Differences between Disneyland and Disney World

I’ve been wanting to do a post like this for a while and since my desire to go back to Disneyland has been growing stronger and stronger lately, I thought now would be the perfect time.

Seeing as Disney World is my “home park”, it will always hold a very special place in my heart. Nothing could ever beat it. However, when I visited Disneyland in 2016, I quickly learned that it hold its own unique magic! While the parks are quite similar, they have a lot of differences that make them special in their own way.

The Size

-          While Disneyland in California has 2 parks, 3 resorts, and a Downtown Disney area, Disney World in Florida has 4 parks, 2 water parks, the Disney Springs shopping area, and over 25 different resorts. Not to mention over 100 restaurants!

-          In Disneyland, you can walk between Disneyland park, Disney’s California Adventure park, and Downtown Disney within minutes. All 3 areas are connected and right next to each other. It makes park hopping extremely easy! However, over in Disney World, there are buses, boats, monorails, and soon a sky Gondola system that can transport you from park to park. This can sometimes take over an hour to get from one place to the next. That being said, Disney World has a lot more to offer and a wider range of activities and experiences for its guests.

-          Disney World also still has MORE room left to expand and add more resorts, attractions, and other things to make the guest experience even better. Unfortunately, Disneyland does not quite have that same advantage and really cannot expand much past what is already there.

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 The Rides

The parks share a lot of the same rides (Splash/Space/Thunder Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.), but that does not mean they are exactly the same!

-          Haunted Mansion is basically the same in both parks but DL’s Haunted Mansion building has a style that was popular in the south in the mid-1850s, while WDW’s Haunted Mansion has more of a gothic look.

-          The Space Mountains in each park are also slightly different, one main difference being that you sit 2 by 2 in DL’s and you sit single file in WDW. If I’m being honest, I liked Space Mountain in DL more than WDW (but shhh! Don’t tell my husband!).

-          It’s A Small World in DL is SO MUCH MORE BEAUTIFUL on the outside than in WDW. I was amazed when I first saw it in person. In DL they also incorporate a lot of Disney characters into the ride (Peter Pan & Tinkerbell in England and Pinocchio in Italy) which adds a great touch!

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The bigger differences…

-          DL has more of the small dark rides that they have been getting rid of in WDW. They still have Snow White’s Scary Adventure and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. There is something about these dark rides that I really love and I do wish they had more of them in WDW!

- DL also has the Indiana Jones Adventure which is So. Awesome. It’s similar to the Dinosaur ride in WDW’s Animal Kingdom, but...way cooler (this may have something to do with the fact that I’m afraid of dinosaurs).

-          WDW is home to two of my favorite attractions EVER, and those are the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (People Mover) and The Carousel of Progress. These attractions are not in DL, which I was disappointed to discover. The People Mover is the first thing I ride on any of my WDW trips. Going to a Disney park and not being able to experience those attractions just feels wrong!

-          I could go on and on about all the attractions WDW has that DL does not, but we would be here for HOURS and no one has time for that! Just to name a few: Spaceship Earth, Expedition Everest, Flight of Passage, and Tower of Terror (since it was recently changed to Guardians of the Galaxy in DL).

- Since DL does not have an Epcot, that means no World Showcase. The World Showcase is one of my favorite things in WDW because it is such a cool experience that isn’t necessarily attraction-based.

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How much time do you need for each?

  • I would say that DL can be done in 3 days, easily. Maybe even 2 if it’s a slower time and you aren’t one to want to ride rides more than one time each.

  • For WDW, I would say a 5 day minimum. That would allow for 1 day in Hollywood Studios, 1 day in Animal Kingdom, 1 day in Epcot, and 2 days in Magic Kingdom.

So...As I stated earlier, each park has something that makes it special and magical and a unique experience. Yes, my heart will always belong to WDW, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t fall totally in love with Disneyland!

Trying to figure out which park is more for you? Guess you’ll just have to visit! And a visit to Disneyland or Disney World is never a bad thing!