10 Reasons Disneyland is More Exciting to Tour Than Walt Disney World

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For all the hardcore Walt Disney World fans who are hyperventilating at my title, let me preface this by saying again – I love Walt Disney World!!  I have no problem relaxing and enjoying every minute of a trip there.  I will never, ever stop going to WDW and in fact I am headed there next week with extended family!  But there are some things about Disneyland that make it easier and more relaxing to see, especially for first-timers.

1.  Being at a smaller resort is more relaxing.  It just is.  First timers at Walt Disney World are often completely overwhelmed trying to see 4 parks, 2 water parks and a huge shopping, dining and entertainment district.  At Disneyland, you don’t have to exhaust yourselves to cover it all.  It’s more compact, and it’s easier to cover in less time.  That’s not to say there are fewer rides!  Disneyland packs more actual rides into 2 parks than WDW puts in 4. They’re just not as spread out!

2.  There are no transportation issues.  At WDW when you are staying in one resort, it can be quite a chore to get to and from another resort where you have a dining reservation.  At Disneyland you just walk there.  You don’t have to leave your resort an hour early to catch a bus to get anywhere!  You just walk.  You can leave Disney California Adventure and be at Napa Rose  for a reservation 5 minutes later!  Every time we go to WDW, we debate whether to get a rental car.  While Disney transportation can get you where you need to go, having our own vehicle is  always so convenient and saves lots of time, especially when staying at some of the more remote resorts like Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, or Shades of Green at Walt Disney World.  At Disneyland, we never debate this.  There is literally no reason to get a rental car once you arrive at Disneyland if you plan to stay at the resort for your entire vacation. 

Look at this picture.  See what’s outside the window of this room at the Disneyland Hotel?  That’s Downtown Disney!  Right there!

3.  Commando style touring is not nearly as tempting.  We were commando style tourers for years at WDW.  We were there when the park opened (or before) when we were following our touring plans and we stayed until the park closed.  We didn’t want to miss a thing!  No surprise we were often dead tired while on our vacation and we always said we needed a vacation to recover from our vacation when we got back home!  We’ve learned our lesson at WDW and while those days still happen, they are not the norm.  At Disneyland, we’ve never been tempted  to fall into “commando mode.”  The entire resort invites you to tour at a much more leisurely pace.

4.  Advance dining reservations are so much easier.  Disney fans complain all the time about having to decide where they want to eat at Disney World six months before they go.  That’s not necessary at Disneyland.  Some of the most popular restaurants can be booked a few days before you go and you can even walk up during off peak times.  How many times does that happen at Disney World?

5.  It is much easier to take breaks.  Sometimes, taking a break at WDW is just a chore.  It can take 30+ minutes each way to get to your room and back.  By the time you’ve waited for transportation at the park and perhaps had to stop at two hotels on the way to your stop, it can be hard to relax for a couple more hours in your hotel or in the pool.  At Disneyland, the odds are good you can walk to your hotel and take a break.  If you’re staying on property, you could be in your room in 5-10 minutes and in the pool in 5 minutes more!  Okay that last part is partly determined by how quickly you can locate and put on your swimsuits.

6.  You can hold a FASTPASS in two parks.  This is a great tip.  Let’s say you are waiting for your FASTPASS window for Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters to open up, but you really want to get World of Color FASTPASSes before they are gone over at California Adventure.  Give one (trustworthy) person all of your tickets (assuming you have a Park Hopper) and send that person over to DCA to grab them!  Everyone doesn’t have to go and the two FASTPASSes won’t interfere with each other.  Anytime you can use FASTPASS to its full potential you will be able to tour more efficiently.

7.  Three-day trips really work.  It really is possible to see everything in three days.  Well not everything, but enough to make you feel like you covered it.  I’ve done the four parks in one day craziness at Disney World and that was great fun (at least it was the first time!), but really we didn’t even scratch the surface of a single park.  With everything being so close at Disneyland, you really can get a lot done in just 3 days!

8.  Less time means less money.  If you’ve got the time and the money, this won’t matter to you as much.  If you’ve only got a few days you won’t spend as much.  I don’t mean that the tickets or hotels are cheaper than Disney World.  I mean that shorter stays cost less money.

