21 Major Differences Between Disneyland and Disney World
Disneyland and Walt Disney World are vastly different. Both Disney parks are home to Mickey and Minnie Mouse; both are figurative and literal hot spots (the temperatures soar in Orlando and Anaheim during the summer); and both are known as “the happiest place on Earth.” SoCal’s Disneyland is the OG park, with oodles of old-school charm, and is the mold for all the other Disney parks around the globe, but Florida’s Disney World is HUGE — the resort as a whole is almost as big as the city of San Francisco. While Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom both follow the same basic plan, sharing the original core of Main Street, Adventureland, Tomorrowland, and Fantasyland, the two versions also feature numerous differences and distinct draws. Here are 21 of them!
1. Disney World has the Magic Band. At Disney World, all you need to get around is your handy-dandy Disney-issued Magic Band. This plastic bracelet will work as your room key, charge card, park ticket, and ride FastPass. In Disneyland, you still need to show your physical ticket, and FastPasses are acquired via kiosks or the MaxPass program. (Photo via Kent Phillips/Walt Disney World)
2. The parks are different sizes. Disneyland sits at about 85 acres and has little room to grow, though the Star Wars themed expansion should add another 14 acres when it opens next summer. Walt Disney World, on the other hand, currently sums up to nearly 25,000 acres, or about 40 square miles, with 107 of those acres dedicated to the Magic Kingdom theme park.
3. There are way more star sightings at Disneyland. Being Hollywood-adjacent has its perks. When at Disneyland, you’ve always gotta keep your eyes peeled, since it’s a favorite place for celebs to visit (especially those with kids). The Kardashians, the Beckhams, Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry, and so many more visit the park on the regular.
4. The castles are vastly different sizes. Disneyland’s castle, based on the epic European castles such as Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, comes in at a height of 77 feet. The castle at Disney World stands at 183 feet — more than twice as tall as the castle in Disneyland. (Photo via Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World)
5. Each castle honors a different princess. Disneyland’s castle is for Aurora from Sleeping Beauty and includes a wonderful walk-through of her story. In Florida, the castle is in honor of Cinderella and features the princess-themed character restaurant Cinderella’s Royal Table.
6. Disney World has attractions Disneyland doesn’t. Walt Disney World has the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Mickey’s PhilharMagic Concert, Stitch’s Great Escape!, and the hilarious Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. In addition, they have a few attractions that were once also at Disneyland (but aren’t anymore), including Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, and the Country Bear Jamboree. (Photo via Sunny Chanel)
7. There are sleeping quarters in Disney World’s castle. One of the perks of having a larger castle is that you can do things like build a deluxe suite inside. Available by invitation only, the glamorous Cinderella Castle Suite features lush decorations, luxurious amenities, and lots of nods to the Disney classic.
8. Disneyland has attractions that Disney World doesn’t. The Matterhorn Bobsleds, Indiana Jones Adventure, and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage are available only in Anaheim. Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and Snow White’s Scary Adventures were once at both parks but are now only in Disneyland. (Photo via Disneyland Resort)
9. Disneyland has an extraordinary train car. Both Disneyland and Disney World have vintage trains circling the park, but only Disneyland has the Lilly Belle. The unique parlor car’s interior was designed by Walt Disney’s wife Lillian, and the train, in turn, is named for her.
10. Their big boats are different. Disneyland has both a steam-powered riverboat (named the Mark Twain) and the Sailing Ship Columbia, while Disney World only has a riverboat (there it’s named the Liberty Belle). (Photo via Disneyland Resort)
11. Disneyland has Mickey’s Toontown. The cartoon-inspired area, located in the back of the park, is an homage to classic Disney icons like Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, and Pluto. Along with detailed homes for Minnie and Mickey, there’s a kiddie coaster and the popular Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin.
12. Disney World has Storybook Circus. Hearkening back to Disney’s beloved Dumbo, this area (part of Fantasyland) features an old-school circus vibe. While there are some fun rides — including the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride and the Barnstormer roller coaster — it’s the meet and greets with sideshow versions of classic characters that really can’t be missed: You can pose with the Great Goofini (Goofy as a daredevil pilot), the Astounding Donaldo (Donald as a snake charmer), Minnie Magnifique (a circus star with pink poodles), and Madame Daisy Fortuna (Daisy as a fortune teller). (Photo via Sunny Chanel)
13. You can get your hair cut on the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street. It’s not all fun and games at Disney World; there’s also an opportunity for self-care and grooming. The old-timey Harmony Barber Shop offers haircuts for adults and children and even has a “My First Haircut” package, which includes commemorative ears and a certificate.
14. Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion gets a seasonal makeover. While Disney World’s Haunted Mansion is the same 24/7, the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland becomes the Tim Burton-heavy Haunted Mansion Holiday during the Halloween and Christmas seasons. Each year, Jack Skellington takes over to deliver an experience inspired by The Nightmare Before Christmas. (Photo via Disneyland Resort)
15. The Haunted Mansions look totally different on the outside. The insides may be overall pretty similar most of the year, and the rides themselves are about the same, but there are a few significant differences, such as the Hat Box Ghost appearing in the Disneyland version and the wallpaper that seems to come alive in the Disney World version. But the outsides are definitely very, very different!
16. Disney World has its own unique dining experience. Hamburgers, hot dogs, and Dole Whips can be found at both parks, but Disney World has a few sit-down restaurants worth the reservation. The Jungle Skipper Canteen is a punny place with a “skipper” staff. The Liberty Tree Tavern serves up a jaw-dropping amount of hearty New England fare. Last but not least, the Beauty and the Beast-inspired restaurant Be Our Guest is one of the hardest reservations to get at Disney World, but the magical décor and French-inspired dining make it more than worth the trouble. (Photo via Sunny Chanel)
17. Disneyland has eateries not found at Disney World. The Blue Bayou, located inside the Pirates of the Caribbean, tops the list of Disney restaurant musts (and it accordingly books up months in advance, so plan ahead). The Bengal Barbecue in Adventureland is a popular quick-service gem. And if you can score an invite, dining at Club 33 — the private club in New Orleans Square — is a bucket-list goal.
18. Disney World has interactive gaming. It’s not just rides, Dole Whips, and character sightings at Disney World: There are also complex interactive gaming experiences to be had. With the live role-playing game Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, participants embark on quests with the help of a map, a Sorcerer Key Card, and spell cards. In Adventureland, visitors can embark on A Pirate’s Adventure, which features an interactive map that sends players to all corners of Adventureland looking for clues. (Photo via Sunny Chanel)
19. You can get your drink on at Disney World. Disneyland is notoriously dry — the only place to get booze there is in the very private Club 33. But you can imbibe alcoholic beverages at a variety of restaurants throughout Walt Disney World, including the previously mentioned Skipper Canteen and the Liberty Tree Tavern.
20. The parks have different town squares. Walt Disney World hosts Liberty Square, while Disneyland has New Orleans Square. Both are home to their respective Haunted Mansions, but they have very different vibes. Disneyland’s New Orleans Square is home to gumbo, beignets, and a strolling jazz band. At Liberty Square, you can see the Muppets give a short history of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and visit the American political icons in the Hall of Presidents. (Photo via Sunny Chanel)
21. Their treehouses are inspired by different Disney properties. At one time, both treehouses were tributes to Swiss Family Robinson of book and Disney movie fame. But in 1999, Disneyland transformed their treehouse to reflect the film Tarzan.
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