Five Things A Disneyland Local Will (Probably) LOVE About Visiting Walt Disney World

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Last week I took a look at Five Things a Disneyland Local Will (Probably) Hate About Visiting Walt Disney World, but this week I will talk about the things a Disneyland local will love. My previous list sparked a lot of debate in the comments section, which I’m not surprised because some fans are quick to defend “their” home resort. My intention was not to pick a winner, it was just to note some of the disappointing differences I notice as one of the rare people who regularly visit both resorts. On to the list!

1. The Haunted Mansion and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Yes, Haunted Mansion and Tower of Terror are both available at Disneyland and DCA. But you haven’t actually experienced these attractions until you seen them at Walt Disney World. I’ll start with the Haunted Mansion. The Florida Mansion exterior is completely different from the one in Anaheim, but the inside is relatively the same. The superiority comes from the additional scenes, audio and visual enhancements, and general better maintenance that the Florida version appears to receive. The additional rooms and effects are hard to explain in writing and I could never do them justice in a simple blog post, you must see them for yourself. It’s interesting that Disneyland has a poor Haunted Mansion but a spectacular Pirates of the Caribbean, but the opposite is true in Florida. Moving on to Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The Florida version of this attraction blows away the Anaheim version in almost every aspect. One of the things that make Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios so great is the area of the park the attraction is located in. Sunset Boulevard essentially sets your palate for the experience you are about go through. As you walk down Sunset, the street will go from pristine to spooky and dilapidated. You’ll notice cracks on the pavement, and a rundown gate leading to the Hollywood Tower Hotel. This experience is missing from the version of the ride in Disney California Adventure. The rest of the hotel exterior is better in Florida as well. You’ll enter the queue through a gate and wind through an old rose garden before entering the hotel lobby. The interior of the lobby is relatively the same, but you’ll really notice the attraction’s differences when you’re in the elevator. The Fifth Dimension scene is missing completely from the California version. In this scene your elevator will leave its shaft and travel through a maintenance room filled with strange sights and sounds. Finally, the elevator enters another shaft and will go through a random drop sequence (the drop sequence in Disney California Adventure is exactly the same every ride). These two attractions should not be missed!

2. Full Service Dining

If you’re a foodie like me, then full service dining in Walt Disney World is pure bliss. With respect to the wonderful full service meals that can be found in both Disneyland and DCA, there’s a lot more of it in Walt Disney World, especially the resorts. My personal favorites are ‘Ohana and Citricos. ‘Ohana is a all-you-can-eat, or as Disney says “all-you-care-to-enjoy,” dining establishment that is a bit like a Mongolian barbecue restaurant. After being seated the servers will bring giant skewers of meat to your table and simply ask you how many you want. The food here (especially the steak) is good, ridiculously good. I have spent many nights stuffing myself at ‘Ohana only to have a very uncomfortable bus ride back to my hotel afterwards. I’m not a fan of any of the full service dining available in Magic Kingdom but every other park offers excellent options. What I like most about the full service dining in Walt Disney World is the variety. Eaters who want something out of the ordinary will enjoy places like Jiko or Boma, fans of fine dining have Victoria & Albert’s, the list of great full service dining goes on and on. That’s one of the best parts about a being a foodie on a WDW vacation, exploring the food!

3. Deluxe Resorts

Yes, the Disneyland Resort does have a stunning deluxe hotel, but Walt Disney World has many beautiful deluxe resorts to explore and stay at. I’ll start with my personal favorite, the Polynesian. Sure, I’ve never stayed there. But I have spent many hours strolling through its tranquil walkways, watching Wishes from the its beach, relaxing in its beautiful lobby, and stuffing my face with ridiculous amounts of “all-you-care-to-enjoy” steak at ‘Ohana. Staying at the Polynesian is not cheap (the lowest rack rate for the summer season is listed at $474 a night), but thankfully you don’t have to stay there to enjoy this wonderful resort. I could go on and on about the Polynesian, but I will reluctantly move on. There are 8 deluxe resorts, so I won’t list them all. Some of my favorites include Wilderness Lodge for its breathtaking lobby and overall beautiful design, Contemporary Resort for its modern look and Mary Blair mural, and Animal Kingdom Lodge for its unique savanna.

