Five Things A Disneyland Local Will (Probably) Hate About Visiting Walt Disney World
I want to start this post off by saying that I think the rivalry between some Disneyland and Walt Disney World fans is a bit silly. No one should feel the need to pick a favorite Disney resort as both offer plenty of unique experiences. But obviously comparisons are inevitable. My first visit to Walt Disney World as an adult was in 2008 and I have visited twice a year since then. As a frequent Disneyland visitor there are some things I hate about Walt Disney World (and some things I love more at WDW, but that’s for next week’s post). These are the top five things that bug me the most when I visit:
Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is downright awful. I made the mistake of watching this at DHS before I knew it was different than the one at Disneyland. I noticed a problem as soon as I got in the massive line for the show. That’s right, you have to wait in a line to see Fantasmic! After waiting in this long line you are herded in to a large outdoor amphitheater where you are forced to sit on extremely uncomfortable metal benches. The amphitheater that Fantasmic! is performed in at the Studios lacks any of the charm that can be found on the Rivers of America at Disneyland. Personally, I think what makes Disneyland’s Fantasmic! so special is that it is performed in an area that you would never guess is a stage for a nighttime spectacular. Another huge problem I have with DHS Fantasmic! is the pacing is terrible. At one point there is a THREE MINUTE LONG segment of animated footage being projected on to water, most of the footage in this scene is bubbles containing random clips from Disney animated movies. Other major differences are the Peter Pan and Ursula scenes are completely missing. This means no Captain Hook’s ship, no Flotsam and Jetsam, and no Tick-Tock the Crocodile floats. Obviously, there is no Sailing Ship Columbia in the Studios so a long, and frankly boring, Pocahontas scene takes its place. There’s a few other minor differences but the biggest one is the dragon. Walt Disney World did not update its dragon in 2009 like Disneyland did, so what’s left is a dragon that is still cool looking but not nearly as impressive.
2. The Quick Service dining options
For the most part, the quick service dining in Walt Disney World is bad. Especially in Magic Kingdom. I can’t tell you how many times my wife and I have tried to find some decent food for dinner in MK, only to settle for the same old bland and expensive burgers from Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. It’s unfortunate that the dozens of excellent quick service meals in Disneyland simply have no equivalent in Magic Kingdom. Some quick service establishments do deserve praise, such as Sunshine Seasons at Epcot, and Flame Tree Barbecue at Animal Kingdom. Not only is the food seriously lacking in WDW, but the surroundings are, as well. You won’t find any food seating area as peaceful as the one at Hungry Bear Restaurant, or with the live entertainment of the French Market. Speaking of live entertainment, that brings me to my next point:
3. Where’s the live entertainment?
Just by glancing at a Disneyland schedule from a random Friday in September, I see 10 separate acts of live entertainment (The Dapper Dans, Billy Hill and the Hillbillies, The Disneyland Band, and many more) with multiple performances throughout the day, and that doesn’t include fireworks, Fantasmic!, or the bands that play weekends at Tomorrowland Terrace. Live entertainment brings a fantastic energy to areas of the park. It also offers a chance to relax for a moment and enjoy some live music. Looking at the same schedule for the same day in Magic Kingdom I see two acts: the Dapper Dans and the Casey Corner Pianist.
4. Park hopping takes forever
The walk from the front gate of Disneyland to the front gate of Disney California Adventure takes less than 5 minutes. Park hopping from one park to another in Walt Disney World can sometimes take more than a half hour. That’s precious vacation time. This again leads me in to my next point. In Disneyland and DCA there is less reason to park hop because in Walt Disney World…
5. There’s less to do in each park
WDW fans are quick to point out the size of the size of Walt Disney World as one of the reasons why “their” resort is better than Disneyland. But the fact is that there is almost as much to do in the two parks at Disneyland than there are in the four parks in Walt Disney World. There are 107 attractions (rides, shows, and meet and greets) in Walt Disney World compared to 92 in Disneyland. Disneyland has the highest number of attractions with 58. Magic Kingdom is second with 40 attractions, which is not a huge difference, but you will notice the lack of attractions when you try to spend a full day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Those parks have 19 and 23 attractions. Also, a frequent Disneyland visitor may want to skip most of the equal or inferior cloned attractions in WDW. For example, Soarin’ Over California at Disney California Adventure is not nearly as popular as its direct clone in Epcot (called Soarin’). The only difference is that you’ll end up waiting twice as long for the Epcot version. Same goes for Toy Story Midway Mania. These two attractions aren’t even the most popular rides in DCA, but in Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios they are extremely busy from rope drop to closing. A few of the other attractions you’ll want to skip, Pirates of the Caribbean is a shorter and inferior version of the one in Anaheim, the Enchanted Tiki Room has the singalong portion cut from the show, and Star Tours is the exact same ride except it’s not in Tomorrowland, and that’s just weird. Of course, there are a few attractions that are better or completely unique to Walt Disney World. But I will discuss that next week in “Five Things A Disneyland Local Will (Probably) LOVE About Visiting Walt Disney World.”
I’d love to hear what you think. Please leave a comment in the section below and tell me what you dislike about visiting Walt Disney World or Disneyland.
95 thoughts on “Five Things A Disneyland Local Will (Probably) Hate About Visiting Walt Disney World”
We just got back from our first ever trip to Disneyland after countless trips to WDW. I have to say, your list is spot on! Even my kids commented on 4 of the 5 (and they are 11 and 8!). We still love WDW and will certainly go back, but right now they are DL converts! I can’t wait to see your list next week!
There’s certainly a lot to love about WDW as well as Disneyland. That’s great you and your kids have a great times at both resorts!
Wow. Really biased and somewhat untruthful post.
#1 I’ll take the waiting in line and the metal benches over the uncoordinated travesty of a seating area at Disneyland anyway. Sitting on the ground, trying desperately to hold your spot while other guests trample your turf, and being simply unable to move in or around Frontierland for a good 30 minutes after the show is ridiculous. And while DL’s Peter Pan segment is fantastic, DL completely omits every villain *other* than Ursula and Chernabog. Apparently when the Evil Queen calls “all the forces of evil”, they’re the only ones who can make the trip to CA.
