As I’ve said before in this Disneyland vs. Disney World series, Disney never does the same thing twice! It’s a common misconception that Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and the Disneyland Park are basically the same experience but on different coasts. That is absolutely not true! Even though Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was inspired after the original Disneyland Park, it was never intended to be a carbon copy. Both parks offer their own exclusive attractions, restaurants, character interactions, style, and overall experience. Of course, that gives rise to the question of which park is truly the best? That’s the question I intend to answer in perhaps the most ambitious installment of Disneyland vs. Disney World: The Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park Part I.
Due to the scope of this topic, the first part of this article will compare the two parks on categories such as characters, attractions, and dining. The second installment will compare the different themed lands represented at both parks and determine which one is the best!
Sleeping Beauty Castle
So you know I have to talk about the castles. As we all have our loyalties, comparing the two is always controversial. Still, the castles are not just the parks’ icons, but also their centerpieces, and each offers something unique to park guests. Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle has the distinction of being Disney’s original castle standing at 77 feet tall. It features the charming Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough, a personal favorite of mine, with scenes and effects that tell the Sleeping Beauty story.
The design of the Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle is very different than Disneyland’s and is a whopping 189 feet tall! While it doesn’t offer an attraction, Cinderella Castle does house Cinderella’s Royal Table and the exclusive Cinderella Castle Suite. Now I love Sleeping Beauty Castle for its history, its intimacy, and sense of accessibility. However, the grandeur of Cinderella Castle, the ability to dine with princesses inside its halls overlooking Fantasyland, and that view down Main Street, U.S.A. makes it the winner of this category.
Winner: Magic Kingdom
Let’s start with WiFi, shall we? The Magic Kingdom offers free WiFi. In fact, there’s free WiFi throughout most of the Walt Disney World Parks. But at Disneyland… Yeah. No such luck. Walt Disney World also offers MagicBands. It’s a soft plastic band that contains a guest’s ticket, credit card, dining reservations, PhotoPass info, and their FastPass+ reservations which can be made in advance online or on the MyDisneyExperience App. This new amenity was met with criticism at the start, but I love the luxury of having all I need on my wrist and getting into the park is so much faster!
The Magic Kingdom offers three free modes of transportation in the form of bus, monorail, and boat. But then again, this is necessary as the park sits on the Seven Seas Lagoon and can’t be reached by personal car. Now the Disneyland Park does not sit on the shore of a lake but across a spacious esplanade from Disney California Adventure, which is so convenient for Annual Passholders and those with Park Hoppers. Still, Disneyland guests have to park at a parking garage and either walk or take a tram to reach the esplanade.
Finally, both parks offer early entry into the parks. Disneyland offers Magic Mornings on select days for Disneyland Resort Guests with a valid 3+ day ticket while Walt Disney World offers Extra Magic Hours on certain days which could be early entry or extended nighttime park hours. Another difference is Extra Magic Hours are only for guests staying at Disney World Resorts. Tip: Magic Kingdom usually offers Extra Magic Hours Wednesdays and Fridays.
Winner: Magic Kingdom
Festival of Fantasy Parade
Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom offers two main parades each day. The three o’clock afternoon parade, Festival of Fantasy, debuted in 2014 with fantastically detailed floats celebrating characters represented in Fantasyland. The star of the parade is a steampunk Maleficent dragon that actually breathes fire!
The Main Street Electrical Parade is the Magic Kingdom’s nighttime parade and is a classic in that it originally debuted at Disneyland in 1972! The Magic Kingdom obtained its own version in 1977, which ran off and on in the park through the years. But in 2010, it was reintroduced again and has been offered ever since. Disneyland’s current nighttime parade, Paint the Night, debuted only last year for Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary to rave reviews and offers incredible new lighting effects! It also pays tribute to the Main Street Electrical Parade through its soundtrack, which includes the classic parade’s famous theme song, “Baroque Hoedown.”
Paint the Night Parade
The Disneyland Park also offers Mickey’s Soundsational Parade in the afternoon. Each float is themed after a particular musical instrument or style with the lead float featuring Mickey Mouse playing the drums. I mean, he really plays the drums. It’s fantastic! Like Festival of Fantasy, this parade also showcases some amazingly themed floats so detailed and imaginative that one viewing is never enough.
