park enthusiast should strive to visit in their lifetime because it really must be seen to be believed. Beautiful, beautiful place.

Probably some controversial opinions in there and I'm fickle as fuck so the order will likely change over the years with every visit, but for now I'm sticking to it! What do you think? What's your favourite Disney park?

Talk later xoxo,

CONVERSATION

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