Walt Disney World VS. Disneyland
It's one of the long litany of age-old questions. Yorkie or Westie? Broadsword or mace? Waiting for Guffman or Best in Show?
Disney World or Disneyland?
Let's get started!
For starters, let’s talk about size. WDW is 43 square miles encompassing four parks and two water parks (not to mention four golf courses, 27 Disney hotels, 12 non-Disney hotels, and a campground). That’s twice the size of Manhattan and almost the size of San Francisco.
Disneyland, in stark contrast, is 500 acres. Two parks. Three hotels. Surrounded by the city of Anaheim.
And as long as we’re talking about size: Cinderlla’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom is 183 feet tall. Impressive, iconic, the symbol of the park.
Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland Park is 77 feet tall. Underwhelming, forgettable, and yes, a little sad.
UNIQUE TO Walt Disney World
Spaceship Earth, Mission: SPACE, Test Track, Frozen Ever After, Great Movie Ride (not for long!), Peoplemover, Kilimanjaro Safaris, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Rock N Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, Kali River Rapids, Tower of Terror.
UNIQUE TO DISNEYLAND
Matterhorn Bobsleds, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Radiator Springs Racers, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, Luigi’s Rollicking Roadsters, Indiana Jones, California Screamin’, Roger Rabbit Cartoon Spin, Storybookland Canal Boats, Alice in Wonderland, Grizzly River Run, Snow White’s Scary Adventure, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
Pirates (DL much better!)
Haunted Mansion (draw)
Splash Mountain (MK better)
Space Mountain (DL better)
Small World (we didn’t go on, but apparently DL)
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (DL slightly better)
Jungle Cruise (draw)
Buzz Lightyear (MK better)
Magic Bands, Fast Pass Plus, and wifi in the parks are all huge advantages for WDW.
Also, so many rides broken were broken at Disneyland during our trip that it seriously cut into our planning ability and our enjoyment. In three days, we could only ride Radiator Springs Racers once!
WDW is the clearcut winner in Technology, and makes one wonder why Disneyworld is so far behind.
There are more options, and better options, at WDW. Napa Rose and Carthay Circle are nice fine dining options at Disneyland, but WDW has a dozen comparable restaurants, plus Victoria & Albert’s, which is beyond compare. Disneyland does have Blue Bayou, which is one of the most fun in-park dining experiences you can have.
But WDW in another landslide.
WDW, with all its uninhabitable Florida swampland, is simply more immersive and insular. And in this case, that’s a good thing. You are fully ensconced in the Disney Bubble and reality fades very, very quickly. Disneyland, by contrast, feels more like something to do while in Southern California. You never feel quite so immersed, and you know the mean streets of Anaheim are just a few blocks on either side of you.
Disneyland has the original Walt touch, of course, which is meaningful. But given the number of locals who frequent Disneyland, it’s also full of wild packs of teens who have nothing better to do.
You don’t need any at Disneyland! You walk from park to park in mere minutes. There is a monorail, but it seems almost pointless.
Winner: Disneyland, because of pure ease.
Far more options in terms of theming, comfort, location, and everything under the sun at WDW. Disneyland has three hotels—the Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, and Paradise Pier. And lots of people stay off property on the streets bordering the park.
Overall, while both parks are amazing and well worth visiting, if you’re going for a fully immersive, week-long experience, Walt Disney World is the clear-cut winner. If you happen to be in Southern California, you should carve your time out for Disneyland, but it’s more like a two-day side trip than a main event.