There are two parks in Tokyo Disney Resort: Disneyland and DisneySea. Since we only budgeted 2 days for Disney on our Japan trip, we decided to spend both of the days exploring the one and only – Tokyo DisneySea. It is known to be the best Disney park in the world, raved by numerous Disney fans; and it does not disappoint!
During peak season, Tokyo DisneySea gets extremely packed with both tourists and local students and families. To help your DisneySea visit run as smoothly as possible, I summarized my experience visiting on two very busy days into this 2-Day Itinerary.
To check whether you’re visiting on a busy day, it’s very important to look at Japanese national holidays and school breaks, which is typically late July to late August, late December to early January, and late March to early April (when I visited).
It’s always tough to not get distracted when you visit a Disney Park for the first time, especially here at Tokyo DisneySea. The sheer amount of details and the excitement of seeing something completely unique make it impossible to focus on efficiency. Most Disney Park guides emphasize on arriving early and moving quickly to the next attraction on the list, but I strongly encourage you to slow down a bit in the beginning to absorb all the new information.
Every park is differently structured and organized; it takes time to learn where things are. Looking at the map ahead of time is one thing, navigating your way through the crowd to find the FastPass distribution area is another. So I always suggest making Day 1 a more relaxed day to explore the whole park and learn to navigate in order to better utilize Day 2.
Journey to the Center of the Earth FastPass – This dark ride and roller coaster hybrid is DisneySea’s flagship attraction, and it deserves all the hype it gets. It offers unique theming and magnificent details throughout the whole experience. Wait time is consistently around 1.5 hours, so definitely head there first to get a FastPass, which typically runs out by noon. If you anticipate wanting to do it twice, consider jump in the standby line after getting the FastPass.
Ride 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – The wait is usually below 30 minutes, but if you want to ride it multiple times (trust me, you do) in order to see all the details and truly appreciate the magic of this ride, it has a FastPass system that usually runs out in late afternoon. The ride vehicle has three viewing/seating areas, and you definitely want to sit in the front and center seat for the best view. The side seats have very obstructed view, so don’t be afraid to make a request to the cast members.
Big Band Beat Lottery – Unlike any other Disney park theatrical productions, Big Band Beat is a full-on Broadway-style musical venue show, featuring a live jazz band and amazing tap dancers. Due to the popularity of the show and limited seating, its version of “FastPass” is actually a lottery system. Head over to Biglietteria to enter the free lottery. If you didn’t win, come back to try again tomorrow. Or you can always jump in the standby line for the first show of the day about 30 mins before it starts.
Fortress Explorations – Do this while waiting for your FastPass return time or before another FastPass option opens up. Don’t overlook this interactive play area. It features many immersive spaces and chambers full of Renaissance-style exhibits, from a pendulum tower, to an alchemy laboratory and a beautiful planetarium.
Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull FastPass – The ride is pretty much identical to the Disneyland version, but the queue theming is completely different. If you’re familiar with the other version, and would rather skip this one, consider getting the Raging Spirit FastPass instead.
Lunch at Vulcania Restaurant – In terms of meal options, I typically don’t go for table-service when I’m visiting a park for the first time; I’d rather use most of my time exploring. Good thing is: there’re so many quick-service restaurants in Tokyo DisneySea that have amazing theming and delicious food. Vulcania is one of the best in the park, serving beautifully-prepared Chinese dishes, from stir-fry to noodles and dim sum.
Afternoon Shows – Use your down time between FastPass returns on some of these shows to relax your feet. Apart from the must-see Big Band Beat, you can pick and choose between Mermaid Lagoon Theater, Out of Shadowland and Magic Lamp Theater.
Explore American Waterfront – Surprisingly, DisneySea does America better than any Disney parks in America. There’re layers and layers of details for you to see and touch here.
Dinner at Cafe Portofino – An Italian-inspired restaurant in the Mediterranean Harbor, serving large-portioned pasta, rotisserie chicken and other meat dishes. The Seafood Pasta is especially delicious!
Electric Railway to Port Discovery – Just like Walt Disney believes, a train adds so much more kinetic energy to the park; this elevated trolley really captures that lively nighttime atmosphere.
Ride Aquatopia and Nemo & Friends SeaRider – Both of these rides should have shorter lines at night. This whole area looks even more stunning at night; the lighting effects adds more drama to its steampunk aesthetic.
Toy Story Mania FastPass – To be honest, if you’ve been on this ride before in the US Disney parks, you may want to skip this one. It’s the most popular ride in Tokyo DisneySea; the standby line never gets shorter than 2 hours wait time, and FastPasses run out less than 1 hour after park opening. But if you really want to ride this, then definitely run there immediately after park opening to grab a FastPass.
