The Orange County Register asks: Is Disneyland better than Walt Disney World?

March 15, 2014, 11:46 AM · It's the go-to, let's-start-a-flame war question that "animates" Disney fans — which is better: Walt Disney World or Disneyland?

Dueling Disneys

The correct answer is, of course, Tokyo Disney, but the Orange County Register asked me to address that question in its newspaper this morning, to mark the reopening of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland.

Thunder's been down for 14 months, and the result is spectacular, with an "explosive" new animated finale replacing the broken old earthquake scene. So we framed the WDW vs. DL question in the context of refurbishment: Which resort ends up doing the better job when it fixes up its rides?

It's all silliness, of course, but I'd like to thank the Register for inviting me to engage in this level of theme park geekitude on its front page. As a former newspaper reporter, it's refreshing to me to see a paper trying to throw some fun into the mix on a weekend like this.

Replies (26)

March 15, 2014 at 1:02 PM · Did they mean Disneyland Resort or just Disneyland? The real comparison is between resorts.

No contest, WDW is the better resort, since it is far more all-inclusive than DLR. In fact, DLR is hardly even a real resort. It has only two on-site hotels, and they are out of most people's price range. It doesn't have water parks, golf courses or many of the other amenities at WDW.

But Disneyland is the best individual theme park (I won't comment on DisneySea, since I haven't been there).

March 15, 2014 at 2:36 PM · I am not qualified to vote. But I did just visit WDW last weekend and noticed a new soundtrack on Rockin Rollercoaster! Quite an expensive upgrade, no doubt!

Speaking of Rockin Rollercoaster, I love the ride itself. But it's getting a little dated as far as the Aerosmith super stretch limo video. I mean, does the Great Western Forum even exist anymore?

My idea would be to keep most of the ride the same, but re-record the waiting room videos with 5+ bands. The scene you see would be randomized, similar to Star Tours, where you are never sure what experience you'll have.

As a special bonus, Aerosmith could re-record their scene - word for word! It'd be a little surreal, but I think very cool. Bring in newer bands/groups, such as Foo Fighters, One Direction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Backstreet Boys, Blink 182, etc.

Sorry, I don't really keep up with music, but give it some variety. Vary the music on the ride as well.

Alas, I didn't answer the question because I'm not qualified. But a good discussion could be had about what rides need an upgrade. I think Rockin Rollercoaster should be a prime target, as it should be a simple video/audio upgrade. I love the ride just as it is, otherwise.

March 15, 2014 at 2:50 PM · As a resort than Disney World takes it just by the fact that it is so much bigger than the Disneyland Resort. Althought the fact that both Disneyland parks, Downtown Disney, and the hotels are all walking distance is really cool and a major win for Anaheim.

But, when it comes to the theme parks themselves and their individual attraction line-up both Disneyland parks look superior than their Disney World counterparts. Disneyland has by far the best attraction line-up for a Disney park in the U.S., and DCA with its recent additions can certainly make a case for #2.

They're both amazingly awesome in their own ways!

March 15, 2014 at 2:56 PM · Having visited both I don't see how you can compare. Disneyland is a theme park, but when you leave the park you are in the clutter of Anaheim. While the magic is within the park, when you exit reality is immediate. Disneyworld is an all encompassing magical resort. When you leave the parks you are still surrounded by magic and beautiful resorts. To me Disneyland was like going to a State Fair and visiting Disneyworld is like attending a Worlds Fair.
March 15, 2014 at 2:59 PM · Having always gone to WDW due to location, I eventually made it to DL a few years ago. I was amazed at how much I liked DL. The one thing I took away from it is that they are not better or worse. They are different. WDW is huge, spread out, and has tons and tons to offer. Face it: you go to Orlando to go to Disney. You might got to Universal for a few days, but you are there for WDW. As to DL: it is intimate. The park is very compact, and the little nooks and crannies have charm. Upon exiting pirates, you are actually steps from the Haunted Mansion. You also likely do not go to Southern California just for DL. The weather is also much nicer. If you put a gun to my head and forced me to pick, I might have to say WDW, but I think for true Disney fans, the best park is the one you can fly to cheapest.
March 15, 2014 at 7:19 PM · do you have to ask Disneyland is the BEST!!!!!!
March 15, 2014 at 9:58 PM · Wow! I'm surprised the comments have been so civil thus far. Usually this brings out the worst in Disneyphiles. (Then again there's only been 5 comments.)

I've been to both and love both. It's hard for me to say who updates rides better as I have only spent one day at DL and CA. The recent Test Track update was kinda cool, but overall was just a layer of paint rather than a remodel to me.

March 15, 2014 at 10:58 PM · Disneyland wins for me. But I go to Disney World more since it's closer. I love the feel at WDW.. being in an entire magical world. But having everything compacted into an intimate and walkable "Land" has it's own advantages. Currently I feel like Disneyland feels more magical...
March 16, 2014 at 1:39 AM · I've been to both and planning now my 3rd trip to WDW. Even though WDW is great and it's an experience, something about DLR that has a charm about it..maybe it's history, Walts apartment? Knowing he was there? Idk. But one thing I do notice, DLR attention to detail surpasses WDW, and (sorry but) the cast members are so much nicer:/..please don't attack me!:(. Just an observation :)
March 16, 2014 at 2:29 AM · I noticed that you like to throw in Tokyo Disney Resort whenever it comes to the Anaheim vs. Orlando question. Tokyo Disney Sea is definitely the best (Disney) theme park around. However when it comes to Tokyo Disneyland, I think that you are glorifying the park a little too much.

