Should You Visit Disneyland?

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The great debate of Disney World vs. Disneyland rages on across the Internet every day. While I could never pick a favorite, some reader comments last week gave me the idea to share my opinions on what makes the two coasts so different. With that in mind, here are the top ten differences between Disney World and Disneyland to help you decide if you should visit Disneyland.

Size: Starting with the itty bitty castle, some could view Disneyland as a scaled down version of Walt Disney World. However, I look at it like the greatest hits! In a smaller space they manage to pack in all the best attractions. Sure, it takes a little while to get used to seeing Star Tours across the street from Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, but you can ride them both without setting foot on a bus! Even better you can hop between the two California parks with just a quick walk. It’s enough to spoil a Disney World fan rotten!

IMG_1118People: Imagine a summer in the parks without tour groups everywhere. That actually happens at Disneyland! Not only that, but the main customer base consists of Annual Passholders. This means that the lines generally don’t get as crazy as at Walt Disney World. In general, the guests are more laid back as their trips are not “once in a lifetime” experiences. The locals also mean that rides can be taken down to offer seasonal events like Haunted Mansion Holiday.

Seasonality: The downside of the smaller tourist draw is seasonality in entertainment. During slower months there may only be fireworks or Fantasmic on the weekends. Other offerings are also adjusted based on occupancy. Tools like Touring Plans become very important, as Disneyland only posts its park hours and schedules 45 days in advance. Historical trends are what you have to depend on when picking dates if you aren’t booking a last minute trip.

Planning: The upside of this “last minute” attitude at Disneyland is that you can relax when planning. Putting together a Walt Disney World vacation can feel like wedding planning! There are so many little details, and if you don’t call exactly 180 days in advance you may not get to try a restaurant you’d dreamed about. At Disneyland you can normally call just a day or two before or even (gasp!) just walk up to the podium for a table. We love the relaxed attitude at Disneyland and not having to plan months in advance.

History: Disney World can’t touch the nostalgia of Disneyland. Walt Disney, himself, personally oversaw attractions there. You can even see the light in his old apartment burning in the window. I was lucky enough to set foot in his apartment over the Fire Station two years ago, and it was amazing to be somewhere Walt actually stood. As amazing as Disney World is, it can never compete with that!

IMG_1911Hotels: If Disney World fell short on the last one, Disneyland falls flat on this one! While I’ve given my opinion on staying offsite at Disney World before, you don’t have much choice at Disneyland. There are only three official Disney properties at Disneyland, and all are very, very expensive. Worse, they really don’t offer a much better experience than staying across the street at other non-Disney properties. Unlike Walt Disney World, it can sometimes be easier the stay offsite at Disneyland.

Downtown Disney: At Disneyland, Downtown Disney is connected to the two theme parks and a very easy walk. I’ve been pretty vocal about the parking issues at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World lately. None of this is an issue at Disneyland. You park once and have easy walking access to the entire Disney complex.

Dining: While we’ve had excellent meals at Disneyland, it’s worth pointing out that the variety pales in comparison to Walt Disney World’s. Of course, that makes sense as the California resort doesn’t have room for a World Showcase! If you go in with that understanding, there is no reason to be disappointed at Disneyland.

Early Entry: While Walt Disney World fans are used to both Morning and Evening Extra Magic Hours at its parks, it’s a totally different story at Disneyland. You can expect one park to open one hour early each day. The only way to gain access to this extra hour is to stay onsite (in which case it’s called Extra Magic Hour, and you have access to it every day) or to buy a three or more day park hopper ticket. The hopper tickets only gain you access to one “Magic Morning” for each ticket (not each day), and it’s good only at Disneyland Park (not Disney California Adenture!). It can be tough to get in, but I found that we were able to complete all of Fantasyland with a single Magic Morning.

