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The Key Differences Between Disneyland And Walt Disney World

  • By Christopher da Costa
  • Published 19 July 2023
  • Revised 17 December 2023
The Key Differences Between Disneyland And Walt Disney World
  • By Christopher da Costa
  • Published 19 July 2023
  • Revised 17 December 2023
The Key Differences Between Disneyland And Walt Disney World
  • By Christopher da Costa
  • Published 19 July 2023
  • Revised 17 December 2023
How do you measure magic?

More than ever, a holiday needs that fairytale feeling, but deciding on which Disney theme park to visit is like Snow White choosing her favourite dwarf - it's all about taste. 

Just as each dwarf possesses its own endearing qualities, every Disney Park boasts its own distinct allure. And with that in mind, we will explore the key differences between Disney's top two parks – Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

So, to ensure you are Happy and Bashful and not Grumpy and Sleepy, read our guide to the best Disney theme parks for 2023.

The Difference Between Disneyland and Walt Disney World

The USA is home to two of the most renowned theme parks in the world, both brought to life by the visionary Walt Disney. Although Disneyland and Walt Disney World share the enchantment and immersive storytelling that Disney is known for, they possess notable distinctions that make each park truly unique. 

Where are Disneyland and Walt Disney World located?

The Most Happiest Place on Earth doubles its location on opposite coasts of the USA. Disneyland is located in Anaheim, a Californian city a half-hour drive from Los Angeles. On the other hand, Walt Disney World is situated approximately 2,500 miles to the east in Orlando, Florida. Despite the distance separating Disneyland and Walt Disney World, both are fortunate to enjoy year-round sunshine and warmth, making them ideal for visits at any time of the year.

Which Park Opened First - Disneyland or Walt Disney World?

On 17 July 1955, Disneyland first opened its gates, captivating visitors with its magical atmosphere. Sixteen years later, on 1 October 1971, Walt Disney World emerged, unveiling its own park. While Disneyland holds the distinction of being the original and true vision of Walt Disney, Walt Disney World in Florida represents a grander realisation of his prospect.

During their initial openings, both Disneyland and Disney World consisted of a single signature park. Disneyland Park was the primary park in Disneyland, while Disney's Magic Kingdom Park held that distinction in Walt Disney World. However, as time passed, both resorts underwent significant expansions, with Walt Disney World experiencing the most substantial growth.

Which Park is Bigger - Disneyland or Walt Disney World?

Covering 500 acres of magic and thrills, Disneyland features two parks, the original Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park, the shopping paradise of Downtown Disney, as well as three Disney hotels. On the other hand, Walt Disney World spans an impressive 27,000 acres. In fact, you could fit 54 Disneyland parks in the entire Walt Disney World Resort. 

Which Park is Better – Disneyland or Walt Disney World?

This one is subjective, and the answer will differ from person to person. If you're craving cutting-edge attractions, an extensive range of experiences, and endless entertainment, then Walt Disney World is a fitting winner. With heart-pounding rides like Expedition Everest, TRON Lightcycle/Run, and Rock' n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, Disney daredevils will undoubtedly satisfy their hunger for adrenaline.

However, for those seeking to be immersed in Disney's nostalgia, ride classic attractions, and experience the place where the magic originally began, Disneyland is often the preferred choice. 

Operating since 1955, Peter Pan's Flight, Mr Toad's Wild Ride, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant still attract queues of parkgoers every day. But don't worry, you'll still find the thrill-seeking Disney favourites like Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's original park, ensuring that the thrill-seekers are not disappointed.

Which Castle is Taller - Disneyland or Walt Disney World?

A captivating feature present in all Disney parks is the magnificent fairytale castle that takes centre stage. Among these castles, the oldest can be found in Disneyland, standing at a height of 77 feet. Known as Sleeping Beauty's Castle, this enchanting palace incorporates clever optical illusions, with the upper levels tapering in size to create the perception of distance and enhance its grandeur.

In contrast, Disney’s Imagineers had the opportunity to design a significantly larger and taller centrepiece at Walt Disney World due to the expansive area available. The awe-inspiring Cinderella Castle graces the park, soaring to an impressive height of 189 feet, surpassing Disneyland's palatial icon by more than double.

Disney Parks Across the Globe

Shanghai Disneyland 

Open since 2016, Shanghai Disneyland is the newest resort on offer. And it’s certainly one of the most unique. The Walt Disney Company partnered with the Chinese government to craft a resort that had a more Chinese ambience, which can be felt instantly from the Disneyland sign itself.

Inside the park, you will find a few notable differences too. Due to cultural reasons, it is the only park not to feature the Haunted Mansion-style ride and the famed railway. Although, having a conveniently designated metro stop for Disneyland may just make up for the latter.  

Some top attractions here are the TRON Lightcycle Power Run, Alice in Wonderland Maze, and the re-imagined Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Not to mention the fantastical Enchanted Storybook Castle, home to fine dining, character greetings, and live shows. 

Disneyland Paris 

The best Disney theme parks wouldn’t be complete without Disneyland Paris. Another staple of the theme park catalogue, this 1992 addition saw America’s animation pioneer set up shop on European soil. In true Parisian style, this Disney theme park specialises in touches of sheer elegance.

From the breathtaking Sleeping Beauty Castle to the stunning island setting of Big Thunder Mountain (the only version to be located on an island), the design of this park is something to marvel at. But thrill seekers may feel a little short changed here as Disneyland Paris does suffer from a case of style over substance with its rather limited ride selection compared to other parks.

However, Disneyland Paris in 2023 has a lot to offer with its continuing 30th anniversary celebrations, including ten enchanting themed gardens, a new state of the art illuminations display, and a host of specialty souvenirs. And there’s more. 2023 saw the grand re-opening of the refurbished It’s a Small World ride, complete with new dolls, as well as the eagerly anticipated Avengers: Power the Night; a drone show that lights up the night with all your favourite Marvel heroes. 

And of course, getting to Disneyland Paris couldn’t be easier. You can simply hop aboard the RER train and be at the Disney stop just minutes from the gates.     

Tokyo Disneyland 

Open since 1983, Tokyo Disneyland was the first to open outside of the US, and since then has garnered a reputation for not just its thrilling rides but also its immaculate service and cleanliness. And with their special Mickey-shaped soap foam, keeping clean never seemed so fun.  

While Tokyo Disneyland has all the classics - like It’s a Small World, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Haunted Mansion - it also boasts a few impressive newbies. Join Boo, Sulley, and Mike on a journey through the streets of Monstropolis in Monsters Inc Ride & Go Seek or immerse yourself in a musical teacup ride in the Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast. Then be sure to catch the spectacular Tokyo Electrical Parade Dreamlights after sunset, the perfect way to top off the day. 

And with 2023 being Tokyo Disneyland’s 40th anniversary, there are several celebratory attractions on offer this year, including a brand new daytime parade. Plus, if their 35th anniversary food menu is anything to go by, with Mickey bread, beef and rice cones, and cotton candy churros, you can be certain your tastebuds will be in for a treat too.  

Ready to holiday where the magic happens? Fulfil your Disney dreams with our Walt Disney World 2024 & 2025 deals. 

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