In addition to Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California, there are Disney theme parks in Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. This list ranks all 12, covering pros & cons, rides, shows, details, and more to determine the best and worst Disney parks in the world. (Updated August 24, 2020.)
Each of the worldwide Disney resorts has a castle park, but not all of these parks are of the same quality, and their second gates (and beyond) are all fairly different. Hence these rankings. The list is our attempt at objectivity in ranking the parks, trying as best as possible to eliminate personal biases and pesky things like nostalgia.
Like the BCS and other power rankings, no one is bound to agree with these, despite them being very scientific and downright infallible. Joking aside, it’s entirely possible that you’ll appreciate various attractions, entertainment, or the themed lands more or less than us, in which case your list would differ. As with anything like this, your mileage may vary…
Before updating this list for 2020, we had planned to wait until several high-profile attractions debuted that could significantly alter the position of their respective parks. Most notable among these is Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast, which is part of a colossal $750 million expansion of Tokyo Disneyland. There’s also Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at EPCOT, phase one of Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure, and more.
While all of this was originally scheduled to be open by now, the closure of every Disney theme park on the planet–and their subsequent phased reopenings–threw a monkey wrench into those plans. At this point, we are not expecting any major expansion at any of the worldwide Disney Parks that has not already debuted to do so this year.
As such, we’re reevaluating now, taking into account Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland & Hollywood Studios, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, new offerings at EPCOT, and more with our updated 2020 Disney Parks Power Rankings…
12. Walt Disney Studios Park
After improving thanks to the addition of the Ratatouille: the Adventure trackless dark ride a few years ago, Walt Disney Studios Park has–against all odds–also managed to get worse over the course of the last year thanks to the closing of its best attraction, Cinemagique. Other closures have occurred, albeit to make way for a better park in the future.
Speaking of which, with a $2.5 billion plan to inject Marvel, Star Wars, and Frozen into the park currently in the first stages of construction, Walt Disney Studios Park has a promising future, but we’re still years away from seeing the fruits of that. In the meantime, there’s the very real possibility that WDSP will temporarily close again or move to a seasonal operating schedule due to lack of demand. The silver lining there is it could facilitate an easier overhaul!
11. Disney California Adventure
Over five years since Disney pulled back the curtain on DCA 2.0, not a whole lot has happened to continue the positive momentum. To the contrary, the place-making and effort to establish a cohesive theme are being undone. First with Guardians of the Galaxy – MISSION: Breakout!, followed by Pixar Pier, and the Avengers Campus Marvel Land at some point in the near future.
We understand Disney’s motivation here, wanting to quickly inject new life into Disney California Adventure to make it a hot draw with the general public to reduce the crowding burden of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge across the Esplanade. However, we view these moves as short-sighted and a step in the wrong direction as compared to DCA 2.0. A hodgepodge of fun individual attractions without thematic cohesion does not a good theme park make.
I have a soft spot for Epcot, but even I cannot deny that it’s a mess right now. World Showcase is largely looking good, but Future World is a veritable maze of construction walls and will be to varying degrees for at least the next couple of years. “It’s always darkest before the dawn” is definitely apt when it comes to Epcot.
With that said, Epcot still has a lot to offer. World Showcase is still gorgeous and offers some of Disney’s best ambiance, anywhere. Spaceship Earth remains an awe-inspiring icon and pretty good attraction. Some Future World pavilions remain solid. Here’s hoping that new additions debuting in the next few years help nudge this up the list a tad, and the reimagined park emerges to reclaim its rightful place in the top 5 of this list!
9. Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland has languished for the last few years since its huge expansion consisting of Toy Story Land, Grizzly Gulch, and Mystic Point. That expansion included Mystic Manor and Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, which are two of the top 10 or 15 attractions in the world. Iron Man Experience has also proven to be a pleasant surprise–a far better attraction than we expected, even if it’s not the Marvel E-Ticket the park needed (that’s coming in a few years).
Smaller, less splashy additions have been made over the last few years, but Hong Kong Disneyland still has a long way to go in terms of being a unique park that offers compelling draws. The upside to this is that HKDL has is in the process of building huge new Frozen and Marvel lands, and the castle expansion is now nearly finished. While there’s the potential for this to strip Hong Kong Disneyland of its quaint charm and intimacy, it really needs these additions–and an identity of its own. If all goes well, Hong Kong Disneyland could be an elite Disney theme park by its 20th anniversary.
