Have you ever wondered just how Disneyland and Disney World stack up against each other? The names are similar, so they are probably exactly alike, right?
Not so fast.
Even though there are definitely some similarities, there are lots of BIG differences between these 2 Disney parks.
Ready to find out more about how Disneyland compares to Walt Disney World?
Disneyland is located in Anaheim, California and Walt Disney World is located near Orlando, Florida
We go into a lot more detail below, but if you just want a snapshot of how they compare, take a look at this infographic:
Which park is older?
If you love history, you’ll love Disneyland.
Disneyland in California is the original Disney theme park
No matter how much we love Walt Disney World, there is one area where Disneyland will always win: history.
First opening its doors on July 17, 1955, Disneyland Park is the only Disney theme park designed and built under the supervision of Walt Disney.
And when you visit it, you’ll find that the history just oozes out of Disneyland Park. You see (and feel!) it everywhere you look.
Sure, Magic Kingdom has some history, too.
But when you are walking down Main Street U.S.A at Disneyland, you are *literally* walking in Walt’s footsteps.
Walt Disney World, on the other hand, first opened on October 1, 1971, and although Walt Disney played a part during the early planning stages, he passed away on December 15, 1966 – almost a full 5 years before Magic Kingdom first opened its gate.
If you love Disney stuff because of the nostalgia, a trip to the Disneyland Resort should be on your bucket list.
Because while Walt Disney World is full of excitement and innovation, Disneyland is where you’ll find history, quaintness, and charm.
Which is bigger: Disneyland or Disney World?
Walt Disney World is huge, but Disneyland is quaint.
The Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort embody many of the same common elements: magic, happiness, imagination, creativity, fun, and, of course, a place where everyone is welcome to celebrate their love of all things Disney.
But, although they both start from the same mushy, emotional places that we love, there is one big, glaring difference: Walt Disney World is way, way larger.
Disney World is larger than Disneyland
In fact, if you placed Disneyland inside of Walt Disney World, all it would take up is one teeny, tiny, little corner.
Of course, that size difference makes sense when you consider what you find at each respective resort.
Disney World has four theme parks, two water parks, more than 25 onsite hotels, a large shopping district called Disney Springs, a couple of golf courses, and an area for sport competitions called Wide World of Sports.
Disneyland, on the other hand, only has two theme parks, the Downtown Disney District, and three onsite hotels.
To put it into perspective, Disneyland currently covers 510 acres and Disney World spreads across 27,000 acres or roughly 43 square miles (that’s twice the size of Manhattan)!
Disneyland’s Castle vs. Disney World’s Castle: which is bigger?
Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World have castles in the center of their hub and spoke layout.
Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty castle is 77 feet tall, but Disney World’s Cinderella Castle is over twice as big and stands at 189 feet tall.
Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland is based on the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany. Although it isn’t as large as the WDW version, it does house an attraction called the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough where guests can see dioramas retelling the popular fairy tale of the castle’s namesake.
Walt Disney World’s Castle, on the other hand, is called Cinderella Castle (not Cinderella’s Castle as it is often mislabeled) and its design draws inspiration from lots of castles, both real and fake – including Sleeping Beauty Castle.
And, while it doesn’t house an attraction, it does have a restaurant called Cinderella’s Royal Table which normally hosts a character meal packed full of princesses, including Cinderella herself.
Is Disney World better than Disneyland?
Don’t get us wrong – we love everything that Walt Disney World has to offer.
With so many parks and resorts and things to do, when you visit Disney World it is easy to immerse yourself and fill a week or more with activities and experiences, all right there on property.
And, most of the time, that is exactly the kind of trip we want – especially since we genuinely love planning and Disney World’s size and complexities speak to that part of our personalities.
But, the smaller (yet mighty!) size of Disneyland lends itself to an experience that is both strangely familiar and totally different.
With fewer things to plan, fewer miles to cover, and fewer things (overall) to do, Disneyland trips can also be a lot less stressful. There isn’t the same sense of urgency. You can easily walk between the parks, and in many cases, to plenty of less-expensive off-site resorts.