Cars Land, World of Color, Alice in Wonderland, and SO much more: Despite the smaller size, there’s a lot to see and do that’s exclusive to those parks! In my opinion Cars Land alone is worth a trip out west! World of Color is breathtaking and not like anything at Walt Disney World. Check out the attraction lists at Touring Plans and see if you find something that gets you thinking about heading out west!

What’s your opinion on Disneyland vs. Disney World? What’s your favorite attractions that isn’t on the other coast? Can you think of a reason to visit Disneyland that I missed? Please let us know in the comments below! As always, thanks so much for reading and commenting. 🙂

Daisy Lauren

I'm just about the biggest Touring Plans fan ever and still pinching myself that they let me be part of the team! I love sharing all things Disney with you and always appreciate your ideas and feedback at: or @dizdaisylauren on twitter Above everything else THANK YOU for reading and commenting!

52 thoughts on “Should You Visit Disneyland?

  • July 11, 2014 at 8:27 am

    I visited Disneyland before WDW. And although my family adores our Orlando vacations, this year we are taking the trekbout west to see where it all began.

    • July 11, 2014 at 11:51 am

      Hi Nik! I hope you have an amazing trip. I love DL and plan to visit more frequently this year. 🙂

  • July 11, 2014 at 8:50 am

    I could not agree more! Our family has made an annual visit to WDW the past 4 years. This year we went to California and were very nervous before we went. Countless people told us how disappointed we would be because of the age and size of the park. We were anything but disappointed for all the reasons you mentioned and more! We were able to walk up and make same day reservations at a great restaurant twice! Never done that in WDW! The staff at both parks is amazing but we had an amazing experience with staff at Disneyland. They truly wanted our 7 year old to experience the magic of Disney. I also have to say the Jedi Training Academy is done much better in Disneyland! So happy that our next trip might be back to Disneyland! It is also wonderful that if you have only 3 or 4 days to visit the parks…you can easily do that in Disneyland and not feel that you missed a lot!

    • July 11, 2014 at 11:53 am

      Hi Jennifer! People told me that too.. I don’t know how anyone could be disappointed with DL! I totally agree with your other points too. I forgot all about their Jedi Academy. I’ll have to try it on my solo trip coming up soon. Thanks for the reminder! 🙂

    • July 14, 2014 at 9:21 am

      I am curious – is the Jedi Training as difficult to get into as it is at WDW? Do you have to go sign up immediately in the morning, or is it less crazy?

  • July 11, 2014 at 9:24 am

    We love both – to us they are totally different experiences and many of the rides are simply BETTER in Disneyland! Where else can you go in Oct-Dec for Jack Skellington to take over the haunted mansion? To get the New Orleans Square experience and actually eat a lovely meal inside Pirates of the Caribbean? To race like McQueen? Go on an adventure with Indiana Jones?Don’t get me wrong – MAD LOVE for WDW!! But to me it is two wholly different experiences and both are going to give you an amazing Disney experience.

    The hotels are far and above any of the motels across the street in peaceful quiet, comfortable beds, amenities and great pools, and for not leaving the bubble. We stayed on Harbor (off-site) for YEARS… when we stayed at the D-land hotel once that was it. we were SOLD! 🙂

    • July 11, 2014 at 11:56 am

      Hello May – I love all your points! I haven’t tried Blue Bayou at DL but everyone says it’s wonderful. I think it’s going on the list for next trip. (We just love Cafe Orleans so much we always go there!) Thank you so much for your awesome comment.

  • July 11, 2014 at 9:25 am

    We love Walt Disney World. But there is a warmer feeling to the original Disneyland section than any other Disney park. The smaller footprint made Walt and his staff plan more meticulously than if they had a larger area to work with. I’m happy at the World, but I beam more in the Land.

    • July 11, 2014 at 11:57 am

      I totally agree, Louis! 🙂 There are so many little hidden things on Main Street in DL. It’s just better that WDW!

