So I feel like everyone that goes to Disneyland after years of visiting Walt Disney World says all the same things:
“Oh. It’s so much smaller than I expected.”
“It’s Walt’s park though.”
“I am not going to compare the two. They are completely different experiences.”
“Oh wait. I am going to compare the two. Like in every single way.”
Yeah, we went in with all of this on our minds. And yeah, still never found EPCOT.
But we planned on not comparing the two and just enjoying what Disneyland had to offer. Then we got there. And compared….
I have been wanting to write this post for a while but I don’t know – I didn’t want this to come off as me liking one and not liking the other. So let’s get this out of the way. I like both Walt Disney World AND Disneyland.
Plus, it all just felt so overwhelming. There are a lot of things you can compare, you know. Honestly, I think this should probably be broken into (at least) two separate posts – one about the attractions and one about, like, everything else (dining, characters, etc.)
So yeah, attractions. Let’s get on with it, already.
What is Disneyland doing right?
OK, ugh I am just going to get this out of the way right now. Disneyland wins on a lot of attractions. When it comes to the attractions they share, more often than not Disneyland has the better version. I feel so dirty saying that.
But it’s true. Fine, don’t believe me. Let’s talk in more detail then, unbeliever. Here are some rides where I think Disneyland wins, outright
Pirates of the Caribbean – Right off the bat, Disneyland’s Pirates is over 15 minutes long, compared to the 8 minute or so ride in the Magic Kingdom. I mean, that’s winning right there. But beyond that, the effects are better (pirate shadows, hello) and I live starting in the Bayou at Disneyland.
It’s a Small World – From the outside of the ride, which is obviously more impressive at Disneyland to the inclusion of Disney characters in the scenes depicting their home locations (whatever, purists, it’s awesome), Disneyland takes the trophy here as well.
Big Thunder Mountain – Both versions of Big Thunder are pretty similar, but in 2014 the Disneyland version received a refurb and I totez dig the inclusion of the explosion scene in the Disneyland version.
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters/Space Ranger Spin – Two words – removable blasters. Yeah, the blasters in Disneyland are not locked to the car, giving you more room to move around when taking down the evil Emperor Zurg. And your family.
The Enchanted Tiki Room – The show is the same, but in Disneyland I am encouraged to eat a Dole Whip inside while I watch. Animatronic birds = cool. Animatronic birds plus ice cream = well, cool I guess too. But with ice cream.
Autopia/Tomorrowland Speedway – UGH SO MUCH BETTER. The track is longer and more interesting, the cars are cooler, and you get a license. Tomorrowland Speedway doesn’t even make it on my “hey, let’s ride this” list when we visit the Magic Kingdom.
Haunted Mansion – Basically the rides are the same. But the one in Disneyland is prettier from the outside. Look…Pretty.
And then there are a couple, like, similar rides that bear enough of a resemblance to one another to be compared…
Grizzly River Run/Kali River Rapids – OK, so they aren’t technically the same ride but close enough. And Grizzly River Run, to me, blows Kali River Rapids away. Everytime I get off Kali River Rapids, I always feel like there should have been more. Grizzly River Run is longer and better-themed. RAWR.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout/Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – I think this is fair, no? I mean Guardians was Tower of Terror. They just made it better. ToT is legit one of my favorite attractions at Walt Disney World so this is tough, but I love me some Guardians. It basically takes the awesome storytelling and thrills in ToT and adds in great music and humor…and Rocket Raccoon.
Radiator Springs Racers/Test Track – I love both of these attractions, honestly. But man, Radiator Springs Racers is so awesome. Test Track has its charm, but Radiator Springs Racers wins on story, theming, effects (amazing) and, like, Disney-ness. And while the outside track feels similar on both, I do like the whole element of racing the other car. I need to win things.
OK, so these next two…are a bit more of a stretch but go with me here.
Indiana Jones Adventure/Dinosaur – Yes, I know. COMPLETELY different rides. But…but….they use the exact same track. Yeah, so one is based on a movie no one really cares all that much about and the other is based on Indiana Jones. INDIANA. JONES. Seriously, I like Dinosaur. I do. But Indiana Jones proves how a good story can make a ride.
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage/The Seas with Nemo and Friends – Yeah, these are two different attractions. But they are each park’s NEMO attractions. So there. And Disneyland’s is awesome as it takes you underwater (a la 20,000 leagues under the sea.) The EPCOT version simply takes you by relatively empty fish tanks.
