A Guide to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea for First-Timers

A Guide to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea for First-Timers

Don’t leave Japan without visiting its own happiest Place on Earth!

One of my most memorable childhood memories was going to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea with my family. When I revisit these places now, it is with nostalgic happiness. I look back and miss stuffing my face with french fries from paper cups decorated with little Mickeys, experiencing the rides for the very first time, and even the time when my parents borrowed the theme park wheelchair to push me around in (a story for a different time, perhaps).  

If you’re looking to make your own memories at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, here are the best experiences you don’t want to miss!

Image credit: Megan Michael

Also read: 33 Best Things to Do in Tokyo on Your Very First Visit

Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Disneyland was the first Disneyland to open outside of the United States. Accessible via the Disney Resort Line (hop off at Tokyo Disneyland Station), Tokyo Disneyland offers the same magical experience as the theme parks in California and Florida

Tokyo Disneyland has seven themed areas in total. The starting point in the park is always World Bazaar. I then explored the other six themed areas freely — depending on which rides I wanted to go on.

1. Rediscover childhood joy at World Bazaar

Image credit: Rob Young

World Bazaar is inspired by America in the early 1900s when the country enjoyed a time of economic affluence and sweet indulgence. As a kid, I stared in awe at the Mickey-shaped balloons floating in bundles, smiling staff members greeting everyone in incredibly stylish uniforms, and plenty of excited faces!

Some things to do here include visiting the park’s largest sweet shop, the World Bazar Confectionary. This store sells different types of confectionery from cookies to Japanese-style sweets designed with Disney characters. How happy I was as a blissful little kid standing there choosing out which confectionary to munch.

I also enjoyed a blast from the past at the Penny Arcade thanks to the many retro coin-operated machines such as pinball machines and claw games! My favourite activity was getting my fortune read by the wise old Grandma in the fortune-telling machine. I loved this arcade’s old nostalgic feel; plus, it provides a great way to take a break from the rides.

2. Get your heart pumping in the Adventureland zone

Adventureland takes inspiration from the wild terrains of the jungle and the vibrant festive city of New Orleans in Louisiana.

I went on a swashbuckling adventure at the Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride where I sang along with the merry crew. Captain Jack Sparrow also makes an appearance during the ride! 

I love animals, so I had to hop on the Jungle Cruise: an exciting quest through the jungle by boat led by a charismatic and knowledgeable guide! Along the way, I saw animatronics like hippos and elephants amidst cascading waterfalls and misty caves.

3. Explore the Wild West in Westernland

 Westernland is designed to look like the Wild West of America of the 1800s. Think cowboys and ranches against haystacks and horseshoe-decorated walls. 

Here, I boarded the impressive Mark Twain Riverboat and cruised along the river. I enjoyed climbing up to the top viewing deck to get a good view while cruising around Westernland.

Image credit: Peter Lee

Also, I couldn’t leave without riding the fan-favourite Big Thunder Mountain Roller Coaster. This thrilling ride through the rocky mountains is shaped like a train and was inspired by the big gold rush in America that happened during the late 1840s and till the early 1850s a few decades ago. 

4. Head to Critter Country and enjoy Splash Mountain!

 Critter Country is a small themed area of the park where you’ll find the thrilling Splash Mountain water raft ride: one of the most popular attractions of the park.

Here, I boarded the log boat and explored the inside of the mountain, home to cute little animatronic critters before plunging down a 45° drop from 16 metres! My expert tip? Be prepared to get soaked from head to toe! 

5. Dive into the magic of Disney at Fantasyland

Image credit: Øyvind Holmstad

The centrepiece of Fantasyland is the beautiful and grand Cinderella’s Castle. It is the most picturesque point of Tokyo Disneyland and you can’t leave the park without at least one selfie with the magnificent building, with its blue tower tops and stone facades.

Image credit: Megan Michael

Many rides inspired by Disney films (Pinocchio, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Peter Pan, and more) are located here too! As a kid, I loved waving at the princesses on the floats and they would smile and wave back. It felt so surreal to meet my favourite princesses up close.

One of my favourite rides is Alice’s Tea Party, a dizzy spinning cup ride. Sit in a colourful pastel teacup as you spin around with other visitors and have a mad time with the Mad Hatter and his crazy chaotic tea party.

6. Visit the home of your favourite characters at Toontown

Image credit: Nagi Usano

Toontown is based on the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It features many of the classic Disney characters: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Donald Duck. Best of all, I got to visit their cute cartoon-like houses. Their interiors are carefully decorated and styled to reflect the personalities of each character — so be sure to take your time exploring the inside of each home!

All the exploring made me hungry, so I  visited the Huey Dewey and Louie Good Time Cafe, named after Donald Duck’s three cheeky little nephews. I grabbed a refreshing drink and a yummy bite before I continued exploring the rest of the park. My personal recommendation? The yummy Mickey-shaped pizzas! 

