To many, the two Disney theme parks in North America are interchangeable. This article will show you why they aren’t, and help you choose the best one for the vacation YOU want.
To begin, nothing sets a Disney-philes teeth on edge more than someone asking if you are going to Disneyland in Florida. Disneyland is in California and Walt Disney World is in Florida. The two resorts are very different in many ways and this is an important understanding. Disneyland is the original, designed by Walt, and still holds its original charm from its opening nearly 60 years ago. It is the only park Walt himself ever set foot in and although much changed, still maintains its original integrity. The resort now holds 2 theme parks, a shopping and entertainment district and three on site hotels. Walt Disney World is indeed a world and encompasses 42,000 acres, 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, golf courses, water sports, a shopping and entertainment district and many, many on site hotels. At first glance, this should make your choice easy, right? Bigger must be better, wouldn’t you think? It depends.
First off, let’s looks at the park layouts. Disneyland is compact and, this cannot be stressed enough, easily navigational. The parks are separated only by an esplanade and you can literally leave Disneyland and arrive in its sister park, California Adventure, in less than 3 minutes. At Disney World the parks are separated from each other by large distances and transportation such as busses, boats or monorails must be taken to go from one to the other.
If you are interested in mainly rides for your vacation, surprisingly, Disneyland has more, clocking in at about 57, while Disney World has slightly less. Of course, folks at the World have to fill all that space with something, so the World does offer more walk through, shows and the like. Both resorts have rides and attractions unique to them, such as Cars Land in California Adventure, and World Showcase and Animal Kingdom in Disney World. Both resorts also have many similarities in their offerings, but one attraction might be better at one location than the other…the attractions are not carbon copies. A good example of this is the Fantasmic! night-time show. At Disney World the show is held in an amphitheatre with guests sitting on bleacher type seats to watch. At Disneyland the show takes place across the entire Rivers of America and people park out on grass and steps for hours prior to get a good view. In Disneyland the Mark Twain steamboat and Columbia sailing ship are fully utilised, while at Disney-world show pieces, which are much less spectacular, have been constructed.
In which area is Disney World superior? Space. Space for those lakes and golf courses and water parks. Space for Animal Kingdom Park, and EPCOT and the World Showcase. Looser regulations than those in California allow Florida to hold the wildly popular Food & Wine Festival and Flower & Garden Show, allowing food and beverage kiosks to pop up with appealing offerings. The World Showcase is a gorgeous and authentic representation of countries around the world, complete with cast members from those countries and shopping and dining experiences that can’t be duplicated in California. California also cannot offer anything close to Animal Kingdom (although there is the San Diego Wild Animal Park and San Diego Zoo close to Disneyland).
So, where to go? All things being equal, for a short trip, or one with young children, Disneyland is the better choice for ease of getting around and biggest bang in a small area. For those who want fuller experiences, such as golf or multiple fine dining venues, Disney World wins. For charm and nostalgia, Disneyland can’t be beat, and for a central location with many other attractions very close, Disney World comes out on top. Disneyland is ideal for a 4 day visit, while Disney World needs closer to a week.