What Are the Differences Between Walt Disney World and Disneyland?
When looking at Disneyland tickets for your next vacation, you may face a choice between Disneyland® Resort and Walt Disney World® Resort. These are both beloved destinations, enjoyed by multitudes of Disney fans each year. They both feature rides, Disney characters, and special attractions like shows and restaurants.
However, there are some big differences between the two resorts. Each resort has things that make it unique, and you could have very different experiences depending on which one you visit. When trying to decide which one will be perfect for you and your family, consider the following factors.
One of the most important differences to consider between Disneyland® Resort and Walt Disney World® Resort are their sizes. Disneyland® Resort covers an area of about 500 acres, while Walt Disney World® Resort covers 43 square miles.
This means Walt Disney World® Resort is about the size of a city, with various additional attractions included. You should consider the implications this has on planning and timing for your trip, when comparing it to the smaller Disneyland® Resort.
Disneyland® Resort was the first resort to be built, opening in 1955. Walt Disney himself opened the park. Those interested in the historical legacy of Disney might be more interested in visiting this resort.
Construction started on Walt Disney World® Resort while Walt Disney was still alive, but he died before it opened in 1971. There are still plenty of nostalgic charms to be enjoyed at this resort, but it may not have the sense of history that Disneyland® Resort does.
Number of parks
Disneyland® Resort, being much smaller, only has two parks: Disneyland® Park and Disney California Adventure® Park. These are relatively close together, and it is easy to visit both on the same day. You can purchase a Park Hopper® for this exact purpose.
Walt Disney World® Resort is comprised of four parks: the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Each of these is relatively large, and contains a number of attractions. You could choose to spend one or more days exploring each park.
Themed areas within the parks themselves can also offer unique experiences. For example, you could visit Cars Land at Disneyland® Resort, or Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World® Resort.
Disneyland® Resort is located in California close to many built-up areas. This means it is easy to access for visitors who are not staying at the Disneyland® Resort hotels. You can combine your visits to the resort with trips to other attractions in the area if you want to.
Walt Disney, however, did not intend for so many businesses to open up near to his newly created resort in California. When he was planning his resort in Florida, he bought up more than 40 square miles of land to ensure Walt Disney World® Resort truly felt like a world on its own.
As a result, the Florida-based Walt Disney World® Resort is more removed from its surroundings. It can be more of a challenge to travel to the resort itself, but once there you may feel more secluded.
Many guests may be looking forward to a special ride, perhaps one based on a favorite film. Both Walt Disney World® Resort and Disneyland® Resort are home to a number of exclusive rides you cannot find on the opposite coast.
Some popular rides, such as Radiator Springs Racers, Indiana Jones Adventure and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage can only be found at Disneyland® Resort. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Trail, Spaceship Earth, and Kilimanjaro Safaris are exclusive to Walt Disney World® Resort.
A number of rides can be found at both Disneyland® Resort and Walt Disney World® Resort, such as Pirates of the Caribbean or Space Mountain. If you have your heart set on one of these rides, you will not miss out no matter which resort you choose.
However, the rides themselves are not identical. Pirates of the Caribbean, for example, is much longer at Disneyland® Resort. Many other shared rides such as Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Railroad and It’s a Small World also have somewhat different designs and experiences at each resort.
Disney’s resorts are well known for their amazing shows. Some shows are available at both Walt Disney World® Resort and Disneyland® Resort, such as Fantasmic. However, these shows are not identical. Each one is its own unique experience.
Many other shows are restricted to one particular resort. World of Color, for example, is only found at Disney California Adventure® Park, and Walt Disney World Illuminations can be found at EPCOT.
When looking for a show based on a particular favorite movie, you may find it at one resort but not the other. Finding Nemo The Musical and Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage can only be seen at Walt Disney World® Resort, while Frozen Live at the Hyperion is located in Disneyland® Resort.
Both Walt Disney World® Resort and Disneyland® Resort offer chances to meet and greet your favorite Disney characters, a prized part of the Disney experience. Because Walt Disney World® Resort is larger, some guests may find it is easier to meet all of the characters they want to.
While you can still find plenty of characters at Disneyland® Resort, there are fewer scheduled meetings. However, some guests may prefer to find and meet characters as they go, for a more immersive Disney experience.
Walt Disney World® Resort offers over 25 different hotels in the resort. This can make it much easier to plan a trip with onsite accommodation. The hotels also have varying price points, with some more luxurious options, and others for those traveling on a budget.
Disneyland® Resort, by comparison, only has three hotels within the Resort. The hotels are considered to be more on the expensive side.
However, if you are visiting Disneyland® Resort, its smaller size and proximity to other accommodation means you still have options. You can easily walk from a nearby hotel to the Disneyland® Park or Disney California Adventure® Park.
Those visiting Walt Disney World® Resort, however, may find that staying in the resort could be a better option. As the resort is so large, this may save you traveling time every day, allowing you to start the fun as early as possible.
Getting around each of the resorts is a different experience. Because Walt Disney World® Resort is so large, a number of transportation options are available. You can use several different bus lines, as well as monorails, to travel around and between different parks.
