Let’s face it, going to Disney is always a good idea. Both Disney resorts in the US offer endless fun, thrilling rides, delicious food, and that feeling of childhood nostalgia you don’t get anywhere else.
But Disney lovers often argue over which park is best to visit.
If you are trying to plan your next Disney family vacation, but you’re stuck between heading to Orlando to visit Disney World or going to California to see Disneyland, you’re in the right place.
In this guide, we’ll go over which park is better, what they have, and ultimately which one you should visit, to make your choice easier.
Let’s start with Disneyland, the OG Disney park. Disneyland can be found just outside of Los Angeles in Anaheim, California.
Disneyland opened in July 1955 with the intention of being Walt Disney’s vision of fantasy, futurism, nostalgia, and happiness. In fact, Walt Disney coined the park the happiest place on Earth, and boy did he deliver.
At Disneyland, you’ll find Disneyland Park and California Adventure. In Disneyland Park, you’ll find your classic attractions, Fantasyland, Main Street USA, Critter Country, Frontierland, Adventureland, New Orleans Square, Mickey’s Toontown, Galaxy’s Edge, and Tomorrowland.
The other park is California Adventure, where you will find an old amusement park theme with Pixar Pier, Cars Land, Pacific Wharf, Buena Vista Street, Grizzly Peak, HollywoodLand, and Paradise Gardens Park.
Disneyland also has a Downtown Disney district, with shopping, eateries, and attractions such as bowling and some performances.
The appeal of Disneyland is that it is the original Disney park, innovated and opened by Walt Disney himself. It’s something of a historical relic. Anaheim is where Walt’s incredible vision first took shape.
When the park originally opened, it was not uncommon for visitors to see Walt walking around the park, speaking to guests, and enjoying his creation.
It seems the overall theme of Disneyland is to keep Walt Disney’s memory alive, with many nods to original features, whereas Disney World is more of a theme park experience.
Disney World is located on the East Coast in Orlando, Florida. It is the second Disney resort that opened in America in October 1971 and has continued to thrill guests to this day.
What makes Disney World stand out from other Disney parks around the globe is its sheer size, spanning 27,000 acres, and its multitude of parks and attractions. This makes Walt Disney World the largest theme park in the world.
Disney World is made up of The Magic Kingdom Park, much like Disneyland, along with Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which is essentially Florida’s version of California Adventure. Animal Kingdom, which is a mixture of zoo and theme park, and EPCOT- which is a theme park like no other with futuristic attractions and a world showcase of many different countries and cultures to visit all in one place.
Disney World also has two water parks – Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach; along with a BoardWalk and Disney Springs.
Magic Kingdom features its own Fantasyland, Adventureland, Main Street USA, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, and Liberty Square instead of New Orleans Square. And…you have three whole other theme parks to visit in Florida!
However, Hollywood Studios has some similar attractions to Disneyland’s California Adventure. For instance, the glitz and the glamor of the movies you’ll find in the studios are replicated in California Adventure’s Hollywoodland and Buena Vista Street.
You’ll also find Mission Breakout (was Tower Of Terror) in Hollywood Studios – like California Adventure.
Disney World also has Fantasmic performances like Disneyland (on a much larger scale) and countless other street performances like the Dapper Dans, parades, and more in each park.
Similarities & Differences
There are many similarities and also differences between Disney World and Disneyland. Let’s review the offerings at Disney parks in Florida compared to California.
The Magic Kingdom in Disney World is very similar in nature to Disneyland Park, with fan-favorite attractions like Haunted Mansion, Pirates of The Caribbean, Peter Pan’s Flight, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Disney Castles, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, It’s A Small World and more.
Both parks have recently opened a Galaxy’s Edge area where you can ride the Millenium Falcon, join the resistance in Rise of The Resistance, and make your own droid or lightsaber.
There are around 20 attractions that are the same in both resorts; however, they do have their own small differences and aren’t exactly the same.
Walt Disney World also does not currently have an Avengers Campus, so if you’re a Marvel film buff, then you may want to pay California a visit. Here you can meet marvel characters such as Black Panther, Spiderman, Thor, and more. However, Disney World has an impressive New Fantasyland area.
The biggest difference between the two is the size. Are you aware of how big Disney World is? It spans over 40 square miles and is the size of a small town!
Walt Disney World has much more to offer, with four theme parks, two water parks, and a large Disney Springs area. Disneyland has two smaller parks and a small Downtown Disney District (their Disney Springs offering). There are far more attractions and experiences at Walt Disney World.
By comparison, Disneyland is just 500 acres. So that means about 51 Disneylands can fit inside Disney World. In addition, there are only 3 Disneyland hotels “on property” in California, the Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, and the Grand Californian Hotel.
On the other hand, Disney World offers more than 25 “on-property” hotels, from the Animal Kingdom Lodge to the Polynesian Village and Grand Floridian Hotel
Disney Genie Plus
Both resorts also have Disney Genie Plus and Lightning Lane services. Many attractions at Disney World and Disneyland use the faster Lightning Lane, where you can skip the line and plan ahead which attractions you want to hit.
When it comes to castles, Disney World’s Cinderella Castle takes the cake. It is more than twice the size of the original Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle and is now adorned in pink, blue, and gold features due to the 50th celebration. It is truly a sight to behold.
There is also generally better weather in Southern California, as you are prone to rain showers and humid weather in Florida.
That being said, the sheer size of Disney World means that there are lots of restaurants, shows, attractions, shops, and places to hide out in if you do have a rain shower. You can also easily cool off in the stores and pick up some merchandise.
Disney Vacation Planning
If you’re a perfectionist, though, you’ll love being able to plan out your visit to Disney World ahead of time, including attractions, food reservations, and schedules, with our Disney World Planning Guide! This 79-page Disney World Planner with Printable Worksheets will help your family plan a fun, easy, stress-free, and magical vacation to Walt Disney World.
Disney World Advantages & Disadvantages
- More attractions and shows
- More hotels, restaurants, and shopping
- Easy transportation with monorails
- 4 parks and 2 waterparks
- Bigger crowds
- Longer wait times
- Harder to plan – parks are spread out
Disneyland Advantages & Disadvantages
- Historical, original Disney park
- Simpler vacation
- Quieter parks
- Compact, and easy to navigate
- Less transportation
- Fewer attractions
- Fewer merchandise options at Disneyland
Verdict for Disney World vs. Disneyland
In summary, the main difference between the two resorts is that Disneyland is the original, yet much smaller and more intimate Disney park. There are some great historical sites to see, and you can go on rides that no longer exist in Disney World.
You can also walk in Walt Disney’s footsteps yourself and visit the window of his iconic firehouse apartment, or head to the infamous Club 33 (private dining room) and hope someone lets you in.
However, Walt Disney World simply cannot be beaten in terms of a family vacation. There are countless incredible attractions, so you get more out of your time there. There are dark rides, roller coasters, shows, fireworks, the world showcase, and so much more on offer than Disneyland has.
In addition, the waterparks are a plus, Animal Kingdom and Epcot are unmissable, and you have many more options for where to stay, eat, shop, and cool off.
We would say that everyone should visit the original Disneyland Park in their lifetime, but if you want the best, better park and vacation, then our winner is undoubtedly Walt Disney World.
No matter which Disney Park you choose to visit, check out these Printable Disney Games to entertain your children while you travel to Disney or while waiting in line at the Disney Parks.
For more about family travel, check out these posts:
Which Disney World Park Is Best?
Disney World Itinerary Planning: What You Need to Know
Tips and Tricks for Disney World
Walt Disney World Vacation Planner
Games To Play In Line At Disney
How Many Days For Disney World?