It's incredible to think that Disneyland has been around since 1955—that's 63 years! Now generations have grown up watching Disney movies and cartoons, and many children as well as the young at heart dream of visiting the Happiest Place On Earth. Many get to realize that dream—after all, park attendance is at a record high despite recent price hikes at a number of Disney parks, according to Forbes. Analysts explained that not only are tourists still coming but that domestic visitors rose six percent. Even people who live only minutes from Disney can't get enough of it, and many hold yearly passes.
Asking a group of Disney fans which park is better is bound to start a fight for some. Many are loyal to one particular park. Some, however, travel around the world visiting and comparing all the parks and often find to their delight that each park offers something unique and special. Nevertheless, for some, there is no place like home—and the original Disneyland is often considered home. Another park that garners millions of visitors a year yet is often underappreciated is Disneyland Tokyo. There are attractions there that can't be found in any other Disney park anywhere else in the world. Each park has its own magic. Read on to find out more about what Disneyland in the US did absolutely right—and what Japan totally nailed at Disneyland Tokyo.
25 A California Adventure
Cars Land and all the newer Pixar attractions may have reinvigorated the California Adventure section of Disneyland, but there were already some amazing attractions there that continue to wow guests today, according to Visit California. No other Disney park has California Adventure, which celebrates the rich history of California from a Disney perspective. A streetcar takes park guests down Buena Vista Street in California Adventure, and the Grizzly River Run is the perfect ride on a hot summer day. Finally, see the whole park from a bird's-eye view by hopping on the Ferris wheel on the new Pixar Pier.
24 Whose Castle Is It?
Every Disney park is all about the total experience, but one unifying theme that each park has is a castle. What many park-goers don't know is that the castles aren't all the same—Disneyland's castle is based on Sleeping Beauty's castle, as per USA Today. Disneyland Tokyo does have a castle as well, but it's a copy of the same Cinderella castle that graces the entrance to Disney World. Although the Sleeping Beauty castle is much shorter than the Cinderella castle—only 77 feet high—it's based on the real Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany.
23 better in japan: No Food Fight Here
Special Mickey-themed treats that can be found nowhere else in the world are always worth a trip, and Disneyland Tokyo has some unique food. The Ukiah Shrimp Bun, shaped like a life preserver, Mickey Mouse-shaped eggs, and Green Alien Dumplings that look just like the ones in Toy Story are all in keeping with those special touches that make a Disney park a complete experience, as per Delish. More fun treats include Mickey churros, melon bread shaped like Mike Wazowski, and of course, the now world-famous variety of popcorn. Disneyland Tokyo has a smorgasbord.
22 Dole Whip It
In a park full of magical creations, there's one edible delight that Disneyland has and Disneyland Tokyo doesn't: the Dole Whip. Serious Disney fans know and love this frozen treat, and often order it with pineapple juice in a float style, according to Disney Tourist Blog. For the uninitiated, this frozen wonder isn't so easy to find, but insiders reveal that the place to go in Disneyland is the Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland—but guests should be prepared to wait in lines that are just as bad as ride waits. Disneyland regulars know it's worth the wait.
21 The Cast Of Characters
One unique aspect of Disneyland that is uncommon or nonexistent at other Disney parks around the world is how the characters behave. Disney characters roam freely around the park, waving or talking to guests as they stroll from one place to another, according to Smart Mouse Travel. In addition to these character sightings, Disneyland and Disneyland Tokyo have scheduled meet and greets. For Disneyland, the app is a good way to track the meet and greet schedule, but secret sessions sometimes occur as well. Disney superfans love that Disneyland's characters are so easily accessible for everyone.
20 better in Japan: Journey To The Center
Disneyland may have California Adventure, and some one-of-a-kind rides there, but Tokyo has DisneySea and the Journey to the Center of the Earth ride. The experience begins before ever setting foot in a car, called an “excavator.” From the entrance, guests enter a cavern and see some of the strange experiments and items belonging to Captain Nemo, as per Touring Plans. While the ride starts off slowly, things quickly sour as earthquakes rock the mountain just before a huge, animatronic lava monster rears up and tries to catch the excavators as they rocket by.
19 Stroll Down Main Street, USA
One thing that can't be done in Disneyland Tokyo is that wholly-immersive stroll down Main Street, USA. Disneyland Tokyo has the World Bazaar and a wide, spacious avenue to accommodate crowds, while Disneyland in California has Walt's homage to his Missouri hometown, as per Huffington Post. Walt Disney remembered his hometown of Marceline, Missouri in the design of Main Street and it has remained much as it was at the opening of the park in 1955. Fans can even hear the Dapper Dan’s barbershop quartet, which has been performing there since 1959 or they can catch the famous Disneyland Band.