7. Become a space ranger at Tomorrowland

Image credit: DocChewbacca

Tomorrowland is a science fiction-inspired area featuring characters such as Buzz Lightyear from the famous Pixar movie Toy Story. It was indeed a cosmic adventure with space ranger Buzz as he flew through the starry galaxies with the Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters ride. 

Luckily I wasn’t alone, so I shot targets and competed against my sister for a higher score. The one who hits the most targets wins and points will be tracked on a counter at your seat!

Image credit: Loren Javier

For Star Wars fans, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue is an exciting 3D spaceship ride I’d highly recommend. I was immediately captivated by the familiar characters on the rocky ride that dodged hurdles and sped past enemies. Rest assured that you’ll feel as if you’re really on a spacecraft! I really screamed my lungs out here.

Tokyo DisneySea

Image credit: Sarah Castañeda

Tokyo DisneySea is a unique Disney park that’s also located in Japan. Opened in 2001, DisneySea caters to both the young and young at heart, with more thrilling rides as well as more table service restaurants and alcoholic beverages.

Similarly, Tokyo DisneySea has seven themed areas in total inspired by the sea and are known as “ports-of-call”. Its main concept is to invite visitors to sail the world by visiting the various zones! 

1. Ride Gondolas at the Mediterranean Harbor

The Mediterranean Harbor is the first area you’ll visit and resembles an Italian port city. It features Venetian gondolas, as well as shops and restaurants.

I grabbed a map and took part in The Leonardo Challenge, a map adventure that is part of the Fortress Explorations attraction. The map will take you on a journey around the fortress where you will find fascinating exhibitions including exhibits on the study of planets, nautical instruments, and more! Once you finish the challenge, you become an honorary member of the fictional society of Explorers and Adventurers.

2. Head to the Northeastern seaboard at the American Waterfront

Image credit: Rob Ketcherside

The American Waterfront is inspired by the Northeastern seaboard of the United States during the early 20th century. 

Head into Woody’s mouth and enjoy the carnival fun with Andy’s toys from the hit Pixar movie Toy Story on the ride Toy Story Mania. Here you can shoot some balls at targets as the toys cheer you on, hitting as many of the colourful targets as you can! This attraction tends to have a long waiting time throughout the day, so make this one of the first rides you visit.

Image credit: Hiu Yan Chelsia Choi

Meanwhile, the Tower of Terror is perfect for thrill-seekers looking for a good scream. Set in New York in the year 1912, the tower is another one of the must-try activities at DisneySea. 

Ride up to the top of the hotel and catch an amazing view of the park before a terrifying drop back down. This ride is not for the faint-hearted! I recommend going at night if you really want a good view of the park adorned with colourful lights.

Image credit: Hiu Yan Chelsia Choi

At the McDuck’s Department Store, I always have to get one of the Duffy and Friends plushies or merchandise. Duffy is a bear handmade by Minnie Mouse as a gift to her sweetheart, Mickey Mouse. He is meant as a companion for Mickey to travel the world with. How sweet of her!

Each ‘Friend’ has its own storyline describing how they became friends with Duffy. His friends are from all over the world, just like how the park is inspired by different countries.

Gelatoni the Cat, for example, is an artist Duffy met in Italy when they painted together.

3. Discover some new ocean friends at Port Discovery

Port Discovery is an area depicting a future Marina and is inspired by retrofuturism. Visit the Marine Life Institute and meet Nemo and his ocean pals on the Nemo and Friends SeaRider.

You will board a submarine-like vehicle shaped like a pink sea creature that can shrink to the size of a fish. Explore the underwater world virtually alongside Nemo and his friends — truly an unforgettable journey! 

4. Go on a thrilling chase at the Lost River Delta

Lost River Delta is inspired by the fictional region in Cusco, Peru. It even features the ancient remains from the Mesoamerica region. Visit the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull ride where you must escape the angered crystal skull spirit in a thrilling ride.

Beware of the animatronic snakes and spiders as you speed down slopes and turns! This ride is definitely one of my favourite rides because of how thrilling the high-speed chase is and the unexpected surprises that await while exploring the temple.

For daredevils like myself, I loved riding the Raging Spirits roller coaster. It is a high-speed roller coaster with a 360° turn that will flip you upside down!

5. Play with Ariel at the Mermaid Lagoon

Image credit: Wing1990hk

Mermaid Lagoon is inspired by the characters of The Little Mermaid and features many seashell and ocean motifs. Start withAriel’s Playground, which has caverns that look like they are straight out of the movie. Head to Ariel’s cave where she sang Part Of Your World, and look at the treasures she collected from the human world. 

Visit King Triton’s Concert and be mesmerised by Ariel as she dances and turns gracefully in the ocean water, serenaded by her sisters and accompanied by her friends Sebastian and Flounder. This concert is a magical musical experience that definitely left me in awe!

6. Ride flying carpets at the Arabian Coast

Image credit: Cabeza2000

Arabian Coast is inspired by the scenery of an Arabian harbour and features characters from the movie Aladdin. Visit Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage and meet the adorable tiger cub Chandu.  Sail together with Sinbad on a musical boat ride in search of treasure.

