Disney has hundreds (if not thousands, I’m not counting!) of theme park attractions and rides at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney Resort, and Hong Kong Disneyland. Obviously, not all of these attractions were created equally. At their best, Disney attractions are timeless classics that have multi-generational appeal. At their worst, they’re dressed up versions of amusement park staples.
I thought it would be fun to put together a list of what I consider the 10 best attractions worldwide. As there are literally more Disney parks than there are attractions on this list, some great ones are bound to be snubbed, but I’m keeping to a strict 10 attraction limit. Even if I had a list with 40 more honorable mentions, I’d be still be snubbing some very worthy attractions. As it’s a multi-continent list, it’s not like this top 10 has any functional utility anyway…it’s more geared at being a fun conversation piece for Disney theme park fans. I want to do more worldwide lists like this, so if this one is popular, it will be the first of many more to come. I enjoy comparing and contrasting all of the different parks, and want to do more posts like that, anyway. They’re a nice change of pace from the normal trip planning material here.
A few notes about the list before we get started. First, while it’s my personal list, I’m considering not just what I like the best, but also what I consider to be objectively the most impressive and captivating attractions. I don’t have any specific scoring criteria–it’s basically just a mix of my gut reaction and analysis. Second, only attractions that are currently operational are eligible. It’s very easy to say Horizons or Journey into Imagination should be #1, but there’s no perfect way to tell how those would have aged or if opinions today are clouded by the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia. Third, only the best version of each attraction (we’ll call this the “Tower of Terror” rule). Finally, this list is a moving target based partially on how I feel when I’m writing it. If you ask me my top 10 tomorrow, you might get different answers.
With that said, here’s the list in no particular order!
American Adventure was the last attraction to make the list, and it edges out several attractions that I actually prefer to American Adventure. However, objectively, seeing as American Adventure is an only-of-its-kind achievement that represents the best of the incredible Imagineering that went into bringing EPCOT Center to fruition, I felt it deserved a spot on the list. Powered by an impressive “war wagon,” The American Adventure is an Audio Animatronics-driven montage stage show of key moments in American history. The scenes are detailed and insightful, and impressive as they rise from the stage and engage the audience. This is a powerful show that may make the eyes of patriotic Americans leak a bit.
Ride & Go Seek is probably the only attraction on this list that receives mixed reviews from people who know what they’re talking about (negative reviews of the American Adventure are common, and prove there is such a thing as a “bad opinion”), but I just do not see the basis for any of this criticism. Its Audio Animatronics are advanced and lifelike with very fluid motions. Sets are immersive and include a ton of detail. The interactive twist of revealing monsters and other effects by shining a flashlight on them is fun, and adds to the re-rideability of the attraction, as you likely will not see it all on one ride-through. These flashlights are also the controversial element, but since they’re optional, I don’t see the harm. Apparently most Tokyo Disneyland guests agree, as it’s the most popular attraction there.
Okay, maybe there are two controversial picks, but this one only seems controversial with those dead-set against this big of an attraction (and an entire land) based on Cars. Radiator Springs Racers makes the list because of its scale and scope, with both a beautiful outdoor section through the mountains and well done indoor dark ride. The outdoor section alone would be enough to put it among the upper echelon of Disney coasters, but the way that is integrated with the dark ride scenes put it over the top. This will be the most popular attraction at Disney California Adventure for years to come, and for good reason.
From the incredible queue to the hilariously dry pre-show (my favorite part of the attraction) to the special effects-laden adventure, Indiana Jones Adventure still is one of those attractions that leaves me impressed after each time I ride it. It’s one of those rare attractions where, while you’re on it, even as an adult you suspend disbelief and feel as if you’re participating in an adventure. As Sallah would say, “it is unlike anything you have ever experienced, I assure you!” Several special effects upgrades it received in 2013 push it ahead of the Tokyo DisneySea version for me, but it’s still a tight race. All things considered, it’s my favorite attraction at Disneyland, which is a feat since Disneyland has so many attractions.