We don’t think of either situation as better than the other. It’s just…different.
Do both Disney World and Disneyland have onsite resort hotels?
Both Walt Disney World and Disneyland have fantastically themed onsite resort hotels, but Disney World has a lot more.
Disneyland has 3 official Disney hotels on property, but Disney World has over 25
The onsite hotels at Disneyland are located within steps of both theme parks and Downtown Disney, but there are also several offsite options within walking distance. These latter hotels are known as “Good Neighbor Hotels.”
Staying offsite is much more common at Disneyland compared to Disney World, especially because you can save money and easily walk to the parks, since Disneyland is smaller.
Disney World offers a slew of hotels, including Value, Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villa resorts.
And, many WDW hotels come with perks, like having access to the Skyliner and being able to book dining up to 60 days in advance for your entire length of stay. There are also several Disney World offsite hotels that many prefer to book.
Both Disney World and Disneyland have hotels that range in price, incorporate Disney Vacation Club, have great theming and details, offer exceptional dining, and more.
Onsite vs. offsite
One of the things we love about the size of Walt Disney World is the fact that it gives you so many different options for trips.
It makes it easy to create different experiences, and staying at varied resorts keeps things fresh and new on each visit.
Plus, we are suckers for being inside the “Disney Bubble” where we can stay semi-secluded from reality. While easy to do when staying onsite at Walt Disney World, at Disneyland it is nearly impossible simply due to its urban location.
At Disneyland, there simply isn’t a huge advantage to staying onsite. Of course, when we are looking for a splurge, you will find us at The Disneyland Hotel – but that is just because we love the theming and the to die for view from the Club Lounge.
But, for most Disneyland trips, you’ll find us counting the money we saved from staying at a nearby offsite resort.
Do Disneyland and Disney World have the same attractions?
As different as Disney World and Disneyland are, they do have a lot of the same attractions
But, even though the names are the same, many of the attractions aren’t completely similar.
The truth is, when you compare Disneyland’s versions of attractions to Walt Disney World’s, you’ll find that in nearly every case, Disneyland’s versions are better.
It pains us to admit that, but it’s true.
There are some exceptions. We personally prefer Magic Kingdom’s version of Haunted Mansion, for example.
But overall, Disneyland Resort wins in head-to-head attraction battles.
We don’t say this to disparage the Florida versions. Instead, we want to encourage any Walt Disney World vets making their first visits to Disneyland to not skip any of the attractions that they’ve tried before at Walt Disney World.
Trust us on this.
List of attractions found at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland
Here’s a list of all the same attractions you can find at both resorts, with notes on how they compare.
|Splash Mountain||One person per row (Disneyland) and two people per row (Magic Kingdom). Both are receiving a Princess & the Frog overhaul|
|Pirates of the Caribbean||The Disneyland version has an outdoor queue, more scenes, two drops, and is longer, & overall better compared to Pirates at Magic Kingdom|
|“it’s a small world”||Disneyland’s version incorporates Disney characters into each country; outdoor queue is breathtaking|
|Mad Tea Party||Inside at Magic Kingdom and outside at Disneyland (prettier here)|
|Astro Orbiter||Identical, except for colors and design elements|
|Big Thunder Mountain Railroad||Nearly identical|
|WDW / Disneyland Railroad||Nearly identical, except each have own unique twists: Disneyland’s has dinosaurs!|
|Dumbo the Flying Elephant||Magic Kingdom’s has an interactive queue and two Dumbo’s that run at the same time|
|Haunted Mansion||Different exteriors; similar elements inside with own unique Easter Eggs and details (Hatbox Ghost at Disneyland); interactive queue at Magic Kingdom|
|Jungle Cruise||Nearly identical (both are receiving much-needed updates)|
|King Arthur / Prince Charming Regal Carrousel||The same ride with different themes and designs|
|The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh||Disneyland has an outdoor queue and loading zone, bigger ride vehicles, different scenes and story|
|Mark Twain / Liberty Square Riverboat||Pretty much the same, but different names and deck views|
|Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run||Identical|
|Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance||Identical|
|Peter Pans’s Flight||Nearly identical, with a few different design elements|
