Disney fans know better than anyone that wishes can come true – so it’s essential when wishing for the perfect vacation to understand the difference between California’s Disneyland vs. Disney World in Florida.
There is no place in the world like it.
Uh… except, well – ya know, the other one just like it…
There’s so much to love at each resort, with the comfort of their similarities and the excitement of their individual special attractions.
One is a little more retro.
One is a modern wonder.
Both are among the very best vacation spots in the whole world – but not identical. So how do you choose?
This article will map out the magical attributes that make these two Disney properties unique compared to one another, including:
- Size & Design
- Food & Drinks
Whether you want the bare necessities or the bedazzled royal treatment, both have a range to satisfy and spoil every family.
And you don’t have to untangle the options by yourself. Disney vacation planning is exactly what Ear To There Travel does full-time as an official EarMarked Disney travel agency (aka authorized by Disney).
You want your trip to be magical and easy – we can help do the hard work and find you the best deals at absolutely no extra cost to you.
Our services are 100% free (because we’re paid by Disney).
If you want to feel like your vacation is starting now, fill out our quick form and get your free, no-obligation Disney vacation quote today – or read on for more information!
Which Is Bigger: Disneyland or Disney World?
You don’t need to be a math wizard for this comparison:
Disneyland = 500 acres
Walt Disney World = 27,000 acres
So, does Walt Disney World have more variety and opportunities? Yes.
Does that mean Walt Disney World is better? No.
Having more options only matters if you have your heart set on taking advantage of them.
Even though Disneyland may be comparatively smaller, it still has a lot to enjoy. Plus more options can slow you down and make it harder to coordinate groups.
Larger space doesn’t even help in terms of crowding. Since Walt Disney World is bigger, it also attracts way more tourist groups from all over the world.
Orlando may offer 35 different resort hotels, but they can get booked up faster than the 3 resort hotels in California, depending on what you’re looking for and when.
So, waiting in lines exists either way and you need to book your vacation early at both.
What’s Great About Disneyland’s Layout?
It’s easy to make the most out of a quick weekend trip, whereas Walt Disney World is best for a longer trip.
- Many beloved rides are at both Disney parks, but in Disneyland, it’s easier to run from one to the other in joyful succession.
- Toontown and New Orleans Square are unique to Disneyland.
- Marvel’s Avengers Campus and Radiator Springs (aka CarsLand) will only ever be at Disney’s California Adventure in California, never in Florida.
- As more of a “resident park,” Disneyland is known for having more locals and many celebrity sightings.
- Park-hopping is a breeze with Disneyland and California Adventure only a few steps across the plaza from each other.
- At Downtown Disney you can shop, play, eat and have an amazing day outside the parks.
- There are many hotels within walking distance and on the free bus route; it’s not as important for you to choose a hotel on Disney property.
- The weather is usually better in California, which might be easier for a larger group.
What’s Great About The Layout Of Walt Disney World?
Walt Disney World offers the larger immersive space that Walt always wanted for Disneyland, but it was just not possible to expand more in California.
- Each of the four parks and two water parks is a separate destination offering unique adventures, such as live animals in Animal Kingdom or the best foods from all over the world in Epcot.
- Magic Kingdom is similar to Disneyland, Hollywood Studios to California Adventure; unique to Walt Disney World are:
- Even if you have non-Disney fans in your party (Le gasp! Le shock!… But great for making more room in the parks!), the staggering volume of activities available means they’ll experience the vacation of a lifetime too, while you party with pirates and mingle with mermaids.
- Staying at a Disney hotel makes an enormous difference in the quality of your experience.
- Fun & immersive
- Incredible service
- Easier, faster transportation (walking, buses, monorail, boats, Skyliner)
- Extra time in the parks
- Frequent special Disney deals
- Discover the once-in-a-lifetime, out-of-this-world, epic two-day adventure at the new Disney Star Wars hotel: the Galactic Starcruiser. *Board* the magnificent Starcruiser, Halcyon, and find yourself in a non-stop, brand-new, bespoke Star Wars story like you’ve never experienced before!
