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Disney World Versus Disneyland — How to Choose Your Disney Destination

by Leap on August 5, 2021 Orlando

Disney World vs. Disneyland - Pinterest Ready to plan a toadally magical Disney vacation? You might be weighing the pros and cons of Disney World versus Disneyland, trying to make the right choice for your family. How ever will you choose between the two?! Our hopping guide to Disney World versus Disneyland will help you make this decision. But please don’t stress. You don’t have any bad choices here! There are similarities and differences between the resorts, but both make great vacation destinations. It's the "Most Magical Place on Earth" versus the "Happiest Place on Earth!" We think they are equally magical and hoppy. You really can't go wrong, but here's some help making your Disney decision!

Disney World Versus Disneyland — A Basic Comparison

This here is a comparison of Disney World versus Disneyland in a normal setting (as the parks are moving closer and closer to normal operations every day). We are looking at the long-term similarities and differences with recent past operations in mind. As a result of COVID-19, both resorts have undergone several changes during their phased reopenings to reduce capacity and make the parks safer during this time. Hop over to our Disney World reopening and Disneyland reopening posts to get the most updated information on what you need to know before you go.

It may sound crazy, but some of the changes at Disney World to cancel FastPass+ and change restaurant reservation dates have actually made Disney World and Disneyland more similar than ever before in terms of planning. But there are unchangeable, permanent aspects of the parks that might make one destination a better overall choice for your family than the other. And some parks are a better fit for your family based on your interests. We want to focus on those here. (Pssst ... sorry to break it to you, but as your family grows and ages, this will be constantly changing. But that is what keeps the parks fresh and exciting as your kids grow into them or become tall enough to ride new rides.)

Size of the Resort

One of the ways that Disney World and Disneyland differ is in the size of the resorts. Disney World is a huge property in Orlando, Florida, with four theme parks, two water parks and over 30 resort hotel choices. Disney Springs, its shopping and dining district, is a destination in itself. It's more time-consuming to hop from one park to another because they are much more spread out. In Orlando, the Disney "bubble" may be pretty large, but that just means there's more to explore!

Disneyland in Anaheim, California, is tiny in comparison with three hotels, the Downtown Disney District and two theme parks all within walking distance of each other. You can easily hop back and forth between parks on the same day. But even though Disneyland is smaller, you’ll find a lot of the same rides and attractions at Disney World, plus a few unique ones you can't find anywhere else. In fact, Disneyland packs more in its space than Disney World does. Pretty impressive!

The Parks

The Disney World Resort theme parks include:

  • Magic Kingdom Park
  • EPCOT
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom
  • Blizzard Beach Water Park
  • Typhoon Lagoon Water Park (temporarily closed)

The Disneyland Resort theme parks include:

  • Disneyland Park
  • Disney California Adventure Park

Park Hours

Disney World vs Disneyland — How to Choose - Villains After Hours Party at Magic Kingdom

Are you a night owl, or someone who likes to tuck in early? Disneyland is typically open later than the Disney World parks. Of course, right now, all of the parks are closing a little earlier than usual. Many nights, Disneyland is open until midnight (Disney California Adventure usually closes a little earlier, around 10 p.m.). The Disney World parks may close a bit earlier, but it truly depends on whether it's the off-season (for instance, Animal Kingdom can close as early as 6 p.m.) or a peak time (EPCOT can typically stay open as late as 11 p.m.). The hours vary per season and park, but one of our favorite times at Disneyland is during the last two hours of the day after the crowds leave. Early risers will fare well at either resort (we also love quiet Disneyland mornings), but those early frogs definitely get the flies and a good jump on their day by arriving early to Disney World.

In a normal year, there are separately ticketed After Hours parties at both resorts, with reduced attendance and special entertainment. These events take place after the park has closed for the night. Disney World has more parties than Disneyland Resort. In a normal year, you can attend a Villains After Hours party at Magic Kingdom, Disney H2O Glow Nights at Typhoon Lagoon, or the holiday-based Mickey’s Not-So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom on select nights in fall and winter. (This year, Disney World is introducing Disney Boo Bash After Hours and Disney Very Merriest After Hours events instead of the typical holiday parties.)

Disneyland After Dark Parties are few and far between, usually each with a different theme and falling on a rare weeknight in the off-season. The only seasonal party that takes place over multiple nights is the Disneyland Halloween Party — the Oogie Boogie Bash — at Disney California Adventure.

Transportation to and Around the Resort

Disney World vs Disneyland — How to Choose - Skyliner at Disney World

Do you like having a car or prefer taking alternative forms of transportation?

Southern California is the land of the car. While there are city buses and a nearby-ish train station at Disneyland, you’ll probably bring your own car, rent a car or use a rideshare app to get there. You can take the monorail between Downtown Disney and Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, but you need a park ticket to board, and sometimes it’s faster and easier to just walk. All of the Disneyland Resort hotels are within walking distance of the parks. Many off-site hotels are also just as close to the parks. If you aren't within walking distance of Disneyland and do not want to brave SoCal traffic, you may find our post on taking public transportation to Disneyland (and Universal Studios) hopful. If you need a pharmacy, restaurant or shop off property, there are several within walking distance of Disneyland.

Disney World has so many complimentary transportation options! You can get by without a car at Disney World. If you are visiting in 2021, you can take the Magical Express straight from the airport to your hotel, and once there, you’ll get around by boat, bus, monorail or Disney Skyliner (depending on your hotel location). Note that Magical Express service ends Jan. 1, 2022 (for arrivals). Mears is the company that has been providing transportation, and Mears — along with other companies — intends to continue to provide transportation to Disney World, but it will no longer be free. But there is also a train station in the works that will eventually connect Disney Springs and the Orlando International Airport. Hop over to our post on Orlando transportation to see all of your options.

Disney World Versus Disneyland Hotels

Disneyland is simpler (which may be easier for indecisive froggies), with three on-site hotels, which are all within walking distance of the theme parks. They all have pools and waterslides and other benefits. There are tons of nearby off-site hotels, with some that are very close to the parks. At Land, it is toadally possible to walk from an off-site hotel to the parks. In a normal year, hotel guests can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours at one park one hour before park opening (but this benefit is currently unavailable).

Meanwhile, Disney World has many different hotels (we're talking 30+ options), ranging from Deluxe Villas, to Value Resort hotels and campgrounds. You could even split your hotel stay to try out different hotels! Staying on-site comes with perks, such as the ability to make Lightning Lane (FastPass+ replacement launching fall 2021) reservations as of 7 a.m., whereas other park guests need to enter the park before selecting rides with Genie+. Disney hotel guests can make advance dining reservations and enjoy complimentary transportation all around the resort (including a ride to and from the airport through 2021). Taking the place of Extra Magic Hours, the new Early Theme Park Entry benefit debuts Oct. 1, with all on-site hotel guests able to enjoy access to ANY theme park 30 minutes early EVERY day. Plus there are a few hotels on the Disney World property that are not Disney-owned, but also come with some of the perks of the Disney hotels, such as Disney Springs area hotels and Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.

Additionally, Disney hotel guests staying at Deluxe or Disney Deluxe Villa Resort hotels can also take advantage of extended evening hours in select theme parks, beginning in October 2021.

Hopping news! No matter your destination, you can book discount hotels both on property and nearby for Disney World and Disneyland through Undercover Tourist. Ribbit!

Disney World Versus Disneyland Dining

As you can guess, dining is a much bigger deal at Disney World, with many more hotels and in-park choices. For the time being, you can make Disney World dining reservations up to 60 days in advance, but normally, you want to book your Disney World dining reservations 180 days in advance (especially if you wish to dine at Be Our Guest or Cinderella's Royal Table). However, it's still toadally possible to snag last-minute reservations or find walk-up availability at some of the less popular restaurants.

Disneyland dining reservations are a little more low-key. You can generally book up to 60 days in advance. For many locations, you can book closer to your date and still find plenty of availability. However, during this period, you will want to book 60 days because demand is higher during the reduced capacity period. At holiday times, it's best to book as soon as you can. The more popular restaurants, such as Blue Bayou at Disneyland and Carthay Circle or Lamplight Lounge at Disney California Adventure, always fill up early.

