Disneyland or Disney World – What’s the Difference?

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Disneyland or Disney WorldDisneyland or Walt Disney World? This has long been a debate among Disney theme park enthusiasts. I have been visiting both the California original and its flashy Florida cousin my entire life, and I love both destinations for different reasons. It is hard to pick a favorite, because both Disneyland and Disney World have unique and wonderful experiences to offer. Of course, you will find lots of opinions all over the internet about which resort is better. Disney fans are a loyal bunch, and we will defend the love of our favorite Disney destination with great passion. I recently wrote a book called “A Tale of Two Resorts” that attempts to answer this age-old question of whether Disneyland or Disney World is better by comparing both destinations in several areas. Please join me in this four part series where we will look at Disneyland and Disney World side-by-side to compare them. We’ll start with size and scope, atmosphere, and weather.

Magic KindomResort Size and Scope

Disneyland Resort is approximately 500 acres (0.78 square miles) located in the city of Anaheim in the heart of southern California. The resort itself is a sanctuary surrounded on all sides by busy streets, hotels, shops and restaurants. To put that in perspective, imagine the feel of Central Park in New York City and you’ll have a little bit of a sense of what Disneyland Resort is like. The resort includes two theme parks, three Disney hotels, dozens of restaurants, and a shopping and entertainment district. The two theme parks, Disneyland and California Adventure, sit directly across from each on either side of the esplanade, requiring about a five minute walk from entrance to entrance.

Disney World is approximately 25,000 acres (40 square miles) located in Lake Buena Vista in central Florida. The resort is expansive, about the same size as San Francisco, with roughly a third of the acreage set aside as conservation land. Disney World features four theme parks, two water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon), twenty-six Disney hotels, a campground, four golf courses, hundreds of restaurants, and a shopping and entertainment district. The four theme parks, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, are scattered throughout the resort and are connected by an intricate transportation system of boats, monorails and buses.

So does size matter when you are deciding between resorts? Of course, but it’s a two-way street. Disneyland is small and quaint while Disney World is massive and vast. Just think about this for a moment…the entire Disneyland Resort, including both theme parks, the esplanade, Downtown Disney and all three Disney brand hotels would fit neatly inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Disney World. That’s right, folks, the entire Disneyland Resort inside just one of Disney World’s four theme parks. If you have limited vacation time or mobility issues, Disneyland may be your best bet. If you want a true resort destination, with all the amenities you get with it, a trip to Central Florida will fit the bill.

California AdventureAtmosphere

Disneyland is rich with history and ambience. Being the smaller of the two destinations, it has a strong sense of charm and coziness. Around every corner, there are unique details and themes that bring the Disney “magic” alive. Stepping into the resort is like a trip in a time machine bringing you to a place of long ago when life was filled with joy, fun and entertainment; where anything can happen. If you are a history fan, there is nothing quite like walking where Walt Disney walked and visiting the place where it all began. Disneyland Park is far more detailed than the Magic Kingdom (though New Fantasyland gives it a run for its money). Disney California Adventure is no slouch either with the best themed Disney park land in the country at Radiator Springs in Cars Land and the celebration of California’s great outdoors at Grizzly Peak.

Walt Disney World, on the other hand, is vast and diverse with every kind of entertainment and food imaginable. Brimming with spirit and enchanting elements, this resort has a feeling of spaciousness and elegance. When visiting this resort, you have the sense that you have entered another world, the “Disney bubble” it has been affectionately called. Filled with magic and allure, people of all ages and walks of life gather to let loose and join in on the fun. It is not uncommon to see everyone from toddlers to business men sporting their favorite pair of Mouse ears. Walt Disney World has that feeling of a true “getaway.”

Both Disneyland and Disney World are beautiful, detailed and thrilling places. I love the feeling of being in Disneyland where it all started. It has a friendly, warm, small town charm though it is located in the heart of a major metropolitan area. Walt Disney World, on the other hand, is immense and its own universe; a true escape from the real world. Because of its many parks, you have so many different choices when it comes to to atmosphere, from old time Hollywood, to Asia and Africa, to the many countries of World Showcase, not to mention the incredible variety of resorts from the sleek Contemporary to the whimsical value resorts.

California AdventureWeather

Disneyland Resort Weather Basics

  • The average warmest month of the year is August with a high of 89 degrees.
  • The average coolest month of the year is December with a low of 47 degrees.
  • The average wettest month of the year is February with 3.18 inches of precipitation.

The weather at Disneyland is normally pleasant year round. It boasts warm days and cool evenings with low amounts of rainfall averaging less than 14 inches per year. Even during the hotter summer months, the humidity levels are generally low, resulting in a tolerable dry heat.

