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SATURDAY SIX: 6 Disneyland Rides BETTER Than Their Disney World Counterparts

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Disneyland Rides That Are BETTER Than Their Disney World Counterparts! In previous editions of the SATURDAY SIX we have reached out to our all-star blue ribbon panel made up of theme park experts to vote on their favorite attractions at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort. This week we reached out again – while also including the unwashed masses of DisTwitter – to give their thoughts on which rides at Disneyland are better than their Disney World counterparts. 

it’s a small world in Disneyland is a completely different experience than the one in Walt Disney World. (photo by Brandon Glover)

One interesting thing about the voting process is that there was a clear favorite after the first day of voting, but spots two through six were close enough that they were all up for grabs. However, when all the votes were counted, the rides ranked 1-6 after the first day each held their position, so it seems clear there is a pretty strong consensus among people who have been to both Orlando and Anaheim. Today we’re going to take a look at six rides which were voted as being BETTER than their Disney World counterparts, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Big Thunder makes the list in part because of a fantastic refurb the ride went through a couple years ago which added a thrilling finale sequence as well as recontructing the ramshackle Rainbow Ridge mining town. Rainbow Ridge doesn’t exist in Walt Disney World, but has been in Disneyland since 1956 as part of the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train attraction. The finale now includes an amazing lift hill experience where guests are surrounded by projection map technology and real props to give the sensation of the mine about to explode (with a blast of smoke amping up the sensory level.)

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Rainbow Ridge. (photo by Seth Kubersky)

Rainbow Ridge. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Disneyland’s iconic dynamite chewing goat, which we do have in Disney World, but not as prominently featured. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
It’s gonna blow! (photo by Brian Pinsky)

# 5 – its a small world

The first thing guests will notice about it’s a small world in Disneyland compared to the Orlando version is the unbelievable facade designed by imaginer Rolly Crump that completely stays true to the Mary Blair style found inside the attraction. With whimsical nods to the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the design gets more impressive the more you look at it. Guests queue outdoors for Disneyland’s iasw, and pass by fun topiaries before being loaded into the ride’s boats. Being able to enjoy part of the iasw journey outside adds a completely different element that does not exist at Disney World.

A controversial element was added to Disneyland’s iasw in 2008 when almost 30 Disney character dolls were added to the attraction. While Disney World still has the original non-specific dolls representing various countries around the world, Disneyland has beloved characters from Alice in Wonderland, the Lion King, and Toy Story. If those differences weren’t enough, iasw completely transforms during the Christmas season with a jaw-dropping overlay that needs to be seen to be believed.

it’s a small world facade. (photo by Brandon Glover)
it’s a small world. (photo by Brandon Glover)
The Three Caballeros in its a small world. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Pinocchio in iasw. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Stitch in iasw. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Lion King characters in iasw. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Woody, Bullseye and Jessie in iasw. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Postcards mark the end of your experience in Disneyland’s iasw compared to the “goodbye” sequence in Disney World. (photo by Brandon Glover)
it’s a small world facade during the Holiday overlay. (photo by Brian Pinsky)

# 4 – Disneyland Railroad

Any Disney fan worth their salt knows that Walt Disney the man loved trains. One major difference between the Disney World Railroad and Disneyland’s Railroad is that the latter has Walt’s trains. Disneyland also features the elaborately decorated Lilly Belle Presidential Train Car, along with passing through two giant dioramas that let guests look out onto the Grand Canyon and peek back in time to the age of dinosaurs.

Disneyland Railroad. There are several different steam engines in operation including the Ward Kimball above. The others are named after Fred Gurley, Ernest Marsh, EP Ripley, and CK Holliday. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Disneyland Railroad. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Lilly Belle car. (photo by Seth Kubersky)
Grand Canyon view from the Disneyland Railroad. (photo by Seth Kubersky)
Grand Canyon view from the Disneyland Railroad. (photo by Seth Kubersky)
DINOSAURS! (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Disneyland train station. (photo by Brian Pinsky)

# 3 – Enchanted Tiki Room

Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room has been a beloved attraction for many years, and thankfully didn’t have to suffer through the “Under New Management” version that its Orlando counterpart did. While the differences between the two attractions are relatively minor compared to the rides already listed, voters were extremely passionate behind this version of the Tiki Room. One thing is for certain, guests don’t mind the more blatant synergy between the attraction and its sponsor Dole. No doubt, it’s helped by the fact that for years Disneyland guests have been getting their beloved Dole Whips nearby and bringing them into the air conditioned building to enjoy, while only recently has that been practical for those of us in Florida (when Aloha Isle moved across Adventureland.)

