It’s been an amazing decade of growth and expansion for Disney theme parks.
In the past 10 years, the Mouse has built a new theme park, redesigned another, added new themed lands and reimagined others. Each expansion introduced new marquee attractions to Disney’s parks.
The best new Disney theme park attractions
1) Shanghai Disneyland
In 2016, Shanghai Disneyland debuted in China. The Magic Kingdom-style park featured two new lands not found at other Disney parks: Treasure Cove and Gardens of Imagination. The park has also announced plans for the first Zootopia themed land.
The Voyage to the Crystal Grotto boat ride travels around and under the centrepiece castle. The ride features scenes from the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Mulan, Tangled and Fantasia.
The Battle for the Sunken Treasure offers a new storyline to the classic Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Riders in magnetically-propelled boats sail between a pair of pirate ships battling for Treasure Cove’s bounty. The Treasure Cove land is also home to the Eye of the Storm stunt show starring Captain Jack Sparrow.
In Shanghai’s Tomorrowland, the Tron Lightcycle Power Run roller coaster replaces the traditional Space Mountain attraction.
2) Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Two of the best new Disney theme park attractions were the twin Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge themed lands opened at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studio in 2019.
Both lands feature lightsaber and droid building shops, a spaceport cantina and an otherworldly marketplace with shops and eateries.
The marquee attraction in both lands is Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. The flight simulator puts riders behind the controls of the famed Star Wars starship.
The upcoming Rise of the Resistance ride boasts four attractions in one. The state-of-the-art dark ride opens in Florida in December 2019 and California in January 2020.
3) Pandora: The World of Avatar
The Pandora themed land based on the Avatar film franchise debuted at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2017. The themed land in the Florida theme park features floating mountains and bioluminescent plants just like the film.
The Avatar Flight of Passage flight simulator is the land’s marquee attraction. Riders fly on the back of a Banshee through Pandora.
The Na’vi River Journey boat ride through the Pandora jungle features the most sophisticated audio-animatronic figure ever created for a Disney theme park.
4) Disney California Adventure Redesign
Disney California Adventure underwent a major re-imagineering just a few years after the Anaheim theme park opened to devastating reviews. The price tag: $1.1 billion, nearly double what Disney spent to originally build the park.
The massive project completely redesigned major portions of the park. The multi-year project stretched from 2007 to 2012. Walt Disney Imagineering removed the original California pop culture theme of the park and replaced it with a historic tribute to the state.
During the renovation, Paradise Pier added Toy Story Midway Mania in 2008 and Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure in 2011. The World of Color nighttime spectacular water show debuted on Paradise Bay in 2010.
The park’s Sunshine Plaza main entry was transformed into Buena Vista Street recalling the Los Angeles of the 1920s when Walt Disney moved to California.
5) Cars Land
One of the best new Disney theme park attractions was Cars Land, the final chapter in the major redesign of Disney California Adventure which debuted in 2012. The 12-acre land pays tribute to Pixar’s Cars film franchise. It recreates the fictional Route 66 town of Radiator Springs from the films complete with a Cadillac Mountain Range backdrop.
The Radiator Springs Racers racing ride is the land’s marquee attraction. The ride system is based on Epcot’s Test Track. In addition, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree combines a classic whip ride with a tractor and trailer theme.
Cars Land originally opened with Luigi’s Flying Tires. The tire-shaped bumper cars floated on a cushion of air. The short-lived ride paid tribute to the beloved but also short-lived 1960s Flying Saucer attraction in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland.
6) Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland
The re-imagined and expanded Fantasyland opened at the Magic Kingdom in Florida in 2012.
The Storybook Circus section of Fantasyland added the Barnstormer family coaster themed to the Great Goofini and the duelling Dumbo the Flying Elephant spinning rides. An area themed to Beauty and the Beast included the Be Our Guest and Gaston’s Tavern restaurants along with a Belle meet-and-greet location.
