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  • Writer's pictureAnna Wildish

Disney World vs Disneyland

Updated: Aug 25, 2023

Who wins?

Hey friends! How are you holding up in quarantine?

We have our good days and bad, but distance learning for us is ROUGH. Getting my kids all set up for class and getting them to actually DO IT has been a huge struggle. Lots of tears. Lots of arguments. All before lunch time.

Mickey take me away!

I could use a Disney vacation to look forward to. We don’t know exactly when the parks will reopen, or what that will even look like. But we know one thing for sure. They WILL reopen.

August 2020 Update: Disney World is open! And taking reservations for 2021. *Insert happy dance.* Still waiting on Disneyland though.

Mickey, Minnie, and all that Disney magic will be there ready to welcome us back with open arms once it is safe to do so.

Planning Disney vacations makes me happy. And I need some more happiness is my life right about now.

So let’s plan a trip!

Which park should we visit, Disneyland or Disney World?

Such a hard choice. Both are amazing, but different.

Here are things I love at each park that is unique and not found at the other. Use this personal list to help you decide which park to go to once its safe.

Disney World

The Food

I LOVE the food at Disney World.

It’s high quality, delicious, and plentiful. Not only can you get sweet and delicious snacks, there are lots of healthy options too.

There are tons of character dining options, both inside the parks and at the Disney Hotels.

This isn’t to say that the food at Disneyland is bad, but I prefer the options and quality of the food at Disney World.

I am going to start a Disney World restaurant review series. I’ve already posted one review for PizzeRizzo in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Click here to read that one and check back for the rest of my reviews.

The Dining Plan

I love the dining plan at Disney World. I love not having to worry about how much food and snacks cost. And if you use it right, it can save you money on food and drinks. Win win!

Right now there is no dining plan at Disneyland. But you can buy Disney Gift cards in advance to use for food there.

Bigger and More to Do

Disney World is HUGE. It’s 43 acres, which is about the same size of the city of San Francisco.

And it’s more than theme parks. It’s hotels, restaurants, shopping, water parks, and more.

There is so much to do, it’s impossible to do it all during one trip. There is mini-golf, fishing, boating, spa visits, mermaid school and more. So much more.

You can visit Walt Disney World every year and not have the same vacation twice. It’s almost overwhelming all there is to do there.

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is unique to Disney World. It’s a zoo and a theme park in one.

You can learn about and visit lions, and elephants, and more in the morning. Then ride a few roller coasters and hang out with Mickey in the afternoon.

It is also home to one of my favorite Disney shows: Festival of the Lion King. This fun show has amazing acrobatics, music, and performances.

This is also the home of Pandora – The World of Avatar.

Even if you’ve never seen the movie, or have and hated it, you will LOVE Pandora. There are floating islands that defy all logic, beautiful scenery, and the best attraction at Disney.

The magic of this land comes to life at night. The pathways and landscape glow at night with bioluminescence. It’s beautiful.

Avatar Flight of Passage, one of my favorite attractions, is in Pandora. In this attraction you board a winged Banshee and soar over Pandora’s amazing landscape. It’s like Soarin’ Around the World, only in 3D. Your ride vehicle even expands to simulate the banshee breathing. It’s amazing!

Some of my favorite rides

There are several rides I LOVE that are not at Disneyland. Here is the list of those rides, organized by park and why I love them:

Hollywood Studios

  • Slinky Dog Dash – a unique rollercoaster in Toy Story Land. It’s thrilling enough to be fun for all ages, but not too scary that the younger set can’t handle it.

  • Tower of Terror – Fun and scary theme without being too intense. Plus, you not only go up and down, but you go forward in the elevator!

  • Areosmith Rockin’ Rollercoaster – Short, fast, thrilling, and fun. Plus you get to jam out to Aerosmith the whole time.

Animal Kingdom

  • Avatar Flight of Passage – see description above. An amazing ride!

  • Expedition Everest – Fun and fast rollercoaster that goes forwards, backwards, and has a unique story.

Magic Kingdom

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train –Great family roller coaster. I love the Snow White theming and the cars themselves even rock side to side to mimic coal mining cars.

I’m sure there are more rides at Disney World that are not at Disneyland. I am listing my favorites.

More Photopass Photographers

There are Photopass Photographers at both Disneyland and Disney World. There seem to be way more at Disney World. They are all over the parks with amazing back drops and Magic Shot capabilities.

There are also more pictures of you riding the attractions from varying angles. Some even give you a video. Yes, VIDEO! They magically appear in your My Disney Experience account.

I recommend buying Magic Maker. It gives you unlimited downloads of these photos for the duration of your trip. You can read more about this in a previous blog post here.

Free Transportation

Disney Hotel guests never have to worry about paying for transportation around Disney World. There is free transportation between the hotels, the parks, the Orlando Airport, and other Disney World locations.

You can take a boat, the monorail, and now the new Skyliner to get around depending on your destination. All free, all convenient and easy to navigate.

Lots of Disney Hotel Properties

Staying in the “Disney Bubble” is easy to do at Disney World. There are lots of hotels to choose from, 25 to be exact. There is one for every budget, taste, and amenity.

Check out these posts on staying at a Disney World resort to read more:


Now let’s look at some of the things I love about Disneyland that are not at its Florida counterpart.

