Disney World vs. Land: A Smackdown

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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 Area

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.

Winner: World

Park-to-Park Access

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.

Winner: Land

The Crowds

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.

Winner: Land

The Size

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)?

Winner: World

The Rides

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).

Winner: Land

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:

Land or World: What’s your park of choice?

COMMENTS
  • March 12, 2012

    I had the same notion about why do I need to visit Disney Land when we visit Disney World on a yearly basis. But this post might change my mind a bit. My husband has always wanted to visit Land because he reasons that it’s the original one! So I guess we will put that on our to-do list next time we have a chance to go to the West coast again. Heck, I might even consider Disneyland Hong Kong for our upcoming summer trip. 🙂

    • March 12, 2012
      Kristin

      I still need to figure out how to become a part of Social Media (Fur) Moms for 2013 😉

      I was so tempted by the Hong Kong park, too, when we were there in November, particularly as I’d been to HK before and didn’t feel the need to do as much sightseeing. You should definitely go…and let me know how it is, ha.

  • March 12, 2012

    We just made our first trip to Disneyland in December and while we had a great time, I prefer Orlando. We were there the same weekend the Candlelight event was going on and the parks were SLAMMED. The Star Tours fast passes were all gone by about 2pm. It didn’t help my impression that the winds were really bad and fireworks were canceled one night, either. Also, to be fair to the Magic Kingdom, the Buzz Lightyear ride is also at their Tomorrowland there but is called Space Ranger Spin for some reason. But it’s a moot point because Toy Story Midway Mania at California Adventure is far superior. 😉 Since our trip to Orlando in 2010 my boyfriend has become a hardcore Disney Person and we’re planning a trip back to Orlando next year once the construction is done.

    • March 12, 2012
      Kristin

      I FORGOT about that one. Toy Story Midway Mania was the *only* thing we waited more than half an hour for while at Disneyland/California Adventure, and it was totally worth the 80 minutes in line!

  • March 12, 2012
    Kelly V

    I just returned from DIsneyland two weeks ago. I have a 3 and 1 year old, so it is fun to see the parks through their eyes. As an East Coast girl, I was a little disappointed by Disneyland cmpared to Disney World, but my kids didn’t care. They loved it. What was odd and a huge turn off was how dark Disneyland was in the evening. I am not sure what was up, but we arrived after dark our first day and wanted to reward my 3 year old for being ah-mazing on the 6 hour flight take him to “Mickey’s House” before we headed to bed. It was packed and I could not see anything. Disney World is so well lite. Disneyland was down right dark. And trying to keep track of one very excited and tired 3 year old was very challenging.

    • March 12, 2012
      Kristin

      That’s interesting–I didn’t even notice that. Then again, it was a brilliantly sunny day while we were there and we left before the sun went down.

  • March 12, 2012

    You know I’m a Disneyland nut . . . still haven’t been to the world yet! We plan to make it out to Florida sometime soon . . . the prospect of longer lines bums me out though. From my (admittedly one sided!) perspective the upside of the Land is its history . . . the upside of the World appears to be its size, variety and EPCOT. It is all fine and well that we’ve got two parks in Anaheim now, but California Adventure is a bit of a dud. Perhaps when they’re done w/ the massive remodel (should done this June!) it’ll be more of a draw . . . but as it is now (sea of construciton) and as it was before (just plain lame), it isn’t on par with the image I have of the other parks in Florida.

    • March 12, 2012
      Kristin

      All I really liked about California Adventure was the Tower of Terror (pretty sure we rode it five times) and the Toy Story attraction. Also, World has MGM, which I love, and some really fun water parks like Blizzard Beach.

      • March 12, 2012

        Tower of Terror is great, as is Soarin’. Toy Story is really well done too, but the lines are innnnsannnneeeee for that one. The new Mermaid ride is nice as well, if a little too short to merit the time spent in line. I’m hoping they knock it out of the park w/ the DCA remodel! There have been rumors for-evah of a third Dland park . . . most likely a water park (which wouldn’t be top on my list). I’m sure they’ll do it some day . . . I just hope they’ve learned from the CA Adventure fiasco that if they’re going to build a new park, they’ve got to do it right the first time!.