#2 If you’re searching high and low for good unique food in MK, but somehow you keep ending up at Cosmic Rays, you’re being almost willfully ignorant. Columbia Harbor house has shrimp, tuna, and lobster rolls. Pecos bills has great taco salads. Sleepy Hollow has PHENOMENAL waffle sandwiches that are better than just about any QS in DL.
#3 Ridiculous that you mention 2 pieces of live entertainment in MK, but completely ignore all the live entertainment throughout DHS, Epcot, and AK. All the entertainment in all the World Showcase pavilions, the Citizens of Hollywood’s multiple performances in DHS as well as Mulch Sweat and Sheers, various musicians and Divine in AK, not to mention Downtown Disney and the Boardwalk’s offerings. They all more than make up for MK’s lack.
#4 WDW is a week-long experience. DLR can be banged out in two days. Of course it takes longer to get from place to place. You may as well make the same complaint about visiting NYC vs Northhampton MA.
#5 Less attractions at the parks allow them to be more spread out. At DL, everything is on top of one another. Everything is so small and compact you can’t move without bumping into someone. There are places where attractions are *literally* one on top of another. Hence, there is no decent theming to be found anywhere. From one spot in DL, you can turn 360 and see all of Frontierland, New Orleans Square, and Adventureland. Give me the grander feel of MK anyday.
There are great things about Disneyland. And Walt Disney World beyond a doubt has its faults. But acting like the 5 things you mentioned here are obviously terrible and make DL look good in comparison is absurd. The five things you mentioned here are simply *differences*. Not better or worse, just different.
Took the words out of my mouth. Well said.
Biased. Well, yes it is biased. I am writing from the point of view of a frequent Disneyland visitor that also visits WDW several times a year.
#1 Our opinions are obviously different about this one. Unless it’s an extremely busy day at DL I’ve never had that much of a problem with traffic or getting a spot. No worse than the foot traffic after a fireworks showing in any Disney theme park.
#2 I didn’t mention Columbia Harbor House or Pecos Bills because I’m simply not a fan of the menus. The Sleepy Hollow waffle sandwiches are fantastic, but the chicken waffle sandwich isn’t sold after 6 PM (same thing with the Citrus Swirl over at Sunshine Tree Terrace). Luckily the food is getting better. You mentioned the excellent, and the Be Our Guest quick service menu looks promising.
#3 Point taken. But I still think there is very little live entertainment for each park.
#4 In my opinion, if you’re finishing DLR in 2 days you’re doing it too fast.
#5 Part of the brilliance of the design of Disneyland is the fact that everything is blended so well together. The transitions between lands are seamless. Yes you can see Frontierland from New Orleans Square, but the two lands blend well together.
There are good and bad things about both resorts that can and should be discussed. These differences, as you put it, affect my enjoyment of my vacation.
It’s annoying that Disney doesn’t mention a lot of the live entertainment in the magic kingdom:
1) The marching band; (I forget their actual name).
2) the band with guitars and banjos and a sousaphone (usually plays by country bears)
There is dapper dans and the piano player; you got that.
There is more live entertainment than your post mentions. But at magic kingdom, it’s not well published (presumably because they don’t perform in areas that are conducive to big crowds)
I wish there were a like button. I totally agree with your list above. COSMIC RAYS?!?!!!?!?! Please!
Plus, the idea of waiting two hours to see Fantasmic sitting on the ground or paying a ridiculous fee for a box of sweets and a seat is a joke. I’ll take a long line and a seat any day!
I would expand #1 to include all the night shows. I think the castle fireworks are better at DL. Perhaps the smaller castle makes the fireworks more grand or the upgraded Tinkerbell zipline makes MK’s look outdated.
Also, while the comparison is unfair, World of Color beats Illuminations. Illuminations was my favorite night show when I visited this summer, but it still felt distant and I squinted to try and see what was happening on the globe (and I was standing in a viewing area suggested by the Unofficial Guide)
I wouldn’t add ALL night time shows because I really love Illuminations. But your comment about the distance is very true, even in the recommended viewing areas. Wishes is also an excellent show.
I don’t like the globe filler for Illuminations, nor do I like let there be peace on earth.
Just show me some up close fireworks.
Maybe they could give guests sparklers and cast members some bottle rockets!! Okay that’s a stupid idea. But anyway. I like close up, low flying fireworks. I don’t like the filler.
Oh yeah… I love getting in a performance from the hat lady before illuminations. The view over there is nice, and I have my super secret spot picked out (until they sell it to paying private parties)
I had to laugh at the food comment (everything else I can understand.) When I went to Disneyland, I was disappointed in the Quick Service options. My second trip was better than my first, but still nothing blew me away.
I think what it comes down to is that whichever Resort you go to more often, you know where to go to eat there. You know what’s good, you know what to avoid. When you visit the other coast, you lose that knowledge.
I understand. I guess this is just a preference thing. As a researcher for TouringPlans I’ve tried most of the food options in the Disney parks and I’m never impressed by a majority of the quick service menus at WDW. Sit down is a different story, there’s a ton of great sit down restaurants in WDW (but I’ll get in to that on my post next week).
I’m a DL local, but I’ll gladly sit on the bench to see the inferior Fantasmic. I absolutely hate how one half of the park becomes impossible to stroll through on Fantasmic nights, and there is hardly anyplace to sit down if you wanted to watch the show.
The west side of Disneyland does become congested but I’ve never found it to be any worse than line up and exit procedure of Fantasmic at the Studios.
When I go to WDW, I miss 1) Space Mountain which is much better at DL, 2) New Orleans Square which is one of the best themed areas in all of Disney (Blue Bayou is also cool for the setting although the food is still pretty horrible, yes?), 3) the older “legacy rides” like Storybook Land Canal Boats and Davy Crockett canoes. 4) most of all I miss the spirit of Walt which is still very palpable at Disneyland and not so much at MK or anywhere in WDW… That being said, we are taking my 7 year old step son, a DL veteran, to WDW in four weeks for Halloween and we are VERY excited!!