4. Seeing the Country Bear Jamboree Again

Since the Country Bear Jamboree’s removal from Disneyland in 2001, it has become one of the most missed attractions in the park’s history. Thankfully, you can still experience this gem at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. And as an added bonus, the Country Bears will occasionally appear in front of the attraction for pictures! The good thing about getting pictures with Country Bears is not a lot of people do it, so there won’t be much of a wait. Tom Bricker brought up a good point in his One More Disney Day recap from earlier this year: “I guess this just goes to show the difference in guest demographics between Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Disneyland locals still fondly remember and love characters that were ripped from their park more than a decade ago. Walt Disney World guests don’t even recognize characters in an attraction that are still in the park they’re visiting.” Tom may be crazy and make questionable fashion choices, but he does have a point. Thankfully the actual attraction still draws in the crowds required to justify its existence.

5. Epcot

Yes, I may be a bit biased because Epcot is my favorite Walt Disney World theme park. But going to Epcot is a huge reason why I love visiting WDW. The park has three slow moving boat rides, something which any good Disney Parks fanboy/girl should love (Maelstrom, Living With The Land, and Grand Fiesta Tour). It also has two Circle-Vision films (O Canada! and Reflections of China, which is an updated version of the classic Epcot and Disneyland Circle-Vision movie Wonders of China). Arguably the park’s headliner is Soarin’, which most Disneylanders will probably skip during visits to Epcot, but there are many exclusive attractions that will blow you away. American Adventure, Spaceship Earth, and Impressions de France are all ridiculously good. Other exclusives that I’m personally not a fan of (but they certainly do have their share of supporters) are Mission: Space, and Test Track. Beyond all the attractions I find Epcot to be the most enjoyable WDW park to relax and explore. There are hundreds of tiny details in each World Showcase country that will take hours to explore. On my previous list I mentioned the lack of live entertainment in WDW as one negatives. Epcot does not suffer from this problem. Entertainers can be found in each country throughout the day including standouts like Off Kilter in Canada, Mo’Rockin in Morocco, and the Voices of Liberty in America. Those are just a few of the talented groups that perform in the park. You could take a day just watching them all. It’s worth it!

So bi-coastal visitors, did I leave anything off the list? What about you, Florida locals? Is there anything you recommended to us Disneylanders? Leave comments in the section below.

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Posted on October 8, 2012

22 Responses to “Five Things A Disneyland Local Will (Probably) LOVE About Visiting Walt Disney World”

  • 5. Epcot? Really? It felt so outdated.

  • Gosh, Guy, I don’t have a preference for one or the other, but I’m surprised that you think Mansion on the West Coast is less well-maintained than its East Coast brother. I find it to be just the opposite. I’m guessing that the holiday swap-out every year is the reason for this.

    • by Guy Selga Jr. on October 8, 2012, at 9:39 pm EDT

      In another comment I said comparing WDW’s and DL’s Haunted Mansion was like comparing two different cuts of steak. Both are great. But the Magic Kingdom Mansion really goes above the Disneyland Mansion. Maybe it’s because I ride Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion almost every day when I’m doing wait time loops for TouringPlans, but I notice so many areas of the attraction that aren’t as polished as MK’s. Example, the grave yard scene in Disneyland has a very dark look. I speculate the darkness is due to two reasons, one is the scrim doesn’t get cleaned as often as it should, and two the lighting did not receive the same upgrades as MK’s grave yard. Another thing is the audio, it sounds crystal clear in Florida, especially in the stretching room. Plus, all those extra creaking wood and whispering ghost sound effects really add to that portion of the ride.

      • by Disney Zephyr on October 9, 2012, at 11:04 am EDT

        What short memories! Every year DL’s Haunted Mansion was plussed to give a cumulatively far superior show. Then WDW splurged out on levelling the playing field when management saw just how sad their’s had become compared to its west coast brother. And that equates to better upkeep?
        Disneyland is small enough for everything to be neat and pretty. This falters a bit in Florida but there is just SO MUCH more… two more theme parks, two water parks, many resorts all with unique themes and dining. They are not really comparable.
        I personally love Animal Kingdom. Which leaves DHS as the worst Disney Park on American soil. Especially with DCA ’2.0′

  • I don’t consider the DL version of Haunted Mansion “poor” at all. It’s missing one scene, with one scene a walk-through in the DL version and a ride-through in the MK version. The Hitchhiking Ghosts are cool at MK – but DL has Haunted Mansion Holiday. It’s a wash – at best.