  • March 12, 2012
    Ellen

    Thank you for a great time in Disney Land! The best 30th birthday weekend 🙂

    • March 12, 2012
      Kristin

      We should do it again! Maybe at Disney World for my 30th birthday. 😉

  • March 12, 2012

    I grew up going to Disneyland every summer as a kid so it will always be number one in my heart.

    • March 12, 2012
      Kristin

      That’s how I feel about World, even though I actually liked the attractions better at Land.

  • March 12, 2012
    Laura

    They actually do have Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters in Disney World. You can find it in Tomorrowland of the Magic Kingdom, and it’s one of my brother’s favorites. I’ve been to both parks, along with Hong Kong Disneyland (which had the shortest lines of all three, by far). I would definitely say my favorite park is Disney World. I do wish that Disney World would get the Indiana Jones ride because that was my favorite ride in Disney Land, too. There is just so much more to see and do in Disney World. It is a shame that it’s so much more work to switch parks, but that’s merely a consequence of Disney World being so much bigger. There’s nothing like stepping into the Magic Kingdom and seeing Cinderella’s castle. As you mentioned, Disneyland’s castle is paltry (and a little ugly?) in comparison. Overall, Disneyland does not nearly have the impact of Disney World. They’re both a ton of fun and worth checking out, but for me, my park will always be Disney World. Enjoyed the post!

    • March 12, 2012
      Kristin

      Ahh, really? I had no idea. I’ve only been to Magic Kingdom once in the past few years and was devastated to see they removed the Alien ride from Tomorrowland (remember that attraction? I loved it!). And I, too, was quite disappointed by how unattractive Sleeping Beauty’s castle at DL was!

  • March 12, 2012

    I love your photos… You seems to had a lot of fun… I have been in California and used to live 2 years in Paris and I never been to Disney land… Maybe I’m just a “bad boy” 🙂

    • March 12, 2012
      Kristin

      And you live in Japan now–have you been to that park? I was so tempted to go to Disney when I was in Tokyo in November but didn’t do it due to a tight time frame. Hopefully, I will be able to make it happen on my next visit there =)

  • March 12, 2012

    I miss when the Finding Nemo ride was just the Yellow Submarine ride. It was awesome. I’ve been to both, but I found Disney World too ginormous to really appreciate in a few days. Disneyland is smaller, more compact, and (for me being in the West) much easier to get to. Also, I have several friends who work for Disney and get me free passes. Win!

    xox

    • March 12, 2012
      Kristin

      Next time you have a free pass to spare, call me and I’ll meet you in Anaheim 😉

  • March 12, 2012

    Some of the great subtle differences in rides at Disneyland are Pirates of the Caribbean having multiple drops and getting to sail through the Blue Bayou restaurant; the Haunted Mansions having different exteriors; It’s a Small World having outside entry into the ride. Not to mention some of the other rides that are not available at Disney World including Alice in Wonderland, Storybook boats, or the Casey Jr. train. I have to agree though on having high hopes for the Finding Nemo (formerly 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) ride and being thoroughly disappointed in the end.

    • March 12, 2012
      Kristin

      You truly are a Disneyphile! Love it. Yes, the Pirates ride was quite different, but I didn’t notice many changes with the Haunted Mansion. I also didn’t like the Fantasyland movie rides (like Alice) as much as I like the ones (like Peter Pan or Snow White) at World.

      • March 12, 2012

        Haunted Mansion at Disneyland wins even if only because of the Nightmare Before Christmas theme they do during the holidays! That was actually the reason we decided to take our trip at the time of year we did. It’s not just an overlay like they do on Small World–they completely redo the whole thing, narration, pictures and all. Pretty awesome.

        • March 12, 2012
          Kristin

          Drats–I must have missed that by three weeks or less. Sounds intriguing–reason to go back to Land, check. =)

  • March 12, 2012

    I am a terrible person to ask, and here’s why. I’ve never been to Disney Land, and when I went to Disney World I was 17. Now, normally, this wouldn’t ruin it for me, except that I grew up going to Cedar Point. So when I go to an amusement park, I measure all their rides against Cedar Point. And by comparison, Disney World sucks balls. I could not believe how lame their rides were. Now that I’m older, I realize that the Disney World/Land rides are more about the story and experience attached to the ride than the ride itself, and I’d like to go back with new eyes. (Seriously though, Haunted Mansion vs Power Tower? No comparison.)

