2019 has been an interesting year for the Disney Parks around the world. The biggest addition has been Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to both Disneyland and Hollywood Studios. Along with that, Epcot has undergone major changes and DisneySea has opened another strong attraction. With so much having gone on since early 2019 I thought it was time to revisit our park rankings before we head off to 2020.
This has been an intriguing year for those that follow the Disney theme parks. Of course, it seemed like it would be more intriguing when we first started the year. We thought Galaxy’s Edge would open with two attractions but that marquee attraction has been pushed to 2020 (or late December 2019 in Hollywood Studios case). Along with that, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway was scheduled to debut this year but has also been pushed back. There was some thought that Epcot would receive a few modest improvements but instead there are just more things behind walls. With quite a bit pushed out to 2020, these rankings didn’t change quite as much as I thought they would. Still, there are a few tweaks to them.
These rankings are a reflection of the current day parks. I believe Epcot is one of (if not) the best ideas for a theme park ever but that doesn’t keep it from ranking fairly low due to some current problems the park faces. Another emphasis I’ll make is that these are the parks I perceive as overall best (or worst), not necessarily my favorites or the ones I always want to visit.
I’ll only be ranking the parks I’ve been to, which include the 6 U.S. parks and the 2 Tokyo parks. I’m not going to include the recent Universal parks in the part below but they would likely be above the last place finisher and below every other park (again, probably). Let’s get to it, from worst to first, Wandering in Disney’s Official Early 2019 Theme Park Rankings! (Crowd cheering sound in your head, along with a few boos.)
8. Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Walt Disney World)
For the __th year (I’ve lost count) Hollywood Studios finishes last in my theme park rankings. Having said that, Hollywood Studios is trending up. This is the first time, in the three years that I’ve written this post, that I considered moving DHS up. Honestly, it could be moved all the way up to 6th. With the addition of Galaxy’s Edge, the park has solved some spacing issues and has a beautiful land to explore. Why it remains last in the rankings is due to the lack of attractions and quality lands. A few new shows and another ride or two and DHS could be moving on up.
7. Epcot (Walt Disney World)
It is somewhat sad to put Epcot this low, as I stated above the concept behind Epcot is my favorite for a theme park. Some of it still works. Walking around World Showcase at night is a quintessential Disney Parks experience and the sole reason that Epcot isn’t in last place in these rankings. There’s a decent amount of entertainment that is worth checking out, as well as some attractions that not only entertain but educate. Unfortunately, Future World is a disaster and now half of it sits behind construction walls. On top of that, the existing Epcot feels dumbed down, with some attractions being shoe-horned in areas they don’t belong. 2019 finds Epcot in a holding pattern. Future World’s Space Restaurant is scheduled to open at the end of the year and Epcot Forever, a new nighttime spectacular, opened to mixed reviews in October. The major additions, including France’s Ratatouille attraction and the Guardians of the Galaxy, won’t be open this year. They may bolster the park’s attraction lineup but they also could dumb down the park further, time will tell.
6. Disney California Adventure (Disneyland Resort)
Hollywood Studios fell behind the times and was left sitting idle for many years. That’s how it fell to being what it is today, a park getting completely revamped. Weirdly, California Adventure took the same approach and now is taking the opposite approach. DCA had its revamp and it was largely successful, making the park beautiful with some incredible attractions and lands. Not everything was fixed but it seemed like only a matter of time before it was. But instead of fixing those last few issues, Disney has decided to tinker with what has largely worked and California Adventure is losing the identity it took over a decade to build. I will give the park credit for a decent slate of attractions, some of them world-class. Cars Land is still one of the best theme park lands made in recent history and Grizzly Peak is severely underrated. The cohesion is lacking though and it feels like Disney might just want this to be a collection of all the acquisitions they have made.
5. Magic Kingdom (Walt Disney World)
I should say that there is a big jump between Epcot and Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom boasts a wonderful amount of attractions, a stunning icon, and one of the best fireworks shows Disney has created. On top of that, there aren’t any bad lands in the whole park. My only complaints here are the crowds (which it can only do so much to control), the dining, and a little less character than the parks above it. The dining continues to improve over the last decade but the park could still use a few more quality options. As far as having less character, I think Magic Kingdom might be just a little too straight-edge. There are aren’t as many odd moments, or even jaw-dropping moments, like there are with the parks above this one. Magic Kingdom currently suffers from not having a nighttime parade and that may be a cause of the lack of intrigue in the park. 2019 has only seen minor changes, most of them negative, within Magic Kingdom. It is still a great park though, just lagging behind the top 4.
4. Animal Kingdom (Walt Disney World)
This may be the surprise on my list but longtime readers know how much I adore Animal Kingdom. The park has only excelled in recent years, adding Pandora and nighttime entertainment (and additional hours) to its lineup. Animal Kingdom has a sense of exploration that is only matched by DisneySea and it’s environments are mesmerizing. I’ll acknowledge the large dinosaur (DinoLand) in the room and that the park could use a few more attractions. Even with those issues, Animal Kingdom is Disney’s most beautiful park stateside, both in terms of aesthetic and story.
3. Tokyo Disneyland (Tokyo Disney Resort)
Tokyo Disneyland falls a spot on my list but that has more to do with Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge addition than anything else. For what it’s worth, I think TDL is still my personal favorite castle park as it has an excellent assortment of dark rides and adventure rides. The park also offers the best parades in the world and exceptional dining. 2019 saw the park remain mostly stagnant, aside from the resort’s numerous festivals, but the next year will include a massive addition with several new attractions including an E-ticket Beauty and the Beast ride. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the park jump back up to number two on the list when that does open.
2. Disneyland (Disneyland Resort)
You can’t beat the classic. Well, this list proves you can but it is tough to do. Number 3 and 2 are so close on this list that I could be talked into switching them. Disneyland is absurd in the amount of attractions it offers in one of the smallest park footprints. There are well over 30 and, by this post next year, will be reaching 40. The counter-service food is great, the lands are iconic and full of charm. Disneyland still holds the best Fantasyland, crowded as it might be. Having Jungle Cruise, Indiana Jones Adventure, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and Splash Mountain all within steps of each other is incredible and something that would seem foolish to build now. I haven’t even mentioned the spectacular nighttime entertainment with both Fantasmic! and fireworks in the park. 2019 has seen the addition of Galaxy’s Edge, a jaw dropping land with a great ride (and soon to be another). Despite the giant footprint, Galaxy’s Edge doesn’t really detract from Disneyland’s charm. Really the new addition is a large part why this has moved up to number two on the list. The park has the strongest attraction lineup in the world with a number of amazing lands.
1. Tokyo DisneySea (Tokyo Disney Resort)
As much as I love Animal Kingdom, Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland, this one is not all that close. I’ve already written about the world’s greatest theme park so I won’t try to wax poetic much here. In short, Tokyo DisneySea is an intoxicating place full of great lands, attractions and details. Every corner turned is another stunning view, usually resulting in a feel of a museum or idealized real world more than a theme park. 2019 will bring an attraction addition in Soaring: Fantastic Flight, which will only boost an already extraordinary attraction lineup. Tokyo DisneySea brings on a depth of emotions with storytelling, reeling guests in with every new land. I’ve never been anywhere like it.
Let me know what your thoughts, questions and rankings in the comments below! Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney. If you enjoy our content please subscribe to the blog (via WordPress or email) and like our social media pages. You can find all of those things on the right side of this page. Have a great day!
Categories: Top 10 Lists