I agree with all your points including the one about taking your son to WDW. You should be excited because trips to Walt Disney World are awesome!
Fair points. In defense of Walt Disney World (I’ve only been to Disneyland once, for a day, so I’m not qualified to make comparisons), the attraction “density” isn’t critical to me. I like how the big parks have some breathing room – quiet sections, random places to explore or relax, etc, but that doesn’t excuse DHS and AK for being one-day parks. The Magic Kingdom is light on the live entertainment but Epcot has a great assortment of live music daily. I also think Star Tours makes a whole lot more sense in a park that’s dedicated to Hollywood than in a Tomorrowland!
The breathing room issue at Disneyland is bad in some spots, such as all of Adventureland and Main Street after fireworks, but there are plenty of hidden quiet spots to relax in the park. And you’re right, I should have mentioned the lice entertainment at Epcot, especially considering some of those acts have been going for 30 years. But, I really do think that the live entertainment is lacking in the other parks. But, with respect to the talented performers, the live entertainment Walt Disney World does have is ridiculously good.
On our trip to WDW last month I told my wife how much better Pirates and It’s A Small World is in Disneyland. But I still like the WDW experience more than Disneyland/DCA
I understand. Hopefully you don’t give up on Disneyland and DCA because you can have a very enjoyable vacation in Anaheim.
All valid points and counterpoints in the comments 🙂 For me, I really enjoyed DLR and can appreciate it’s differences and the areas it excels but there is one vast major difference that cannot be overcome. There is a *special* magic at WDW that’s only in THE World. I wish I could put all of it into words but I feel like I can only explain a couple aspects about it. DLR feels “local” and the CM’s treat it as such. They made us feel like we could have been in any other amusement park in the country. At WDW, it could be your first visit or your 50th and the CM’s make you feel special and like you are truly a part of the magic that is Disney. It’s also in the way the guests themselves immerse in Disney from head to toe. It’s so common for the entire family to be dressed in Disney gear everyday and you definitely don’t see that at DLR lol. I’m sure I’m not doing a very good job of explaining the totality of my statement but I also think that the arguments about which is better is silly. All that really matters is which one your family enjoys the most and go there as often as possible 😀
That’s the key, doing what your family enjoys. This list is written from my point of view, a person who lives near Disneyland and visits frequently. Some people are calling my list mean spirited, but I’m trying to be. These are the things I notice as a DL person who visits WDW a couple times of year.
About the cast members, I’ve had very good and very very bad on both coasts. But where I really notice the better CMs is at Walt Disney World sit down dining restaurants. They always seem personable and friendly. And I love that they are actually allowed to stop and chat with guests every once in a while. I don’t see that same level of friendliness in the Disneyland sit down restaurants.
1. Totally agree about Fantasmic! I actually saw it first in Hollywood Studios and was just not that wow’d. Then I went to Disneyland and OMGOsh it was one of my favorite things there.
2. The food and ambience in New Orleans is my fave hands down. No New Orleans in DisneyWorld is just sad.
3. I LOVE that in Disneyland I can walk anywhere and never have to hop on a bus. This is great when you bring your own stroller and when you need to take mid-day naps with little ones. I find my vacations are so much more relaxing, if you can call theme parks relaxing, when everything is so close that it hardly takes any time to walk back to your hotel and you don’t have to deal with bus lines and breaking down strollers. This might not be a big deal with older children but with little ones it’s a BIG difference.
4. Disneyland feels more magical in every way. Disney World feels much more like a theme park. The closer confines in the Disneyland park, the theming, etc. create a much better fantasy world. It seems like there is less pavement.
5. The weather. The weather. The weather. Florida can never compare to Cali weather.
I agree with all your points. But I will say this about your point number 4, the more WDW fans and DL fans I meet, the more I realize that almost all of them will say that the more magical park is the one they visited first. And that’s fine, nostalgia is a powerful thing. But as for me, I’m a Disneyland guy.
Then I validate your theory cuz I went to Disneyland first!
Although I live 10 minutes from DLR, I’m a WDW guy who hasn’t been to DLR since 2005. But despite that, I think there’s no denying that the Fantasmic *show* is so much better presented at DL. We see lots of debate on the setting, but I haven’t come across anyone defending the show itself at the Studios.
Mist screens are good, therefore more mist screens must be better? Oops. And without the Mark Twain and the Columbia, the WDW version suffers badly.
But other than Fantasmic, I’ll have to say I still prefer WDW. I’m looking forward to the follow-up article.
Disneyland has a lot to do but for my family it felt almost claustrophobic when we are used to the the larger footprint of the Walt Disney World parks. California Adventure didn’t feel nearly so crowded and we can’t wait to go back. We were there during the big construction/remodel.
I can see how WDW veterans may feel claustrophobic in Disneyland. Personally I don’t feel the same way, but on busy nights in some areas of the park (like Adventureland) it can feel like you’re going to be crushed by the mass of people. Disney California Adventure has the advantage of being a modern theme park designed to handle large crowds. Disneyland was designed for crowds of the 50s.
You begin by noting how silly a manufactured rivaly is (and I agree) and then you post an article which is (in my opinion) written in a wholly-unnecessary mean-spirited and demeaning tone. I count myself fortunate to have attended Disney parks on both coasts. I have my favorites and preferences and I note a few obvious differences. But I see the magic and wonder of both Fantasmics! I cherish the compactness of “Walt’s Park” and relish the wide open spaces of WDW. I have no problem finding good counter service food in any Disney park. Why would I want to travel so far to simply experience the exact same thing?
I am also dismayed the author presented false information, either through omission or commission. Much of the live entertainment at WDW’s MK is simply not published in the daily insert. When Parks are, in fact, miles apart, one should expect a bit of travel time to and from. (But I so enjoy taking the long monorail ride between MK and Epcot at WDW!) And stating there’s “less to do” isn’t something one can simply measure based on the number of attractions.
I value this website for so many reasons and I understand that with so much information there will be, on rare occasions, a submission which defeats a main purpose of a Disney vacation: to celebrate wonder and magic and time with those we love. The harsh, unnecessary tone of this piece, in my opinion, negates whatever point the author may be trying to make. It doesn’t need a 5-point follow-up next week. It needs to be re-written.
