Disneyland or Walt Disney World which is better?

OK, Dad’s back from his little hiatus. I’ve driven over 4,000 miles and visited 5 states and 2 countries in the last couple of weeks. Now it’s time for Dad to buckle down and get back to work.

When we last spoke, I was doing a mini-series about our trip this summer to Disneyland. The first installment I talked about how Disneyland was familiar yet so different than Walt Disney World. Today I want to compare the two. Which one is better Disneyland or Walt Disney World?


OK, if you know Dad at all, you know I’m a total Walt Disney World nut. I spend all my time thinking about, talking about and dreaming about the Most Magical Place on Earth. It’s what I do. So you’d think that the WDW guy, the Disney World Dad, the guy that started WDW Magazine would be a little biased when it comes to which is better right?

Guilty. I totally went to Disneyland with the idea that Disney World was better. I’ve always heard all about how WDW is bigger, has so much more of everything, and is just better.

The last time I was at Disneyland was probably 50 years ago. I don’t remember all that much about it (other than the Teacup incident, but we don’t talk about that.) And maybe my judgment is clouded by that incident from long ago.

OK, so with all that prologue, let’s see which Dad thought was better, Disneyland or Walt Disney World.

Three things

I’ve been working on this article for about a week. I was going to compare every little thing between Disneyland or Walt Disney World. It was going to be a book. I had written over 2,500 words and wasn’t close to half through.

Then today, it hit me, (not like a V8 hit, well, maybe it was) I don’t have to write a book I can do this in three simple comparisons. Believe me, you’ll be glad I cut this down, it was getting a little boring. (Dad, this is getting boring. Get on with it.)


The WDW monorail going through Epcot - Photo by WDWOW

The WDW monorail going through Epcot – Photo by WDWOW

The Monorail

Let’s start with a look at the Monorail since it’s one of my favorite things. I love the Monorail at WDW. I remember riding the Monorail at Disneyland all those years ago. It was great, so I was really looking forward to riding the Disneyland monorail.

Riding the WDW Monorail is always one of the first things we do every trip. We’ll run over to the Magic Kingdom area and jump on the resort monorail and visit all the hotels. Then we’ll take a trip over to Epcot. Riding the monorail just makes me feel at home.

We didn’t jump on the Disneyland monorail off the bat, because for some reason the Disneyland Monorail isn’t really all that convenient.

In fact, the Monorail at Disneyland is just sad. First, the new Mark VI design is stupid. What on earth were you thinking Disney when you built a monorail with NO air conditioning? Where did you expect to put this thing? Canada? (Even Canada put air conditioning on their “monorail” – the Vancouver Sky Train.) Your parks are in California and Florida. It gets really hot in both California and Florida. Duh! No air conditioning?


Second, pardon me for a second, it’s time to sing. Yes, I’m going to sing again. “On a warm summers eve, on a train bound to nowhere…” (Dad sings just like Kenny Rogers. Isn’t it fun.)

“The Gambler” could be a story of the Disneyland monorail. It truly is a train bound to nowhere. Yes, you can ride from Downtown Disney into Tomorrowland, but why would you want to? There really aren’t that many people that come from Downtown Disney to Tomorrowland or vice versa. Most of the time it’s probably faster to walk.

And since the monorail goes right through the Grand Californian, why doesn’t it stop? Huh? It doesn’t even stop at the hotels. Walt’s prize deserves better treatment here guys.

Being a monorail lover I was sorely disappointed in the Disneyland monorail.

Winner – Walt Disney World. The Disneyland Monorail is just STOOOOO….

Photo by Loren Javier

Photo by Loren Javier

The Snack

On our second day in California, Mrs. Mom and I were walking around Disney’s California Adventure. It was late morning. We were hungry, we needed a snack. We had a late lunch planned so we didn’t want a full meal, but you know how it gets. Time to sing again… “What do you want when you gotta have something and it’s…”

We didn’t really want anything sweet, but we wanted something… Something… What?

In fact, we split up to look for something to eat. Mrs. Mom went one way and I went the other.

That’s when I found IT. IT was just exactly what we were looking for. IT was the PERFECT snack.

I hollered at Mrs. Mom and told her I had found IT and she said, that sounded really good, so I got us one.

Oh, my goodness. YUMMY! IT really was the perfect snack. We shared IT and IT was just right. IT came with sliced apples that really hit the spot too.

So what was IT? I probably gave it away with the picture above this section. It was a Corn Dog. Just like you get at the State Fair. IT was really, really good. In fact, IT was so good we found them again the next day at Disneyland and had them for lunch. (California Adventure’s were better, but IT was still good.)

