Which Is Better: Disneyland or Walt Disney World?

April 29, 2020, 7:44 PM · Imagine a day in the future. The world has conquered corona. Your bank account is fatter, and your waist is thinner. You're actually happy at work and finally can see whomever you want, wherever you want. You're winning big, so naturally a camera crew will run up to you and ask, "What are you doing next?"

Being a theme park fan, of course you start to answer, "I'm going to Disney..."

But what's next out of your mouth, "land" or "World"?

Today's "which is better" question divides fans of the world's most popular theme park company. Do you choose Walt's original theme park and the cozy, walkable Disneyland Resort? Or do you go for the world's theme park capital and choose the variety and expanse of the Walt Disney World Resort?

California or Florida? West coast or east coast? Anaheim or Orlando? Which Disney do you do when you do Disney?

Disneyland was the first theme park I ever visited and my home park from the time I was a toddler. But Walt Disney World was where I worked and where I officially become a Theme Park Insider. Southern California is where I was born and where I live, but Orlando is where much of my family resides now.

Disneyland still has an Animation Academy, but Walt Disney World still has Impressions de France. (Well, barely.) Both have a Tom Sawyer Island, but Orlando's is my TSI. Yet I can drive to Disneyland whenever I want (well, when it reopens), but visiting Walt Disney World requires a trip to LAX and a cross-country flight.

Looking at this question more objectively, though, Walt Disney World offers so much more - four theme parks, two water parks, and the huge Disney Springs entertainment district. Sports fans have the golf courses and Wide World of Sports. But Disneyland offers just about as many actual rides and shows as Walt Disney World, all contained within two theme parks just steps away from each other. At Disney World, I need a car or to devote a lot of time riding buses or other Disney transportation to see it all. At Disneyland, I can forget about all that. Everything's in walking distance. Easy.

But Disneyland has fewer on-site hotel rooms and nothing in the value category. The plentiful off-site hotels within a short walk of the parks more than make up for that, but if you want all-Disney, all-the-time, World has more for you.

Maybe the choice comes down to the extras. Visit Orlando and you can enjoy Universal Orlando and SeaWorld just a short drive up the 4. Come to Anaheim and while it's not far to Knott's Berry Farm, everything else is a haul, such as a soul-crushing drive up the 5 to Universal Studios Hollywood - 35 miles and often more than 90 minutes away.

Both resorts have Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. But Disney World has Pandora: The World of Avatar. Yet the Disneyland Resort has Cars Land. You can go back and forth forever arguing between the two, and I hope that you will, in the comments. But let's get to the vote.

Replies (23)

April 29, 2020 at 8:14 PM

Growing up in an original OKW vacation club family, I spent most of my family vacations as kid at Disney World. Then in college I did the college program there and met my wife. So nostalgia and personal connection means I always pick Disney World.

That said Disneyland does have so much in its parks that is a worthy competitor for the sprawl of Disney World and I do really like Disneyland. However, there to is the cost factor to consider. My family lives in Florida now, but my wife and I live in Sydney. A couple of years ago we thought we’d meet in the “middle” and do a Disneyland trip together. I thought that since we’d only need to do one big flight instead of two and we’d save money, but any money saved by only doing the Sydney to LA leg is lost when factoring in the expense of vacationing in California versus Florida, when as you say there are no value resorts at Disneyland (and if we are travelling all that way to Disney we’re doing the full gamut) and Florida seemed to be much cheaper in general.

So while I do really love both, Disney World just has way more going for it for me.

April 29, 2020 at 8:24 PM

I like them both for different reasons.

If you’re talking about just Disney stuff, my answer has always been that I like Disney World better overall, but that if I had to rank the 6 parks at the two resorts, the two parks in California would be #1 and #2 for me.

I feel like they’re both different vacations, at least the way I do them. Going to Florida is a “Disney trip”. That is the focus, where is just non stop theme parks (that includes Universal).

Whereas California, it was always a trip that included a stop at Disney. Every time I’ve gone there, it’s always been part of a larger vacation that included other stops in either California or surrounding areas. My most recent trip there was on my honeymoon where we stopped there a few days before continuing on to Hawaii.

