There’s no escaping the fact that Tokyo boasts not one, but two Disney themeparks: Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. Leaving it off your itinerary if travelling with kids in Japan is sacrilege to some. Having visited Disneyland in Anaheim, we were keen to provide the kids with a Japanese spin on the amazing theme park. We found it to be just as quirky as we had imagined.
Why Tokyo DisneySea with Kids?
Tokyo DisneySea is touted to be a park most suited to those eight years and up. There are less rides than its Tokyo Disneyland counterpart and it has a more distinct mature flavour. It is the only one of its kind in the world and can easily be covered in a day. If you’re kids are still obsessed with Disney Princesses, head next door. If you’re after a unique experience, this is the park for you as there is nothing quite like it anywhere else.
Ticket prices are the same for Tokyo Disneyland Park and Tokyo DisneySea Park. We pre-purchased our tickets here in Australia so we could skip the queues and guarantee our entry on our preferred day. Head to the offical Tokyo DisneySea site for park ticket prices. Children three and under are free at both parks.
How to Get to Tokyo DisneySea / Where to Stay
There are a few ways to get to Tokyo DisneySea. You could drive, catch a shuttle bus from some of the larger hotels or use public transport. For us, catching a train was the quickest and less stressful of the options.
I highly recommend using the Google Maps mobile app to navigate your way around Tokyo. It will tell you which train station to head to, what platform and what time. Better yet, everything is colour coded which makes it fairly easy. We were travelling from Kyoto, so took the bullet train to Tokyo Station and then caught the Keiyo Line to Maihama Station. From here we were able to easily locate our shuttle bus to our hotel. It took around 15-20 minutes.
When it comes to booking hotels, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to Tokyo Bay with a plethora of options available at some of the cheapest prices in Tokyo. I found a great bargain for Hilton Tokyo Bay which has themed rooms and suites. Our room was spacious, with bunk beds for the kids and a roomy king for T and me. It is within walking distance to DisneySea although we used the monorail to add to our adventure. If you are keen to spend as much time as you can in one of the parks, sourcing a room near by will cut down on your transit time which often results in tired and grumpy kids.
Food Options at Tokyo DisneySea
The multitude of food options at Tokyo DisneySea can be overwhelming. You are never too far from a food cart, a cafe or one of the many restaurants on site making you choice between them fairly difficult to choose. You can read the full list of restaurants and foot outlets here.
Oh my gosh, just thinking about the popcorn stands makes my mouth water. I don’t think ANY other Disney resort around the world quite does popcorn like they do in Tokyo. They have quite an array of flavours and each cart offers a different popcorn carry box to choose from. A regular box will cost you around AU$4.00 – $5.00 where a themed popcorn bucket is around AU$35.00 – $30.00. You can refill the popcorn bucket after use which makes it a great little investment (and momento) if you want to try a few different types.
Each themed land has 1-2 popcorn stands, but they have different flavours which you will need to work out. They are marked on the DisneySea map you receive on arrival. Each popcorn bucket is exclusive to that particular popcorn cart too, so if you spy one you really like, ask the popcorn cart workers where to find it (we found them to be a great help).
So what flavours are there? On our count we found Cappuccino, Curry, Caramel, Black Pepper, Sea Salt, Milk Chocolate, and White Chocolate. Our unanimous favourite was the curry which we purchased at the Arabian Coast.
Make sure you try some!
We love trying different types of fast food. In Disneyland Anaheim is was all about the Turkey Leg for us, but on this trip we wanted to see what we could try that was outside our regular experience. Oh my, so much to try!
The Chandu Tail was probably one of our favourite finds. The outer dough is a gyoza bunn and the inside is full of yummy cream chicken with a spicy flavour. We went back twice! You’ll find it in the Arabian Coast area.
We also loved the Gyoza Dog, Eukiwa Buns, and a whole range of different treats whose name was lost in translation.
You will find a restaurant in every single attraction area of DisneySea but there is one that stands out the most, Magellan’s.
I had done my research beforehand to know that we wanted to eat at Magellan’s. It is reputed to be the best Disney restaurant world wide. Having such a reputation does mean that you need to reserve in advance to guarantee the time that you want. We were super lucky to arrive at 11.00 am before the rush and *just* wrangled our way in without a reservation.
So why do many reviews state again and again that Magellan’s offers an unrivalled dining experience? You certainly won’t find any Disney characters joining you here. Perhaps it’s the back story? You see Magellan’s is the meeting place of S.E.A. (Society of Explorers and Adventurers) with its membership extending to Magellan and Galileo. The ambience is spectacular too, with meticulously crafted doors, frames and adornment.
When you arrive, you enter from the top and wind your way down a grand curving staircase to your table. We asked to be seated in main rotunda under the globe but next time I will work out how to gain a spot in one of the secret rooms (I had no idea they existed until AFTER we left and I was asked on Instagram).
In terms of food, Magellan’s focuses on fine dining. There is a kids menu too! When you order, be mindful that it is in sets – three courses in total from memory. It was one of the most filling meals we had in Japan as your hosts will offer you more bread each time your plate becomes empty and will continuously fill your glass with your drink of choice.
