Do you ever find yourself wondering what the big difference is between Disneyland and Disney World? It may come as a surprise how many differences there are between these amazing parks! Whether you are more familiar with Disneyland, Walt Disney World, or neither… I would like to give you a detailed picture of the distinct differences through the lens of my adventures!
The Difference Between Disneyland and Disney World
A Guest Post by Jessica from Once Upon an Adventure
The Number of Parks
Disneyland has two parks side by side, Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Park. Disneyland is the most classic park with all the main attractions known for the iconic castle. Disney’s California Adventure Park has a California vibe and is more focused on adventure and Pixar. Mostly known for Pixar Pier (Which was changed from Paradise Pier in 2018).
Disney World has four parks and two waterparks. Magic Kingdom is Florida’s version of Disneyland. Hollywood Studios is a park themed around Disney’s movies and classic Hollywood. Animal Kingdom is Disney’s take on an interactive zoo, conservation, and nature. EPCOT is focused on innovation and culture around the world. Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach are Florida’s Disney themed waterparks.
Difference Between Disneyland and Disney World: Park Size
Upon entering Walt Disney World you will notice it covers 43 square miles of land, where Disneyland is only 500 Acres. Disneyland is very compact and everything is close together. You are immersed in the magic, with no breaks in between. California Adventure, Disneyland, Downtown Disney, and the resorts are all within walking distance of each other, making it possible to do both parks in one day. Walt DisneyWorld is not only much larger, but all the parks and resorts are spread apart, so you have travel time in between. Walt Disney World even goes as far as to have its own freeway, fire department, and water treatment plant! It’s best to have a day in each park (at least!).
The Feel of Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World
Both are amazing and each has its own magical attributes about them. But in my opinion, Disneyland has a more magical intimate feel. Walt walked around Disneyland and set the tone for the setting. Disneyland has the original magic and was the model for the Magic Kingdom park.
Walt Disney World is very magical but on a later scale. With more of a variety, but the experience is not as intimate. Walt oversaw the construction of the Magic Kingdom, improving upon what he built at Disneyland. It has expanded dramatically over the years. A Walt Disney World vacation is longer and can be more tiring than a trip to Disneyland.
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Difference Between Disneyland and Disney World: Crowd Levels
Crowds fluctuate according to the season, but both parks have crowds in the summer and around the Holidays.
Disney World is known to have WAY bigger crowds. The queues can lead to hours of waiting. I know it can be so packed that you may only get three rides in a day! Sometimes you can hardly walk around without being back to back with people. Disneyland can have crowds, but I have never seen them as intense as Disney World.
From my experience, it’s best to go in early January, September, or between Halloween and early December if you really want to avoid crowds at either destination. Use the Disneyland Crowd Calendar and the Disney World Crowd Calendar to help you pick the best dates for you and your family.
Both locations have pros and cons with the weather.
California can be very hot in the summer and chilly around Christmas time. Otherwise is pretty enjoyable weather!
On the other hand with Florida, it can be hot in the summer but also extremely humid. Summer afternoons can have quick rain showers and thunderstorms. The weather might seem like a small difference, but it will affect how you pack for the park.
Both Parks have some of the same rides, but sometimes they are slightly different or may even have different themes. For instance, California Adventure Park has Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout, but Walt Disney World has Tower of Terror. Same ride, but the theme of the ride in California was changed in 2017.
“It’s a Small World” at Walt Disney World has the queue and the iconic front of the ride inside and appears to be smaller, whereas Disneyland’s has a large attention-grabbing aesthetic outdoor wonder.
There are park rides such as Rockin Roller Coaster, Everest, Flight of Passage, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train that are only at Walt Disney World.
The Food & Coffee
There is more of a variety of food at Walt Disney World. Especially if you go to EPCOT where they have The World Showcase, which is full of pavilions inspired by different areas around the world. It features food and drinks from each location along with rides.
There are many options in the parks, but also outside of the park, in the resorts, and at Disney Springs.