    • agree. the fact that DL has HMH makes it a wash. still think regular HM at DL is good, just not as good as WDW.

      tower and splash are much better at WDW. the 5th dimension scene is great and splash seems to be hurried at DL.

      i love epcot and world showcase.

      • by Guy Selga Jr. on October 8, 2012, at 9:26 pm EDT

        Yeah, both Haunted Mansions are fabulous. It’s like comparing two different cuts of steak. I also agree with you about Splash Mountain at MK. It’s fantastic.

    • by Guy Selga Jr. on October 8, 2012, at 9:37 pm EDT

      In another comment I said comparing WDW’s and DL’s Haunted Mansion was like comparing two different cuts of steak. Both good. But the Magic Kingdom Mansion really goes above the Disneyland Mansion. Maybe it’s because I ride Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion almost every day when I’m doing wait time loops for TouringPlans, but I notice so many areas of the attraction that aren’t as polished as MK’s. Example, the grave yard scene in Disneyland has a very dark look. I speculate the darkness is due to two reasons, one is the scrim doesn’t get cleaned as often as it should, and two the lighting did not receive the same upgrades as MK’s grave yard. Yeah, Disneyland is only missing a couple of scenes. The endless stairway room and the library, but those scenes are really well done.

  • Your comparisons of Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World are always dead on. You’re exactly right. We were so excited when we found out Disneyland was getting Tower of Terror and so bummed when we saw that it was a watered down version. Likewise, we ate some of the best food we’d ever had while at Disney World. Thanks for your great reviews!

    • by Guy Selga Jr. on October 8, 2012, at 9:26 pm EDT

      Thank you! “Bummed” is a great way of describing my reaction the first time I went on the DCA version.

  • 1) Cindy’s Castle it has it all over Sleeping Beauty.
    2) Food and Wine Festival (even when DCA had one, it was pretty lame compared to EPCOT)
    3) Carousel of Progress (stop rolling your eyes, this is the COOLEST cheesy rise ever and a true legacy of Walt’s)
    4) The original Swiss Family Robinson without the AWFUL Tarzan overlay
    5) Zipping along 7 Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake in the Water Mice (or whatever the heck they are calling them now…)

    • by Guy Selga Jr. on October 8, 2012, at 9:28 pm EDT

      The thing with the castles is I think both fit their surroundings so it’s hard for me to pick a favorite. I love the food at Food and Wine but it’s way too much money for me, but yeah the Food and Wine Festival was weak at DCA, and dare I say pointless.

    • I am just one person but I disagree.
      I like the Sleeping Beauty Castle because of the walk-through. Now if you can convince them to let me stay in the fantasy suite in WDW then maybe I’ll change my mind! ;)
      I like the Haunted Mansion better at Disneyland too but I think it has more to do with the way it appears from the outside. I haven’t seen the new interactive queue yet in WDW though but am excited to do so this New Year’s Eve!
      Tarzan’s Treehouse is way cooler than Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. As a kid I loved the treehouse, but as a grown-up I was so bored with the one in WDW. I think the upgrades gave me something new to look at, and I loved the interactive elements for my kiddos at the end.
      I am sorry to say but the Country Bear Jamboree seriously needs an upgrade.
      I would say Tower of Terror is way better at DHS, the way you go out into the 5th dimension and “magically” end back up in the elevator shaft is enchanting.
      I love Animal Kingdom because I have little kids and it’s a great park for teenies.
      Unfortunately for me, with teenies I don’t eat at too many nice restaurants. We spend most of our sit-down restaurant time with characters. I do think there is a better variety of character meals in WDW. My favorite character dining experience is Garden Grill because you get to see the characters 4 or 5 times in one meal since the restaurant is so small. I also like that the private feel of the high backed booths and the two-levels. It really feels like it’s just us.
      And for those of us who park jump to Universal Studios the parks in Florida are a far cry from Hollywood. I know that doesn’t technically count, but for me if it’s part of the overall experience I take home with me from my trip.

