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Walt Disney World vs Disneyland: 15 Differences To Help You Choose

Ladies and Gentlemen, in this corner, weighing in at 500 acres (.8 square miles) is Disneyland.  

And in this corner, weighing in at 43 square miles is Disney World!

Have you ever wondered how Disney World and Disneyland differ or are the same? Do you know which one was built first or how many parks are in each one?

Today we want to take a look at and compare the two iconic Disney parks in the United States: Disneyland and Disney World. 

Of course they are both great in their own right and this is not a commentary on which is better. Rather we want to look at what each one has, or doesn’t have, to help you make plans for your next Disney adventure!

Disneyland vs Walt Disney World

Disneyland vs Disney World

1. Disney World Vs Disneyland: Location

Let’s start with the basics and most obvious. Disney World and Disneyland are located in different areas! Where are each of these parks?

Obviously both Disney World and Disneyland are located in different parts of the United States. One is on the west coast while the other is in the south!

family at disneyland with minnie

Disneyland is located in Orange County in Southern California. More specifically Anaheim, California which is about 30 miles from LA.

If you are flying in to LAX, you are about 40 miles away from Disneyland. If you’re in San Diego, you’re about 95 miles from Disneyland.

Walt Disney World entrance

Disney World is located near Orlando, Florida (the mailing address is Lake Buena Vista, Florida). You are about 20 miles from the park if you are flying into the Orlando airport.

2. Disney World vs Disneyland: Age

Disney World and Disneyland weren’t opened at the same time!

Do you know which of the two Disney theme parks came first and how old they are?

disney castle

Disneyland was the first and thus the oldest of the two. It’s doors opened way back on July 17, 1955. It opened with Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland and Tomorrowland along with Main Street.

Disney World’s opening occurred on October 1st, 1971 with just the Magic Kingdom. Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom would come along later. Mickey Mouse led the fist visitors into Magic Kingdom on that first day! Disney World had a huge celebration when it turned 50 that lasted 18 months.

cinderella's castle magic kingdom 50th birthday

3. Disney World vs Disneyland: Nicknames

Even the best Disney fans might get this one wrong! They have different nicknames!

What is the nickname each is called?

Disneyland is known for being the “Happiest Place on Earth.”
Disney World has the title of “Most Magical Place on Earth.”

4. Disney World vs Disneyland: Size

The biggest difference between the two parks is their size! One is much, much bigger than the other.

How big is each Disney theme park?

Disneyland is quite a bit smaller than its younger brother. In fact, at 500 acres, you could place over 50 Disneylands inside Disney World.

tree of life in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney World is an astonishing 43 square miles! The reason for the size difference is quite a fascinating story and highlights the genius of the man behind it all, Walt Disney. In a nutshell, Disneyland could not expand beyond its original site because of its location. 

When Walt started to make plans for his next theme park, he found enough land to buy which would allow him all the expansion he wanted. He secretly started buying millions of dollars worth of farmland in Central Florida in 1964. Unfortunately he died before Disney World was a reality.

If you want to do a day trip to one of them, Disneyland would be much easier to do in just one day while Disney World would be much more difficult (assuming you want to visit more than one park).

5. Disney World vs Disneyland: Number of Parks

Each location has a different number of parks included in it.

How many and what are the theme parks?

Disneyland has 2 theme parks on its property, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park. Disney California Adventure, commonly referred to as DCA, includes areas such as Cars Land, Buena Vista Street and Avengers Campus. There is also a shopping area called Downtown Disney District.

Epcot Ball

Disney World has 4 theme parks which include Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Along with the theme parks, Disney World has a shopping area called Disney Springs, a sports complex called ESPN Wild World of Sports and 2 full water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.

6. Disney World vs Disneyland: The Castles

Each park has its own unique castle.

Disneyland claims Sleeping Beauty Castle which is 77 feet tall. This castle took 18 months to be built and was debuted on July 17th, 1955. It was based on the late 19th century Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany. Walt himself oversaw the construction of this castle! 

Disneyland castle

Disney World is home to Cinderella’s Castle towering at 189 feet. This castle was completed in July, 1971 and was formally introduced to the public on October 1, 1971. With a much larger budget, this castle is significantly bigger with 29 towers, more rooms and services including a restaurant, suite, kitchen, boutique and 3 elevators.

castle magic kingdom-36

Both castles are the centerpieces of their respective parks. They’re also both tall enough to be seen from everywhere in the park. This was intentional to help guests stay oriented as to where they are!

If you want to learn more about the two castles, check out this post where we do a deep dive into both castles!

7. Disney World vs Disneyland: Disney Resort Hotels On Site

There is a different number of on-site hotels at each location.

