Top 10 Best Themed Lands at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando

Part of what makes a theme park great is having lots of interesting areas or "lands" to explore. A land is like its own little world within a park, usually having a central theme which the attractions in it are based around. A well-designed land lets you step into another place and provides a unique experience. Both the Walt Disney World Resort and the Universal Orlando Resort have lots of fun and well-themed lands across their parks, from fantastical and cartoonish lands like Fantasyland, to ultra-detailed and realistic lands such as Asia and Africa. It's a big part of what separates these parks from your regular ol' amusement parks. With that said, some lands stick out a bit more than others and this list features those that I think stand out the most.

Without further ado, let's look at some of the best lands Disney and Universal have to offer!
The Top Ten
1 The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley (Universal Studios Florida)

After the success of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal decided to do a major expansion of the land. The new area of the Wizarding World would be based on the fictional street, Diagon Alley, and include a brand-new attraction as well as the Hogwarts Express, which would connect both parks.

Topping the Hogsmeade area at Islands of Adventure doesn't seem like an easy feat to accomplish, but Universal Creative managed to do it with the spectacular Diagon Alley. Right off the bat, the theming is outstanding, even more so than Hogsmeade. There is so much detail in every corner of the land and so much to look at that it's astounding.

The main ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, is fun, of course, but you don't need to ride it to have a great time in this land. However, the queue is definitely worth a look even if you don't plan to ride it, as it's probably the best queue you'll find anywhere.

Aside from that, there are live performances throughout the day, including the musical group "Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees." The fun doesn't stop there. You can have a look through the magic windows in Knockturn Alley, where you'll see some amazing effects!

Last but not least, there's a giant dragon perched on top of Gringotts Bank that every once in a while spits fire. What more could you ask for? This has to be the best theme park land I've ever seen, without a doubt.

The theming is incredible. There's so much to see that you could spend hours in that land alone. The attractions are great fun, and the overall atmosphere is amazing and magical. For me, it's definitely deserving of the #1 spot.

2 The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure)

An incredible theme park experience, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure recreates the Hogsmeade village and is filled with lots to see and do. Just walking into the land is a magical experience in itself, seeing snow on all the rooftops and Hogwarts castle in the distance. It really does a good job of transporting you into the world of Harry Potter.

Hogsmeade is home to one of the greatest and most technologically advanced rides of all time, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Aside from the main attraction, there's other things to do in this land as well, such as Ollivander's wand shop, Flight of the Hippogriff, and if you have a park hopper, the Hogwarts Express.

On top of that, there's the Butterbeer cart, Honeydukes Sweetshop, and The Three Broomsticks restaurant if you're feeling hungry or thirsty in this land. There is also live entertainment from time to time. If you don't feel like doing any attractions, you can look through the windows or take a picture with the Hogwarts Express recreation at the entrance.

And if you want to travel to London, hop on the actual Hogwarts Express and enjoy a fantastic ride experience you can't find anywhere else. Overall, this is an amazing theme park land that is highly faithful to the source material and fun for the whole family. This land put Universal on the map for a lot of people and significantly increased attendance when it opened. It's no surprise that they'd want to follow up on this with Diagon Alley a few years later. Definitely one of the greatest, without question.

3 Asia (Disney's Animal Kingdom)

If I had to pick the park with the most impressive lands as a whole, it would definitely have to be Animal Kingdom. The whole park is full of incredible theming and details, with Asia being a prime example. The land is set in a fictional village by the name of Anandapur and is not based on one particular country, but rather a mixture of different Asian countries such as India and Mongolia.

What sticks out the most to me about this land (as well as Africa) is how it really doesn't feel like a theme park land but instead like an actual village. Everything from the architecture to the boats along the river edge makes you feel like you're in another country and not in the middle of Florida. At times, you might even catch a sitar player along with other live entertainers.

This land is of course home to Expedition Everest, but rather than simply being a fun ride, it adds to the overall atmosphere of the land and you can catch some really great views of it in certain locations. It is also home to Kali River Rapids, Flights of Wonder, and the Maharajah Jungle Trek, where you can see Bengal Tigers and Komodo Dragons among other Asian animals. There are also walkways in which you can see two different species of gibbons.

With lots of cool animals to see, great attractions and entertainment, and fantastic theming and details all around, this is one of the best Disney lands has to offer.

4 Frontierland (Magic Kingdom)

If I had to pick my favorite land at the WDW resort, it would have to be Frontierland, not only because it's home to my favorite ride, Splash Mountain, but also because it has such a warm Disney vibe. If you take away the crowds, everything about it is so relaxing. From the music to the lighting at night, you just get a good feeling walking through this land.

