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5 Differences Between Walt Disney World and Disneyland

We are Disney World people.  We’re from the midwest. Florida is drivable and we can find affordable plane fare to Florida; Disney World is our homebase.  We’ve been to Disney World many times…in all seasons, gone to all the parks, stayed in lots of different places, etc. We love it.  It feels like home when we are there. We know the parks like the back of our hand. Map at the entrance?! We don’t need a stinkin’ map!  (But we do need the time guide…so we sneak one into our back pocket when no one is looking!). BUT, when the opportunity arose for us to visit Disneyland in California, we knew we had to check it out!  We LOVED it! It feels comfortably familiar, yet completely different all at the same time. Check out the major differences that we noticed below!

  • Disneyland’s castle is t.i.n.y.  Our kids were looking right at the castle saying “where is it?”, to which we replied “Right there! Right in front of you”, to which they replied “Where?!?”.  The castle in Cali is a bit underwhelming when you’re accustomed to Cinderella’s monstrosity in Orlando. It’s cute, but don’t plan on getting a Christmas card photo in front!  In fact, a lot of the Disneyland difference is size related. Disneyland is fascinating and enchanting, but you’re not submerged into the Disney bubble like you are in Florida. The sheer monstrosity of the Orlando parking lots are enough to overwhelm an unprepared first time visitor, in Cali you don’t have that feeling.  

  • The California parks (Disneyland Park and California Adventure) are more compact.  It doesn’t feel like the rides are on top of each other, but they’re definitely closer to each other than in Florida.  You can walk the entire park and not feel exhausted. You will still log a lot of steps while visiting the California parks, but it won’t be close to the 20 miles you’ll log while in Magic Kingdom or Epcot.  You can easily see and do everything DL has to offer in 2-3 days. There is still a ton of fun to be had, but there is no need to spend an entire week at the parks, like there is at Disney World.

  • Getting from park to park is easy and quick in Anaheim.  There are no shuttles, monorails, boats, or buses that take you from park to park–and that’s because they’re not needed!  The parks are separated by a small courtyard, and are right across from each other. Park hopping in Florida is not as efficient, can take an hour out of your day, and definitely requires the use transportation.
  • The ride list!  Obviously, there are several rides that are the same or similar in DW as DL, BUT, there are also several that are completely different! A few personal highlights for new-to-us rides include the Incredicoaster (outdoor, old-school, awesome roller coaster–we loved this!), Matterhorn Bobsleds (we had no clue how bumpy/rough this ride was, or that we would get soaked during the cool fall evening we were there!), and of course the Radiator Springs Racers (and entire Cars Land area for that matter).  A new-to-us disappointment was the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage (awful waste of time feeling claustrophobic for no reason…unless seeing really fake fish/sea grass gets you fired up). A few ‘old fashioned rides’ (as our 7 year old called them) were also fun differences, and include the Golden Zephyr, Jumpin’ Jellyfish, and Silly Symphony Swings.


  • DL offers only a few on-site hotels.  But they have partnered with “Good Neighbor Hotels” to offer transportation and discounts to guests not able to stay on-site.  DW offers tons of on-site properties ranging in price point, themes, and transportation options. While in California we stayed at a very nice Good Neighbor hotel that was within walking distance.  The hotel was nice and clean, the walk was well-lit and safe with crosswalks and sidewalks the entire way, and we were in the park quicker than we can park a car in Epcot. 

Where to head on vacation is always a tough question.  If you’re considering Disneyland or Disney World, you won’t be disappointed.  Although they differ in many ways, they both contain some of the most magical places on earth.  Once you step through entrance you can’t help but to smile that wide smile that will be guaranteed to stay on your face the entire day. If you’ve been to one park, you must check out the others…and then share with us your favorite similarities or differences!

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