I grew up in the South where we had a condo in Orlando and season passes to the Disney World parks. But it wasn’t until 2011 that I finally visited its West Coast sister for the first time. “Disneyland,” we’d scoff, park connoisseurs and loyal to our Southern roots. “Why do we need to go all the way to California for a sub-par experience when we have the best of the Disneys right here?” It’s the eternal debate among Disney park goers—a rivalry that runs deeper than the Yankees and the Red Sox—and up until last year, I would have sworn World was the obvious winner. And then I visited Land with my friend Ellen, and well, I might have changed my mind. Just a little bit.
The Disney World complex is located just a stone’s throw from Orlando and has everything you could need by way of eating, drinking and shopping right beside the park (think: Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island). In Anaheim, the two parks are sort of secluded and not really built up to be a full-on destination of their own.
That said, you have to drive or take a tram between the various Disney World parks—like Magic Kingdom, Epcot, MGM, Blizzard Beach, etc.—because the area is just so massive (encompassing 47 square miles), whereas the two entities in Anaheim (Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park) are located side by side, with a direct access point, and you can flit back and forth between them. Convenient, especially if you have the park hopper pass as we did.
When I went to Land, it was 80 degrees out and the Sunday and Monday over MLK weekend, a time when you’d think the park would be slammed with visitors. And yet, we never waited in line for more than 20 minutes. At most of the Land attractions, there were two lines feeding into the same ride, while at World, there’s just one line at each, and it inevitably moves at a snail’s pace. Case in point: We were at World midweek during the height of summer the previous year and never got to ride Splash Mountain, as it was more than a 90-minute wait and the Fast Passes we got at 10 in the morning weren’t even good until 6pm, when the park was already closed for summer thunderstorms.
Disney World is undoubtedly bigger, whereas Land felt quite cramped at times. Plus, look at its puny, slightly fluorescent castle (100 feet shorter than Cinderella’s classier castle at World)?
Many of the rides are the same—such as Thunder Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain and It’s a Small World—and then some like Splash Mountain, which exist at Land but aren’t nearly as good (or as long) as their World counterparts.
Yes, I was there in mid-January, and all of Small World was still Christmas themed, with the characters inside singing Jingle Bells, wearing Santa hats and partaking in their country’s holiday traditions. It was bizarre.
That said, Land has a couple attractions that World doesn’t, such as the Matterhorn Bobsled, the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and the Indiana Jones Adventure (my favorite!). And then some misses like Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage (the worst).
Despite being much shorter than Splash Mountain at Disney World, I got absolutely drenched down to my underwear nonetheless!
Overall, I can’t crown one or the other an obvious winner, as each has its selling points—I’ll always be a Florida girl, but I thought some of the rides at Land were a lot more fun than those at World. So here’s where you weigh in: