I get asked a lot which one is better, Disney World (Florida) or Disneyland (California). That is not an easy answer and is really up to the individual and their vacation preference. Disney World is the Disney location I visit and book most often. That is largely due to the ease of travel from Indiana to Florida versus the travel to California.
Things to consider:
- It is said that all of Disneyland will fit in the parking lot of Disney World. The difference in size is one of the most notable differences in the two locations.
- If you are traveling with small children you may find the proximity of the two parks and the ease to get to the Disney resorts on property a major bonus with Disneyland.
- Disney World is a massive complex with over 20 on site Disney resorts, 4 theme parks, Disney Springs shopping district and 2 water parks.
- Disneyland has 3 on site hotels and 2 parks.
- If you are a true Walt Disney follower and love the story behind the mouse Disneyland has a lot to offer. It is where the Disney success all began. You walk the streets and know that Walt once did as well.
- A look above the firehouse reminds you of Walt’s apartment on property.
- While Disney World was another dream of Walt’s it was not completed prior to his death.
- Disney Guest Service is well known. There is a level of expectation way beyond the norm. However, there seems to be a subtle difference between the two locations.
- At Walt Disney World you are pampered and they will bend over backwards to ensure the client experience is upheld. If a client has a bump in their experience there will be some form of compensation. If you have a special celebration it will be noticed.
- At Disneyland there seems to be a lack of concern. This isn’t to say the guest service is bad by any stretch. They are friendly and smiling and pleasant. However, if you have an unusual question or concern they seem altogether less knowledgeable. They're unconcerned with finding the correct answer for you. We think that might be due to who the two parks hire. As you walk the parks in Florida you see that they actively employee people from all over the world. I suspect it is a lifetime ambition for some people to work there and they truly love every minute of their jobs. However, in Disneyland you see a lot of local employees. They may not be as enthusiastic about the mouse that was always in their backyard.
- Disneyland Princesses and entertainment seem a level above Disney World. My theory (unfounded of course) is it’s proximity to Los Angeles.
- While I point out that key difference, customer care is still leaps ahead of any non-Disney competition in the United States.
Magic Bands vs. Old Fashioned Fast Passes
- Disney World has completely converted to a Magic Band experience. The room key, park ticket and dining plan are all linked to a bracelet you wear throughout your stay. You make your fastpasses prior to arrival and can add them electronically throughout your stay.
- Disneyland is still using the old plastic (credit card like) park tickets to enter parks and to get fastpasses while inside the parks. You cannot get a fastpass until you enter the park and go to that specific ride. So, if someone wants to sleep in, you cannot get a fastpass until they haul themselves into the park. You generally only get one fastpass at a time and often have to wait in lines to get the fastpass.
- Walt Disney World has an excellent dining plan that saves the guest money and helps them plan ahead to get the most of their dining experiences. Dining is scheduled 180 days prior to arrival and you have a lot of options for seeing characters at meals or having unique meal experiences. You can go Western at Whispering Canyon Cafe, Hawaiian at Ohanas or African at Boma. Paying in advance allows you to enjoy the trip without the stress of seeing the ridiculous meal totals. We buy the dining plan EVERY time we travel to Walt Disney World.
- Disneyland has very few character options in the parks. Dining is generally not booked in advance, you ask at the podium and generally only wait 30 minutes. Since the parks are smaller there were less options available. The dining plans available are not a significant savings and do not include all restaurants on site. I don’t advise my clients to purchase them.
- Attractions are different at the two locations.
- Obviously with four parks and a lot more space Disney World has a lot more attractions than Disneyland.
- There are some attractions that are the same concept but executed differently. For instance, both parks have Indiana Jones. Disney World has an Indiana Jones live performance while Disneyland has a ride. Both are awesome but completely different.
- It’s a Small World is a ride in both locations with the same painful music but Disneyland WAY out performs Disney World by adding Disney Characters to the dolls and having a Christmas theme at the holidays.
- Pirates of the Caribbean has two drops in California and only one in Florida. The California ride is much longer and even better than its awesome Florida counterpart.
- Toy Story Mania, Winnie the Pooh and Soarin’ seem identical in both locations.
- Cars Land in California is simply remarkable. Toy Story Mania is coming to Florida soon but until then California definitely has Disney World beat in this immersive experience.
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