Disneyland vs. Disney World
A lot of Disney World people who go to Disneyland for the 1st time are often hesitant to make comparisons since both places are so different and there’s often a bias. But, as we were planning our Disneyland trip, I was really trying to seek out information about the differences between the 2 parks. So, this week, I’m going to delve into some of the big differences we felt and experienced. I may or may not mention if I have a preference because I truly do feel it’s hard to compare them in that regard since there are so many differences.
Both parks in California are smaller than any of the parks in Disney World, and I initially thought that would be disappointing for us. Downtown Disney is way smaller than Disney Springs, but I even think Downtown Disney is smaller than when Florida’s version was just the Marketplace. Regardless, we actually loved the smaller size.
Epcot is 300 acres while the entirety of the Disneyland resort is 500 acres. My husband and I said to each other that walking from the very back of one park to the very back of the other part felt like walking from the back of Epcot’s World Showcase to the front entrance of the park, and looking at that acreage comparison, I’d say we were pretty close with that, considering the Disneyland resort acreage includes the hotels and Downtown Disney area.
We loved the small aspect and how easy it was to just walk out of one park and right across to the other without having to wait for transportation. This also brings me to the next category…
You read this in my earlier Disneyland posts, but security in Disneyland is before you walk through Downtown Disney. All Disneyland resort guests go through before entering Downtown and guests who drive to Disneyland will go through security at different areas, but also before entering the esplanade/Downtown Disney area. This gives the added benefit of knowing Downtown Disney is safer while also eliminating a lot of congestion at the actual park entrances.
Given the size and layout of Disney World, there is no way this security structure would work there, but it sure was a huge plus for Disneyland and 1 that we felt made a huge difference in our experience.
Within each park, there are different areas/lands, and while Disneyland park is similar to the Magic Kingdom, and California Adventure is similar to Hollywood Studios, they do still differ.
- Main Street USA
- New Orleans Square
Magic Kingdom has almost the same, but swap New Orleans Square from Disneyland with Liberty Square in Magic Kingdom. This is 1 difference I will 100% confess to having a preference on. Liberty Square in Magic Kingdom has never been overly thrilling to me, but I loved every last inch of New Orleans Square in Disneyland!
California Adventure has:
- Hollywood Land
- Pacific Wharf
- Pixar Pier
- Cars Land
- Bugs Land
- Grizzly Peak
There is pretty much nothing in common, as far as lands are concerned, between California Adventure and Hollywood Studios, aside from them both having a Hollywood theme. I feel like the Hollywood theme is really only the main street and Hollywood Land in California Adventure, whereas it continues throughout the entirety of the Hollywood Studios park (for now). Mission: Breakout and Tower of Terror are conceptually the same ride, so they share that, but California Adventure has some rides that compare to Disney World rides that you’d find in other parks, aside from Hollywood Studios.
There are a whole host of rides that can be found in both Disneyland and Disney World, and a lot of them I didn’t realize were in both, or there are some that are similar, but not the same.
- Enchanted Tiki Room
- Jungle Cruise
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Haunted Mansion
- Splash Mountain
- Winnie the Pooh
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- It’s a Small World
- Space Mountain
- Star Tours
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin / Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters
- Snow White’s Scary Adventures
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Mad Tea Party
- Toy Story Mania
- Indiana Jones is the same track as Dinosaur in Animal Kingdom
- Grizzly Rapids seems as though it’s the same as Kali River Rapids in Animal Kingdom
- Mission: Breakout is the same ride as Tower of Terror
- We felt the different theming and music made Mission: Breakout much more fun than Tower of Terror
- Radiator Springs Racers is similar in concept and ride to Test Track in Epcot
- There is NO contest here at all…Radiator Springs Racers blows Test Track way out of the water
No one likes waiting in line, so Disney’s creating of the FastPass system really was brilliant. I talked a lot already about the differences in FastPass, so I won’t go too in depth here, but this is another example of where we liked the Disneyland system better, but know there’s no way it would work in Disney World because of its size and magnitude of visitors (according to Wikipedia, 55.8 million people visited Disney World in 2017 while 18.3 million visited Disneyland).
The fact that you can only make 1 FastPass at a time in Disneyland sounded like a bit of a bummer, but we never felt like we were missing out on getting them. I am a planner by nature, so not being able to at least plan 3 in advance was initially unappealing to me, but it was just so easy and there were so many available. And the app just pops them up for you when you’ve entered your return window. We often were able to make another before using the 1 we already had, and there weren’t limitations on the more popular rides like there are in Disney World.
While related to FastPass, I think technology deserves its own quick category. Disney World utilizes Magic Bands, which I really love, and they are used for everything: room key, credit card, dining plan (if you have it), park entry, getting FastPasses, and using FastPasses. They even use them to find you when you’re getting a quick service meal at Be Our Guest.
Both use an app and you can make your FastPasses there, but Disneyland also leverages the app for you to redeem your FastPasses if you had MaxPass, and you also can store your park ticket and any special even tickets in the app. Cast members also scan the code on your screen for adding photopass photos to your account. But, we did see lots of people actually using their physical park tickets (which you actually need to use to get a Fantasmic FastPass) and physically walking to rides and getting paper FastPasses.
Technology-wise, I love the convenience of the Magic Band, but I know it’s not as practical for Disneyland since they have more local visitors while Disney World has more vacationers and people staying at hotels and on property.
This is more about planning than the actual restaurants, but in Disney World, you can start making your dining reservations up to 180 days before your trip, and you want to make sure you’re online and ready to go as soon as they open, because it is a big deal. There are plenty of crazy people (read: me) who get up early to make sure they can be ready to go the moment reservations are available, and still don’t always get what they’re looking for. If you don’t have a reservation, you likely are not eating at a table service restaurant.
In Disneyland, you can make reservations up to 60 days before your trip, and it really doesn’t seem to be a big deal. Plenty of people can just walk into a restaurant and get seating in a reasonable amount of time.
Well I think that about wraps up my comparisons for today. Let me know in the comments if there are any other similarities and differences you want me to cover, and maybe there’ll be a Disneyland vs. Disney World, Part II in the future!