Pooh’s Hunny Hunt is the gold standard for Fantasyland dark rides, and I will never look at the rest the same after Hunny Hunt. The trackless ride system is key, and the way Hunny Hunt’s ride vehicles dance with one another and engage their environments makes this one of Disney’s most immersive attractions. From the vehicles “gathering” around for story-time to bouncing with Tigger to spinning in Pooh’s dream with Heffalumps, you feel like an actual participant in this highly imaginative ride. It doesn’t hurt that all of the sets and Audio Animatronics are highly detailed and advanced, either. To me, this is a game-changer for Fantasyland dark rides, and it’s hard to believe that 15 years after its debut, the technology utilized in Hunny Hunt hasn’t made its way to the United States.
Being a huge Twilight Zone fan, it was difficult for me to place this version on the list and leave off the original, but this one is the best and my personal favorite, despite lacking that tie-in. Here, the New York City Preservation Society gives tours to the hotel previously owned by dubious explorer and collector of exotic artifacts, Harrison Hightower. The story centers on Hightower’s disappearance, which was supposedly caused by idol Shiriki Utundu. The sheer amount of detail in the queue and different pre-show rooms, plus the various styles of storytelling here (newspaper clippings, live tour guides, pre-show room, artifact rooms, the main show itself, and the post-show) make this Tower of Terror the best overall attraction in Disney’s best overall park. It’s so layered that it’s easy to forget that the “highlight” is supposed to be that drop sequence. Take a look at every version of the Tower of Terror in this blog post.
What can I say about Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage that I haven’t already said? How about that whether I made this list solely in terms of objective quality without considering my personal feelings, I still think Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage would make the list. Sindbad’s deserves this spot because the boat ride features a cast of over 100(!!!) Audio Animatronics, a catchy song, and lovable characters. Each of the scenes is well-presented in a storybook style, and there’s so much to see that the attraction has incredible re-rideability.
One of only a handful of early-era Disney attractions that have truly stood the test of time, the Haunted Mansion is as impressive today as when it first opened in Disneyland in 1969. The debate over which Haunted Mansion is best is interesting, as each version has its strengths and arguably could be #1. The Magic Kingdom’s not only takes the cake for me, but is one of the best attractions in the world. Its approach through Liberty Square and the upgrades made during its 2007 refurbishment are key for me. Some of the changes to it since have been a mixed bag, but the Walt Disney World version is still king.
Pirates of the Caribbean is another one of those early-era attractions that still holds its own, but in this case, the version from the 1990s is the clear winner for me. Pirates of the Caribbean is housed in a beautiful, bunker-style fortress in Disneyland Paris, with an elaborate queue containing a lot of detail. It has most of the same “extra” scenes as the Disneyland version and the arrangement of these scenes is better. Add to that a handful of new effects that take the attraction to the next level, and make this the best attraction at Disneyland Paris and one of the greatest Disney attractions of all time. The fact that it is the only version without Captain Jack Sparrow and his rag-tag band is not outcome determinative, but it doesn’t hurt.
Mystic Manor put Hong Kong Disneyland on the map, and on the radar of theme park fans everyone. Its opening was essentially the coming out party for the previously much-maligned park. Mystic Manor combines great special effects with excellent music, memorable characters, and great gags. The trackless ride system is used perfectly, and ties the attraction together as an immersive tour. As I wrote in our Mystic Manor Photo Tour & Review, Mystic Manor is the pinnacle achievement (so far) of this generation of Imagineers.
Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list of the best Disney attractions out there, it’s just my personal top 10. Even now as I finish it, I am really tormenting myself over how I left off X or Y, but such is the nature of making a strict top 10 list, I suppose! Regardless, it was fun to give some thought to my top 10, even if I wish it were a top 10 with an asterisk with about 20 additional picks snuck in there.
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What are your top 10 Disney attractions? It doesn’t matter how many parks you’ve been to, I’m still interested in knowing some other favorites. Do you think I missed any that should have made the list, or made any poor choices? What other worldwide top 10 lists would you like to see? If you have any other questions or comments, please leave them below.