|By Brittany Bell|
It’s no surprise that Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort are two completely different vacation destinations. Though they both may be owned by the Disney Company, and have similar layouts, themes, and goals, they also have very particular differences. Veterans to both Parks can point out some of those differences quite easily; all which give each resort its own identity and feel while also still living up to the Disney standard. Join us today as we discover what one Walt Disney World veteran thought about the Disneyland Resort upon her first visit out West...
After 16 yearly visits to Walt Disney World in Florida, we finally decided to take a trip out west and experience Walt’s original park: Disneyland. Upon visiting the Disneyland Resort, I found certain differences between DLR and WDW, all of which I will outline in the following paragraphs. Before I dive into that, however, I just want to admit that we absolutely adored the Disneyland Resort. It will never replace Walt Disney World in which we call home, but we loved every second of our vacation. Also, I would like to emphasize that this is my personal opinion—the opinion of someone who has been to Walt Disney World year after year, and had a certain idea of Disneyland upon visiting. And now, without further ado, here is what this WDW veteran thought of the Disneyland Resort…
Though it is smaller in size, it is vast in content
There’s no denying that the Disneyland Resort is much smaller than Walt Disney World. Disney World is its own city, while Disneyland is just a part of a city. However, what Disneyland loses in size, it makes up for in content. Rides are so close together that there is plenty of stuff to keep you busy—all without tiring out your feet as quickly (although at the end of the day my feet were still sore). Among Disneyland and California Adventure there is about the same number of rides in all four parks at Disney World. We had a 5-day park hopper, and we found plenty of stuff to keep us busy, and we still missed a few attractions and shows.
The close proximity of the resort as a whole was actually pretty awesome. The fact that everything was in walking distance made for a more laid back experience—I felt that there was less hustle and bustle because everything was so close together. We stayed at the Grand Californian Resort, which is nestled between California Adventure and Downtown Disney. We spent more time hanging out and looking around Downtown Disney than we ever did at now Disney Springs in Florida. The smaller size, I found also made Downtown Disney less overwhelming, as there was a manageable amount of restaurants and shops in the area.
As far as the private entrance into California Adventure goes, it was extremely helpful. Though the entrance was crowded in the mornings, it really came in handy in the evening, especially when we decided to make Grizzly River Run our last ride of the night.
Lastly, I think the smaller size added to the Disney bubble. Although in Walt Disney World the area surrounding you is all Disney, you’re still driving on non-themed roadways and whatnot. However, since Disneyland is all in walking distance and all close together, it feels as though you never leave the magic—from stepping out of the parks, to Downtown Disney, and into our hotel. All in all, we really liked the smaller size.
Don’t be afraid to do quick service
When we go to Disney World, typically we do a quick service breakfast and then a table service dinner. However, we found ourselves (reluctantly, at first) trying quick service dinner locations…and really liking them. My personal favorite was Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta in DCA. I had the spaghetti and meatballs, and it was great. I ate the whole meal, along with my mom and sister who got the same thing as well. My dad and boyfriend ordered a large pizza that they both enjoyed and easily put down. We also tried Flo’s V8 Cafe, which might have been one of my favorite restaurants in the entire resort. The theming was great, the staff was friendly, and the entire experience was enjoyable. We also had a dinner at White Water Snacks at the Grand Californian, and that as well was delicious. Each restaurant that we went to wasn’t overcrowded either, and all had a pretty relaxing environment. Lesson we learned here: quick service can be awesome too!
Character interactions are longer…even for us “bigger” kids
I get it, when I’m in line to see a character I’m usually the oldest person without a kid (I’m 20). However, as Walt said, Disneyland is for the young and the young at heart, so I figure that I still fall into that category. When I do decide to go see a character (the only one I’ll wait more than 20 minutes for is Elsa), I’m just expecting a hello and to get a picture. However, I found that at Disneyland these characters genuinely were interested in having a “conversation” with me (and my 14 year old sister who usually tagged along). The funniest interaction had to be with Chewbacca who scouted out hugs from EVERYONE in our group, even my dad who tried to hide behind the Photopass Photographer. Don’t get me wrong, the characters at Walt Disney World are awesome as well, but I felt at Disneyland they took just a little bit more time with me, which I was really happy about. Plus, a lot of the characters got really interested when we told them we had traveled from Maine (which was followed by “that's a long carpet ride/swim/pumpkin carriage ride, etc.).
We missed having Magic Bands, but did not miss Fastpass+
When Magic Bands first rolled out at WDW, I thought I wouldn’t like them. It turns out, I really really like them, and having a separate room key and park pass made me realize that. I was always super worried about one of us dropping our cards, and it's so much easier just tapping your band to the Mickey head to get what you want (plus, they’re really fun to decorate). However, going back to the old Fastpass system made me realize how much I miss it. 60 days out, you don’t know which rides you want to get on at what time, not to mentioned what will be super crowded among the less popular rides. I found the day flowed a lot smoother when we grabbed Fastpasses on the go and when we needed them.
My simple solution that will make for the ultimate experience? Use Magic Bands with the old system
The stage shows = unbelievable
We were lucky enough to see the new Frozen show not once, but twice. We were still able to get tickets for the last show of the day around 12:30, so there really is no need to rush unless you want to get into the earlier shows. The show itself was absolutely amazing. The effects were neat, the singing was great, and the actors were awesome. My dad even liked the show so much that he insisted we see it a second time (and he’s a hard man to please). The Mickey and the Magical Map show was great as well. It was shorter than the Frozen show, but once again had great singers and was really fun. Walt Disney World has some great shows, but I really hope Hollywood Studios gets a Broadway type of show like the Frozen one at California Adventure. It was so impressive, and also helps with crowd control within the parks throughout the day (the Hyperion Theater fits around 5,000 people).
The Disney magic is alive and well in Disneyland
Since we were lucky enough to visit during the Diamond Celebration, there was a lot of stuff commemorating Walt and the history of the Disneyland park. The magic there is undeniable, and though Disneyland regulars may get jealous of me saying this, it is alive and well at Walt Disney World as well. In both places you can feel a special something, and it’s amazing to think that one man’s dream became the empire that it is today.
These are just some of my general thoughts upon visiting Disneyland. We had a wonderful trip, and loved the Disneyland Resort. And although it is quite a carpet ride away, we hope to be visiting again in the near future.
Brittany Bell grew up in Lewiston, Maine, about 45 minutes away from Portland. She is currently studying Public Relations and Journalism at Boston University, and hopes to one day work for the Mouse himself. She grew up in a Disney-loving home, and would watch Sleeping Beauty on repeat as a little girl. Her first trip to Walt Disney World was in the summer of 2000, at four years old. Ever since then, Brittany and her family take annual trips to the World, and have no intention of vacationing anywhere else. Her favorite places in Walt Disney World are the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Grand Floridian, and the Magic Kingdom. She can’t go without seeing Fantasmic! at least once each vacation, even though she chokes up a little at the final scene. Brittany is fascinated by how one man’s dream became an empire—one that makes dreams come true every day.
Before she became obsessed with Frozen and Queen Elsa, her favorite Disney characters were Princess Aurora and Mulan. She loves everything and anything Disney, from the parks, to the movies, to the Broadway musicals. In the near future she hopes to participate in the Disney College Program and work as a “friend of a princess”.
You can find all of Brittany's articles here.