I apologize that some of my words in this post are mean-spirited, but these are the things that affect my enjoyment of my vacations as a paying guest of both resorts.
“I apologize, but…” rings as false as the rationalization that as ‘a paying guest’ serves as an entitlement to be mean-spirited. I don’t feel a need to denigrate or defame the subjective choices of others simply to make my preferences appear better. Likewise, having been fortunate enough to have visited both USA Disney Parks has provided me with so many wonderful experiences and favorable comparisons without some manufactured need to declare a winner.
I never said anywhere in the post or comments that there is a winner, nor is does anyone need to pick a winner, in fact I don’t mention anything about one winning over the other. I love and enjoy both resorts which is why I spend thousands of dollars a year to visit both.
Chill dude. This is just a light piece designed to have fun with the friendly rivalry between the two. It’s like championing your own sports team. I think next week Guy plans to do the a similar article from the point of view of WDW (unless these way too heavy comments have scared him away…)
I am chilled, thanks. I’m also entitled to my opinion, and I choose to share it in a way that doesn’t showcase such words as “hate.” Whether a compliment or a complaint, I choose to share it in the spirit I find pervasive throughout Disney Parks: of our shared experiences, of the possibilities of the human spirit, and of mutual respect. I believe Guy has much valuable information to share and should have chosen a more positive way to let future guests prepare for differences between WDW and Disneyland. I enjoyed each Fantasmic! for what it is and for where and how it is staged. I was happy to discover Space Mountain is a very different experience. Now I have 2 great experiences, not one I’m “(probably) going to hate.” See the difference? It’s simply a choice in how we choose to perceive things. Had I paid all that money to visit Disneyland only to experience the exact same stuff I enjoyed at WDW I would have been quite disappointed. I choose to celebrate the differences, not (probably) hate them. Incidentally, I find this outlook also works well with life and cultures and situations in general. 😉
I respect your opinion and genuinely appreciate the feedback.
I go to WDW more often because it’s cheaper for me, but I’d agree with you on most of this. Park Hopping, eh, WDW has the size advantage and I always drive so hopping doesn’t bother me.
I also don’t waste time watching shows at any park, but you’re right about the food. Disneyland has better quality/options for their quick service where at WDW it’s the same burger every place you go.
Same burger, same fries, same dessert, etc. Sit down dining is different story, I think there are a ton of excellent sit down options. The park hopping thing is a matter of opinion, but here’s why I put it on the list. It IS a big deal most Disneyland locals. We’re so used to having the parks near each other that almost every Disneylander I talk to mentions this as a negative of visiting WDW. I’ve been accused of being biased in this article, but that’s because I am biased in this article! I’m looking at it from the point of view as someone who visited Disneyland frequently, and visits Walt Disney World a couple of times a year.
I truly love both Disneyland and Disney World. My first adult trip to Walt Disney World was in 2009, and I agree with many of Guy’s points. I understand why there are less attractions in each park, and why park hopping takes so long…but it’s true, I do hate it. I also often find myself at a loss when it is time to eat in Magic Kingdom. Yeah, Harbor House is great, but that is only one option. In general, I find the options in California to be much better.
A previous comment pointed out that many of the live acts at Magic Kingdom aren’t listed on the times guide, which is completely true. However, whenever I’m in Disneyland I feel like I am almost constantly seeing live shows around the park, while at MK I didn’t even know many of the acts existed until I had to hunt them down for research.
Overall, I really agree with all 5 points. I’ve lived in Orlando for 3 years now and all of these things still annoy me all the time. It’s just so different from what I’m used to that it is bothersome. I don’t think he’s making WDW look bad. Just pointing out the differences that seem most bothersome. I’m really looking forward to what Guy thinks the things are that Disneyland regulars will love to see if they match up with my thoughts.
I can’t believe how mean-spirited this blog is. Both DLR and WDW are treasures that I and many others love. Both have their pluses and minuses; however, in my opinion the author chose to turn the blog into a complaint.
I have been fortunate to have visited both parks recently and I enjoy the strengths of the park I’m visiting at the time instead of complaining about what’t not there.
I apologize that some of my words in this post are mean-spirited, but these are the things that affect my enjoyment of my vacations as a paying customer of both resorts. I have been called biased, but that’s because from the point of view in which I am writing this article, I AM biased. A frequent Disneyland visitor who also visits Walt Disney World a couple times a year.
Obviously, you cannot be completely unbiased. However, a good blog (especially one associated with a respected company) tries to present both sides fairly. If this was your own personal blog, go to town. I’m just surprised that Touring Plans would let you post such a one-sided article on their site.
One of the things that struck me the most is this, would a DL local (who I am assuming frequents the park) really care about the # of attractions? I am not a local at either, but I am a WDW annual passholder and do hope to relocate to the Orlando area. The point being, as a frequenter of the parks, I rarely find myself caring about how many attractions there are, because that is not why I go.
I mainly wander about and if something has a short line I go on it. If the Casey’s Corner pianist is performing I stop and listen. If Off Kilter starts playing as I am meandering past Canada I stop and listen. I really do not think that many people who come to the parks often are concerned with hitting every attraction. Sure, sometimes I will decide I really want to ride Big Thunder because I have not done it in awhile, and the Voices of Liberty are a must do for me. I feel like # of attractions is a deciding factor for first and second time visitors trying to decide which resort to go to.
While I have heard and read nothing but good about DL quick service, I have to agree that not mentioning Columbia Harbour House and Sleepy Hollow are definitely ignoring great MK spots. I think seasoned WDW travelers tend to agree that while Cosmic Ray’s has variety, it is far from the best spot.
WDW definitely cannot contend with the park hopping efficiency of DL, but sometimes I feel the park hopping is an attraction all its own. I love taking the boat from EPCOT to DHS, or walking across the Boardwalk and the other resorts to do that same trip. I must admit, even at 26 I still think it is so cool to go through the Contemporary in the monorail, and to get that elevated view of Future World. Now I can see how for people who do not visit often this eats away at precious attraction time, but if it is your first visit or a rare trip, you really could spend a whole day in each park.
