- Although Disney parks are similar in many ways, the six locations all offer unique experiences.
- You’ll find unique versions of classic and new rides no matter where you are.
- Many of the parks celebrate the local cultures of the area they are in.
- The iconic castles differ around the world, too.
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It’s a common misconception that all six Disney parks are just carbon copies of each other.
Whether you’re visiting Florida’s Walt Disney World, California’s Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland Paris, the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, or the Shanghai Disney Resort, you can expect a unique experience with a special touch of pixie dust.
These are 10 of the biggest ways Disney parks around the world are different from one another.
In each park, local culture is celebrated by way of merchandise, holiday celebrations, and guest traditions.
Even though you’re unmistakably in Mickey’s territory as soon as you enter any Disney park, each location worldwide makes a point to embrace and celebrate local culture, traditions, and events.
For example, at the Tokyo Disney Resort, guests often follow a tradition that’s informally called the “running of the bulls.
This tradition consists of crowds of all ages waiting outside of the park rather early and running inside as soon as the gates open. Although it might seem alarming at first, guests here are encouraged to be polite and respectful.
When it comes to holidays, parks sometimes celebrate the same ones in different ways, too.
In the US parks where it is popular, Halloween is celebrated with huge bashes, themed treats, and parties. Other parks around the globe where the holiday isn’t as big of a deal often spread Halloween-themed cheer with smaller parades.
In addition, some parks celebrate holidays that are really popular in their local area. For example, both Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland have elaborate festivals and parades to celebrate Chinese New Year.
Every park has an iconic castle, but they aren’t all the same.
Each Disney destination around the world features a “castle park” that celebrates iconic Disney princesses and characters.
Perhaps the most famous example is Cinderella’s Castle, which you can find at Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, and at Tokyo Disneyland.
Aside from some slight differences, these two castles look nearly identical.
Up until 2018, both Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and Hong Kong Disneyland featured similar versions of Sleeping Beauty Castle, but Disney is currently working on upgrading its structure in Hong Kong, which will pay tribute to the princesses.
Disneyland Paris has its own version of Sleeping Beauty Castle called Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant.
Shanghai is home to the biggest castle, a princess-themed structure called Enchanted Storybook Castle. Towering at 197 feet tall, it’s the largest castle Disney has built so far.
In terms of size, the Florida park is the biggest and the one in Hong Kong is the smallest.
Although each Disney park is a solid vacation destination on its own, some are simply much bigger than others.
It has five traditional theme parks (Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom), two water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach), as well as over 20 different resort hotels, multiple golf courses, an entire Disney Springs shopping and dining district, and so much more.
On the other hand, Hong Kong is one of the smallest parks of the bunch at about 68 acres. It has one traditional park and less than five resort hotels.
Expect to experience different weather at each park.
Although you generally often expect warm, sunny days year-round in the US parks, weather conditions are very different in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Paris.
During winter months, you can expect to see snow in Paris and Tokyo, and although Shanghai and Hong Kong each have all four seasons, you likely won’t see much snow or ice in these two locations.
Still, extreme weather (such as typhoons in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, or hurricanes in Florida) doesn’t stop guests from enjoying their time at the parks – but it’s worth being prepared before you visit.
Each park is situated in a different part of its respective city.
Some parks are located in more residential areas whereas others are a bit of a trek to get to.
Disneyland Paris is located in Marne-la-Vallée, a suburb of the city that takes approximately 45 minutes by train and is around 20 miles from central Paris.
Compare that to California’s Disneyland, which is in the heart of downtown Anaheim – you’re so close to the parks that you can see the rides from the city streets nearby.
All of the other parks are separated from the centre of their respective cities, making for an even more immersive experience.
The Tokyo Disney resort is roughly one hour by train in Urayasu, Chiba, Japan, a few miles east of Tokyo.
The Hong Kong DisneylandResort is located on Lantau Island, and can take more than two hours by mass transit to access.
Shanghai Disney is in the eastern part of Pudong, so although it’s within Shanghai city limits, it can take up to two hours by mass transit to get there.
You’ll find special versions of classic rides no matter where you are. You’ll find unique rides in each park, too.
Of course, one of the major reasons people visit a theme park is the world-class rides and attractions, and none of the global Disney parks disappoint in this area.
But if you’re of the notion that it seems silly to travel all the way around the world to ride Splash Mountain in Japan, you’re truly missing out.