So that’s my experience on the whole which one is better argument.

April 29, 2020 at 8:32 PM

It's impossible for me to choose. I live closer to Disneyland so I go there more often, but...choosing between the two resorts is an apples to orange comparison. Sure, there are attractions that are (at least to me) clearly better at one over the other (I prefer Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean but Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion is more compelling to me), but going to Walt Disney World is a 100% different experience than going to Disneyland.

So I'm picking Disneyland, just because of being closer to it...not because I'm saying it's "better."

April 29, 2020 at 9:35 PM

People complain about DW Space Mountain, but Damn, the Matterhorn is atrocious!

April 29, 2020 at 10:05 PM

World. Look, I love California but having been to WDW so much (including four years living in Jacksonville), have never lost my love for it and so much more to do and enjoy so I'll choose it every time.

April 29, 2020 at 10:11 PM

I have to pick Walt Disney World, but that's with the qualifier that if I had one day to spend at any one Disney park, I'd pick either Disneyland Resort park over any of the four WDW parks. The main thing is that while Disneyland wins in terms of parks, WDW excels in almost every other area and has far, far more to offer. I usually put it this way: If you're looking for somewhere to go for a weekend, pick Disneyland. If you're looking for somewhere to spend a week, WDW is by far the better choice.

April 29, 2020 at 11:03 PM

There’s nothing like Walt Disney World on the planet.

It truly is something so uniquely special that it deserves its top status as the pinnacle of family theme park entertainment.

From the MOMENT you drive through the Walt Disney World entrance sign you are now literally in Disney’s world, from the signage, to the light posts, the foliage, and hidden Mickeys... it’s non-stop Disney everywhere you look for miles and miles in its own little bubble closed off from everything else.

There’s so much to do, see, and experience that nothing like Disneyland can compare.

Disneyland has its place in quality and experience, but Walt Disney World is an entirely different league.

As their names literally suggest, you’re comparing a small LAND to an entire WORLD.

April 30, 2020 at 12:19 AM

Such a tough question....Robert, I noticed how you cleverly broke down you personal connection to the two resorts....but just stopped short of naming your fav!

I’m sort of the same as Stephen, I like them for different reasons, but I voted for Disneyland because it’s my home park and I have more nostalgic memories there. Plus, as it’s been mentioned DLR has nearly 5e same amount of attractions as the 4 in the ‘world.....

Two great theme park resorts, but Disneyland Resort for the win!

April 30, 2020 at 12:37 AM

I voted for DL, only because both parks are fully realized while WDW's parks still need a little more TLC to be perfect. I'm so conflicted though, that I may just log out and nullify my vote...

April 30, 2020 at 6:01 AM

What is with the dark blue backdrop I get behind a part of the text. It's almost impossible to read.

May 3, 2020 at 7:21 AM

I prefer Disneyland, but can’t realistically say it’s “better”.

Disneyland combines (most of) the best of all worlds, into two parks only steps away from each other. There’s not as much, but also not as much fluff.

Disney World has things that Disneyland will just never be able to offer. But you need to dedicate at least 5 days (ideally more) to get the most of it.

3 days of Disney is about the cap of my enjoyment level, so that’s a big reason why I would chose Disneyland.

One thing I can not stress enough though, is if you have only been to Disney World, do NOT fool yourself into thinking it’s not necessary to see Disneyland some day...

April 30, 2020 at 9:12 AM

I love them both but I have to pick Disneyland.
1. The Original
2. Pedestrian
3. Able to wing it day by day with MaxPass

April 30, 2020 at 9:43 AM

Originally, it would have been WDW due to the size and number of things to do, plus it has Universal nearby. DL would have been easy for the weekend vs. week approach as mentioned. However, FP+ at WDW makes it a very, very easy decision now for DL being better. FP+ is horrendous and forces you to micromanage your vacation to the hour which makes it not like a vacation. I can double or triple the number of attractions I experience per day at DL over WDW. I used to compare the charms of both, but now it is DL.

April 30, 2020 at 9:58 AM

I love them both, although each one has its pros and cons. If I was going for a week long vacation, I would definitely choose Disney World. But if I had to choose just one resort for the parks, after some serious thought it would have to be Disneyland. For three main reasons:
1. I can walk everywhere and its all in two parks right by each other. I don't have to waste time with transportation
2. The weather is better when I go, which is in the summer. I don't need to pack rain gear, or a change of clothes, or deal with the oppressive humidity.
3. No fastpass+. I don't have to do the super planning 60 days out and I can wing it much more easily.

I don't really do a lot of the sit-down restaurants, I would much rather have as much time in the parks so that isn't an issue for me. The problem is, I live in the northeastern US and Florida is the easy one to get to, and cheaper. Plus I don't like renting cars, and Florida makes it so easy to get to the park from the airport. Plus, with a week long stay, the resorts are great at WDW, and are fun to hang out at.

April 30, 2020 at 10:06 AM

I voted WDW.
I visited both, Disneyland once for three days, and WDW three times for 10 days each time.
Disneyland absolutely wins on charm, being the original, has more of an explore and discover in the moment feel and lay-out.
WDW gives the entire package I look for most and for us Europeans is just all in all cheaper to visit then Disneyland. Also for us the diningplan is a must, since we love taking months to plan out what and where we'd like to have our food adventures. Also the micromanagement possibilities is something we love doing to prepare and start the Disneyfeeling way ahead of time. To us the planning is part of the fun. Though I really understand if your not a HUGE fan or don't like planning it can be too much work and more of a con.

Most Ideal would be visiting both, if we could afford that, that would be my number one choice! ;)

This does not mean I feel WDW is better, but it suits our holiday needs more then Disneyland does, Disneyland would always be more part of a roadtrip then a holiday destination for us.

April 30, 2020 at 11:41 AM

The answer is Walt Disney World, almost objectively. This coming from someone who's been to both. There are basically two camps of people on this issue: Those who admit WDW is better, and Californians with inferiority complex. It's argued that Disneyland is "more cozy", yet a cozy vacation can be experienced at WDW easily. All you have to do is stay at one of the cozy resorts, and visit one or two theme parks at your leisure. The irony is I consider WDW even MORE cozy than Disneyland, since the resort is so contained within a peaceful environment, that I never feel the proximity of the touristy sites nearby. In Anaheim I couldn't feel as cozy.

April 30, 2020 at 11:52 AM

I am within driving distance to WDW but picked DL, although I failed to mention two points: the weather is better in CA but driving in SoCal is the worst. To me, they offset each other. I have no idea why WDW would not use the MaxPass system. It would return WDW to not being such a massive chore. Our last trip had teenage kids have massive meltdowns to the point of ,”Why can’t be just go back to Universal.” They weren’t being unreasonable either. I think WDW should use this time to change the system and fix the Yeti.

April 30, 2020 at 12:35 PM

I love both. I’m from New York, which allowed me to visit Disney World more often than Disneyland. The flights are cheaper, and is much closer in distance. But, I would choose Disneyland as my favorite.

When visiting Disneyland, we always stay at the one of the Disney hotels. You can walk to the parks, especially the Grand Californian hotel, California Adventure is practically part of the hotel. The separate entrance there is great, it saves a lot of time, at the front gate. The Disney World hotels are great too, but you have to wait for the bus to get back. They typically have to make other resort stops, which can be annoying...especially at night, when all you want to do is get back to your room. At Disneyland, it’s a 5-10 minute walk. Much easier.

Yes, Disney World has 4 parks, compared to Disneyland’s two. However, they have the same amount of attractions. Disney World is just more spread out, because they have much more room, than Disneyland. Disneyland’s rides are just more condensed. But essentially, they have the same amount of rides, and share many of the same attractions.

In relation to the rides they both share, I prefer many of Disneyland’s versions, to that of Disney Worlds. Some examples include; Pirates, It’s a Small World, Space Mountain, Peter Pan, Haunted Manson (Nightmare Before Christmas layover), and Big Thunder, and Soarin’. Pandora is an excellent ride. One of the world’s best Disney attractions. But I also love Cars Land, and Radiator Springs Racers. Tower of Terror is still a classic in Florida. But I really enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! It adds a new twist, to an already great ride.