As for less to do, I think it is important to consider all the little things and details that are not attractions, but you can have fun experiencing, such as the larger space giving way for more thematic elements. Also, the open space makes things like Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom and Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure possible.
I think what it boils down to is both resorts have a lot to over, but they have a very different vibe to them. It is really a matter of being in the mood or preferring one to the other. WDW also just has so many activities outside of the parks in the resorts, water parks, etc.
My one question was about the entertainment. Do WDW crowds tend to see a greater waxing and waning than DL? Perhaps the average percentage of capacity that is filled on a “slow” day at DL is greater than the same value on a slower day in WDW. I could see that having an affect on what entertainment they offer and how often. Just a thought, but I do not know if it is true.
You’re right, some probably wouldn’t. But personally I do, parks like Animal Kingdom and the Studios just don’t have a lot to do. Especially with the Studios where I skip Star Tours and Toy Story Midway Mania because they are exact clones. This would never ever be a problem for 99% of visitors but for someone like me it is.
This must just be a matter of preference then, I’m simply not a fan of the Columbia Harbour house menu. I’ve tried several of the items but I’ve never enjoyed them. Sleepy Hallow’s waffle sandwiches are excellent but there are only so many times on a trip where I can eat them. Sit down dining at WDW (especially in Epcot) is a different story, I’m a big fan of the sit down restaurants in WDW.
This is a great point. From my point of view (and I have nothing to back this up with, this is just an opionion) WDW visitors seem to measure the success of a vacation on how many rides they got on. I often overhear families on the Disney buses brag that the went on Space Mountain 12 times in a day, or something of that nature. Statistics show that Disneyland visitors, and I’m not talking Annual Passholders, visit the park more frequently than WDW visitors do. Perhaps that is why DL visitors are more willing sit down and watch a band perform, or dance to live music.
Well, I definitely think the type of crowd is a key factor. It is the same reason you can get away with Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World Holiday versions in DL. The majority, or at least a significant amount of DL visitors are local or quasi local (e.g. Las Vegas, San Diego, San Fran, etc.) at Disneyland. So they can easily make it a few times a year.
On the other hand WDW is cheaper to get to and tends to be a place where many people go once in a lifetime and travel half way across the world just to see. Unfortunately that leads to the average WDW visitor being more concerned with getting on every attraction in one day, and planning out every second of the trip, whereas Disneyland visitors are more likely to have already been there once or twice that year and might be more willing to chill and listen to live music for 20-30 minutes.
My family has always been very relaxed in our approach to the park. We just got on what we got on, and if we did not get to it that was ok too. Of course everyone has the must-dos, but it has never been about riding every ride or riding one ride 10 times for me. I think many Florida locals and WDW annual passholders would enjoy more live entertainment, but I just do not think they account for a large enough percentage of the business in Florida to warrant it.
Despite my defense of it, I do agree that MK’s counter service is lacking. Although I rarely eat CS at the parks. I usually do a TS and snack the rest of the day, because there are so many snack options that I love or that are always changing.
DHS is definitely a small park. I probably spend the least amount of time there compared to the others. I think Animal Kingdom is very much what you make of it in some respects. I think it is pretty easy to fill a day though, especially if you see the shows and do the trails, not to mention Rafiki’s Planet Watch. I usually find it easy to fill up a day there (granted it closes rather early). AK is a truly unique park. It is not a zoo, and at the same time it is not really a theme park either. There is really nothing quite like it.
I am sure I will really enjoy DL when I get there, but WDW will always be home. By the way, I think they should take that Pocahontas part out of Fantasmic! at DHS and add something newer, maybe a Princess and the Frog/Dr. Facilier segment. In any case something else. The DL one sounds amazing, but I do love Peter Pan, the movie and the peanut butter.
I loved this even though I’m not a Disneyland local. The things you listed here are some of the things that impressed me most on my trip there this August. Your last point is what I’ve been emphasizing to people back home that have never gone. We spent a full day at each park out there, and both days we still had things we didn’t get to do. That’s so impressive when you compare it to any WDW park.
I don’t know if I agree with that. You may be looking at this through the glasses of someone who’s been to the WDW parks many times.
Imagine someone is going to MK or EPCOT for the first time. Can you honestly tell me that a first-timer can spend one day at each of those parks and they wouldn’t “still [have] things [they] didn’t get to do”? Come on – that’s impossible. If everyone could do and see everything in just one day per park, why do people visit for 7+ days? Every guidebook written states that you need at least 2 days for MK or EPCOT. That’s why it’s so rare when someone completes the Ultimate Touring Plans – because it’s nearly impossible to see everything in one day, let alone relax and enjoy yourself while doing it!
Yes, EPCOT and AK don’t have as many attractions the California parks but that doesn’t equal not having enough to do. I think we can all remember many incredibly enjoyable evenings strolling down World Showcase after dark, not going on a single attraction. I treasure those memories just as much as I do jumping from attraction to attraction on slower MK or DHS days.
I’ve said this to other commenters on this post as well. If I sound biased in this post, it’s because I AM biased in this post. I wrote this from the point of view as someone who visits Disneyland frequently and also visits Walt Disney World once or twice a year. From that point of view, and as paying customer, these are the things I notice and affect my enjoyment of my vacation. And you’re absolutely right, everyone should take the time to stroll through the parks and enjoy them at a leisurely pace. That’s what I do! But, attraction-wise there is less to do in each park.
Thanks Lindsay. You’re right about needing multiple days to see DL and DCA. When I do multiple days in WDW parks it mostly just riding things over and over again, which isn’t a bad thing!
I always find it so interesting how different people tour. I love the attractions, but I would be happy spending the rest of my life perpetually wandering in the parks.
I’m the same way. I could spend days just wondering around Disneyland or World Showcase at Epcot.
You hit the nail on the head with Fantasmic! I was so disappointed by the show in DHS. I’ve been a DL passholder for over 16 years now and have seen Fantasmic at DL countless times. I could probably recite the entire thing from memory right now. What struck me most about DHS’ version is that it was lacking the fantastic part of Fantasmic. That 3 minute section of random movie scenes totally killed what little plot they had. Because of this, and other random scenes, you don’t get immersed in the story and there’s no AWWW feeling at the end of the show in DHS. Despite how many times I’ve seen Fantasmic at DL, I still get giddy when I see Mickey waving his arms from the top of the building on Rivers of America, both at the beginning and end of the show.
As for quick service food, DL was never my favorite place to eat. Until the other year, the food was mediocre and the prices were not anywhere near worth it. With the recent menu revamps, they’ve seriously improved the quality of the food to the point that I’m now willing to go to the park just to eat.
When I went to WDW, I was expecting the same quality of quick service food as the old DL and that’s pretty much what I found. Maybe I just didn’t know where to go, but I did eat at Harbor House and I did get the lobster roll. It was kinda disappointing. But maybe that was because I’d spent the previous two days enjoying the Food & Wine Festival in EPCOT – which had both hits and misses. However, I did really enjoy the variety of sit-down restaurants at WDW. Until Carthay Circle opened at DCA this year, DLR had nothing to compare to WDW when it came to sit down restaurants. Those deep fried green beans and the mango cheesecake at Yak and Yeti were SO GOOD. I actually went back to AK another time just to get those two dishes.
As for nighttime entertainment, I’m more a fan of DL than WDW. As someone else mentioned, I was disappointed by both Illuminations and the MK fireworks. Maybe it’s because everything’s so far away that you don’t get immersed in the show, but I couldn’t get into them. My cousin, who is not a passholder or Disney freak like I am and hardly ever goes to DL, mentioned the same thing after the shows. And that was without any input from me, since I was trying to keep her experience as unbiased as possible.
One other thing I noticed about MK is the seeming lack of Cast Members throughout the park. Maybe it’s because everything is so big and spread out, but I felt like there were hardly any CMs to be had while we were there. Don’t get me wrong, the ones we did encounter were very friendly and I agree, you get way more immersed in the Disney-ness of everything over there than you do in DL, but it was so weird to be able to go over an hour and not see one CM walking down the street.
Quick service food in DLR 5 years ago was just as bad as WDW. But in those last 5 years things have vastly improved. And you’re so right about sit down dining being better in WDW, but I’ll discus how much I love that in next week’s post. That’s interesting you mentioned the lack of cast members. Another commenter mentioned how much better they liked the CMs in WDW over DL. I guess it goes to show that guest service is hit or miss in both resorts.
Guy, I’m so sorry you had such a poor experience at WDW. Did someone force you to go?
Show me where I said I had a poor experience please. I always have amazing experiences in any Disney theme park I visit. But like I said, as a paying customer these are the things that affect the enjoyment of my vacation. As I’m sure you also have things you dislike about yours.
Sorry. I wasn’t serious. I was having fun with the above comments who, in my opinion, misread your tone and overreacted to the article!
Haha ok. Sorry, Sarcasm is little hard to catch on the internet sometimes 😉
I think there’s no contest on Fantasmic! DL’s show is way better. It’s better produced, the seating is more intimate (although I understand the gripes about it shutting down the Rivers of America waterfront), and the updated dragon is awesome. That said, I much prefer the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks display, especially coupled with the castle projection show. (Cinderella Castle is just a much superior castle, although I imagine we’ll see that discussed in your follow-up post…)
Dining options aren’t especially great at either DL or MK in my opinion. I enjoy Disney dining opportunities, and some of them are truly great, but they don’t make or break my vacations, and none of the greats are in either of those flagship parks, and are almost all on WDW property. If there are “dozens” of great QS options at DL, that’s news to me.
Right on regarding Pirates and Space Mountain, though. They are simply superior experiences at Disneyland. Shame that Space Mountain is the highlight of an otherwise underwhelming DL Tomorrowland, though. Tomorrowland has always been my favorite “land,” and DL doesn’t hold a candle to MK’s.
So I’m not misunderstood, none of the things I listed make or break my vacations, but I notice them.
You’re so right about Disneyland’s Tomorrowland. It’s almost like it doesn’t know what it’s trying to be. Lots of different themes, and clashing architecture.
I agree with most of what you said, but I didn’t like the longer Pirates version. I definately understand why it was shortened at WDW because there are a few minutes of boring right before you get to the battle scene. Quick service food seemed to be much better at DL too. Can’t wait to read the next blog!
Thank you, Karen. Thankfully quick service in the Magic Kingdom is slowly getting better. The Be Our Guest quick service menu looks great and I can’t wait to try it.
When I saw the title of your article I immediately thought to myself: “#1 has got to be how much longer and better Pirates of the Caribbean is at Disneyland!” So – I as surprised it didn’t make the top 5 at all. Every time I ride Pirates at WDW I come away thinking of the old Peggy Lee song, IS THAT ALL THERE IS?? I agree on Fantasmic – the presence of the Columbia and the Mark Twain really enhance the show at DL.
The reason Pirates didn’t get its own point is because in the grand scheme of things I personally don’t think it’s that big of a deal. And because Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion is really really good.
I didn’t think the article was mean-spirited at all. I’ve never been to Disneyland but hope to one day. Articles like this will help me appreciate (and be prepared for) the differences in the two resorts.
Thank you. I’m sure you’ll love Disneyland just like you love Walt Disney World. And the good thing is, you don’t need to pick a favorite because they both offer so many great experiences.
You’re poking the bear…
I visited DLR for the first time last month and had to say, I loved park hopping in less than five minutes.
Bottom line for me, however, is that WDW is still my “home” park. And your argument is based on simply the number of attractions, not the quality of atmosphere (which is inherently more difficult to measure).
I’ll throw these out there just to be provocative:
– The Disneyland castle is laughable. It was so strange to sit at the end of Main Street, USA and not have a true icon in front of you.
– Radiator Springs Racers is overrated. They slowed Test Track down and added some bumps. Bottom line is that I certainly did not see an increase in lateral forces.
I’m not making any argument for one park or the other. This list is written from the point of view of someone who is a Disneyland local who also visits Walt Disney World, and enjoys both.
While the Magic Kingdom castle is without a doubt more amazing from the outside, I love the walk through experience in the Sleeping Beauty Castle. If you want to flip your little ones out have them try to open the door handle in the top floor hall about half way down on the left.
Oh yes, I love the Sleeping Beauty Castle walk through. There are so many great little details to be found.
I appreciate the honest expression of your thought process. I had a similar notion last weekend that I could have written about and titled, “3 things a person who normally visits WDW during peak season will hate about visiting during low season.” It doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy my low season visit, but there are things that are better about visiting during high season. I would still be thrilled to go at both times!
I know exactly what you mean! Just because we all have some things we complain about it doesn’t mean don’t enjoy it! Disney vacations are probably one of the most expensive things all us fans spend our money on, we should complain if their is something we don’t like. Of coarse no single, or even collection of things, ruin a vacation. We all still have a great time!
I like Fantasmic at DL better, too.
For the most part, the quick service in DLP and MK is bad compared to rest of WDW. Neither castle park has better quick service than Epcot or Animal Kingdom, and if you don’t feel like Columbia Harbour House’s seafood menu, the ABC Commissary is the hidden jem of WDW counter service.
Park hopping takes almost 30 minutes at WDW, unless you’re MK-Epcot during slower seasons. I agree with this fact.
I agree on the rest of your points if you want to compare Disneyland Park and the Magic Kingdom, but it sounds as if you’re not as familiar with the other parks. Clearly an attraction count itself is not a good metric, as it would make Epcot look like you could hammer it out by lunch. For example, a closer look at the attraction count at the Studios shows that you literally cannot experience all of the attractions on a given day. I think that there is a serious deficiency in the attraction list and entertainment list in the MK, as compared to both DL and the other WDW parks.
On a somewhat related note, as you end by talking about DL regulars going to WDW, I have a comment and a question. If there’s time, experience both lines at WDW’s Pirates; the queue is the one thing missing that would make New Orleans Square perfect in my mind. Also, how hard does it have to storm to shut down DL’s Small World? I prefer the flooded rooms of WDW but adore the outside experience of DL.
I am very familiar with all the parks but honestly it would take a book to compare every single thing to another. These were just the things that stick out most when I visit the Florida parks. You’re right about attraction count not being a good metric, I probably should have worded that point differently. But I still think it’s somewhat valid because when I’m in the Florida parks it always seems like I finish touring earlier in the day than I do at Disneyland. Everything in the Studios probably couldn’t be experienced in a day, but as a yearly visitor to WDW I don’t really have any desire to see Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, or Beauty and the Beast again (not to mention Disney Junior, or Star Tours which are at DLR). I know this isnt a problem for 99% of the guests who visits, but for the rare coast to coast visitor like me, it is. You’re so right about the Pirate’s WDW queue. It really is nice.
Guy, I’ll just reinforce again that your article isn’t intended to be on why DLR is *better* than WDW, it’s on what someone who is already familiar with DLR might not like about WDW. It’s all about our tendency to like what we’re already familiar with, and I’m sure you would agree that one could just as easily write the same article in the other direction – what will WDW fans not like about DLR.
And to answer your question about It’s a Small World. I’ve never seen a rain storm shut down the attraction, but we very rarely get the kind of rain Florida does.
You are joking about the MK entertainment during the day, aren’t you?
Please visit wdwent.com for WDW entertainment information.
I’m planning a day mostly JUST of MK entertainment in December including
1) Dapper Dans 2) Casey’s Corner Pianist 3) Main St Saxophone 4
4) Main Street Philharmonic 5) Main St Trolley Show 6) Citizens of Main St
7) Notorious Banjo Brothers and Bob 8) Fantasyland Woodland Society
There’s also the Frontierland Hoedown and multiple Dream Along with Mickey shows.
Don’t forget the dance party in Tomorrowland. The three showings of Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It Street Party (which is, in my opinion, one of the best pieces of entertainment in all of WDW because the characters come off the floats and dance with the crowd). The afternoon parade. Etc,etc,etc.
Wow. I think tone can be hard to read on the internet, but as someone who has met Guy, I think I read this in the spirit he intended. I can see how it could be viewed as an attack on WDW, but really there are differences between the parks and each cost has some advantages.
1. The Fantasmic! show at DL is far better than the WDW counterpart. I can see how the seating would seem inconvenient to tourists, but as a local, I walk up to the second show 20 min before and get my favorite spot each time.
2. I like some of the CS options in Epcot. Mexico and Morocco are my favorites. DHS and MK are the parks I tend to eat TS in only because I don’t care for the CS options as much.
3. While MK doesn’t have as many live acts at DL, the live acts at Epcot are still my favorite at any Disney park. I do love strolling around DL only to find a random comedy show in Frontierland or band performance in New Orleans.
4. Park hopping is more convenient at DL.
5. There are a lot of attractions in DL/DCA combined.
Thanks Mukta.You’re so right about Fantasmic. Us locals have a certain way of getting good spots right before showtimes.
Thank you for the provocative post. Your thoughts and those shared by many others are all very interesting to me as WDW veteran. I love WDW, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see things I’d like to see done differently. The more I’ve read, the more I’m interested in heading to the West coast for a visit to DL. I’m sure I’ll enjoy both parks, and appreciate them for their similarities and differences. Keep the bold topics and conversations coming!
Thank you Douglas. I can’t wait to hear what you think about DL when you visit. I remember the first time I went to WDW in 1996 when I was 13 (I didn’t return again until 2008), my head was spinning trying to process all the differences. I walked in saying to myself that I was just going have a good time and not compare everything, but after repeat visits to WDW I started to notice the things that bother me. But the good things outnumber the bad by a long shot, which is why I return to WDW year after year.
A great post Guy!
As an Orlando local, I agree that the MK live entertainment (and all over WDW) has been drastically cut back over the years. Remember when the Main Street Philharmonic was a full size marching band? What about the loss of the steel drum band in Adventureland, the cut backs ending Spellmans Gledje and Future Corps, and many others. Bottom line: DL does continue to focus on live entertainment, while TDO is willing to cut it back to increase revenue. IMO, DL and TDA win the live entertainment argument hands down.