|Space Mountain||One person per row (Magic Kingdom) and two people per row (Disneyland); Disneyland’s ride vehicles have head rests; only one track at Disneyland|
|Star Tours — The Adventures Continue||Nearly identical|
|Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room||Different pre-shows and queues; Disneyland has an Enchanted Tiki Garden you walk through|
|Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters / |
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
|Nearly identical, except the blasters can be picked up on Astro Blasters|
|The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure /|
Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid
|Identical, except for name and queues; Magic Kingdom has a much better queue that is super detailed and immersive|
|Soarin’ Around the World||Identical, except for queues|
|Toy Story Midway Mania! / Toy Story Mania!||Queue at Hollywood Studios is much more immersive, indoors, and has amazing detail|
|Turtle Talk with Crush||Pretty much the same, but both offer a different experience each time|
|Fantasmic||They are very similar with the music and some of the floats, but Hollywood Studios’ takes place in a theater and Disneyland’s is on Rivers of America. Disneyland’s version also includes Pirates of the Caribbean on the Sailing Ship Columbia.|
There are also a few attractions that use similar ride vehicles and even similar track layouts, but are very, very different.
For example, Test Track, which is at Epcot, and Radiator Springs Racers at California Adventure. Both of these attractions use the same car design, and may parts of the track are also identical – just themed way differently.
Another great example of this is the Indiana Jones Adventure ride at Disneyland Park and DINOSAUR over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Again, veterans of one of those attractions will see many similarities in ride vehicles and track layout with an entirely different theme.
And finally, Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout at California Adventure. Originally, the California version was a lot more similar to the attraction found in Florida. They were both themed after Tower of Terror and while the Florida version included more elements (like elevator cars that move outside the elevator shaft), most people viewed them as basically “the same”.
But, now that the version in California Adventure has been re-themed to fit into Avengers Campus, you have an attraction that has a similar structure and a similar motion, but an entirely different theme.
What about Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane Selections?
There used to be the now-retired FastPass+ at Walt Disney World and FastPass/MaxPass at Disneyland.
Now that those systems are long gone, we have Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane Selections, which are built into the My Disney Experience app (for Disney World) and the Disneyland app (for Disneyland).
Hang onto your hat because if you are new to Disney planning, all of this can be a little confusing.
Disney World and Disneyland both give guests the chance to purchase Genie+ for the ability to skip the Standby Line at select attractions across all theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Disneyland Park, and Disney California Adventure).
Pricing is as follows:
- Disney World: $15.98 per ticket per day (tax included)
- Disneyland: $20 per ticket per day (no tax added)
After you purchase Genie+, you’re able to choose the next available arrival time for a variety of attractions and other experiences.
When your return time is called, you’ll enter the attraction via the “Lightning Lane,” the new name for FastPass lines.
Similar to Genie+, Individual Lightning Lane Selections at Disney World and Disneyland have both similarities and differences.
It’s important to note that Genie+ and pay-per-ride Lightning Lane passes are separate from one another.
Essentially, this pay-per-ride option allows you to purchase a time to ride select popular attractions (a maximum of 2 purchases per guest per day) at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood, Animal Kingdom, Disneyland Park, and Disney California Adventure.
Once your return time is called, you can board the attraction using the “Lightning Lane.”
As similar as Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane Selections are at both resorts, there are many differences as well.
In addition to reading our complete guide on how these services compare at Disney World and Disneyland, check out this handy chart.
How do you make dining reservations?
Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World have restaurants that typically require Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) if you want to dine there.