Image credit: Wing1990hk

Ride Jasmine’s Flying Carpets and soar in the sky with your family as the ride rotates and spins you, whisking you away into the Arabian night.

7. Uncover Earth’s hidden mysteries at the Mysterious Island

Image credit: ARICAD

Mysterious Island is a recreation of the island in Jules Verne’s novel, The Mysterious Island and serves as Captain Nemo’s lair. The themed area also makes reference to Verne’s other famous works: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth.

The submarine ride 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, is full of sea creatures and landscapes that were so vivid that I believed we got into a real submarine! I even burst into tears as my dad held my hand because I was so afraid of going underwater and because of how real everything seemed! 

On the other hand, Journey to the Center of the Earth is a thrilling roller coaster ride that lets you visit glowing mushrooms and unearthly creatures before careening into a fast race out of the erupting volcano! 

How to make the most out of your trip

1. Download the Tokyo Disney Resort® App

With an interactive map, the Tokyo Disney Resort®  app saves you the hassle of carrying around a paper map. Not only that, the app provides icons showing where each ride is located as well as the waiting times. As such, you can better plan which rides you would like to head to! Certain experiences may need the “entry request” due to social distancing practices for the pandemic. You will need this app to book an entry request upon entering the park.

The app also provides the schedules for shows and parades throughout the day. You definitely don’t want to miss out on the spectacular live performances with their impressive floats and talented bands.

2. Research and chose a suitable hotel

If you devote two days to your visit, you will need somewhere to stay the night. You can stay at one of the many hotels located within the resort. For example, the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is located at the front and has rooms with a Disney film theme, such as Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland.

Hotel Miracosta is within the park grounds of Tokyo DisneySea. You can enjoy a window view of the Mediterranean Harbour during your stay in this Italian-inspired hotel. In total, there are five hotels within Tokyo Disney Resort.

Since these hotels tend to be high in cost, you can also consider staying at the non-Disney hotels. During my trip, I stayed at the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel, located at Bayside Station. This hotel is accessible, and only ten minutes away from Ikspiari, the resort’s shopping mall.

3. Purchase the park guides at Maruzen Bookstore, Ikspiari

You can purchase the magazine guides at Maruzen Bookstore as an additional aid. These come with many visual aids of the souvenirs, rides, mascots, and snacks to help you better plan what to taste and see during your visit (which the app does not feature).

Pro tip: Instead of splurging on souvenirs, you can find the annual souvenir catalogues on sale at this bookstore. I like purchasing the catalogue because many souvenirs are limited edition and seasonal. It is easier to keep the catalogue if you wish for a memory of all the cute souvenirs to take back home!

In addition, the mall has a supermarket and some restaurants if you want to save money on food. That said, my personal opinion is that you should still try some of the snacks in the theme park since the Disney-themed food is too good to be missed!

4. Baby strollers and wheelchairs are available for loan

At the entrance of each park, you can rent a wheelchair or a baby stroller if you are bringing small children, elderly, or disabled visitors. Strollers are at a rental fee of ¥1,000   (~S$10.30) while wheelchairs are at a rental fee of ¥500 (~S$5.15). Motorised wheelchairs are also available at a higher fee of ¥2,000 (~S$20.59).

5. Purchase the Disney Premier Access

Image credit: Rob Young

If you would rather save time and ride as many rides as possible for a price, you can purchase the Disney Premier Access for ¥2,000 (~S$20.59). It allows you to go through the “priority access queue” with fewer people, so you can get to your favourite rides faster.

The Disney Premier Access can be purchased either on the app, at Main Street House in Tokyo Disneyland, or at Guest Relations in Tokyo DisneySea. I would recommend that you get the passes in advance on your app since it is available in limited numbers only.

6. Ride the Mickey windowed monorail, the Disney Resort Line

Cutely designed with illustrations updated regularly, the Disney monorail in Tokyo Disney Resort has iconic Mickey-shaped windows. It is the means of transport around the large resort grounds. Thus it’s best to purchase a pass and use the monorail to commute from location to location. 

Image credit: Megan Michael

I looked out the Mickey-shaped windows and enjoy the beautiful view of the resort grounds too! The monorail also connects the resort to the nearest Tokyo Metro Station, which is the JR Maihama Station

Also read: 12 Most Interesting Train Stations You Can Find in Japan

And fini! Hopefully, you think Tokyo Disney Resort is just as magical a place as I do. Ready to head to the Happiest Place on Earth for your next trip? We’d love to hear about your experience afterwards!

About Author

Megan Michael
Megan Michael

With a mildly concerning addiction to Tiktoks and Kopi Peng, Megan loves talking about anything that she is raving about at the moment. Currently, the topics she loves to chat about are MBTI (Shes an ENFJ-T), K-Pop, show recommendations and her four sausage dogs. If you see a Megan with deadpan eyes, it means she hasn't had her Kopi Peng for the day and you should rush to the nearest coffee shop to resurrect her. One thing to note is she actually isn't scary, she just has a very fierce resting face! And so, she hopes to girl boss to the best of her abilities so she can return home to her dogs.