Are you a regular Disneyland visitor planning on visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando? Or are you wondering the difference between the two parks? On this episode of Disney Deciphered, Leslie and Joe in comparing Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Listen to the podcast above or read on for tips for handling the details of the differences between the two resorts, from distances to hotels to park touring strategies.
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Why Walt Disney World is worth visiting for Disneyland regulars
Disneyland in California was Walt Disney’s first theme park as we know it, opened in 1955. He built the park with his characteristic attention to detail and care, which makes the park feel like Walt’s park, in a great way.
Walt Disney World in Orlando opened in 1971, five years after Walt’s death, and can be considered Disney 2.0. Disney bought more land, had a bigger budget, and did things differently from Disneyland based on lessons learned and the differences between Florida and California. Florida has a ton more space meaning there’s a lot more to see in Disney World – more parks, more hotels, and even the addition of waterparks.
That’s not to say Walt Disney World tops Disneyland or vice versa. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and both merit a visit (and repeat visits!). Comparing Walt Disney World and Disneyland isn’t about deciding which park is better, it’s about how to enjoy both experiences to their full.
If you’re a Disneyland regular, there are definitely some things you should know while planning your Walt Disney World vacation in Orlando.
The biggest difference between Disney World and Disneyland – your planning timeline
The biggest difference between Disney World and Disneyland definitely lies in your planning timeline. Disneyland boasts a large number of local visitors, so if you’re a Disneyland regular you’re probably used to planning weekend trips to the park. Dining reservation windows open up only 60 days out and you can even get away with planning as you go.
Walt Disney World is a whole different ballgame. To put it bluntly, planning a Disney World vacation can be a lot more work. Take dining reservations, at Disney World they open 180 days out! Three times as far out as Disneyland. Also, because Disney World is so expansive, you have to plan more – deciding which parks to do on what days, how to get around, etc. etc. While you can plan a Disneyland vacation easily a month or so in advance, you should expect to plan your Disney World vacation much earlier than that.
The differences in size of the parks
Since Disneyland resides on a much smaller footprint, you can conceivably tour both Disneyland and California Adventure with your own two feet. Disney World, on the other hand, seems to actively discourage you from walking (they don’t even have a walkway between Magic Kingdom and the Grand Floridian). Yes, you can walk between Epcot and Hollywood Studios but that’s about it.
So if you’re coming to Walt Disney World, plan to build in travel time. Outside of the deluxe hotels, it can take up to an hour to get to the park you’re trying to visit. Contrast this to Disneyland, where even off-site hotels are within walking distance. That means your days start earlier and end later in Disney World.
One thing we recommend if you’re hopping between parks is to hit your hotel for a nap or pool time in between parks. That way your travel time feels a bit more efficient, plus your kids get a chance to cool down.
Also, remember as we discussed in the transportation episode, you can use Minnie Vans to travel between Disney World locations for a flat fee of $25. Since we released that episode they have actually allowed access to Minnie Vans to ALL Disney hotel guests, so now everyone staying on site at Disney can use the Minnie Vans!
Comparing Walt Disney World and Disneyland on site hotels
Disneyland has 3 (soon to be 4) on site hotels. All of Disneyland’s hotels are very close to the parks, so proximity is key. However, all of Disneyland’s hotels can be pricey, usually you can expect to pay at least $250/night.
Walt Disney World has way more places to stay on site, and the hotels are divided into three categories: value, moderate, and deluxe. While deluxe prices will feel more akin to Disneyland hotels, the moderate and value hotels can offer Disney hotel magic at a lower price point. It’s not uncommon to be able to find a Disney World value resort rate of $100/night. Thus, Disney World has plenty of more options, though of course the cheaper options don’t give you the quality of the more deluxe-like Disneyland hotels.
The main difference between Disneyland and Walt Disney World fastpasses comes again to planning. At Disney World, you can reserve three fastpasses at least 30 days in advance (60 days in advance if you’re staying on site). Thus, you can start planning your touring plans early.
Disneyland regulars will know, however, that you can only book fastpasses the day of. Also, Disneyland visitors can pay extra for Maxpass, which allows them to book fastpasses from your phone. Note that all Walt Disney World guests can book fastpasses from their phones for free. Both parks have kiosks for booking your fastpass selections, but the kiosks are in much less demand at Walt Disney World since people book beforehand or on the app.
Comparing Walt Disney World and Disneyland food
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the biggest difference in terms of food is the preplanning you need to do for Disney World. Dining at Disney World seems to be a bigger deal, and a lot of tough reservations get booked up as soon as the schedule opens (180 days in advance). Since Disneyland dining reservations only open up 60 days in advance, there isn’t as big of a rush.
While we have heard that the food in Disneyland is superior to Walt Disney World, in our experience they are about the same. But perhaps we just haven’t dined in the right places. In the end, theme park food is theme park food to us. Even the classy stuff is more expensive and usually not as good (though there are exceptions) to what you can get in the “real world.”
How long should you go to Walt Disney World or Disneyland?
Disneyland can very much be done in a couple of days. Again, locals use it as a weekend park, and out of town guests can too (although expect higher crowds). Even if you take it very, very slowly, a four day ticket to Disneyland is more than enough and perhaps too much.
As we discussed in our episode about the best times to visit Disney World, it’s often wise to spend a lot more time at Walt Disney World in Orlando. While we prefer shorter trips if you’re a regular, if you’re visiting from all the way out west, you might be best served spending a week or longer.
Podcast Episode Description
Leslie and Joe chat about what Disneyland regulars need to know if they are planning to visit Walt Disney World in Orlando. What are the major differences between the parks and what do you need to know to plan your best vacation? Leslie’s tips, as it turns out, are equally good for both Disneyland regulars and Disney World beginners.
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You can also e-mail us at disneydeciphered AT gmail DOT com. Connect with Leslie @TripswithTykes on social media and Joe @asthejoeflies.
Some articles about the differences between Disneyland and Disney World
Disneyland vs. Disneyworld via Milenomics
0:58 – Which is Leslie’s home park, Disney World or Disneyland? The truth is out there
1:42 – Quick thoughts on Disneyland’s Pixarfest this summer
3:11 – Comparing Walt Disney World and Disneyland
3:55 – Why Walt Disney World is worth visiting for Disneyland fans
4:51 – The most important thing you need to know about visiting Walt Disney World compared to Disneyland
7:06 – Comparing the relative sizes of Walt Disney World and Disneyland
10:14 – Comparing on site Disney hotels
11:34 – Differences in the fastpass systems
13:42 – Comparing Walt Disney World and Disneyland food
15:28 – How long should you budget to visit Walt Disney World?
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