I’m often asked why I go to so many Disney parks when they all pretty much offer the same experience. My answer: they don’t!
While there are many shared experiences from one Disney park to another, they all have unique attractions, shows, dining opportunities, and even cultural exchanges that make going to several – or all – of them worthy travel experiences. Even Walt Disney World and Disneyland have major differences. So it goes without saying that all the international parks have even bigger variations.
I’ve not yet been to every Disney destination around the world (I’m getting close!). But I’ve been to enough to know what are the can’t-miss attractions in one park that you cannot find anywhere else. Wherever in the world your Disney travels take you, these are the attractions that are truly unique. Don’t miss them on your visit or you might not get the chance again.
Can’t Miss Unique Disney Attractions Around the World
1. Mystic Manor (Hong Kong Disneyland)
Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland might be the most unique and impressive attraction that Disney has ever built. Don’t just think of it as a stand-in for the Haunted Mansion. It has a storyline all in its own right, tied into Disney’s Society of Explorers and Adventurers for you Disney geeks out there. The trackless ride system makes for an amazingly smooth ride experience and unique vantage points for a journey with Lord Henry Mystic and his mischievous monkey Albert.
2. Radiator Springs Racers (Disneyland, California Adventure)
Cars Land in Disney California Adventure is one of the most immersive lands Disney has ever built and Radiator Springs Racers has been its standout thrill ride. The ride begins like a classic Disney dark ride cruising along Route 66 seeing character favorites like Mater and Lightning McQueen. Then it picks up speed (building on some of the technology borrowed and improved upon from Epcot’s Test Track) for a thrilling ending. Grab a Fastpass or use the Single Rider Line to avoid the normal 2-3 hour waits.
3. Tron Lightcycle Power Run (Shanghai Disney Resort)
Space Mountain – you’ve just met your match. Since it’s opening last summer, the Tron Lightcycles Power Run has wowed nearly every visitor to Shanghai Disneyland with its futuristic ride experience. Riders are strapped in as if they were riding forward-leaning motorcycles, making for a ride experience that is truly unique on this indoor/outdoor coaster. Rumors are flying that this attraction is coming to Walt Disney World but for now, you can only find it in China.
(I haven’t yet been to Shanghai Disney, but until I do, check out my friend Shawn’s extensive Shanghai Disneyland guide).
4. Pooh’s Honey Hunt (Tokyo Disneyland)
How can a Winnie the Pooh ride make this list as unique when the ride can be found in so many Disney parks? Because the Tokyo Disneyland version truly is heads and tails above the others. The ride uses the same magnetic trackless system that can be found in Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland. The lines can be epic but the payoff is well worth it to see this much more immersive version of a Disney classic.
5. Matterhorn (Disneyland)
One of the most iconic coasters in the world, the Matterhorn, is a can’t-miss on a Disneyland trip. The ride isn’t exactly comfortable – the bobsleds have been changed over the years with mixed success and the track is jerky and bumpy. But it has an old world theme park charm that more than makes up for that. The ride finally was added to Disneyland’s FASTPASS system earlier this year, but the best way to avoid the lines is to make use of its little known Single Rider line. Consider a ride after dark for a totally different experience.
6. Expedition Everest (Walt Disney World, Animal Kingdom)
As a Disneyland superfan, I might have to argue that Expedition Everest is just a Matterhorn knock-off. The reality is, however, that Walt Disney World took a classic and improved up on it. In a big way. No spoilers here, but if you haven’t ridden it, the ride has a twist that you probably wouldn’t expect. The thrills and drops are bigger and the technology makes an impressively smooth ride.
7. Ratatouille (Disneyland Paris, Walt Disney Studios)
Shrink to the size of a rat and explore the Paris kitchen and restaurant made famous in the movie. Ratatouille makes use of the same trackless ride system that Disney has used on several other innovative rides in recent years and is also in 3D. The Disney rumor mill suggests that this attraction might just come to the France pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. But for now, Paris is the only place you can see it.
8. Journey to the Center of the Earth (Toyko DisneySea)
Critics have called Tokyo Disney Sea Disney’s best park in the world, and Journey to the Center of the Earth is its standout thrill ride attraction. It uses some of the same speed technology as Test Track and Radiator Springs Racers. The theming throughout the queue and attraction are what really make this ride memorable.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! (Disneyland, California Adventure)
A third Disneyland attraction on the list? Ok, I’ll admit that this California girl might be a little Disneyland biased. This pick might be even more controversial because Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! isn’t even an original ride. It’s a reimagining of the Tower of Terror that only has been open a few months in Anaheim. The ride is a huge improvement over Tower of Terror, however, in thrills, fun, and Marvel theming. Because it has six different drop profiles with different music each time, the many variations keep you guessing.
10. Avatar Flight of Passage (Walt Disney World, Animal Kingdom)
Last but certainly not least is Disney’s newest attraction just unveiled this summer in the new Pandora – the World of Avatar land in Animal Kingdom. No one remembers the movie, but no one cares. The land is so immersive and Flight of Passage is truly the standout attraction. Hop aboard a banshee and soar over Pandora.
Any top 10 list is inevitably going to be controversial so I have to acknowledge a few unique and memorable attractions that didn’t make the list. Consider this your B-list! And what a B-list it is…
- The Iron Man Experience (Hong Kong Disneyland)
- Test Track (Walt Disney World, Epcot)
- Pirates of the Caribbean (Shanghai Disneyland) – like Pooh’s Honey Hunt in Tokyo, this version of the ride is completely unique to Shanghai
- Grizzly Mine Train (Hong Kong Disneyland)
- Mission: Space (Walt Disney World, Epcot)
- Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage (Tokyo DisneySea)
And of course, don’t forget all the amazing attractions that may be in only two or three parks worldwide but who couldn’t make this list because they were not unique offerings. I’m looking at you Rock N Roller Coaster, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Indiana Jones, etc.