Our latest trip to Disney World was an amazing vacation--AMAZING. I loved Epcot. And the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was the most magical commercial vacation moment of my life (and did I mention I loved Epcot?). I could easily write about the ways Florida was better than California (warmer beaches, Epcot, Harry Potter, NASA).
But when I was on Disney property, I was surprised how much I was missing Disneyland. Could Disneyland really be better? Here are 7 reasons that might make you think twice about which Disney is the best.
Just to be clear, this post is comparing both Disney parks in California (Disneyland and Disney California Adventures) against the 4 main parks at Disney World in Florida (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios).
#1--The Weather (really this should be reasons 1-3). Except during a heat wave or the hottest two weeks of the summer, Disneyland is cooler with fewer chances of rain showers. I have never used a mister bottle at Disneyland but bought one within an hour of being in Florida. I have never used a poncho in California, but packed them knowing they would be necessary in Florida (and they were). I stopped at a few drinking fountains in California, but I had to circle them like must-do ride attractions on my Florida park maps. And in the most lady like way possible, I would not only drink from the water fountains but I would stick my face in them to cool off. Heat stroke anyone? I am also sure that I have never sweated more than in Florida. As for family pictures, my hair was always in a ponytail and my make-up had long since vanished.
#5--Planning and Touring. Disneyland requires some planning. For the most popular dining events (such as Blue Bayou or a character dining), a phone call a few days in advance is a good idea, especially during peak seasons. Also, a general touring plan of the park is critical (I have entire blog posts on different touring ideas). But where Disneyland can be planned in a couple of weeks, Disney World requires months of planning--months. A table at the castle can be booked a full six months ahead of time and people do call at midnight to make reservations. In fact, reservations are recommended for a variety of things from baby's first haircut at the Harmony Barber Shop, to Chef Mickey's, to surf lessons at Typhoon Lagoon. With 4 parks, Disney World also requires significant attention to detail when making your touring plans (deciding which rides to do in what order including when to arrive at the parks and when to see shows or collect autographs). Disney World does offer more characters within the parks, so if collecting autographs is important, plans should include a significantly reduced number or rides. Despite trying to take things easy, it is almost impossible not to default into exhaustion level commando style touring at Disney World. The increased size of the parks makes it difficult to move quickly from attraction to attraction and significantly slows the process for acquiring and using fastpasses. I thought I saw a lot of stressed out parents at Disneyland, but the adults at Disney World were far more frazzled.
#6--Downtown Disney. This is where less is more. At California, Downtown Disney is adjacent to the parks and can easily be incorporated into the day either as an afternoon break or in the evening. The Lego store is a must as is a take-out order for beignets. Tweens will adore the 365 store which also offers make-overs. Casual shoppers can easily enjoy a 2 hour shopping trip buying a few odds and ends to complete their Disney experience. It is more like a second Main Street with the magical feel of Disney. (And speaking of magic, only Disneyland offers a magic store on Main Street). Florida is a whole different animal. Florida's Downtown Disney is separate from the parks and practically requires its own day (or at least half a day). Once again it is double the walking of California's version and felt more like a traditional, very large, outdoor mall with a few unique Disney stores. Not nearly as magical, intimate, or fun. Our children tired of it quickly and it was much harder to find the type of stores we wanted. More expensive, more time, less fun.
#7--The People. Maybe it was the weather or the week we were there, but I have read others make this same argument. Disneyland is laid-back California style. It hosts fewer crowds and has a less busy, more intimate feel. I found both the staff and other tourists are more friendly and relaxed at Disneyland. Though there were also plenty of friendly people in Florida, I was a little shocked at how poorly adults acted during Star Wars Weekend at Disney World's Hollywood Studios (or among some of the Potter nuts at Universal's Islands of Adventures).
You Really Can't Go Wrong
Really, both Disney locations are magical experiences. Picking which one is better is like picking your favorite character. And the truth is, you want to visit both because each park has its own unique attractions (did I mention only Disneyland has the Matterhorn or that only Disney World has Epcot?). So which one do we want to do next time--maybe a Disney cruise.