Disney rides utilise some of the most impressive technology in the world, and there are few things cooler than hearing the French version of “It’s a Small World” or listening to the cheesy Jungle Cruise’s jokes spoken in Japanese.
Sure, plenty of the classics exist at nearly all of the parks, like versions of the Mad Tea Party, “Haunted Mansion” ride, and Space Mountain (except in Shanghai, which doesn’t have some of these classics), each version is slightly unique to its home park, making it fun for Disney fans to compare the differences between them.
For example, fans sometimes argue that Paris has the best version of Space Mountain, since it’s the only one taking guests upside down, whereas Shanghai’s twist on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride often takes the cake for most immersive technology.
Other beloved international rides include Pooh’s Hunny Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland, a trackless spin in a honeypot; Journey to the Centre of the Earth at Tokyo DisneySea which is known for being filled with thrilling movements; and Shanghai Disneyland’s Tron Lightcycle Power Run, which is set to make its way to Florida in 2021.
Some other popular hits are the “Iron-Man” Experience at Hong Kong Disneyland, a 3D motion-simulator attraction, and “Ratatouille”: The Adventure at Disneyland Paris, where guests are “shrunken to the size of a mouse” and sent on an unforgettable journey.
In the US, guests also love to compare the Florida and California parks’ 11 iconic matching attractions, but still enjoy the ones that are unique to each place.
Each property features different design elements, too.
Even though you’re unmistakably in a Disney park, it’s fun to notice the small details and design elements that differ in each one.
For example, per BBC,Hong Kong Disneyland“incorporates feng shui and traditional Chinese elements” to appeal to its visitors. For example, the main gate of the theme park is situated facing in a north-to-south direction for good fortune.
In that park, you’ll also see a lot of red, since it is widely considered to be a lucky colour in China.
In Tokyo, you’ll find extraordinarily wide walkways, which are meant to cater to large crowds and parades.
Plus, both Tokyo and Paris feature covered areas near the entrance of their Disneyland parks to shield guests from rain, wind, and snow.
Some of the parks located throughout the world also feature different themes.
Around the globe, Disney has some distinct parks within the larger areas that are sometimes truly unique.
Tokyo DisneySea, which celebrates the sea and nautical exploration instead of land is sometimes called Disney’s best theme park in the world because its theme is breathtakingly beautiful and unique.
Instead of themed lands, DisneySea has seven themed ports of call. From Mediterranean Harbour with its Venetian gondola ride to the “Aladdin”-themed Arabian Coast, you can truly forget you’re in Tokyo.
In Florida, Epcot and Disney’s Animal Kingdom both offer one of a kind experiences, whether you prefer to enjoy a safari ride and see giraffes, elephants, and tigers, or meander around the globe at Epcot’s World Showcase.
In the Anaheim location, there’s also Disney California Adventure, which artfully pays homage to the original park’s home state.
Each park is home to plenty of food options.
No matter which park you visit, you’re sure to find Mickey-shaped treats. That said, every park also has its own unique food offerings.
For example, although you can get a standard pizza in parks around the globe, Disney’s Shanghai location offers a special Mickey-shaped Peking duck pizza. Plus, Tokyo Disneyland is the only park to have its own restaurant dedicated entirely to Mickey-shaped waffles, called the Great American Waffle Co.
Japan also has a variety of delightful snacks – the popcorn in the Tokyo parks is the stuff of legends, and you can choose from a plethora of special popcorn in flavours like milk chocolate, soy sauce and butter, black pepper, or honey.
Fans also love the character-themed dim sum at Hong Kong Disneyland – and what can be better than eating around the world at the various booths in Epcot in Florida or enjoying a classic Mickey-shaped pretzel during a hot day at California’s Disneyland?
There are different things to do just outside of every park, too.
Just about every park has something unique to offer just outside of its gates, too.
Florida’s Walt Disney World has two water parks, as well as Disney Springs, a large shopping and dining complex, eight golf courses, and over 20 resort hotels with activities, dining, and pools – you could certainly enjoy your vacation without even stepping foot inside a park.
Similar to Disney Springs, each of the parks around the globe is home to its own downtown area for daytime and nighttime entertainment, except for Hong Kong Disneyland.
Anaheim has Downtown Disney, Tokyo has Ikspiari, Paris has Disney Village, and Shanghai has Disneytown – all of these areas make for the perfect way to spend time in the Disney bubble without waiting in long lines and paying park admission fees.
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