Tower of Terror FastPass – If you decide to skip Toy Story Mania, get Tower of Terror FastPass instead; if not, come back later to get your second FastPass for this.
Big Band Beat Lottery – If you didn’t win yesterday or simply want to watch the show for the second time, enter the lottery again today!
Ride Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage – The ride system and the style of animatronics are very similar to the Disney Park classic It’s a Small World, but this water ride has a more engaging storyline. The wait time is usually under 15 minutes; it’s a great opportunity to relax your feet.
Raging Spirit FastPass – Try to get the FastPass for a later return time (near dusk), so the fire effects are more vibrant during your ride. If you can’t get a FastPass, consider asking for the occasionally offered Single Rider line instead.
Lunch at Yucatan Basecamp Grill – A Mexican-inspired restaurant features a variety of smoked meat with rice and vegetables. Even though the flavor is not authentic Mexican at all, it still tastes great, and has a nice twist on the typical American Mexican flavor.
Transit Steamer Line Cruise – Instead of a railway system, Tokyo DisneySea has a water system surrounding the whole park. There’re three stops for the steamer boats, including one next to Yucatan Basecamp Grill. A leisurely afternoon voyage right after lunch is a great way to relax and enjoy the view along the river.
Explore Arabian Coast – When the daylight starts to fade away, this area is lit up in the most gorgeous way. Grab a snack at Sultan’s Oasis, explore all the corridors and staircases, then have a spin on the double-decker Caravan Carousel.
Dinner at Casbah Food Court – A beautifully decorated counter-service restaurant in the big open square of Arabian Coast, serving different curries with rice and naan. It’s certainly not the most authentic Indian curry, but the ambiance really makes it feel so. The Curry Sampler, which consists of chicken, beef, and shrimp curry, is a good way to try everything.
Watch Fantasmic – A nighttime spectacular that features fireworks, water effects and light projections. The show is similar to the versions in Disneyland and Disney World, but different enough you’ll still want to see it. The waterfront is so much wider and less obstructed that you can really view from any direction around the lake, but the front area towards the park entrance makes the best spot.
Ride Venetian Gondolas – This romantic and magical ride makes for a perfect ending to your Tokyo DisneySea trip. The view is lovely during the day too, but the quieter night time brings out its charm even more. The dimmed lights, the echoing music sung by the gondoliers, the cooler winds from the waterfront – made the canals and harbor transform into the Venice you once imagined in fairytales.
SOME OF MY FAVORITE SNACKS
The large amount of snack variety in DisneySea is mind-blowing; every single snack stand is one of its kind. While those famous fan favorites are always around, there are also numerous seasonal snacks for you to try. Here is a list of my personal favorites:
Nautilus Galley – This quick service cafe is hidden in the lower level of Mysterious Island, famous for its fun Gyoza Dog, a soft steamed bun filled with ground sausage.
Refreshment Station – Located at the pathway between Mysterious Island and Mermaid Lagoon is this little food stand selling a unique and delicious Potato Churro.
Sultan’s Oasis – Famous for its Chandu Tail (a tiger tail-shaped steamed chicken cream bun) and Maple Cream Balls (cream puff with a maple drizzle).
Seaside Snacks – A popular snack stand between Cape Cod and Port Discovery. Their signature item is the life-preserver-ring-shaped steamed shrimp bun called Ukiwa Bun.
Breezeway Bites – Located in the platform area for the Electric Railway, this snack cart serves Fried Pizza pocket with cheesy fillings. These are the perfect hot snacks to warm you up on a chilly night.
Expedition Eats – The only menu item here is the Yucatan Sausage Roll, a flavorful sausage wrapped with crunch bread. It’s nothing crazy, but a good option if you want something easy and very filling.
Tiramisu Ice Cream Sandwich – If you’re desperate for something cool to fight off the afternoon heat, this ice cream sandwich is a delicious treat. The soft cookie sandwich has just enough crunch that you can easily bite into it and not worry about it falling apart.
Seasonal Popcorn – The adventurous and rotating popcorn flavors are what Tokyo Disney Resort is most famous for; some of the flavors we encountered were Curry, Garlic Shrimp, Blueberry, and Herb-Tomato. The lines are always quite long, and the popcorn actually smells better than it tastes, so I wouldn’t recommend spending all your precious time on popcorn. Maybe pick one or two flavors that you’re most interested in, and get them when you’re tired of walking or when you’re waiting for a FastPass return.