Which Came First – Disneyland or Disney World?
Luckily, this is easier than whether the chicken or the egg came first: Disneyland is the original Disney Resort Park that opened in 1955.
Disneyland has nostalgia.
It’s where Walt Disney’s feet actually walked.
To this day, his apartment watches over Disneyland from directly above the firehouse and his beautiful Victorian lamp stays lit in the window. When Walt was alive, the lamplight would signal that he was present and working; today, it shares his light, his inspiration, the constant comfort of his spirit in the workings of Disney.
Walt hand-selected the Anaheim location in Southern California. But after purchasing the land in central Florida, he never got to see the finished Walt Disney World park opened in 1971.
Rides At Disneyland vs. Disney World
Many sought-after rides and attractions are at both resorts, such as:
- The Monorail
- The Railroad
- Space Mountain
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Haunted Mansion
- “It’s a small world”
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Jungle Cruise
- Splash Mountain
- Mad Tea Party
- Star Tours
- Enchanted Tiki Room
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
- Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Mickey’s Philharmagic
- The Carrousel (King Arthur and Prince Charming, respectively)
And don’t forget the countless shows, parades, attractions, and thrilling character interactions between rides!
Which Rides and Attractions Are Only At Disneyland and California Adventure?
At Disneyland and California Adventure, there are many favorites unique to these two parks including:
- Pirates of the Caribbean is at both parks, but it is significantly longer at Disneyland
- Toontown attractions, like Roger Rabbit’s CarToon Spin
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
- Indiana Jones Adventure
- Pinnochio’s Daring Journey
- Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes
- Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
- Lilly Belle (the train car designed by and named after Walt’s wife)
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
- WebSlingers: A Spider-Man Adventure
- Grizzly River Run
Which Rides and Attractions Are Only At Walt Disney World?
At Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, the unique attractions include:
- Carousel of Progress
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- People Mover
- Magic Carpets of Aladdin
- Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor
- Country Bear Jamboree
- [Coming Soon] Tron Lightcycles
- Plus, exclusive offerings like shows and the barbershop on Main Street at the Magic Kingdom
Looking beyond Magic Kingdom, the disparity grows:
- 8 attractions at Animal Kingdom, plus animal encounters on the Kilimanjaro Safaris and walkable Maharajah Jungle Trek or Gorilla Falls, the Expedition Everest rollercoaster, and the immersive world of Pandora with theming and attractions inspired by the movie Avatar
- 9 attractions at Epcot, plus internationally-themed character interactions, a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction opening in Summer 2022, and lovely food-centric festivals available throughout the year
- 8 attractions at Hollywood Studios, plus the Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster starring Aerosmith, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and Pixar-themed Toy Story Land, which includes Slinky Dog Dash
Disneyland vs. Disney World: The Castles
The only icons as synonymous with the House of Mouse as Mickey himself, are the legendary, fantastical Disney Castles.
Each of the American theme parks boasts a different royal, moated castle at the end of Main Street to welcome guests into Fantasyland.
Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland
Inside this quaint masterpiece lies a winding stairway to the castle’s tower, where guests can view beautifully illustrated pages of the Sleeping Beauty story while climbing through the castle.
To get to the castle, guests walk over a working drawbridge – bringing history and fantasy to life right beneath their feet.
Walt Disney had the Sleeping Beauty Castle built on a small scale (it’s only 77 feet high) so that it was especially welcoming to his younger visitors. It’s a special example of the inclusivity and thoughtfulness that Disney is known for.
Modeled after the famous Neuschwanstein in Germany, the Sleeping Beauty Castle invites all visiting princes and princesses to the unending magic of imagination and hope.
Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World
At 189 feet tall, it is an impressive and majestic setting to weave a fantasy experience.
Step into the royal fairytale, whether enjoying the beautiful mosaics sharing the Cinderella story or dining in the spectacular banquet hall for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table.
Along with a fabulous feast, guests are treated to an elegant atmosphere and visit with beloved Disney characters during the meal.