How you make dining reservations at Disneyland and Disney World is pretty much the same
In the past, Walt Disney World’s 180-day Advanced Dining Reservation window was sometimes a shock for Disneyland vets to get used to, but as it works now, you can make reservations for Table Service locations at both resorts up to 60 days in advance.
And with both parks, you can do so by booking online, via the My Disney Experience (for Walt Disney World) or Disneyland apps, or by calling each respective dining line (Disney World: 407-WDW-DINE; Disneyland: (714) 781-DINE).
Dining reservations go fast (here are some tips on how to snag hard-to-get dining reservations at Disney World), so you definitely want to make sure you book as soon as you can — and plan accordingly.
Keep in mind that for both parks, you also don’t need valid theme park admission to make dining reservations, but you will need a ticket and/or an Annual Pass and a theme park reservation to dine at a restaurant inside any of the theme parks.
Both Disneyland and Disney World also have Mobile Order for many Quick Service locations, along with Mobile Check-In (when checking in for Table Service reservations) and Mobile Walk-Up waitlists you can join (depending on availability) if you don’t have a dining reservation.
Advanced Dining Reservations are (typically) more important for Walt Disney World
Although both parks have restaurants that can be tricky to get into, when both Disneyland and Walt Disney World are fully open, aside from the busiest times of the year, we’ve always had decent luck snagging same-day reservations when visiting Disneyland.
The same is true for Walt Disney World, but primarily at Epcot.
The difference, however, is that Table Service dining feels a lot more part of the “experience” at Walt Disney World than at Disneyland. With so many restaurants, to choose from, strategizing your dining is a major part of planning a Walt Disney World vacation compared to Disneyland where you might plan only a couple special Table Service meals and dine the rest of the time at Quick Service locations.
Plus, Table Service dining at Walt Disney World is often used as a respite from the heat, something you don’t need as often at Disneyland.
Transportation is key in getting around Disney World, but walkability is a huge perk when visiting Disneyland.
Not only can you walk from your hotel (both onsite and many offsite) to Disneyland Park, California Adventure, and Downtown Disney, but you can easily walk between each theme park — they’re right across the Esplanade from each other.
Contrast that to Disney World where, due to its size, transportation is a must. There are several options for guests, including: buses, the Monorail, the Disney Skyliner, and boats.
And although the size makes walking difficult, there are a few resorts that make it easy to walk to either Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios and Epcot.
But, there aren’t that many and the walkable locations can come with a high price tag.
Unlike Disney World, Disneyland doesn’t really require the use of transportation. Again, walkability is a huge factor.
That said, Disneyland does have a Monorail that travels around the entire resort area. But, it is more of an attraction and less of a mode of transportation and when running. Only guests with valid theme park admission to Disneyland Park can board the Monorail either inside the park or in Downtown Disney.
The Monorail at Disney World allows anyone to take a trip on the highway in the sky.
Other transportation considerations
We are transportation nuts. We love boats and trains and gondolas and monorails and, yes, even buses (sometimes).
But, what we don’t love is waiting for them.
To be fair, at Walt Disney World outside the busy mornings and park close, the lines for most forms of transportation aren’t usually that bad.
And – no lie – we still grin ear to ear when we take off in the Skyliner.
But, there is a reason why at Walt Disney World that the resorts within walking distance to the parks are so expensive: having the ability to walk is a game changer.
When you can walk to the parks, you get straight to the fun.
And at Disneyland, being able to walk everywhere means a lot of the hustle and bustle and worry of getting from place to place is eliminated.
Downtown Disney vs. Disney Springs
They even have some of the same offerings, like the massive Disney merchandise store guests know and love — World of Disney.
However, the major difference is that Downtown Disney is much smaller than Disney Springs. It pretty much sits right in middle of the Disneyland resort between the onsite hotels and both theme parks.
You can easily enjoy it in one day or less. On the other hand, you can take an entire day at Disney Springs because there’s just that much to explore.
Truly. Even if shopping isn’t your thing, there are all sorts of live entertainment and places to eat that you can stay busy with no problem at all.
It’s not just the shopping…or is it?