18 The Cast Of Cats
There's a group of “employees” at Disneyland that most of the other parks don't have, and many guests are unaware of: feral cats. When Walt Disney discovered that feral cats had moved into part of the park, he originally adopted them out to cast members, but over the years the park realized that the feral cats could get rid of mice and rats far more efficiently than any exterminators, so the cats have been allowed to stay, as per Disneyland Cats. They're captured, spayed or neutered, and fed and given medical treatment as thanks for their service.
17 They were the original
The very first Disney park to open was Disneyland, located in the city of Anaheim just south of Los Angeles. Amazingly, the park only took one year to build, and since 1955 has been the heart and soul of the Disney magic the world has fallen in love with, as per Business Insider. When it first opened, admission was only one dollar, and guests could enjoy 18 different attractions. Disneyland has expanded over the years, and now the immersive experience offers over 50 attractions, many of which are exclusive to the California park.
16 better in japan: Give Us All The Popcorn
One thing that some fans (and fanatics) will travel around the world for is the popcorn at Disneyland Tokyo. This world-famous treat comes in a variety of popcorn buckets which change regularly—so superfans avidly collect them! The popcorn flavors are even wilder than the buckets, according to Live Japan. There are different flavors of popcorn at different places throughout the park. Two of the park's fan favorites are the honey and butter-caramel flavors, but adventurous eaters can sample all the delicious varieties as they stroll through Disneyland and DisneySea.
15 For The Whole Family
While every Disney park is built with families in mind, the original Disneyland is especially family-oriented, down to the smallest details. Walt Disney's brother Roy was the first to buy a ticket to the park, and Main Street USA is filled with subtle tributes to members of Walt Disney's family, according to Disney Addicts. Walt memorialized where he came from by modeling Main Street in his hometown, and even kept an apartment above the firehouse. Rides and services are designed to appeal to the entire family because family was very important to Walt Disney.
14 On The Frontierland
One of the reasons that each Disney park is special is because every location has a unique mix of attractions. One special area that Disneyland has that can't be found in Disneyland Tokyo is Frontierland. The home of the Disneyland favorite Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Frontierland is also the location of the Mark Twain Riverboat and the Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island, as per Disneyland Resort. The flags and the Sailing Ship Columbia are replicas of real pieces of history in America. Although Frontierland was recently reduced in size, it's still important to Disney enthusiasts.
13 better in japan: The Running Of The Bulls
Each park has developed its own traditions over the years, and one unusual tradition that many tourists learn when they arrive at Disneyland Tokyo is called “the running of the bulls.” Every single morning, all 20 gates open and thousands of men, women and children run at full speed into the park, according to The New York Times. One park official claimed that around 40,000 guests come in this way in the first hour and a half. Many of them are running full tilt to try to beat the lines, which become very bad at the best rides by midday.
12 Heading Downtown
Downtown Disney is a shopping center that carries on the Disney theme and also connects both parks with the three Disney Resort Hotels, according to Undercover Tourist. Downtown Disney is free to go to and doesn't require a park ticket, but parking rules have changed, and guests can get three hours free with parking validation at one of the shops—if they make a purchase. For the total Disney experience, however, this destination is worth a visit. Unlike Disneyland Tokyo's shopping district—called Ikspiari—Downtown Disney carries on the Disney theme and magic.
11 New Orleans Square
Nestled within Disneyland Park in the middle of Southern California is a meticulously detailed tribute to New Orleans. Walt Disney wanted to build New Orleans Square because he and his wife loved the real New Orleans so much, as per Touring Plans. Pre-Civil War era architecture with muted colors and gridded streets add to the “enhanced reality” of this part of the park that makes guests feel they've stepped into a whole different era. New Orleans Square is especially fun in the evening as the sun sets and shadows lend an air of mystery.
10 better in japan: Nothing Like Legend Of Mythica
For eight years, DisneySea offered the live performance Legend of Mythica, which wowed guests and was a popular attraction. The Legend of Mythica was a water show that incorporated Disney characters into a story about the interactions between the human and mythical worlds, and lasted far longer than most other attractions at Disneyland Tokyo, as per Disney Tourist Blog. Incredibly beautiful and detailed, this parade-on-water was a favorite, and many Disney fans agree that there's really nothing like it at any of the other parks. Legend of Mythica was a stunning parade that told a tale of harmony.
9 Careening Down Big Thunder Mountain
On the edge of Frontierland and overlooking Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is one of the most iconic and best-loved ride attractions. So much of Disneyland is about incorporating various parts of US history and important landmarks, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad's design was based on Bryce Canyon in Utah, according to Get Away Today. Thunder Mountain also honors part of Disneyland's past, incorporating remnants of older rides. Real antique mining equipment is arranged around the attraction. Thunder Mountain was Walt's idea, but he passed before it was built in 1979.
