Updated on 10/9/18. It’s a question that most Disney vacation discussions start with: How many days should we spend in each park? Of course, some vacations don’t lend themselves to the luxury of getting to pick exactly how many days you can spend where. Budgets, time and other various aspects come into play when planning a vacation. Still, guests would like to give themselves an adequate amount of time to see most attractions and some details.
Disneyland, Disney World and Tokyo Disney Resort all offer very different experiences. None of these opinions are an exact science since it’s easy to jump from park-to-park at every resort and there are other factors throughout the year that can alter plans. Still, we’ll give a rough estimate on how much time it takes to see each park’s essentials. For a more thorough look on what we recommend doing at each park, check out our 1-Day Itineraries.
With most any post on Wandering in Disney, this is opinion-based. Some people value different aspects of a theme park more than others. Obviously, that means everyone will have different favorites. With that being said, I’ll try not to base this too much off of my opinions (although I promise you, I’ve never been wrong about anything in my whole life).
If you do have a limited amount of time, I really recommend using Touring Plans and the Unofficial Guide to Disney World. They have plans that will maximize the amount guests can see and do in a Disney Park in just a day (or two, depending on the plan you follow) and I know most people don’t have unending vacations, unfortunately. Their plans truly work and are a great guide to follow.
Without further ado, here are my recommendations on how much time to spend in each Disney Park (within reason, if I had no responsibilities and endless money I’d spend most of my time there, obviously). We’ll start on the best (I mean, west) coast first, then to Disney World before finishing with Tokyo Disney Resort.
Disneyland – 2 Days
The only U.S. park on this list that I seriously considered giving more than 2 days. There is an incredible amount to see here. You could probably hit all of Disneyland’s E-Ticket attractions in one day (again, probably) but that would all you would have time for. If you do that, and skip a second day, you will definitely be missing out on Disneyland’s charm. There are strolls around New Orleans Square, rides on riverboats, dozens of foods to try, and history to explore. Melissa and I spent a little over 3 days here on our last trip and we still didn’t get to everything we wanted to see. Do the big attractions because they are great but don’t forget to slow down and enjoy the parts of Disneyland that make it so unique. As an aside, I recommend spending two evenings in this park, as well. Do Fantasmic! one night and Remember… Dreams Come True (fireworks show) the other night.
Disney’s California Adventure – 1.5 Days
When this park first opened, spending half of a day here would do but since renovation of basically the entire park, the quality here has really gone up. If you really pushed yourself you could see everything in one day, but I like to take my time so that’s why it gets the extra half a day. There’s a pretty decent number of E-Ticket attractions here (Radiator Springs Racers, Soarin’, California Screamin’, Grizzly River Run, Toy Story Midway Mania, Tower of Terror) and then quite a few other attractions to see. In California Adventure’s first go-around, it seemed that they didn’t quite understand the value of having beautiful areas to explore. Now, that has been remedied with the addition of Cars Land, Buena Vista Street, and Grizzly Peak. Pixar Pier is an interesting area, although somewhat weak thematically, and I always enjoy being down by the water. World of Color is a must-see but so is Cars Land at dusk. You can typically do both in one day but that will take up a chunk of time so that’s another reason to add a half day here. For the record, If you only had 3 days at Disneyland Resort I’d probably spend 2 at Disneyland and 1 at California Adventure if there was no park-hopper.
Magic Kingdom – 2 Days
Magic Kingdom is like Disneyland in that there is a ton to see. There are several shows and parades that you shouldn’t miss. The sheer number of attractions here is what drives this park. Like Disneyland, there are beautifully themed areas here that could be explored for a whole day by themselves. This is also the most crowded park at Disney World so it’s likely that you’ll be running into more crowds. Two days in Magic Kingdom is about the perfect amount of time, in my opinion. You give yourself time to explore Liberty Square and other parts of the park as well as ride all of the famed attractions.
