Most people think all Disney parks are created equal but there are differences between them all, both subtle and extreme. It’s most likely the readers of this blog might have visited one or two but not seen all of them yet. With Shanghai opening in 5 months, it’s a good time to reflect on why you should visit certain Disney parks. Lets look at the good, bad and the ugly of every park so you can start planning that vacation for 1 month or 5 years time.

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Castle at Disneyland Paris

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Space Mountain and Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris
How many times I’ve visited: 3
Future plans to go back: None immediate|y
Last visit: March 2011
The Good: The castle looks great and stunningly different from any other. It has many interesting little attractions that aren’t rides, like the dragon under the castle and Alice’s labyrinth. Its ride line up offers a good balance between the best of the traditional and also some twists on classics (especially their Jules Verne inspired Discoveryland, which is a twist on the other parks Tomorrowland). There are some hidden gems when it comes to restaurants (go to Walt’s, just do it) and its crowd levels make your day manageable without planning like a military operation.
The Bad: There’s nothing new and interesting. They haven’t even bothered to update their Star Tours attraction. Things haven’t been well maintained. The hotels are expensive, even for Disney property and they’re not up to standard.
The Ugly: People like to complain about the service but I’ve never had an ugly experience. The ugly thing here is the price compared to the experience. Most tourists see it as a waste of time when they could be spending their vacation time in the city of Paris. However fun this is it still feels like a cheap knock off.

Walt Disney Studios
How many times I’ve visited: 2
Future plans to go back: None immediate
Last visit: March 2011
The Good: There’s some unique stuff here!
The Bad: It’s small, it’s badly themed, it’s just generally crap.
The Ugly: It is easily the worst Disney park. The two attractions that might make it worth admission are Crush’s Coaster and Ratatouille. The line for the first is insane and completely not worth it and often it isn’t running. The second attraction I haven’t been on so I can’t comment on it much, but it hasn’t has as good reviews as its sister rides Mystic Manor and Pooh’s Hunny Hunt.

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Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland
How many times I’ve visited: No idea, probably around 15-20
Future plans to go back: Whenever
Last visit: October 2015
The Good: It’s small, it’s charming and it’s never crowded. Their version of crowded is less crazy than the quietest day of the year at Disneyland in Anaheim. You can get everything done in one day without stress. Although when it opened this park had very little going for it, it now has two attractions that are completely unique AND are awesome (Mystic Manor and Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars).
The Bad: The classic attractions are hardly a best of like every other park. The traditional dark ride they chose to put in is Winnie the Pooh. This is the only park without a Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain and Haunted Mansion. Sure they addressed some of this with the two unique attractions as they are a modern spin on the last two, but it’s still not quite enough for it to feel like a proper Disney park. Fantasyland is genuinely a joke in comparison to all the other Magic Kingdom parks, every time I go I pretty much skip that entire section.
The Ugly: Service and food are the two sticklers here. The Asian dishes at most restaurants are worse than at the local chain of Cafe de Coral and the Western dishes are worse than McDonald’s. Their sit down restaurants are not really worth the price but they’re not that expensive for a Disney park. Service everywhere is much worse than Paris. I’ve never walked in there and felt like I’m at a Disney park. Compared to the rest of Hong Kong this is better service than the city is used to, but it’s comparable to your local Walmart if you’re from the States or Tescos if you’re from the UK. Mainly indifference, you might get a smile… If you’re lucky, but on the whole they seem like they hate that you’re at the park in the first place.

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Entrance to Tokyo Disneyland

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Snow White lit up at Tokyo Disneyland
Tokyo Disneyland
How many times I’ve visited: 1
Future plans to go back: In February
Last visit: July 2013
The Good: It’s beautiful, it’s organised, the staff are the best, the rides are a best of list and they have stuff that is unique to the park. This is the best Magic Kingdom style park in the world. If anybody else tells you different they are either lying or so overly patriotic they are blinded.
The Bad: With great theme parks comes great queuing. Be prepared to queue for every single thing, from popcorn to photo ops to rides to shops. EVERYTHING.
The Ugly: At other theme parks there are multiple tips and tricks to maximise your day. These things apply to Tokyo Disneyland but their importance is the difference between an amazing day and a wasted one. You can’t just turn up at rope drop and meander around unless you want to ride 2 or 3 things. You have to have a plan A, B and C and get there an hour early AT LEAST. This is never going to be a relaxing day.