Both resorts offer multiple choices for character dining (including modified character dining experiences at several restaurants).

Crowds

Disney World is generally more crowded than Disneyland, although Disneyland can get crowded, too, at times. Disneyland sees increased crowds around holidays, such as during winter break, the end of March and around Columbus Day, and school breaks, including several weeks in early October. Check out our full posts on the best times to visit Disney World and Disneyland for more details!

Tools for Skipping the Lines (With Big Changes Coming Soon)

Disney World vs Disneyland — How to Choose - FASTPASS Return Entrance DisneylandNobody likes waiting in long theme park lines, even with toadally cool queues. Lines for attractions, characters, shows or food take away time spent doing other things that are much more fun. In a normal time, both parks offered a form of FASTPASS. FASTPASS as we know it has been retired at each resort. It is being replaced by a paid service called Genie+ and the FASTPASS return entrances are now called Lightning Lanes. Once the new service launches in fall 2021, guests can once again make a reservation window to enter a shorter line for the ride rather than standing in the longer standard queue. Right now, the playing field is toadally level at both parks, since FastPass service is not available on both coasts. Looking ahead, here's what you can expect in terms of skip-the-line benefits at each resort.

Guests who purchase Genie+ at Disneyland ($20 per ticket per day) may select rides that offer Lightning Lane on their smartphone as soon as they have entered a park for the day. While availability may vary by crowd level and ride popularity, if the program is like MaxPass you’ll find a pretty good selection of Lightning Passes throughout the day. In the past you could acquire FASTPASS for certain nighttime shows such as World of Color and Fantasmic! we will see if that feature is included when those shows return. When it's time to ride,  you'll scan your park ticket or a code from the app. Disney World users have the option of scanning a MagicBand at the return entrance. PhotoPass photos are included with Genie+ at Disneyland. There are about 15 attractions on Genie+ at Disneryland.

At Disney World, Genie+ ($15 per ticket per day) works in a similar way to Disneyland's version. PhotoPass photos are not included, but augmented reality filters are. There are about 40 attractions on the Genie+ at Disney World.

At both resorts, you can book additional Lightning Lane reservations, one at a time, using the My Disney Experience app or Disneyland app. One more thing. The most popular rides will not be on Genie+. Instead popular rides such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom, the new Remy's Ratatouille Adventure ride (coming to EPCOT Oct. 1) and Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure may be reserved for the Lightning Lane for a separate fee with the Lightning Lane Select service. People can pay for a maximum of one or two Lightning Lane Select rides per day and can only purchase a particular ride once. Rides that utilize a virtual queue may also be available for a fee, although they will remain free when using the virtual queue.

There are other ways to skip the lines. Both resorts offer Single Rider lines, allowing people traveling alone or willing to split their party up a chance to fill in empty seats in exchange for what can be a much shorter wait.

Both resorts also offer Mobile Order as a way to reduce contact and skip the food lines. Hop over to our how-to posts on Disney World Mobile Ordering and Disneyland Mobile Ordering service for the full scoop on which restaurants use it, and how it works. At the time Genie+ launches, the free Disney Genie planning feature will go live on both coasts.

Virtual Queues

The newest and most in-demand rides at both Disneyland and Disney World may utilize a Virtual Queue. At both Disneyland Park and Disney's Hollywood Studios, the only way to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is by joining a virtual queue. The process is slightly different so we have separate step-by-step guides for joining a boarding group at Disneyland and Hollywood Studios.

Disney California Adventure Park's newest ride, WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure also uses a virtual queue. You can read more about how to use Disneyland virtual queues, since there are certain rules about which queues you can join and when (which depends on your park ticket that day).

Characters

Disney World vs Disneyland — How to Choose - Mad Hatter and Alice Play Games at Disneyland

How you meet characters varies between the coasts, at least during normal operations. In a normal year, character meet and greets differ. You will not encounter reservations to meet any characters at Disneyland. There are a few standard meet and greet areas with lines, and some general guidelines of where you might find a particular character. But you also get those unexpected and rarer characters who pop up from time to time at Disneyland, and even playful characters who come along and invite you to play a game with them. Peter Pan or the Mad Hatter are a few of our favorite characters who like to engage guests in games at Disneyland.

