Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World — Everything You Need to Know About Both Theme Park Resorts

Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World — which Disney resort is better?

Let's get one thing straight right out of the gate: A vacation at either Disneyland or Walt Disney World is always a good idea. Both resorts offer days' worth of fun for people of all ages – from thrilling rides, to delectable food, to an atmosphere of joy that will bring everyone right back to childhood. However, if you're deciding between Disneyland and Walt Disney World, there are a few differences to consider..

The Disney characters, Goofy, Pluto, Mickey, Minnie and Donald Duck in front of the castle at Disneyland in California
Courtesy of Disney

If you're looking for history and nostalgia, Disneyland is the way to go. That's because it was Walt Disney's very first theme park, which opened its doors on July 17, 1955. At the time, the park only had five sections: Main Street, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland, and Tomorrowland.

Though Walt Disney conceived and started planning Walt Disney World in 1963, he sadly died five years before its opening in 1971. Still, we like to think it lived up to his idea of what the Mouse House should really look like.

Still not sure which Disney resort you want to visit? This guide compares Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World vacations so you can plan your next trip to see Mickey and the gang.

The Pixar Pier at California Adventure at Disneyland in California
Courtesy of Disney

Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World: Location

This one is fairly cut and dry. Disneyland is located in Anaheim, California, less than an hour's drive from downtown Los Angeles. John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana is the closest one to the resort, but Los Angeles International will offer you more flight options.

Walt Disney World is located in Orlando, Florida. Orlando International is the closest airport to the resort. However, it's also fairly easy to get to Walt Disney World from either Orlando Sanford International Airport or Melbourne Orlando International Airport.

Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World: Size

When it comes to size, the two parks couldn't be more different. Disneyland covers just 510 acres, whereas Walt Disney World spreads out across an astonishing 43 square miles. That means about 51 Disneylands could fit inside Walt Disney World.

Within those 510 acres, Disneyland hosts two distinct theme parks: Disney California Adventure Park and Disneyland Park. Walt Disney World hosts four theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Both Disney resorts are worth visiting, but your decision might depend on how long you have to explore the parks. While it's totally doable to see all the main attractions at Disneyland in a day or two, you need close to a week to see everything at Walt Disney World.

Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World: Cost

Disneyland and Walt Disney World both use dynamic pricing for theme park tickets. That means that ticket prices vary depending on the season, day of the week, and other factors. Theme park tickets at both resorts are expensive. You can expect to pay more than $100 for a one-day, one-park ticket, but exact prices will depend on your vacation dates, whether you splurge on Park Hopper to visit more than one park per day, and whether you use Disney Genie+ to bypass standby lines at select attractions.

That said, there are plenty of ways to save money on a Walt Disney World or Disneyland vacation.

Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World: Transportation

Transportation around Disneyland is essentially a non-issue due to its smaller size. However, the park does offer free shuttle services to and from the parking lot. There is also a Disneyland monorail that travels between Tomorrowland in Disneyland Park and Downtown Disney.

At Walt Disney World, transportation is an absolute necessity. Thankfully, the park takes care of its guests with a complimentary transportation system that can get them to wherever they need to be. That includes buses, ferry boats, Skyliner gondolas, or the monorail, which stops at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and three Disney hotels within the resort.

Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World: Best Time to Visit

Disneyland may have a bit of an edge in this category as it's located in sunny Southern California, where the temperatures remain rather steady throughout the year. That said, it can still dip to around 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and reach well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in August and September.

Walt Disney World, on the other hand, is a bit hotter and more humid during the summer months, making it a less-than-ideal time to stand for hours on end in line for a favorite ride.

So, as far as the weather is concerned, both parks are best visited during the more temperate spring months. However, there are a few more things to think about when it comes to planning your park visit.

Both parks can become unbearably crowded during school spring-break times (in March and April). They can also become excessively crowded during holiday breaks (namely, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July) and special celebrations (like Halloween).

If you can, go during either park's off-peak times, avoiding popular holidays or the summer break period. That way, you'll be able to experience more of the park in a shorter amount of time due to fewer crowds.

Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World: Rides

There are a few cross-over rides that you'll find at both resorts, including the classics like Pirates of the Caribbean and It's a Small World. However, each park puts its own spin on these rides so they're not exactly the same at each location. Both Walt Disney World and Disneyland have around 50 rides in all.

Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World: Restaurants

Disneyland has dozens of dining options, including table-service restaurants, quick-service eateries, and snack stands. Favorites include the Louisiana-inspired Blue Bayou Restaurant at Disneyland Park and Oga’s Cantina at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in Disneyland Park.

Walt Disney World has more restaurants, with hundreds of eateries spread across its theme parks, hotels, and Disney Springs complex. From the upscale Space 220 at Epcot to the casual Toy Story-themed Roundup Rodeo BBQ in Hollywood Studios, there's something for every taste.

Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World: Hotels

Disneyland has three on-site hotels: the Disneyland Hotel, Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, and Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel. Of course, there are plenty of non-Disney options within walking or driving distance of the resort, too.

Walt Disney World has more than 25 different on-property hotels. These include everything from budget hotels like Disney's Art of Animation Resort to deluxe options like the Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows.

Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World: Experiences

Epcot park at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida
Courtesy of Disney

Both resorts offer stellar performances, parades, and character sightings throughout the day. At night, the party continues with shows. Exact offerings are subject to change, so check the Disneyland and Walt Disney World entertainment schedules to see what's available during your visit. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Walt Disney Company in 2023, Disneyland debuted two new nighttime spectaculars, Wondrous Journeys and World of Color – ONE.

Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World: Castles

Walt Disney World castle at Magic Kingdom
Courtesy of Disney

For both resorts, the castle is at the center of it all. Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle is 77 feet tall, while Walt Disney World's Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom is more than double that height at 189 feet tall. But hey, it's not a competition pitting princess against princess, right?

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