The Old West theming is great and has that classic Disney charm. For real though, having Splash Mountain guarantees it a good spot on this list, but this land is also home to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Tom Sawyer Island, and the Country Bear Jamboree. This land is also a great spot to watch parades or pick up a turkey leg (if you're into those).

I love all the sights, sounds, and smells of this land, and I could probably spend hours here. I like watching the Riverboat go by and watching people go down Splash Mountain. Not to mention, the Walt Disney World Railroad stops in this land and goes through Splash Mountain, which is always the best part of that ride.

The music in this land is great, and I can't get enough of it. I just love walking through this area at night. Overall, with the relaxing atmosphere, great theming, fantastic rides (Splash and BTMR), along with all the little sights and smells, this is one of my personal favorite lands and captures everything I like about the Disney parks.

5 Africa (Disney's Animal Kingdom)

Like Asia, Africa is a phenomenally well-themed land that makes you forget you're in a theme park. The setting for this land is the fictional East-African port village of Harambe and features a marketplace with African-inspired food and beverages. The design of the town is incredible and feels so authentic that you'll believe you're actually in Africa.

At the heart of Africa is Kilimanjaro Safaris, where you'll get to see all kinds of African animals up close, such as crocodiles and giraffes. In addition to the Safari, there are more animals you can see in Africa on the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. This land is also home to the Festival of the Lion King show, which is, in my opinion, one of the best shows at the resort.

It also features lots of live entertainment that includes Tam Tam drummers, acrobats, and African-style dancers. This land is always so full of energy every time I visit, and the sights and sounds of the land really put you into another place. One of my favorite sights is the Baobab tree at the

entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris, and the land is strewn with little details the average guest might not notice.

With amazing attractions and live entertainment, as well as fantastic theming, this is definitely one of the greatest theme park lands out there.

6 World Showcase (Epcot)

World Showcase is pretty different from the other "lands" featured on this list in that it's one of only two main areas of the Epcot park that is less of a traditional theme park land and more of a showcase of various countries. There are attractions in World Showcase, to be sure, but it first and foremost serves as a representation of different cultures.

There are currently 11 countries featured in World Showcase, with each country having its own pavilion. The pavilions are Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, The American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, and Canada. There is space for more countries, and it would be fun to get another one in there, but what we have now is still great.

Not only do each of the pavilions feature the cuisine, architecture, and entertainment of that particular country, but the cast members in World Showcase are all native to those countries, which is really cool. Just walking through it without doing any attractions is an enjoyable experience since there is plenty to see.

During our last visit, we caught a group of Chinese acrobats, who were all amazing. As for the actual listed attractions in World Showcase, I haven't seen any of the shows except for The American Adventure, which I don't remember much about since it's been years since I've seen it. The Gran Fiesta Tour is alright, nothing to write home about, though I really love the very first scene with the volcano.

Then, there's the controversial Frozen ride, which I haven't ridden yet. To keep it short, it was shoehorned in there and should have been placed in a different park. Lastly, there's Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, which is, in my opinion, the best night show at Walt Disney World. It may not technically be part of World Showcase, but it might as well be since the whole show is a celebration of Earth's diversity.

Altogether, World Showcase is a fantastic theme park area that on its own is worth visiting Epcot... more

7 Sunset Boulevard (Disney's Hollywood Studios)

I don't think many people will disagree with me when I say that Hollywood Studios is the weakest of the Disney parks. I know they've got Star Wars Land and other stuff coming in the future, but at the time of writing this, it's really kind of a mess with not very much to do.

However, the park does have one major highlight: the entire Sunset Boulevard area. Not only is it home to the two best attractions in the park, it has an amazing atmosphere that perfectly captures the classic Hollywood feel. From the music to the World War II references and memorabilia, the late 30s-early 40s setting is made clear throughout the land, making it feel like you're walking into a different time period.

The focal point of Sunset Boulevard is the Hollywood Tower Hotel, which is at the very end of the strip. With the rows of palm trees leading up to the tower, it makes for a great and iconic shot. This land is even better at night, with the bright neon lights and the lit-up Tower of Terror.

Overall, this has to be one of Disney's strongest lands in terms of both theming and attractions. On top of having an amazing atmosphere, it has the aforementioned Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, and Fantasmic!, a lineup that's pretty hard to compete with. Sunset Boulevard might not stick out to people as much as some other lands, but it really is a great one!