8 The Most Exclusive Rides
There are just some rides at Disneyland that no other Disney park has. World of Color is a beloved light show only found at Disneyland, and the Cars ride is a newer fan favorite, but one ride that has stood tall almost since the beginning of Disneyland is the Matterhorn. The Matterhorn was built in 1959 and is easily visible from well outside the park, as per Disneyland Daily. Despite multiple adjustments over the years, it's still a fast-paced ride. Superfans love catching a glimpse of the abominable snowman as the cars roar past.
7 It Really Is A Small World
While both Disneyland and Disneyland Tokyo both have the It's A Small World ride, there are a number of differences that park goers have noticed over the years. Of course, the Disneyland version is the original and was actually first made for the 1964 World's Fair in New York, as per Mental Floss. It was later moved to Disneyland. One wild fact that many people don't realize is that the gold exterior on the Disneyland attraction is actually gold leaf. Walt Disney even brought children from around the world to dedicate the ride in 1966, making it a real piece of history.
6 The Secret Walt Disney Touches
Whole books and blogs are dedicated to spotting all of the secret touches that can be found around Disneyland, and many of them are special because it was Walt Disney's first park. He was so involved with the construction and design that he had an apartment built above the Firehouse—and a lantern is lit there in the window to honor him, as per Business Insider. Guests who get to the park bright and early and are lucky might get to ride in the Lilly Belle—a train car decorated in honor of Walt's wife, Lillian. Disney was more involved with Disneyland than with any other park.
5 Better In Japan: The Surreal Hunny Hunt
While Disneyland Tokyo, which opened in 1983, has all the charm and magic we'd expect from a Disney experience, there are a few things that are totally unique to Japan's park. One ride that has fans the world over is Pooh's Hunny Hunt. The ride takes guests along on familiar stories of Winnie the Pooh, including the beloved Blustery Day and Heffalumps and Woozles, according to Theme Park Insider. The best part of the ride, however, may be the fact that it's trackless—it uses a computerized positioning system to move the cars around.
4 better in Japan: Mickey-Shaped Monorail
Disneyland in California has a monorail that loops between resort stops, but it doesn't have a patch on the Disneyland Tokyo monorail, which some visitors love just as much as the park rides. The Tokyo monorail has a wider platform and features countdown clocks to let guests know how much time they have before the monorail arrives, according to Parkeology. While some detractors note that the Tokyo monorail charges, fans defend it by pointing out the spacious cars with Mickey-shaped hand-holds for those who want to stand and look out the Mickey-shaped windows.
3 better in japan: A Haunted Mansion Fantasy
The Haunted Mansion is a perennially popular attraction at many Disney parks, including Disneyland, Disney World, and Disneyland Tokyo. In Tokyo, the Haunted Mansion is located in Fantasyland. Just like the other Haunted Mansions, there are 999 ghosts all trying to add one more to their group. What sets Tokyo Disney's Haunted Mansion apart is that while it's closely based on the one in Disney World, it hasn't gotten the same upgrades over the years, so it's got a nostalgic, original feel to it, according to Touring Plans. Everything is in perfect condition.
2 better in japan: Set Sail On DisneySea
DisneySea is a Tokyo original, and there is nothing else quite like it in the Disney universe. Tending to cater more to the adult visitors, DisneySea has so many attractions and things to see and do that many fans feel they need several days to take in what DisneySea offers, as per Disney Tourist Blog. One of the activities guests look forward to the most is the gondola ride from the Palazzo Canals. The gondoliers sing as they guide the boats along. Superfans explain that sunset is the best and most beautiful time for a gondola ride.
1 better in japan: Built For The Crowds
When the Imagineers built Disneyland in Tokyo in 1983, they had already seen the sheer volume of guests that would arrive at Disneyland each day and sought to accommodate for anticipated crowds. Because of this, the main entry into Disney Tokyo is wide and spacious, and gradually narrows, thereby funneling guests into the World Bazaar, as per Grand Legacy. Weather is also a consideration that must be made in Tokyo, so a permanent awning stretches out overhead, keeping rain and snow off of people. When sudden storms hit, guests are often seen running for cover into the World Bazaar.
References: Forbes, Business Insider, Disney Addicts, USA Today, Disney Tourist Blog, Disneyland Resort, Undercover Tourist, Touring Plans, Disneyland Daily, Mental Floss, Smart Mouse Travel, Huffington Post, Theme Park Insider, Delish, Parkeology, Live Japan, The New York Times