Many of the Disney World characters have more formal meet and greet areas. They may be hidden away inside their buildings rather than out on the street. But there can be surprises from time to time! For instance, Koda from "Brother Bear" has made a surprise appearance at Animal Kingdom on Earth Day.

Perhaps one of the good things about the changes COVID-19 brings to the Disney World parks is spontaneous and whimsical interactions with Disney characters through physically distanced interactions and character cavalcades. During the initial reopening phase, both parks are relatively equal in terms of unique ways to see the characters.

The History

Disneyland is the original Disney theme park. Walt Disney created it and walked its streets. Walt Disney had an apartment above the fire station next to City Hall. A lamplight stays lit in the window above the fire station in his memory. To some Disneyphiles, this makes that original park extra special.

You'll still see touches directly from Walt at Disney World, including the Carousel of Progress, which was presented at the World's Fair, as well as the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (aka EPCOT). But Walt, unfortunately, passed away before Disney World was open, leaving his brother, Roy, to finish out the construction of the resort.

Disney World Versus Disneyland Entertainment

Both Disney World and Disneyland offer much magical entertainment. Again, at least in a normal year, you can expect fireworks shows, Fantasmic! and other nighttime spectaculars. We are so hoppy that fireworks have returned to Disneyland, Magic Kingdom and EPCOT! Smaller shows and musical acts perform through the parks all day. Both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park usually have daily parades, and both offer pop-up entertainment throughout the park, including the Dapper Dans. Entertainment is slowly returning at both parks.

At Disney California Adventure Park, World of Color has dancing fountains of color, light and projection set to music as well as Frozen Live at the Hyperion. It’s like getting an abbreviated Broadway-quality show along with your theme park ticket. Disneyland also offers the daytime Mickey and the Magical Map. We cannot wait for these to return!

All of the Disney World theme parks offer nighttime spectaculars (sometimes more than one), including Fantasmic! Disney's Hollywood Studios usually offers a Frozen Sing-Along and Indiana Jones stunt show. Disney's Animal Kingdom has several shows, including the fan-favorite Festival of the Lion King and UP! A Great Bird Adventure, both of which are available now. Coming Oct. 1, 2021, guests at EPCOT will be able to experience Harmonious — the largest nighttime spectacular ever created for a Disney park. Check out other entertainment for Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, including a new fireworks show at Magic Kingdom.

The Similarities Between Disney World and Disneyland

Disney World vs Disneyland — How to Choose - Mickey Flower Mural at Disneyland

Like Chip 'n' Dale, there are a lot of similarities between Disney World and Disneyland. You have the same Disney magic and a lot of the same rides. Magic Kingdom Park and Disneyland Park are the most similar in structure and type of rides. You enter the park to see a Mickey flower mural below the train station, walk down Main Street, U.S.A. toward the castle. Disneyland is home to Sleeping Beauty Castle, and Magic Kingdom has the much taller Cinderella Castle — both castles recently got vibrant new paint jobs. The hub (in front of the castle) has paths that take you to many of the same lands with many of the same rides.

The exterior of Disney’s Hollywood Studios matches that of Disney’s California Adventure. But Hollywood Studios’ Tower of Terror still haunts Hollywood Studios (in a good way), while the original ride has transformed into Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! at Disney California Adventure. Hollywood Studios is the gateway to a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, whereas the same land can be found at the back of Disneyland Park. You’ll find a lot of similar rides, but they might appear in different parks. Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios doesn’t exist in California, but Toy Story Midway Mania! can be found in Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure.

Park Tickets

Purchasing tickets is the same at both parks. You can save a lot of money by researching the best tickets for your family. Multi-day tickets save money over single-day tickets. You can purchase discount Disneyland Resort and Disney World Resort tickets through Undercover Tourist. At either resort, you'll need to have a valid ticket and make a reservation to visit.