9.  You can enjoy your hotel.  One of the great things about WDW are the hotels.  There are hotels in all price ranges with varying themes.  The problem is, we don’t feel like we are ever there!  Sometimes at Disney World we spend a fortune on a hotel that we are really only sleeping in (although we have done much better on this the last few trips to Disney World).  At Disneyland, however, it’s so easy to go back to your hotel and enjoy it.  If I want to go to an animation class or story time in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, it’s no problem!  I can leave DCA about 10 minutes before the activity starts and be there in time!

10.  The Downtown Disney District is so close.  We love walking through the stores, eating in the restaurants, and soaking in the atmosphere at Downtown Disney at WDW.  But wow, is it a chore to get there!?!  You can’t get a bus right from a park, so you have to go back to your resort, or another resort, first if you’re in a park.  Catching two busses at WDW?  That can be a nightmare!  It could take an hour.  At Disneyland?  Just walk!  From your hotel, from a park, from all over!  Just walk!  You are just minutes away.

As I said in my last blog, smaller doesn’t mean worse!  And bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.  It just means different!  But smaller does mean more relaxing.  More rides, fewer days, less money, more breaks, less wasted time.  All that adds up to relaxing.

Okay, okay some people are inevitably exhausted by the entire thing.

I’ll have some more reasons Disneyland is awesome in the coming weeks!  Let us know what you think!

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Posted on September 1, 2011

50 Responses to “10 Reasons Disneyland is More Exciting to Tour Than Walt Disney World”

  • by Jessica Lanczycki on September 1, 2011, at 12:57 pm EDT

    Another wonderful blog Tammy! Visiting DL was a highlight for me back in April (especially with you as my guide!). I cannot wait to get back there and experience it all over again. People often ask me to compare the two, but really, there is no comparison. Aside from a few of the same (yet different) attractions, there is such a contrast. I love DL!

  • This is a FANTASTIC article, Tammy! You’ve listed everything that I absolutely LOVE about Disneyland! Our first visit to WDW was in the spring of 2008 and before that, we were strictly Disneyland peeps living in Seattle. Now that we’ve moved to GA, we go to WDW more often and I sure do miss the casual, laid-back feeling of Disneyland. I love it there so much! Thanks for the great read! :)

  • With regards to #6 – can one person enter DCA and get FastPasses for people who have not yet entered DCA. I didn’t think this was possible.

    A better example might be a family that goes to Disneyland early and loads up on Star Tours or Space Mountain fast-passes, then goes over to DCA and gets FastPasses to Soarin or ToT, then goes back and forth between the parks.

    • by Tammy Whiting on September 1, 2011, at 2:43 pm EDT

      Good question, Kevin. I haven’t done it personally in a while although a read a recent rip report where someone did. Lindsay below said it didn’t work for her so maybe it’s changed or it was a fluke. You gave an excellent example, though.

      • Just to be clear…the ticket holders tickets for that day must have been scanned through the turnstyle. In other words, one person can’t leave the hotel early, go to the park with everyone’s tickets and get fastpasses if they have not used thier ticket yet for that day. And the person must be present at the turnstyle to activate the ticket. Also, it was my understanding that although one person could get FP’s for their group that was not the case at WOC. Maybe they have changed that policy however.

  • My two year old son has that green Mickey T-shirt in the last picture of the boys. One of my favorite disney t’s!

  • I’m with Kevin on #6 – I’ve tried this & it doesn’t work unless everyone’s ticket is activated in the same park as the FastPass machine…which is why I’ve never managed to get World of Color FastPasses!

    Love the post…it makes me want to fly cross country for a relaxing Disney trip. It’s easy to feel rushed/overwhelmed here in Florida.

    • by Tammy Whiting on September 1, 2011, at 2:45 pm EDT

      Lindsay, you and Kevin may be right. I haven’t done it personally in several months, so it may not work now.

      It is so much easier to feel overwhelmed at Disney World. We really have to make an effort to slow down and take it all in there.

      • Hi! I’m a Cast Member at the Disneyland Resort and we get this question. The FastPasses between Disneyland and California Adventure do not inflict with one another. You can go get a FastPass for Splash Mountain and then go ahead and get a FP for Soarin’ right away. Also, World of Color FP do not inflict with attraction FP at DCA. Although these options are available, everyones tickets must be scanned in order for them to work at the FP systems for both parks. I hope this helps! Have a magical day!