Epcot – 1.5 Days
When you look at it from a strictly attraction based viewpoint, Epcot doesn’t have a whole lot to do. There aren’t many E-Tickets (Soarin’, Spaceship Earth, Frozen Ever After and Test Track and that might be generous) and Future World could use some help. With that being said, there are a number of factors to look at when considering Epcot. There are the wonderful smaller rides like the films in World Showcase and Living with the Land. There’s an aquarium to visit in The Seas. There’s shopping and details to explore in World Showcase. Then, there’s the food. Oh, the food. Most of the other parks I didn’t factor a ton of time into getting food but it seems necessary in this one. There is food everywhere you go in Epcot and most of it is really pretty good. With all of that in mind, Epcot gets a day and a half from me. You could push it and try to do it in one and miss out on some details. I’d be more likely to try to do this park in 2 days. Either way, I highly encourage anyone to visit World Showcase around sunset and then stay for Illuminations. That’s one of my favorite evenings whenever I go to Disney World.
Animal Kingdom – 1.5 Days
The next two are probably my most controversial picks. I could spend 2 days in Animal Kingdom, no problem. A lot of people could spend a day there and then be done with it. Even though I’m always right about everything, I’ll compromise here and go with a day and a half with a strong lean towards adding more time. Now, it’s not going to take much time to get the big attractions done here. Go close to opening, have a fastpass for Flight of Passage (and if not then Everest), get on Kilimanjaro Safaris, ride Everest, and then go over to Dinosaur and then you have most of the must-see rides done. But, there are several shows that shouldn’t be missed in Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo: The Musical. There’s also the underrated Flights of Wonder. There are animal-viewing trails to walk on. There are beautiful areas to explore (pretty much everywhere except for DinoLand). With the addition of Pandora – World of Avatar, Rivers of Light and tons of entertainment, this park could use a full 2 days but you can complete everything in a day and a half fairly easily. But, if that means you are missing out on slowly wandering the trails and details of Animal Kingdom then you are missing the point of the park.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios – 1/2 Day
I’ll come out and say it, right now this park is bad. If you’re going on a vacation right now, there’s a pretty decent case to make for this park not being worth your money. There are some fun E-Ticket attractions open still. Tower of Terror is arguably the best attraction at Disney World. Everything else is fine but there isn’t much to do here. There are always areas to look at but this park doesn’t have the detail of Magic Kingdom or the nature of Animal Kingdom. Soon (hopefully), this will all be fixed with the addition of Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land. Until then, the park is just trying to scrape by as passable. As far as nighttime experiences go, the Star Wars fireworks are very fun to see especially if you are a fan of the franchise. Fantasmic! is good but the Studios version is inferior to it’s Disneyland counterpart.
Tokyo Disneyland – 2 Days
Like the other castle parks on this list, Tokyo Disneyland has an astonishing amount of things to do. The attractions in the park are phenomenal and somewhat of a greatest hits from Disneyland and Magic Kingdom, along with a few excellent originals. Parades at Tokyo Disneyland are second to none, with Dreaming Up being the best daytime parade we’ve ever seen and Dreamlights being the best nighttime parade we’ve ever seen. Counter-service restaurants, as well as a few table-service, are very interesting and enjoyable in the park. There’s no shortage of things to do here from the attractions, food, parades and exploring Westernland, Adventureland and Fantasyland (among others). Tokyo Disney Resort can get quite busy but if you go during the week at a less crowded time of the year then seeing the essentials in two days will be no problem. While I’d recommend more time at DisneySea than Tokyo Disneyland if you have an odd number of days, TDL is definitely worth two days.
Tokyo DisneySea – 2 Days
I would live here if I could. On our last trip, we spent 3 days at DisneySea and immediately wanted to go back. Alas, the pilot on our airplane wouldn’t give in. While I only put 2 days above it should read “However many days you can afford to be here while still seeing other things in the remarkable country of Japan.” That’s just too long to put up there though. For all intents and purposes, you can do everything at DisneySea in 2 days if the crowds aren’t too high. There aren’t quite as many attractions here as there are at Tokyo Disneyland. There are some extraordinary shows, notably Big Band Beat, but there is still time to fit that in. The problem with fitting everything in is that the pace here should be savored instead of choked down. Going to multiple table-service restaurants in a day and spending a couple of hours in a walk-through attraction should be commonplace in DisneySea. Exploring back alleys and seeing how all the details coincide perfectly are what make this the best park in the world. That makes putting an estimate on how many days guests should spend there hard. For theme park junkies, this is mecca.
I will try to keep this updated over the years as attractions are added and taken away. What do you think of my recommendations? Would you recommend anything different? Let us know in the comments. Thank you for reading!
Categories: Vacation Tips