8. Shanghai Disneyland
Disney’s newest theme park falls in the middle of the pack, which is unlikely to please anyone. Some fans have proclaimed its superiority to all other parks, while critics have derided it as franchise-driven and tacky. We disagree with both polarized stances, finding it to be the best opening day park relative to debuts in the post Euro Disney era of half-day parks, but still pretty far behind the decades-established castle parks.
There is no denying that Shanghai Disneyland is an ambitious park, even if you might contend that some of its ambition is misguided at times. In our estimation, Shanghai both scores and loses points for its significant deviations from the traditional castle park formula. Some of these changes work really well, while others fall a bit flat.
Among its “home runs” are Treasure Cove (especially its revolutionary Pirates of the Caribbean – Battle for the Sunken Treasure attraction), Camp Discovery, and Peter Pan’s Flight. We also give it points for Enchanted Storybook Castle, which is more impressive in person than its divisive design looks in concept art and photos. Zootopia Land is the next big addition–hopefully that’s a home run.
7. Disney’s Animal Kingdom
A strong argument can be made that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the best theme park in Florida. When you emphasize the theme in theme park, we’d rank it #1 of Walt Disney World’s parks. That’s high praise, and sentiment that seems shared by the general park-going public given Animal Kingdom’s soaring attendance.
The problem for us, and one not resolved by the lovely Pandora: World of Avatar, is that there’s a lot of style, but still not enough substance. Sure, the park is beautiful and the purest example of unblemished (or close to it) theme at Walt Disney World. And we’ve already written about how most people overlook some of the park’s biggest gems. (See also, “I Was Wrong About Disney’s Animal Kingdom” from a few years ago.)
While the zoological exhibits, walk-throughs, and even entertainment are wonderful, Animal Kingdom could use more on the ‘traditional attraction’ end of the spectrum. Expedition Everest was a start and Pandora furthered this, but that’s still only 3 high profile rides since the park opened. Animal Kingdom could still use a family-friendly dark ride (or two…or three). Sadly, those don’t appear to be anywhere on the horizon with so much work occurring elsewhere. Perhaps minor shortcomings to some, but enough for Animal Kingdom to slip to #7 overall.
6. Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Disney Hollywood Studios has seen its stock soar in the last few years, going from #11 on this list to #6. Its latest gains come from Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, which is another solid addition. The higher ranking also reflects other improvements in the last couple of years, including the opening of Toy Story Land, Grand Avenue, and Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy.
However, the most important addition remains Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and its mega E-Ticket Rise of the Resistance, which lives up to every bit of the hype and is tied for the #1 attraction (out of 94!) at Walt Disney World. The shot in the arm that Star Wars Land gave to Disney’s Hollywood Studios cannot be overstated, even if the new headliner is unreliable and a chore to access.
In addition to a top-heavy slate of attractions, it’s the thematic elements, particularly on Sunset & Hollywood Boulevards and Echo Lake, that give the park a boost. Those areas are gems, but Disney’s Hollywood Studios is still light on attractions, and little has been added in terms of entertainment during its massive overhaul to help round out its offerings. This can make it fairly frustrating park, and still not even close to on par with Magic Kingdom.
5. Magic Kingdom
Again, nostalgia comes into play. My opinion of Magic Kingdom will most likely always be colored by nostalgia for my youth–this remains my “home” castle park. Sitting here evaluating the park online, I can look at it with a critical eye, but in person all of that melts away as I feel like a kid again when walking down Main Street.
Aside from the stellar Happily Ever After (which currently isn’t being shown), Magic Kingdom hasn’t received much attention in the last few years. New Fantasyland is not-so-new, Tomorrowland is ironically the most dated and tired land, and the park is without a nighttime parade. Still, Magic Kingdom has solid entertainment, and the most headliner attractions of any park at Walt Disney World. It’s also home to plenty of fan-favorites like Country Bear Jamboree, Hall of Presidents, Carousel of Progress, and the Peoplemover.
Additionally, Magic Kingdom has a certain beauty, grandiosity, and sentimentality. This sense of escape and suspension of disbelief makes it really appealing. Go from Adventureland to Frontierland to Fantasyland, and you remain immersed in each of these environments. Still, as the crown jewel park at Disney’s largest and most popular resort complex in the world, Magic Kingdom deserves better, and it’s finally receiving some overdue attention that should poise it well for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. Plan your visit with our comprehensive Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Guide.
4. Disneyland Paris
After being dragged down by years of maintenance neglect, Project Sparkle got things back on track. The most recent fruits of this have been extensive overhauls of Pirates of the Caribbean and Phantom Manor, the latter of which is France’s unique take on Haunted Mansion. Disneyland Paris still has plenty of room for improvement (mostly on the operational front, where Disneyland Paris is a disaster), but Disneyland Paris looks better than we’ve ever seen it.
