We (my wife, daughter and I) have now been to both of the Tokyo Disney parks, T. DisneyLand and T. DisneySea, and they truly are magical places.
Before I go into the details of our visits, I would like to give you some advice, if you consider visiting the parks: prepare yourself well! It doesn’t really matter how many days you spend at the park(s), you will have a much better time if you plan ahead. The folks over at disneytouristblog.com have in-depth guides and reviews for almost everything at the Tokyo Disney Resort and I highly recommend reading most or all of it. Here, I’ll just briefly list the things most important to me:
1) Choose a good date to go
The parks are usually very crowded but much more so on the weekends. Go during the week and avoid Japanese holidays. The best way to figure out the right dates to go is using this Japanese crowd calendar. It has pretty accurate predictions for the number of park visitors (based on past data, holidays and events, I presume).
2) Use Fastpasses efficiently
Even on less crowded days the wait times for the most popular attractions will exceed one hour frequently. Fastpasses will allow you to cut these wait times immensely, allowing you to spend that time to eat/walk around/do other rides/etc.
3) Make a detailed plan of what attractions/shows to do (and when)
This will allow you to get more done.
4) Be flexible and adapt your plan to wait times
Use the TDR Wait Time Check or TDRAlert apps (for Android, there are others for youPhones) to regularly check the wait times and fastpass return times for the rides of interest to you. Especially after temporary closure of a ride you can often save 30+ minutes of wait time if you react quickly when it reopens. All rides also seem to have shorter wait times late in the evening.
5) Stay hydrated!
I feel like all the jummy snacks aka junkfood ensure you don’t starve to death, but it’s all too easy to forget drinking enough. Best to keep a water bottle at hand, you can refill it at the drinking fountains.
Ok, with that out of the way, let’s get to the fun part: the rides/atmosphere of the parks. We went to DisneyLand first, because we figured this park would be better suited for our 5 (then 4) year old daughter. DisneySea is supposed to be aimed at a more grown-up audience (they sell booze and have more fast/dark rides). For each park I will list the most noteworthy (to me) rides, roughly going from the best to worst. I didn’t take too many pictures at the park because I was top busy having fun, carrying my daughter around, running for fastpasses and because on most rides you can’t take pictures very well while riding.
Christmas in Tokyo Disneyland started on Nov. 8th this year! Woohoo, lucky us, this meant we were able to do all the Christmas-stuff.
Brass band playing in front of the Christmas tree at World Bazaar, the entrance area of TDL.
Pooh’s Hunny Hunt
Imho, this clearly is the best ride at TDL. The decorations are great, the innovative ride-system without rails is a lot of fun and it’s just very enjoyable for old and young. The long queue times during the day make this a candidate to do very early, very late, or with fastpasses. Preferrably all 3 :D.
Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek!
I (and most others judging from the wait-times) love Monsters Inc. and this ride is very solid, kid-friendly fun. You are driven through the attraction automatically and use a flashlight to light up helmets which makes monsters pop up. Wait times for this are always long so this is my #1 suggestion for fastpasses.
Country Bear Theater
Animatronic musical show with 16 bears. We got to see the winter/christmas version and from what I heard this is the best. Hugely entertaining, exceptional quality animatronics and short wait-times make this a must-do.
Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters
Shooting things never gets old and Buzz Lightyear’s everyones favorite astronaught. While I feel like the laserguns are sometimes somewhat unresponsive or inaccurate, this is great. Do it late, when the queue is short(er) or use a fastpass. I recommend getting this fastpass later in the day as they don’t run out as quickly as others.
“it’s a small world”
(Closes temporarily from March 1, 2017 for renovations)
While this was closed the last time we went we did it the previous time and it’s wonderful. Catchy song, relaxing boatride and mega kawaii animatronics. Great to relax after a long day.
Alice’s Tea Party
Alice’s spinning teacups. Nothing too fancy, but you spin the cup by hand which means you can go pretty fast. Ergo, my daughter and me went mental and dizzy.
I had read good things about the christmals overlay on this one and it did not disappoint. While our daughter hid in my lap for the entire ride, neither my wife nor me found it particularly scary, albeit very atmospheric including sick holograms.
The inscription on the gravestone displayed below, found next to the queue, gives a good impression of the overall sillyness at work in this one: “Dear departed Brother Dave, he chased a bear into a cave.”
This made me wonder where to find really spooky haunted houses; please let me know if you know any!
Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
(Special version from December 15, 2017 to March 19, 2018)
Moving 3D simulator, pretty fun, although too exciting for our daughter when she was 4. Going to be updated for the new Star Wars movie and should be even cooler then.
Peter Pan’s Flight
You fly through Peter Pan’s world on a ship. Very cute, not so amazing to me but my wife loves it.
Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
Similar to Peter Pan’s, riding on the ground instead of flying, also solid fun.
Western River Railroad
Great scenic train ride, but, it only has one station and goes on a loop so it doesn’t get you anywhere. Still nice to see the park from a different perspective and relax; typically short wait too.
Pirates of the Caribbean
You follow Jack Sparrow’s adventures on a boat. Atmospheric, but since I’m not a great Pirates of the Carribean fan I wasn’t blown away.
Jungle Cruise: Wildlife Expeditions
You take an actual boat (not on a rail) that takes you through a jungle full of animatronic animals. Pretty cool, however, both my daughter and me where annoyed by the silly Japanese guide.
Mark Twain Riverboat
Big steamboat that goes around through the wild west and jungle themed areas of the park. Similar to the train it’s relaxing and enjoyable, only has one stationand sadly, it also covers a very similar area of the park.
This is the one ride I really did not like. I did it alone since I knew my daughter isn’t big enough and my wife wouldn’t like it. It’s a fast rollercoaster without and loopings or corkscrews and my issue with it is that you can not see where you’re going at any point during the ride. Maybe I’m too big for the seats, maybe my back is too weak, but I did not appreciate being jerked around to and fro and stiffening up to reduce the force excerted on my back, in vain of course, since you never know which way to lean.
Parades and Shows
The parades and shows at Tokyo DisneyLand are amazing. Happiness is Here is the daytime parade and the Electrical Parade Dreamlights is the nighttime parade. Both run pretty much all year round as far as I know. They have catchy music, impressive floats and energetic dancers. Personally, I prefer Dreamlights, as I feel the millions (literally) of lights are extra-magical. Be aware that the parades will block many routes so if you need to get somewhere and don’t want to watch the parade plan ahead.
Disney Gifts of Christmas was the nighttime Christmas special that was performed for the first time when we where there. It includes mesmerizing projections onto the Cinderella Castle and some fireworks.
Toonland is the section in Tokyo DisneyLand most specifically designed for kids. It features a small rollercoaster and several playhouse type attractions. We seem to always end up going there when it’s already dark, after we have done all the more exciting things. It’s not as exciting as most other places in the park but still nice and great fun for kids.
We did not ride Big Thunder or Splash Mountain, both rollercoasters that would’ve been too exciting for our daughter.
Tokyo DisneyLand is amazing but Tokyo DisneySea is even better. The different areas of the park each have a very unique and fascinating atmosphere to them. Because there are no parades on the roads (instead, there are shows on the water) getting around is easier. While Cinderella’s Castle in DisneyLand feels like an obstacle when going from one side of the park to the other, there is no such issue in DisneySea. Mysterious Island, which is at the center of the park, is connected to three sides and quickly and easily traversed. Also, the train Electric Railway has two stations and the boat Transit Steamer Line even has three. That means, that they are not only nice for relaxing and taking in the view but also useful to get around. The picture above shows the view across the Mediterranean Harbor where the show on the water is held. Below is the Fortress of Exploration.
These two pics show the SS Columbia (above) that we did not have time to go on and an image on a wall at the Port Discovery station of the Electric Railway.
Finally, there’s one big plus that DisneySea has over DisneyLand:
They sell booze! See below for proof:
Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull
The Indiana Jones ride is a thrillride that does not really go very fast (except for two short bits). Instead, it shakes a lot and is extremely atmospheric, even though the iconic Indy theme song is significantly underused imho. One huge bonus to this attraction is the single ride line. If you don’t mind being seated by yourself you can skip the standby queue without even having a fastpass and actually you’ll even overtake the fastpass queue.
Toy Story Mania!
This is probably the ride with the longest queue but I think it’s well worth it. If you plan on doing this you should get the fastpasses for it as soon as you enter the park. They run out quickly.
You sit on a moving (on a rail) and rotating car wearing 3D glasses and shooting stuff on screens. My daughter got turned off when things started to (appear to) fly towards us from the screens but other than that it was amazing!
Journey to the Center of the Earth
This is supercool but might be too fast for some. It starts off pretty slow with great effects and monster-animatronics but then it becomes fast. The craziest thing is that you’ll actually go very fast even before the deep drop which feels very surreal. Together with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth feels like DisneySea’s flagship attraction to me. Note: My wife and daughter did NOT like the speed of this ride, only recommended for speed lovers!