Enchanted Tiki Room. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Enchanted Tiki Garden. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Enchanted Tiki Room. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Enchanted Tiki ad for Dole in pre-show. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Enchanted Tiki Room seating. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Enchanted Tiki Room fountain. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
If you had a pair of sunglasses like the one Roddy Piper wore in They Live you’d see this pineapple sign really says “CONSUME.” (photo by Brian Pinsky)

# 2 – Space Mountain

Space Mountain is a pretty cool ride in Florida, but it is a GREAT ride in Anaheim. Every complaint you could have with the Disney World version has been fixed and improved upon out in Disneyland. Instead of the awkward single file seating like WDW, Disneyland has guests sitting comfortably two-by-two, like they would on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Expedition Everest. There is on-board audio, which makes any coaster better. The track is smoother. However, the one thing that guests really enjoy are the various overlays the attraction gets including Hyperspace Mountain and Ghost Galaxy. Hyperspace Mountain will have you listening to classic Star Wars music while seeing Tie Fighters and X-Wings battle it out, while Ghost Galaxy is a Halloween overlay that delivers an actual creepy version of the normal Space Mountain.

Hyperspace Mountain. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Space Mountain cars in Disneyland. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Space Mountain. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Ghost Galaxy. (photo by Brian Pinsky)

# 1 – Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean was a CLEAR #1 in the voting with only about 10 voters not having as their #1 choice (the 2 or 3 voters who did not have Pirates on their ballot at all are being tested for illegal substance abuse.) The facade of Disneyland’s Pirates fits wonderfully in the New Orleans Square area of the park, and the actual attraction has some major scenes that the Orlando version does not. In Disneyland, Pirates starts off with guests floating in the Louisiana bayou, passing by a tranquil setting before going down two waterfalls. In total, the ride is seven minutes longer than its Florida counterpart with a longer town scene and an extended ending which has guests traveling back up a waterfall. Diners in the Blue Bayou Restaurant get to see guests in Pirates pass by them while dining, providing a very unique dining experience.

Pirates of the Caribbean. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Pirates of the Caribbean. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Pirates of the Caribbean. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Pirates of the Caribbean. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Part of Disneyland’s ending for the Pirates ride that does not exist in Disney World. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Blue Bayou Restaurant. (photo by Brandon Glover)


While Orlando’s Tomorrowland Speedway received plenty of votes in the Worst Attraction at Walt Disney World poll, Disneyland’s version of the ride is a clear audience favorite. It has the same slow moving cars and a track which doesn’t allow the driver much to do, but at least Disneyland has a unique visual element throughout that is completely missing in the barren WDW ride.

Autopia. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Autopia. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Autopia. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Autopia. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Autopia. (photo by Brian Pinsky)
Autopia. (photo by Brian Pinsky)

Runners up (in order of most votes received to least): Peter Pan, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Haunted Mansion, Winnie the Pooh, the Jungle Cruise, Fantasmic!*, Soarin’ Around the World, and Toy Story Midway Mania.

*While not a ride, I should have included Fantasmic! in the original list of attractions to choose from. People who voted on Day One did not have Fantasmic! listed among the choices to think about, while voters in following days did see it to consider. While I don’t think it would have cracked the top six even if put in originally, I would have liked to see the results if it had been because it certainly is a much different experience than the one in DHS.

