Disneyland vs. Disney World

March 30, 2022

Whether you choose to get away to the Happiest or most Magical Place on Earth, you are in for quite a treat. Follow along as we take you through every last Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World difference.

Whether you have your sights set on sunny Anaheim, California, or you’re dying to cool off in any of Walt Disney World Resort’s refreshing water parks, Disney is never a bad idea.

Both parks offer plenty of attractions, rides, and unique experiences for the Disneyphile in your life. 

Read on to discover the surprising differences and similarities between Disneyland vs. Disney World…

About the Parks: Walt Disney World and Disneyland

Before we dive into the juicy details like which park makes the best churros and has the most scream-inducing rides, let’s break down the basics:

nightshot of Pixar Pier featuring Pixel Pal-Ar-ound ferris wheel and Incrediroster roller coaster in Disneyland, Anaheim, California, USA

photo credit: CrispyCream27
(CC license)

Location

A huge factor in planning any Disney vacation is the location! Disneyland sits pretty in Southern California, just 30 miles from Los Angeles in the city of Anaheim.

Related Post: Insider's Guide to Disneyland

This makes Disneyland a picture-perfect destination for many west coast families and visitors. Alternatively, Walt Disney World is located just outside Orlando, Florida, which makes it a desirable locale for visitors to not just the Sunshine State but the entire East Coast.

History

Are you a fan of the classics? Those seeking a more nostalgic park experience may prefer Disneyland, which was the first Disney theme park to open on July 17th,1955.

Although Walt Disney was heavily involved in the planning of Walt Disney World, he did not live to see his Florida Project come to fruition. After many years of planning, scheming, and dreaming, Disney World opened in 1971, just five years after Walt’s passing. 

Size

Is bigger always better? While we can’t answer that, there’s no doubt that Walt Disney World earns the prize for the biggest Disney park.

Clocking in at a sprawling 43 square miles, this behemoth of a park is roughly the size of San Francisco! With so much Disney territory to explore in Orlando, we highly suggest budgeting at least a week for Disney World. In contrast, Disneyland’s 500 acres could easily fit inside Disney World.

Related Post: Everything You Need to Know About Disney's Genie+

With a lot less ground to cover, it is more than feasible to conquer the best of the West Coast in a day or two.

Walt Disney World 50th BirthdayPark Breakdown

While both parks are bursting with Disney enchantment, colorful characters, and delectable dining, they are organized quite differently. 

Disneyland is home to just two special parks and the Downtown Disney district:

  • Disneyland Park
  • Disney California Adventure Park

Disney World, on the other hand, is home to four parks:

  • Magic Kingdom
  • Epcot
  • Disney Hollywood Studios
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdoms

Two water parks:

  • Typhoon Lagoon
  • Blizzard Beach

and the entertainment district known as Disney Springs! 

Related Post: Ultimate Guide to Disneyland: Coupons, Discounts, and Deals

If your vacation plans include lots of splish-splashing fun and high-speed H20 based adventures, you might want to book that ticket for Walt Disney World.

Close up of a family riding Miss Adventure Falls with water falling on their heads on a sunny day at Typhoon Lagoon in Orlando, Florida, USA

photo credit: Epic Adventures Travel Co. via Facebook

Disneyland vs. Disney World Hotels

From quirky seaside-themed accommodations to luxurious Polynesian Villas, half the fun of a Disney trip is choosing which heavenly hotel to stay at. While both Disneyland and Disneyworld offer dynamite lodgings, more variety can be discovered at the latter.

Disneyland hotels include:

  • The Disneyland Hotel
  • Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa
  • And the Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel

Of course, if you are seeking more budget-friendly accommodations, there are many options when it comes to hotels near Disneyland

Walt Disney World boasts over 25 on-property hotels and several golf courses. Notable standout lodgings include the sumptuous Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Disney's Contemporary Resort, and their world-class Polynesian Villas and Bungalows. 

Before you pull the trigger on your five-star Disney lodgings, you might want to consider park transportation.

Related Post: Current Festivals and Events at Disneyland Resort

Given that Disney World is so much larger, it does require more planning to get from point A to B. Thankfully, all of the on-site hotels provide complimentary shuttles and/or resort buses.

In addition, guests can also utilize the monorail, Disney Skyliner, boats, or ferries to get to the parks depending on their hotel. 

Since Disneyland is so small in size, if you are staying on-site, you can easily walk right up to the park’s entrance and the Downtown Disney District. Another added perk of being a Disney Grand Californian guest is access to an exclusive Disney California Adventure park entrance, located right inside the hotel.