How many Disney hotels are in each and what are the on-site hotels?

There are three Disneyland Resort hotels on the property. These hotels are Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and Disneyland Hotel.

There are more than 25 Walt Disney World resort hotels on their property. These 25 resorts are split up into different levels (or tiers). The tiers are Value, Moderate and Deluxe.

All Star Movies Resort

The different resort hotels on site at Disney World are:

8. Disney World vs Disneyland: Transportation Options

The modes of transportation are even different!

Disneyland has free shuttle services from the parking lot and the iconic monorail runs between Downtown Disney, Disneyland Park and Tomorrowland. With Disneyland being so small, it is much easier to get around. Everything is within walking distance.

Disney bus transportation station

Disney World on the other hand needs a massive transportation system because of its huge size. Fortunately, Disney does a good job of accommodating their guests. Disney World has buses, monorails, water ferries, and the Disney Skyliner to shuttle folks around. All of these are free for guests.

Want our giant Disney World monorail history and guide post? Head here!

9. Disney World vs Disneyland: Restaurants and Dining

Another major difference is the number of restaurants at each.

There are tons of dining options at both Disneyland and Disney World. While this number seems to change often, currently Disneyland has more than 120 restaurants and Disney World has more than 400 restaurants.

You will find quick service in both places. Disney World has a significantly more table service restaurants. Both parks have amazing snacks!

10. Disney World vs Disneyland: Golf Courses

Love golf? This is another difference between the two.

Disneyland has a total of zero golf courses. Sorry golf fans!

On the other hand, Disney World has 5 golf courses total on site. If you want to include a round of golf during your Disney vacation, you’ll definitely want to go to Disney World over Disneyland.

11. Disney World vs Disneyland: Average Temperature

Although both parks are in warmer climate states, the average temperature is different with Disney World being warmer.

Disneyland has an average year round temperature of 63 degrees F. It can get a bit chillier in the winter but more mild overall.

Disney World has a warmer average year round temperature of 72 degrees F. Of course, the daily high gets much, much higher in the summer months. Additionally, the humidity in the summer is a force to reckon with.

Obviously, time of year has a bigger impact at Disney World than Disneyland, so you’ll want to plan your clothing accordingly. We have a monthly breakdown of the weather in Disney World here.

12. Disney World vs Disneyland: Cost

Even the cost of a single day-ticket is different!

Currently a single-day ticket at Disneyland starts at $104 for guests 3 years old and up.

Disney World roller caoster

Disney World’s single day ticket starts at $109 for guests 10 years old and up.

Please Note: These prices are not in stone and they can change in different ways starting with the more days you attend, the less you will pay per day.

13. Disney World vs Disneyland: Live Shows

There’s a different number of shows at each park.

Disneyland has these unique shows: Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, Main Street Electrical Parade, The World of Color, Mickey and the Magical Map and Storytelling at the Royal Theatre.

festival of the lion king show

Disney World has Monsters inc. Laugh Floor, Beauty and the Beast Love on Stage, Finding Nemo – The Musical, Mickey’s Philharmagic, Festival of the Lion King, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire and For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration.

Both parks have a variety of parades and pop up live performances that happen throughout the day and year.

14. Disney World vs Disneyland: Attractions/Rides

Since Disneyland is much smaller than Disney World, you can expect less attractions at Disneyland (and you’d be right!).

Disneyland has more than 90 attractions.

Disney World boasts over 165 attractions in their 4 theme parks and 2 water parks.

There are similar attractions in both parks but there are differences in many of them.  

Space Mountain

Similar attractions at both Disneyland and Disney World:

  • Astro Orbiter
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin/Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Haunted Mansion
  • It’s a small world
  • Jungle Cruise
  • King Arthur Carrousel/Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
  • Mark Twain Riverboat/Liberty Square Riverboat
  • Mad Tea Party
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain (becoming Tiana’s Bayou Adventure)
  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
  • Tarzan’s Treehouse/Swiss Family Treehouse
  • Tomorrowland Speedway/Autopia
  • Toy Story Mania!/Toy Story Midway Mania!
  • Turtle Talk with Crush
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid/The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
Pirates of the Caribbean

Attractions found at Disneyland but not Disney World:

  • The Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
  • Snow White’s Enchanted Wish
  • Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
  • Casey Jr. Circus Train
  • Storybook Land Canal Boats
  • Indiana Jones Adventure
  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
  • Sailing Ship Columbia
  • Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes
  • Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough
  • Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
  • Gadget’s Go Coaster
  • Mickey and the Magical Map
  • Royal Theatre
  • Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
  • Frozen — Live at the Hyperion
  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters
  • Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
  • Incredicoaster
  • Pixar Pal-A-Round
  • Jessie’s Critter Carousel
  • Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind
  • Goofy’s Sky School
  • Grizzly River Run (similar to Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout!
  • Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
  • Silly Symphony Swings
  • Jumpin’ Jellyfish
  • Golden Zephyr
  • World of Color
  • WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure

Attractions found at Disney World but not Disneyland:

Tower of Terror Ride
  • The Barnstormer
  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Hall of Presidents
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Tomorowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
  • Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Conservation Station
  • Expedition Everest
  • Festival of the Lion King
  • Finding Nemo – The Musical
  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek
  • Na’vi River Journey
  • Tree of Life Awakenings
  • Wildlife Express Train
  • Aliens Swirling Saucers
  • For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along
  • Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple
  • Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  • Slinky Dog Dash
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Bruce’s Shark World
  • Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360
  • EPCOT Forever
  • Frozen Ever After
  • Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Thee Caballeros
  • Impressions de France
  • Journey into Imagination with Figment
  • Living with the Land
  • Mission: SPACE
  • Spaceship Earth
  • SeaBase
  • The Sea with Nemo & Friends
  • Test Track
  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
  • TRON

If you love the Kilimanjaro Safaris you don’t want to miss this post with some fun secrets about it!

15. Disney World vs Disneyland: Roller Coasters

If Disneyland is bigger and has less attractions, you’d expect less roller coasters, right? Wrong! Disney World actually has less roller coasters than Disneyland!

That’s right, Disneyland beats out Disney World in this category! Despite it’s smaller size, Disneyland has 6 coasters including Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, California Screamin’, Matterhorn, Gadget’s Go Coaster and Goofy Children’s Coasters.

Rock'n Roller Coaster guitar and piano

Disney World has fiver major coasters including, Expedition: Everest, The Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain and Goofy Children’s Coaster.

We have a full post revealing some fun secrets about the The Rock ’n’ Roller Aerosmith Coaster. You don’t want to miss that!

Disney World vs Disneyland: Which Is Best

  1. Disneyland is generally easier to book restaurant dining reservations than Disney World. Disney World reservations fill up quicker.
  2. Disneyland is generally less crowded than Disney World, although not by much. Both parks experience the typical crowd explosions during peak times of the year (major holidays and 3 day weekends).
  3. Since Disney World is located in its own area, it is much more a tourist location and guests tend to visit for a longer time. It is not uncommon for guests to go to Disneyland for an afternoon and evening or for one whole day. Disney World guests often visit for 3-5 days or more.
  4. Both parks have shows, special entertainment and parades, but because of its sheer size, there are more of each at Disney World. You’ll definitely see Disney characters at both so don’t worry about that!
  5. If it’s a quick in and out vacation, Disneyland is much easier to navigate. It takes so much more time and energy planning a Disney World vacation as opposed to a Disneyland vacation.
  6. In the same token, it will cost much more overall to go to Disney World as compared to Disneyland, despite the fact that the ticket prices are not that far apart.
  7. Disneyland’s compactness makes it much easier for children and it’s just an overall more pleasant tour for a day, whereas Disney World can take every ounce of energy to tackle. If you have little ones and are just dying for them to meet Mickey Mouse, you may want to start with Disneyland first and move on to Disney World when they’re a bit older!
  8. If people in your group experience FOMO like some of our crew does, you will feel it much more intensely at Disney World. There is simply no way you will be able to do everything no matter how long you are there.
  9. It is easier to “stay in the Magic” at Disney World if you stay on site. Disney World’s unique location away from everything else simply gives it a feeling that you are truly in a magical place!
Mickey and woman

Worldwide Disney Resorts

Did you know that there’s more Disney Theme Parks than just Disneyland and Disney World? That’s right! There are 9 total Disney Resorts, some without theme parks.

  1. Disneyland – California, USA
  2. Walt Disney World – Florida, USA
  3. Disneyland ParisResort
  4. The Tokyo Disney Resort – includes both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea
  5. Shanghai Disney Resort
  6. Hong Kong Disney Resort
  7. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort – no parks
  8. Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort – no parks
  9. Disney’s Aluani Resort in Hawaii – no parks

As you can see, despite Disneyland and Disney World being amazing and full of magic, they’re very different and you’ll have different experiences at each. We hope this helped you learn a little bit more about each amazing Disney Resort.

At the end of the day, we’re confident you’ll have the most magical time at whichever resort you end up visiting.

Want more Disney fun? Check out the differences between the Disney World Castle and the Disneyland castle here.