    • March 12, 2012
      Kristin

      It’s more for the “experience” than the rides per se. In terms of actual thrill factor, Land wins out by a landslide (heh). I was shocked to go back to World as an adult (26 was the last time I was there) and realized I enjoyed the rides so much less than I did on my last visit, which coincidentally was at 17, as well. But yes, if it’s coasters I seek, I’ll go to Universal’s Islands of Adventure instead (plus, Harry Potter!).

  • March 12, 2012
    Christina S.

    I grew up in Tampa, so I have no choice but to vocally say WORLD! It’s the castle. I can’t get over how tiny the castle in Disneyland is. Why even build one if it’s going to be that small and neon?

    I’ve never been to Disneyland and don’t ever plan on going. My Florida allegiance stands strong 🙂

    • March 12, 2012
      Kristin

      Fair enough! I, too, will continue to opt for World on vacation–in part because we still have the condo and it’s closer, but mainly because I like having MGM, the Universal Parks, Epcot and Blizzard Beach as options, too!

  • March 12, 2012

    I can’t believe World doesn’t have Indy – that’s the best ride! I’ve never been to Florida, so I can’t make an objective comparison, but as a California girl I think Land will always have my heart.

    • March 12, 2012
      Kristin

      I agree: that one is SO FUN. I went three times in a row!

  • March 12, 2012
    Pamela Monahan

    I use to live in Cali when I was younger and got to to go Disneyland several times. I recently got to visit Disneyworld with a bunch of my close friends and I did notice some differences in rides. Pirates was different, as there were multiple drops that scared me to death as a 10 year old not expecting them in Disneyland. Also Space Mountain at Disneyworld was way tamer than the one at Land which had multiple big lifts. I did love the Indiana Jones ride at Land. I feel like I waited in lines alot at both parks. In overall, Disneyworld had alot more things to do and the castle is way better, especially during the holiday season when it’s all lit up with twinkle lights.

    • March 12, 2012
      Kristin

      I thought the Space Mountain at Land seemed to loop and dip a bit more! But I couldn’t be sure as I literally haven’t ridden the one at World in over a decade–every time I’m at Magic Kingdom, it’s closed for maintenance!

  • March 12, 2012

    How timely–my husband and I were just talking about the two parks the other day! He had never been to Land, and was surprised when I told him it’s in the middle of the city. That dampened his enthusiasm to visit somewhat. As for me, I’ve really only ever visited both parks as a performer (multiple years in drum corps had me in more Disney parades than I can remember right now) and my overall impression was that Land was just–small. In my memory, it also seems slightly dingy, but I know that can’t be the case–Disney keeps their parks too clean for that! I think it was little things like the odd colors of Cinderella’s castle that threw me off. I also love how World is SO immense–it’s easy to completely forget that you’re actually still in Florida. Of course, now that we have a child and will probably make the pilgrimage to one or the other park as family sometime soon, I can see how such a large campus could be wildly off-putting to the family with kids. Still, my vote is for World.

    • March 13, 2012
      Kristin

      I do know what you mean about it being dingy. Hitting up Land after World is sort of akin to going into the Gap Outlet after you’ve already shopped the impeccably-clean, well-staged real Gap store.

  • March 12, 2012

    I like them both. Still a kid at heart for all those rides and characters. I believe it depends on what part of the country I’m in.

    • March 13, 2012
      Kristin

      True. Obviously West Coasters are going to have their Land pride, and East Coasters their World. I’ll still choose World over Land, but I’m pleased that Land will do just fine should I be closer to CA than FL! First-world problems =)

  • March 13, 2012

    I’m extremely biased here because I’m from southern California and have never been to Disney World, but Disneyland has to get some extra points for being the original, right?? I know it’s old and seems more out of date, but there’s something special there.