Bopping from Disneyland Park to Disney California Adventure is also super simple since the park entrances are right across from each other.

lobby of the Disney Grand Californian Hotel and Spa decorated with chandeliers, lamps, and sofas located at Disneyland, Anaheim, California, USA

photo credit: Official Disneyland Facebook

Disneyland vs. Disney World Park Attractions

Got your heart set on a selfie in front of Cinderella’s Castle? Or have you been looking forward to soaking in the enchantment of the World of Color all year?

Depending on where your attraction interest lies, you may favor one park over the other. Of course, Disneyland and Disney World have their fair share of overlapping attractions, but they also contain unique spectaculars, parades, and live shows.

While both parks contain fantastic fairytale castles, they are distinctly different. For example, Disneyland is home to the serene Sleeping Beauty Castle, which measures 77 ft tall. In contrast, Walt Disney World contains the iconic Cinderella’s Castle, which towers above at 189 ft.

Related Post: Conquering Disney World in 3 Days: The Complete Guide

Other unique Disneyland offerings include the Magic Happens Parade and the World of Color nighttime show.

Sensational Walt Disney World featured attractions and events include:

  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Monsters Inc Laugh Floor
  • Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage
  • Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond! - NEW opening in 2022

Additionally, Walt Disney World is currently celebrating its 50th Anniversary celebration now through March 2023. As a result, the park is chock full of commemorative Disney character statues, EARidescent decorations, delicious treats, and more.

performers of the Finding Nemo: The Big Blue and Beyond! show on stage holding large puppets of various sea creatures in Disneyworld, Orlando, Florida, USA

photo credit: Disney Auditions via Facebook

Disneyland vs. Disney World Rides

Raring to tackle the dark depths of Space Mountain or sign up for a ‘pirate’s life?’ The good news for Disney purists is that both theme parks share about 20 of the same beloved classic rides, including:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • It’s a Small World
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Splash Mountain
  • Dumbo

and more.

However, it’s important to note that the East Coast version may sometimes contain a slightly altered queue, different views, or theme. For example, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Walt Disney World features the same ride vehicle but on an altered track.

Related Post: The Most Iconic Rides at Disney World

If you equate a Disney vacation with as many heart-pounding rides as you can handle, you may want to opt for Walt Disney World. This is because the crown jewel of Orlando parks contains a little over 50 rides, while Disneyland is home to half that. 

Wondering what one-of-a-kind experiences lie ahead for you at each park? Here is the breakdown of the distinguished rides at Disneyland and Walt Disney World:

Walt Disney World

  • Spaceship Earth
  • Mission: SPACE
  • Test Track
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • And more!

Disneyland

  • The Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
  • Pixar Pal-A-Round
  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout
  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
  • And more!
View of space mountain at night with green and blue light on and clouds in the sky at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA

photo credit: Disney via Facebook

Disneyland vs. Disney World Dining

Ready to feast on Disney delights such as Dole Whip, Mickey bars, and more? Although the culinary offerings may slightly differ at each park, Disneyland and Disney World provide plenty of mouth-watering treats and tastes.

Those craving a bite of the ‘grey stuff’ can rest easy as this sublime sugary dessert can be found at the Be Our Guest restaurant in Disney World and the Red Rose Tavern in Disneyland.

Related Post: Insider's Guide to Walt Disney World®

Although both parks share many of the same crave-worthy ‘fast food’ type items, Disney World does come out ahead in volume. Walt Disney World is home to around 400 restaurants, while Disneyland has a little over 120.

Foodies in training will be pleased to learn that both parks house several fine dining options, including such standout eateries as the Blue Bayou Restaurant, Royal, Victoria and Alberts, and Cinderella’s Royal Table. 

sign board and exterior of the Red Rose Taverne with sunlight casting glow on roof of structure and trees in the background in Disneyland, Anaheim, California, USACharacter dining is available on both the West and East Coasts. However, if you want to break bread with Mickey in Orlando, you should attempt to snag reservations up to 60-180 days in advance, as these slots fill up fast. 

Related Post: Ultimate Guide to Walt Disney World®: Coupons, Discounts, and Deals

Mickey vs. Minnie, Chocolate vs. Vanilla, Disneyland vs. Disney World. Some comparisons have no bad choices! Whether you choose to hightail it to the Most Magical Place on Earth or the Happiest, you are in for one heavenly Disney holiday.

While Disneyland may have charm, history, and nostalgia, Disney World brings the power of roaring roller coasters and deep space missions to life. There are amazing Disney adventures to uncover at each park, from thrilling aerial Avatar Flights of Passage to zooming around with Lightning McQueen and the cast of Cars at Radiator Springs Racers.

Tell Us, Where will you Disney next?

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