So this category was a difficult one for me. I LOVE Festival of Fantasy at the Magic Kingdom, but Mickey’s Soundsational Parade coupled with Paint the Night gives Disneyland the edge in this comparison.
Open as of Tuesday, July 12 to all guests, the restaurant is taking walk-ups only for lunch and dinner (Sunday-Thursday 11:00 AM-midnight, Friday & Saturday 11:00 AM-1:00 AM); guests will be able to make reservations beginning July 15 for meals on or after August 15 through My Disney Experience. Sadly, no discounts are offered just yet, but the Disney Dining Plan is accepted. I was lucky enough to dine at Homecoming Kitchen on opening day to taste their take on upscale Southern comfort food.
A Southern Welcome
Farm-to-table Southern classics are are the focal point of the menu, highlighting the flavors of Chef Art Smith’s native Florida. Even the décor in the restaurant is Florida-centric: 51% of everything inside was sourced locally, and the beautiful murals of Florida’s natural wonders on the interior and exterior were painted by a local Florida artist.
Natural light floods the main dining room, with a large bar in the center, burlap-sack lighting fixtures accenting the custom-crafted wood tables and Homecoming Kitchen-logo-adorned chairs. A screened-in porch wraps around the back side of the restaurant, perfect for enjoying an outdoor meal right on the springs. The amount of home-state pride really shines through in every facet of the restaurant as soon as you first walk in, setting the expectation that this is probably going to be a great meal for Southern comfort food fans.
The menu has a pretty wide spread of options, depending on your budget and hunger level: easy-to-share starters and desserts book-end reasonably-priced sandwiches/salads and more-filling main plates, along with a wide variety of shareable side dishes. Like we saw with Frontera Cocina’s all-day menu, I was happy to see that Homecoming Kitchen does a really great job including options appropriate for both lunch and dinner.
My server, incredibly excited to greet and seat me in the bustling restaurant, recommended a few of her personal favorites right off the bat: the Palmetto Punch or Fig & Berries to drink, shrimp jubilee to start my meal, and shrimp & grits or any of the fried chicken dishes as my main dish. I also learned that many of the favorites from the main menu are available to-go – takeout menus featuring many of the restaurant’s favorites are available at the hostess stand and you simply place your order at the bar, or order from the shorter “grab and go” menu of sandwiches and sides from the outdoor bar – a great option for those on the go!
As much as we all enjoy eating at Walt Disney World, you can find yourself feeling sticker shock when the wait staff brings your bill (unless you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, where the sticker shock comes well before your trip).
But, don’t fret. I’m here to help and to tell you that, yes, dining values can still be found on Disney property. Here are a few of my picks for great meals, snacks and drinks on a budget. This doesn’t mean that these are necessarily the least expensive items, but rather the best items and experience for the price. If you’re on the dining plan, you’ll likely want to go for the most expensive item you can get with your credit, but if you’re paying out-of-pocket for food, this list is for you.
Share your thoughts in the comments, along with your picks for dining values.
Table Service Appetizer: Bread Service with all 9 Accompaniments at Sanaa, $13.99
Sanaa Bread Service with all 9 Accompaniments
This one lives up to its reputation as a unique, filling appetizer that will satisfy multiple people. First, Sanaa, the table service restaurant at Animal Kingdom Villas Kidani Village, is an outstanding value overall with unique cuisine, beautiful decor and animals wandering just outside the restaurant. The bread service is simple in concept, but complex in flavor. You get a variety of freshly made naan bread to enjoy with dipping sauces arranged in order of spiciness. One version of the bread service comes with three sauces, but we recommend getting the full nine, which is a mere $2.50 upcharge. This is also one dish where the restaurant actually increased the portion. In 2014, when the photo above was taken, we were given three pieces of naan, but when we returned a year later, it came with five pieces of naan, which makes this an appetizer that can be comfortably shared among a table of four.