The Magic Lamp Theater
This is a show-type attraction that I did not expect much of due to mediocre reviews I’d read. But I liked it a lot. It’s part of the awesome Arabian Coast which has great snacks, curry restaurant and three attractions which are all cool. This show actually has several stages. First, you are in the waiting lounge with some images on the walls. Then, one of the staff starts giving everyone who wants a little tour of the room (in Japanese of course). This moves fluently into the cobra (see the above image) coming out of the basket, talking, videos being displayed on the walls and music playing. This is all pretty awesome but the real show hasn’t even started. You go on, get 3D glasses and go into the theater where the real show is a mixture of a funny little live-play with 2 characters and 3D animations of Aladdin’s genie. I love the Genie and this was so much fun!
Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage
This boatride on rails takes you through the animatronic wonderworld of Sindbad. The animatronics are possibly the best in the two parks, the music is sweet and overall it’s just a lovely ride.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
This Jules Verne inspired submarine journey is relatively tame, no fast movements or sudden jerks. It is somewhat dark and thus our daughter did not enjoy it, but I’m sure she will in a few years. You travel across the depths of the sea in a submarine and the way that water bubbles past the windows on the outside gives a pretty real feeling of being underwater.
The Fortress Explorations (I really think calling it the Fortress of Explorations would’ve made it sound better) is something like a giant playground with very elaborate games. We stumbled in here after the afternoon show on the water which we’d been viewing from one of the fortress’s balconies. I’m sure we missed lots of it and this will definitely one place we will check out in more detail the next time around. Above, you can see the radio controlled ships. If you pay 100 Yen (less than one Euro) you can actually steer one of them for a pretty long time. Looks great and is fun!
Below is a giant model of the solar system with handles for each planet allowing you to move them around. There are other great rooms with a pendulum and an optical illusion involving a lens and probably much more.
Nemo & Friends SeaRider
You join Nemo, Dori and their friends from the respective Disney movies on a 3D journey through the sea in a moving theater. Feels great and I also like the storytelling around it: Scientists have discovered “Chiziminium”, an element that helps shrink the ride’s guest together with their submarine to the size of a small fish, allowing you to swim with Nemo and friends. The technique is basically the same as Star Tours in DisneyLand, but this version is much more kid-friendly.
Jasmine’s Flying Carpets
This is pretty simple, flying carpets go round and round.
My daughter loved it, it was one (if not the) last thing(s) we did during the day and we ended up going three times since there was no queue.
DisneySea Transit Steamer Line & DisneySea Electric Railway
I just want to mention these two again here, because they are so awesome in how they fulfill multiple roles. We actually took the Railway several times back and forth. The wait time for the boat is a little bit longer so it’s less effective at getting you around (quickly) but definitely worth taking at least once.
I’m not sure what show was going on in the morning (possibly Steps to Shine) but Disney characters were dancing in front of the lake at the Mediterranean Harbor. We actually properly only watched two shows: Big Band Beat which is a Jazz show, being done five times a day, and really good and Fantasmic! which is the big show on the water in the dark. Fantasmic was truly fantastic including projections, fireworks and flamethrowers, Mickey and a fight between good and evil. I ment to also go see Out of Shadowland and my wife really wanted to view King Triton’s Concert but we simply couldn’t make those with just being at DisneySea for one day.
We couldn’t do Turtle Talk, the Venetian Gondolas and Aquatopia, which would’ve been next on our list. I haven’t talked about the Mermaid Lagoon which is the most child-friendly zone of the park. We spent quiet some time on the five rides there which were all great fun for our daughter (and us) and she even got to meet a prince and take pictures with him. We also would have taken a ride on the Big City Vehicles if time had allowed. Finally, Raging Spirits and Tower of Terror are both probably pretty amazing attractions but way too wild for my daughter, wife and ToT possibly even for me. 😀 This was actually a relief as they both have very long queues and we could save time and fastpasses.
Last but not least, I haven’t mentioned food yet. Both parks have various food options starting with the famous popcorn in sweet flavors such as milk-chocolate or caramel (both yummy) or hunny (not good), or savoury options such as soy-souce, herbs and pepper and more which we did not try. There are countless little snackbars where you can grab something to eat while you walk or wait in line and many of the snacks are either very cute or very tasty or both. There are counter restaurants and even restaurants that serve you at the table. We visited Grandma Sara’s Kitchen on our first visit to DisneyLand and dined at the Queen of Hearts’ Banquet Hall the second time around. (see the two images below for the latter)
The food wasn’t spectacular but decent and our daughter, who’s often very picky, enjoyed it.
At DisneySea we ate at Vulcania’s after some drama over the lack of distinguished child’s set meals at Casbah Food Court which sells Indian style curry I’m sure is great. The food at the Vulcania Restaurant was also good though, and, since they did have a child-menu, everyone ended up happy.
That’s it for now, I didn’t mean to write this much, hope you found something interesting and wish you all the fun in the world if you ever go to Tokyo DisneyLand or DisneySea!