All things considered, will Disneyland or Disney World provide a better vacation for your family?
As west-coasters we have been to Disneyland many times. Our parents took us when we were children, and we’ve taken our children twice. Last year we went to Disney World for the first time when our youngest three children were aged 10, 12, and 14.
We understand your decision may come down to proximity. Everyone lives closer to one park or the other – unless you live in Segovia, Texas, where you must feel awfully torn. And hot. And… lonely? If it isn’t obvious which park is your “home park”, read ahead and see if the information makes a difference.
Disneyland is in Anaheim, California, just south of Los Angeles. There are two parks: Disneyland and California Adventure, separated by a five-minute walk across a courtyard.
Disney World is a few miles south-west of Orlando, Florida. There are six parks in total: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Blizzard Beach, and Typhoon Lagoon. The parks are connected by a bus/boat system.
There are pros and cons for both Disney destinations. Without further delay, here we go!
This is a significant perk. Los Angeles has wonderful weather year-round. The humidity is low and it seldom rains. Central Florida is sweltering May through September. It frequently rains, which can turn the park into a steam bath. Because most of the park is outdoors – and lines can be wicked long – the weather can have a profound affect on your good time.
In most ways, Magic Kingdom at Disney World is a replica of the original Disneyland Park. However, some of the rides from Disneyland were doled across several Disney World parks, giving Magic Kingdom fewer rides. California Adventure in Los Angeles also sees their rides distributed to multiple parks in Florida.
With more rides per park, the California parks are better bang for the buck and require fewer days at the parks overall. The Florida parks felt watered-down by comparison.
Disneyland looks and feels different than Magic Kingdom. This is subjective and hard to quantify, but we noticed almost immediately when we visited Magic Kingdom for the first time. Friends of ours have had the same observation.
Disneyland is beautiful, lush, and vibrant. Everything looks and feels like quality. The rides and attractions harmonize well in the surrounding nature. The staff are wonderful. At night it feels like magic (especially if someone is watching the kids and the adults can roam alone).
Magic Kingdom felt a bit like the Costco parking lot on Saturday afternoon. The atmosphere seemed more “painted on” than Disneyland. The staff were disinterested and a little too real on several occasions. One staffer confided that she believed Disneyland was much friendlier and better organized, which was our exact perception.
Disneyland and California Adventure share a courtyard. If you buy a park-hopper pass you can walk back and forth between the parks easily.
Because Disneyworld has so many parks, they are connected by a bus and boat system. It is effective, but less convenient. Wait times can feel long.
If you compare the two Anaheim parks directly to Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios in Orlando, the California parks win hands-down. They have more rides. They feel more organic. It isn’t really a contest.
Orlando, however, has Animal Kingdom and Epcot, which offer entirely different experiences. They went all out with Star Wars at Hollywood Studios, so if that’s your bag, there you go. Moreover, Disneyworld owns a couple of waterparks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, which brings the park total up to six.
Animal Kingdom is the best part of Disneyworld. We heard mixed reviews about the park, everything from “It’s amazing!” to “It’s a glorified zoo”.
Clearly a theme park and not a zoo, Animal Kingdom did not spare a detail in creating beautiful lands to explore. Avatar Land was very cool. Flight of Passage is one of the greatest rides we’ve ever experienced. Expedition Everest is Disneyworld’s answer to the Matterhorn at Disneyland (and better), the Dinosaur ride is akin to Indiana Jones (not better), and the Kali River Rapids is like the Grizzly River Run at C.A. The Kilimanjaro Safari is enjoyable and lasts about 20 minutes.
Epcot is dated, and the layout is wonky. That said, it has a handful of good rides, like Soarin’ Around the World, Test Track, Mission: Space, Horizons, and Frozen Ever After. The back half of the park is a re-creation of different nations, where one can traipse from Italy to Morocco to Norway to China, eating, shopping, and taking in the “culture”. We enjoyed each half of the park and would recommend Epcot to anyone visiting Disneyworld.
