Walt Disney World Orlando VS. Disneyland California

Are you trying to decide which Disney park to head to in the USA? Disneyland is located in Anaheim, California, while Disney World is located in Orlando, Florida. Most people might choose the closer park, but is that always the best choice? In this comparison guide, we review the food/drinks, rides, details, size, character interactions, and value.


FOOD

Starting off with one of the most important factors of Disney (let’s be honest with ourselves), the food at the Disney parks is a huge part of anyone’s trip. With the rise of “Instagram worthy” treats, we wanted to make sure that a variety of foods would be included, whether picture perfect or not. It was a small sacrifice having to eat a lot for this guide – but you’re very welcome. 😉

The top question – which park has the best food? We’ve heard arguments from both sides, but it’s safe to say – it’s a tie! Shocking? Maybe not so much. Each of the parks has its good food and it’s not so good food. I would say treats are pretty comparable across the board – and as with all restaurants, it can depend on who is preparing the food.

The Quick Service restaurants tend to be almost comparable as well. However, the ones that we preferred in each park are a completely different style from one another. We love a good Corn Dog Nugget Meal ($9.99) at Casey’s Corner in WDW, which is relatively cheap and tasty.

For full-service restaurants, we really enjoyed Lamplight Lounge’s seasonal Ghost-ly Pepper Nachos ($21) and Kobe Beef Sliders ($22). Needless to say, the cost at Lamplight is a little high for the food in our opinion. It’s really good – but I don’t know if it’s that good. Our total was just over $70 (before tip) for 2 meals and 2 specialty drinks.

For a WDW restaurant more comparable in price to Lamplight Lounge, Nine Dragons had some delicious food. We tried the Kung Pao Chicken ($17), Nine Dragons Fried Rice ($16), and Vegetable Spring Rolls ($5). Our total came to about $45 (before tips) and I can say we both felt this worth the price.

Where WDW doesn’t win over DLR is consistency. We both found that WDW can be inconsistent in some aspects. Ever had a really bad funnel cake? We didn’t think that was really possible until we got an inedible one from Sleepy Hollow in Magic Kingdom at WDW. But the funnel cakes over at Epcot in the American Pavilion (WDW) – totally fine!


DRINKS (Alcoholic & Non-alcoholic)

We’ve tried quite a few drinks at both Disneyland and Disney World, and it’s honestly hard to pick who did it better. Had it not been for Epcot, Disneyland would take the lead here.

A few of our favorites at Disneyland included Open Ocean with a Splash ($14.75 – alcoholic) and Infinity Fizz ($7 – non-alcoholic) from Lamplight Lounge. The ocean splash was a bit bigger than some drinks that we could get over in WDW, so it justifies the slightly higher price.

As for Disney World, Epcot is home to all kinds of drinks, especially alcoholic drinks. Our top rated alcoholic drinks were the Ottawa Apple ($13) in Canada and the Wild Strawberry Margarita ($11) in Mexico – but it really depends on who is making the drinks. Our first margarita in the Mexico pavilion wasn’t good and pretty weak, but since then it has been much better. For non-alcoholic drinks, we couldn’t think of any that really stood out at WDW. There are A LOT of drinks in WDW & we definitely haven’t tried them all – so there are lots more out there ready to be discovered.

Final verdict: Disneyland for non-alcoholic drinks & Disney World for alcoholic drinks. Disneyland seemed to have a lot more mocktails.


RIDES

WDW consists of 4 parks: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, & Epcot. While Disneyland California is a park in itself, it also sits across Disney’s California Adventure. So without including water parks, WDW has more to offer. While there may be a few similar rides in both parks (Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, etc.), there are quite a few rides unique to each park as well.

Similar Rides:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean – WDW’s version has newer animatronics, but DLR has extra features and lasts longer. If DLR upgraded some of the animatronics, it would win by a landslide.
  • Haunted Mansion – DLR does a Nightmare Before Christmas overlay during the Fall/Winter, so it wins.
  • HyperSpace/Space Mountain – Slightly different names, but overall the same ride design. However, seating is 2 to a row at DLR vs. 1 to a row at WDW. As for the ride itself, DLR wins because there is a story/show in the ride.
  • It’s a Small World – DLR wins because of the design of the exterior. There were a few areas that showed it’s age inside compared to WDW, but the exterior is miles above WDW.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout at DLR and Tower of Terror at WDW are the hardest to pick between. Tower of Terror is older since the Guardians is a recent update at DLR, so we appreciate the newness and different style at Guardians. But there are so many pro’s of each that picking a favorite is like picking your favorite child – you just can’t (or don’t). We just love both.
  • Millenium Falcon’s Smuggler Run in Galaxy’s Edge is the same in both parks. However, it may have just been our particular ride, but I found the screens a lot dimmer at DLR – making it much harder to see clearly. It may not be noticeable to a lot of people, but riding one and then riding the other at WDW a few days later made it really obvious.
  • Soarin’, Grizzly River Run/Kali River Rapids, Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters, Tarzan’s Treehouse, Autopia/Tomorrowland Speedway, Jungle Cruise, and the Railroad are similar rides as well, but we can’t give a fair comparison as we haven’t rode both at each park.

Now, the rides unique to DLR that we really enjoyed are the Incredicoaster and Radiator Springs Racers. There are tons of other rides, but these quickly became our top favorites there.

Rides unique to WDW that we really enjoyed are Flight of Passage, Expedition Everest, Rock’n’Roller Coaster, Spaceship Earth, and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover.

We’ll give Disneyland the win on the similar rides, but Disney World the win on unique rides.


CHARACTER INTERACTIONS

WDW has a lot of character meet-and-greets, but sometimes wait times can get pretty high. The one thing we really liked about Disneyland is how many characters roam freely throughout the parks. We got to interact with so many more characters there without having to take precious park time standing in line just waiting to meet one or two like at WDW.


DETAILS/DECORATIONS

There is no argument here – Disneyland wins Fall, especially when it comes to decorations. We appreciate Disney World for everything they do, but something about Disneyland feels more festive and cohesive during Halloween. As far as Christmas, we haven’t been to DLR during that timeframe, but WDW can really make a very festive Christmas season at the parks.


SIZE

Another no brainer, Disney World is massive compared to it’s cousin over in California. Not only does it have 2 more parks and 2 water parks, it contains many more resorts and even golf courses. The Disneyland area is right at about 100 acres, while Disney World clocks in at over 25,000 acres. While that accounts for all land owned by Disney in those areas, it should give you the ability to see at what scale WDW actually is. Using Animal Kingdom as an example of individual park size, it measures 580 acres and is the largest of the parks at WDW. Disneyland itself (not including California Adventure) would fit in Magic Kingdom’s parking lot at WDW.


VALUE

Disney World tickets cost slightly more than Disneyland, but WDW has a lot more to offer overall, making it the most bang for your buck.


OVERALL WINNER

Is it possible to choose one? We haven’t even taken another important factor into account – weather! The humidity and heat of Florida can be brutal. Sure, California gets hot, but Florida stays hot for most of the year and that humidity is no joke.

So going back and scoring it all, it looks like Disneyland edges out on some things, while Disney World does on others. Our recommendation? If you’re taking a quick weekend trip – go to Disneyland, but if you are doing a 1+ week experience, Disney World is the way to go.

What do you think – Disneyland or Disney World? Let us know your rankings in the comments below.


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