Disney World and Disneyland are two of the most popular theme parks in the world, each offering a unique experience for visitors. While both parks share the same core values of magic, entertainment, and nostalgia, there are distinct differences that set them apart. When trying to decide where to invest their vacation dollars, many travelers simply opt for the closest park, while others ask the age-old question: is Disney World better than Disneyland?
It’s a complicated query to answer. After all, Disneyland is the original theme park and offers a quaint nostalgia you won’t find at any of the other Disney venues. Still, recent investments in technology as well as the sheer size of Disney World give the Florida theme park a definite edge in many areas related to guest experience.
Here are 8 reasons that Disney World just might be better than Disneyland.
How Technology Makes Disney World Better than Disneyland
Guests realize a more positive experience at Disney World right from the start, when planning their trip. Recent technology upgrades at Disney World make it possible to sync multiple elements of the vacation experience for a seamless use of apps and other tech tools.
The MagicBand Superiority
One place where Disney World technology shines is with the use of MagicBands. MagicBands are wrist bracelets worn during your Disney vacation. They offer a number of functionalities designed to simplify your experience inside the parks and at your resort.
Once you create a My Disney Experience account and link your package, hotel, or ticket reservations, you can purchase and link a MagicBand to your account. For guests reserving a Disney resort or vacation package, you can even pre-purchase MagicBands at a discount from within the My Disney Experience website.
MagicBands can then be used to quickly and easily open your hotel room, charge purchases to your room, enter the parks and utilize the Lightning Lane queue. While MagicBand+ is available for use at Disneyland, the functionality is limited. You can’t, for instance, open your hotel room or make purchases and charge them to your room using your MagicBand. As a result, you’ll be pulling out your phone, your plastic ticket or a credit card a lot more often than you’d like.
Entering the Parks
Disney tech also makes it easier for guests entering the parks. Fingerprint readers at the gate offer a streamlined and efficient way to pass the turnstiles. Simply scan your MagicBand or MagicMobile pass on your device, place your finger on the reader, and you’re in.
At Disney World, you’ll have your picture taken as you enter the parks for the first time. Upon subsequent entry—either by scanning your MagicBand+ or plastic ticket—you’ll need to wait for this image to appear on a Disney cast member mobile device before being allowed through the turnstiles.
Magically Receive Your Ride Photos at Disney World
Ride photos are a fun and exciting way to commemorate your trip to either Disney theme park. When visiting Disney World, these photos will automatically sync to your My Disney Experience account if you’re wearing a MagicBand or have your My Disney Experience app open. From there, you can purchase them or download them if you have the Memory Maker or Genie+.
After multiple visits to Disney World, imagine our surprise when we couldn’t find our ride photos in the Disneyland app at the end of the day. Unfortunately, the California park technology doesn’t automatically identify guests through available technology. Instead, guests must find their photo at the end of the ride and record the identification number provided. This ID must then be used in conjunction with the Disneyland app to retrieve and download the photo.
Disney World Hotels: An Immersive Experience
Hotels at Disney World are themed to evoke the ambiance of a particular time period, geographical region or experience. Animal Kingdom Lodge, for example, transports guests to the African savanna, complete with rooms that overlook the grassland where exotic animals live.
The Beach Club is another favorite resort for our family. Here, guests are transported back to the turn of the last century when giant vacation resorts dotted lake and shoreline locations across the northeastern United States. A water park and close proximity to EPCOT are other perks.
At Disneyland, there are only 3 hotels, and while improvements are currently being made, the rich thematic details are not as evident at Disneyland Hotel and at Disney’s Paradise Pier. You’ll feel a lot like you’re staying in an offsite hotel room, while being afforded the perks of an onsite resort.
Dining at Disney World Versus Disneyland
If you’re looking for variety on your vacation, you certainly won’t find the same number of food choices at Disneyland. Again, more available land at Disney World equals more restaurants being built, so the array of dining pleasures can be quite astounding, particularly when reviewing the World Showcase at EPCOT. This is where you can dine on cultural cuisine from multiple countries.
From ethnic choices to standard American fare, you will find a wide variety of eats and treats at Disney World. Disneyland, on the other hand, has more limited food offerings and only a handful of table service restaurants. The lack of variety and number of sit-down dining locations means you’ll fight more for a table.
However, gaining access to dining time is one area where Disneyland is beating Disney World. While advanced dining reservations can be made up to 60 days before arrival at Disneyland, you also have the option to join a walk-up list at most locations. Joining is simple to do through the app, and you’ll be alerted if a table becomes ready.
Unfortunately, Disney World blows Disneyland out of the water when it comes to dining with food allergies. Our experience at Disneyland was lacking in both the variety of safe food options available as well as the overal reliability of the experience. Many restaurants could not serve allergy-free options, and getting an answer about whether a menu item was allergy free was problematic.
Disney World has developed a well-constructed system for handling food allergies. First, guests are provided with a separate allergy menu that addresses most common issues. Guests can order from this menu and have their meal prepared in a separate allergy-friendly kitchen area. Food is also separated and placed on its own tray, well away from the food of other diners.
At table service restaurants, guests may also speak with the chef to ensure that their food is safely prepared. When eating at a buffet, the chef may make an appearance to personally show you what to avoid for your allergy type.
Is Genie+ Better at Disney World than Disneyland?
