November 19, 2021

How to choose the right Disney park for your family

By: Heidi Bloomer

I could write about Disney all day long. There are cruise ships, resorts, and adventures... There is a ton to know about the history, and future, of each park... Learning all about the My Disney Experience mobile app, the Disney Genie and Disney Genie+ services, Fast Pass systems, and beyond, would take many blogs to cover… Let alone just covering the basics of each ride, experience, and parade.

The Disney universe is truly immense, and constantly evolving as new technologies and attractions are incorporated into the mix. I will definitely be doing deep dives into many of these topics eventually, but for now, here is a quick reference guide regarding each park, which should help you answer the question: Which of the “Most Magical Place(s) on Earth” is right for my family this year?

First of all, kids, families, adults - groups, couples, or the solo traveler - can all enjoy aspects of Disney. For any and all Disney trips, the best advice I have for any traveler is to enjoy the magic, no matter what restaurants you do (or don’t) eat at, how many rides you do (or don’t) go on, and what the crowds are like. But secondly, know that a little planning ahead will go a long way!

Disneyland - Anaheim, California, USA
Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are the two parks of the original “Disneyland.” They are very small in actual acreage - so make great options if you’d like to walk a bit less, and have things more condensed. Disneyland has a lot of the rides and sights that you think of when thinking of Disney, like Sleeping Beauty’s castle. California Adventure has some newer rides and experiences, like the flight motion simulator ride Soarin’ - a winner among all travelers in my opinion!

Overall, my vote is to do two days at the Disneyland parks, one day at each. If you truly want to hit everything, perhaps buy a Parker Hopper ticket for a total of three days - giving you the maximum access to each park. Disneyland in California is a great long weekend, or partial destination as part of a longer Southern California vacation, which can also include attractions in San Diego, Los Angeles, or the beach cities nearby.

Disney World - Orlando, Florida, USA
Disney World Resort is truly a city in and of itself. The four parks include the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, and all are huge. Plan to walk a lot!

Magic Kingdom gives you the magical view of what you picture Disney to be - from music, to food, to experiences - it has so many of the “must do’s.” Epcot is historically thought of as an “adult” park due to some more extreme rides, as well as the amazing food, drink and cultural experience of the Lands. Personally, it’s been a family favorite for us, even with small children. However, I will say an evening at Epcot as a date night is also spectacular!

Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM Studios) is a fun one. This is where the new Star Wars Land attractions live, which is definitely a destination in and of itself. Animal Kingdom is beautiful, and just makes you want to explore. All of the various animal themed interactions make this perfect for all ages, and the new(er) Avatar land also has two great rides.

Disney World can easily be a 7-10 day vacation, especially if you throw in the two water parks, mini golf courses, and Disney Springs (a mega retail and dining experience). However, we have frequently gone to central Florida to relax, and enjoyed one or two single park days, while staying off resort the rest of the time.

Tokyo Disney - just outside of Tokyo in Urayasu, Japan
Tokyo Disney is a special kind of magic. The wonderful people of Japan take Disney very seriously, and it is not uncommon to see many, if not a majority, of adults dressed in costumes - some even matching. As a matter of fact, there are many adult only visitors - and not as many children as one may assume.

Tokyo Disney is the only Disney-themed resort that isn’t owned by Disney; however, Disney does have creative control. When you visit, this isn’t super obvious, but when you know this is the case, you may notice some differences.

The Tokyo Disneyland park is more of the typical Disneyland experience, whereas Tokyo DisneySea park is a brand new concept that isn’t done in any other Disney location around the world, and many people visit just for that reason. DisneySea definitely has experiences for any type of traveler, but is known to have a few more extreme rides than Disneyland.

Either way, you’ll be amused thoroughly at Tokyo Disney, even if it’s just by the 10+ popcorn flavors that are offered (only one spot that has butter, but many curry flavored kiosks, which have lines many minutes long). The majority of the park is in Japanese, and not every cast member can speak fluent English, however it is still relatively easy to make your way around with little to no knowledge of the Japanese language.

Shanghai Disneyland - Pudong, Shanghai, China
Shanghai Disneyland is the newest Disney park, and is huge. It is so spacious, it literally feels like it’s never busy. It’s about a one hour drive (without traffic) from Central Shanghai - and was planned to perfection.

The first Tron ride is there, and the experience in general feels very much like the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. There is a good mix of Mandarin and English in the park, so it is very easy to get by as an English-only speaker.

Hong Kong Disneyland - Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Hong Kong Disneyland is a small park very similar in look and feel to Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom, and can easily be conquered in a day. If you go on a midweek non-holiday date, you’ll practically have the place to yourself! It also is very English friendly.

Disneyland Paris - just outside of Paris in Chessy, France
The ONLY park my family and I haven’t been to yet (we’re planning to go in 2022). We have heard the Paris park is generally busy, about an hour outside of the city, and is best known and visited for its Ratatouille ride (coming to Epcot as well). We can’t wait to explore and report back.

Looking to plan the perfect Disney getaway for your family?
Book a one-hour Travel Coaching package with me through Kaanect Travel and we can get into all the details you might ever want to know about which park is right for you and how to get the most out of your time there without the stress.

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