Disneyland vs. Disney World: an Overview

Hello everyone out there!  I have some truly amazing friends who are just as Disney-crazed as Hubby and I are and they have lovingly agreed to do some guest posts for us.  This next post comes from one of our friends who, in addition to regularly visiting both parks, has done some incredible Disney-related things like Adventures By Disney.

So without further adieu, it is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome our guest author.  And now we invite you to relax, pull up a chair as we proudly present Disneyland vs. Disney World: an Overview!


So I know oversidewaysandunder and her hubby….I was asked to guest author a post or two.  I would like to compare the west and east coast parks aka Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World.

For background: I work in the medical field, am a Disney and board game fanatic and in my spare time I am a runner.  I have lived on both coasts, have had annual passports to both parks, and been to different seasons/events in each.

First off Walt Disney World is much larger, to the point that it has an internal transportation system that is larger than some cities.   Walt Disney World has four theme parks, two water parks, Disney Springs, multiple hotels, a golf course and water activities.

On the other hand, at Disneyland, the three hotels are a ten minute walk or less from the theme parks and Downtown Disney.  Disneyland is composed of two theme parks, Downtown Disney, and three hotels.

  1. The Hotels
    1.  Walt Disney World has four different categories of hotels that are in different locations and have different benefits.  Want to stay close to the Magic Kingdom?  Well you can take the monorail or a boat and get there.  Want to be near the amazing dining of Epcot?  It’s possible.  (oversidewaysandunder here: Disney’s Boardwalk Inn is LITERALLY walking distance to Epcot, through a side entrance. Which comes in handy if you decide to drink your way around the world at the Food and Wine Festival, like me.  Or if you have kids and want to have quick access to your hotel, like a responsible adult.) If you want to see animals from your balcony when you wake up, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is for you.  If you need a “cheaper” room, value resorts exist.  I’ve stayed in value, moderate, and deluxe levels and my new goal is to stay in all at some point. (Hi again. I know, I know, I  need to stop interjecting.  But I wanted to throw out there that Hubby and I recently stayed at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter, which is considered a moderate level hotel, and  I would 100% stay there again because of how pleasantly surprised I was at the quality of the room and resort. The live music was great, I ate waaaaay too many beignets, and enjoyed the jogging path around the “river”.  The only thing that I found disappointing was that there was no onsite gym.)  And lastly if you stay off property, there are several hundred brands out there.  All hotels have some sort of a commute to the parks whether on property or not, due to the location of the four theme parks.
    2.  Disneyland has three hotels: the Paradise Pier, Disneyland Hotel, and the Grand Californian (which also has a small amount of rooms for DVC members).  All are considered deluxe.  I have stayed in the last two and here are my thoughts: the Disneyland Hotel is well themed to, you guessed it, Disneyland.  Each tower has some sort of cool Disney artifact.  The Grand Californian is epic and somewhat of a cross between the Wilderness Lodge and the Grand Flordian.  It’s built into Disney California Adventure and has rooms that overlook the park.  Like Walt Disney World, Disneyland has several hundred off property hotels.  The difference here is almost all hotels are within walking distance to the parks.
  2.  The Parks 
    1. Walt Disney World is massive.  Four parks with different themes and two water parks.  Generally I find walking in the Walt Disney World parks to be easier; paths are large, and the parks are easy to get around.  The other three parks at Walt Disney World aside from Magic Kingdom are Epcot (my favorite), Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. IMG_5840
    2. Disneyland has two theme parks opposite of each other (Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park).  Disneyland Park is smaller than Magic Kingdom (88 vs 110 acres).  While most attractions are the same, there are a few that each other does not contain.  Additionally, Disneyland does holiday overlays of three attractions vs one at Magic Kingdom.  And technically Disneyland is the only park that Walt walked in.  Overall Disneyland has more attractions in a smaller footprint, which leads to it feeling more crowded.  I recommend trying attractions in both, after all there are small differences (Hello again.  I lied about not interjecting.  But here’s an example about this point our guest author just made! Haunted Mansion in Disneyland has an elevator in the “stretching room” that lowers you to the floor where the ride begins, whereas in Disney World, the walls in the room stretch to make you feel as though you are in a room that is lowering.  Also, Soarin’ in Disneyland takes place in California, whereas Soarin’ in Disney World takes you around the world.  Goodbye!).  The other park at Disneyland is Disney California Adventure Park.  While the Walt Disney World parks are each themed differently, the Disney California Adventure is themed to different parts of California (hence the name).


  3. The Dining 
    1. If you’re not sure what you want to eat, but you’re a foodie like I am, Walt Disney World is for you.  So many choices between the hotels, parks, and Disney Springs.  There is something for everyone.  If you only want to dine at quick serve, you can still find good selections, but I recommend eating at a few sit down restaurants.  I think Epcot’s Wolrd Showcase is foodie heaven – you can’t go wrong.  There are some good options at both Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.  Besides Be Our Guest, Magic Kingdom dining leaves a bit to be desired.
    2. Disneyland has a decent but smaller selection.  I have never dined off property there, but there are definitely fewer restaurants overall on property.  I rate dining at Disneyland as not as interesting as Epcot, but similar to Hollywood Studios or Magic Kingdom.   The one exception to this is the Blue Bayou- a restaurant in the Pirates of the Caribbean.IMG_4280-3084034695-1506803435830.jpg
  4. The Transportation: Simply put, it’s easier at Walt Disney World.  The Disney Magical Express takes you from the airport to the onsite hotels.  There is nothing similar at Disneyland.  There is a pay service from the Orange County Airport,  but it’s not as frequent and I prefer the direct flights from NYC to LAX which is further away.  I used supershuttle from LAX and it was fine.
  5. The Shopping: I find similar merchandise in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World with the exception of park specific merchandise (think Hollywood Studios vs Disney California Adventure shirt or mug).  You will find the park plus year shirts and mugs, some specialty attraction merchandise, etc…

In conclusion, if you are unsure which coast to travel to, I say do both.  They are different and special each in their own way.  We’ll look at some specific on  other posts….until then, be well…