  • As a Disneyland local, one of the things I love best about visiting WDW is that all inclusive vacation feel. When I stay onsite and get my KTTW, I know that all of my worries are on hold for a week.

  • Tomorrowland at WDW was something I really thought was great. It’s themed much differently than Tomorrowland at Disneyland, which is now completely outdated and more like 10 years ago land, along with all the rusting buildings and everything. Magic Kingdom has more of a future feel in Tomorrowland, along with the retro themed Space Mountain, which is way different than Disneyland’s version even though I like DL’s better. Also can’t forget the fact that MK has the PeopleMover! Something almost everyone misses from Disneyland.

    Spot on about Haunted Mansion; I liked the ending scene where the ghosts will swap your heads and pop it in a bubble and everything. Overall much better effects. However, I did notice that DCA’s Tower of Terror had a darker and louder library seen than Hollywood Studios’ does, which adds a bit more feel.

  • One bone to pick: O’hana doesn’t resemble a Mongolian BBQ, it resembles a Brazilian Churascarria. Mongolian BBQ is what they have at the Art of Animation food court, where you put together a bowl of noodles/rice, veggies, meat, and sauce, and the cook cooks your creation on a flat grill. O’hana features grilled meats on skewers that servers bring to your table and carve pieces off of–it’s a churrascaria with Polynesian rather than Brazilian flavors.

    • by Guy Selga Jr. on October 9, 2012, at 6:38 pm EDT

      You’re right, I worded that wrong. I meant food at Ohana is served in a similar way you are served food at a Mongolian BBQ restaurant.

  • If you want a great sit-down restaurant in MK, try the Liberty Tree Tavern! Make sure it’s for lunch though, where you can order a la carte and enjoy the fabulous toffee cake for dessert! The ‘family style’ dinner is blah and not worth it.

    As for other things to love at WDW, you forgot about the longer Jungle Cruise ride, Rock ‘N Rollercoaster and Expedition Everest! DL is definitely missing out on these!

    • by Guy Selga Jr. on October 10, 2012, at 6:27 pm EDT

      I may have to revisit Liberty Tree. I had the family style meal and it wasnt great. I’ll have to try the a la carte.

  • One reason Walt built the place was to get away from the city that surrounded Disneyland so I think that is a huge plus, being able to escape the city feel

  • I have to agree with other commentors, the feeling of being away from the rest of the world and immersed in Disney is probably the single best thing about WDW.

    Other than that, I loved Splash Mountain and Winnie the Pooh so much more at WDW. Both rides had a much better plot than the ones at DL. And the queue for Space Mountain has video games!

    As for Haunted Mansion, I like the physical building better in DL (MK’s just doesn’t look very haunted to me from the outside), but the experience of the ride was a lot of fun in MK. I especially loved the interactive queue (the people in line behind me probably didn’t like it so much cause I held up the line while playing) and the interactive ending. I’m hoping that interactive ending comes to DL very soon! However, when DL did the Halloween overlay this year, I thought they’d changed the music in the graveyard scene. Now I’m thinking they just cleaned up the audio and made it easier to hear everything, because I find myself enjoying the music there even more now than ever before.

    I’m not at all a fan of Epcot. The best things about Epcot were Off Kilter and the Food & Wine Festival.

    But I LOVED AK. It is so different than anything DLR has or ever will have. The safari ride was especially awesome. I rode it three times and each time was a different experience. I even brought out the skeptic side of me and did one ride while looking backwards, just to see the logistics behind the magic. Even knowing that the animals aren’t quite as “free” to roam as you think didn’t reduce my love of AK.

    And while I appreciate the nostalgia of Country Bear Jamboree, I was SOOO bored during it. Lol. I just kept looking at how old the animatronics seemed. It’s not like the Tiki Room where you’re still amazed at how well everything works.

    I also really liked Philharmagic (I didn’t want it to end, even though you could tell it was a bit dated) and the Carousel of Progress. Or maybe I just liked singing to the song in Carousel of Progress. Hahaha!

  • This is a pretty good summation of my feelings! Deluxe Resorts,Full Service Dining, & Epcot!!! I would replace Country Bear Jamboree with Peoplemover. The peoplemover & it’s almost always no wait time would be so nice to get to enjoy all the time as a Disneyland regular.