The Disney theme parks are wonderful, magical, fun places where dreams really do come true. They transport us to a different time and place, make us forget about our problems, and it seems like the outside world just disappears when we enter their gates. But let’s be honest here, some of them are currently better than others. This list (at least for me) is like choosing which one of my children is my favorite (come on, you know you have a favorite kid!) But when I sat down to write it, the list came together for me very quickly. Of course, in the future, especially with all of the construction and big things coming to the Disney theme parks in the United States, this list can and will probably change. But here, in March of 2016, are my rankings for the best Disney parks: Disney’s Theme Parks, RANKED!
6. Disney’s Hollywood Studios – The Disney theme parks are like pizza: I’ve never met one I didn’t like. However, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is getting the bottom, number six ranking from me here. The reason is only because with all of the closures, construction, and general disarray of the park these days, I feel like “The Studios” best days are without a doubt in the future. With Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land coming, this park is going to be an absolute beast in a few years! And don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty to do right now with headliners like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania, and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster still packing people in every single day. Plus, Hollywood Studios has some of the best in-park Disney restaurants with the Sci Fi Dine-In and the 50’s Prime Time Cafe. I am REALLY looking forward to what the Disney Imagineers have in store for this park and trust me, I’ll never take a WDW trip without spending a full day there, even with all of the current changes going on.
5. Epcot – Like I said, this is all about choosing your favorite children, and Epcot is one of my favorite places on the planet! The true reason for this park not being a little bit higher on my list is the empty spaces that Epcot currently has. The Wonders of Life Pavilion, the Odyssey Restaurant, and Innoventions are all sitting, mostly unused, just waiting for a BIG refurbishment. The park needs a bit of a shot in the arm, and with Frozen Land (oh, I mean Norway) still under construction but opening this summer, I think that is going to make a BIG difference in how guests experience Epcot. That all being said, on every Disney vacation I take with my family, we will spend the majority of our nights at Epcot. The park is even more incredible at night and we love wandering the World Showcase, snacking, and having a few adult beverages (while our kids eat an ice cream or two, hey, they’re on vacation too!)
4. Disney’s Animal Kingdom – The park that Disney had to spend an awful lot of time and money convincing guests it was “Nahtazu” is bigger, better, and more beautiful than ever! Yes, there are still construction walls up and things are still being built. But, unlike Disney’s Hollywood Studios, these new experiences are MUCH closer to being completed. With the all new Rivers of Light show opening soon, and the nighttime safari almost ready to get underway, Animal Kingdom is getting ready to become one heck of a nighttime park! I didn’t even mention the all new Avatar Land which will be here before we know it and will completely transform and redefine what Animal Kingdom is at night. And for all of those people out there who say that Animal Kingdom shouldn’t have Avatar creatures and attractions in it because they’re not real, take a look at the log of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. There’s a dragon on it! Yes, the Disney Imagineers always planned to include a land devoted to mythical animals, and James Cameron’s Avatar is just replacing the always-meant-to-be-included Beastly Kingdom section of the park.
3. Disney’s California Adventure – My first visit to Disney’s California Adventure in 2008 left me a little underwhelmed. I understood the concept, a park honoring the great state of California in, well, California, but it didn’t do a whole lot for me. Sure, there were great attractions like Soarin’, California Screamin’, and Grizzly River Run, but I felt kind of like, been there, done that in the park. Then, after I had a chance to go back and see the re-imagined park again last year, I couldn’t believe it! Disney’s California Adventure’s addition of Cars Land, Buena Vista Street, and the re-theming of the rest of the park COMPLETELY changed the park-going experience around for me. Before all of those changes, this park would have easily been number 6 on my list a few years ago (equivalent to my least favorite child…come one, we all have one!) Now it’s at number 3 and it’s going to take an awful lot for any park to surpass it. This is a phenomenal park during the daytime but I think the park really comes to life at night. When you walk down Route 66 in Cars Land with the neon lights surrounding you or stroll down Buena Vista Street with the lit-up Red Car Trolley ringing it’s bell as it passes by, you might as well be in a completely different time and place. If you haven’t experienced this park since it’s grand re-opening, you really have to go!
2. Magic Kingdom – I had a REALLY tough time deciding between the top 2 on my list! Ultimately, the park that started my Disney obsession for me, the Magic Kingdom, is my second favorite Disney theme park. The experience for me really starts when I get off the monorail or the ferryboat and hear the whistle from the Walt Disney World railroad’s trains. That sound always makes me feel like everything is right in the world. The walk down Main Street with the background music, the smells of the popcorn and the cookies baking, the general buzz in the park: I get goosebumps just thinking about it! I’ve always loved the look and feel of the park and the additions of New Fantasyland and Storybook Circus just upped my feelings for the place. The attractions all across the park are fantastic, the shows and parades (especially the Festival Of Fantasy Parade) are top notch, and I’ll never get tired of just sitting on a bench with popcorn or a pretzel and watching the excited families rush by. As a matter of fact, that feeling can only be topped in one place, the number 1 park on my list.
1. Disneyland – The park where Walt Disney once walked, ate, slept, and everything in between is probably my favorite place on the entire planet! As soon as I first walked through the gates when my wife and I were on our honeymoon in 2008, I knew I would need to get back to this park as much as I could over the rest of my life. And no, I’m not exaggerating at all! Where the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street greets you with an over-the-top, “can’t believe the size of this place” kind of feeling, Disneyland’s Main Street does the exact opposite. You really feel like you’re walking into the heart of a turn of the century town in the early 1900’s. The Main Street vehicles, including Walt’s favorite firetruck, frequently run up and down the streets. The park’s feeling is more of a laid-back, small town than a bustling theme park. I love the Rivers of America, the bridge into Adventureland with the flaming torches, the walkway into Frontierland (something the Magic Kingdom doesn’t have), and the entire land of New Orleans Square. So many of the original attractions are still in operation today and those that have been added have blended in seamlessly to add to the story of the park. I know not everyone will agree with this as the top Disney park, but Disneyland, to me, is truly the Happiest Place On Earth.
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