Friday, September 30, 2016

Disney World vs Disneyland

Are you tired of hearing about Disney yet?  Never?  Cool, me either.

I went to Disneyland thinking I was going to be someone that was partial to both parks.  I had read that you can't really compare Disney World (WDW or DW) to Disneyland Resort (DL) for various reasons, but compare I did.

For the first half of this post, I'll just compare the parks.  The 2nd half I will compare the runs.

I have zero experience with any of the Disney parks that are not in the US, so if you're looking for info on Disney in Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, or Shanghai, you're in the wrong place.

The Parks

At WDW, there are 4 main parks:
  • Magic Kingdom (where the castle is)
  • Epcot (where the pretty ball is)
  • Hollywood Studios (where Star Wars is)
  • Animal Kingdom (exactly what it sounds like)
At DL, there are 2 main parks:
  • Disneyland
  • California Adventure
At both parks there are also various Disney hotels/resorts to stay "on-property", significantly more at DW than DL, but this is logical because DW is HUGE compared to DL.

All the parks require at least 1 full day to enjoy them, but more is better if you can handle it.  There is no way to do everything in a single park in a single day at any park, it's just not possible.

Insider trick: How to tell the difference between DL and WDW castles?  Sleeping Beauty's castle (DL) has a moat around it, so it has a drawbridge. Cinderella's castle does NOT have a drawbridge.  Cinderella's castle is what you see on the Disney logo when you see a Disney movie.


DW is a HUGE place and you can completely immerse yourself in all things Disney and not have to deal with the real world at all if you are staying on-premises.  This is good and bad.  Shit is expensive at Disney.  Don't deny it.  Yet there are perks to staying on-premises at DW.
  • Transportation from the hotels to the parks and from park to park.  Buses, monorail, boats (no kidding).  You don't have to pay to park during the day.
  • Disney magic 24/7.  
  • Magic Bands (also available to annual pass holders)
    • gives early access to Fast Passes for rides to schedule Fast Passes in advance instead of at the park the day of
    • stores credit card info so you don't have to carry your wallet with you, just swipe your band at check out and it automatically charges to your account (awesome and dangerous)
    • act as the key to your hotel room
If you are afraid you're going to run out of things to do on vacation, DW is the place for you.  There is no shortage of activities in the park, at your (Disney) hotel, or even in Orlando if you want to visit the "real world."  You can even visit other hotels and participate in their activities!

DW is the home of Cinderella's castle.  It's massive and magical and looks like the Disney logo you remember as a kid.  You can actually meet Princesses inside the castle if you make reservations for the character dinner that takes place there.  Word on the street is there's also a suite in the castle that you can pay approximately a mabillionty dollhairs to stay in.  Probably something I'll never personally validate.

Magic Kingdom (MK)

First and foremost, there are LOTS of children here.  This is THE park to go to at DW.  It is essentially the DL of DW.  Also, this park is DRY.  I repeat, there are a lot of children here and you CANNOT buy alcohol at this park.

MK is very much like DL in that it has different "lands" within the park and some of the same rides are at both parks (not all inclusive): Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Soarin' (even though this is actually in CA Adventure), it's a small world, Pirates of the Caribbean, tea cups, etc.  Despite having the "same" rides, often the rides aren't exactly the same.  The lines can sometimes differ (you'll find more covered lines in FL due to the weather) and sometimes even the rides can differ.  There were actual Disney characters at the DL it's a small world.  The course of Pirates of the Caribbean at DL was different than MK.

Main Street is similar at both DL and MK.  Shops, tracks you might twist your ankle on, perfect view of the castle. 


You CAN buy alcohol here!  THIS is the place to get that Dole Whip.  Make it a float with rum or vodka, you're welcome.  You can't get the liquor float if you get a Dole Whip at any other park.  Take advantage of this perk while you can.

Epcot is the host of the Food and Wine Festival in the fall and the Flower and Garden Festival in the spring.  Having been to the Flower Festival, I was impressed.  Let's just say, I'll never be a gardener at DW.  I've only heard good things about the Food and Wine Festival and I know regulars who attend.  This festival also coincides with a runDisney event, Dine and Dash series.

The most awesome ride at Epcot: Spaceship Earth (inside that big white ball) or Soarin' (the CA version)
The coolest thing about Epcot: You can literally "walk around the world".

Epcot is laid out in a circle around a lake/fountain/contained water thing and around the circle are different countries (Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the United States, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, and Canada).  Each country features Cast Members from those actual countries and you can see shows that would be taking place in those countries, which is pretty cool.