Yes, it does have an amazing Winnie the Pooh dark ride, good restaurants and great employees. However, in my opinion the overall appearance of the park is seriously lacking. The covering of the main street is not that elegantly solved, walkways are too broad to create real immersion. On top of that tomorrowland and fantasyland look rather outdated since nothing substantial has been done to their facades in a long time (think of the great improvements that have been done to the fantasylands in Anaheim and Orlando). And I am not really a fan of placing the Haunted Mansion in fantasyland either. It might fit with the traditions of Japanese narratives but it is at least visually odd.

I do think that Tokyo Disneyland is an awesome park and the resort as a whole is amazing. But we really should not under-appreciate our parks/ resorts in the States.

March 16, 2014 at 4:48 AM · I think comparing Disneyland and WDW is like comparing apples to pomegranates. I think my sons will enjoy Disneyland more when they are older and our trips out that way will include more things to do in LA itself, with Disneyland being a fun day or two in the LA area. Disneyland has its own energy and feels more like Walt Disney and history. But it is a park to go to in a bigger area full of things to do. If we'd go out to Disneyland and came back, people would ask us what else we did in LA.

When we go to WDW, it's going to WDW and not going to Orlando to visit. Hardly anyone would ask us if we did anything else besides Disney when we go to Florida. Maybe one or two people would ask if we saw Harry Potter while we were there, but that's it. So a trip to WDW is spending a week at WDW (with maybe a day at Harry Potter) and not really caring much about the rest of the stuff in Orlando.

I think that Disneyland is hipper and cooler. WDW is all about strollers and little kids with chocolate or ice cream smeared on their faces. Disneyland reminds me of young couples going on dates or people who loved Walt Disney going there to admire his handiwork. WDW seems more cheaply made and thrown together, while Disneyland seems like it was built with love and care. I think that Disneyland tries to be original and do more unique things...while WDW is plastic, mass-produced items, and all about families with young kids and trying to get them to spend as much as possible on souvenirs. Disneyland still feels like you can go there and leave with money still in your wallet, which is what Walt wanted.

I love WDW and its our home park, but it does feel crass when compared to Disneyland. I think that Orlando is just more crass than LA, so that's part of it for me.

March 16, 2014 at 5:54 AM · I was raised in Florida, and we have been visiting WDW multiple times a year since we moved here. I've never been to Disneyland, but I think they would win this one.

I think WDW just has too much! Too much on their plate to take care of it all. At Disneyland, they have more time to devote to each ride and the little details. Lower # of rides = Each attraction has a much greater impact, so its more important for them.

At WDW, if 1 of the parks had to close for an emergency, you'd still have 75% of DisneyWorld to explore. But if 1 of the DisneyLand parks close, you lost half your vacation.

March 16, 2014 at 6:35 AM · As someone who just recently visited Disneyland after years of touring WDW, I think it is a pilgrimage every theme park fan should make.

However, Central Florida in general is a far superior destination for a vacation than Anaheim. It is less expensive, less crowded, cleaner, and offers many more and better themed experiences than SoCal.

As for the parks themselves, I loved both Disneyland and DCA, but WDW offers the more complete vacation package. Sure DLR has the best Pirates attraction, Indiana Jones, and Cars Land, but it just does not have the space and the grandeur of WDW. Remember, Walt's idea to build the Florida Project was in large part driven by his desire to correct many of the mistakes he made with Disneyland. And I think he and his successors have accomplished much in the way of correcting those mistakes. WDW just FEELS more like a resort than DLR.

And, as I have said before, I simply did not see a big difference in upkeep between the two destinations. I know folks brag about Disneyland being so well maintained, and it is, but to me WDW is just as well kept. Both have their issues (Splash Mountain is a sore spot on both coasts), but with the exception of the Yeti and a couple RSR tractors, Disney does a fantastic job of maintaining all their US parks.

March 16, 2014 at 9:01 AM · Disneyland has the exact same set up as Universal Orlando; two huge parking garages then some restaurants before two small parks side by side with three hotels that face the highway.

Walt Disney World has urban sprawl, 45 minute bus rides and the good rides are about two at each park but it is sheltered from the outside world which makes it more unique then little old Disneyland. WDW is it's own city and Disneyland is in a city full of diners and tacky motels which is why Walt built WDW.

Disneyland is the iPod Classic with the click wheel it's great at one thing playing music and Walt Disney World is the iPhone it does everything but not great and is much more complex.

March 16, 2014 at 9:42 AM · Going arround by car or bus to bridge huge distances between hotels, different parks or other facilities is not what i have in mind when it comes to dreamworld immersion. Disney started from scratch on flat land, and still they couldnt manage to build the facilities close to each other and link them with dreamworldish public transport.