Winner – Disneyland by default. I’ve never seen a Corn Dog at Walt Disney World, but I will be looking now.

Disneyland Forever - Photo by WDW Shutterbug

Disneyland Forever – Photo by WDW Shutterbug

After Dark Shows

The tie breaker…

The third thing I decided to compare was the after dark shows. One of my favorite things anywhere is Wishes at Walt Disney World. Not only do I love singing the songs, and yes, I can sing like a little girl, I love fireworks.

Every trip to WDW I watch Wishes at least twice and I could watch it every night. Drives Mrs. Mom nuts.

I’m not as big a fan of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, but I like it. I haven’t seen the nighttime fireworks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios yet, but I do like Fantasmic! somewhat.

So I was really excited to watch the nighttime shows at Disneyland to compare them with those at Walt Disney World.

So there are 4 parks at Walt Disney World and 4 nighttime shows. (OK 5 if you count the seasonal fireworks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.) At Disneyland there are 2 parks and 4 nighttime shows. Mmmmm.

Let’s compare.

Paint the Night - Photo by WDW Shutterbug

Paint the Night – Photo by WDW Shutterbug

Main Street Electrical Parade vs. Paint the Night – the night kicks off at both parks with a parade. I’m a big fan of the nighttime parades at Walt Disney World. The Main Street Electrical Parade is just fun. Where else can you see Elliot and Pete, a snail and mushrooms and the Cheshire Cat all in the same parade? Cool right?

The Paint the Night Parade is also pretty incredible. The colors are amazing, the music is great and the Lightning McQueen and Mack are really impressive. But putting all the “old” princesses on a single float is just a little disrespectful, but hey, that’s just an one old man’s opinion.

Winner – too close to call.


Wishes vs. Disneyland Forever – I think I may have said that I love Wishes. I can almost quote and sing the whole thing. I love that you can watch Wishes from all around Seven Seas Lagoon. I love sitting on the beach at the Polynesian Resort and watching Wishes. Watching Wishes from the balcony of a room at Bay Lake Tower was really cool.

You can’t do that at at Disneyland. About the only place to watch Disneyland Forever is on or around Main Street. You can see the fireworks from some of the lands around the park, but you don’t get the full effect because Disneyland Forever has lots of extra happenings on Main Street.

So, Disneyland Forever. Let me just say, WOW! Yes, it’s better than Wishes.

Watching Dumbo fly during the fireworks is really, really something.

Winner – Disneyland Forever “Dumbo flies” past Wishes. Surprising!

The World of Color is just amazing - Photo by Mike Billick

The World of Color is just amazing – Photo by Mike Billick

Fantasmic! vs. Fantasmic! – Fantasmic! is a good show, a little boring at times, but a good show. Fantasmic! at WDW and Disneyland are very similar with a couple of BIG differences. REALLY BIG!

One of the parts of Fantasmic! I’ve never understood is why after 20 years, Pocahontas is still the main focus of Fantasmic! at Disney World. Huh? It wasn’t that successful of a film, and that was 20 years ago. If you were going to feature an old movie, why not go with something that was at least a little popular. Just saying.

The Disneyland version of Fantasmic! doesn’t have Pocahontas. Big Points for Disneyland.

On the other hand…

Hey Disney, can’t you at least roll in some temporary bleachers for Fantasmic! at Disneyland. Sitting on the very hard concrete with a billion other people around for an hour, or so, is just painful.  Ouch. I still have pain in my…

Winner – Disneyland for the show, WDW for the seating.

Illuminations:Reflections of Earth vs. World of Color – I’m not really a fan of Illuminations:Reflections of Earth except at Christmas and only then because of the extra 11 minutes of incredible fireworks. Illuminations is boring to me and I’ve never really understood the big ball thing. I know the story, but I still don’t understand the whole thing. BORING.

On the other hand, World of Color is AMAZING. Even though on the night we were there we had a malfunction and the video and sound were off for the second half of the show, it was still just great. What Disney is doing with water and light is nothing short of incredible. World of Color is the best Disney nighttime show I’ve seen. Even though it doesn’t have any fireworks at all. Just a big fireball, but no fireworks.

Winner – World of Color. It’s not even close.

So for the After Dark Shows, Disneyland takes the big prize. Pretty surprising.

Overall, I really liked Disneyland. Inch for inch Disneyland is vastly better than Disney World. They pack over 70 attractions into an area the size of the Magic Kingdom. Imagine the Magic Kingdom with 70 attractions. In fact, there are more attractions in the 2 California parks than there are in the 4 parks in Florida. Expect a rant on that one soon.

