Editor's Note: Some of the images that are displayed throughout this article were taken before Disneyland closed due to COVID-19 and prior to the establishment of the current operational guidelines and health and safety measures such as face coverings and physical distancing requirements.
1.The Proximity of the Parks to One Another
For Walt Disney World veterans, it can be difficult to wrap our heads around how close Disneyland, Disney's California Adventure and the Downtown Disney District really are. While the maps of the vast WDW property inaccurately portray the parks as being closer than reality, in Anaheim they really are that snug together. The walk from entrance to entrance between the two theme parks is literally two minutes, tops. This really changes the way your touring day feels. No worries about waiting for buses or trams from the parking lot, just a pleasant stroll across the esplanade. This fact also makes the park hopper ticket even more of a value. One can conceivably pop back and forth several times within the same day with ease.
Location, location, location!
2. Staying "Off Property" Is No Big Deal
Staying “on property” in WDW is a must for a lot of us, with good reason. When we are in the World, we want to stay in the “Magic Bubble.” With all the choices, it’s reasonable for most any budget to enjoy a Disney Resort. However, in Disneyland, the choices are far fewer. There are just three on-property resorts: Disneyland Hotel, The Grand Californian and Paradise Pier which all fall into the deluxe price range. Not to worry though, there are plenty of Good Neighbor Hotels to choose from. Most of these hotels are closer to the parks than any on-property resort in WDW. On our last visit, we stayed at the Camelot Inn, which is literally steps from the entrance to Disneyland. The Camelot was in line with moderate Resort prices in the World. As far as the “bubble” goes, it’s really not a factor in Anaheim. The outside world is clearly visible from the parks, and vice versa. With that being said, if you’re able to spend part or all of your nights at any of the onsite resorts, do so! On another note, the terminology is different in Disneyland. In Orlando, you play in the parks and stay at a resort. In Anaheim, you play in the resorts and stay at a hotel.
A quick left turn out of the hotel.
Boom! You're in Disneyland!
3. The Castle Really Is Teeny Tiny
As a Disney World veteran, the first time you stand at the end of Main Street, U.S.A. and view Sleeping Beauty Castle, it’s a bit jarring. You get an odd sense of familiarity but there’s that huge (or diminutive) difference staring back at you. However, once you get over the shock, at least for me, it becomes quite charming. It fits well in relation to the rest of Main Street.
There's a castle down there, really.
Small, but oh so charming!
Here’s the best part: You can walk through the castle without spending a ton of cash to have a meal there! Unique to Disneyland is the Castle Walk Through attraction. A lot of folks miss this one. It’s really quite lovely in its unique telling of the Sleeping Beauty story.
Castle Walk Through
The Lady of the Manor
4. Counter Service Food Is Awesome!!!
Like the hotel situation, in Disneyland, there are far fewer dining options. There are more sit-down restaurants in World Showcase alone than both California parks combined. Here’s the thing, the counter service food is amazing! Perhaps it’s because Disneyland is more of a locals' park and guests tend to tour more casually rather than have a lot of formal meals. No matter the reason, we all benefit from this. From the sensational Fried Green Tomato Sandwich at the Hungry Bear Restaurant to the tasty and somewhat healthy Skewers from Bengal Barbeque, one can eat their way through a Disneyland vacation without one reservation and be completely satisfied. The Plaza Inn, which sadly was closed for refurb on our last trip, is rumored to serve the best fried chicken on the planet, no reservations required!
Humina, humina! What I wouldn't give for a Fried Green Tomato Sandwich right now!
5. Walt’s Presence Is A Game Changer
I have a confession. I really had no desire to go the Disneyland. To me, it just seemed like a smaller, less impressive first draft of the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. Plus, there is no EPCOT in California, and I just adore World Showcase. However, my attitude quickly changed when we had the opportunity to go out there. Once we visited and actually “Walked Where Walt Walked,” my feelings about this park completely changed. After you see the light in the window of Walt Disney's private apartment above the Main Street Fire Station, you will feel Walt and Lillian’s legacy in this park.
Walt's Light, Always Shining at Disneyland
Visiting Walt's labor of love can make even the most fervent Walt Disney World fan feel instantly nostalgic about Disneyland. Since our first visit, I’ve started listening to more Disneyland-focused podcasts and doing a lot of reading about the original Magic Kingdom. All these things will create a new dilemma for Disney fans. Do we go back to Walt Disney World or to Disneyland? Sigh…how about let’s do both!
You can read my Disney trip reports as well as other destinations HERE.