March 16, 2014 at 12:47 PM · When you compare the update of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad you are right. The one at DL is spectacular. Disney often plays the international guests card to not go all the way but as an international visitor I don't want to sit 10 hours in a plane to visit sub par versions of rides for what is promoted as a world class destination.
It's more and more evident that the best Disney destinations in the world are not to be found in the US and that is a bloody shame.
March 16, 2014 at 3:01 PM · When you are comparing the resorts has a whole, WDW hands down. There is just soooo much more to do and see.

Comparing theme parks on the other hand is tough. I think it's a wash either way. But if I REALLY had to choose I would say Disneyland over the Magic Kingdom.... BARELY.

March 17, 2014 at 12:33 AM · I have to say that I have never been to Florida. I think it is more of an Apples to Oranges (no pun intended), they are different parks. Disneyland is unique since it is the original. Disney World is the hope of Walt, given unlimited space, to a point. I think the true Walt vision would be a melding of Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
March 17, 2014 at 8:26 AM · WDW is far superior to DL. Most people I talk to that say DL is better never can say exactly what it is that is better about DL. I think it is all nostalgia, they are two wonderful parks but seem to restricted and rushed. I feel like a big part of the theme park experience is the queue to the ride as well as the ride. DL queues were not at all on par with WDW or even Universal. Regardless they are both wonderful resorts but as long as DL came first it will always be the best to alot of people.
March 17, 2014 at 8:57 AM · If you just look at the theme parks, Disneyland is much better. Disneyland is amazingly compact. You can see and do everything in one or two days, whereas the Magic Kingdom has attractions spread out to different secondary theme parks. Disneyland has superior versions of Small World, Haunted Mansion, Pirates, and the original Fantasyland dark rides. WDW hits back with better versions of Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain (not including Disneyland's BTM's new ending).

Comparing the resorts as a whole, California Adventure has made a great comeback especially with Carsland, and the Grand California is a terrific new hotel. But WDW has the space to make you forget about the world.

Still, the sore spot is WDW has more restaurants and resorts than attractions to see. In contrast, Disneyland Resort has more attractions per square foot and not so much with restaurants. Overall, I think WDW's weaknesses will be better resolved when Avatar and Star Wars Land become the reality, but Disneyland Resort needs the third park and a few more hotel resorts. It is easier to fix WDW than add to Disneyland Resort.

March 17, 2014 at 2:29 PM · I think it comes down to how many days you're visiting the resort. 1-2 days is definitely Disneyland. Both theme Parks offer more attractions than the 4 wdw Parks, plus park hopping is very easy if you want to do that. 3 days or more favors WDW as their is simply more Parks to visit and other things to do outside of the Parks. Personally I never spend more than 2 days at a theme resort as I prefer to visit other attractions, not just one. For example my ideal vacation in Florida would be 2 days and 2 Parks at disneyworld. 1 or 2 Parks at universal. A visit to Busch gardens or seaworld and a few days at Clearwater. I agree with Robert, Tokyo Disneyland is the best theme park resort experience on the planet.
March 17, 2014 at 4:58 PM · I have been to both resorts. Sorry, WDW is the better overall. Even when I was at Disneyland, they seemed to have an inferiority complex. I found it a little weird.

Fantasmic is better at Disneyland? Really? Standing up is better than sitting? Who says that?

March 17, 2014 at 5:24 PM · I think most people have hit it on the head here. If you are going for 2 to 4 days Disneyland is awesome, but if you are going for a week or even two weeks you can find plenty to do in Disney World. If you compare just rides I think both Disneyland and now even California Adventure are probably better parks then any one Disney World park but the 4 Disney World parks together are better than the 2 Disneyland parks together. Once you add in 2 water parks 20 some hotels and more restaurants than you can eat at in a year Disney World wins hands down.
March 18, 2014 at 11:54 AM · At this point, it really doesn't matter which is "better." When Disney decided to make a political statement and stop all funding of The Boy Scouts, we decided to take our twice per year vacation at WDW someplace else. Why give our money to a business that tells us to go fly a kite?
March 18, 2014 at 2:31 PM · Walt Disney World is just what it's name implies, a World.
DisneyLand is similarly named. It is a Land. Need I say more.
WDW has more to see and do, more choices for accomodations, two totally awesome water parks, more restaurants to choose from, etc. DL is much more compact, but it feels like any other amusement park, a 1 or 2 day diversion, at best. Some of the rides are great, but I think you visit DL once, unless you live in SoCal, but you visit WDW as much as possible. This has worked for me and my family. See U in Orlando.
March 19, 2014 at 7:31 AM · I just visited Disneyland Resort for the first time two days ago. I loved the main hub, with the beautiful musical scores and the entrances to both parks across from one another. I love how it is similar to Universal Orlando in that everything is within walking distance. However, I did not like bus ride through all of the tacky hotels and strip malls to get from the parking lot to the the resort. That's where WDW has the upper hand, obviously. I did however think that Disneyland itself was far better than the Magic Kingdom.

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