Do you seek adventure? How about fortune and glory? If so, you may want to add Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar to your next travel itinerary! Last year, Disney Springs gained Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, themed after Indiana Jones’ pilot, Jock Lindsey, from Raiders of the Lost Ark. This incredibly themed dining destination has been on my to-do list for months; but as you probably noticed by this article’s title, I’m somewhat of a teetotaler and was a little apprehensive about dropping in a self-proclaimed bar and ordering a soft drink! But a few weeks ago, after an especially long and hot trek through Disney Springs, I decided to venture in to finally check it out for myself. So if you’re curious about my adventure, or you’re a fellow non-drinker who may have had the same concerns, here’s A Teetotaler’s Review of Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar.
As with everything at Walt Disney World, it’s always about the story and Jock Lindsey’s maintains that tradition. The story behind this Disney Springs addition is that Jock came across this particular part of Florida while on an adventure with Indy. He, and his famous pet snake Reggie, returned in the 1940s and bought a waterfront piece of property to operate a seaplane tour operation. His hangar eventually became a popular hangout for fellow globe trotters, particularly for members of The Society of Explorers and Adventures, and now Disney World travelers.
Note: The story behind Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar has ties to the storyline of the Magic Kingdom’s Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen, as The Society of Explorers and Adventures also frequented that location and references to Jock, Reggie, and Indy have been found there as well. Keep an eye out for them if you have the opportunity to visit!
At Disney Springs, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar can be found at The Landing, a charming waterfront area between the Marketplace and the West Side and directly across from the newly opened Town Center. Of all the new spaces to be discovered at Disney Springs, The Landing is by far my favorite. I love the convenient, central location; and as I was staying at Disney’s Old Key West Resort, having the resort boat launch right next to Jock Lindsey’s was quite a perk.
Unlike other bars or lounges I’m familiar with at Walt Disney World, Jock Lindsey’s opens each day at 11:30 A.M. and stays open throughout the afternoon and into the evening until Disney Springs closes for the night. During my first visit, I dropped in around 1:00 P.M; and while there were a few guests sitting both inside and out, I still pretty much had the place to myself which was great for exploring and taking a few photos without interfering with anyone’s meal. It would also be the ideal time for families to visit so kids could freely look around too.
It’s time to celebrate America with a bang and Disney will be doing so in red, white, and blue style! If you’re looking for fireworks spectaculars, Walt Disney World is the place to be! Here’s what you can expect to experience when saluting all nations, but mostly America.
Celebrate the country’s highest office by enjoying a stop at the infamous Hall of Presidents. This inspirational Liberty Square show which includes all 43 U.S. Presidents tracing the history of the office, takes place every hour and half hour. Another must see is the Flag Retreat which takes place at 5:00 p.m. each day.
The Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade will be shown twice on both July 3 and 4 – once at 12:00 p.m. and once at 3:30 p.m.
Guests will have two chances to catch the spectacular fireworks extravaganza that is “Disney’s Celebrate America! A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky.” The 14 minute showcase will take place on both July 3 and 4 at 9:00 p.m.
There will also be two showings of the Main Street Electrical Parade, once at 10:15 p.m. and once at 12:15 a.m.
Following that terrible alligator attack last week, the beaches and recreation around the Walt Disney World Resort are now available to Guests once again, with some modifications.
First, the resort beaches are not going to be open at night. They are now currently available to Guests one hour after sunrise until one hour prior to sunset. In addition, temporary signage and barriers are now up to keep Guests safe. Cast Members will be on hand to assist Guests’ needs. In addition the “Movies Under the Stars” that had been held on the beaches for years will now take place on the hotel lawns.
Also, the marinas at the hotels are now offering boat rentals for all Guests, including Sammy Duvall’s Watersports, who will be offering activities from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
During the hunt for the alligator who attacked in Bay Lake, six alligators had been trapped from the area.
Are you a fan of that delicious, buttery goodness that you can smell from a mile away? That’s right, I’m talking about popcorn found throughout the Walt Disney World Resort.
Well, I have good news for those who may be making a trip (or a few trips) to the resort between June 26 and September 1. Disney will be offering a souvenir popcorn bucket that may be refilled. (For a price, of course!) The bucket can be purchased for an initial cost of $10 and refills will cost $1.50 each after.
Guests can purchase the bucket at select cart locations and the refillable popcorn can be purchased at the four theme parks, two water parks, Disney Springs, and ESPN Wide World of Sports wherever you see a popcorn cart.
Honestly, I’m hungry just thinking about it and I plan on eating as much popcorn as possible on my next trip!