Both Disney Springs and Downtown Disney are the perfect options if you want to have a non-park day or need something to do after a long day riding attractions.
But, between the 2, we typically view Disney Springs as a destination and Downtown Disney more as a fun walkway and a place to grab some food or do some light shopping as we head between the resorts and parks of the Disneyland Resort.
Both Disneyland and Disney World allow park hopping, meaning that if you have a ticket that allows it, you can go back and forth as much as you like between the available parks.
Before the pandemic, guests who had park hopping access via their Annual Pass or those who purchased a park hopping add-on could visit multiple parks per day whenever they wanted to.
But, that has since changed for both resorts.
Like always, guests still need a ticket or an annual pass with Park Hopper benefits to be able to park hop. But now they also need to make a theme park reservation.
Here’s how it works for both parks:
- Park hopping at Disney World: Guests have to make a Disney Park Pass reservation for the first park they plan to visit and enter that first park prior to visiting another. Park hopper hours at Walt Disney World start at 2 p.m. each day.
- Park hopping at Disneyland: Guests with Park Hopper tickets will make a park reservation for the first park they plan to visit at the start of their day. Then, starting at 1 p.m. that same day they can hop over to the other park.
Should you hop?
If you are heading to Walt Disney World, our advice is that unless you are absolutely positive you’ll want to go between the parks, you should wait to add the Park Hopping option to your ticket. That’s because if you get there and decide you are too tired to hop, you can’t get a refund and Park Hoppers can be expensive (especially if you have a large family).
But, if you don’t have the Park Hopping option and once you arrive decide you *do* want to hop, you can always add it onto your ticket. Keep in mind, though, you can’t add Park Hopping to just one day. It is all or nothing.
But, when it comes to Disneyland, we almost always recommend people get the Park Hopper up front.
The fact that you can walk between parks in just a minute or 2 makes it so easy to pop in and out. It is especially useful in the evenings or around meal times.
Which has better weather: Disneyland or Walt Disney World?
There is no denying that the weather at Disneyland is amazing. Their location in Southern California means that most of the year, you’ll encounter moderate temperatures with very little rain. More often than not, you won’t even need a poncho or a fan to battle the heat.
Disney World is another story. There are certain months that are cooler, but there are also several times of year when it is just plain hot and extremely humid.
Not to mention, during the hotter days, rain and thunderstorms are common. Oh, and there’s also hurricane season to keep in mind.
You can keep track of Disney World weather with our monthly crowd calendars.
Disneyland typically has better weather than Disney World.
Disneyland’s weather is the stuff that dreams is made of. And Disney Worlds? Well, lets just say it isn’t as nice and leave it at that.
The Disney parks are known for their nighttime spectaculars and fireworks. They both make evenings that much more magical.
But, unlike Disney World, Disneyland is known for frequently canceling its fireworks due to weather, specifically wind.
If there is bad weather at Disney World, fireworks and nighttime shows won’t happen either, but Disneyland has more cancellations.
We recommend trying to see fireworks every night at Disneyland just in case they are unexpectedly canceled.
Update: At this time, there aren’t any available virtual queues at both Disney World and Disneyland.
On Sept. 23, 2021 the virtual queue was paused for Rise of the Resistance at Hollywood Studios and on Jan. 10, 2022 for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Disneyland also paused the virtual queue for WEB Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure on Nov. 4, 2021 and for Rise of the Resistance on Nov. 22, 2021. A standby queue is being used for all of these attractions.
In addition, some attractions with Virtual Queues will offer guests that missed their chance with the Virtual Queue the opportunity to purchase an Individual Lightning Lane spot.
A virtual queue could return at a later date or “from time to time.” You’re still be able to purchase entry via the a la carte Lightning Lane option.
The following is how virtual queues used to work in the past at Disney World and Disneyland…
Virtual queues can come in handy, especially because they gives guests the chance to ride popular attractions without having to physically wait in line.