Rides and Attractions Found at Both Properties

Even though both resorts have a lot of the same classic rides, you may notice minor differences between them.

Rides and attractions you can find at both Disney World and Disneyland include the following (the names and experiences sometimes differ slightly):

  • Astro Orbiter
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin/Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters (slight differences)
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant (Disney World has an interactive, air-conditioned playground queue)
  • Fantasmic! (nighttime show — currently unavailable at both resorts)
  • Haunted Mansion (Disney World's version is longer, and at Disneyland, the attraction undergoes a Haunted Mansion Holiday layover mid-September to early January)
  • “it’s a small world” (Disneyland has a more extravagant façade, Disney characters sprinkled throughout and undergoes a holiday layover mid-November to early January)
  • Jungle Cruise (and each has recently been updated!)
  • King Arthur Carrousel/Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
  • Mark Twain Riverboat/Liberty Square Riverboat
  • Mad Tea Party
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (you'll find some really slight queue differences between the two)
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (Disneyland's version is longer and has two drops)
  • Soarin’ Around the World (different endings)
  • Space Mountain (they differ in style of seating and sound; you are seated two per row at Disneyland, while it's one per row at Disney World; there are two different tracks at Disney World, while there's only one at Disneyland)
  • Splash Mountain (they differ in style of seating; you are seated two per row at Disney World, while it's one per row at Disneyland)
  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
  • Tarzan's Treehouse/Swiss Family Treehouse
  • Tomorrowland Speedway/Autopia
  • Toy Story Mania!/Toy Story Midway Mania!
  • Turtle Talk with Crush
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid/The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
  • Walt Disney World Railroad/Disneyland Railroad (only Disneyland Railroad is currently operating)

The Differences Between Disney World and Disneyland

Disney World vs Disneyland — How to Choose - Toy Story Land Entrance at Hollywood Studios

Each park has unique rides and even a few lands that set it apart from the other. Here's where you can determine which resort has most of your must-do, dream attractions and shows. That might help you decide which parks to visit. If you are torn, you can always plan to hit the other resort on a future trip. We love having a future Disney vacation to look forward to!

Comparing Unique Rides and Attractions

There are signature must-do rides in each park that cannot be found elsewhere in the U.S. For example, Pandora — the World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a must-do experience. The signature ride is Avatar Flight of Passage, and the land is toadally worth revisiting at night when it’s all aglow with bioluminescence.

You can get your kicks on Route 66 in the immersive Cars Land at Disney California Adventure and race through the desert on Radiator Springs Racers. Or hop into the cartoon world in Mickey’s Toontown in Disneyland, which will soon house its own version of Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway.

Toy Story Land is only found at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but Disney California Adventure is not without everyone’s favorite toys at Pixar Pier with Toy Story Midway Mania! and Jessie's Critter Carousel (not to mention Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland Park).

Are you a "Star Wars" fan? Both Disney World and Disneyland have an almost identical Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land and Star Tours attraction. Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disneyland offer Star Wars Launch Bay, a space to meet your favorite "Star Wars" characters and take in movie memorabilia from the saga (both are currently closed). At Hollywood Studios, you can catch the nighttime fireworks show "Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular" in front of the Chinese Theater (when it returns). Young Jedis can even participate in Jedi Training - Trials of the Temple (and battle the Dark Side face-to-face) at Hollywood Studios.

Disney World vs Disneyland - How to Choose - Avengers Campus - Spider-Man on the Wall

Meanwhile, Disney California Adventure has the brand-new Avengers Campus and the re-themed Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout! The new ride, WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure allows guests to sling webs just like Spider-Man. You can catch the Avengers in action, training, going to battle or swinging from building to building. EPCOT will have a touch of the Guardians soon, too, with the all-new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind coaster.

Also at EPCOT, eat and drink your way around the World Showcase, featuring unique food, drink and cultural representatives from around the world. EPCOT is also host to four unique festivals each year, each with its own special seminars, concert series and cuisine.