Disneyland has fewer options, but I like the food better. I have rarely tried any food I didn’t like at Disneyland and Downtown Disney.
For all my fellow coffee lovers, both parks have Starbucks. There’s nothing better than ordering your favorite latte in a magical cup with the Disney Park logo inscribed on it and walking down Main Street USA.
The only difference in regards to coffee is Walt Disney World has Joffrey’s! Which in my opinion is a huge bonus! I love Starbucks, but I actually enjoy Joffrey’s Coffee more. They have so many fun specialty coffees around the park. They also have different unique alcoholic drinks as well.
Difference Between Disneyland and Disney World: The Shopping
Downtown Disney is the shopping and restaurant area of Disneyland. It is within walking distance from the parks. You can actually walk out of your hotel, into downtown Disney, and straight into the parks!
Downtown Disney has the big World of Disney Shop, Disney themed shops, but it also has shops like Sephora and a Curl Surf. There are shops in the park as well.
Walt Disney World’s shopping and restaurant area is around 6.5 miles from the parks which can be about 15-20min drive.
It is a much larger area with more dining and shops. They also have the big World of Disney store as well. They even have a House of Blues, movie theater, and a bowling alley!
The shops in the parks at Disney World are slightly different from Disneyland and have way more options. The shops are themed to the park you are in. So if you are looking for a cute pair of leopard mickey ears, your best bet would be Animal Kingdom.
No matter if you’re at DIsneyland or Disney World you can customize your classic Mouse Ears with your name, date or specical occation!
Amount of Security
This is probably a difference that not many people would think of, but it was quite a big difference to me! It felt as if Walt Disney World had so much more security than Disneyland. You see many more officers with their K9s and police cars patrolling, especially in Disney Springs. In 2016 this amount of security did stop an active shooting from happening, so it is needed.
The Disney Castles are the magnificent centerpiece of the park! Disneyland’s castle is themed after Sleeping Beauty and stands 77 feet tall. The Walt Disney World castle at Magic Kingdom is themed after Cinderella and stands 189 feet tall. In 2020 the Cinderella castle received a paint job very similar (if not identical) to the Sleeping Beauty castle in Disneyland.
Transportation is not an issue in Disneyland because you can walk everywhere.
However, at Walt Disney World there are many different forms of transportation due to everything being so spread out. They have buses,a ferry boat or water taxi transportation, the Monorail, and the Skyliner (Which are aerial gondolas). Theyalso have spots for ride share drop offs.
In Disneyland, you can not get fast passes until you enter the park, and you actually do not need them most of the time due to lower crowd levels.
At Walt Disney World fast passes are not only needed, but you want to book them as early as possible. Make sure to come up with a fastpass strategy for all four parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom – before your vacation to maximize your time in the parks.
Read More: Walt Disney World FastPass Guide
The price of your Disney trip can vary depending on your choices. You can do Disney on a budget, bringing your own snacks, and search for the free souvenirs. Or if you are willing to go all out you have many different options and opportunities to do so. Either way, there’s always plenty of moments to splurge.
Overall Disney trips can be expensive but always worth it. The tax in both parks is similar, and most of the time tickets at both Disneyland and Disney World are around the same price. This all depends on what time of year you visit and how many days you spend in the parks. The more days you visit the less it costs to get into the park with a multi-day ticket. However, since most visitors stay at Diseny World longer they end up spending more.
Both parks are amazing, have unique aspects about them and designed to fulfill their purpose of making you feel like a kid again. I hope you enjoyed learning the difference between Disneyland and Disney World. Have a magical day!
About the Author
Jessica grew up going to Disneyland, CA every year and that love only continues to grow. Disney inspires her in so many ways and blogging about her Disney adventures and experiences has become a great creative outlet for her. Jessica has lived in Arizona, Montana, and California. Life is a journey and she loves discovering, growing, and dreaming every day. To follow along on Jessica’s journey you can find her on her blog Once Upon an Adventure and Pinterest.