Disneyland vs. Disney World: Which is For You?

While the essential magic behind each resort remains the same, the Disney parks in Florida and California offer a vastly different experience. Both are equally worth experiencing I assure you! With that being said, one may be an ever so slightly better fit for your preferences.

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While both Disney theme park locations found within the United States are incredibly magical and amazing, Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort are unique from each other in many ways.

Let’s first briefly dive in to the general ways that these resorts are similar:

  • They each have more than one theme park on property
  • Themed hotels immerse you into the magic and allow for added benefits
  • There is a beautiful Disney castle to be found
  • Downtown Disney and Disney Springs are beautiful outdoor shopping centers
  • Transportation options are abundant
  • Similar signature attractions such as Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion

Considering the above, you might wonder how the different resorts and parks at Orlando and Anaheim really differ from each other at all. However, while the essential magic behind each resort remains the same, the Disney parks in Florida and California offer a vastly different experience. Both are equally worth experiencing I assure you! With that being said, one may be an ever so slightly better fit for your preferences.

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Sleeping Beauty at Disneyland Resort

 

Overview: Disneyland

Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth that started it all. Founded in July of 1955, history quickly became made when Walt Disney opened this theme park for families. Since then, it has continued to grow and evolve, but through all the changes the original magic has remained. You can’t beat the pure essence of Disneyland Resort, knowing that Walt himself walked the same path you are standing on. It is less than 5% the total acreage of Walt Disney World, but size just doesn’t seem to matter. When you walk through those gates at Disneyland Park, see the Sleeping Beauty Castle, and realize that the man behind the mouse was once exactly where you stand… You. Can’t. Beat. That.

Of course, Disneyland is not the only theme park that is a part of the resort. As of 2001, Disney’s California Adventure has graced the region, holding the famous Cars Land the last several years and more recently Pixar Pier. A Marvel themed land is under construction, and the park has come a long way!

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Disney’s California Adventure Park after World of Color water show

Disneyland Hotels & Transportation

There are three main hotels on property at the Disney resort in Anaheim. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Disney’s Paradise Pier, and the beautiful Disneyland Hotel all flaunt a unique perspective to the Disney name. All are highly rated and have great amenities in close proximity to the entrance of both parks. Disney’s Grand California Hotel even has its own entrance into California Adventure Park!

In terms of transportation, Disneyland Resort does not have a large space it needs to cover, but still you want to be able to get to and from your hotel or parking structure—and you can in a few ways! The famous monorail transports you directly into Tomorrowland, and there are trams and buses that can take you around as well. If you are flying in to Los Angeles or the Orange County, buses can be booked for a nominal price to take you to and from your resort.

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Main Street USA with the Cinderella Castle in the background at Magic Kingdom

Overview: Walt Disney World

You guys, Walt Disney World is HUGE. It is a WORLD in and of itself. The comparison has been made that Walt Disney World is the size of San Francisco and having been to both I can believe it! Because of its size, Walt Disney World is a complex destination to maneuver. There is such a vast amount of resources that need to accommodate a large audience from around the globe, all in what is this literal city of pure Disney. It’s impressive, and unlike any other destination I have been to, but I could also see how it could be overwhelming to some. I spent some time as a travel agent specializing in these vacations simply to help people get past this overwhelming feeling. Not to worry, the bigger size just means that there is that much more to love.

There are not one, not two, not even three theme parks on the Walt Disney World property… There are FOUR theme parks. That is not including the two water parks or the ESPN Sports Complex. This also isn’t including the themed miniature golf courses on property. Like I said, it is really, really big.

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Prince Eric’s Castle in New Fantasyland

Walt Disney World Hotels & Transportation

There are SO many options of where to stay on property at Walt Disney World, organized and priced by Value, Moderate, and Deluxe level resorts. To me, where you stay is half of the fun! You’ll find a list of each of the categories of resorts below.

Value:

  • All-Star Movies Resort
  • All-Star Sports Resort
  • All-Star Music Resort
  • Pop Century Resort
  • Disney’s Art of Animation (a personal favorite, with more info here)
  • The Campsites at Fort Wilderness

Moderate:

  • Coronado Springs Resort
  • Port Orleans Resort: Broken into Riverside & French Quarter properties
  • Caribbean Beach Resort
  • The Cabins at Fort Wilderness

Deluxe:

  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Beach Club Resort
  • Disney’s Boardwalk Inn
  • Contemporary Resort (Great food options inside!)
  • Grand Floridian Resort & SPA
  • Polynesian Village Resort
  • Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Yacht Club

Villas (a special sector of Deluxe):

  • Jambo House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas
  • Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas
  • Bay Lake Tower at Contemporary Resort
  • Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Wilderness Lodge
  • Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Beach Club Villas
  • Disney’s Boardwalk Villas
  • The Old Key West Resort
  • Polynesian Villas and Bungalows
  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs
  • Villas at Grand Floridian

 

There are also a lot of options when it comes to transportation throughout the property. Aside from the well-known Disney monorails (the way of the future!!), there are buses and even ferry boats to help get you to and from the parks and resorts. They can also take you to the shopping district of Disney Springs, which you could easily spend an entire day at. Recently, they added private Minnie Van services that function a lot like Uber to also get around, but this service is not complimentary like the others. To get to and from the Orlando airport, there is Disney’s Magical Express—free for those staying on property!

Most importantly at Walt Disney World, when it comes to the four main theme parks, there is a little something for everybody. Animal Kingdom is essentially a safari park mixed with a theme park, and is where you will find Expedition Everest, the iconic Tree of Life, and the new world of Pandora. Epcot is one of my favorite Disney parks, having a science and technology approach in Future World and immersing you in culture from around the globe at the World Showcase. Hollywood Studios is greatly underrated in my opinion, and hosts Fantasmic! along with having the thrilling rides of Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith. Magic Kingdom is, of course, filled with the fantasy and magic that started Walt’s journey, and New Fantasyland with the more recent Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train ride is not something to miss. It is impossible to keep your eyes off the huge Cinderella Castle as you stroll down Main Street USA.

 

Which is for you?

The big question I’m sure you’re all thinking: Which is better? Frankly, I don’t have a straight answer for you! I prefer some individual parks over others, but in general I think that Walt Disney World and Disneyland as a whole are amazing for different purposes. Disney World in my opinion is a better destination for an extended vacation stay, but Disneyland in Anaheim is charming in a way you can’t explain or replace.

If you would like to go to Disney for only a few days, or if you are really wanting to experience classic Disneyland, then Disneyland Resort in Anaheim is for you! On the other hand, if you are looking to make your visit to Disney more than five days, or if you want a wider variety of immersive hotel accommodations, then Walt Disney World might be the better option. Whichever you choose, you are sure to have a magical and memorable time.

 

Which destination is your favorite? Be sure to subscribe to Adventuring Ever After, and follow us with the social media icons below! As I mentioned, I was a travel agent specializing in Disney vacations for a while, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions about either of the Disney destinations mentioned. 🙂

 

Thank you for being here!!

Breanna

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