Easy to Get Around

Disneyland is SO EASY to get around. No car or bus needed for the most part. Once you get to your hotel from wherever you originated, it’s smooth sailing.

You can walk to the parks and Downtown Disney from a great number of hotels, Good Neighbor included. No need to consult a bus, train, or air tram schedule before you leave. Just walk out the door and head to the parks.

This also makes it easier to make it to the gates for rope drop and to head back to your hotel for a break midday. Less time dealing with transportation means more time in the parks. Win win!

Because it is so easy to walk around at Disneyland, it’s my favorite park for young families. It’s so easy to maneuver a stroller around Disneyland. I love not having to worry about folding it up and wrestling it on and off a bus. We just roll and go.

You can read more details about how easy it is to get around at Disneyland in my post about staying on property here.

Easy to Park Hop

Two parks right next to each other make up Disneyland Resort: Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park. The entrances face each other.

Because of this it is so easy to go back and forth between the parks. While I usually pass on the Park Hopper option at Disney World, I always get it at Disneyland. It’s so easy to take advantage of and get your money’s worth.


Disneyland uses MaxPass instead of FastPass+. You pay extra for it, but it gives you the ability to make FastPass selections on your phone. It also gives you unlimited PhotoPass downloads for the day.

We can usually get more FastPasses at Disneyland using MaxPass than with FastPass+ at Disney World. We can also usually ride our favorite rides multiple times a day with MaxPass. I’m a huge fan of it.

Some of my favorite rides

There are several rides I LOVE that are only at Disneyland or are different from what is at Disney World:

Disneyland Park

  • Pirates of the Caribbean – The original over at Disneyland is SO MUCH better. It is not even close. There are two drops instead of one, several more scenes, and its way longer.

  • Big Thunder Mountain – The Disneyland version was recently updated with awesome special effects. Also, it could just be me, but it feels like the Disneyland version goes faster.

  • The Matterhorn – One of my favorite mountains! A classic Disneyland only rollercoaster.

  • Peter Pan – The refurb they did on the Disneyland version a few years ago is INCREDIBLE. It makes this classic, original ride more magical. I hope they do it to the Disney World version as well.

  • Fantasmic! -- Yes, the show is on both coasts. The Disneyland version is slightly different and more impressive IMHO. It includes a pirate ship and live action pirate fight with Captain Jack Sparrow swinging around. I also think Maleficent’s dragon is a bit more impressive in the Disneyland version.

California Adventure Park

  • Guardians of the Galaxy – A few years ago they changed Disneyland’s Tower of Terror to Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout. While there was much uproar over the change, I think it was for the better. It’s fun with a clever storyline, amazing visual effects, and upbeat music. The music you get changes every time, you never know what you’ll get!

  • Incredicoaster – The fastest roller coaster at Disneyland with a fun theme.

  • World of Color – I colorful and moving nighttime show.

There are more rides at Disneyland that are not at Disney World. I am simply listing my favorites.

Pixar Pier

I love Pixar Pier. The atmosphere, the rides, the theming, it’s all great.

The attractions on Pixar Pier are some of my favorites and appeal to every member of the family. There is the epic Incredicoaster -- the fastest roller coaster at Disneyland -- Toy Story Midway Mania, Jessie’s Critter Carousel, and Inside Out’s Emotional Whirlwind. You can also take a crack at carnival games themed after A Bug’s Life, WALL-E and more.

It’s a great place to rest, people watch, and take a break from it all while still feeling like you are a part of the action. Day and night. In fact, Pixar Pier at night is one of my favorite things about Disneyland. It is GORGEOUS lit up at night.

Make a reservation for dinner at the Lamplight Lounge during your stay. The restaurant has delicious food and great views of Pixar Pier.

Cars Land

Cars Land is my favorite land Disney has ever done. Well, tied with Galaxy’s Edge.

When you walk down the road at Cars Land, you feel like you are walking through Radiator Springs. They use car parts to create flowers and other decorations and details. The mountains resemble the fins of a classic Cadillac. The famous intersection with the blinking traffic light is there. A life size Mater, Cruz Ramirez, Lightning, and Red drive around the land visiting with guests. And so much more.

The attractions in Cars Land include Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters. But Radiator Springs Racers is the star attraction. You board a friendly faced car, zip through some of the classic scenes from the movie, and end with a thrilling car race.

Pro tip: Be sure to get there around sunset when they turn on the neon lights. (Read this post for more details and other secret details of Disneyland like this one.)

Disney Nostalgia – Walt Was Here!

Disneyland is the original park. It’s the only park that Walt Disney himself set foot in.

There are pieces of him everywhere, including the park bench where he came up with the idea for Disneyland and his family’s private apartment. In the window of the apartments sits a lamp that stays lit in his memory.


Still not sure which destination to pick? I’d love to talk with you and help you decide! Click here to set up time to chat with me. I would love to help you plan your family’s next Disney vacation.

I am a travel agent with Magical Vacation Planner. I make it easier for you to plan an unforgettable vacation with your family. Click here to schedule a Magical Vacation Discovery Call to learn more and get your free, no-obligation quote.

Or head here to request access to my exclusive Disney Vacation Planning Vault, full of worksheets and resources you can use to plan your next Disney vacation.



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