Sarah grew up going to Disneyland every summer and has been to Walt Disney World many times in the past five years.
Many people debate about which Disney theme parks are better to visit: Disneyland or Walt Disney World. I believe that each place is very unique there are pros and cons to both. Those that grew up on the east coast of the United States live closer to Florida so they usually visit Walt Disney World. However, those that grew up closer to the west coast usually visit Disneyland because it takes less time to travel there. People that grew up going to one more than the other will always feel biased towards the theme parks that remind them of their childhood. Unfortunately, this bias makes them feel like there's a need to continuously find things they dislike when visiting other Disney theme parks. They also don't try to embrace their time visiting and enjoy it as much as possible. In this article, I will tell you the pros and cons of each and at the end, I'll tell you which I think is better.
More For Your Money's Worth
For those of you that have never been to any of the Disney theme parks in America, I think first people like to think about quantity. At Disneyland, there are only two theme parks: Disneyland and California Adventure. Both parks have a lot of things to do like meet characters, see fireworks and parades, and ride attractions. There is also a small shopping area called Downtown Disney located just outside the two theme parks. However, Disneyland is much smaller than Walt Disney World which has four theme parks and a very large shopping district called Disney Springs. Walt Disney World has Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, and Epcot.
Going to a Disney theme park is expensive regardless of whether you decide to go to Disneyland or Walt Disney World. Also, the price of ticket admission at Disneyland has gone up significantly over the years for both the one park per day ticket and the park hopper option. Prices have also increased at Walt Disney World but with the park hopper option, you can visit four theme parks in one day rather than only two per day. Therefore, you get more for your money's worth at Walt Disney World.
Quality Over Quantity
In the previous section, I discussed how Walt Disney World is much larger and has more to do. However, even though Disneyland is much smaller, there are still plenty of things to see and do. Everything is just more compact inside and there's less space to continuously add new attractions and new lands to their parks. Unfortunately, to add new attractions and new lands to Disneyland or California Adventure, something has to be closed and taken down to make room for more. Walt Disney World doesn't have this problem since there is plenty of land in Orlando to build new things all the time.
Even though there is less space, Disneyland went for the strategy of quality over quantity. There are fewer theme parks and Downtown Disney is very small compared to Disney Springs but when visiting Disneyland, you can see all the little details that are put into the theme parks there. The Imagineers that worked on creating Disneyland made their theme parks feel like you're being completely immersed in the lands. At Walt Disney World, their strategy is like the saying "go big or go home". Walt Disney World is just big and that hugeness of their theme parks can feel very overwhelming if you've never been there before.
However, Disneyland still has that magic that Walt Disney wanted his theme parks to have when he created Disneyland in 1955. The theme parks have seen a lot of changes over the years, especially in regard to California Adventure but Disneyland still has many of the attractions that Walt Disney had a personal hand in building. Some people might say that Disneyland is boring because it looks outdated compared to Magic Kingdom or other Disney theme parks but it's the original theme park that Walt Disney built so there's something amazing and magical about that.
Also, there is much more effort put into the shows and the characters at Disneyland. Everything that Disneyland does has a little special touch added to it and you can see the little fine details that are put in. For example, there is a Beauty and the Beast show and a Lion King show at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The Beauty and the Beast show and the Lion King show at Walt Disney World focus a lot on having a big stage performance so the shows focus only on the songs from the movies. At Disneyland, the Beauty and the Beast show and the Lion King show have the songs that we know and love but both shows also tell the story from the movie to give the audience more to see. At Disneyland, there's no big stage performance, rather the focus is on telling the whole story. I prefer this way much more because I'm seeing the shows because I want to see the movie being played out in real life by cast members.
The characters at Disneyland are also a lot more interactive and alive than at Walt Disney World. I've met characters at both places and I felt that at Disneyland, the face characters try to talk with you more and relate to you whereas, at Walt Disney World, there are so many guests waiting that they just want to take the picture and move on. There are exceptions of course but this has been my experience most of the time.
Always Something New Going On
I really like that at Disneyland there's always something new going on. Every few years and at most after ten years, Disneyland will debut a new parade and a new fireworks show. Therefore, it's worth going to Disneyland often because there will always be something new to see. Sometimes they refurbish old attractions so the inside looks more modern and cool. For example, they refurbished the Alice in Wonderland ride and the Snow White ride to include parts of the movie playing in addition to the statues and props inside. Also, in the past, they added the characters like Aladdin, Peter Pan, Lilo and Stitch, and others into the It's A Small World ride. Disneyland also continuously adds new shows to see, in 2019 was the year they added the Lion King show to California Adventure, and in 2020 prior to the pandemic, Disneyland replaced the Soundsational Parade with the new Magic Happens Parade.
At Walt Disney World, they rarely add new shows or refurbish any of their attractions because there's more space to just add new attractions or new lands. However, Magic Kingdom has had the Festival of Fantasy Parade for many years already and Hollywood Studios hasn't refurbished their Fantasmic show so it looks old and outdated compared to the Fantasmic show in Disneyland that got a big facelift in 2019. It's great to see the same shows that you love over and over again but it's also exciting to see new things. Having new things to see keeps people coming to the parks over and over again. If not for the 50th anniversary of Magic Kingdom, they would've kept the Happily Ever After fireworks show for many years to come as they did with the Wishes fireworks show. I think it gets boring after a while to see the same thing over and over again.
Which Is Better? My Verdict
I believe that Disneyland is much better than Walt Disney World because even though you get more for your money's worth at Walt Disney World, the quality isn't there. I prefer to get less and feel like I'm having a better experience than vice versa. I love that Disneyland puts quality into everything that they do and the effort and little details really show. I also love that there is always something new to see when visiting Disneyland which makes me want to keep going back whereas Walt Disney World rarely changes so it's boring. Therefore, if you've never been to a Disney theme park, I think you should start with the original: Disneyland.
© 2022 Sarah Wong