8 Tomorrowland (Magic Kingdom)

Aside from Fantasyland, Tomorrowland is arguably the most famous of Disney's themed lands, maybe even the most famous theme park land in general. It just has this vibe to it that resonates with people and "feels like Disney" once you step into it. The future is always something that has interested audiences, and of all the lands in the Magic Kingdom, this one definitely sticks out the most in terms of flashiness.

Originally designed as a portrayal of the future, it is now more of a "future that never was." The sci-fi approach keeps the land from feeling completely outdated as it would if it tried to keep up with changing times. Tomorrowland is home to Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, Astro Orbiter, Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor, The Carousel of Progress, The PeopleMover, and of course, Space Mountain.

Unfortunately, it's also home to two of the worst attractions on property, Stitch and the Tomorrowland Speedway (that stupid dance party is a potential third). That aside, the good aspects of this land outweigh the bad. It has a nice ambience that is sort of relaxing in a way, especially when viewing it from the PeopleMover, and you can't help but get at least a little excited seeing Astro Orbiter and Space Mountain from the monorail.

The PeopleMover in general is one of my favorite rides in the park. I also love how this land looks at night with all the neon lights. It's like a completely different experience than during the daytime. Overall, it's not one of my personal favorites, but for the reasons listed above and more, I'd say it's definitely worthy of a good spot.

9 Pandora - The World of Avatar (Disney's Animal Kingdom)

This should be way higher. Have you seen this at night? It's so realistic.

10 Adventureland (Magic Kingdom)

In contrast to the realistic lands of Disney's Animal Kingdom, Adventureland is more of a fantasy jungle setting that features exotic elements from around the globe. It's a bit of a mishmash of different tropical settings ranging from Polynesia to the Caribbean, with a bit of the Middle East thrown in as well. Throughout the land, these various settings are emphasized by the architecture and music, which can be said for the attractions within the land as well.

Particularly noteworthy is the 19th-century Spanish architecture where Pirates of the Caribbean is housed, which creates an atmosphere for both the land and the ride. Aside from the architecture and music, Adventureland also features lots of lush vegetation to further enhance the jungle setting.

The only real downside to this land is The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, which just feels out of place to me and kind of ruins the atmosphere. Aside from that though, the land as a whole has this imaginative explorer vibe to it that, with the architecture and music, just sucks you right in no matter your age.

It features the famous Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean rides, as well as the popular Dole Whip treat, and it is just an all-around classic Disney land.

The Contenders
11 Marvel Super Hero Island (Islands of Adventure)

Featuring beloved superhero characters and one of the greatest dark rides of all time, Marvel Super Hero Island takes on a 90s comic book style and makes you feel like you've stepped into the pages of a comic book. The architecture, in particular, helps create the comic-book feel with the coloration and amplified angles.

This is probably the most energetic of the "Islands" at IoA. From the loud music to the bright colors and roars of the Hulk coaster, it's a high-energy, action-packed land that gets you pumped up as you walk through it. This land features two of the best rides at the resort, The Incredible Hulk Coaster and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. The other rides in the land are pretty mediocre, but having two big hits in one land isn't too shabby.

Some might say this area looks a bit cheap, especially in comparison to the heavily detailed Harry Potter lands, and some aspects of it are. However, for the most part, I like the simpler comic-book vibe. Overall, not one of the best lands but a pretty solid one.

12 Toon Lagoon (Islands of Adventure)

Based off of the Sunday comic strip and classic cartoon characters such as Popeye and Betty Boop, Toon Lagoon is a brightly colored and whimsical land that puts you straight into the Sunday Funnies. The name of the land is no joke, you will be soaked to the bones after experiencing the attractions in this land.

These soakers are the daring Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, based off of the segment from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, and Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges, a raft ride that is 100% guaranteed to leave you drenched. I can't deny that this land feels a little cheap in comparison to the other lands in the park, but I still enjoy it.

I like all the sight gags that are in this land, such as Marmaduke, and I also like how the toons interact with each other. The whole Popeye area looks really good as well, and you can catch some great views of the park on the ship. Overall, the theming and atmosphere are fun, and it's got some good sight gags as well as two really great water rides. There are better lands for sure, but I do really like this one.

13 Main Street U.S.A. (Magic Kingdom)
14 Nintendo World (Islands of Adventure)

This land will open soon in Japan and Orlando. I can't wait!

15 Springfield (Universal Studios Florida)
16 Liberty Square (Magic Kingdom)
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