Disneyland 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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!
Looking 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.