What's the Difference Between Disneyland and Disney World?

We made it to Disney World, and let me tell you, it is a LOT different from Disneyland. After spending years only going to Disneyland, California, I can't wait to spend the next few days at all the different attractions like Animal Kingdom (that they don't have at Disneyland).  I am so excited to share about the difference between Disneyland and Disney World. By reading beyond this point, you are agreeing to my use of commission based links, and my updated privacy information found here.

skyliner at Disney world
The Skyliner is by far the easiest way to get around Walt Disney World!

Why do we usually do Disneyland? My family is in California, so I grew up going there.  We live on the east coast now, in Maryland, so it was only a matter of time before we tried Disney World.  There are some similarities, but I was truly shocked at how different they are! Some of my favorite things about Disneyland hold true at Disney World.

My son in Hollywood Studios
The light was magical in Hollywood Studios

Read more about my MUST try Disney Favorite foods here.

Differences between Disneyland and Disney World

1.  Disney World is much bigger.

It is much bigger.  Disney World is over 27, 000 acres, while Disneyland is about 500 acres.  Don't be dismayed!  They pack a lot into that small space.  At Disney World it can take up to 30 minutes or more to park hop (and that is after finally getting on a bus).  You might be surprised (as I was that that means getting on the freeway at high speeds in a crowded bus.  I highly recommend the Skyliner as the most convenient way to get around.  

2. Disneyland tends to have fewer crowds.

I should put that into quotes, because certainly Disneyland can be very crowded.  However, Disneyland has significant blackout dates for the local annual passes to help the crowds.  Due to the size of Walt Disney World, they can accommodate many more people.  I recommend traveling during a slower time of year.

3.  Magic Bands and Disney Dining Plans are only at Disney World.

The Magic Band makes the whole park experience much easier.  It is so easy to scan your band to get into your room, get into the park (when they are linked to the park tickets), and pay for meals.  I'm also a fan of the dining plan.  As we like to have one sit down meal every day (to get off of our feet and relax), it was very worth it.  I do think that the quality of the food in the sit down restaurants suffers as a result. I was very underwhelmed by the food at Disney World.  With so many people on the dining plans, they have a captive audience.  At Disneyland they have to entice the crowds to spend more money, and as such the meals are generally better.  That said, Epcot is the exception.  Both the quality and variety of the food gives you the BEST quality for your dining plan.  Most of the small meals count as snacks!

Character Dining with the princesses at Disney World
Akershus Princess Dining at Disney World

4. Reservations for character dining, and sit down meals are easier to get in Disneyland.

This is purely anecdotal, but I am always able to open my Disneyland app, on the day we are in the park, and get a reservation at the restaurant we want to try (though you can make them up to 60 days ahead of time).  That includes character dining, and some of the most popular ones.  If you don't make your Disney World dining reservations in advance (up to 180 days and I suggest using a travel agent), you may not get to sit down at a character meal or anything but a quick service.  You may get lucky with a cancellation!

5. There are more walkable hotel options at Disneyland.

There are a LOT of options.  When we stayed at Disneyland last time we used our Marriott points to stay in a family room (there are five of us) for free.  It was just as close as walking from the Paradise Pier hotel.  Not just Marriott brand, there are quite a number of other hotels within walking distance.  We have stayed at quite a few of them, from the nice to the not so nice.  Pretty much every price point is available!

6.  Many more on property hotels at Disney World Florida.

There are currently 25 hotels that are on property for Walt Disney World.  They range from the budget options (like the Art of Animation which we stayed in on our last trip) to the Deluxe Villas.  I have to recommend any hotel on the Skyliner as it is the fastest way to get around Disney World!  At Disneyland there are only 3 on property hotels, though the proximity is absolutely fantastic.  At the Grand Californian, there is a park entrance from the hotel (with a valid park ticket), and our room overlooked California Adventure.

If you want to know how to stay at a Disney Deluxe Hotel for less than a Disney Budget Hotel, you will want to check out this post.

7.  More character dining in Disney World Orlando.

Well that makes sense when you know the size of Disney World compared to Disneyland. Here is a list of the character dining venues at Disney World.  These options are a lovely way to greet the characters without waiting in line.  Along with the dining plan, we did one character meal every day. In Walt Disney World we loved Akershus for the princesses, and the Crystal Palace.  In Disneyland, there aren't as many options, but I can't wait to do breakfast with Minnie to get those empty park/castle pictures.

8. The weather is very changeable in Florida.

That really isn't the case in California.  It is possible to have some rain, or a cooler day, but those days are few and far between.  I never prepare for weather when we go to Disneyland, California.  When we go to Disney World, I bring everything.  For example on this visit, we arrived to 80 degree temperatures.  The kids went swimming in the pool. By the time we left, it was 40 degrees, and we were wearing winter coats.

My daughters in Disneyland
My girls in December in Disneyland.  We pretty much dress like this no matter when we go.

9. FastPass+ versus FASTPASS and MaxPass

FastPass+ at the Walt Disney World resorts can be booked 30 days before your visit (60 if you are staying on property).  FASTPASS at Disneyland are only issued in the park, on the day of your visit.  They do have the option at Disneyland to purchase at ticket upgrade called MaxPass. This allows an unlimited number of FASTPASS redemption through your park day, via the app in your phone.  On this last minute trip to Disney World, we made our plans somewhat last minute.  Even though it was technically off season, there were very few fast passes available, and none to any of the longer wait time rides.

Find out more about the Disney clothing collaborations that you must see before your next vacation!

10. Magic Express is only for Walt Disney World, Florida.

Sadly, you will have to rent a car, take public transportation, or find a private shuttle to get to Disneyland.  That is totally inconvenient, and the Magic Express bus from the Orlando Airport is just amazing.  Not to mention that they totally handle your checked baggage.  It made the travel portion of our trip to Disney World more magical.  When you book your Disney World on property hotel, they automatically send you tickets to for the Magic Express, along with checked bag tags.  When you check your bags at the airport, Disney will pick them up at the airport in Florida, and deliver them to your room.  Traveling with kids, and all of the luggage is one of the worst parts, and the Magic Express is awesome.

The bottom line for me is that while I love the dining plan, the magic bands, and the Magic Express, Disneyland wins for me hands down.  From Maryland, it is a longer/more expensive ride, but it's worth it.  I love being able to stay for free (on points) within walking distance to the parks.  I really enjoy how easy it is to navigate the parks, and even park hop.  One of the best parts is not having to work so hard to enjoy my vacation.  There is no extraordinary planning that occurs with booking FastPass+, or with the dining reservations.  I do often book them in advance, but if we change our minds, I can often find exactly what we want.

Which is your favorite park, and why?

pinterest image for post
pinnable image!

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