Teh Sister and I did our Princess meal in Norway and it was worth it to help avoid some of the children, as much as you can at DW.  Epcot is considered the most "adult" of the parks, and there are very few actual rides at Epcot, so keep that in mind.

Hollywood Studios (HS)

Home of the live-action movie attractions and some awesome character spotting opportunities.

There's a HUGEEEE AT-AT at the Star Tours ride, DL doesn't have that.  The Fantastmic boat/light/water show is pretty awesome.

Also, there's a Villians shop here.

Animal Kingdom (AK)

 If you get there early enough, you can "go on a safari" and actually see the animals awake and moving since it's their breakfast time.  This park is 98% about the animals.  Another park with a lot of children.  There are a few rides here, Everest and the tree and the railway, but mostly you're there to smell look at the animals and dodge small children with juice mustaches dressed up as Princesses.

Other parks/places at DW:

  • ESPN Wide World of Sports, for those sports fanatics.  Sometimes they even have actual sporting events going on.
  • Water parks (I'd rather ride the wet rides than soak myself in stranger's urine)
  • There's also a NASCAR track thing right beside ESPN, but I don't think they are Disney affiliated, nonetheless, reminds me of my childhood.
  • Disney hotels/resorts

Etc notes:
Having stayed at a DW hotel, it was super magical.  We stayed at the All Star Movies Resort.  I'd do it again.


DL is wayyyy smaller than DW.  Butttttt, it is the original Disney park.  Walt was there, a lot.  If that's not enough magic for you, then you're a magic snob.  With only 2 parks, there is still no shortage of activities.  Additionally, you're pretty much in LA/Hollywood, so if you're willing to tolerate the "real world" there are even more options for activities.

Of the 2 parks, I think we enjoyed California Adventure a little more than Disneyland.  The park is more adult oriented, so that probably helped.  Additionally, they serve liquor, where DL is a dry park, which made for a very disappointing Dole Whip float, imo.

There aren't nearly as many character dining options at DL as there are at WDW.  I believe part of this is due to the size differences between WDW and DL.  With 4 parks and more than a handful of resort hotels, there are plenty of spaces to host character dining experiences.

The biggest difference that really was a buzz kill for me that DL doesn't have that WDW has?  MAGIC BANDS.  Magic bands are dangerous little devices of convenience.  Even worse?  We were given a PAPER tickets.  After 3 days, those poor tickets were sad from being in sweaty pockets for way too many hours.  At WDW, even if you don't qualify for a Magic Band, you get a plastic ticket (like a credit card).  I get it, "original Disney park", but some times, things change for the better.  The Photo Pass cards were plastic, so I was dumbfounded why the tickets weren't plastic.


  • Many similar rides as you'd find at WDW.
  • You'll find more children here than at CA Adventure
  • There is a castle.  It's small, but it's there.  You can walk under the castle, but don't have WDW expectations.
  • Home of the elusive Club 33 (and if it's not elusive to you, can we be friends?)
  • Has Star Wars rides
I did notice that wait times for rides at DL were shorter than at DW. We were at DL during a high traffic weekend, so I was surprised to see this.  That said, often time the wait times went down because the ride would break and people would leave the line, but it wasn't really a shorter wait.  I don't recall rides breaking very frequently at DW.

The magic at DL isn't as magical as it is as WDW.  Maybe it's that California attitude seeping into the magic, but I had some questionable interactions with more Cast Members at DL than WDW, like the Cast Member who essentially made fun of us and made us wait to ride because we stopped to take a selfie (there was no one behind us).  Uhhh, rude.

As I said about MK, DL is very similar to MK.  Some similar rides, but potentially better since they have more Disney to them.  For instance, it's a small world has Disney characters throughout the ride that you can find, this isn't true at WDW.

California Adventure (CAA)

CAA would be like if MK and Epcot had a hippy love child that lived in California.  CAA is geared more towards adults, being the home of Tower of Terror, California Screamin', the ferris wheel, the super awesome Cars/Test Track ride, plus alcohol, with the landscape setting of California.  Cars Land and Bug's Life Land and some areas of the Boardwalk are kiddy rides, but they aren't too bad for adults who avoid high-thrill rides.

Most importantly, this park serves alcohol and has a Ghirardelli shop right across from a place that makes sour dough bread from a mother loaf from the early 1900's.