  • July 11, 2014 at 9:53 am

    I’m a runDisney addict, so I opted in for the Premier Passport, covering both coasts, and I find it worthwhile despite living 1,000 miles from one and 2,000 miles from the other, and I like both resorts. My biggest problem is mis-remembering whether that food or attraction was at MK or DL!

    Carsland definitely justifies a trip to DL. In fact, I have always liked DCA – California Screamin’ is my favourite North American Disney attraction – and DCA is twice as good since the recent major investments. The part I do NOT like at DL is the crowding around the Fantasmic area. It is so dark and crowded through the bottleneck in that area that I have never managed to actually stay to see the show – I can’t see where I am and I start to panic and have to get away from the pushing and shoving.

    WDW has more variety of themed spaces, by virtue of the multiple parks. Walking park to park is convenient at DL, but I choose to look on the bright side of the transit between WDW parks – it creates breathing space and prevents them from blurring together.

    Anaheim DTD also has a Sephora and there are amenities of civilization including a McDonalds across Harbor and a pharmacy in walking distance, whereas you can’t get that type of thing without a car at WDW. (I really, really find lack of pharmacy retail an issue, particularly as a foreign tourist trying to travel light but be prepared for a half marathon. The hotel gift shops don’t stock the range of first aid, health, and beauty products that you often want.)

    Accommodation wise, DL is like Universal Orlando in the past having only deluxe-priced resorts. While I enjoy the cheapest of the three, the Paradise Pier hotel, its price has leaped in recent years and the other two DL hotels are far too pricey. I have even lately opted for the Anaheim Hilton. It is not a “motel across the street” – I get hhonors points and a 4-star hotel for a 10 minute walk.
    At WDW, I will always stay onsite during a run event, even if I have to stay at the Pop because I missed out on space in moderates, but the deluxe group of hotels are too pricey for the value they have to me.

    Here’s another differentiator: California has better sunsets, while Florida air smells better!

    • July 11, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      Hello Evil Queen! Wow – thank you for all your excellent points! We did Premier passes too so I expect we’ll be heading back to DL several times. My biggest trouble is expecting things to be at DL that aren’t. Since I live at WDW I start walking to bathrooms that aren’t in DL, for example. It takes a few days to get my head on straight! 😀

  • July 11, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Traveling from Ohio it cost us more for 5 days in California than what would be an 8 day trip to Florida. However, Carsland made it worth it. Our trip west was more relaxing in terms of touring,but I missed the planned yummy meals from the dining plan at the World.

    • July 11, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      Hi Angela – I’m glad I’m not the only one that thinks DL is more expensive! It’s worth it but if I had to choose I might pick 8 days at WDW!

  • July 11, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Size – Disneyland is perfectly proportioned and it’s easy to get from any part of the park to any other. Magic Kingdom is sprawling, yet strangely crowded. Aladdin’s carpets seems to have been dumped in the middle of a walkway.

    Hotels – Can you stay at any of a dozen inexpensive family friendly options that are a 10 minute walk to the gates at Magic Kingdom? No? Oh. Sorry. Too bad for you.

    Other Disney parks – DCA is worth the rest of the Orlando Disney parks put together.

    Other non-Disney parks – This is the only place Orlando comes out on top in my book because of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure and Springfield USA at Universal and the new Harry Potter stuff at Universal.

    Rides – nostalgic, nicer, cleaner (Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom has a kind of weird cheap traveling show vibe, especially Pater Pan. Looks like it’s about to fall apart and so much light leaks in!).

    I’ve only been to Orlando once, so maybe I’m not giving it a fair shake, but from what I’ve seen, it’s a pretty good imitation of the real thing.

    • July 11, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      Hey John – great list. Thanks for sharing!