The Under the Sea attraction replicated the Little Mermaid dark ride at Disney California Adventure. Meanwhile, the Princess Fairytale Hall meet-and-greet area replaced Snow White’s Scary Adventures dark ride in 2013.
7) Mystic Point
Mystic Point debuted in 2013 at Hong Kong Disneyland as part of a multi-year expansion of the park.
The marquee attraction of the land themed to mystery and adventure is Mystic Manor, Hong Kong Disneyland’s version of the Haunted Mansion. The attraction features a trackless ride system similar to Pooh’s Hunny Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland.
Mystic Manor is the home of Lord Henry Mystic who travels the world as a member of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, according to the attraction’s backstory.
Mystic Point’s Explorer’s Club restaurant also pays tribute to the exotic locations visited by the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. The restaurant is reminiscent of the Adventurers Club nightclub in the former Pleasure Island at Walt Disney World.
8) Grizzly Gulch
Another of the best new Disney theme park attractions is Grizzly Gulch, which opened in 2012 as Hong Kong Disneyland’s version of Frontierland.
The centrepiece of the land is Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars. The ride is based on the Big Thunder Mountain roller coasters found at other Disney parks. The Hong Kong Disneyland coaster adds a high-speed launch and backward portions to the ride experience.
Grizzly Gulch is themed to an 1888 Northern California gold mining town. The settlement is filled with unpredictable geyser fields and a friendly family of bears.
Added to this is the Lucky Nugget Saloon, Hong Kong Disneyland’s version of the Golden Horseshoe Saloon found at Disneyland.
9) Toy Story Lands
The 2010s also saw four Toy Story Lands open at Disney theme parks around the world, which quickly found a place on the list of the best new Disney theme park attractions of the decade.
Walt Disney Studios Park in France got the first Toy Story-themed land in 2010. Hong Kong Disneyland followed in 2011. Finally, a pair of Toy Story Lands opened in 2018 at China’s Shanghai Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida.
The Toy Story-themed lands in France, Hong Kong and Shanghai are fairly similar. Each has an Intamin shuttle coaster themed to either RC Racer or Rex the dinosaur. And all three have caterpillar-style rides themed to Slinky Dog
Toy Soldier parachute drop rides can be found at the France and Hong Kong parks. The Shanghai park swaps the parachute drop attraction for a whip ride themed to Woody and his horse Bullseye.
The Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is different from the others. The Florida land combines the Toy Story Mania interactive dark ride with a Slinky Dog-themed family roller coaster. The Toy Story Land in Florida also gives the classic whip ride a Little Green Aliens theme.
10) Pixar Pier
Disney California Adventure turned Paradise Pier into Pixar Pier in 2018 and 2019. The transformation reimagined several existing rides with Pixar character themes.
The California Screamin’ coaster became the Incredicoaster with a backstory tied to The Incredibles. King Triton’s Carousel also became Jessie’s Critter Carousel. The remade ride was themed to the rambunctious cowgirl from the Toy Story films.
The former Sun Wheel and Mickey’s Fun Wheel also got a third makeover to become Pixar Pal-A-Round. Each of the Ferris wheel gondolas was themed to a Pixar character.
Meanwhile, The Flik’s Flyers spinning ride was moved from A Bug’s Land to Pixar Pier and transformed into Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind. The rethemed Pixar rides joined the existing Toy Story Midway Mania interactive dark ride.
11) Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Rounding off the list of the best new Disney theme park attractions of the decade is this Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs themed ride. Disney built the first Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster in Fantasyland at Florida’s Magic Kingdom in 2014. The steel coasters built by Netherlands-based Vekoma Rides features rocking seats that sway like a minecart.
Many of the audio-animatronic dwarf figures from the shuttered Snow White’s Scary Adventures dark ride at the Magic Kingdom were also reused in the final scene of the coaster.
In addition to the ride in Florida, a copy of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster opened in Shanghai Disneyland in 2016.