I love the nostalgia of Disneyland. The fact that Walt, himself, walked Main Street. He actually even had an apartment on Main Street. Disney World is great too. But Disneyland has that classic Disney feel. The castle is more quaint. It’s easy to go back and forth between Disneyland, and California Adventure. I like walking through Downtown Disney to get to the parks. Just the fact that’s it’s the “original.” What do they always say about movies...”nothing beats the original.”

At Disneyland, I also like the fact that you can explore Southern California. You can go to the beaches. Catch a sports game. Go to LA, and San Diego. The San Diego Zoo is great, I loved it! You can go hiking in the mountains, or visit a national park. You can visit places, such as Santa Barbara, or Malibu, which are beautiful. You can enjoy all that LA has to offer. Orlando doesn’t have the same appeal, as LA, Laguna Beach, or San Diego. You can go to Universal, and SeaWorld, just like you can in Florida. The weather is much nicer in California. I typically go to California during the summer. You don’t have to deal with the oppressive humidity, like you do in Florida. It’s cooler in the morning, and at night, because of the mountains.

In retrospect, as much I love Disney World, I love Disneyland even more. Even being a east coast guy, California, and the west coast, has a certain charm. Disneyland has that charm.

April 30, 2020 at 1:25 PM

I think both resorts are great for different reasons, but if access (i.e. travel distance) and costs (admission and lodging) were identical, I would probably choose the Disneyland Resort. Pretty much every cloned or similar ride platform attraction that exists in both parks, the superior version exists in Disneyland. FP+ is also a HUGE knock against WDW as well as the suffocating crowds even during what used to be quiet periods. For me, DAK is really the ONLY compelling reason to argue that WDW is better, and if the rumored Black Panther attraction in DCA uses a similar ride system to FoP, you'd have one less unique attraction to WDW.

While we visit WDW far more often because it's closer and cheaper for us to visit than DL, we typically visit DL within 6-8 months of a WDW trip. Having often visited the resorts on both coasts in such close proximity, we have always enjoyed our trips to DL more and wished some of the aspect of the West Coast parks were fully embraced at WDW (namely FP/MaxPass, shorter ADR windows, fewer overall FP attractions, and a more intimate overall feel).

April 30, 2020 at 4:29 PM

I'm born and raised in southern California so I'm biased and naturally that means I'd pick Disneyland. I could probably be swayed to pick WDW over DL if the vacation length was more than a few days as I feel you could accomplish a great deal more in a shorter amount of time at Disneyland.

In all honestly though the biggest drawback to WDW for me has nothing to do with hotels, attractions, FP+, transportation, etc. My problem is I can't stand humidity so the thought of visiting WDW brings back unpleasant memories from my previous two trips.

April 30, 2020 at 11:20 PM

I pick WDW, mainly because when in the park I can't see the hotels that surround them, I don't see the traffic building up. From the time I have passed thru the gates welcoming me to WDW the outside world goes away, except for the FP+ hassle, and I am free to just relax and enjoy my vacation. That escape is worth more to me then any number of rides I was rode or shows we saw.

May 1, 2020 at 12:10 PM

I'm not picking for all the reasons you gave. I could go back and forth. We almost always go to WDW because it's closer, but DL still has our brick (I think)...

May 1, 2020 at 1:31 PM

Each is unique in it's own way which I love however, I give the nod to Disneyland. Far more details, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain Railroad Pirates of the Caribbean, Disneyland RR and Fantasyland blow away Disney World. It doesn't hurt that Disneyland has Star Wars Galaxies Edge, Indiana Jones Temple of the Forbidden Eye, and Roger Rabbit TT Spin.

I do believe that Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise are superior in every way to the Disneyland counter parts. Splash Mountain and Haunted Mansion @ WDW are true gems. Disney World is designed with better path flows and fewer bottle necks. The two DLR parks have more attractions than all 4 WDW parks put together...

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