      • July 11, 2014 at 12:49 pm

        One more thing that is better about DL is the sight lines. There are a few magical spots at DL where you can see just about the entire park! This also applies to being on the ground when you can be in a line for an attraction at Magic Kingdom and never actually see the attraction. I suppose it is nice to not have to wait in the sun, or the rain, though…

        • July 11, 2014 at 4:05 pm

          That’s true.. but you can also see the motel across the street at DL. Honestly they are both unique and I love them both for different reason. (And a lot of what you listed above!) 🙂

  • July 11, 2014 at 11:20 am

    There are benefits to both Disney World and Disneyland, but it’s hard to argue with a Disneyland trip because it packs so much into a smaller space. The logistics of getting around is so much easier with two parks right next to each other. Also, no FP+!

    • July 11, 2014 at 12:07 pm

      Hey Dan- I almost put FP+ as #1. While the system is improving I’d be very unhappy if I had to use it for my one vacation. And you’re right about the size. We took an airport transport then WALKED the rest of our vacation. Where else can you do that with Disney?

  • July 11, 2014 at 11:23 am

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    • July 11, 2014 at 12:09 pm

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  • July 11, 2014 at 11:34 am

    I think WDW is somehow a cheap imitation of DL. The castle at MK is bigger, but I just feel like DL spent a lot more money on getting the attractions right and in maintenance of their parks.

    • July 11, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      Hey Andrea – I think too DL is able to take rides down more frequently for refurbishment. At WDW if they close something people freak out. At DL it’s mostly locals that just go on to the next thing. Plus they just pack so much more into DL. Out west they have to appeal to the locals to keep them coming back. At WDW they can do nothing and people come from all over the world… so they do nothing. 🙁

  • July 11, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    The only thing I take exception to with your comments is that DL is a ‘greatest hits’ of WDW. DL has roughly the same number of attractions in 2 parks as WDW does in 4 parks (it varies to more, the same or slightly less, based on how you count ‘attractions’). It is not a ‘lesser’ experience to visit DL, unless you prefer to ride busses between parks/hotels/Downtown Disney instead of walk. It is, however, a *different* experience, which I think the rest of your article demonstrates well.

    One thing you did not fully explain with onsite hotels is the best benefit: by staying onsite, you have early entry *every* day. And that early entry hour is golden! You can experience so many attractions during that time, then ‘rope drop’ the rest of the park with the ‘regular attendees’. It’s like have 2 rope drops in 1 day! And half the time, those early entries are into DCA, where they are invaluable for experiencing Carsland and Radiator Springs Racers. Without staying onsite, the best you can hope for is one magic morning into Disneyland Park. Compare that to 3 or 4 or 5 days of early entry, alternating at both parks! There simply is no comparison. For this reason alone, we always stay onsite at Disneyland. Once you have done this, there is no going back!

    • July 11, 2014 at 4:09 pm

      Oh – no way is DL lesser! I’m sorry if it reads that way. Maybe I should have clearly stated that I love DL with floaty hearts? 😉 It’s always my travel destination of choice.

      We spent 7 nights on property in 2012 and just didn’t see the benefit. It was pretty much like being there are rope drop. So much so that we even skipped MM later in the week to sleep in. Since then we really haven’t “gotten” the appeal. But maybe we should try it again? You aren’t the first person to tell me your experience was different. Thanks for reading! 🙂

  • July 11, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    I am sick of these types of “comparisons.”

    Feel free to stay in California where locals treat Disneyland like the mall.

    • July 11, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      Thanks for reading and commenting!!!!! 😀

  • July 11, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    From a DLR vet perspective, our castle’s height is just right. Point being, if you’re going to visit DLR as a WDW vet, it’s important not to expect to find WDW in Anaheim, or to expect that DLR feels or works the same was as the Orlando parks. It’s a very, very different Disney experience in California. It doesn’t feel like a different WDW. It feels different, period. Beginning from a position that DLR is lesser because the ground it covers or the height of its castle are lesser just means you need to let go of your WDW assumptions.

    That said, because of the differences, planning is much easier, which is the point this post I think is getting at. There’s a lot less heavy lifting to do before your trip, and a lot less stress on the ground after you arrive. All the wiggle room you wish WDW still had in terms of scheduling and reservations? That all still exists in the west coast parks.