EpcotWalt Disney World Weather Basics

  • The average warmest month of the year is July with a high of 92 degrees.
  • The average coolest month of the year is January with a low of 47 degrees.
  • The average wettest month of the year is June with 8.32 inches of precipitation.

The weather at Disney World varies greatly throughout the year. The summers are hot and the winters are cooler. Although still generally mild in the winter, it isn’t unheard of to have temperatures drop down to 30 degrees occasionally during the season. Summer brings blazing heat, high humidity and afternoon thunderstorms. Central Florida averages over 50 inches of rainfall per year.

Disneyland tends to have more temperate weather year round while spring and fall are the pick seasons to visit Disney World when both temperatures and precipitation levels moderate. Unlike the other categories where we leave it up to you to choose what’s most important to your enjoyment of your vacation, there’s no question here. The weather in Disneyland and Southern California is better than at Walt Disney World and Central Florida.

That’s it for part one – see ya real soon with part two!

A Tale of Two ResortsLooking for a more in-depth comparison of Disneyland and Disney World? Please check out my new book “A Tale of Two Resorts: Comparing Disneyland and Walt Disney World” by clicking here for more information or to read an excerpt.

Disneyland or Disney World? Do you have a favorite? Please let us know which destination is your favorite and why. We would love to hear from you!

Kristi Fredericks

Kristi is a lifelong fan of all things Disney and has been visiting the resorts since she was a baby. She is thrilled to share her passion for the Disney parks and feels that there is nothing better than enjoying a Disney vacation with the ones you love. Kristi is the author of "A Tale of Two Resorts: Comparing Disneyland and Walt Disney World" and "501 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Walt Disney World Vacation" and founder of the blog DisneyWorldEnthusiast.com. She can be contacted on Twitter @DWEnthusiast, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/disneyworldenthusiast or by email at disneyworldenthusiast@outlook.com.

9 thoughts on “Disneyland or Disney World – What’s the Difference?

  • February 5, 2015 at 5:59 pm
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    The other big difference is cost to get there and costs once there.

    Anywhere east of Kansas City, Dallas, Oklahoma city, Nebraska, south Dakota or generally the plains states is closer to WDW than Anaheim. And gas is cheaper when driving through GA or places on the way to FL than it is in CA and AZ.

    Plane tickets from similar originations east of the plains to LA are more than tickets to Orlando as well.

    Then once you get there, car rental is less in Orlando. (Or unnecessary). Hotels are less expensive in FL generally. Although the less expensive off site hotels are much more convenient at Disney land.

    And the ticket admission is generally less expensive (except that you’ll need more days at WDW than DL; so WDW could be more expensive in that regard, although the best/cheapest way to get admission to WDW is always cheaper than DL)

    So, for most people, DL and WDW are not going to be interchangeable in their cost. And it usually makes sense just to go to the closer destination.

    • February 6, 2015 at 2:35 pm
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      Ron – Lot’s of great points about the price differences between Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Definitely stay tuned for part two where I’ll be taking a look at that exact topic.

  • February 5, 2015 at 7:02 pm
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    We stayed 11 days at a deluxe resort at Disney world for what 7 days cost us at Disneyland staying at the Disneyland hotel. Traveling from Ohio. However, seeing my sons face when he entered Carsland was worth it !

    • February 6, 2015 at 2:39 pm
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      Hi Angela – Isn’t Carsland amazing? My boys loved it, too. Sometimes it is worth the extra cost to experience the latest additions. 🙂

  • February 6, 2015 at 9:39 am
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    We have never visited Disneyland although we have visited Disney World many times since it opened over 40 years ago. We now live closer to California than Florida, so maybe we will visit someday. But maybe not since we like the larger less congested feel of the Disney World parks especially EPCOT. Looking forward to reading more of your comparisons.

  • February 6, 2015 at 2:43 pm
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    Hi Don – If you ever get the opportunity now that you live closer, Disneyland is definitely worth a visit. Check back soon for part two of this series where I’ll discuss differences in the crowds between Disneyland and Disney World. You might be pleasantly surprised by the crowd levels in Disneyland depending on when you choose to visit. 🙂

  • February 6, 2015 at 4:37 pm
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    Great article Kristi!

    A side by side comparison is so helpful as I’ve been considering making a trip to Disneyland. I had been researching the top differences between the two resorts, so this comes at the perfect time.

    Thanks!

    Angela

    • February 7, 2015 at 2:55 am
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      Hi Angela – Thanks so much! I’m glad you are enjoying my Disneyland or Disney World series. Look for Part 2 covering crowd levels, pricing, and accommodations coming soon. 🙂

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