I LOVE Walt Disney World in Florida! It feels like home to me and brings me such joy that I visit as often as I can. But when the announcements for the 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration at Disneyland in California started rolling out, I knew it was time for me to make a trip out west to visit Mickey’s original home.
I had visited Disneyland before, but way back when there was only Disneyland park and California Adventure was not even in the works. I had vague recollections of it being much smaller than Magic Kingdom at Disney World and fondly remembered some of its unique rides like the Matterhorn, Submarine Voyage, and Indiana Jones Adventure. What I experienced when I arrived was even better than I remembered and far exceeded my expectations!
Here are some of the things I actually liked better about Disneyland versus Disney World:
Everything is within walking distance
The Disney resorts are all right next to the parks and Downtown Disney, which makes it very easy to simply walk to the parks each day (it also makes taking a mid-afternoon break easy!). In fact, everything is so close that there is no bus system to transport guests around from place to place. You will never be farther than a 10-minute walk from any place you want to go at Disneyland.
Park Hopping is very convenient
Because everything is so close, it makes it easy to hop from one park to another. In fact, the entrances for the parks are right across from each other!
Characters are everywhere and easy to meet
Meeting characters at Walt Disney World can be time consuming and require a lot of planning. At Disneyland, they truly just wander the parks and stop to visit with people. Sure, there are spots you can find certain characters, but we never waited longer than 10 minutes to meet anyone (even for Anna, Elsa, and Olaf!). The only exception to this rule is the Princesses, which meet at Royal Hall. The wait here can be up to an hour to meet three different princesses (unlike Disney World, where you only get to meet two at a time).
The unique attractions are some of my favorites
You have never truly experienced Pirates of the Caribbean or It’s a Small World until you ride the originals at Disneyland. They are so much better! (Sorry, Magic Kingdom). And the Finding Nemo Submarines and Indiana Jones Adventure will always be some of my favorite Disney attractions. But let’s talk about California Adventure for a minute here – it is AMAZING! The theming is fantastic and really covers the spectrum of California, from the streets of Hollywood Land where you will meet most of the characters to rugged Grizzly Peak, coastal Paradise Pier, and Cars Land, this park is Disney at its finest. This park is what Hollywood Studios at Disney World should be (and what I hope they are working on with all the “reimagining” that is taking place there). Cars Land truly transports you into Radiator Springs. The Cars characters actually drive around town and stop to greet guests (yes, they talk!) and Radiator Springs Racers is officially my very favorite Disney attraction (sorry, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train). If you get a chance, you HAVE to check this park out!
There is a laid back, easy vibe to the parks
I love to plan Disney vacations! But sometimes you find a lot of guests stressed out at Disney World trying to stick with their plan or get it all in (it’s impossible to do it all at Disney World). Because Disneyland is smaller, easier to navigate, and located in California, it has a more relaxed, easy-going vibe to it. You can do it all there, actually. If you have 4 days and a good game plan, you can enjoy every single thing there is to do at both parks and not be stressed in the process. I kind of love that.
Before you think I am about to change my mind about my very favorite Disney destination, there are a few things that I really prefer about Walt Disney World.
There are a lot more options
I love how diverse Disney World is! With four parks, two water parks, a HUGE Downtown Disney district, 29 resorts, and more than 100 table service restaurants (not including all the quick service spots), your choices are nearly limitless. And being a planner, I love sorting through all of these options to help my clients find just the right vacation for them.
The new fastpass system is so much better!
SO much better! I love being able to pre-select three fastpasses each day and know that they are all set before I even arrive. I felt like I wasted a good bit of time at Disneyland going to get fastpasses (and sometimes going back again if the current fastpass time didn’t work well for us) and then returning later to the ride. It creates a lot more walking around and last minute planning. It works for Disneyland, but I am so thankful they introduced the new fastpass system at Walt Disney World. I love MyMagic+!
Dining is easier for special diets
Because Disney World has so many more options, there is more information out there about good dining options for those with special diets. Don’t get me wrong, I found plenty to eat at Disneyland that worked well with my special diet, but it was more challenging. I especially found it difficult at quick service restaurants. Table service restaurants often had special allergy friendly menus and buffet items were clearly labeled with allergen containing ingredients (which I wish Disney World would do). So, if you have special dietary needs, I would highly recommend focusing on table service spots at Disneyland.
As much as I loved Disneyland (and will definitely visit again as soon as I can!), Walt Disney World will always hold a special place in my heart. But if you are able to get out to Disneyland, especially during the Diamond Celebration, DO! It is amazing! The new fireworks show, Disneyland Forever, is hands down the most amazing fireworks show I have ever seen! I don't want to ruin any surprises, but you simply MUST experience this if you can.
Want to check out one or both of these Disney destinations for yourself? I’d love to help you plan your vacation! You can contact me through the the contact page or by the email link at the top of the page.
Jo is a travel planner who loves all things Disney! She also has food sensitivities and lots of experience with special diets while traveling.