Disney World vs Disneyland: Comparing the Parks

Disneyland vs Disney World

Disney World and Disneyland may seem like they are basically the same vacation. They both have castles, and the famous "Mountains." They both feature Mickey Mouse and the Disney Princesses. While there are lots of similarities, the parks (and the type of vacation you will be planning) are very different.

Here I will discuss the differences between Disney World and Disneyland. I'll talk about which costs more, the different rides you'll find at each park, and more.

The Basic Differences

Disneyland is located in Anaheim, California and is made up of two parks. The first park is the original park, Disneyland. The second park, added in 2001, is Disney's California Adventure.

Walt Disney World is located just outside of Orlando, Florida and is made up of four parks: The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.

The combined six parks have similarities and differences. The Magic Kingdom was modeled after Disneyland Park, and so you'll see a similar hub layout and overlap in rides. Disney World's Hollywood Studios, and California Adventure at Disneyland both have an Old Hollywood feel as you enter the park.Other than these similarities the parks all have their own unique feel and atmosphere.

Disneyland vs Disney World Size

Aside from the parks themselves, the differences between Disneyland and Disney World can be felt in the size and location. Disneyland is in the middle of the city of Anaheim. Entering and exiting the parks and making your way off of Disney property is easily done.

When you are visiting Disney World in Florida you are on about 40 square miles of Disney property. Which means you are far more likely to end up in "the Disney bubble" when you arrive.

Heading off of Disney property to stay at a non-Disney hotel or eat at a non-Disney restaurant is going to require a little more planning.

To put it in to perspective, Disney World sits on 25,000 acres of land (or almost 40 square miles), while Disneyland is on 85 acres of land.

Disney World vs Disneyland Cost

If you're considering a Disney vacation, you might be wondering which park is less expensive, Disney World or Disneyland?

There is no cut and dry answer to this. A lot of it depends on the type of vacation you are looking to take. But generally speaking, tickets to Walt Disney World will cost slightly more than tickets to Disneyland.

Disneyland has many more non-Disney hotel options in the area, which makes finding a less expensive place to stay slightly easier. You can stay close by without losing out. You can even find an airbnb in the area.

Disney World has less expensive Disney specific Resort options available. Disneyland only has 3 Disney Resort in the area. And all of them are going to be booked at a fairly premium rate. Disney World has several Value Resort options that will let you get the full Disney experience (and perks) at a lesser rate.

So if you are looking for a Disney specific resort, Disney World will have way more options at different price points.

Disney World vs Disneyland Rides

Disneyland was the original park (and definitely wins if you are basing your trip on nostalgia alone), and The Magic Kingdom was modeled after the original park. But don't let that fool you in to thinking that the parks are the same.

While Disney World's Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park are very similar in layout and some rides, the other parks are all very unique.

If you are looking some of the best rides at Disneyland that you can't find at Disney World, you'll want to consider riding these rides (note that this is not a list of EVERY ride that is different. Just the ones that are popular and fun):

  • Indiana Jones Adventure: This is possibly my favorite ride at Disneyland. Aside from an incredibly fun and detailed (not to mentioned air conditioned) ride queue, this ride takes you on a wild adventure in a safari Jeep to find and rescue Indiana Jones. This ride is similar to DINOSAUR at Disney World, but executed way better.
  • The Incredicoaster:This rollercoaster (which is found at Disneyland's California Adventure Park) launches you at high speeds on an adventure to catch baby Jack Jack from The Incredibles. It's a fun and smooth ride, and there is nothing close to it at Disney World.
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds:This ride is literally the original steel rollercoaster. When it opened in 1959 there was nothing like it. And it still holds up to this day.
  • Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin:You really can't find any other Roger Rabbit representation at any other park, and that's just a shame. This dark ride is a silly spinning ride that's hidden away in Toon Town.
  • Mr Toad's Wild Ride:This might not be the most exciting ride on this list, but Mr Toad is a classic (that was once at Disney World, but is no longer). This ride is a slow dark ride that has been at Disneyland since park opening.

While there are several rides that are different, there are also several rides that are the same (or very close to) at the parks. Some of these rides include:

  • Space Mountain
  • It's a Small World
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Splash Mountain
  • Mad Tea Party (Also known as the Tea Cups)
  • Star Tours
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Soarin'
  • The Haunted Mansion
  • Peter Pan's Flight
  • Rise of the Resistance

Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World have system called Genie+ and Lightning Lane. This will give you the opportunity to skip the lines at some rides for an upcharge.

The cost at Disneyland is $20 per ticket per day, and at Disney World the cost is $15 per ticket per day. You can read more about Genie+ and Lightning Lane here.

Disneyland vs Disney World Food

If you talk to any Disney World expert (myself included) they will immediately tell you that you need to be up and on your computer 60 days before your vacation to book Disney restaurants.

Disney World has more restaurants available than I can even count. And that includes over a dozen character meals at both the parks and resorts. Many of these restaurants are extremely popular and book up the same day reservations open.

Disneyland has only a handful of table service restaurants at the parks, resorts, and Downtown Disney (their version of Disney Springs). And their character meals are limited to only five options.

Disneyland opens their restaurant reservations a slightly more manageable 60 days out. And the reservations don't fill up nearly as quickly as Disney World restaurants.

Any Disneyland expert will tell you that sit down reservations are great, but not nearly as important to your vacation. The Disneyland pros will tell you that quick service is the way to go to enjoy time at the parks.

Disneyland vs Disney World Characters

While you'll find mostly the same characters at Disneyland and Disney World, there is a huge difference in character meets at these parks.

At Disney World character meets are very scheduled. You will find designated character spots around the parks.

At Disneyland there are scheduled character meets, but you'll also find characters just roaming the parks. I've bumped in to numerous characters at Disneyland without any idea that they would be in the area. You'll also find characters roaming around at the Disneyland resort hotels. This is something you wont find at Disney World. It makes for a more fun, spontaneous, and organic interaction with the characters.

Which is Better: Disneyland or Disney World?

You might find Disneyland to be the better vacation option for you and your family if:

  1. You don't want to be in the Disney bubble and would like to be able to do non-Disney things on your vacation
  2. You want to visit Disney on a budget. At Disneyland you'll have all sorts of hotel options at tons of different price points. You'll also be able to leave the parks to find inexpensive food options. And tickets for Disneyland are generally less expensive than tickets for Disney World
  3. You don't like preplanning everything. Disneyland is way easier to do on the fly. You don't have to plan your vacation 6 months in advance at Disneyland

You might find Disney World to be the better vacation option for you and your family if:

  1. You like the Disney bubble. If having all of your transportation and food and resort options all right there and easily accessible, Disney World is the way to go.
  2. You want a Disney Resort, but want various price options. At Disney World you can find every resort option from inexpensive Value resorts, to high end Deluxe resorts. So there is a hotel for every budget, and you wont miss out on the Disney experience no matter which one you choose.
  3. You love planning. If you're like me, the planning is a part of the fun. I love deciding what my plans are, and spending time tweaking those plans until they are perfect.

Lastly I'll say this: There is no wrong Disney vacation!

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