By Shannon and Tom Renick
One question people ask us quite often is, “What is the difference between Disneyland in Southern California and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida?” Don't worry, you will get your dose of Disney magic at either park. However, here are some key differences that may affect your decision.
Resort size is the most noticeable difference. Disneyland Resort consists of three hotels, Downtown Disney and two theme parks. Several good neighbor hotels are very close to the parks. One benefit of this for us is you can walk pretty much anywhere! With having small children, it was nice to be able to walk to our destinations. We didn’t have to mess with folding up the stroller to get on a bus. It was also convenient to go back to the hotel for a midday break. We typically plan three park days when we visit Disneyland. If you have more time, you can travel down to San Diego or a local beach!
Walt Disney World Resort is much larger. The resort includes over 30 hotels, four theme parks, two water parks and Disney Springs. Because of the size, travel around the resort is usually done by bus, boat, monorail or Skyliner. With a resort this size, people can spend a full week and still not experience it all. We recommend at least planning four park days so you can experience each of the main parks once. We tend to plan at least a week to give us ample park time and time to relax and enjoy our resort.
Fastpasses: The systems have different ways of offering them at each location.
Disneyland has two systems. They have a FastPass system, which is a free system. You can obtain these passes by inserting your park tickets into FastPass kiosks around the parks. Another option they have is the MaxPass system. This option does have an additional cost. With this option, you can reserve attractions via an app on your phone once you are in the park. For us, the convenience is worth the extra cost. You can select one pass at a time for your travel party. You will be eligible for a new pass either once you use your existing pass or after a certain amount of time has passed.
Walt Disney World Resort allows you to pre-book three experiences per day in the same park via the My Disney Experience app. Once you have used your initial three passes, you may reserve additional selections one at a time based on availability.
Food: The food options at the resorts also vary.
There is much more variety at the Walt Disney World resort. However, Disneyland does have some delicious options. Our favorite Disneyland restaurant is Lamplight Lounge. Currently, dining reservations may be made 60 days from your stay at both locations. In the past, Walt Disney World Resort has allowed you to make dining reservations 180 days in advance.
Rides: You will find many of the rides at both resorts, however, there are some unique attractions at each.
Unique to Walt Disney World Resort, you will find Pandora and Toy Story Land. At Disneyland, you can visit Pixar Pier and Cars Land, which is unique to that location. One thing to keep in mind is that some of the rides with the same names are slightly different at each park. Also, during Halloween and Christmas at Disneyland, some of the attractions get different overlays. Our favorite overlays were the Nightmare Before Christmas at Haunted Mansion and the Holiday themed It’s a Small World!
**Please note, this discussion references how these experiences operated pre-COVID 19 and assume that we will return to those operations in the future. However, using a travel agent will ensure you have the most up to date information for your trip. Things to keep in mind: Fastpasses are currently not available for selection at Walt Disney World and Disneyland is not open at this time. Character meals are also currently not available for reservations (except for modified character experiences at Topolino's Terrace-Flavors of the Riviera at Riviera Resort and Garden Grill in Epcot's Future World).
Hopefully, this list highlighted some of the more notable differences for you.
We would love to talk with you more about each of the parks and help you pick the best destination for you.
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