“To all who come to this happy place – welcome.” After more than 30 trips to Walt Disney World, I finally made my first visit to Disneyland. I waited over 30 years for it, and it was well worth the wait. I knew I would go back again, but little did I know that Covid would delay things longer than I expected. I did a lot of research prior to the first Disneyland vacation, so I knew there were key differences as well as many similarities. A few of my observations about Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom vs Disneyland:
When I told people I would be going to Disneyland, every single person I talked to said the same thing: “You know the castle is a lot smaller, right?” Yes, Sleeping Beauty Castle is considerably smaller, but it is THE original castle. This castle stands at 77 feet, while Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle is 189 feet. Even with the size difference, I stood in awe at the beginning of Main Street, U.S.A. This was Walt’s castle! He walked through the drawbridge countless times. How many times did he stand at the end of Main Street and gaze upon his creation? Chills.
My husband, who tolerates Disney trips, but loves his Disney-crazed wife, actually said he prefers Disneyland to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. His main point: the size of the park. Disneyland is 85 acres compared to the 107 acres that make up Magic Kingdom. At one point, we were at Haunted Mansion in New Orleans Square and wanted to get to Matterhorn Bobsleds in Fantasyland. Looking at the map, these areas are located at opposite sides of Disneyland. At Magic Kingdom, we never would have made the trek from one end of the park to the other just for one ride, but we did it at Disneyland. It was a surprisingly quick and easy walk.
Even though there is less space at Disneyland, there are actually more attractions than at Magic Kingdom. It did feel at times very condensed, especially in Fantasyland. As soon as you walk out of an attraction, there is another. Convenient for riding a lot, but it does have a tendency to feel cramped.
Dining was a big difference for this Walt Disney World veteran. There is much more focus on quick service dining at Disneyland, while table service is the focus at Walt Disney World. If you are looking for a unique dining experience at Disneyland, I suggest booking Blue Bayou for 11:30am at 60 days prior to secure the best seat. This table service restaurant is actually inside Pirates of the Caribbean. The Walt Disney World equivalent would be San Angel Inn in the Mexico pavilion at EPCOT. You cannot go wrong dining with pirates!
There are several rides that can be found at both parks, but three that stood out to me were Space Mountain, it’s a small world, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Space Mountain at Disneyland feels newer and much less cramped than at Magic Kingdom. It is also a smoother ride and you sit next to another guest. This way, 12 people fit into a ride vehicle instead of the six at Magic Kingdom. Another very unique aspect of Space Mountain at Disneyland is the overlays that happen several times each year. I was there to ride both HyperSpace Mountain and Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, which features projections of a fire monster chasing you through space (similar to the lava monster at the end of Moana). It didn’t really enhance the ride any for me, and I believe it would likely scare younger children.
it’s a small world is quite different at Disneyland in that it features Disney characters throughout the attraction, part of the attraction travels outside, and the exterior is very elaborate. Each scene contains Disney characters that fit into the areas being represented. Be on the lookout for Ariel, Nemo and Dory, Cinderella, Jasmine and Aladdin, and Woody and Jessie.
I was SUPER excited to ride Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland. It has always been a favorite at Magic Kingdom for my family. I knew there were a lot of differences, but I intentionally avoided reading or watching anything about it. Boy, it was impressive! Almost everything from Magic Kingdom is included in the Disneyland version, but there is so much more. Early in the attraction, you enjoy a peaceful ride through a remote area. Take in the lightning bugs and the sounds of the crickets and frogs. This is where you pass by diners enjoying their meals at Blue Bayou. Next, you enter old pirate territory. Here you will see pirate skeletons enjoying the tavern, reading a treasure map, and sitting atop mounds of gold. This is elaborate, and I noticed new details each time we rode.
Overall, I give Disneyland the advantage on these three attractions.
This just scratches the surface of the differences and similarities between Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. I could never choose which is better, after all, they are both Disney parks and both are magical! Up next, I'll tell you all about the newest land: Avengers Campus! If you are interested in seeing what Disneyland is all about, click HERE to get in touch for a free, no-obligation quote.