For guests wanting to skip long lines, Genie+ is available at both Disney World and Disneyland. However, there are distinct differences when it comes to using Genie+ across the 2 locations.
First, Genie+ is available for use at more rides at Disney World. Even popular Fantasyland rides, such as Peter Pan’s Flight, are available for use with Genie+.
At Disneyland, space restrictions make it impossible to add a second queue for Fantasyland experiences, such as Peter Pan, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Pinocchio’s Daring Adventure. As a result, you can’t use Genie+ on these attractions.
On the downside, Genie+ does cost more at Disney World, but you’ll simply get more bang for your buck at the Florida park. We prepurchased Genie+ with our tickets when visiting Disneyland in March and hardly used it. Early morning crowds in the parks were nearly nonexistent, making it possible for us to experience many attractions without wait.
At Disney World, you’ll use Genie+ earlier in the day and far more frequently, making it more worth the purchase price.
Special Events at Disney Parks
If you’re wondering if Disney World is better than Disneyland when it comes to special events, the answer is yes, at least if you’re comparing the variety and the number of offerings.
Disney World hosts multiple festivals at EPCOT throughout the year, including:
- EPCOT International Festival of the Arts
- EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival
- EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival
- EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays
Each event features original culinary treats, shows, inventive displays and educational offerings.
Themed events are also scheduled at other parks, including Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom. Both parties offer event exclusives, including merchandise, food and beverage as well as parades and fireworks displays.
It’s also not uncommon for additional offerings to be added throughout the year to enhance the guest experience, such as extra late-night openings for guests of Disney resort hotels.
While Disneyland does offer a number of events, there are fewer than you will find at Disney World. Also, due to the size constraints of the parks, these special occasions often feel more crowded as people congregate to enjoy them.
The Size of Disney World Versus Disneyland: More Rides More Fun
It isn’t much of a secret that Disney World covers more area than Disneyland. After all, Walt made the Florida purchase so he would have a greater area to expand and build his dream.
While many consider the size of Disney World to be a tick in the negative category, we have a different view. Disney World encompasses 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 2 mini golf establishments and several regulation size golf courses, adding up to multiple opportunities for adventure and fun.
The added space also makes way for some Disney World exclusive attractions, such as 7 Dwarfs Mine Train and Tron Lightcycle Run in the Magic Kingdom, as well as a themed land at Hollywood Studios where you can shrink down to the size of a toy, and the much-acclaimed Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind ride at EPCOT.
Speaking of EPCOT, with space to spare at Disney World, Imagineers were able to design a World Showcase, featuring 11 pavilions representing different countries from around the world. Each pavilion offers a unique and immersive experience that highlights the culture, cuisine, and traditions of its respective country. The World Showcase pavilions include Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the United States, Japan, Morocco, France, the United Kingdom, and Canada.
Here, visitors can wander through replica streets, sample authentic food and drinks, shop for souvenirs, and often watch live entertainment from different country. The World Showcase is a popular destination for Disney fans and international travelers alike, offering a glimpse into the diverse cultures of the world.
With decades of experience in hand, we provide customized guidance, cutting through the confusion with clear explanations and actionable tips. We’ll help you create the best experience, with recommendations and travel planning advice based on the trip you want to have and the memories you want to make.
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Is Disney World Better than Disneyland in Every Regard?
While we find that Disney World does many things better than Disneyland, the reverse is also true. We found a number of things at Disneyland that we appreciated more when compared to the Florida park. Read our blog on ways Disneyland outranks Disney World to find out more.
Or keep reading for some additional Disney World Versus Disneyland Comparisons:
Disney World and Disneyland Castles Are Not the Same
While the castles at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom make look the same, there are some major differences. For one thing, the castle at Disneyland is smaller.
Many people don’t realize that Disneyland’s castle belongs to Sleeping Beauty and features a walk-through attraction. The castle at the Magic Kingdom belongs to Cinderella, and while there is no attraction inside, you can dine with Cinderella and her princess friends on the top floor.
For more information on how the castles stack up against each other, you can read our castle comparison.
Rides at Disney World Versus Disneyland
While Disney World and Disneyland have roughly the same number of rides, attractions at Disney World are spread out across 4 different parks and multiple themed lands. You’ll find all of Disneyland’s offerings across 2 parks.
While both resorts offer the new Star Wars Land, Disney World outranks Disneyland with the addition of Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios. It’s a place where everything is larger than life as guests shrink to the size of a toy and journey into Andy’s backyard.
However, Disneyland has Cars Land, one of the most immersive and realistically themed lands in any theme park we’ve seen.
For more information on the rides you’ll find at each park, read our Disney World and Disneyland comparison.
While both Disney World and Disneyland offer unique experiences, Disney World offers several advantages that make it a top destination for Disney fans. The larger size of Disney World allows for a wider variety of attractions and entertainment options, as well as the ability to handle larger crowds more efficiently. The World Showcase at Epcot is also a standout feature that provides an immersive and educational experience of cultures from around the world. Additionally, Disney World’s transportation system makes getting around the resort easy and convenient.
Despite the differences between the two parks, the magic of Disney can be found in both locations, making either destination a dream come true for many visitors. Ultimately, the decision to visit Disney World or Disneyland will depend on personal preferences, but for those looking for a more expansive and diverse Disney experience, and one that is designed with the guest in mind, Disney World is the clear winner.