The servings are small but will fill you up by the time you finish. The creme brulee was incredible. Just a word of warning, Magellan’s is pricey. I think we paid around AU$150.00 for our experience.
Tokyo DisneySea Theme Worlds
Tokyo DisneySea has seven themed areas. They are each a little different, each quite spectacular in their own right. Of course you are going to find some appeal to you and your kids more that others. For us, Arabian Coast was the spot for our fast food and popcorn tastes, Port Discovery for lunch and then American Waterfront to get a little music into our soul.
It was only last year that we skipped off to the Capitol Theatre to see Disney’s Aladdin the Musical. It has become one of those movies and theatre productions that our whole family adores. When we arrived at the Arabian Coast, our mouths gaped. We spied the genie almost straight away. The kids were so excited! We were in Agrabah!
The first thing we did was line up for Jasmine’s Flying Carpets. It only took 5 minutes before we were at the front of the line and hopping onto our own magic carpet. It’s basically one of those merry-go-round rides that lifts you up and down into the sky. Not too scary and the perfect prelude to our day experience.
Next up was the Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage which has a very similar feel to the It’s a Small World ride that we rode at Disneyland in Anaheim. We then walked around a little, looked at the lines and decided to move to the next area.
Lost River Delta
We loved looking at this area as it took us right into the world of Indiana Jones however the rides here are more suited to your older, taller and daredevil visitor. Both the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull and Raging Spirits looked quite terrifying with one doing a 360 degree loop. No thank you!
We decided to take the DisneySea Transit Steam Liner ride back to the front of the park just so we could have a quiet moment.
If you have even wanted to take the kids to Italy but haven’t made it yet this area of the park will allow you to see if they will appreciate the feel of Venice and Florence. It’s a visually stunning area with replica gondolas and canals, and a spectacular vista.
One of our favourite areas of this section was the Fortress Explorations which made us instantly think of Da Vinci. There were treasure maps to use, ships to explore and a whole lot of other amazing surprises. Loved, loved, loved this section!
Mount Prometheus seems to be smack bang in the middle of the park and can’t be missed. It erupts quite regularly with smoke and rumbles. There are two rides here: Journey to the Centre of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea which are, again, both suited to teens and above (Sunshine was keen to go on both but I felt she was a little too young and too short).
No doubt this is where Ariel spends her time. This underground world is directly behind the Mysterious Island and features a plethora of rides including Blowfish Balloon Race, Scuttle’s Scooters, Flounder’s Flying Fish Coaster, Mermaid Lagoon Theatre, Jumping Jellyfish, the Whirlpool and Ariel’s Playground.
It was the area where the kids went on every single ride! I found it a little dark and confined which didn’t impact on the kids at all. If you have toddlers, preschoolers and early primary aged kids (or those a little afraid of rides) this is the area of the park you are likely to hang out.
In my experience, every single Disney Theme park has a ride similar to the teacups at Disneyland but themed for that park. At DisneySea it is Aquatopia, a watercraft ride which zooms you around in a similar fashion to the Tea Cups but you’re on water. We loved this ride so much and had to go on it a few times. We were too early in the year to experience the new Nemo ride that should have now opened.
From Port Discovery we took the electric railway to the American Waterfront.
I’m probably way off, but the American Waterfront reminded me a little of old New Orleans with a jazz band walking around, southern hospitality and an old world feel. It is home to the terrifying Tower of Terror which we had also seen, and avoided, at Disneyland California too!
The kids found the S.S. Columbia almost hypnotic and couldn’t stop staring at it. It doesn’t actually contain any rides but houses a number of restaurants.
What the American Waterfront does have is the park’s most popular ride, Toy Story Mania. This is one to RUN to when you arrive to grab a FAST PASS. They were all exhausted by the time we arrived and each time we walked past the wait time was 40 minutes. You can also grab tickets to see shows at the Broadway Music Theatre which are, of course, in Japanese but a whole lot of fun nonetheless.
So What Did the Kids Think?
It’s important to remember that my kids have been to both Disneyland Park in California so have experienced a Disney theme park. Before arriving at Tokyo DisneySea we prepped the kids, letting them know that it was going to be different.
They adored Tokyo DisneySea, finding it quite surreal. Sunshine was probably the most observant, commenting later how funny it was to see so many older people visiting without their kids and how popular the Japanese Disney character Duffy is which they had never heard of until they spotted it in Tokyo.
A few months on and the kids still recount watching a couple standing on a bridge with their Duffy character toy on the ledge, holding its arm and waving to us with it. It wasn’t a once off. Duffy is insanely popular with a number of merchandise dedicated to the character across the DisneySea park.
If this is your family’s first time visiting a Disney Theme park I would probably head to Tokyo Disneyland. However, if you’ve visited one before or open to visiting both on this trip, well then I would head to Tokyo DisneySea. Make sure you book your tickets in advance if heading there on a busy day!
Reposted with the permission of Leah Smileski of Kid Bucket List, a travel blog which shows that travelling with kids can be fun and rewarding.
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