    The two things I would disagree with in this post…

    The on-site vs off-site hotel issue. Most DLR vets happily stay offsite, because the off-site hotels unofficially represent DLR’s “Value Resorts”. Most guests stay across Harbor Blvd, a 10-minute walk (or much less) to the main gates, instead of at the three, far-pricier on-site hotels. It’s also worth nothing that most of the across-the-street hotels are actually closer to the main gates than two of the three on-site Disney hotels.

    Table-service vs. counter-service. Again here, WDW and DLR are just different places. At WDW, CS is mediocre, TS is very good and very varied, and most guests are a captive dining audience–so TS ADRs are crucially important. At DLR, TS can be mediocre (though some is quite good), CS is very good and very varied, and most guests are locals who prefer to have their sit-down meals outside the parks–so Priority Seatings (what DLR calls ADRs) are very easy to get (and CS can seem remarkable to WDW vets.)

    On the DLR fan board I frequent, WDW vets always seem shocked that Priority Seating can’t event be booked until 60 days out, and suspicious if you tell them reservations a week out and same-day walk-ups are common. But they are. The best way to enjoy DLR is to realize that WDW is 3,000 miles away. You’re not visiting “WDW-west” in Anaheim. Not at all.

    • July 11, 2014 at 4:13 pm

      Michael – I love all your points!! Thank you so much for your excellent comment. This was my 7th trip to DL but it sounds like you might live there? I grew up going to WDW and live here now. While the castle is still always a shock, I agree with everything you’ve said.

      • July 11, 2014 at 4:26 pm

        I should have added my comments weren’t aimed at you personally. I just see lots of WDW vets use their WDW glasses when looking at DLR, and last year I used my DLR glasses to look at WDW, and it can really be a recipe for not feeling the magic. And we all deserve to feel the magic on both coasts 🙂

        • July 12, 2014 at 9:59 am

          Hey Michael – I didn’t take it that way at all. I appreciate everything that you pointed out. And I agree. You have to love them both for what they are! 🙂

  • July 11, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    As someone who used to be frequent visitor of WDW but is now a Disneyland local, I see the appeal of both parks. Going to WDW always felt like I was going on vacation, whereas being an Annual Passholder at Disneyland just makes it feel like “something I do for fun.” Sure, it’s still very magical and an escape from the real world (even if the real world is right across the street and visible from the park,) but being a local really changes how I visit the parks. When I visit, I usually just go in the morning for a couple hours and leave when crowds pick up, or I go in the evening for fireworks or a show and stay for a couple hours as the crowds dwindle down.

    Now, taking my local perspective out of it, I feel that Disneyland wins in quality, but WDW obviously wins in quantity. There are some WDW experiences that I really miss in Disneyland (World Showcase, some parts of Animal Kingdom, the many excellent bars & restaurants in the resorts, etc.) But I will gladly take Carsland, the extra Fantasyland dark rides, Indiana Jones, and the many other unique-to-Disneyland experiences in exchange.

    Even though I am now a Disneyland local and there isn’t as much of a reason for me to make the trip to visit WDW, I still am looking forward to my next visit to Orlando for the WDW Marathon. I’m sure I’ll have a huge to-do list of things that I’ve been missing!

    • July 11, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      Hi Adam- your name looked so familiar then I realized we connected on Twitter this week! Hi! 🙂

      It’s funny, I feel the same way about WDW. It’s a place to grab dinner, see a show, ect. But to me DL is a “real” vacation. It’s all about perspective, I suppose. If you’re anything like me it will be fun for you to head to WDW and be a “real” tourist. I’ll look for some WDW Marathon goodness from you on Twitter!

  • July 11, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    Thank you for this post, and to the added comments from all. I am in the midst of Spring Break travel decisions, and the WDW vs DL decision is again at hand.