Disney World vs Disneyland — How to Choose - Matterhorn Sits Behind Finding Nemo Submarine

Disneyland Park attractions not found at Disney World:

  • The Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
  • Snow White's Enchanted Wish (formerly Snow White’s Scary Adventures)
  • Pinocchio's Daring Journey
  • Casey Jr. Circus Train
  • Storybook Land Canal Boats
  • Indiana Jones Adventure (similar to DINOSAUR at Animal Kingdom)
  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
  • Sailing Ship Columbia (similar to the Liberty Square Riverboat)
  • Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes
  • Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough
  • Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin
  • Gadget's Go Coaster (similar to the Barnstormer at Magic Kingdom)
  • Mickey and the Magical Map
  • Royal Theatre
  • Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln

Disney California Adventure Park attractions not found at Disney World:

  • Frozen — Live at the Hyperion
  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters
  • Mater's Junkyard Jamboree (similar to Alien Swirling Saucers at Hollywood Studios)
  • Incredicoaster
  • Pixar Pal-A-Round
  • Jessie's Critter Carousel
  • Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind
  • Goofy's Sky School
  • Grizzly River Run (similar to Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout! (formerly the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror)
  • Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
  • Silly Symphony Swings
  • Jumpin' Jellyfish
  • Golden Zephyr
  • World of Color
  • WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure

Magic Kingdom attractions not found at Disneyland Resort:

  • The Barnstormer (similar to Gadget's Go Coaster)
  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Hall of Presidents
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Tomorowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
  • Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress

Disney’s Animal Kingdom attractions not found at Disneyland Resort:

  • Avatar Flight of Passage (you might make your decision to go to Disney World based on this one ride)
  • Conservation Station
  • DINOSAUR (similar to Indiana Jones Adventure)
  • Expedition Everest
  • Festival of the Lion King
  • Finding Nemo – The Musical
  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug
  • Kali River Rapids (similar to Grizzly River Run)
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek
  • Na'vi River Journey
  • Tree of Life Awakenings
  • Wildlife Express Train

Disney World vs Disneyland — How to Choose - Pandora Glows After Dark

Disney’s Hollywood Studios attractions not found at Disneyland Resort:

  • Aliens Swirling Saucers
  • For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along
  • Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple
  • Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway (coming in 2023 to Disneyland)
  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  • Slinky Dog Dash
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (the one at Disney California Adventure was made into Guardians of the Galaxy)

Disney World vs Disneyland — How to Choose - Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios

EPCOT attractions not found at Disneyland Resort:

  • Bruce’s Shark World
  • Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360
  • EPCOT Forever
  • Frozen Ever After
  • Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Thee Caballeros
  • Impressions de France
  • Journey into Imagination with Figment
  • Living with the Land
  • Mission: SPACE
  • Spaceship Earth
  • SeaBase
  • The Sea with Nemo & Friends
  • Test Track
  • Remy's Ratatouille Adventure (opening Oct. 1, 2021)

Looking at You and Your Interests

Let's take a look at your lifestyle and interests to further consider if Disney World or Disneyland might be a better or more economical choice.

How much time do you have to visit?

Disney World, due to its size and number of parks, takes more time to explore than Disneyland. You can take a whole week to explore Disney World, but you can see most of Disneyland Resort in about three days.

When can you travel?

Weather can play a role in helping you decide. In summer, Disneyland will be less humid and has almost no chance of rain. It's hot and dry from summer into fall. You can expect heat, humidity and thunderstorms in Disney World during the summer, which is in the middle of Florida's wet season.

In the winter, you are probably going to find Disney World a little warmer than Disneyland (although we find Disneyland to be quite comfortable when it’s in the 60s). You might encounter rain at Disneyland from November through March. Disney World is more likely to offer warm weather and less rainfall in the winter months, but if you are coming from, say, Minnesota, then either one will toadally do. (However, it can still reach a low of 40s in Florida if a cold front moves through!)

You'll want to consider park hours, entertainment and events/festivals that may take place during your visit. One park may stand out as the better choice, depending on your interests.

Where do you live?

How far you have to travel is one determining factor that can save time and money. We find that many people visit the park that is closest to them. A lot of East Coast and Midwestern folks visit Disney World, whereas Disneyland sees a lot of visitors traveling from the West Coast and Western states. You can find cheaper flights to closer destinations or drive yourself, eliminating the cost of flights and potential rental cars or rides.

