Do a google search comparing Walt Disney World to Disneyland and you will find quite a few articles comparing the two locations. Instead of doing a complete rundown of every difference and similarity between the parks, I am going to revisit my article called Five Reasons This Disney Skeptic Became a Disney Fanatic.
Before traveling to Anaheim, California in May of 2017, I was warned by several Walt Disney World and Disneyland “experts” that the two park locations are different. Some even told me to save my money and go to another park altogether. But when it comes to Disney, I suffer from FOMO in the worst way! Creating The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is an art form for the Disney company. There was no way I could go to California for the first time and not experience The original Disney park!
Of course, now that I have that checked off, I think I need to return so I can experience a Disneyland Christmas, but wait, I digress.
Reason #5: Űber planner’s dream!
In my original evaluation of Walt Disney World parks, I listed that Walt Disney World was an Űber planner’s dream! When planning for a Walt Disney World vacation, if you enjoy planning and scheduling things as much as I do, you are in for a great time! Obviously, since the experience of planning a WDW trip has led to an entire cottage industry of bloggers, podcasters, specialized travel agents, and so on and so forth, the planning involved in a WDW vacation is immense!
But is this true of Disneyland? Well, no vacation can be had without some level of planning. Certainly, I made a few plans for Disneyland, but overall the whole process is much more like any other theme park. You plan your dates, you buy tickets, and you go! For you non-planners out there, this probably sounds very appealing. But, I confess, I was a little sad that there wasn’t more to do to prepare for my trip to Disneyland. However, it did make for a bit more intrigue and that was enjoyable.
Reason #4: Community
My fourth reason for loving WDW is the community around the whole experience. There are entire Facebook groups dedicated to specific months of the year when people are planning to visit WDW. As I previously mentioned there are podcasts and websites, and hey, I even launched a Twitter chat called the #disfanchat on Tuesday nights 9pm EST and a new blog link up called Mouse Fan Mondays right here on VeraVise WOW travel. You should come and join us.
Is there the same community around the California parks? Well, sure! The Disney community encompasses all the parks in my opinion. Are there as many Disneyland dedicated resources? No. I don’t think so, but that probably has to do with my answer regarding planning. There just isn’t quite as much to plan for a Disneyland trip. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to learn before going, but it’s just not quite as involved as planning to visit the Orlando parks.
Reason #3 Multigenerational appeal
Here is where Disneyland and WDW parks are essentially the same. The rides are family friendly just as they are in Orlando. There weren’t any rides that I recall in the Disneyland parks that my children and I couldn’t enjoy together. There were some height requirements over in DCA that kept my youngest off of the coaster, but overall, there were far more rides that we could experience as a family than not. In fact, I believe there were more rides in California than in Florida that we could ride as a family.
Reason #2: Amazing Immersion Experience
Again, this was true in both locations. It was fun to experience new rides that aren’t in the WDW parks like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, The Storybook Land Canal boats, and Matterhorn to name a few. I especially enjoyed Alice in Wonderland. It reminded me of the first time I rode Peter Pan in the Magic Kingdom.
It was also great fun riding the rides that were the same or similar in both locations and looking for slight differences. Pirates of the Caribbean was quite different (and better in my opinion) in California. Splash Mountain is very similar as is Big Thunder mountain. We didn’t get to do any character meals or meet too many character, perhaps that would have added a great deal to my experience. If I ever go again, I’ll have to check out the Plaza Inn Breakfast with Minnie and Friends. You can check out a great article on meeting characters at Disneyland in this post.
Reason #1: The Number 1 Reason Disney completely won me over in Florida: I’m an allergy mom!
This is why Disney is given so much time on this travel blog! If we are going to highlight service that goes above and beyond to WOW the customer, we have to carve out a significant section for the Walt Disney Dining services. As a mother who is always having to call ahead, speak to managers, and try to educate staff with regard to the safety of the food they are giving my family, I so appreciate the Disney experience. No one is looking at me with a, “Well, I think it will be okay” or worse, “I don’t have time for this” expression on their face when I discuss my children’s food allergies at Disney.
As I shared in my original post, this is the #1 reason you will hear me shout the praises of the Disney World company! I can’t speak for the parks outside the US, but inside the United States all five Disney locations, all the resorts, and all their subsequent eating establishments have an excellent program in place for those with food allergies. This doesn’t mean that any one individual restaurant might stray from the protocol, but as a whole Disney outshines EVERY SINGLE DINING EXPERIENCE as an allergy mom I have ever had!
So what’s the takeaway? Overall, I enjoyed Disneyland and especially Disney California Adventure. Would they have won me over as much as Walt Disney World did? I don’t know. I did feel like we waited in line way too much on numerous occasions. We were there before Maxpass started and I enjoy that Fast Pass Plus is included in the ticket price at the Florida parks.
This alone has pushed Disneyland down a little for me, but overall it’s DISNEY! Would I go again? Probably. Would I get an annual pass and go six times in one year even though I had to drive over 10 hours like I do to the Orlando parks? Probably not.
If you are considering a trip to Disneyland, here is a great post with ideas on things to bring to Disneyland.