Rise of the Resistance & Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
Hollywood Studios in Disney World once utilized a virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in Galaxy’s Edge and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot. You’ll join these queues in the My Disney Experience app.
- You need valid theme park admission and either a Hollywood Studios or Epcot park reservation to grab a boarding group
- There are two distribution times: 7 a.m. (you can try to join from your hotel room or at home) and 1 p.m. (you must be inside the park for the second drop)
- Hollywood Studios or Epcot (depending on the attraction) must be your first park of the day (you cannot park hop and join the virtual queue)
- If you’re lucky enough to snag a spot in the virtual queue, you’ll receive a push notification via the My Disney Experience app when it’s time for you to board (you have up to one hour from the time of the alert to go to the entrance of the attraction)
Disneyland Park had a virtual queue for both Rise of the Resistance, WEB Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure, and even sometimes for Indiana Jones Adventure. You’ll join both via the Disneyland app.
Rise of the Resistance & WEB SLINGERS
- These virtual queues are similar to the ones at Disney World, but the drop times are at 7 a.m. (you can join from home or at your hotel) and 12 p.m.
- If you start your day at Disneyland Park, you can access the virtual queue system in the morning on the day of your park reservation. If you don’t snag a boarding group at 7 a.m., you can try again at noon.
- To access the second virtual queue later in the day, you must have a valid ticket and park reservation, and have entered Disneyland Park, or California Adventure with a Park Hopper ticket, by noon.
- Park hopping begins at 1 p.m. each day. If you start your day at California Adventure, you can then enter Disneyland Park with your Park Hopper ticket after 1 p.m. for your boarding group.
Indiana Jones Adventure
- A virtual queue is only used when the standby line is full. You join just like you would for Rise of the Resistance, but there aren’t specific times. Check the Disneyland app to see if the attraction is using a virtual queue or a standby line.
For both WEB SLINGERS and Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland Resort:
If you succeeded in joining the queue, you’ll receive a push notification via the Disneyland app when it’s time for you to board. You have up to one hour from the time of the alert to go to the entrance of the attraction.
And: Guests can only enter a virtual queue once per day for each attraction, and may not hold a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance and WEB SLINGERS at the same time.
What things are unique to Disneyland & Disney World?
Even though Disney theme parks are all about Disney, they are still special in their own way. The following are unique to both Disney World and Disneyland.
If you visit Disney World a lot, you should focus more on the lands and attractions that are different at Disneyland. The same goes for if you’re an avid visitor of Disneyland, but rarely travel to Disney World.
Here are the main lands and parks that are unique at each location:
- Disneyland Park: Mickey’s Toontown, New Orleans Square
- California Adventure: Cars Land, Pixar Pier, Avengers Campus
- Disney World: Animal Kingdom as a whole and Epcot, specifically the World Showcase
For Disneyland and Disney World, guests ages 3 and older need valid theme park admission and a theme park reservation in order to gain entry.
The purpose of park reservations is to control capacity. Both use theme park reservation systems and while relatively the same, there are a few differences.
Let’s first start with Disney World’s system, which is called the Disney Park Pass System.
There are three “buckets” of available reservations: one for Annual Passholders without resort reservations (can only make up to 3 days worth of reservations at a time), one for resort guests (including those with Annual Passes), and one for ticket holders with onsite resort reservations.
The latter two buckets can make park reservations for their entire length of stay.
As for Disneyland, there aren’t any buckets of available reservations. Plus, guests can only make park reservations up to 120 days in advance.
Disneyland’s reservation system also allows you to book tickets and make reservations all at once.
But, if you aren’t ready to buy just yet, just like Walt Disney World you can also check park availability before purchasing tickets for Disneyland.
It’s unclear how long guests will have to make park reservations, but Disneyland’s reservation calendar is currently through early October and Disney World’s is through the first two weeks of January 2022.
Disneyland regulars going to Disney World
Are you a regular at Disneyland and considering visiting Disney World for the first time? Here’s what you need to know.
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