    We go to WDW 2-3 times per year…sometimes off-peak for a quick fix, and sometimes for a week where we only go to the parks 3 days, but enjoy everything else on-site in “the bubble.” I think of WDW as a true vacation destination, complete with a beach at our GrFloridian hotel, the elaborately themed resorts and kid-friendy-everything (pools, dining buffets, kids clubs) and plenty to do on-property. And I think of DL as one stop on a Southern California vacation, we’ll spend 2 days. The thing that keeps putting this off for me, is not that DL requires LESS advanced planning, but that it requires much MORE, because now I have to figure out what else to do if I trek it all the way to sunny CA for a week. Any suggestions on what else to couple DL visit with (for a non-local)?

    • July 11, 2014 at 3:02 pm

      Great question! But again 2 days for DLR is applying WDW logic to the Anaheim resort. DLR is smaller but far more “concentrated”, so to speak, than you can imagine from WDW. Two days for a DLR newbie is usually a very stressful, commando type of experience experience. Remember, you’re dealing with *the same number* of rides and attractions in DLR’s two parks as in WDW’s four parks. Most DLR vets suggest at least 3 days for a first visit, with 4 a comfortable number and 5 taking all the lazy breaks you want.

      That said, locally in the L.A./Orange County area, there are nearby beaches and beach towns to check out, you can go north and tour Hollywood or museums in LA like the Getty, Universal Studios (also in LA), Six Flags Magic Mountain (further north), Knott’s Berry Farm immediately northwest of DLR, and attractions a couple of hours south in San Diego, most especially the SD Zoo and Sea World. To name a few 😉

    • July 11, 2014 at 4:20 pm

      Hi Angela! I’m going to depend on Michael for advice here because he’s an expert. I will say I just spent 3 days at DL and I’m heading back for 2 more very soon. I was actually upset when they stopped selling ticket for more than 5 days because I didn’t think that was long enough. I think you’ll kick yourself if you only allow for 2 days in these amazing parks.

  • July 11, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    You’re right that on-site hotels at DL are very expensive, but I would disagree that they don’t offer a better experience than off-site hotels. On our last trip to DL, we saved money by doing a split trip, staying the first 4 days in a Good Neighbor Hotel, and then the last 4 days in the Disneyland Hotel. No comparison! We had stayed at the Paradise Pier over 10 years ago, but all our other trips had been off-site. The Disneyland Hotel was an incredible experience with the pool parties, watching fireworks from our room with the soundtrack on the TV, light-up headboards, bath robes, pool menu and servers (don’t even have to leave the lounge chair to get a burger or drink!), extra morning hours (2 rides in a row on Toy Story Mania!), special events at places like Build-A-Bear… the list goes on. I personally wouldn’t let the price difference keep me from a DL trip. If I have to watch my dollars, staying off-site gets the job done, but staying at one of the on-site properties is staying at a resort, not just a motel. I hear also that the walk from the on-site hotels to the parks is very long, but I disagree. Walking from the Disneyland Hotel to the monorail station to get into DL is a very short walk, and entering CA through the Grand Californian is not a long walk. Compared to leaving through the main gates and catching a bus, yes, it’s a longer walk, but that doesn’t take into account waiting for 20-30 minutes for the bus to your resort having to be on your feet the whole time because there is almost no seating at the bus stops (poor planning there).

    • July 12, 2014 at 10:04 am

      Hi Cindy! I really have to try staying on-site again from everyone’s comments here. When we were there the fireworks were cancelled, it was too cold for the pool, and we don’t have kids for build-a-bear. (not that I wouldn’t do it for myself – but the hubby has limited my stuffed animal intake!) Add to that the magic mornings being packed and we just didn’t “get it”. But you guys never lead me wrong! We’ll try again. Thanks for the info!! 🙂

  • July 11, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    My husband and I just returned from a 2-night, 3-day stay at Disneyland, so this article was extra timely for me. 🙂 I’ve stayed at all three Disneyland resort hotels. While I’ve never stayed offsite at Disneyland, I think staying onsite is just as valuable as it is at WDW. We’ve watched fireworks in our robes from our room at the DL hotel, had a view into CA overlooking Grizzly River Run from our Grand Californian room (along with some sideways fireworks viewing), ridden the elevator at the Paradise Pier with the kids as our super-secret

  • July 11, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    Whoops! Hit the post your comment button!

