Ahhh Disneyland, the original Disney park that Walt himself saw come to life. I had never been until this year. Growing up on the East Coast, we always visited Disney World for its proximity to home. It was a quick 3 hour flight and not on the other side of the country. I had always been told Disney World was “way better” and that Disneyland was much smaller. Disney World regulars convinced me that Disneyland held the title as the more inferior park but I knew I had to see it for myself, after all it is the original Disney park!! So, here are my thoughts on Disneyland after only ever going to Walt Disney World in Florida. And no – I don’t think Disney World is WAY better.
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If you compare Disneyland and Disney World side by side according to acres, then yes, Disney World is much, much larger. Disney World feels like it is it’s own city, I mean technically it is. As much as I appreciate that Disney World offers double the amount of parks, many more hotel options, and just an overall different feel, bigger is not always better. I found Disneyland to be far more convenient in many ways (more in detail about this later) however, getting around Disneyland was SO easy compared to Disney World.
In Disneyland we could leave our hotel, walk across the street (under a quarter mile) and into the parks in under 10 minutes. While you can do this in Disney World, these hotels tend to cost double or even triple what the hotels right outside of Disneyland charged. We didn’t need a bus, monorail or skyliner to shuttle us around. This was also handy when we needed a midday break or change of clothes.
Another key factor in the smaller park size in Anaheim is how easy it was to bounce back and forth between the two parks throughout the day. In Disney World it can take 30-45 minutes or more to get from one park to another (depending on what parks you are traveling between and what type of transportation you are using) but in Disneyland it is an easy 3 minute walk across the entryway and into the next park. It is so easy and we loved being able to run across to the other park for lunch and come back without feeling like we wasted a chunk of our day.
Planning a trip to Disney World can be extremely overwhelming for someone who is not familiar with the parks. If you have not visited a Disney Park in years, I highly recommend using a travel agent that specializes in Disney planning. Between the fast passes, meal plans, dining reservations, tons of different experiences and 3 tiers of hotels, you really have a lot of planning and research to do. Disney fanatics live for this but if you are a newbie you may find it overwhelming.
I found Disneyland to be much more “relaxing” when it came to planning. I felt as though you could show up to Disneyland with little to no knowledge or prior preparation and still have a great time. With Disneyland you don’t reserve your fast passes ahead of time. At first I was nervous about this as I am so used to knowing what park I will be in and at what time I will be on a certain ride before I am even there. In Disneyland, you reserve your fast passes once you are physically in the park for the day. You can do this on Disneyland’s mobile app or by walking up to a FastPass kiosk (more on this later). I ended up loving this system and found it made a much better day in the parks!
I LOVE THE MAXPASS SYSTEM. So what is a MaxPass anyways, is it the same as a Fast Pass? The answer is… well, kinda! Think of the MaxPass as an add on to your park ticket. The MaxPass is $15 per person, per ticket, per day on top of your admission ticket. The beauty of having a MaxPass is that you can make your FastPass selections from your phone once you have entered the parks. You can still get FastPasses without adding a MaxPass to your ticket, however you will have to walk to each ride, get the printed out ticket and then go back when it’s your time to ride. With the MaxPass you will save so much time, and walking, by making these selections directly from your phone!
The other bonus of purchasing the MaxPass is the unlimited amount of photos that you can download from your day in the parks (photos must be taken on days you had a MaxPass)!! This wass HUGE for me. At Disney World you can purchase the Memory Maker for $200 which allows you to download photos from your entire trip (worth it if you are in the parks for several days) or you can pay $16.95 per photo download… Ouch! To be able to make FastPass selections from my phone AND get free photo downloads for $15 a day I was ecstatic! Of course, if you are a larger family or visiting Disneyland for a few days this may not be as appealing to you as $15 per day, per person can add up quickly.
I will note the two downsides to the MaxPass system versus Disney World’s FastPass System. 1. The fee. Disney World does not charge for you to make selections from your phone. 2. You don’t get to wear your Magic Bands! I know this may seem silly but if you wear pocketless leggings like me it can be annoying to fish through your backpack looking for your phone every time you are about to get on a ride or want to make another FastPass selection.
While there are many differences between the two parks, I like to break it down into two simple categories when choosing which one is the better option for you.
1. Which park is closer to you? If you are traveling with kids it may be an easy way to decide which park is best for you. A three hour flight sounds much more appealing than a six hour flight.
2. Is this a once in a lifetime weeklong trip, or is this your 3rd or 4th time to the parks? Maybe it’s a quick weekend away? If this is your once in a lifetime trip, I vote Disney World as the better option for you since there is so much to do in a week’s time. If you frequent WDW or this is a weekend get away then Disneyland gets my vote!
Although I grew up going to WDW in Florida and have that “home park bias” I have to admit, I can see why everyone who frequents Disneyland prefers it over Disney World. I never understood how that could be. I always thought the bigger the better, however, that is not always the case. I loved Disneyland much more than I imagined I would and can’t wait to go back!
What park do you prefer?