I have been visiting Walt Disney World® in Orlando since the 70’s. I have visited more times than I can count. Disneyland® sat at the No. 1 spot on my bucket list for years so when I was finally able to go last week I was anxious to see what my reaction would be. Through the years I have heard so many conflicting opinions, I couldn’t wait to see for myself! There are some things I like better at WDW and some I like better at Disneyland – but overall, I don’t think I can choose between the two locations – I love them both! I will admit that if forced to choose between the Wishes fireworks at WDW and the Magical fireworks at Disneyland – Magical wins hands down – no hesitation – no second thought. I definitely loved the music better but the fact that Tinkerbell dances and flies overhead several times, back and forth is made even better by Dumbo’s flight overhead! I was like a 5-year-old seeing this for the first time. I would also love to see Cars Land (DCA), especially Radiator Springs Racers, and the Indiana Jones™ Adventure (DL) join the line-up at WDW – both attractions are outstanding!
My first impression walking into Disneyland was the overwhelming feeling of the history behind the park. You see it at every turn. As a long time Disney lover who had only experienced WDW, seeing the history, the imagination, the vision and brilliance that went into making Disneyland so long ago takes your breath away.
Before even entering Disneyland, the difference in size between the two train stations was surprising. I never expected there to be such a difference. I had to remind myself that Disneyland sits in the middle of a city – without the vast space that WDW has for lots of expanded landscaping and extra touches.
One of the very first things I noticed walking down Main Street was the difference in size. Cinderella’s Castle in WDW houses a restaurant and a suite and overall is at least double the size of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in DL. Main Street itself is narrower and shorter but seemed to offer more of a relaxing feel – alcoves with seating to rest and people watch.
Although similar in size (the firehouse in MK is only slightly larger), the attraction of the center window above the firehouse in DL – Walt’s apartment – is truly something special for a Disney lover. I found myself standing in the middle of the street staring at that window – silly in hindsight – but the history of the entire area just stops you in your tracks.
A big attraction at the MK in WDW is having your child’s hair cut at the Main Street Barber Shop. The only barber shop I found in DL was a display inside the shops on Main Street!
At DL, many of the characters roam free – no handlers to stop you from approaching. Of course, we all know about long lines, designated areas and time constraints that often go along with getting a character photo or autograph in WDW!
Unfortunately the Haunted Mansion at DL was closed for refurbishment so I wasn’t able to get inside – but I was amazed at how different the outside appearance is.
Although the DL monorail has a much shorter route than what I am used to at WDW – one huge attraction for me was the fact that you can take the monorail right into the park!
Outside of the park, the differences continue….
On the left is the Disneyland smaller version of the Sorcerers Hat which is one of the main centerpieces at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando. In Anaheim the hat sits at the entrance to the Disneyland Hotel area.
Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel is Anaheim’s Chef Mickey’s. I will tell you that I truly enjoyed my experience at Goofy’s Kitchen. I found it much more relaxing than Chef Mickey’s. It is quieter and roomier and the breakfast buffet was delicious! Goofy welcomes you when you arrive but many characters roam through the restaurant almost non-stop. I definitely prefer Goofy’s Kitchen over Chef Mickey’s.
Although a smaller store than the one located at Downtown Disney in Orlando, the World of Disney store at Downtown Disney at Disneyland offers plenty of merchandise for shoppers.
I love the Wilderness Lodge and Disneyland’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa reminded me of the Wilderness Lodge – both beautiful!
Overall, I had to continue to remind myself that Disneyland has space constraints that do not exist at Walt Disney World. Even though they exist in a much smaller area, the typical Disney attention to detail is there. The history surrounds you. The differences amaze you. Walt Disney World has always been my “happy place.” I am thrilled to know that I now have a happy place on the East Coast and a happy place on the West Coast – I cannot choose which I like better – I love them both!