Katherine Walsh (KW) and I, Rob Wozniak (RW), would consider ourselves Walt Disney World experts. We have been there with our significant others at least eight times in the last eighteen months. Based on that level of knowledge, we sought to discuss Disneyland and what is different or unique about Walt’s original park and the planning that goes into visiting the west coast. The following is our running discussion:
KW: I think the greatest difference between Walt Disney World and Disneyland is the overall feel. Well, isn’t that vague? My first time in Disneyland, I was shocked to see how close Disney California Adventure (DCA) was to Disneyland Park. I was also shocked that I could walk to an IHOP just as fast as I could walk to a Disney restaurant. WDW feels more like a vacation machine to me– especially with the dawn of MagicBands, and the ability to book ADRs in a six month window. Up until very recently, you were not even able to make Disneyland dining reservations online, the intent was to show up when you were in the park. I feel like I’m painting WDW in a bad light- so don’t get me wrong- one of my most favorite activities is planning a WDW vacation. What do you think?
RW: My first time at Disneyland was in 2007 and it was just for a day. I don’t remember much from that visit since I had just spent a week in Vegas and had a sinus infection. My only other time there was for five days around D23 weekend last year. I think the biggest difference is the amount of time and energy that isn’t needed to plan. Don’t get me wrong, you will spend time searching for the best flights and hotel deals, but beyond that, it is fairly easy to vacation at the Disneyland resort. WDW can be extremely stressful (I work in logistics so planning and logistics is fun for me) for someone not familiar with all that goes into it. I love that you don’t have to stress out about getting on a bus and then worrying about whether you will meet your FastPass time or dining reservation. We stayed at a hotel on Harbor Boulevard and it was about a ten minute brisk walk to the entrance. It was so refreshing to just wake up and know I only had to walk a few blocks and be in either park. With all that said, you do lose the feel of being “in the bubble” like you have at WDW. Perhaps if I were to stay on property (Disneyland Hotel, Grand Californian, or Paradise Pier), my opinion may change, but I didn’t have the bubble feel.
KW: Ah, the bubble. Speaking of said bubble, I really like not spending an exorbitant amount of money on accommodations in Disneyland. The benefits of staying on property aren’t as heavy in California. Four nights at the Park Vue Inn: $796 in a standard room (this includes free breakfast overlooking Space Mountain) For the same four nights at the Disneyland Hotel? $2260.44. (Fun fact, I think the Park Vue is actually a shorter walk, too!) Sadly, this does quell my desire to stay at the Disneyland Hotel. If I were giving someone Disneyland advice? Don’t stay on property. If I were giving someone WDW advice? Staying on property is a must. You may pay more up front with hotel prices, but you’ll get way more bang for your buck taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours and the WDW transportation. For fellow Disney nerds, do you have a park preference stacking Disneyland Park up against Florida’s Magic Kingdom?
RW: Asking me to pick Disneyland Park over the Magic Kingdom is like asking a parent who their favorite kid is. To me, there is something more magical and unique walking down Main Street USA knowing that Walt was at Disneyland. The park feels older (which it is) but it is a good thing. As I’m writing this and giving it more thought, Disneyland is better (how’s that for an answer?). I know the popular opinion amongst Disney nerds is to not compare attractions but I don’t see how you can’t and when you talk about head-to-head comparisons, Disneyland almost always comes out on top. The biggest gap between like attractions has to be Pirates. From the boarding by the Blue Bayou to the longer length, it is just so much better. A close second is Space Mountain. Sometimes after I get off Space Mountain at WDW, I feel like I need to see a chiropractor. Space Mountain at Disneyland is so smooth and fast. And throw in the classic dark rides (Mr. Toad, Pinocchio, Snow White) and Disneyland just cannot be beat.
KW: RIP Toadie. Well, instead of comparing Disneyland Park to Magic Kingdom in WDW, let’s talk about the other parks. California Adventure vs Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom? I don’t think it’s a fair game to pit one against three. Especially when one of the parks is Epcot. Food and Wine Festival in Epcot pretty much trumps any Disney experience in my book. However, I’d say that DCA does a great job of blending the good parts of Hollywood Studios (Toy Story Midway Mania and Animation Academy) while being unique in its own right. The leg up that DCA has in my opinion is the best ride in any of the Disney Parks: Radiator Springs Racers. I also think that DCA does a really great job of bottling the “California feel”- albeit a super sanitized version of California, something about the foliage and atmosphere of DCA does it for me. What are your thoughts on DCA versus the remaining three Florida parks?
RW: Food and Wine is the greatest event so not much is going to replace that. Disney California Adventure has definitely become one of my favorite parks. It has some familiar elements of Hollywood Studios but is very unique otherwise. Cars Land has to be the best themed land in any domestic park. The attention to detail and size make it so immersive. If this land is a preview of what Walt Disney Imagineering can offer for both Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land, well, we’re all in for a real treat (Name the attraction with that line). World of Color is their night show and I thoroughly enjoyed it. How do the night time shows stack up between the two resorts?
KW: I’m going to have to give the ‘ultimate nighttime spectacular award’ to Disneyland Park as well. The Paint the Night parade is a delicious appetizer to the fabulous main course that is Disneyland Forever. I cried the first time I saw it. CRIED! Disney has mastered the art of projections – but for Disneyland Forever they are all over the park. It’s unique in the fact that after you see Disneyland Forever, you want to watch it again somewhere else in the park. The viewpoint you experience by the Matterhorn is not the same as the view from Main Street. There’s no other show in Disney like that. Fantasmic is Fantasmic from any angle. Disneyland wins. Forever.
RW: Yes, those two shows at Disneyland are such a great one – two punch to end any night. So I think we gave the Disneyland resort pretty high marks all around. The only area that we haven’t discussed is Downtown Disney versus Disney Springs. This is where WDW beats Downtown Disney. It was probably closer before all the changes at Disney Springs, but all the new restaurants and shops make Disney Springs really incredible. When Disneyland opens Morimoto’s, come talk to me.
As you can see, we are both huge fans of the entire Disneyland resort. If you love going to Walt Disney World, there is no way you will not enjoy going to Disneyland. There are similar elements but plenty of unique attractions and experiences to make the trip well worth it.