    • March 13, 2012
      Kristin

      True! It just has become a bit dingy, and it’s so small. But the rides are better, no question! That said, when I’m in Orlando now, I usually just go to the Universal Parks anyway for the roller coasters and Harry Potter.

  • March 13, 2012

    Having grown up in AZ, I’ve been to Disneyland but I’ve never been to Disneyworld. We even went to Orlando for Sprog’s 13th but he didn’t want to go so we went to Universal and Discovery Cove instead.

    • March 13, 2012
      Kristin

      I think that’s World’s biggest appeal, the fact that there are approximately a bazillion parks and other things to do aside from Magic Kingdom. We usually don’t even go to the Kingdom anymore when we’re down there, as we do MGM, the Universals or a water park instead.

  • March 13, 2012
    Ris

    I’ve never been to either, if you can even believe it. If I ever do finally go, I’ll be printing out this post as a guide, for sure.

    • March 13, 2012
      Kristin

      Inexcusable! You need to get on that =)

  • March 13, 2012
    Lauren

    I’m a long time Disneyworld lover and am still partial to the Orlando park. That said, I was at the Disney Leadership Institute at Disneyland this past December, and it was my first time in Anaheim. We only got to play in the parks at night after our sessions, but I have to say, it was really nice to be able to cover the entirety of California Adventure (or at least everything we wanted to do) in the mere four hours we had. We had some kind of magic that night and never had to wait for more than 5 minutes to get on anything (short of the Toy Story ride which we couldn’t squeeze in). We were even able to walk up and see the World of Color show about 4 minutes before it began and have a really decent view of it. The 6ish hours we had at Disneyland were not quite as productive and we hit more lines (3 hour wait to get on Indiana Jones with our fast pass, really long line for Haunted Mansion), but we still covered plenty of territory.

    I really enjoyed how easily navigable the parks were at Land, but it just lacked the sense of wonder that World holds. I think that because Land is really a locals park, whereas World is truly a vacation destination, there just wasn’t room to make it feel like an escape from anything. I missed that special feeling one gets at World. That might have something to do with having married into a Disney loving family (multiple honeymoons there and my brother-in-law is a Disney souvenir). Good thing my in-laws have decided they want to take us and my brothers-in-law and their wives on a family trip to World in the next year!

    • March 22, 2012
      Kristin

      Disney Leadership Institute pretty much sounds like my dream job. And why is the Toy Story ride so darn long all the time? Even Tower of Terror had no wait when I was there, but I’m pretty sure Toy Story was 90 minutes.

  • March 14, 2012
    Genevieve

    as a long time lover of disneyland (having gone every single year, sometimes multiple times) I have to say it depends on what you as the visitor want. If it is expected to be a week-long vacation, Disney World all the way! but if you only have time for a two day trip out to Anaheim (as most visitors to Southern Cali are) then its all about Disneyland!! I personally can’t take too much Disney at once, so my personal fav is Disneyland. Disney World is Excellent for a kids vacation, especially Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

    • March 22, 2012
      Kristin

      That’s a great observation! I think what I loved about Land is that I could just drive there for a day from LA, whereas you’re right, every time we’re in Orlando, it’s for a minimum of five days (at least three of which we do parks).

  • March 14, 2012
    Jane

    Nice part about either is your s close to the ocean. My family and I are going to Disney World in October. We’re spending a few days there before heading down to Miami to pick up a cruise for a week. We’re going on that R Kelly cruise. Anyone else going? http://www.lovelettercruise.com

  • March 14, 2012
    Erin

    As a kid growing up in San Diego, I was a regular at Disneyland. That Finding Nemo Sub ride used to be 20,000 leagues under the sea. After the Matterhorn and Thunder Mountain Railroad, it was one of my favorites. But that’s probably just kid glasses blurring it for me.

    • March 22, 2012
      Kristin

      I think the rides at Land are more fun as adults. I went to World a couple years ago and remember being a bit disappointed as it was way more kid-like than I remember (less coasters, more Peter Pan-like rides). Matterhorn and Thunder Mountain, however, did NOT disappoint when I was at Land last year, so I don’t think that was necessarily your kid glasses =)

  • March 15, 2012

    I dont know if I would spend a day in disneyland having disneyworld so close… i guess that if i stayed long enough in California I would probably go. I never have enough vacation days… Maybe if I ever have kids I would probably change my mind. After so many years having annual passes in florida to the theme parks I have 0 patience doing lines that are longer than 30 minutes.
    quick question about lens… I want to buy a lens for my DSLR. im just learning how to use my camera so a beginner lens ($)where i can zoom in more is all i want. I’ve never traveled with a big camera before so im afraid to also carry a heavy lens. what do you usually take when you want to be light weight?

