Like the British Empire in its heyday, the sun never sets on a Disney park. Walt Disney World in Orlando is the flagship of the Disney brand with four theme parks and scores of other attractions. Disneyland, located in Anaheim, California, was the one that started it all, with its Magic Kingdom and California Adventure parks still entertaining nearly 65 years after opening.
Many of the differences between the parks are well known. WDW is far greater in size and boasts more parks and attractions. Each has a slightly different layout and lands the other doesn't (Toontown in California vs Liberty Square in WDW), and some rides aren't in both parks. However, there are other differences between the two parks that may be a bit surprising to guests. From certain rides to special touches, each park has some nuances that spark debate as to which is better.
20 Walt Disney World Can’t Use Marvel Rides
When Disney bought Marvel Comics, there already was a Marvel section as Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park. Therefore, a special condition of the deal stated that Disney could not use any Marvel characters at their Florida parks. California is exempt which is why their Tower of Terror was repurposed into a Guardians of the Galaxy ride and plans are underway for a Spider-Man attraction as well. While the deal allows a GOTG ride in WDW, only California can have attractions based on Spider-Man or the Avengers while WDW can't even use the Marvel name.
19 Walt Disney World Has Alcohol
Ever since it opened, one rule has been paramount at Disneyland: no alcohol. While California Adventure bent that, it took the opening of Galaxy's Edge for Disneyland to have alcohol served on the property. In contrast, WDW has been offering such beverages for decades. Epcot boasts the annual Food & Wine Festival where guests can imbue drinks from scores of countries. It's also available at the hotels and other parks while Disneyland remains almost totally dry.
18 More Celebrities At Disneyland
Sure, you can see some famous people around Walt Disney World. However, it's far more likely you'll run into some celebrity in California. It makes sense as Disneyland is far closer to Hollywood and scores of celebrities love to take a day off at the parks. Many will have security to keep the paparazzi away, but some like to mingle like any other guest. It doesn't happen every day, but Disneyland is a much safer bet to see some actor, musician, or sports star enjoying the rides.
17 Disneyland Still Has Submarines
Opened in 1959, the original Submarine Voyage was one of Disneyland's more popular attractions. WDW had their own version in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but that finally closed down in the 1990s. Disneyland, meanwhile, kept their subs going for a few more years until they were shut down for a decade. They made a return, now themed to Finding Nemo, and offer a fun water ride that WDW can't match.
16 Disneyland's Got The Matterhorn
Every version of the Magic Kingdom around the globe has the three main mountains (Space, Splash, and Big Thunder) along with a few others. Yet the Matterhorn remains one of a kind. For 60 years, guests have loved to ride this bobsled attraction complete with a Yeti and it remains one of Disneyland's busiest rides. For some reason, it's never been replicated at any other park which makes it unique among the Disney mountain range.
15 No Water Parks At Disneyland
When guests want to beat the California heat at Disneyland, their best bet is the hotel pool. The closest water park to Disneyland is about seven miles away. Walt Disney World boasts two of the best water parks on the planet. Typhoon Lagoon is a tropical paradise while Blizzard Beach has the fun theme of a snowy ski resort in Orlando. Both offer hours of wet and wild fun to allow guests a great way to cool off that Disneyland lacks.
14 Disney World Gets Perks For Being Its Own City
Perhaps the most notable difference between the parks is that Disneyland has long had to handle issues with the city of Anaheim from taxes to zoning laws. WDW was always meant to be a city and in many ways, it's met that goal. Officially called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, it has a board of supervisors and runs its own police and fire departments. If it wanted to, WDW could even create schools or its own criminal justice system. The fact it's twice the size of Manhattan shows how WDW is a genuine city while Disneyland remains beholden to Anaheim.
13 Disney World's Got 3 Golf Courses (Disneyland Has None)
There are a few golf courses around Anaheim, but they're all a bit of a drive from Disneyland. WDW, meanwhile, offers three first-rate courses that have all been used for the PGA Tour. Whether it's for a serious game or just hitting a few balls, they offer hours of fun for guests and are easy to get to. There are also two miniature golf courses for the kids to enjoy. It's little wonder golfers enjoy WDW as much as anyone who goes to the parks.
12 Disneyland's It's A Small World Ride Is Far More Lavish
While it's home to arguably the greatest "earworm" song in Disney history, It's a Small World has been a long-time favorite of guests for over 50 years. The Disneyland version is far more lavish than Florida as it's housed in a huge building that's also a working clock. A big difference is that the California version has Disney characters integrated into the ride: Merida in Scotland, Aladdin and Jasmine in the Middle East, Mulan in China, etc. Those wanting a more "traditional" version can settle for Florida's.
