8 BIG Differences Between Walt Disney World and Disneyland

A lot of casual guests just assume that Disneyland and Walt Disney World are the exact same thing. So wrong! While there are a lot of similarities, the two American Disney parks have some major differences. There are experiences to be had in one park that can’t be experienced at the other. Here are eight differences between Disneyland (California) and Walt Disney World (Florida).

8. Space: Disneyland is very small park compared to Walt Disney World. It’s “landlocked,” meaning the park is surrounded by other business and roads. Walt learned a lesson though, and discreetly purchased dozens of miles before building his second park. Walt Disney World spans over 40 square miles (about the size of San Francisco) so there is plenty of elbow room for the park to grow. Disneyland park sits on about 85 acres, while the bigger Magic Kingdom (at Walt Disney World) occupies about 107 acres.

7. Number of parks: Disneyland Resort includes two theme parks: Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure. Over at Walt Disney World, the resort includes four theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.

6. Castle: The castles are different in Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The original castle in Disneyland, Sleeping Beauty Castle, is much smaller than its successor, and is often described as “quaint.” Over in Walt Disney World, Cinderella Castle is much more imposing. The castles give each park a totally different feel.

5. Fastpass: While Disneyland’s Fastpass system is in transtion at Walt Disney World, the system is called FastPass+ and the fastpasses are stored on MagicBands or Park Passes. Guests can use the Walt Disney World website or the phone app, called My Disney Experience, to book three fastpasses before they even leave for their vacation.

4. Number of Hotels: Disneyland has three on-property hotels: Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Disneyland Hotel, and Paradise Pier Hotel. Meanwhile, Walt Disney World has a very wide assortment of hotels in several price points, from campsites, Value hotels, Moderate hotels, and Deluxe hotels. At Disneyland, guests have many options for off-property hotels, most within walking distance (remember that Disneyland is landlocked and is surrounded by other hotels). In Florida, there are no off-property hotels within walking distance to a park.

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3. Different Attractions: The two American Disney parks offer some different attractions, which is a good reason to visit both parks. Attractions like Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster, Spaceship Earth, and Expedition Everest are unique to Walt Disney World. But Disneyland has attractions like California Screamin’, Radiator Springs Racers, and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. The Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World is definitely not just a copy of Disneyland.

2. Attractions That Are the Same, But Different: Walt Disney World and Disneyland do have some of the same attractions, but the ride itself is different. For example, both the Magic Kingdom and the Disneyland park have “it’s a small world,” but the ride at Disneyland is significantly longer and has a much grander facade than the one in Florida. The Haunted Mansion is another iconic ride that differs at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. On the west coast, Haunted Mansion is located in New Orleans Square and reflects that in a southern mansion facade. The east coast Haunted Mansion is in Liberty Square and looks more like a house you might find in upstate New York. And who can forget about Dumbo the Flying Elephant? The attraction at Walt Disney World now has two separate spinners!

1. Events: Both parks celebrate holidays throughout the year, like Fourth of July and New Years. Both coasts have Halloween and Christmas parties. But each park has different events on the calendar too. Walt Disney World has events like Food and Wine, Flower and Garden (both at Epcot), and Night of Joy (Magic Kingdom). Over at Disneyland, guests can celebrate Lunar New Year or Dia de los Muertos, and of course, the ongoing Diamond Celebration!

No matter which coast you visit, you’re sure to have a magical experience at a Disney park!

What are your favorite aspects of the different Disney parks?

About Robin Swanson

Robin’s Disney journey began with Beauty and the Beast bedsheets, a Jasmine dress up set, and a purring Nala plush. As a child in the 1990s, the renaissance and classic animations alike captivated her imagination. In 2008, Robin visited Walt Disney World for the first time, and the obsession really took hold. Since then, Robin has enjoyed visiting the Happiest Place on Earth many more times. She lives in the Chicago suburbs where she is wrapping up a Masters in writing. When not at Disney World, Robin enjoys researching fairytales, eating ice cream, Netflix binging, reading and, of course, planning the next Walt Disney World vacation!