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Mount Prometheus at DisneySea

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Tokyo DisneySea
Tokyo DisneySea
How many times I’ve visited: 1
Future plans to go back: In February
Last visit: July 2013
The Good: It’s the best theme park in the world. It’s the best Disney park in the world. Photos don’t do it justice. It has two amazing world class sit down restaurants and gyoza dogs. The whole place looks fantastic. Just walking around is a pleasure even if you don’t get on a lot of rides.
The Bad: Even though it is less busy than its neighbour, it’s still incredibly busy. There are fewer E-Ticket attractions so it feels more relaxed.
The Ugly: Toy Story Mania. I love this ride but from the reports I’ve been reading I’m not sure there’s any point in trying to ride it. You have to run from the entrance to get a fastpass and that’s only if you get there an hour before. If you do queue in standby, a short wait is 90 minutes and an average is 120. That’s extreme. That’s the ugliest thing I can think of about DisneySea. I think I’ll still do it as an experience but even as a planner it just seems overwhelming. I know once I’m there it will be fine.

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Disneyland Castle in Anaheim Diamond celebration
Disneyland
How many times I’ve visited: 2
Future plans to go back: Not in the immediate future, even if I was in LA
Last visit: July 2015
The Good: It’s the original and it still looks very charming. The set up of the whole place and the way the lands merge into each other can’t be beaten. The attractions list is impressive and I enjoyed everything I got to ride. There’s not really a bad attraction in the whole park.
The Bad: There are too many people. The atmosphere is completely spoiled by the amount of people and lack of space. It’s inescapable. The crowd feels like it’s mainly locals who seem to believe the park is their own property and aren’t particularly taken by the magic. People just there going through the motions.
The Ugly: This is definitely the park where you see the most amount of people not enjoying themselves and being rude to Cast Members. Cast Members are great, shame about the general public.

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California Adventure

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Waiting for World of Colour at California Adventure

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California Screamin’ at California Adventure
California Adventure
How many times I’ve visited: 2
Future plans to go back: Not in the immediate future, even if I was in LA
Last visit: July 2015
The Good: I like this park, it’s got a bad reputation but both times I’ve visited I’ve enjoyed myself. This one is less about the rides and more about the atmosphere. The Boardwalk is particularly lovely.
The Bad: There’s not many rides I care about here. California Screamin’ and The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. If the line’s are not too long Toy Story Mania and Radiator Springs Racers are next on the list, but as I said, only if the line is not too long. Everything else is skippable (I’m in a minority here because I hate Soarin’ with a fiery passion).
The Ugly: It’s the same as the other park. I saw people behaving awfully here and one set of people should have been thrown out of the park (defacing a ride and abusing multiple Cast Members), I’m hopeful they were it’s just I didn’t witness it. There seems to be such a sense of entitlement at this park compared to the others because the crowd is so local. I know it’s a contrversial opinion, but when I’m at a Disney park I want people to realise how lucky they are to be there. Not every kid gets an opportunity to go to one. One of the good things about the Hong Kong park is that all the time you see people looking at things in amazement. Both Anaheim parks need more people with a sense of wonder.

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Ariel in a parade at Magic Kingdom

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Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom part of the new Fantasyland
Magic Kingdom
How many times I’ve visited: 5
Future plans to go back: None
Last visit: July 2014
The Good: If you have a kid, go here. There is nothing on Earth like walking into Magic Kingdom for the first time. Especially if you get the boat across to it. Maybe it’s a personal feeling, I know some people feel the same way about Disneyland in Anaheim but I think Magic Kingdom is the park that feels the most magical and transports me back to childhood. This is not quite the “best of” park that Tokyo is but it’s close. It also (thanks to the new Fantasyland) feels like it has a uniqueness that makes it stand out. Food options are great and varied (but generally expensive).
The Bad: Crowds depend so heavily on the time of year at WDW but this is always the most crowded park with the longest lines on the resort. There are so many strollers or prams here that even if you’re not clumsy you’re bound to be tripped up at one point. You always end up being on your guard because of them.
The Ugly: It does feel a little more aimed at children so if your child-like spirit has left you, hopefully this will revive it but I’m sure it could send you the other way too.

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Spice Road sampler at World Showcase in Epcot

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Tequila sampler (which I was convinced to try by the table next to me because it was so good) at World Showcase in Epcot
Epcot
How many times I’ve visited: 5
Future plans to go back: None
Last visit: July 2014
The Good: I’m an adult who enjoys food and alcohol. They have tasting flights of both drinks and foods which mean I can try so many different dishes. Just walking around World Showcase is fun as hell and it seems just when you think you’ve discovered everything you find something new. Future World has such a unique feel, in that it’s what we used to imagine the future was like. Historical and futuristic at the same time. A margarita in Mexico (or tequila flight), a wine flight in Italy, appetizer sampler in Morocco, salted caramel squares, beer and pretzels in Germany… There’s an endless list of things I want to go back to eat and drink. This is why I buy the park hopper whenever I visit. Spend the day at another park and end most evenings in Epcot for dinner and drinks. Epcot’s World Showcase is kind of my happy place (especially La Cava Del Tequila).
The Bad: The rides are limited and because there are fewer attractions the lines are long (this is the park you really need to use the fastpass system) at the ones everybody cares about (Soarin’ and Test Track). Also, like I mentioned before I despise Soarin’. I just want to ride Test Track and that does have a little bit more downtime than your average Disney ride.
The Ugly: I always end up spending too much here and getting a shock when I get back home.

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Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Hollywood Studios
How many times I’ve visited: 5
Future plans to go back: None
Last visit: July 2014
The Good: This place has some of my favourite Disney rides ever. Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania and Star Tours II.
The Bad: The stand alone line up is fairly good but the atmosphere of the park is lacking. The entire theme seems a little bit silly and most of the rides awkwardly put near each other. Which is fine somewhere that isn’t Disney. I guess, it’s just the worst park to hang out at WDW. I always feel like I have to visit it though and rush in and out as quickly as possible. There’s also not been much added, Star Tours was updated to a much better ride, but it still feels a little stale.
The Ugly: I never want to eat here. The quality at all the other Disney World parks means I plan my meals outside of Hollywood Studios. Meaning I usually just spend a couple of mornings here and then go somewhere else for lunch which is annoying. I know people rave about Prime Time Cafe but I thought the food was awful. If I have to pay Disney prices, I want to get something enjoyable for it.

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Dinoland USA at Animal Kingdom

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Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom
How many times I’ve visited: 4
Future plans to go back: None
Last visit: July 2014
The Good: Definitely Disney’s most under-rated park. Expedition Everest is possibly my favourite ride in the whole resort and the Kilimanjaro Safari is an amazing attraction. I also have a soft spot for Dinosaur and find it a charming modern twist on the dark ride experience that really does still get some scares out of me (mainly because it’s so dark). Walking into the park feels like you’re stepping into a different part of the world, it’s just so immersive. The nearby Animal Kingdom Lodge has some amazing food so you can take a break from the park easily and grab lunch. The food within the park is hit and miss but I’d rather get something from here than Hollywood Studios.
The Bad: It’s easy to do in less than a day. There’s not that much here and not much has been added since it opened in 1998 so it doesn’t really encourage repeat trips which mean people don’t often do the smaller things that make the park so awesome.
The Ugly: I’m going to state a very personal opinion: Avatar will spoil it. I know some people think Dinoland USA already spoils it, which I somewhat agree with as it doesn’t seem to fit with the park. I think Avatar is going to take that a step further. Also, I don’t think Avatar is that popular of an IP to warrant a theme park attraction. I know it has grossed the most at the box office, but… Try quoting it? Does it have lasting appeal? When is it ever mentioned in conversation apart from a reference to its box office figures? It got that box office from a gimmick rather than from fanatics (the gimmick being 3D). Can you name a character from it? Have you ever seen a kid playing with a figurine? I just cannot fathom it. I’m sure Disney will do an excellent job and I’ll still visit and try it someday. I really just don’t understand.

 

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