Thanks Jeff. I get what people are saying about a lot of live entertainment not being listed in the show schedule but my point is that there is still a lot more at DL/DCA. And you’re right that a lot of live entertainment has been cut at WDW.
I’ve exuberantly recommended the Touring Plans site and books for years to many friends. That said, I was genuinely sad and disappointed to read this blog post. I love Disney Parks, and I normally enjoy reading material about my favorite places. This post, however, seems unduly harsh and mean spirited, with no practical trip-planning advice to redeem it.
I hope that Touring Plans quickly rethinks future plans for this sort of negative and unhelpful content. Please return to what you do so well: helping people to extend the joy of a Disney holiday.
I think that this post is an indication that this blog has about run its course in terms of comparing WDW and DLR. I would love to learn about the Disney Parks in other countries, though.
I’m sorry you feel that way but I do think this post is helpful to the small percentage of people like me who pay to visit both resorts.
The park experiences are so really different, and we wouldn’t need this comparison if there wasnt so much duplication, or “almost duplication”. It seems surreal to me to be walking through DCA and come across the same Muppets show that is at DHS, and the Tower of Terror is right over there? And why is the Haunted Mansion in totally the wrong place? What I treasure are the things that are unique, that you cannot get on the other coast, and that you just can’t compare. That’s why I wish that Carsland never comes to WDW. WDW need something else just as wonderfully done and unique. Just think what we’d be saying if, instead of having a copy of at DHS, they had put in a different show with a different story and presentation. Then no one would complain, they’d want to travel to both places to see both experiences. Well, someone would still probably complain…
This post just left a bad taste in my mouth. I read this blog to get information about Disney World, not to hear someone spout off about how awful it is. Seriously?
The list wasn’t a way to spout off about how awful it is but was to point out things a visitor of both coasts will notice. Neither resort is above criticism, especially to customers like a lot of Disney fans who pay thousands of dollars to visit both.
I understand. And consumers definitely deserve a balanced and honest viewpoint. But your viewpoint was extremely biased (and, as many readers pointed out, you made many blanket statements that were simply untrue—as people proved by offering examples that contradicted your statements). Frankly, I’ve been to both places, and I “noticed” none of what you are complaining about. You are entitled to your opinions; just don’t present them as facts.
You say this as if I am picking a winner. Which I am not, and made no mention of the post.
I don’t think I made any blanket statements that are outright untrue. I backed up what I could with numbers and many examples of my own. People offered their opinions and I respect them, but that doesn’t mean I agree with them. But that’s great that people left so many comments with their opinions! I loved reading what people had to say, and the good and bad feedback. It’s going to be a hot topic whenever someone criticizes their favorite Disney resort. And believe it or not I do take the criticism of this list seriously.
Like I keep saying in the comments, this blog post is biased by design. I visit Disneyland weekly and Walt Disney World twice a year. Most of the Disney fans I interact with on Twitter and message boards are bi-coastal park visitors and a lot of them share the same feelings.
You really haven’t noticed Fantasmic is better in Disneyland, or that the majority of quick service meals pale in comparison, or park hopping takes forever, or that there is less to do in each park? I don’t think I’m being unreasonable with any of those statements.
I didn’t mention any parades or dance parties because most of the parks have them, so just by numbers they are on equal grounds. Same reason why I didn’t mention fireworks.
I think opinion posts do have a place on the TouringPlans blog, or any news website. Obliviously I don’t speak for anyone at TouringPlans but myself, but sometimes I get tired of reading posts that talk about only good stuff. Personally, I want to know about other people’s disappointments. I want to know what to avoid. I want to have discussions about the good and bad. There are always going to be disagreements.
I think this point has been lightly made, but I don’t think any Disney park anywhere can compare the variety and quality of counter service as that offered at EPCOT’s World Showcase. Each country offers counter service or cart options that are unique and in most cases very good.
I have experienced Disneyland and DCA twice, over a period of 6 days in total. Weekdays and nights in DLR are a delight. I love the compactness of the park and the size and scope are charming (with shadows of Walt’s footsteps everywhere in Disneyland). Both visits I also spent a Friday night there and wouldn’t give you a nickel for the weekend crowds at these commuter parks. I found Disneyland so ridiculously crowded the last weekend of July 2011 that I simply abandoned the park. We walked though Downtown Disney and the Grand Californian resort and retreated to our hotel. I have never seen anything like it. I think the crowds and atmosphere are “different” at Disneyland as compared to the vacationing families found at WDW.
There were a lot of things I loved about Disneyland Resort, some of which you touched on (I love New Orleans Square and the Blue Bayou). But I think the table service restaurants in MK, EPCOT and DHS are superb in their quality and variety.
Both DLR and WDW have their selling points.
Table service yes. WDW can’t be beat. Which is why it’s on the “love” list next week!
Thank you for this very useful post. I have been to both parks– although not in many years– and we probably will be visiting both parks again in the next couple of years, because we will be traveling to those areas for other reasons. I am bookmarking this post so that I can keep track of which attractions to experience at which park.
Thank you, Rebecca. The fun part will be when you experience everything in person to see if you agree!
My DBF and I are Disneyland vets and we’re at WDW for the first time right now. We have been complaining about all five of these things for the past four days. The food is awful, the parks don’t have enough to do in hem, t here’s no pop up entertainment or roving characters or Main Streetvehicles out. Ever. And the condition of a lot of things is kind of shabby, or really outdated. (Especially Epcot.) Lesson learned, we’ll stick to Anaheim from now on.
Thank you so much for this!! As A DL veteran (a person growing up with an annual pass living 10 minutes away) this will help significantly. We are planning our first trip ever in Dec to WDW with my little ones (4 and 2) who have both already been to DL 3 times even though now we live in Houston. I’ve been so worried about everything you have mentioned. Friends have told me it is just different, more open, more magical… I can’t wait to see your post about what a DL veteran will love at WDW!