It’s one of the most controversial debates in the Disney universe: what Disney theme park is better? Two TravelingMom writers who both happen to be huge Disney fans decided to settle the question once and for all. Leslie Harvey offers up her thoughts on why Disneyland in Anaheim, California is the better park. And don’t miss the other side of the debate from Disney World fan Karyn Locke.
Like most TravelingMoms, I love all things Disney. But let’s get real: I love some things Disney a little more than other things Disney. We all do. Some restaurants, some attractions, and some hotels are just a step above the rest. Naturally, some parks are just a little bit better too.
When it comes to Disney’s U.S. parks, the superior choice should be obvious to any true Disney fan. While a certain resort in Florida may have size on its side, just about everything else is so much better at its California cousin.
Which park is my pick? Disneyland, of course. Here are ten reasons Disneyland is WAY better than Walt Disney World, ranging from the practical to the nostalgic.
1) It’s the Original
When is a sequel ever as good as the original? Never! It’s just the same with Disneyland and Disney World. Disney World may have size as its advantage, but that is only because it is secretly overcompensating for its lack of history and originality.
2) Walt Slept Here
While Walt Disney was involved in the early planning stages of Walt Disney World, he sadly passed away before its opening. Disneyland is the only Disney park that is fully “his.” In fact, he made Disneyland his second home, keeping a small apartment above the fire station in Main Street USA. His influence on every aspect of the park still looms large, 60 years later. Disneyland will always be Walt’s park.
While you’ll spend half your vacation at Walt Disney World waiting in line for buses and monorails, you can depend on a much more reliable form of transportation at Disneyland – your own two feet. The two Disneyland theme parks are just steps from one another, meaning that you can park hop ‘til you drop at a moment’s notice. All of the three Disney-owned hotels are within walking distance to Disneyland as well.
4) Spontaneity and Flexibility
If you like last minute trips or making Disney decisions on the fly, then you can really get burned at Disney World. To get the best dining reservations in Florida, you need to plan up to 180 days in advance. For Fastpass+, 60 days out is the name of the game.
No such meticulous advance planning is required at Disneyland. Securing a dining reservation isn’t a contact sport. In addition, all Fastpasses are available same day.
5) More Fastpass
Speaking of Fastpass, savvy Disney visitors can make much greater use of them at Disneyland than at Disney World. The new Fastpass+ system at Walt Disney World with Magic Bands may be technologically impressive, but it’s definitely less hackable for the Disney faithful.
Disney pros can still grab and make use of eight or ten Fastpasses on a good day in Disneyland, provided you know how to work it to your advantage. That kind of use is darn near impossible with Fastpass+ at Disney World.
6) Unique Attractions
Disneyland has some exclusive and unique attractions that know no equal at Disney World: the Matterhorn, Indiana Jones, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and Haunted Mansion Holiday, to name just a few.
Expedition Everest? Sure, it’s a thrilling roller coaster at Walt Disney World, but we all know it’s just a Matterhorn wannabe. Plus, bonus points go to Disneyland for having the good sense to keep the classic attraction Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (Disney World replaced it with Winnie the Pooh).
Others rides at Disneyland are simply superior to their Disney World equivalents. Pirates of the Caribbean fans know that the ride is longer, more thrilling, and starts with a much more scenic beginning in Anaheim.
7) Wacky and Cheap Off-Property Hotels
But where Disneyland has a distinct hotel advantage is in the non-Disney properties that are just steps from its main entrance. Sure, these hotels may be a little dated and cheesy, but that is part of their charm. Additionally, they offer budget-conscious guests a great value. I’ve stayed at Disneyland with my family for just around $100 a night many times (sometimes cheaper), with a magnificent view of the Disneyland fireworks from my room’s balcony. No such views or proximity can be had in Orlando without paying the Mouse directly.
Let’s face it: Walt Disney World is located right in the middle of a swamp. Four months out of the year are simply unbearably hot and humid. These are, mind you, the four months that most families are able to take a trip when school it out. Throw in frequent thunderstorms and the occasional hurricane and the usually mild California weather at Disneyland looks like heaven in comparison.
9) Club 33
If there is one thing that is on every Disney fan’s bucket list, it is dining at Club 33 in Disneyland. This private club (planned and built by Walt himself) simply has no equivalent in Walt Disney World. It’s also the only place in Walt’s original “magic kingdom” where you can buy and consume alcohol. Bottoms up!
10) Cars Land
No land in any Disney park has been such a resounding and instant success as Cars Land. And you can only find it in California Adventure in Disneyland.
Which Disney park is your favorite? Disagree with my analysis? Then check out the counterpoint from my fellow Disney-loving TravelingMom, Karyn Locke: 10 Reasons Disney World is Better than Disneyland.