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.
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.