I mean, plus Disneyland has a lot of great rides not even present in Walt Disney World. Some, like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Snow White’s Scary Adventures, used to be in Walt Disney World and others, like the Matterhorn, Pinnochio’s Daring Journey, and Alice in Wonderland, are classics that are unique to California.
So yah, Disneyland obviously has a ton of awesome things to offer.
So yeah, for sure some attractions feel relatively similar in both parks. Star Tours. Soarin’ Around the World. Winnie-the-Pooh (though I do prefer riding in a Hunny Pot than inside a bee?) But, this is not to say Walt Disney World doesn’t have its own brand of awesomeness. Walt Disney World also is all, “Pfft, Disneyland, whatevz” with some of its own attractions…
Space Mountain – I feel like I enjoy the WDW version of Space Mountain better. It feels…darker…to me than the DL version, which obvs squad adds to the experience. Plus, with this attraction, I actually like the single-file seating they have. It makes it feel, erm, wooooosh-ier. Yeah, I said woooosh-ier.
Splash Mountain – And interestingly, when it comes to Splash Mountain, I actually prefer the side-by-side seating. Maybe it’s just what you are used to, but with this being more of a boat ride with some slower spots, I like sitting and sharing it with someone. I mean, not my wife…since she won’t touch this ride (there was an incident) but with the kids or complete strangers, I mean. I also think the slower spots move a little slower at Walt Disney World, which adds to the whole dark ride parts. One note though – Disneyland’s version does have a slightly steeper drop at the end, so it’s not like a complete victory for the Florida version.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant – Walt Disney World has TWO Dumbos. TWO. And the whole circus feeling surrounding the ride and extending through the queue puts this Dumbo on a higher plateau. Also, two Dumbos!
Peter Pan’s Flight – Very similar rides at both parks for sure. But Walt Disney World’s version is a bit longer and has a better queue. Like 100% better queue.
Cinderella’s Castle/Sleeping Beauty’s Castle – NO. CONTEST. Cinderella’s Castle is, like, what Sleeping Beauty’s Castle wants to be when it grows up. Seriously though, that turn around the corner onto Main Street is just so much more epic at Walt Disney World. I legit had to squint to see the castle as I turned the corner. And the fireworks? I mean, Happily Ever After (and Wishes…remember Wishes?) is a great show on its own, but the castle is a big part of what makes it the show it is. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle plays less of a role.
Monorail – Oh look, the windows open on the Disneyland Monorail. This is novel for about two seconds in the summer and then you are like, “air conditioning was invented so we wouldn’t need to open windows.”
Journey of the Little Mermaid/Ariel’s Undersea Adventure – While the ride is pretty much the same at both parks, I give the edge to WDW because of the queue and ride building. The one at Disneyland seems sort of slapped together while the queue for the WDW version is super themed. And it adds another castle. Pfft, Walt Disney World is drowning in castles. Which is NOT a complaint.
Jungle Cruise – While the Disneyland version does score points for a frakkin monkey holding a gun, the Walt Disney World version is longer and has the whole dark tunnel situation. Which are, like, my favorite kind of tunnel situations.
Tom Sawyer Island – I LOVE Tom Sawyer Island. At both parks, actually. Heading over to the island is a nice escape from the park…while you are still in the park! Wait…what? But I like the theming of the island at the Magic Kingdom, which still retains all the Tom Sawyer-y goodness. The Disneyland version has taken on the whole Pirate’s Lair thing, which eh…I dunno. Tom Sawyer wins.
But beyond specific shared attractions, Walt Disney World has, like…more. I mean this place has 4 ginormous parks, while Disneyland has only two. There is no EPCOT. No Hollywood Studios. No Animal Kingdom. I can’t experience the PeopleMover. Or Spaceship Earth. Or Flight of Passage.
While Disneyland does have better versions of some attractions, Walt Disney World still has an edge simply because after spending two days at the Disneyland parks, I had done everything I could do. I have been to Walt Disney World at least once a year (and sometimes twice…and one time three times) for the past 11 years and still haven’t done everything there is to do there.
I loved experiencing the attractions at Disneyland. And I hope to go back again soon. I loved it there. But Walt Disney World is an epic experience. I just think its sheer amount of attractions and scale make it just a tad bit better. But Disneyland is def awesometown as well.