Which park is best?
Six years ago I wrote a series of articles for our friends at miceage.com. The purpose was to evaluate and compare each of the Disney parks to see which one truly reigned supreme. In a tough fought brawl to take it all one park emerged as the ultimate victor.
Oh wait… strike that. We want to know which is truly the best park in the world and to do so we we will carefully evaluate the parks on a range of topics. None of our normal snarky Parkeology.com type of stuff here folks… this is the real deal, a deadly serious topic and one that demands our respect. No rules, no safety, no mercy this is the…
|Who is Deadliest?
The combatants are ringside, the smell of this savage bloodsport is in the air and without further ado we will let the fight begin!
(originally run late 2004 and early 2005, some facts have changed over that time and will be addressed in round four. This is the original series):
May the Best Park Win:
Some questions haunt man; Why are we here? What is the meaning of Life? Are we alone in the universe? Meaningful subjects that keep scholars up at night.
And then there are the really important questions for discerning readers such as yourself, like which Disney park is the best?
I have been fortunate enough to visit all of the Disney resorts the world over and more so I have been to each within the last two years. It’s about time we tackle a serious subject, the answer of which has eluded mankind for decades and so once and for all we will answer the burning question: which is the best Disney theme park in the world?
Judging the parks fairly takes more than just a casual poll or a throw away opinion. There are thousands and thousands of elements that must gel together in order for a theme park to click into high gear and fire on all cylinders. All of these must be considered. It is also important to have some sort of level playing field for the judging. I’ve only taken two trips to Tokyo DisneySea for a total of eight days or so, while I have been to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World dozens of times and hundreds of days. It’s only human nature to start to become bored with a park you have seen so many times. On the other hand a newer park holds all sorts of possibilities and potential, if not careful this newness can be blinding and perhaps lull one into an artificial sense of grandeur.
In order to keep things fair we have developed a rating scale. This scale takes into account four major aspects of any theme park and weights the scale to the most important factors. The scale the parks will be judged on is as follows:
|Read this, it’s important, or click on it to make it big.
While this is by no means a scientific poll I have asked several people (as well as myself) to rate each park. Only those who have been to the parks have rated them so there is no speculation. I have asked numerous people ranging from frequent visitors to first time guests to rate the parks they have experienced. The averages have been calculated and represents the parks final overall score.
Lets introduce the contenders and check out the stats:
Hailing from Anaheim in sunny California U.S.A., we have the original, the innovator and the granddaddy of them all, ladies and gentlemen I give you Disneyland!
|The old man is tough
Entering the ring next, the east coast cousin of Disneyland, the most popular park
in the U.S., from Orlando Florida I give you Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom!
|Built to be bigger and badder than Disneyland
|What exotic fighting style may be lurking up it’s sleeve?
|Drunks always fight harder
Lets look at Disneyland first. The park delivers a near knockout blow in the attractions category. Featuring ALL of the classics like Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain it also boasts the original and still best version of Pirates of the Caribbean. The attractions are varied and far flung. There is something for everyone here of all ages and all tastes. It is the only Magic Kingdom style park with the Indiana Jones Adventure and has more Fantasyland attractions than any of the others. However Disneyland has faltered with it’s latest version of Tomorrowland. The removal of the Submarine Voyage (rumored to return but we don’t know that yet) and the removal of the Rocket Rods has made Tomorrowland into a mere shell of it’s former self. All is not perfect, but overall Disneyland does very well with it’s selection of attractions (when they are all functioning) and so the park manages to pull down a near perfect 14 out of 15 for attractions.
However Disneyland takes a bit of a beating in the atmosphere category. While it is a beautiful park full of old growth trees it is by far the smallest of the parks, roughly 50% the size of the others. No matter how hard it tries Disneyland gets caught on the ropes because of the tight spaces. Odd relationships pop up like Haunted Mansion nearly touching Splash Mountain, and Sleeping Beauty castle is Lilliputian when compared to the competition. There is no doubt that Disneyland has a wonderful atmosphere but it’s size works against it and it comes up short of the other combatants with a score of 10.
The Kingdom rallies back in the atmosphere category. It is bigger than Disneyland and takes great advantage of that space. The castle is majestic, the building facades more encompassing and the mountains stand taller. The Magic Kingdom avoids the cramped spaces of Disneyland while still creating an engrossing and enveloping experience. It stands tall and pulls down an impressive 13 points for atmosphere.