    To continue: as our super-secret extra Disney ride. (Try it, it feels like you’ll crash through the top.) Staying onsite at DL is expensive, but it just feels more relaxing taking a short saunter back to your room, and there IS a special magic to the DL and WDW resorts that can’t be found in a regular hotel.

    We definitely saved the best for last, as we celebrated our 22nd anniversary at the aforementioned Grand Californian. That hotel is absolutely resplendent with Craftsman detailing and beautiful landscaping. The staff was so warm and welcoming. We received an upgrade to the park view and a signed pic of Mickey and Minnie wishing us a happy anniversary. Our room was also the cleanest (and I’m a neat-freak) of any of the resorts at DL and WDW (where we’ve stayed at the Polynesian and Beach Club).

    Most importantly, I think it’s so important not to compare parks. Enjoy each for what they are, and be in the moment at each park instead of making mental notes as to differences, etc.

    • July 12, 2014 at 10:07 am

      Hey Louise – we have to try it again based on everyone’s comments. If you see my note above to Cindy you can tell our 7 nights at DL hotel were kind of a bust with cancelled fireworks and cold weather. But everyone here can’t be wrong. We’ll try it again and THANK YOU for all the cool info! 🙂

  • July 12, 2014 at 1:02 am

    This is great, Daisy, and very timely following Brian’s article yesterday! I think because I went to WDW as a kid and have finally realised my dream of going back as an adult, that it will always feel like “home” to me, whereas the idea of going to DL seems a bit more intimidating because I don’t feel like a know-it-all. :p One thing I haven’t heard a lot of mention of (and perhaps that’s because it’s not relevant) is what the actual make-up of the crowd is like. I’m trying to imagine being able to do a full dork-out at DL, but I think I’d feel more awkward about it since it seems like there’s a “cooler” crowd at DL. Maybe that’s weird thinking on my part, but I do love to be a big ol’ nerd at the World!

    Anyway, loved this and loved reading all the comments as well for some balanced insight. My beau and I have determined that we just have to go next year and see what we make of it (with flexible expectations, of course!).

    • July 12, 2014 at 1:19 am

      Oh, I also wanted to say that though we seem to be in the minority, we *love* MagicBands and FP+. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but getting a sure spot to ride a great attraction in the middle of the day after a sleep in? Awesome! I tried to price a vacation last night and was kind of surprised; it’s definitely not all wrapped up in a pretty bow the way it is when you go to Florida with Magical Express and whatnot. I’m sure that what you pay out in shuttle service is made up for in convenience regarding proximity to the parks though.

      • July 12, 2014 at 10:15 am

        Hey Gillian – they have a Disneyland Resort Express operated by Greyline that makes it really easy at DL. Just FYI. (years ago it wasn’t so easy to find so I had to research)

        But you’re right about the crowd at DL. I cried a little the first time we entered DL just because I was *so* excited to be there. I got the crazy looks. Not like WDW at all. Also at DL the bulk of the crowd are “experts”. It was really intimidating for me since I pretty much know everything about WDW. But if you do your homework online you can get up to speed! The good news is you can easily out plan the DL crowd. When I call EXACTLY 60 days in advance for dining reservations they always tell me I’m the only reservation on the books! I hope you’ll let us know if you decide to go! 😀

  • July 12, 2014 at 4:11 am

    We are a Disney family but live much closer to DLR. We tend to think of Disneyland as home and WDW as vacation. We alternate our yearly trips and get to experience the best of everything. When we are in WDW my family celebrates the differences of the parks. Even my teenagers love Epcot and Animal Kingdom.