On the way out, make a wish at Cinderella’s Wishing Well while indulging in a stroll through the lush castle lawns on the way to another adventure.
What’s The Cost Difference Between Disneyland & Disney World?
The two resorts are incredibly similar in terms of pricing.
Park tickets, hotels, souvenirs – all have highly comparable costs.
With tickets starting at $104 and $109, Walt Disney World does offer a slight discount of $104 for kids 3-9, and all prices go down the more days you stay.
Regardless of where you choose to go, any cost adjustment is the same for either destination:
- Length of stay
- Number of people
- Transport there and back
- Whether you want park hoppers
- Hotel and amenities budget
- Time of year
Children under 3 are always free!
Pricing will keep going up and down, but there are often resident discounts, military discounts, and more!
Best to check with an Ear To There Vacationeer for a true, up-to-date comparison and well-rounded understanding of your options. Fill out this form for free, expert, vacation planning help!
Food In Disneyland vs. Disney World
Good food and great fun are inseparable, especially on vacation.
Both Disney Resorts recognize that and have the happiest treats on Earth. In abundance.
So how can you tell their food apart?
Many popular staples are offered at both: Mickey-shaped ice creams, churros, pineapple-flavored Dole Whip, “grey stuff..” oh the list of must-have sweet favorites is long!
The only difference is some ingredients are sourced from different companies. But the recipe and the intent are highly reliable.
Read below to see where things veer apart.
Food At Disneyland
With 160 full-service restaurants, plus carts and kiosks offering specialty foods from Mickey-shaped beignets in New Orleans square to Giant Turkey legs and corn dogs near Main Street, Disneyland has food for everyone’s taste.
If you grew up on the west coast, or you’re a hard-core Disney foodie, you very likely have heard of “the Disney Pickle.” Huge, beautiful, individually wrapped, crave-inducing, low-calorie crunching options in big ole aluminum bins offering sour, spicy, and dill varieties.
For anyone looking for a grown-up drink, you’re in luck. Disneyland was dry inside the park for the first 65 years of its existence, with California Adventure being the only alcohol in town.
But now you can enjoy Star Wars-themed cocktails at Oga’s Cantina, beer or wine with dinner at the Blue Bayou, or get yourself a park hopper over to California Adventure for wine-tasting that highlights California’s wine country with great fruit and cheese trays.
Food At Walt Disney World
Epcot is a bountiful treasure trove of fresh and sustainable food sourcing, providing much of the produce for all of Walt Disney World’s 400 different places to eat.
It’s no wonder Epcot has more than 2.5 million square feet of working greenhouse space to ensure healthy, delicious choices throughout the entire Florida resort.
If food is your jam – so to speak – the Food and Wine Festival held every year at Epcot is a special occasion not to be missed.
But even if you can’t make it to the festival, simply savoring the fares offered year-round at all the international pavilions in Epcot is worth the cost of your entire trip. The food is seriously that good.
So… Which Is Better: Disneyland Or Walt Disney World?
Only you can answer that question.
The best destination is the one that meets your needs.
If you’re considering the time of year, holiday crowds are similar at both.
Aim for late spring, early fall, or late winter, to avoid crowds and the highest prices. Also, stay away from Monday holidays, Halloween, and Christmas.
No doubt the holidays are a special and spectacular time to visit (have you seen the decor?!) but if you want the special celebration without the added stress, a better option could be a Disney cruise – since a Disney vacation by land or by sea is fabulous!
For now, this covers the basics of what makes each Disney park a great vacation choice.
Want more info? Ear To There Travel can help. Check out our two in-depth articles about each of these two wonderful Disney properties.
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Want less info? Feeling overwhelmed with all the options? Whether you are choosing your destination based on size, design, rides, castles, cost, or food & drinks, we can help to make it easy.
Contact one of our amazing Vacationeers (that’s what we call our Authorized Disney Vacation Planners) and we can get you set up with a free, no-obligation quote to help you plan the Disney World or Disneyland vacation of your dreams.