Walt Disney World vs. Disneyland – The Definitive Pro/Con List

Growing up in Oregon, most of my early Disney memories take place in Disneyland. However, once my Dad met my Step-mom, who is originally from Central Florida, that changed. Summer vacations were spent in Daytona Beach and Orlando, while road trips with my Mom were spent driving the 14 hours from Portland to Anaheim, sometimes with out getting out of the car. This unique bi-costal Disney life lead me to my love of all things Disney, but I often get asked which park I would spend all of my days in if given the chance.

As cheesy as it sounds, picking between these two parks is almost like asking me to pick which of my sisters I like best – totally impossible to do. However, I’m about to give it a shot with this, the be all end all of a pro/con list.

Walt Disney World: Pros 

  • Size – Obviously four parks, two water parks, mini-golf courses, real golf courses, resorts in all price brackets,  and enough space that sometimes you have to take a bus, boat and monorail to get from part of the property to another, is an  advantage if you plan on staying for more than 48 hours.
  • Self-Sufficiency – There’s something to be said for being able to get off an airplane, get on the Magical Express, and never have to see the outside world of Central Florida. This is obviously carefully planned by Disney because Central Florida is full of crazy people and also because they want to start brainwashing you with magic ASAP,  but even with such obvious intentions, it does make your vacation less stressful then having to deal with a creepy super shuttle picking you up at the John Wayne International Airport.
  • Work Force – Not trying to toot my own horn as a former Walt Disney World employee here, but in my experience the people working at the Florida park are far nicer and more interested in living the magic. This could have something to do with the fact that the work force is much more multicultural (thanks, EPCOT!), and that with a larger college program and international component, the people that are there truly want to be there and make magic for the guests. Personal hypothesis aside however, whatever it is, the magic feels strong with those who work at Disney World then it does at Disneyland.

Walt Disney World: Cons 

  • Size – As great as it is to have what is essentially a small country full of Disney Magic at your fingertips, at times it can get overwhelming. Even I, who have done every possible thing you can do at Disney World at least once, still find myself stressed out about what I’ll be missing when I go for a day, or even a long weekend. All the options are nice, but sometimes – they’re just  too much.
  • Location – Like I previously stated, Central Florida is a bit of a crazy town. While it is nice to not have to leave the resort for any reason should you wish to venture out, it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself at a Wal-mart with a 900 pound women in PJs and a man with an offensive replica of the Confederate Flag on his t-shirt.
  • Crowds – Even during the slowest season at Disney World (the month of October, in case you were wondering), Disney World can feel crowded. Leaving EPCOT on the monorail after Park Closing will never not feel oppressive, where as at Disneyland, the crowds seem to dissipate more quickly, leaving you with less of a Hunger Games feeling as you try and return to your parking lot.

Disneyland: Pros

  • Location – Maybe it’s because I was born there, but give me Southern California any day and I would be the happiest girl on the planet. The park may be smaller, but in the same amount of time it would take you to cover all of Walt Disney World, you can cover both Disneyland Parks, plus have time to visit Malibu, see the Hollywood Sign, and take a trip to Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
  • Walt Disney – This is my biggest pro, and the number one reason I prefer Disneyland over Magic Kingdom (at possibly all of Walt Disney World). When you’re walking down Main Street USA in Disneyland you are literally walking in Walt’s Footsteps. This is where he stood, this is what he made, and this is what he left us with. (Obviously, he was also a major part of planning the Walt Disney World resort, but there’s something to be said about standing at his pattern’s statue in the world he created and christened).
  • Fantasmic – This is a really specific point, but I like the Fantasmic show better at Disney Land. That’s all.

Disneyland: Cons

  • Size – If you want a truly immersive Disney experience, this may not be your go to place. While it’s true that with the opening of Disney’s California Adventure, and with the addition of multiple hotels and the Downtown Disney District, the Disneyland Resort has certainly come a long way, it’s still hard to spend more than three days there and not start to feel like you’ve done all there is to do. Not that you can’t fight this feeling and do everything a million times anyways, but it is something to consider when deciding how long to stay at the Parks.
  • Monorail Access – I really love the monorail, and if you aren’t willing to spend the big money to stay  at the Disneyland Hotel, there’s no real reason you should be using this. (Unless Earl of Sandwich is involved, which it always should be).
  • Lack of Libations – California Adventure is no EPCOT. While it is awesome they have a pretty serious craft beer collection, there’s not a lot of other options. (Again, if you wanted to spend a lot of time at a Disney Park, I think it would be nice to be able to take an afternoon and really expand your cultural horizons…by drinking, because how else are you going to do it).

Even after my list, I’m still having trouble deciding where my loyalties lie. Luckily for me, no one is forcing me to choose. But if that day should ever come… I think I’d have to give my love to Disneyland. What can I say? Walt wins every time.

 

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