What are your other interests outside of the theme parks?

Is your family all about Disney, or do you have diverse travel interests? Disneyland is about 30 minutes from the beach and an hour to an hour and a half from both San Diego and Los Angeles. If you wanted to visit the San Diego Zoo or Hollywood and the beach, Disneyland is in the middle of it all.

In Orlando, you are about an hour from the beach and have other major theme parks close by. You can always go out on a swamp boat tour to see alligators or participate in some of the recreation on property, such as golf, horseback riding or fishing. But if you are all about a week of only Disney and are not interested in other attractions in the area, then Disney World makes a great destination. If you want to explore SoCal and Hollywood, then Disneyland could be a winner.

Are you an advance planner or a spontaneous traveler?

If you plan your vacation a year or more in advance and like having an advance plan for each day of your trip, Disney World is your dream destination and we have all of the Disney World park plans, blog posts and tips to help you.

If you are a more spontaneous person who likes to go with the flow, then Disneyland may be your resort. We also have all of the blog posts and tips for how to maximize your time at Disneyland, as well. But overall, Disneyland is simpler from a planning perspective than Disney World. Dining has become more in demand following the pandemic, so definitely plan your dining reservations 60 days in advance.

No matter which coast you visit, you will need to purchase tickets in advance and make a theme park reservation. You can purchase and make a park pass reservation much further in advance at Disney World. For now, you may reserve up to 120 days in advance for Disneyland.

What are your favorite Disney movies and characters?

Disney World vs Disneyland — How to Choose - Lightning McQueen Drives Through Cars Land

Some parks feature some movies and characters more than others. Visit the park that will most excite your family. Some of the newest lands are the most immersive.

  • If your little racers think they are a match for Lightning McQueen, then definitely take a trip down Route 66 in Radiator Springs at California Adventure. This immersive Cars Land will zoom you right into the story.
  • Classic Disney character lovers will enjoy exploring the character's houses and meeting Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Chip 'n' Dale and other pals in Mickey's Toontown at Disneyland Park.
  • If Super Heroes are your jam, then you might be interested in knowing that Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure is accepting new recruits. Meet Super Heroes and eat giant or tiny food that has been affected by Pym Particles.
  • Whether you align yourself with the First Order or are ready to join the Rebellion, either coast has a portal into the distant planet Batuu, the home of Black Spire Outpost of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Disney World is getting ready to introduce Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, a toadally immersive two-night experience.
  • Speaking of journeying to other planets, Avatar fans must visit Pandora in Disney's Animal Kingdom and take a glowing Na'vi River Journey or climb on the back of a Banshee to feel what it's like to take flight on Avatar Flight of Passage. Animal Kingdom also offers a unique look at real-life Simbas and Terks, including a journey into the African savanna on Kilimanjaro Safaris.
  • "Toy Story" fans will especially enjoy Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios, as they take a ride on Slinky Dog Dash and blast off into space on Alien Swirling Saucers.
  • Take a trip around the world at EPCOT! You'll travel to Canada, Mexico, Japan, Morocco and more countries in one day, and even get to see the characters in their country of origin (such as Queen Elsa and Anna in Norway). You won't want to miss France's new Remy's Ratatouille Adventure ride once it opens in October!

One thing's for sure: No matter which Disney destination you choose, you're in for a magical trip!

So, have you made a decision? Where do you fall in the Disney World versus Disneyland debate? Feel good about your decision. You have no bad choices here. Wherever you decide to visit, you want to save some green with your favorite froggy friends at Undercover Tourist. Be sure to hop on a jumping deal on discount theme park tickets and hotel stays at or near either resort!

Related: The Disneyland Fan’s Guide to Visiting Disney World

Related: The Disney World Fan’s Guide to Disneyland

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
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Undercover Tourist is the leading supplier of online discount tickets to Orlando, Florida-area attractions, including Walt Disney World® Resort, Universal Orlando Resort™, SeaWorld® Orlando, LEGOLAND® Florida Resort and more.

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