Disneyworld is a city unto itself. The whole place is Disney — it is the mecca of Mickey.
Buses take you everywhere you need to go, from the parks to the hotels to the shopping centers. You can even take a boat across the lake to Magic Kingdom, a great way to start the day. There are many resorts to choose from, including an above average campground/RV park, Fort Wilderness. If you’re a golfer, there’s an assortment of courses to duff.
Disneyworld has enough action for a week’s stay or longer. With six parks, golf courses, shopping villages, massive hotel complexes, the ESPN mega-plex, and restaurants galore, Disneyworld is without question the choice for an all-inclusive, Disney-centric family retreat.
Disneyland can be done thoroughly in four days – two days in each park. The surrounding area is the city of Anaheim, so if you venture outside the Disney complex, you’re walking the streets.
It should be said that greater Los Angeles offers much better non-Disney activities than Orlando. One could spend a week or two in LA and have a good time, even without Disneyland. We don’t know if the same could be said about Orlando.
There are two waterparks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. For those families that want to mix it up with their park-hopping, Disney has given you options.
When forced to choose between Disneyland or Disney World, we believe Disneyland comes out ahead because of the weather and the superiority of their two parks.
The original Disneyland Park is the primary reason we’re there, and California does it better. We aren’t Star Wars fans (please don’t cancel us), so that isn’t a draw for us. Plus, California Adventure has some great rides not found at Disney World.
We plan on visiting Disneyland for the umpteenth time in two years, but we cannot see ourselves returning to Disney World in the future (except maybe for Animal Kingdom).
Ultimately, hot and humid weather does not go well with long lines.
2. California Adventure
3. Animal Kingdom
5. Magic Kingdom
6. Hollywood Studios
Best Rides: California Adventure
Most Magical: Disneyland
Best Imagination: Animal Kingdom
Best Food: Epcot (by far)
Perfect for Small Kids: Disneyland
Best for Big Kids/Adults: California Adventure
Most Originality: Epcot
Exceeds Expectations: Animal Kingdom
Most Disappointing: Magic Kingdom
Most Strollers: Magic Kingdom
Save Your Money: Hollywood Studios
Best Value RV Park: Anaheim Harbor RV Park
Nicest RV Park: Fort Wilderness, Disneyworld
We have found that breaking up the days we spend at the parks makes a better overall vacation. If we spend four days at the parks, we spend six days in the area. Extra days are enjoyed outside the Disney Universe. The park days are more special this way.
Fast Passes can be reserved in advance. You are allotted three for each day of your visit. The best rides run out of fast passes long before the day of the ride.
If you are staying at a Disney Resort hotel and link your Walt Disney World Resort theme park ticket to you My Disney Experience account, you can reserve your fast passes 60 days in advance. If you don’t stay at a Disney Resort, but do everything else, you can reserve your fast passes 30 days in advance.
When you reserve your fast passes in advance, be sure to book them early in the day. You will not be able to secure additional fast passes while at the park until you have used all three of your initial reserved fast passes for that day. We would select a bad ride early in the day over a good ride in the evening to obtain access to more passes.
Fort Wilderness at Disneyworld is a super clean RV park with a nice pool complex. The Disney premium price tag makes it a poor value, but the proximity to the parks makes it worth it. We paid about $120/night.
At California Adventure, get a good place to stand for the World of Color show at night. This will require you to claim your space about an hour ahead of time. Between the Little Mermaid ride and the water is a good area (Paradise Gardens Park).
Anaheim has lots of affordable, non-Disney hotels within walking distance.
Kissimmee, Florida has more affordable hotels than Disneyworld. It is 12 miles away.
The animals at Animal Kingdom are more alert in the early morning during feeding.
You can get Married in Italy at Epcot.
Disney staffers can get two people into the parks for free every day. Don’t forget to tip your new friend.
So, if you don’t mind answering yourself, which would you choose: Disneyland or Disney World? You can email us @ email@example.com, or leave a comment, and we can talk about it!
Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!
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