I really appreciated all the California tributes.  From Grizzly Springs to San Francisco's piers to the desert area represented by Cars Land to the Hollywood area and Buena Vista Street.  Maybe Bugs Land was a tribute to the National Parks?

Additionally, CAA has Soarin' Around the World, which is an awesome ride.  Granted, I loved Soarin' (over California) better because the orange and tree smells, but I'll take what I can get.  Neuschawnstein Castle is featured in Soarin' Around the World, and that holds a special place in my heart, so I'm biased for different reasons towards both.

Characters at CAA aren't as hidden as they are at DL and WDW, which is nice for this character hunter.

Final Thoughts?

Disney World is still my fave.  I wanted to be partial and like both parks for what they offered, but the convenience of the Magic Band really swayed me at the end of the day, especially since the parks have similar offerings.  Also, it helps that I'm only a 6 hour drive from Disney World, whereas I'm a 6 hour plane ride away from Disneyland.


Having run a runDisney event on both the east and west coast, I feel validated to talk about the differences.  Truthfully, it was a tie for me on which was better.  I really can't decide.  That said, I'm not committed to doing more runDisney events. 

Disney World runs:


  • Running only on Disney property.  You get to see behind the scenes.  This is only bad when you are still running and you start to smell bacon cooking.
  • Buses to bring you to the race start (from Disney hotels)
  • Characters before and after the race to get photos with 
  • Running through Magic Kingdom and Epcot
  • Entertainment along the course
  • Fireworks for each corral start
  • Running only on Disney property.  This means those boring highways for long stretches.
  • Getting up at last call to get ready, catch a bus, and be at the start area way early.
  • Only running through 2 of 4 parks.
  • Price
  • Inconsistent weather (will it be cold?  will it be warm?  No one knows.)
  • Bottleneck areas
  • Cheerleaders/onlookers only allowed in certain, limited, areas.

Disneyland runs:


  • Getting up "early" for the run, but not nearly as early as DW
  • Being able to walk to the start area/corrals from off-property hotels
  • Running through Disneyland and California Adventure AND Anaheim and the Angel Stadium.
  • Reliable weather (that CA perfection)
  • More cheerleaders along the course

  • Reflectors in the middle of the street!!!!  So many people were taken down by those little bastards.
  • No character photos before/after the race
  • Running through the parks didn't last very long
  • Entertainment along the course (classic cars did nothing to distract me from the never-ending miles I'd committed to running for a piece of overpriced medal.  More drumlines/music please!) 
  • No fireworks at the start or with any corrals. 
  • Bottleneck areas
  • Price

For just myself, for JUST the races, I paid $770!
Princess Weekend:
5k: $65
Glass Slipper Challenge (10k+1/2 marathon): $305
Processing fees: $25

Dumbo Weekend:
Dumbo Double Dare Challenge (10k+1/2 marathon): $355
Processing fees: $20

That doesn't include travel (gas/plane tickets/rental car) or lodging (Disney resort/hotel) or food/snacks or the park tickets we had for Disneyland.

To say I potentially spent up to $1500 on runDisney events in 2016 is completely valid.  Ouch.

Suffice to say, the #disneylife is an expensive life.
It would take a seriously strong motivator to get me to do more runDisney events.  I would like to volunteer for an event, but I'm just not sure that the price is worth what you end up with (medals, pride, awesome photos, an excuse to dress up as Disney characters, and sore pieces). 


  1. Never been to either, not sure I will, but I appreciate the comparison. Maybe one day I'll go and use this :)

  2. I would love to go to either!!! I have never been and it makes me so sad. Chances are if I get to go, it will be to Orlando.

  3. I've never been to either but I would love to go someday. Preferably to Orlando because that's just what I think of when I think Disney & because HP.

  4. lol @ magic snob. for real though.
    i ...... like both? i loved disneyland because it was the first one i went to, and i love that it's smaller and doesn't feel as in your face like they are trying to take over your lives and sell you all the things.. like DW. We loved the tower of terror ride, and it was a bummer that we had to go to a different park in DW just to ride that, you know? i don't love hollywood studios enough to go back if we ever went back, but i do love the tower of terror enough to do so.. does that make sense? I prefer DW because it's closer for us, cheaper to fly to, they have WAY more hotel options... I love the free transportation though it takes ages to get anywhere. We went to DL before magic bands so we had the plastic cards, but lord i would hate paper ticket! how ridiculous! i doubt we will ever go back to DL just because it's further, more expensive and not as worth our while.
    great comparison!


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