So there you have it: Six Attractions at Disneyland That Are BETTER Than Their Disney World CounterpartSee you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

We here at the SATURDAY SIX are
shocked…SHOCKED this didn’t
make the cut because it blows
our version away. (photo by Brian Pinsky)

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following:

Six Reasons This WDW Annual Passholder Can’t Wait To Go Back To Disneyland

The Six Best Theme Park Related Comic Books (including Walt Disney’s Vacation in Disneyland)

Six Reasons We Love Main Street Electrical Parade’s Return to Disneyland

Six Disneyland Snacks You Gotta Try!

Six Most Unique Dining Experiences at Walt Disney World

Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, the “Brandon Glover of Disneyland” Brian Pinsky, the admiral of arts & culture Seth Kubersky, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with goofballs co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde , while fellow Potterheads may enjoy Meg’s work on the Central Florida Slug Club.

FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2017 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now!

All aboard the S.S. SATURDAY SIX! (photo by Brian Pinsky)

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26 thoughts on “SATURDAY SIX: 6 Disneyland Rides BETTER Than Their Disney World Counterparts

  • It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this excellent blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will talk about this blog with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

  • Here is my comparison (I live near and worked at DL and have been to WDW too many times to count):
    Trains — DL
    Castle — MK (but DL has a walk through that is good for little ones)
    Peter Pan — DL (an argument for both, but I like the higher view of London)
    Small World — DL (definitely)
    Pooh — MK (definitely MK)
    Little Mermaid — same ride, but entrance at MK is better
    Autopia — DL
    Mad Hatter (tea cups) — DL atmosphere is better
    Star Tours — entrance at Hollywood Studios is better, ride the same
    Space Mountain — DL
    Buzz Lightyear — DL (very definitely)
    Tiki Room — same (I actually like the entrance better at MK)
    Jungle Cruise — MK
    Pirates — DL (very definitely)
    Haunted Mansion — MK
    Splash Mountain — MK
    Thunder Mountain — DL

    • Babs, we are of one mind. I agree with every single one of your comparisons (including those that are “definitely” better), with the possible exceptions of the tea cups and Big Thunder Mountain, which I would put as a draw.

    • I like the WDW Tiki Room better because of the preshow/queue. That’s one my favorites spots in all the parks.

      Pirates is a million times better in DL obviously but I do like the exterior in Florida better, has more of a Caribbean flavor that I enjoy

  • Buzz should really have made this list over Tiki Room. With the hand-held blasters and the four different target shapes/values/difficulties (as opposed to the rail-mounted blasters and every target being the same), it’s MUCH more fun in Anaheim.

  • I’ve had the pleasure of going to DL once to compare to my countless trips to WDW. It was amazing to actually see the differences. I agree with most of the picks here, except 1…it’s a small world. Now, the façade outside DL version is AMAZING and can’t even begin to compare to anything at WDW. However, it’s the ride itself that I had an issue with. I could easily look over the side and see plumbing notations on the floor and other mundane things that were ruining the magic for me. Not having wall-to-wall water in the rooms was a let down. The ceilings seemed to be very low. I think you get the point. So, that was a HUGE disappointment and I definitely feel they got WDW iasw absolutely right…on the inside…DL façade still rocks! 🙂

    • I agree Beth.
      WDW’s Small World certainly doesn’t compare to DL’s on the outside, but definitely feels more substantial on the inside.

  • Fantasmic – the show is SO much better at DL, but audience comfort is SO much greater at DHS.

  • Do you think the Disney Imagineers read all the blogs to see what the public think about various things at Disney parks – and then take action to improve them? It would be a useful source of information for them.

  • One of my favorite aspects of Pirates and IASW in California is that they seemingly go on forever. They certainly aren’t building 16 minute long boat rides anymore!

    • That is a great point. The new Na’Vi River Journey in Pandora: The World of Avatar looks absolutely amazing but it is definitely under five minutes. Would love a Living With the Land-like length but those days are over for the foreseeable future.

  • Great read! I couldn’t agree more! Disneyland Space Mountain has always been one of my favorites, but the last time I rode it in WDW I swore that was the last time! It was so much rougher, and combined with the weird seating arrangement my knees (and neck) took a beating.

