Disneyland established not only the first theme park but the way that many theme parks would be laid out in the future. “Lands” serve as the themed areas where attractions, shows, restaurants, and shops are grouped. Many of them tell a story by itself, and also help solidify stories of attractions. Here’s the top 10 themed lands from around the world, but the second five. For the first five, check out this post here.
I’m looking at detail, theme/story, connection between theme and detail (meaning how well is it all executed), and attractions within it. Each has a possible top score of 5.
5. New Orleans Square – Disneyland
New Orleans Square’s story is rather plain but still great. It is the exciting world of the Louisiana town, complete with jazz bands and Mardi Gras beads.
I’ve been to the real New Orleans and this land does a really good job at recreating the actual city. From street signs to little trinkets in the shops, this is the romantic New Orleans in a small space. Plus having a restaurant with the right effects to feel like your outside on a moonlit night is a great detail.
Many of the nooks and crannies have great detail to convey this as New Orleans. There is even some audio above the street that makes it sound like there are real residents in the apartments. And, there’s always the Blue Bayou, one of the most enchanting restaurants anywhere. But, I have to knock it down a point because of Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s a bit of a stretch to have this attraction in this land.
Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion are classic attractions that many of the modern day rides use as guides. They are Disney at its finest. Besides these two attractions, there’s the train station with the iconic telegraph. It’s a very popular area of Disneyland. It’s what puts it above Mysterious Island for the number 5 spot.
4. American Waterfront – Tokyo DisneySea or Cars Land
Though it’s a mix of a few Eastern United States cities, it each has a story to it that makes it great. There’s a Cape Cod town, and a period New York street. But, that’s about it, which makes me knock off a point.
The land does a great job at having Disney references and amazing features that put you back in time. It was my favorite place to take photos of at the park. It was bursting with art and refined decor to really set you back to an American heyday.
The detail does a great job of putting you in the Americas. Being in Tokyo as an American I felt like I was back in the States…at least at an American park. The attractions have a rich connection to each other as well. There’s a story of this being a city in the New York area, and the detail helps. However, the Cape Cod area doesn’t completely fit with the rest.
A Tower of Terror and Toy Story Mania are the main attractions in this land. But, there’s also a stage for some of the most popular shows at the park. Tower of Terror and Toy Story Mania are solid attractions in any park, and these are the best versions. Having street vehicles only adds to the ambiance and attraction list.
3. Cars Land – Disney California Adventure
Cars Land is really Radiator Springs! It’s the replica of the headquarters of Lightning McQueen. All the residents are playing host to visitors as well. The only problem I have is I don’t get how there can be humans in the world of Cars, and it’s not really explained. But, having the real-life Radiator Springs is still awesome to visit.
This is the movie come to life. There is even more detail than what we see in the film. An example is Sally’s office at the Cozy Cone. We never see inside her office in the movie, but Imagineers made it so we can see in the land.
This is, for now, the most detailed land at the Disneyland Resort. It has so much to it to immerse guests in the story of Cars. It’s hard to not think of it as its own park at times! From unique food and merchandise to the beautiful rock work around Radiator Springs Racers, this really transports you into a brand new world.
The attractions only enhance the detail and theme. Racers is a huge ride that is beautiful and immersive. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters are rides you’d expect the characters to have. It’s fun iterations of who they are and only adds to the theme. Plus, they are unique and fun to the land!
2. Pandora – World of Avatar – Animal Kingdom
Pandora is, of course, based on the blockbuster Avatar. It also takes place some years after the movie, where visitors can see the planet anytime. Though park guests may not be familiar with the movie, I think the idea of an alien planet rich with animal life and other creatures is a great story to play out on this scale. Who doesn’t want to explore a new place in space?
The way I would describe Pandora is eye candy. It is almost overwhelming the amount to see and do. I’ve tried to explore every inch of detail in the place and it will take several visits to do so. It’s full of not just amazing space plants, but rocks and creatures and buildings to uncover.
Here’s where I give it a higher place than Cars Land. Both have about the same qualities, but World of Avatar has the story that makes sense. We’re visiting an alien planet as humans. And the detail backs it up at every turn. The detail also helps explain the background of how this place has become a visitor center too.
Two very popular attractions that are rich in detail are here as well. Flight of Passage is one of my personal favorite attractions anywhere, but it also gets high ratings with many guests. It’s an incredible ride with a queue that has so much to see as well. Na’vi River Journey has an impressive Audio-Animatronic and some wonderful scenery. But, there’s not much detail in the queue and a lack of story. That has me knock off a point in this category. If it had something to help connect to the land and Flight of Passage it could be the top.
1. Adventure Isle – Shanghai Disneyland
Adventure Isle is a remote island discovered with tribal inhabitants. They have their own culture and legends. It’s mystic, treacherous, and, of course, adventurous. It’s a broad theme, but it fits what the name is.
The music is original. The landscape seems vast. There are sound effects that heighten fear, or invoke your sense of exploration. There are things like rock sculptures that are left by tribesmen. There are signs crafted by them to point your way. There is a lot to see in this land.
The lands of Shanghai Disneyland are beautiful, and there are a couple I could have given a place to. But, Adventure Isle takes the cake because of its such original concept. It’s not just a place that was made, but the people and culture. Everything feeds into this, including the way the attractions are presented. Soarin’ may have seemed like an odd choice in a jungle themed area, but it’s about the mystical journey of a shaman, not an aviator. An obstacle course with industrial harnesses may seem out of place, but not when it is from a company that discovered the isle and has an exploration base for visitors. It all comes together and different parts reference each other, even the dining and shops.
Two of the most popular attractions in Shanghai Disneyland are located here: Soaring Over the Horizon and Roaring Rapids. Both are the 2.0 versions of Disney California Adventure rides. And the detail in them fits splendidly with the theme. Camp Discovery is the exploration trail, and one that has not been done in a Disney park like before. It blends with the rest so well. And, as much as an acrobatic show like Tarzan may seem odd, when its in a storytelling theater it fits either side of the theme, and I’ll accept it. These are stellar attractions with a great surrounding theme!
Let us know in the comments what you think of these lands and if you’d have them in the top 5!