It isn’t exactly Amazon Versus Hachette or Superman Versus Batman. To some it might not be as important as the Yankees versus the Red Sox. If you are a family looking for the best and most enjoyable way to spend your family vacation time and money, the Disney World Versus Disneyland debate might be the most important battle of your year (if not your summer).
The reason the Greenbean blog has been stale for the past two weeks is because we have been at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was our first time there. We have been to Disneyland in Anaheim three times before (most recently 2 years ago), as it was far closer to our West Coast home in the Northwest. During that time period, people kept telling me that the park in Orlando was bigger, better, and far more enjoyable. Because of that, I always felt as if we were missing out.
Now I know better. My overall estimate is that the Disneyland experience is far superior to the Disney World experience, even though both are great. Here are some of the reasons why.
The Orlando Parks are bigger, but they are bigger with less. Rides like Soarin, the Rapids, and Tower of Terror are all in one park in Anaheim (California Adventure) whereas they are spread out over three different parks in Orlando (Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios). Epcot is large, I grant that, but it is mostly void space with lots and lots and lots of walking around that stupid lake. The Magic Kingdom is roughly synonymous with the older Disneyland park in Anaheim, except the missing rides (see below) and the New Orleans section is gone and there is no Toon Town, which means no Roger Rabbit ride. Not that I was looking for it. I hate that ride at Disneyland. It is right behind It’s A Small World for all time rides that I hate.
The Size also comes into play with travel times. We were staying in a Disney World resort, and it still took us at least 20 minutes on the bus (this doesn’t count the wait time for the bus!) to get to the park of our choice. At Disneyland, it was either walk across the street, a 3-5 minute bus ride, or my favorite–walking out the door of the hotel and being in the park.
2. Downtown Disney
The Downtown Disney experience in Orlando was a nightmare. Apparently it is billed as a nightlife spot for all of Orlando, as many of the people there were not in the park. This created a very unfriendly environment for children and families. The wait time to eat at a restaurant was an hour and a half, and there were wall to wall people. By contrast, our experience with Downtown Disney in Anaheim was far more one of relaxed shopping away from the big crowds.
The weather in Orlando was awful. Not for one day. Not for two days. It thunder stormed every day we were there (and the two days we were at Universal Studios too) with lightening and rain. Our first full day in the park at Disney World, there was a monsoon that shut down just about every ride in the park. When it wasn’t raining, it was unbelievably hot and humid, which makes for very grumpy children and parents.
I have spent over 15 days at Disneyland in Anaheim, and can’t remember a single raindrop, storm, or even a very hot day.
The rides are all about the same, and both parks have essentially the same rides, although there are a few notable exceptions. Disney World shortens the Pirates of the Caribbean. I missed the guy playing the banjo on the front porch and the extra scenes, but it is not that big of a deal. Space Mountain is different too. At Disneyland it is two per seat instead of single rider, plus the soundtrack is piped in on the speakers of the ride. Sound is absent at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando.
The largest missing items, for me, anyway, was that most of the older rides from Disneyland’s original core are omitted: Alice in Wonderland, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, and even PIxie Hollow are all missing in Orlando. The only thing that made the trip to Florida from California seems to be Peter Pan’s Flight and It’s a Small World.
There is one more ride missing in Orlando. Indiana Jones. Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye is one of our favorites. Alas, it is nowhere to be found in Orlando. However, we did notice some amazing similarities between it and the ride named Dinosaur in the Animal Kingdom.
Now, there is one positive to Orlando, and it is significant. The Tower of Terror is a far superior ride in Orlando to the one in Anaheim.
This last category is a little subjective. However, it is important. We found the people at Disneyland to be far more likeable, fun, enjoyable and helpful than those at Disney World. I don’t know if it is the weather or the culture, but at Disneyland it really does feel like the happiest place on earth. Most of the people who worked the rides and in the shops were either gruff or mean in Florida, and I am not exaggerating. For the money we paid, it left a decidedly bad taste in my mouth.
I am glad that we’ve experienced both coasts’ Disney parks, and both are fun. However, I think Disneyland beats Disney World hands down.