  • Great list, though I fully agree that Buzz Lightyear should have made the cut – the hand-held blasters at DL are great compared to the awkward-to-aim ones at WDW.

    One question not about this list, but about the excellent and much-appreciated Personalized Touring Plans feature here on TouringPlans.com: why is it that Fantasmic doesn’t seem to be available on the Disneyland attractions list, even for future planning purposes? I know it’s not currently showing, but even so, the corresponding FASTPASS kiosk is available on the list, but not the show itself. The show’s return date isn’t announced yet (just “summer 2017”), but that’s the case for a number of other attractions that are nevertheless selectable. I could see including a cautionary warning note that it MIGHT not be available on a given date, but as someone who likes to do planning well in advance, I hope you’re not planning to wait until it actually starts up again to put it in the menu (not directing that to you, Derek, but to those who manage the software…)? I’m planning in general for a trip expected to be sometime in the summer, and I’d like to have the option to work out how it would fit into plans (accounting for the need to get a FASTPASS early, or do a dining package later, etc.).

    • Thanks Brad, forwarded your comment straight to the Grand Poohbah himself, Len Testa.

    • My understanding is that TP has a nifty feature in that its show schedules are “automated” to some degree. What the software that Len & the team set up TP to do is to periodically load the info directly from Disney’s web site into TP. Often when the show schedules change on the Disney site, TP will have it a day or two later. It’s a great feature in that people don’t have to constantly check Disney’s schedules and update TP. However, if Disney is slow to set the schedules (which they’ve increasingly been the past year or two), it makes it more difficult to plan way ahead.

      Often TP will “guess” as to what the schedule may be based on past schedules.

      Your idea of having a “this attraction may not be open” warning is a good one, but still, it’ll require some more on-hand managing by the TP team.

  • This is great! We finally took our 4 daughters to WDW in Nov after going to Dland every year in December. I almost fell over when, a month later, they said, “Are we going to Disneyland after Christmas this year? We miss it.” We think that iasm is a JOKE at WDW. We couldn’t believe how tacky it was. But we rode it three times because – no line and waiting for a fast pass. Also, my 7YO rode SM (WDW) as her first roller coaster and I had this moment where I freaked out because I didn’t think it was single-rider style – this explains my confusion!

    • I grew up going to Disneyland, and iasm was always one of my favorite rides. My firs visit to Disney World was as an adult, and I made a beeline for iasm. I kept looking around for the giant outside clock, and insisting we were in the wrong place, because that ride claiming to be iasm couldn’t possibly be it.

  • “They Live” lol, last reference to that I saw was in an Adam Curtis movie.

  • Great article! I’m a DL AP and I was lucky to have one day in Magic Kingdom last October. By the way, because of the construction of Star Wars land in DL, the railroad has not been running til I think later this year. They have been running Space Mountain as Hyperspace Mountain since before Force Awakens (which I absolutely love!). However, they recently announced that I think in June it’ll return to the original Space Mountain. Everyone is assuming that Ghost Galaxy will return for Halloween.

    By the way, I enjoy reading the Saturday Six and always show them to my husband as well!

  • I figure the only way my name would get in this article again would be if I wrote a comment.

    I don’t understand why the Tiki Room is on the list. Aside from the fountain the shows are virtually identical.

    • Tim, you’ve been to Tiki Room more recently. Outside of the things mentioned in the article, was the actual Disneyland Tiki Room show cut down in length like the one in Disney World?

      • No Disneyland still has originally show. Disney world, just like Country Bear in Florida has been shortened

      • IIRC, the Disneyland version doesn’t have the Offenbach song (neither does WDW) and both shows are pretty darn similar except for the fountain.

        I didn’t vote for Buzz, but the non-tethered guns would definitely have that on my list over the Tiki Room.

      • The post-2011 DW version is about 1 min 50 sec shorter than the DL version because the second and third songs were shortened.

  • Just a quick correction, it’s *Rolly* Crump, not *Wally*. And I agree 100% with your list.

    • Dang it. I have had Wally Boag on the mind recently and must have mixed the name up in my head. Thanks for catching that.


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