Tokyo Disneyland is clobbered in the atmosphere category though. While it puts up a good fight it is ultimately over powered by the rest of the combatants. Many may think that Tokyo Disneyland is a virtual clone of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World but they would be wrong. First of all all of main street is covered in a glass canopy (and rechristened World Bazaar). This feels a bit like being in a mall, much of the charm is lost. Furthermore most of the park lacks the level of detailing found in the challengers. Facades on Main Street are greatly simplified and detail is stripped away. The same cannot be said about Tomorrowland which features an elaborate version of Star Tours which from the exterior outshines the attraction anywhere else. However Tomorrowland has not been updated and while it is in like new condition it feels like in belongs in 1977, not 2077. Some odd placements happen as well such as the Haunted Mansion being located in Fantasyland with the Walt Disney World facade that feels out of place here.
Disneyland Paris comes roaring out of the corner, gloves flying. It has the advantage of being decades younger than the competition and all the technological improvements can be seen in it’s attractions. Space Mountain crushes the other versions and Pirates features cutting edge dueling swash bucklers. The attractions in Disneyland Paris have a tendency to be even larger and more elaborate than those featured in the other parks. However just when it looks like the park will score the TKO it runs out of major rides and shows. Disneyland Paris is missing Splash Mountain and the Jungle Cruise (found in all the other parks) and has a pale coaster based imitation of the real Indiana Jones Adventure found in Disneyland. Further injury is inflicted because for some odd reason the Parisian version of Haunted Mansion loses most of the humor and charm of the others and comes up as the weakest version out there. While most of the attractions at Disneyland Paris are wonderful, it is sadly missing a few key attractions and slightly misses the mark with an 11 in this category.
The park is certainly not out for the count though, it stages a major comeback in the category of Atmosphere. Everything in this park is insanely detailed and meticulously laid out. This is arguably the prettiest of the parks in this competition and it is a pleasure to stroll the grounds. Adventure Isle is a cinematic combination of Tom Sawyer Island, skull rock and the Swiss Family Robinson Tree house. It adds a tremendous amount to the atmosphere of Adventureland. Big Thunder sits majestically on an island and all of Tomorrowland is a cohesive, and beautiful tribute to past visionaries. Main Street has more detail than any of the other parks plus two covered arcades. In fact every corner of this park is pretty and makes you feel good to be in it so Disneyland Paris throws a powerful roundhouse and lands a 14 in this category.
The final bell has rung and all the parks are locked in a virtual tie. There is no single one that blows the others away. Each park has individual elements going for it, and working against it. Any of these destinations is worthy of being called one of the best in the world and they each offer a unique twist on a shared theme. But as in a title fight there can be only one winner and today, despite being nearly 50 years old, Disneyland in California comes away the winner, the other three parks are tied just one sole point behind the ultimate champ.
It is worth repeating that this margin is so close that it is a near tie. However Disneyland offers the best combination of strong, varied and numerous attractions, history and charm, pretty atmosphere and varied dining opportunities.
Disneyland finally won because it has the benefit of real history. Fans of the parks can sense Walt’s personal touches and the way it fits so much into such a limited space creates a charm that the larger and better designed parks cannot match. However for many first time visitors Disneyland feels small and cramped and the history is lost on them. Through the surveys we took it became clear that fans of the parks preferred Disneyland while average visitors leaned towards the other parks.
The bell has rung on round one and a winner has been titled… but the fight is not over. Waiting in the wings are six other parks, all ready and willing to take the title form Disneyland. Next time we will pit all of the non Magic Kingdom style parks against one another in a vicious bout which will leave only one park standing.
Which park will take on Disneyland in the final battle to claim the ultimate title of Worlds Greatest Disney Theme Park?
Post fight analysis:
So sure, some things have changed since this war was originally waged. Disneyland has had a huge improvement in maintenance and has opened some major attractions. Hong Kong Disneyland has joined the fight and Tokyo Disneyland continues along it’s impressive course of constantly adding attractions and AMAZING upkeep. Meanwhile both the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Paris have languished along and the Stitch attraction has tanked. But is any of this enough to have tipped the scales or changed the rankings? We shall see. But next time we will continue with the re-post and watch as all the non Magic Kingdom style parks climb into the octagon and battle to the death.