The Happiest Place on Earth

Which is Disneyland. The Magic Kingdom is the Most Magical Place on Earth. People often confuse those two. As part of our trip to California earlier this month we took the girls to Disneyland.

I wanted to take a little bit of time and talk about how the resorts are different and why I think Disneyland is actually the better of the two. So, sit back and relax.

Disneyland, as everyone who actually cares anything about Disney Parks knows, was the original theme park created in Walt Disney. It opened its doors in 1955 in what was an orange grove in Anaheim. It encompasses 510 total acres, two theme parks, a shopping distrct and three Disney owned hotels. Walt Disney World, in contrast, is the size of San Fransisco, encompasses 25,000. It features four theme parks, two water parks, a shopping district, golf courses, a sports complex and 28 Disney owned hotels. Disney World is massive in comparison to the much smaller Disneyland.

Disney World is fairly unparalleled as far as things to do. You could likely stay for weeks and between rides, shows, tours and other offerings not have to repeat activities, but that overwhelmingly huge amount of stuff takes away from the charm a little bit. Disney World also takes a huge amount of planning. Yes, you do need to know where you want to eat six months in advance if you want certain sit down restaurants and, yes, you do need to know what you want to ride two months in advance if you don’t want to wait in line for the more popular rides (which can be as long as four hours.  Folks, the only thing I want to do for four straight hours is sleep.  Or read a book or something).

So, let me first lay out a few cons about a Disneyland vacation.  Lodging is more expensive.  Anaheim doesn’t enjoy the plethora of once affordable real estate.  The least expensive Disney owned hotel is MORE expensive than moderate Disney owned reorts (Paradise Pier starts at $269/night where moderate resorts at Disney World slot in around $200).  Additionally, there are hotel parking fees of $20/day which is not the case at Disney World.  Downtown Disney is also smaller than Disney Springs, BUT I think Downtown Disney is what they’re hoping Disney Springs will evolve in to.  Also, because you’re only given two park options there is, naturally, less to do.  However, Three to four park days will allow you to do just about everything.

So, now that I’ve laid out the cons, let’s get to the bright side and why I think the Disneyland Resort is a better vacation than Disney World.

  1. It’s not as crowded.  Disney World sees attendance of just around 50 million people per year with Disneyland clocking it at a far more modest 18 million.  On a random Saturday in July, wait times for Space Mountain, one of the most popular rides in the park clocks in at 40 minutes while that same ride sees a 70 minute wait at the magic kingdom.  Talking about crowds is an important part of Disney vacation planning, but if you travel to Disneyland, you’ll find that even on days where the parks are slated to be very crowded, they’re still less crowded than Disney World.Untitled
  2. The parks are maintained better.  Disney leads the pack at putting on a show, but the amount of visitors and use to the Disney World resort just lends itself to more wear and tear and more mess.  The parks are cleaner and the rides seem to be better maintainedUntitled
  3.  Everything is walking distance.  The Paradise Pier hotel, which is the furthest hotel from the gate of the park clocks in at just about .7 miles.  It take 15-20 minutes to walk back to your room (and you go can go through Downtown Disney OR take a “short cut” through the Grand Californian).  No waiting for buses or trams or monorails or boats.  You can reach your room as fast as you can walk to it.  The Princess lamented, a bit, being able to rest on the bus, but my estimation is you would do just as much walking from the theme park to your bus and then the bus to your room at Walt Disney World.
  4. The night time shows may be better.  I will admit, I have NOT seen the Magic Kingdom’s new Happily Ever After OR Illuminations in my years of visiting Disney Parks, but what i can say is that “Remember…Dreams Come True” at Disneyland Park and “World of Color” at California Adventure are both really impressive.  World of Color may well be the best night time show in Disney Parks in the United States.Untitled
  5. The food is better.  My theory on this is that it’s easy to slip out of the park and head down the street for an inexpensive meal without wasting too much park time, something you can’t really do well at Disney World.  The food is STILL expensive, but thanks to some healthy competition, it’s pretty good as well

Going to be on the left coast?  LIke Disney?  Make time for a few days’ stop.  I think you’ll be happy you did.