As some of you know, I am a travel agent who specializes in Disney vacations. My family and I recently became annual passport holders at Disneyland and we try to visit Disney World at least once per year. One of the most common questions I get is: What's the difference between Disney World and Disneyland? Here is my honest comparison.
Is Bigger Really Better?
Disney World consists of 4 parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios while Disneyland has their Magic Kingdom park and California Adventures.
There is no way that you can see all of Disney World in just one day. On days where crowd levels are high, it is often difficult to even finish Magic Kingdom in one day. We never park hop because we find it too stressful and exhausting to do with a toddler. Because Disney World is so large, you have to take separate transportation to each park if you plan on park hopping, which can be a giant headache and time consuming.
Disneyland and California Adventure park, on the other hand, are directly across from each other. As you exit Disneyland the entrance to California Adventure Park is directly in front of you. A quick walk and boom -- you have an entirely different park at your disposal. We are annual pass holders to Disneyland and if crowd levels are low, we can complete most of both parks with out toddler from park open to close in just one day. Just because Disneyland is smaller in size does not mean it is smaller in regards to magic.
If you're looking for a more nostalgic vibe, Disneyland takes the cake.
Disneyland is the original Disney park. It has an old school charm that Magic Kingdom in Disney World doesn't have. They also have a few rides with some of Walt Disney's original movie characters that Disney World doesn't. Pinocchio's Daring Journey, Alice in Wonderland, and Snow White's Scary Adventure are just a few of the "old school" rides that we enjoyed the most.
Tickets and Planning
Generally, ticket prices at Disney World are slightly more expensive than Disneyland tickets. If you are a planner, you will definitely like Disney World's fastness system WAY better than Disneyland's Max Pass.
Fastpass selection is included in your WDW ticket pricing. You can choose your Fastpasses up to 60 days before your trip. Maxpasses at DL cost (at the time of this blog post) an extra $20 per person, per day. You cannot reserve a Fastpass until you are physically in the park. Maxpass allows you to reserve Fastpasses on your phone instead of actually going to the ride to get a physical paper Fastpass. The one perk of a Maxpass is it includes your photo pass, which is NOT included in your WDW ticketing and will cost you about $180 extra.
Another perk of WDW is the Magic Bands. It makes everything so much easier in regards to Fastpasses, park tickets, etc. DL does NOT have a Magic Band system and everything needs to be scanned from your phone or using paper tickets.
Character interactions seem to be drastically different.
We found characters to be more plentiful and more interactive in DL. At any given time you can see characters roaming the parks and interacting with guests. This was one of our favorite parts about DL and have never seen or experienced anything like it at WDW.
Bo Peep in California Adventure was THE sweetest, most interactive character that we found. When we waited in line to see her, she gave my son all kinds of hugs, kisses, and just loved him. You meet Bo Peep right outside to Toy Story Midway Mania. Even when we were waiting in line for the ride, she would play peek-a-boo with my son and just made the whole experience even better. Disney if you're reading this: your staff who play characters need a raise.
Hotels and Lodging are also drastically different
Walt Disney World has over 25 hotels on their property for guests to choose from while Disneyland only has 3 hotels and a large selection of "good neighbor hotels" which are close to the theme park, but don't have the Disney price tag.
Disney World's hotels also seem to be more "themed" and have a little extra magic than Disneyland hotels. This is just my opinion, people! Please do not send me hate mail about this!
I'm not going to lie. I was actually really disappointed in Sleeping Beauty's castle when I saw it for the first time at Disneyland. My husband and I literally looked at each other and said, "Wow. This is it?" After a few visits I started warming up to the disappointingly small castle and started to love the pink paint.
Cinderella's castle in Disney World is WAY more breath taking and beautiful, especially with the updated pink paint. It is much larger in size and more architecturally complex. When it comes to castles, Disney World wins by a long shot.
Fellow Disney Addicts: which Disney do you prefer?