  • I just returned from our visit to Disneyland and this blog post is SPOT ON! While I still prefer touring Walt Disney World, every point you make is correct. Close proximity, less planning, and easy dining reservations were three of our big observations. Great write up!

  • How about getting from the airport to the parks. Is that easy to do?

    • There are Disney Express shuttles from LAX to Disney. I pass them every day on my commute home! You can’t miss ‘em — shrink-wrapped with Disney art…

    • by Tammy Whiting on September 2, 2011, at 9:02 pm EDT

      CaliLinda is correct. It’s not free like Magical Express at Disney World, but it is pretty easy. There’s several good shuttle options.

  • Since we have moved to Florida I’m pretty excited about getting WDW AP because then we don’t have to worry about doing “everyhing” EVERY TRIP. We’re planning on going for a week in june as our “summer vacation” but in between we can go a weekend here a weekend there and not worry about “doing it all”

  • Love your series of articles Tammy! Everyone should have more Disneyland in their life!

  • Awesome job yet again Tammy!!!!

  • Our family is a frequent traveller to Disneyland, but took a trip to WDW earlier this year. My wife and I had both been to WDW many years in the past, but had forgotten how different it is to tour. We certainly came back with many of the same thoughts that you posted. Great article!

  • No, WDW is far superior in every way. DL is not relaxing at all, it’s hectic and has nowhere to escape. Too much city and everything is packed too tight.

    It’s Disney World lite. Still an awesome place but just so different and not at all WDW. I laugh when people say DL is better.

    • by Tammy Whiting on September 2, 2011, at 9:05 pm EDT

      I’m sure you’re not the only one that feels that way, Tom.

    • I wish Tom was right about WDW. WDW deserves to be superior in every way. But clearly, it isn’t. Disneyland isn’t Disney World lite. It’s just Disneyland. It came first. Walt Disney World isn’t good enough to deserve the “Walt Disney” name in its current condition and under current management. If you were right about WDW, this blog wouldn’t even need to be written.

    • Nope, Disneyland blows Disney World out of the water. Disney World lite? Hardly. Walt himself built it, slept in it, walked in it, and no other Disney park can make that claim. It’s the original and best, and every other Disney park can only try and compete for second best.

      • Although the fact that Walt Disney created, walked, slept there, etc. is awesome and of utmost importance, it has absolutely nothing to do with which park is better.

  • by Glenn from Alabama on September 1, 2011, at 11:34 pm EDT

    Tammy, what a great article. I have never been to DL, but really want to go and this article made me want to even more! The only thing about the article I even have a slight qualm with is the title–”..More Exciting…?” The article read more like, “…More Relaxing…” which could be interpreted as the opposite of exciting, unless someone thinks relaxing is exciting, which is entirely possible and not unheard of. Anyway, just a little comment to a really great, informative, energizing article. Hmmm…now that I’ve read that article, I am more EXCITED to go to DL one day! [Did I just contradict myself?? LOL]

  • by Disney Zephyr on September 2, 2011, at 1:09 am EDT

    Although I find all your point valid, and concur that in many ways the Disneyland Resort is the undiluted essence of Disney theme park achievement, Walt Disney World always seems more relaxing to me. Granted the first visit is overwhelming, but nothing can melt away your stress like 30 mins drifting around Castaway Creeek at TL. From an operational and management standpoint, DL is miles ahead of WDW.

  • What’s discribed in this article is exactly the same experience you can get at Disneyland Paris, where I’ve been twice. I’m planning a trip to Walt Disney World next year and I still haven’t made up my mind on if I’ll stay 10 or 15 days. I’ve been 4 days at the Paris resort and there where a few rides and shows I missed. I Want to make sure that I can make at least 99% of the rides and 50% of the shows in Florida, so… can anybody tell me if 10 days are enough? or Should I make it 15?