So, let’s tally up the scores. It looks like Disneyland wins.

Yes, I said Disneyland wins in our Disneyland or Walt Disney World challenge. While Dad probably won’t ditch Walt Disney World and do all Disneyland all the time, I can’t wait to go back and we’ll probably start a Disneyland section here shortly.

If you’d like to give Disneyland a try, give our partners at Destinations to Travel a shout. They can set you up.

Comments 8

  1. I couldn’t agree more. We’ve gone to WDW when my daughter was 4, 8, and 12, and we’re going again this spring when she’s 16. But when she was 14 we went to DL, and I think I like it better. It’s so much more convenient to get around, it’s less humid, there’s no 180 ADR day, it uses the old fastpass system, it has the classic rides no longer found at WDW, it has classics never found at WDW, it has new rides not at WDW, and except for Tot, the rides it has in common with WDW are better. And Carsland is perfection.

  2. I enjoyed your article on Disneyland vs. WDW! I agree with your comment about the monorail not having air conditioning. My husband and I went to Disneyland for our 41st anniversary Sept. 23 – 30th, and rode the monorail too (thinking the same thing, we are in California and no air conditioning….95 degrees ). I think the monorail at WDW wins my vote. We have been Disney kids since we first took our family to WDW in 1988. We have been to Disneyland four times and WDW twelve. My favourite is Walt Disneyworld,California Adventure is my second and Disneyland is my third favourite.
    Love your newsletter,
    Dianne from Canada

  3. Dear dad,
    I went to Disney World for the first time in January. You and your great information were a big part of my planning for our big trip. Thank you so much. I’m so excited that you finally got to see my Disney, Disneyland!!! The whole time we were at Walt Disney World I was comparing the two, couldn’t help it. I also noticed that the ridest seem longer and more detailed at Disneyland. The Indiana Jones show was pretty cool but it does not compare to the amazing Indiana Jones ride. World of color is Worth the price of a mission all by itself it’s incredible. I could go on and on! I hope you got the tip to get the fast pass for World of color for great seating. We can’t wait to go back to Walt Disney World one day. But Disneyland will always remain my favorite and closest to my heart ??

  4. Ha ha I love your Monorail comment… We actually lived in Toronto (before moving to Florida) and I can tell you depending where you are in Canada it gets very hot and humid during the May to October time frame. Especially summer. Often as hot and humid as Florida.. So even in Canada (at least SW Ontario) a monorail without air conditioning would suck! It’s funny how some Americans think that there are polar bears roaming the street in Canada 😉 I got that all the time after moving to FL.
    Anyway love WDW but your comparison makes me want to go to Disneyland now!

  5. Dear dad, thank you for being unbiased, and I very much appreciate your simple comparisons of both parks in just those categories. You are very right! I do feel as both parks are like comparing apples and oranges, so you did a great job! Disneyland will always be my favorite, and a frequent trip for us. We are going to Walt Disneyworld for the first time in December and cannot wait!! So we shall see! I am taking your great info and applying it to our upcoming trip! If you ever need a Disneyland mom I’m your girl!! Happy traveling!

  6. Pingback: Dad goes to Disneyland the Mini-Series - the Wrap-up - Dad Guide to WDW - The Blog

  7. Dad, I have lived in Los Angeles my entire life and am an annual Disney pass holder.I have been going to Disney land since the early 70s. I have been to Disney World only 2 times.

    I have to admit that you hit the nail right in the head. Disney land is much better and convenient if all you want to do is spend a day at the parks. However, I believe, and this may sound sacrilegious. I enjoy Disney World much more. Why? Because of the overall resort experience.

    The hotel’s at Disney World are vast and gorgeous and a vacation destination all on their own. The food at DW is superior to DL (Does not even come close). 3rd and final. With so many parks, you can take your time in each park. You can spend half the day in the parks and the other half relaxing by the pool sipping tropical drinks.

    I am currently in a military hospital and your blog has helped me decide to take my family on another vacation to Disney World. Thanks Dad for this very expensive epiphany.

  8. Due to a cancellation in May, we did Disneyland and WDW back to back in early November. I thought the biggest difference between the two was the feeling you get from the cast. In California it almost felt like we were imposing on them, and they really did not want us to be there. In Florida, every cast member made me feel at home and welcome. Plus Mickey Mouse fixed our cell phones so we could take pictures at breakfast the first morning at Garden Grill. How much more magical can you get than that??

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