Most Popular Disney Parks in the World
All of Disney’s theme parks are spectacular. Choosing a favorite is a question of more than just personal taste. Proximity also plays a factor. People on the west coast tend toward the original park, Disneyland, while the east coast is all about Walt Disney World. Europeans favor Disneyland Paris, and the Japanese people have embraced Tokyo Disneyland in a rare and profound way. And Chinese citizens now have two parks to call their own. It all leads to a simple question. Which one is the best?
Let’s hedge on the answer today and approach the conversation from a different angle. Forget about which one has the best attractions for now. Instead, let’s approach the situation in a way that matters the most to The Walt Disney Company. Which of the Disney parks is the most popular? Park traffic tells that story, and I have the data to answer the question. Here is how the Disney parks rank in terms of attendance.
14) Blizzard Beach – Walt Disney World
I want this list to be comprehensive, so I’m going to include the water parks, too. Disney only owns two official ones, but their attendance is still impressive. They are two of the three most popular water parks in the world. The only place that has higher annual attendance is Chime-Long Water Park in Guangzhou, China. Out of Disney’s offerings, Blizzard Beach “loses” with 2.1 million guests in 2016.
13) Typhoon Lagoon – Walt Disney World
The gap between the two Disney waters parks is quite small. That’s going to be a recurring theme here. All of the Walt Disney World offerings have a floor, so to speak, a set amount of traffic that they’re going to get no matter what. When people travel to Disney theme parks, they want the full experience, and so they try everything.
The demand for the water parks is more seasonal, even in Florida, which explains the gap you’ll see between them and the regular parks. Still, Typhoon Lagoon is the second most trafficked water park in the world with 2.3 million guests. It’s roughly a quarter-million guests behind Chime-Long as the most popular water park in the world.
12) Walt Disney Studios Park – Disneyland Paris
There’s a divide between the perception of Disneyland Paris and the reality. The belief, especially among North Americans, is that the park is a huge bomb that’s sparsely attended and poorly maintained. The latter argument is at least somewhat true, at least by Disney standards, but the attendance thing is way off-base. Disneyland Paris is actually the most popular paid tourist attraction in Europe!
Walt Disney Studios Park is the lesser of the two gates at the park, but it still managed five million visits last year. That makes it the 22nd most popular theme park in the world. Amazingly, it’s still only 12th out of Disney properties. Yes, Disney claims 12 of the 22 best-attended theme parks on Earth.
11) Shanghai Disneyland Park – Shanghai Disneyland
Don’t be fooled by the placement here. This one’s quite misleading. Shanghai Disneyland garnered 5.6 million visits in 2016. It was only open for half the year, opening in mid-June. If I’d used its first calendar year rather than its 2016-exclusive performance, it would finish sixth on this list. Shanghai Disneyland performed so well that…well, let’s just save it for the next section.
10) Hong Kong Disneyland
The perception of Hong Kong Disneyland is that it’s a lazily implemented park full of cost-cutting measures. And the government of Hong Kong, co-owners of the park, tacitly acknowledged this last year when they promised to renovate it. Currently, it looks vastly inferior to Shanghai Disneyland, which has quickly become a sensation in China. That has wrecked its traffic the last two years. In 2014, 7.5 million guests visited Hong Kong Disneyland. That number fell to 6.1 million in 2016. This is the worst and the worst-performing Disney theme park in the world right now.
9) Disneyland Park – Disneyland Paris
A moment ago, I mentioned that Walt Disney Studios Park is less popular than its sister site at Disneyland Park. What I didn’t mention is how dramatic the difference is. Disneyland Park received 8.4 million visits last year. That’s 68 percent more traffic than the park that sits right beside it. Earlier this year, Disney bought full ownership of the Disneyland Paris resort, and one of their clear goals moving forward is to correct the imbalance between the two gates there. Still, that’s easier said than done. To wit…
8) Disney California Adventure – Disneyland Resort
A similar split exists at Disneyland Resort. Disney California Adventure is – and there’s no polite way to say this – a failed theme park concept. Disney knows this, and that’s why they announced several core changes to the park during their D23 exhibition. Still, native Californians are the key demographic for Disneyland attendance; they have a clear preference, and it’s not Disney California Adventure. The park gained only 9.3 million visits last year, nowhere near good enough for a place that sits in the shadow of the Happiest Place on Earth. Don’t worry, though. Change is coming soon! And it’s going to be amazing.
7) Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Walt Disney World
6) Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Walt Disney World
I’m going to lump these two together since they’re so eerily similar in attendance. The two of them have been separated by less than 100,000 visits each of seven (!) years. Disney’s Animal Kingdom has had the upper hand in each of those years, which is statistically improbable for two parks so close in attendance.
In 2016, Animal Kingdom had more than 10.8 million visits while Hollywood Studios had less than 10.8 million. Animal Kingdom won by 68,000 guests. That’s a razor-thin gap. You should notice two other things from these numbers, one of which will be apparent in the next listing. The one to mention now is that Walt Disney World’s water parks get less than 25 percent of the traffic of the theme parks. Even though they’re popular by water park standards, they’re far behind the main parks.
5) Epcot – Walt Disney World
And here’s the other fascinating point about Walt Disney World. A huge separation exists between the Big Two and the Little Two. Animal Kingdom’s 10.8 million sounds great until you learn that Epcot managed 11.7 million. It’s that much more popular even as it goes through an adjustment period in Future World. While I can’t quantify the data, I strongly suspect that Floridians comprise a lot of this attendance gap. People love hanging out at the World Showcase to enjoy some food and wine. That’s why Disney has upped the number of festivals to the point where events (and food kiosks) are open almost the entire year.
4) Tokyo DisneySea – Tokyo Disneyland Resort
3) Tokyo Disneyland – Tokyo Disneyland Resort
You didn’t know that one, did you? While you boggle a bit, let me give you a bit more information. Tokyo DisneySea is the critical darling of Disney theme parks. Many analysts view it as the best overall theme park in the world, Disney or not. Its attendance last year was 13.5 million, almost 2 million more than Epcot. Notably, Tokyo DisneySea is actually trending down a bit, which is odd for such a triumphant theme park. It’s still one of the five most popular theme parks in the world, though.
That leads to an odd phenomenon in Japan. Tokyo DisneySea, while wildly successful by any reasonable standard, is only the third most trafficked park in Japan. It was surpassed in 2015 and 2016 by Universal Studios Japan, which is soaring in attendance thanks to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Disney still claims the most popular theme park, though. Tokyo Disneyland received 16.5 million guests last year, enough for third-best in the world.
2) Disneyland Park – Disneyland
1) Magic Kingdom – Walt Disney World
The top two Disney theme parks probably aren’t a surprise, though. There’s an Occam’s razor element to this. When people think of Disney theme parks, one of these is likeliest to spring to mind. They get more traffic due to this bit of self-fulfilling prophecy. Still, the numbers are stunning.
Disneyland Park’s attendance last year was 17.9 million. I’ll save you the trouble of scrolling back up. That’s almost twice what Disney California Adventure managed. The gap between the two adjoining parks is 8.6 million i.e. more than Disneyland Paris Park receives…and again, that’s the most popular tourist attraction in Europe. People love Disneyland so much more than Disney California Adventure that an attendance gap that large exists between two parks that SHARE A FRONT GATE! It’s mind-boggling.
Walt Disney World has the same behavior almost exactly. Magic Kingdom is THE most popular theme park in the world. It claimed 20.4 million in attendance last year. That’s 2.5 million more than second place, Disneyland. It’s also 8.6 million more than Epcot, and if that number seems familiar, look up one paragraph. Percentage-wise, the difference is more significant at Disneyland but the two most popular Disney parks both reside at places where the second-most popular park falls far behind it in attendance.
In other words, Disneyland Park and Magic Kingdom are every bit as dominant as you perceive them to be. Overall, Disney owns four of the five most trafficked theme parks in the world including the top three. That’s total domination, my friends.