Planning a Disney vacation can feel a little bit daunting the first time you try it; there is so much to learn and no easy way to know where to begin. If you are new to Disney Parks, you might even wonder what the difference is between the two US-based Disney theme park locations. Today we will start from the beginning and help you choose which coast will be better for your first Disney Parks experience.
Which park is which?
If you don’t know the answer, you wouldn’t be the first person who confused Disneyland with Walt Disney World. Disneyland was the first park that Walt Disney created, opening in Anaheim, California, in 1955. Walt Disney World opened in 1971 in Orlando, Florida.
What is the difference?
Disneyland is confined to a much smaller area containing two theme parks, Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park, separated by the Downtown Disney area, filled with shops, restaurants, and entertainment. Walt Disney World consists of four main parks, Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, along with two water parks and Disney Springs, a similar area to Downtown Disney, where you will find restaurants, shops, and entertainment options.
Do they have the same rides?
Some of the rides are the same or similar between the two locations; however, most of the rides are different or altered in some way. Most people will compare Disneyland Park to Magic Kingdom; both have a castle (though different castles) and were based on a similar layout, though over time, expansions and upgrades have changed the shape of each park to be very different from one another. You can easily enjoy both for their differences and their similarities.
Which one is better?
Walt Disney World is spread out over a much larger area than Disneyland, which can change the tone of your trip. Much of Walt Disney World requires transport (much of which is provided for you on-site), whereas Disneyland is a more intimate setting, all enjoyed on foot. Depending on the experience you are looking for, either one might be better suited to you.
- Disneyland: More easily navigated, everything is within walking distance to your Disney Resort or nearby Good Neighbor accommodation. Park Hopping (moving between the Disney Parks with a particular type of ticket) is more accessible with around 100 steps from gate to gate, and stepping out of the parks to return to your room or spend time in Downtown Disney is only a short walk away.
- Walt Disney World: Larger area to explore with more park options and events. Traveling between the different parks is more time-consuming but can also add to your enjoyment of the area. Park Hopping might take a bit more planning to travel between locations though there are more attractions and themed areas to keep guests entertained once you arrive.
What are some special features of each location?
Some fans might enjoy specific areas of both locations that are themed to particular characters or movies. Outside of the general attractions, here is a summary of the special areas, or ‘lands’ at each location:
- Disneyland: Disneyland Park is home to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge for Star Wars fans, and California Adventure hosts Pixar Pier and Avenger’s Campus.
- Walt Disney World: Hollywood Studios is where you can find Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge on the east coast, along with Toy Story Land. EPCOT is home to a wonderful multicultural area called World Showcase, where you can learn more about other countries and try food and beverages from each one. Animal Kingdom hosts Pandora, World of Avatar.
Which one is cheaper?
Both coasts can be expensive though Disneyland in California might be easier to budget for as you have more options for local accommodation and don’t need quite as long to feel as though you’ve soaked up everything the place has to offer. For a more extended vacation, Walt Disney World has some great offers from time to time that make the financial burden a little easier.
Is there anything you can enjoy without paying for tickets?
Downtown Disney in California and Disney Springs in Orlando are public access areas, meaning you do not need a theme park ticket to enjoy them. Both contain fantastic restaurants, shops, and entertainment options that make them a fun day without paying for a park ticket.
I hope you have enjoyed our introduction to Disneyland and Walt Disney World and that some of the information has helped you learn a little bit more about the parks on each coast. If you have any questions, feel free to add them to the comments below or contact our Dreams Unlimited Travel Agents for a free quotation; and access to their wealth of knowledge, all at no additional cost to you.
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.