Walt Disney World® Resort’s transportation system is similar to that of a city, and free to use for its guests. There are also some additional transport options, such as transport by water and the Magic Kingdom Railroad.
Disneyland® Resort, by comparison, only offers its original monorail as an alternative transportation to walking. However, given that the resort is much smaller than Walt Disney World® Resort, guests are unlikely to feel the need for additional transport options. For most visitors, walking is an easy way to get from one attraction to another.
For those looking at a more extensive vacation in the larger Walt Disney World® Resort, there are additional recreational activities available.
Walt Disney World® Resort offers three golf courses: the Palm course, the Magnolia course, and the Lake Buena Vista course. The Lake Buena Vista course has hosted professional events in the past, and each of the courses is an excellent opportunity for golfers to enjoy their favorite sport.
You can also visit one of the two water parks at Walt Disney World® Resort during your stay, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s Blizzard Beach. Each of these offers plenty to do, and may be especially popular for those with families.
One of the images most closely associated with Disney’s resorts is the famous view of a fairytale castle, perhaps lit by the sun or by fireworks. Both Disneyland® Resort and Walt Disney World® Resort have their own castles.
The castle at Disneyland® Resort is Sleeping Beauty’s castle. The castle at Walt Disney World® Resort is Cinderella’s castle. Cinderella’s castle is much taller, falling just short of the height that would require it to include a safety light for passing airplanes.
If you specifically want to visit the castle whose image is seen as part of the Disney logo, you will want to head to Walt Disney World® Resort, as this is the Cinderella castle.
Both Disneyland® Resort and Walt Disney World® Resort have famous foods and snacks their guests may want to try. Many guests include specific foods they have seen on social media like Instagram on to-do lists for their trip.
However, not all Disney foods are available at both resorts. For example, the Blue Bayou restaurant is located at Disneyland® Resort.
Walt Disney World® Resort has a larger number of restaurants, due to its size. Many of these can be found in the Disney Springs area of the resort.
Length of visit
The length of a visit to Disneyland® Resort can potentially be much shorter than a visit to Walt Disney World® Resort.
Generally, a few days are all that is required to see and do as much as you want in Disneyland® Resort. This can vary, but typically you will not feel as though you have missed much out after a two to five day trip, such as those available through our park-per-day tickets.
The size of Walt Disney World® Resort means that even with a week long vacation, you will not be able to see everything. If you want to take advantage of everything at Walt Disney World® Resort, particularly if you are traveling a long way to get there, you may want to plan for an extended trip.
Planning your trip
It can be much easier to plan a trip at Disneyland® Resort, due to its size and structure. You might be able to plan your vacation using the two parks as a guide.
A park-per-day ticket means you can split your vacation days between Disneyland® Park and Disney California Adventure® Park. A Park Hopper® ticket allows you to go between the two parks whenever you want. Both of these ticket types are available through aRes Travel, valid for 2-5 days.
A trip to Walt Disney World® Resort will take more planning. Because you cannot see and do everything in one trip, you will have to make decisions about what you will do before you get there.
You might consider planning each day of your trip in a different section of Walt Disney World® Resort, for example. One day might be spent in EPCOT, while another is spent in the Magic Kingdom.
Both Disneyland® Resort and Walt Disney World® Resort have reservation systems called FASTPASS®. However, the way you can use them varies slightly for each resort.
In Disneyland® Resort, the FASTPASS® is available through the MaxPass app, which permits you to purchase your FASTPASS® on your mobile device. You are also able to purchase paper FASTPASS® tickets using machines around the Disneyland® Resort.
Walt Disney World® Resort uses an entirely digital FASTPASS® system called FASTPASS+®, as well as a data chipped bracelet called a Magic Band. This can be used for those staying on site to access hotel rooms, as well as restaurant reservations and tickets. The FASTPASS+® system permits you to make reservations for rides months in advance.
Both resort locations have been chosen for their warm weather, as this allows visitors to enjoy the outdoor experiences year-round. However, the weather on each coast is not the same.
Walt Disney World® Resort can be hotter than Disneyland® Resort, as Florida has a very warm climate. For those who enjoy a vacation in the strong sun, this might be preferable. However, Florida also has a high level of humidity, which some might not be as comfortable with.
It is also worth noting that thunderstorms in Florida are fairly common in the summer months. During summer and autumn, there is a risk of hurricanes, and visitors should check weather forecasts when making their plans.
Disneyland® Resort has cooler temperatures. Those used to warmer climates might find the winter temperatures chilly, as it might be as low as 46 degrees. When spending the day out of doors, or planning a trip that goes into the evening, warmer clothing might be needed.
Disney is famous for its seasonal events. Each resort has its own take on holiday decorations and special attractions. While they both celebrate popular holidays like Christmas, the events and features vary.
Walt Disney World® Resort has special celebration features like the internationally decorated EPCOT Christmas tree. Disneyland® Resort is known for special touches like the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay on the Haunted Mansion.
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