Updated: Feb 20
Ever wonder what the difference is between the Disneyland Resort in California and Walt Disney World Resort in Florida? While many guests would agree that both locations offer magical experiences, these two vacation destinations have a wide array of differences that make each of them unique!
Walk in Walt’s Footsteps
Disneyland Park is the only park that Walt Disney himself has visited. As a matter of fact, Walt Disney had an apartment on Main Street U.S.A. (above the Disneyland Fire Dept.) where he would often spend the night and then roam the empty park in the early morning hours.
Walt Disney World features four theme parks and two water parks: Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park.
Disneyland Resort only has two theme parks: Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. While the Walt Disney World Resort is 40 square miles (about the size of San Francisco), the Disneyland Resort only sits on approximately 160 acres. But don’t let the small size fool you! Did you know that Disneyland Park in California is bigger than the world’s smallest country?
Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park have entrances right across from each other which makes park hopping a breeze! You could travel back and forth all day long if you really wanted. Since Walt Disney World Resort is so much bigger, transportation is essential for theme park hopping in Florida.
Thankfully, the Walt Disney World Resort offers free transportation to all its parks via bus, monorail, ferry boat and the Disney Skyliner, a gondola system that connects EPCOT’s International Gateway to Disney’s Hollywood Studios along with other Walt Disney World resorts.
Lay of the Land
Magic Kingdom Park in Florida and Disneyland Park in California both feature Main Street U.S.A., a charming turn-of-the-century nostalgic land with unique shops and entertainment. In both parks, Main Street U.S.A. extends to a “hub” where guests can enter the other themed lands such as Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Adventureland and Frontierland.
It is interesting to note that there are some lands that are exclusive to each park!
Liberty Square can only be found at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, while Critter Country, Mickey’s Toontown & New Orleans Square are all unique to Disneyland Park.
Since the size of Disneyland Park is much smaller than Magic Kingdom Park, it doesn't take too long to travel from one side of the park to the other. On the other hand, some walkways in Disneyland Park may feel more congested because of the narrow pathways.
Castles in the Sky
Both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park showcase an iconic princess castle as the park's main focal point.
While Magic Kingdom features Cinderella Castle towering at 189 feet tall, Disneyland Park is home to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle which is a modest 77 feet tall.
You can actually eat inside Cinderella Castle - if you are lucky enough to secure a table at Cinderella’s Royal Table. At Disneyland Park, Sleeping Beauty Castle features a walk-through attraction which retells the story of the classic fairy tale.
Be our Guest
Walt Disney World Resort has over 25 on-site resorts from which to choose, ranging from value to deluxe accommodations. Even though Disneyland Resort only features 3 onsite resorts, all are within walking distance of the Disneyland Resort theme parks.
One benefit of staying at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa is that it sits right next to Disney’s California Adventure. This means you can roll out of bed, exit the hotel and your exclusive theme park entrance is only steps away.
While staying at a Disney onsite resort is always recommended, there are also several Disney Good Neighbor hotels within walking distance of Disneyland Resort.
On the other hand, all of the off-site hotels near Walt Disney World will require some form of transportation.
When you visit these two distinct destinations, one big difference you will discover are the attraction queues.
The majority of the lines at Disneyland Resort are outdoors and oftentimes without shading. It's safe to say, you will benefit from lots of extra vitamin D during your California visit. That being said, sunscreen & hydration are a must!
Walt Disney World lines are mostly indoors where there's plenty of air conditioning - a great relief when the temperatures and humidity levels rise significantly during Florida's summer months.
You will discover classic Disney attractions at both resorts such as Space Mountain, “it’s a small world,” Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean; however, each attraction has its’ own unique twist.
In Disneyland Park, ”it’s a small world” features the classic international children singing and dancing right alongside popular Disney characters from their native lands. For example, you can spot Mulan in China, Pinocchio in Italy, Peter Pan in England and Lilo & Stitch in the South Pacific.
The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction is another unique example. In Walt Disney World, the ride is shorter and has only one drop where the one in Disneyland Park features two drops and is much longer.
Nice to Meet You!
Character greetings are a fantastic way to meet your favorite Disney characters. Both the Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort feature designated locations where you can line up to meet your favorite Disney characters.
At Disneyland Resort, it is very common to see characters walking around the park, signing autographs, posing for pictures and playing games with the guests!
That’s right! We have seen several Disney characters playing “duck, duck, goose” right in the middle of the park. One time, we spotted Mad Hatter organizing a game of “human croquet” along with Alice, Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum and the White Rabbit!
Every shopping enthusiast will appreciate knowing that both resorts feature a downtown shopping, restaurant & entertainment district. Disneyland Resort has Downtown Disney and Walt Disney World Resort features Disney Springs.
The convenience to Downtown Disney from the Disneyland Park cannot be beat! You can take a short monorail ride from inside the park in Tomorrowland right over to Downtown Disney!
It's a great way to grab lunch or do some shopping before returning to the park. You can even walk to Downtown Disney from either the Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure Park.
Getting to Disney Springs at Walt Disney World typically requires transportation but it can be easily accessible via a walking path from Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa.
Food Glorious Food!
Luckily, you can indulge in plenty of famous Disney snacks at both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort. Each park features guests' favorite items like churros, turkey legs, Mickey pretzels and Dole whips.
Due to its size, you will find many more restaurant options at Walt Disney World Resort than those found at the Disneyland Resort.
For the most part, each destination has its own unique restaurants, but you will always find a variety of cuisines that will satisfy everyone’s taste buds.
In conclusion, which is best?!
So which Disney Park is the best you ask? Well, that’s like asking which child you love the most! Here is my answer… both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort are special in their own magical way and each has its own set of unique personalities! I encourage you to visit both parks for the complete Disney experience.
Want to know what new experiences Disney Park fans are excited about? Here are the Top 5 things Disney Parks guests can't wait to experience in 2021.
Lissa Ryan is a Senior Travel Advisor with Kingdom Destinations specializing in luxurious family vacations. Lissa helps busy parents who want to create travel memories with their families through luxury travel experiences, but are too busy or overwhelmed with all the effort and research that is required to plan that perfect vacation.
*Please note that due to Covid-19, some experiences may be suspended.