11 Disneyland Gets Rides Before Disney Owns The Rights
It's always interesting how Disneyland had attractions for properties long before Disney owned them (see Star Tours). In 1995, Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye opened in Disneyland and was so popular that lines literally stretched across the park. It was never replicated in Florida so this jeep attraction remains a one-of-a-kind adventure that fits the famed hero. It's another reason why Disneyland has bragging rights over WDW.
10 Walt Disney World Has All The Presidents (Disneyland Only Has Lincoln)
This may be an intriguing choice for guests who want a little history with entertainment. In Disneyland, Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln has an Audio-Animatronic of the revered President giving a speech and has been a popular attraction at the park for decades. WDW ups the ante with the Hall of Presidents as every Chief Executive in history shares the stage together. Some might argue it's better to enjoy one beloved President more than a pack of them as each park offers a different take on history.
9 More Of Disneyland Is Outdoors
If it rains in Florida, guests can still duck into some attractions and ride the weather out. Disneyland doesn't offer as many opportunities. Many rides are out in the open, such as the Teacups, part of It's a Small World, and other attractions. It means that if a hard rain hits, many rides shut down while there's a further distance for guests to get to cover. It also means less shade from the hot sun in the summer. WDW has much more coverage to help guests out.
8 The Trains
Both of the Magic Kingdom parks have trains that circle the area and offer guests a nice ride. WDW is nice with its large trains and tunnels, but the Disneyland version is better. First thing is that several of the trains have been operating since the park opened and can boast a great history. Also, Disneyland offers guests a cool tunnel journey with a replica of the Grand Canyon and robotic dinosaurs which Florida lacks. It's much better to take a train ride in California.
7 The Hotel Perks
Florida clearly has the edge over Disneyland when it comes to hotels on property. Disneyland can boast only three while WDW has over two dozen, all with a different fun theme. WDW also offers perks California doesn't, such as "Magic Hours" which allows guests to enter the park an hour before the official opening and other additions. On the other hand, Disneyland's hotels are all within walking distance of the parks which saves plenty of time. WDW is better when it comes to variety, but California offers more convenience.
6 The Haunted Mansions’ Holiday Makeover At Disneyland
In 2001, Disneyland decided to celebrate the holidays in a unique way. The Haunted Mansion was given an overlay themed to The Nightmare Before Christmas with music and characters from the animated movie added to the ride. It was a huge success and has since become an annual tradition. Despite huge demand, the WDW Mansion has never had this overlay. Thus, only Disneyland and Tokyo Disney boast this fun horror-themed holiday hit.
5 Dueling Castles
The Castles are the symbols of each Magic Kingdom park and guests never get tired of loving them. Each park has a different version as Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle is just 77 feet tall and uses forced perspective to look much larger. As WDW had a bigger budget, they could afford a larger size. Cinderella's Castle is 189 feet tall to dominate the Florida skyline. However different they are, they share being the best palaces in the United States.
4 Disneyland’s Lavish Fantasyland
While WDW's Fantasyland is good, it pales next to the California version. A huge refurbish in the 1980s made the area look like some lovely world straight out of classic fairy tales. It helps it has attractions Florida doesn't such as Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio, and the beloved Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Florida is okay, but when it comes to the most loved part of the park, California's version is a better fantasy.
3 Different Pirates
Amazing as it sounds, Walt Disney World did not have Pirates of the Caribbean in their original plans. It took a massive outcry for them to put in a shortened version of the attraction. It lacks some depth, literally, as Florida's water table couldn't allow as much space for the ride. It has other differences from the entrance way to how some of the scenes play out. Many fans contend the California version is the superior take on this classic ride.
2 The Haunted Mansion Portrait Room
The Disneyland version of the Haunted Mansion opened in 1969 with the Florida version following two years later. They have differences from the exterior to some of the interior scenes (the WDW version had a major makeover in 2007). Both have a sequence where guests enter a parlor with the ceiling appearing to stretch to show off some funny portraits. In California, the room lowers so guests can access the loading area while in Florida, the ceiling rises. It's a subtle but fun difference between the two versions of the iconic ride.
1 Disneyland’s History
While WDW is celebrating nearly 50 years as a landmark, it still has a way to go to catch up to Disneyland. 2020 will have the park celebrating its 65th anniversary as an American institution. Disneyland has a rich history WDW just can't quite touch as it was the first theme park in the U.S. and has seen countless celebrities, sports stars, and world leaders pass through its gate. It's a national landmark and that aura of an American icon gives it a flair Florida lacks.
Sources: Allears.net, orlandoinformer.com, wdwtoday.com, yesterland.com