    We also are fans of the Disneyland Hotel, going to bed is not complete without the headboard telling us “goodnight”. It is the only place we have stayed, although one of these days the Grand Californian will get a try.

    I love the simplicity of planning a WDW vacation, I think the website is better. To me the real difference of our vacations is planning. I wish DLR had a better Dining Plan, what they have is horrible. I also wish there was Magical Express but I love a short walk from the monorail to my afternoon nap.

    I don’t think the two parks can truly be compared. I enjoy them both because they are different.

    • July 12, 2014 at 10:17 am

      Hi Amy! I love that – they are completely different. They do have Disneyland Resort Express. I’m not sure how different that is from Magical Express. I’ve never taken it since I live here in Orlando. I totally agree on the dining plan. That would be amazing and I’d sign up for it at DL if it were decent. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  • July 12, 2014 at 7:26 am

    We are longtime WDW fans who just got back from our first visit to DL. We were really happy with the experience. We are also DVC members. So I can comment about that, too. While the best options in WDW can be tough to come by, there’s just one DVC option in DL, and it’s VERY tough to get, and VERY expensive points-wise. But the Grand Californian is fantastic. We stayed at the Sheraton Ansheim with it’s free shuttle to the parks for two nights to extend our stay.

    As a result of the DVC challenge, we ended up staying over 4th of July (wanted to go a week earlier, but could not get it). We would NEVER consider going to WDW over a holiday because of the crowds. The amazing thing about DL… It was wall to wall people, yet the wait for meals and rides was very reasonable. I suppose it’s because there’s less open space that makes it feel more crowded. But that was a great surprise. The only place the crowds messed us up was Downtown Disney, but it WAS the day of the US / Portugal World Cup match.

    The size had three major impacts. One good, one bad, one up for interpretation. The that could go either way… Everything is close, so you just walk everywhere. You end up on your feet all day with out a break. If you are looking for exercise, this is great. But your feet may complain by the end of a few days. The good: everything is so close! Very convenient. The bad: there’s not enough room for the totally immersive experience possible at WDW.

    But we are already talking about DL getting into our rotation. We really loved the trip!

    • July 12, 2014 at 10:19 am

      Hey Kevin – we were there for the holiday too. Wasn’t it totally different than a holiday at WDW??! I was shocked. It was great and my hubby declared we should spent all the holidays at DL! I’m glad you have a great trip too! 🙂

  • July 12, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Great article! I’m probably the exception to many of your readers — I grew up on Disneyland and didn’t make it to WDW until my honeymoon. As such, DLR still feels like “home.” I love both parks and we try to get to one or the other each year, but you’re right about the planning. With WDW I make the proverbial spreadsheet, we plan meals around parks and parks around crowds, and we realized very quickly that realistically it takes an hour to get from place to place between the walk and the bus (or train or monorail or boat). At DLR we really can “park hop” and it’s no hassle to go back to the hotel at any point during the day. There are also great attractions exclusive to each (I love TTA and World Showcase, and at DLR Indiana Jones rocks!) So when people ask me which park is “better” I tell them neither — it’s like trying to pick your favorite kid! They both have things you love and things that need improving but I wouldn’t want to give up either one!

    • July 15, 2014 at 1:53 pm

      Hey Jodie! I missed your comment until now. I love what you said, it’s so true. Please act like I’m crazy for flying across country to DL when I live at WDW but they are each unique and wonderful! 🙂

  • July 12, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Thanks for posting this! I’ve been wanting to visit Disneyland again for ages. Gives me a good idea of what to expect!

    • July 15, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      Hey Angela! I’m so glad you enjoyed. I’m heading back soon and thinking of tweeting with everyone while I’m there. Think that sounds like a good idea? Would you come play??! 😉

      PS- Check out Fresh Baked Disney on YouTube. I’m a little bit in love with their host!

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