    • March 22, 2012
      Kristin

      If you’re in Florida, there’s no need to go to SoCal! It’s just a nice option for those West Coasters who don’t have the luxury of driving to Land =)

      17-85mm is a great beginner universal lens. It’s all I took the first couple years I had a DSLR.

      • March 22, 2012

        Gracias!!! 🙂 I will look for that lens. Are u going to Ecuador? I have a friend that can burn me a copy of Rosetta stone (Spanish). Let me know if you want it.
        I have to send this post to my sister. She lives in San Jose and she is in love with Mickey mouse. She always goes to Disney world when she is in Florida visiting. Did u ever go to great America in Santa Clara? I loved that park! Fun rides and not crowded at all. I’m getting the sea world/busch gardens pass this year. I’ve never been to sea world and Busch gardens is a 15 min drive. I love their roller coasters. I like having a pass. It is useful when I have friends/family in town.

  • March 15, 2012
    helen

    i went to disneyworld for the first time in oct 2010. i was raised in socal so we went to disneyland at least once a year since i can remember–around age 3 i believe. so while i was impressed with all the other parks at disneyworld, especially animal kingdom, i was very let down by the magic kingdom. the castle is definitely larger than the one at disneyland and quite beautiful. the atmosphere at fantasyland at disneyworld was really sad, but perhaps because part of it was under construction. frontierland doesn’t seem to have as good of a layout as disneyland, and felt cramped to me. like you said, the rides at disneyland are much better. pirates, big thunder, space mountain, are all less exciting and seem shorter than at disneyland. plus there’s no matterhorn!! not quite sure what is meant by disneyland being dingy–that place is immaculate!

    • March 22, 2012
      Kristin

      I think as an adult, I enjoy the variety World offers more, but you’re right: As a “grown-up,” Magic Kingdom is a bit of a letdown. We last went in 2009, and I think all subsequent visits will be to Epcot, Hollywood Studios and the Universal Parks!

      World needs a Matterhorn.

  • March 16, 2012

    I soooo need to take Lucas to both places!

    • March 22, 2012
      Kristin

      You didn’t go to Disney Hong Kong while you were there last week? =)

  • March 18, 2012
    Jilian Metz

    For me the differences come with the age at which I visited them. I was 11 on my first (and only) visit to Disney Land with my family. Splash Mtn had just opened that summer I think and we never go to ride it due to the lines 🙂 I don’t remember much – but I do remember LOVING IT!! (I also remember Knott’s Berry Farm being my favorite!)

    I finally made it to World when I was sixteen. Not only was I older… but my brother didn’t come with so it was an ‘only child’ experience. Both of these led to it being ‘just okay’.

    I’ve never been back to Land but I’ve been to WORLD at least 3 times since. Just took my 19 month old about 2 weeks ago. It’s cool – but we’re definitely not a Disney Family. The only reason I’ve been so much is because I have friends in Orlando – some of whom work their so we get in free! I do love Epcot – and would love to visit it during one of their special festivals. Maybe one day.

    BTW – My 19 month old most enjoyed splashing in a water fountain (big fountain – not drinking fountain) and when I would let him run around like a wild man 🙂 I knew he was too young – but we just happened to be there. Seeing all the girls dressed head to toe in their princess outfits may have scared me just a tad that this next one MIGHT be a girl. Not sure I can handle the princess craziness!!

    • March 22, 2012
      Kristin

      Splash Mountain is SO much better at World. That was my one big disappointment at Land–it was so short and cut out half the storyline!

  • March 29, 2012

    i must say “world” all the way! i went to disneyland and was super disappointed and asked the person i went with ‘that’s all?’ after touring the park. i guess the east coast in me was not so impressed 😉

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