This is coupled with the always-exceptional design work at Disneyland Paris make it one of the top parks in the world. This is particularly true for those who favor parks as themed spaces, rather than collections of attractions. On the ride front, Disneyland Paris is still a step or two behind the other castle parks, but it compensates for this with so many amazing spaces and intricate details. Oh, and it has the best Disney castle in the world. It can be a frustrating place to visit, but also incredibly enchanting. Plan your visit with our comprehensive Disneyland Paris Vacation Planning Guide.
3. Tokyo Disneyland
For the moment, Tokyo Disneyland relinquishes the #2 position. It’s really a matter of timing, though. California’s Disneyland already debuted its big 2020 addition whereas Tokyo Disneyland was in a period of pre-Olympics transition. While the construction is now finished, the big expansion has not yet opened–and probably won’t until attendance caps are lifted and things go back to normal.
Even before the blockbuster additions, Tokyo Disneyland’s attraction roster was like a greatest hits of the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, with the best version of numerous iconic Disney rides. In addition to a formidable lineup of classics, Tokyo Disneyland also has two headliners of its own in Pooh’s Hunny Hunt and Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek.
However, it’s not the ride roster that puts Tokyo Disneyland near the top. The entertainment is amazing, with a regular lineup of great seasonal offerings, plus Dreaming Up (Disney’s best day parade) and Dreamlights (Disney’s best night parade). Beyond that, Tokyo Disneyland’s maintenance, attention to detail, show quality, dining, and Cast Members are all unsurpassed. Plan your visit with our comprehensive Tokyo Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide.
Disneyland backs into the #2 slot thanks to a few things. First, Project Stardust has revitalized areas of the park and improved crowd flow, something that had been a persistent issue for years. Second, the new “Magic Happens” daytime parade, which debuted shortly before the ongoing closure.
Finally, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the early 2020 debut of its flagship attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Both the land and the ride are among the very best in the world. Galaxy’s Edge is beautifully-done, immersive, transportive, and represents the evolution of themed lands. Disneyland doesn’t score quite as many points here as perhaps it should, as the new Star Wars Land feels isolated and removed for the rest of the park–also like a park within the park–rather than a coherent space that congeals with the greater whole.
However, this separation has one tremendous upside, and that’s the preservation of the charm and intimacy of Walt Disney’s original magic kingdom. The ‘traditional’ side of the park still oozes whimsy, beauty, and warm. Moreover, Disneyland has some of the best themed spaces in the world, with the Rivers of America, New Orleans Square, Frontierland, Adventureland, and Main Street all being incredibly inviting.
Equally as important, it has an incredible slate of attractions, ranging from intimate Fantasyland dark rides like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Alice in Wonderland to blockbuster E-Tickets like Indiana Jones Adventure and Hyperspace Mountain. Disneyland is incredibly attraction-dense, with great versions of the classics, plus a solid slate of entertainment. Plan your visit with our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide.
1. Tokyo DisneySea
The undisputed, indisputable king. Anyone who ranks another park ahead of Tokyo DisneySea either hasn’t been to Tokyo DisneySea, is leaning heavily on nostalgia, or just plain hates awesomeness.
Tokyo DisneySea loses a couple of points by virtue of retiring A Table is Waiting and replacing StormRider with Finding Nemo: SeaRider, but that’s like a receiver dropping Brady’s screen pass when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are up 44-10. On the other hand, the unsurprisingly excellent Soaring: Fantastic Flights (that’s the ride–and its show building–pictured above) is like a garbage time handoff somehow taken 83 yards to put the score at 51-10.
I have already dedicated an entire article to the Top 10 Reasons Tokyo DisneySea is Disney’s Best Park, so I’ll just defer to that for what else makes this park so unbelievably special. Tokyo DisneySea is still Disney’s best theme park in the world, and it’s not even a remotely close call.
Hope you enjoyed this new edition of the Disney Parks Power Rankings. Keep in mind that this list is all in good fun. Like sports fans, most Disney fans have strong allegiances towards their home park and take offense when they feel it’s slighted. Remember that this is one random dude’s opinion on the internet. At the end of the day, it doesn’t impact your enjoyment of your “favorite” park if I rank it at number 8, nor does my opinion matter (at all) in the grand scheme of things.
How would you rank the Disney Parks you’ve visited? It doesn’t matter how many parks you’ve been to, I’m still interested in knowing! Do you think I mis-ranked any parks, or made any poor choices? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!