TPT logo

Your guide to theme parks in Orlando and beyond


Main menu

The Top 50 Theme Parks in the World

10. Chimelong Ocean Kingdom (China)

Image: Chimelong Ocean Kingdom

2018: 10,830,000
Change: +96%*

Don't let Chimelong Ocean Kingdom's near-doubling of its attendance fool you. The park officially opened in March 2014, meaning that its 2014 attendance number represents only two-thirds of a year. Still, the Chinese park is part of the Chimelong International Ocean Tourist Resort, billed as "the Orlando of China." Given that no less than three more theme parks are tentatively planned for the property (with a second potentially opening in 2020), it may be possible. The park's most notable today for its B&M wing-style Parrot Coaster and the criticism its recieved for its animal care and potentially shady animal trading with Russia. Yikes.

9. Disney's Hollywood Studios

Image: Disney

2018: 11,258,000
Change: +9.2%

Even Disney Parks fans will admit that Disney's Hollywood Studios probably doesn't deserve a spot in the top 10 most-attended theme parks on Earth in isolation... After all, it opened in 1989 was only two rides, and in 2018 offered only 6 – the fewest of any Disney or Universal Park on Earth. The diminuative park is likely so highly attended because most of its rides happen to be anchors (like Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Star Tours, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, and Toy Story Mania) and because, y'know, it's one of the parks at Walt Disney World. Still, expect this number to explode in 2020 – the first full year of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.

8. Shanghai Disneyland

Image: Disney

2018: 11,800,000

It's been known for years that Disney's leadership sees Asia as the company's next stronghold... and despite the underbuilt Hong Kong park, CEO Bob Iger has been itching to get a real foothold in mainland China for years, as evidenced by the controversial Disney English program of English language extracurricular schools scattered around the country to teach English to China's rising middle class... by way of allegiance to Disney stories and characters that had long been unknown in the highly censored country...

Disney's agreement with China's strict and authoritarian government was met with as much controversy stateside, including the government's majority ownership of the park, its final say on things like ticket and food prices, and its oversight of the park's ride lineup – purposefully omitting American classics. When the park opened in 2016, it was somewhat shocking for Disney's western fans to watch online as Chinese cultural customs and norms fell against expected Disney Parks standards. In any case, the park's impressive debut cements it as a legacy win for Bob Iger.

7. Epcot

Image: Disney

2018: 12,444,000

Disney's announced overhaul to Epcot (and particularly its Future World) is a massive undertaking... but it may be necessary. It's been pretty well recognized that the influx of intellectual properties is what's fueling the next generation of park growth... and that infusion of characters into Epcot has been... well... clunky. We remain skeptical that one-off pavilions dedicated to Guardians of the Galaxy and Ratatouille will mesh with the one-off character additions scattered around the park intermixed with character-less thrills and not-so-nostalgic leftovers of yesteryear. At least right now, it doesn't seem like it's all coalescing into a park with a firm idea of what its message or mission is... but Disney better hope it works, since Epcot recently fell a slot after being unexpectedly surpassed by... 

6. Disney's Animal Kingdom

Image: Disney

2018: 13,750,000

Disney's Animal Kingdom takes the cake in our calculation of attendance changes, catapulting up the global attendance list with an estimated unimaginable 3,350,000 increase in annual visitors from 2014 to 2018. Think about it: a third as many people are coming today as came just four years ago! Surely, that figure signals something big happening at the park. Yep... Pandora: The World of AVATAR. The billion-dollar land based on the 2009 film cemented the success of the "immersive IP land" model as the next jump for theme parks, lifting Animal Kingdom to number 6.

5. Universal Studios Japan

Image: Universal

2018: 14,300,000

Any hypothesis as to what caused Universal Studios Japan's spectacular 21% jump in attendance over the last four years? You guessed it again – the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The continued success of the industry-defining, highly-franchisable land strikes yet again. Believe it or not, another boon to the park's attendance just may be the new Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. The Minions are big business in Japan, so at Universal Studios Japan, the attraction replaced the high-capacity Back to the Future – The Ride and brought with it a whole Minion-themed land (called Minion Park).

Still, it's worth noting that Universal Studios Japan has struck a balance between progress and nostalgia that other Universal Studios parks seem to lack, adding popular, new age hits like the Modern Marvel: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, but also managing to keep classics like the Lost Legend: JAWS and Jurassic Park: The Ride.

4. Tokyo DisneySea

Image: Disney

2018: 14,651,000

Tokyo DisneySea is a Mecca for Disney Parks fans; a "bucket list" park you have to see to believe, often cited as the greatest modern Disney Park on Earth. Opened in 2001, the nautical park is built of themed "ports" dedicated to the corners of the globe and the legends, stories, and adventures they hold. Dusted with narratives drawn directly from S.E.A.: The Society of Explorers and Adventurers, the park transcends what most of us think of when we think of Disney, featuring a romantic, epic, and cinematic style that's delivered two of the best rides on Earth: the Modern Marvels: Tower of Terror and Journey to the Center of the Earth.

3. Tokyo Disneyland

Image: Disney

2018: 17,907,000

Tokyo Disneyland, opened in 1983, was unusual in just how usual it was! Though Disney's designers initially expected to redesign a Japanese park around Japanese style, stories, and culture, the park's owners and operators – the Oriental Land Company – wanted just the opposite. Instead of customizing the park for the Japanese, they insisted that Disney simply build Magic Kingdom all over again, with all its distinctly "American" influences (like a Space Age Tomorrowland, the old west Frontierland, and the European Fantasyland) completely in tact!

Obviously, they were right – the park is routinely among the most-attended on Earth. And since the OLC owns the park, it's the highest-attended park in the world not owned by Disney! That said, Tokyo Disneyland recently lost is #2 position to a rapidly-rising park...

2. Disneyland Park

Image: Disney

2018: 18,666,000

Frequent Disneyland visitors won't be surprised to know that the park's attendance has grown astronomically in the last decade. Even in the four years since our last check-in with park attendance (when it was behind Tokyo Disneyland), the park's visitorship has jumped over 11% – a number made all the more unthinkable when you consider that its last major "E-Ticket" attraction was 1995's Modern Marvel: Indiana Jones Adventure! What's even more astounding is that this figure doesn't include the crowds of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, which will be open about 7 months in 2019. Could Disneyland surpass the most-visited park in the world in 2020 or beyond? We'll see... Until then...

1. Magic Kingdom

Image: Disney

2018: 20,859,000

Though its older sister in California continues to grow at a steady and surprising rate (with industry commentator Jim Hill astutely calling Disneyland "the world's most popular regional theme park"), there's simply no beating Magic Kingdom – the iconic anchor park of the "Vacation Kingdom of the World." The hallowed grounds of Cinderella Castle are an international destination, baked into pop culture as a must-visit Mecca for any self-respecting middle income family. In other words, absent some catastrophic shift in our global consciousness, Magic Kingdom will continue to be a world-renowned destination.

Historically, that's meant that Disney didn't really feel the need to keep pace with park additions. While Disneyland is constantly adding, adjusting, and overlaying attractions to keep its heavily local (and heavily vocal) visitorship coming back for more, Magic Kingdom has – for better or worse – been able to coast a bit, especially as the other parks on the property have each necessitated much more care to stay viable.

One could argue that only the Wizarding World's opening (which saw a 29% jump at Islands of Adventure in 2011's Theme Index, but only a 1% jump in Magic Kingdom) could've caused Disney to lumber off its laurels and fight back... Still, the opening of New Fantasyland around 2012 has been the park's only substantial addition in the last few decades and amounted to a net one new ride. Even the upcoming addition of the Modern Marvel: TRON Lightcycle Power Run feels more like a present for the park's 50th than the billion-dollar projects underway at the other Disney World parks, which historically do go head-to-head with each other (and Universal) for visitors.

The numbers speak for themselves. Magic Kingdom reigns supreme and according to estimates – for now – it's the only park to have crossed 20 million visitors in a year.

Go to page:


There are no comments so far.

Connect with Theme Park Tourist: