Did you know that there are 13 major Disney theme parks? Nearly a billion people have walked through their doors from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, so how in the world do you decide which park to visit?
While the original Disneyland is in LA, and Disneyland Paris is closer to home, a trip to Orlando, Florida delivers you to the doorstep of no more than six different Disney parks – and that’s not even counting SeaWorld, LEGOLAND and two Universal Studios parks! Thankfully, the Disney parks in Orlando offer multi-day multi-park ticket deals, making a holiday to Florida the best choice for those who want good value and good weather with their Goofy-ear souvenir hats.
Until you can board that flight, get your fill of daydreams with our gallery of the 13 major Disney parks:
Los Angeles, California, USA
The first ever Disney park, Disneyland, opened in 1955 and has welcomed over 600 million guests through its doors. Meet Cinderella and Mickey Mouse, get your thrill on the iconic Matterhorn, shoot aliens with Buzz Lightyear, dance to a Dixieland band on a paddle steamer, and beat the California heat on Splash Mountain (shown above). It’s the second-most popular theme park in the world after its younger sibling in Florida – not to mention you get to visit California while you’re there! Fun fact: Doritos were invented at a Disneyland restaurant as a way to use up leftover tortilla wraps.
Disney California Adventure opened in 2001 and is dedicated to California culture. The park features beach-style boardwalk rides, old-west themed attractions, a recreation of old Hollywood, Cars Land (based on the Disney Pixar film Cars), and more.
Orlando, Florida, USA
Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida (actually 20 miles south of Orlando) is home to four major theme parks and two water parks, in addition to a wedding pavilion, a speedway, five golf courses and 33 resorts.
Magic Kingdom is the flagship park of the group, which opened in 1971 with the same rides as its sibling on the west coast. Over the years it developed its own unique rides, shows and attractions and is now the most popular theme park in the world. It deserves the honour too – the park is fun, otherworldly and absolutely magical, and unmissable for anybody planning a holiday to Florida, young or old.
Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) is a “permanent world’s fair” which celebrates technology and cultures from all over the world. It is the sixth most-popular theme park in the world, with nightly fireworks shows, interactive scavenger hunts for kids, flower and food shows and tech showcases.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a Hollywood and show-biz themed park which opened in 1989. See behind-the-scenes replica movie sets and studios, go on high-octane roller coasters, audition for an Idol-style singing show, and walk through Hollywood, San Francisco and New York without ever leaving Florida. Word to the wise: don’t ride the Hollywood Tower Hotel (shown above) right after a meal!
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a safari-park/theme-park hybrid: see animals up close and support serious conservation programs, all while you enjoy live entertainment, explore a replica East African village, plummet through the “Himalayas” on a roller coaster and discover fossils, reptiles and a thrill ride in DinoLand U.S.A. Next year the park will also start construction on an Avatar-themed area.
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s Blizzard Beach are among the most popular water parks in the world. Typhoon Lagoon is shipwreck themed, while Blizzard Beach offers Floridians the experience of a ski resort – in appearance only, of course, as both air and water are tropical and warm. Confuse your friends on Facebook by posting photos of yourself enjoying an ice cream in a swimsuit, while riding on a ski lift.
While Disneyland Paris lacks the reliable sunshine of California and Florida, Euro Disney is still a hugely popular destination – in fact in 2008, it was the single most popular attraction on the whole European continent! Stroll through Main Street, USA to Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland and Discoveryland and see the whole world in a day.
If you’re already at Disneyland Paris in Marne-la-Vallée, Walt Disney Studios Park is right next door. This Hollywood-themed park gives a behind-the-scenes look at crafting the magic of the movies, with rides for all ages, a car stunt show and other live entertainment; it is the sister park of Florida’s Disney Hollywood Studios.
Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, Chiba, Japan, was the first Disney park outside of the USA – it was an immediate hit when it opened in 1983, paving the way for the construction of more parks in East Asia. It is very closely based on Magic Kingdom and the original Disneyland, and is the third most popular theme park in the world behind its two predecessors.
Tokyo DisneySea is a one-of-a-kind park next to Tokyo Disneyland. Discover the world (both real and imagined) in the park’s seven unique districts: ride to the centre of the earth in a volcano at Mysterious Island, discover an ancient Aztec pyramid in the Lost River Delta, meet Arial at Mermaid Lagoon, stroll through New York City and Cape Cod, experience the future at Port Discovery, and top it off with a meal and Aladdin-themed show at the enchanted Arabian Coast. When the day is over, take a gondola to your canal-front hotel in Venice.
Hong Kong Disneyland only opened in 2005, making it the newest park in the Disney family. It is based directly on Disneyland in Los Angeles, with the addition of the huge Inspiration Lake, and is the only park which reflects the local culture of its country. There are rumours that further parks are due to open on the same site.
Shanghai Disney Resort is due to open in late 2015, with the later addition of two more parks and an artificial lake!
And on top of all that, the Disney Resorts are also home to hotels, golf courses, shopping districts and more – and don’t forget Disney Cruise Line and international tour group Adventures by Disney! However, whichever park or attraction you visit, going to a Disney park is a totally unique experience that you and your kids will never, ever forget.