Decision 2001: Disneyland or Disney World?
December 17, 2000 (rev. 8/16/2011)
Growing up in Texas and taking most family vacations in a car, it was easy to see that a slightly closer drive to Walt Disney World made much more sense than a trek to Southern California for Disneyland. Indeed, for the majority of vacationers that want the Disney experience, Walt Disney World is the natural choice. There is simply so much more to do at Walt Disney World.
There are, however, some very good reasons why a trip to Disneyland might be a better alternative. This article will attempt to help you decide if a trip to Disneyland is right for you. Let's begin by asking some questions:
Question 1: Is the Magic Kingdom your favorite Walt Disney World park?
If you answer "yes" to this, odds are you are going to love the California original. Although some of the attractions were built larger and better in Florida, there are still many classics at Disneyland that have never found their way East.
If you answer "no" and basically go to Walt Disney World for the other parks or for the rest of the resort, a visit to Disneyland is probably not a good choice for you.
Question 2: Do you have a full 5-7 days to spend on vacation, and the money to support that?
Walt Disney World is big, and almost requires a full week just to experience the theme parks. If you answered "yes", Disney World is the way to go. You would be hard pressed to find as much to do at the Disneyland Resort for that many days.
If you answered "no", or perhaps are the type that saves up for that one big family trip to Disney World ever five or ten years, Disneyland is definately worth looking into. You can spend a few days and see everything at the park. Overall, the cost of taking a trip to California and perhaps even spending a day at Knott's Berry Farms or the original Universal Studios can still be much less than the big trips to Florida. You can stay at a nearby hotel (literally across the street) and not even need a rental car. To do that in Florida you typically have to stay at a much more expensive on-site hotel and ride Disney busses.
Question 3: Do you have any interest at all in the history of Walt Disney as a man or a company?
If you answered "yes" and are more than just a "Mickey Mouse" fan or a "Disney beanie collector" type person, there is nothing quite like walking down the same streets that Walt himself stood on during so many television programs. Disneyland is filled with tons of history and legendary spots that were part of our "Wonderful World of Color" TV upbringing. Plus, a short drive can get you near the real Disney Studios or send you past the animation building where many of the modern (and classic) animated features get created. The carbon copy Kingdom and limited animation studios of Florida pale in comparison.
If you answered "no" and really just like the rides, you choice is as easy as finding out which park has the most types of rides you like -- someone who is a big fan of World Showcase at Epcot probably wouldn't get much from a Disneyland visit.
Question 4: Do you hate walking?
If you answered "yes", then why do you go to Walt Disney World? A recent Disney Magazine article stated the walking distance between Mexico and Canada at Epcot's World Showcase to be 1.3 miles! Disneyland, on the other hand, is very tiny and compact. Clever use of angles and theming makes the park still seem vast, but there really isn't anywhere in the park you can't easily get to with a few minutes of walking.
If you said "no" and enjoy the big treks and vast spaces of Florida's parks, then Disneyland might actually bother you. For many the park seems like a tiny model (Walt liked scale models and the park was designed with that concept in mind). It might even feel cramped and confining.
Question 5: Do you want to make regular Disney trips, multiple times a year?
If you answered "yes", then keep in mind an Annual Pass for just Disneyland (good 365 days a year) is around $200. For a hundred or so more, you can get a pass for Walt Disney World that gets you into four theme parks. With a pass, zipping down to either Florida or California for a few days for your Disney fix suddenly becomes a very affordable idea. If you can visit enough to justify it, a WDW passport gives you much more value for the money. (Remember to keep your contents insurance up to date if you're going to make regular visit, especially if you're carrying expensive cameras.)
If you answered "no", then consider this point: Walt Disney World is the number one tourist destination. It's business is based on people doing massive "once in a lifetime" mega vacations. If that's your style, you've got the right park. If you are more of a "run off and escape for the weekend" type vacationer, Disneyland is your best bet.
Question 6: Do you like meeting people from around the world?
If "yes", head to Florida and try starting up a conversation while standing in line at Disney World. In one day you can run into someone from England, Australia, and Brazil. At Disneyland you may find small pockets of tourists (often from Japan, there to see what the "original" Disneyland looks like), but the majority in attendance are locals.
If "no", ask yourself if you are comfortable with the L.A. population since that is going to be the bulk of people in line around you at Disneyland. If you think you are a Californian at heart, you'll be real comfortable at Disney's original Magic Kingdom.
Personally, if I have a full week to spare, I'll head to Walt Disney World and eat, drink, and sleep Disney. For when budgets or vacation time is limited, a quick trip to Disneyland gives me the fix I need without a major outlay of cash or usage of "sick days".
In either case, if you are a fan of the legacy of Walt Disney, or just find Florida's Magic Kingdom to be your favorite part of the World, you owe it to yourself to spend a few days at the world's first theme park -- Disneyland.
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