    • by Disney Zephyr on September 2, 2011, at 8:12 am EDT

      Kike,
      My first visit to WDW was in 2005, having been on many (many!) trips to DLP prior.
      I would definitely advise 15 days if you can. It is nearly impossible to run out of things to do in Orlando.
      The Magic Kingdom, of course has some what of an overlap with the Disneyland Park. Even there, however there are subtle differences in similar attractions and a host of others – 2 days. Epcot needs 2 days to see. I love Animal Kingdom and would say at least 1 day (personally more). Disney’s Hollywood Studios would again be a day. I would factor another 3 days for the watermarks (TL / BB) and the rest of the resort.
      On top of that you must make the trip to Universal Orlando (2 – 3 days to see properly). Many people would say SeaWorld is a must too. If budget allows admission to The main park there is complimentary if you visit the beautiful Discovery Cove in the morning (personally I wouldn’t bother with the dolphins, but some people are entranced by them.
      WDW and Orlando is massive. The simple time of moving around comes as a shock compared to DLP. If you stay at a Disney resort you avoid parking costs, can get free dining depending on when you book / go, and it is a somewhat more immersive experience. A rental car can cut down travel times (apart from to and from the MK) and is very handy if you plan to go off site.
      One last thing. Make a trip to Amimal Kingdom Lodge. The hotel is beautiful. Boma is the best buffet I have visited across America (yes the Vegas ones can be far larger) – the coolly is always great and the atmosphere awesome. Jiko, next door is Sinature Dining on the plans / somewhat more upscale but also lovely. Either way, I hope you have a fantastic and magical vacation.

    • by Tammy Whiting on September 2, 2011, at 9:08 pm EDT

      Disney Zephyr gave you some great advice, Kike. The more time you have at Disney World the more relaxing it can be trying to see everything. I would love to try Disneyland Paris next!

  • If you are a Florida Resident and purchase the annual pass, the pressure of seeing everything all at once is gone. As for transportation, the monorail needs to be expanded, true, and the buses are crowded. (Very unpleasant when a child has a meltdown) We take our car to all the parks. Once you learn your way around, you can easily navigate WDW’s road system to get anywhere fast. It does take planning, particularly regarding meals. For the best deals – bang for the buck, outside of the park – the Whispering Canyon Cafe in the Wilderness Lodge and Boma in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. You do not have to be staying in either hotel to eat here. Withing the park, the Tusker House in the Animal Kingdom and the Gerrman Pavilion offer buffets that are excellent. An unusual dining experience can be found at the Drive In restaurant at Hollywood Studios that, inside, resembles a drive-in theatre.

    While I respect Tammy’s opinion, we went to Disneyland and found that everything seems to be at a smaller scale than at WDW, particularly Main Street and the Castle. Everything seemed to be packed into a smaller space, kinda like Universal here in Florida. WDW is geared for longer stays; this is true. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that the maiden park has; this is also true. But, all in all, we have enjoyed WDW moreso than our experience at Disneyland.

    • by Tammy Whiting on September 4, 2011, at 8:20 pm EDT

      I definitely agree that frequent visits take a lot of the stress out of Disney World. I was also completely shocked when I saw the castle at Disneyland! I don’t think any amount of pictures can prepare you for it if you are used to the castle at Disney World. Thanks for reading, Wesley!

  • Nice post, when in Disneyland I miss the whole world of WDW and the buffer zone to the traffic, city and noise. With that said I do really like the closeness of Disneyland. IF it wasn’t a 5 hour flight I’d love to make it a 3-4 day long weekend.

    • by Tammy Whiting on September 6, 2011, at 6:23 am EDT

      You’re right, it’s too bad that Disneyland doesn’t have enough land for that buffer zone. Although it does make offsite lodging easier!

  • You could send one person to DCA with all of your tickets and having gotten a handstamp on the way out of DL they could just enter DCA on one ticket, then exit, then re-enter with the next ticket, then exit, etc. Just loop through the turnstiles once for each ticket then go get the FastPasses and head back to DL. The whole thing could easily take less than half an hour.

    • Interesting suggestion, Carl!

    • Re-entering on someone else’s ticket – even with obviously good intentions if you’re just trying to secure FPs for your group – would not be a viable options as DLR now randomly IDs guests (both APs and dayticket holders). If your group isn’t going to enter DCA together, you might consider one of the dining packages that offer reserved seating FPs *or* just opt to see a later showing of WOC where there are usually less people.

    • The amount of time this would take is not worth the effort. Far easier to get everyone in the group to walk through the turnstiles, then turn and walk right back out leaving one person with the tickets to get the Fastpasses. It’s so close and takes so little time for everyone to go in.

  • Walt Disney World in Florida will always be “the main event” for me, but I must say that the ease of just WALKING from here to there at the Disneyland resort is a great perk!