I have been very lucky in my life to have had the opportunity to visit Disney World but have always wanted to visit Disneyland. So when we arrived in LA that was at the absolute top of my list and finally we were able to go. It was important to us that we tried to go on a day with fewer crowds so ultimately I picked a Monday and we went on a day where the weather was sunny but kind of chilly. Turns out that was a really good call because the footprint is so much smaller than Disney World it fills up very quickly and even on a Monday by the evening it was packed. That was one of many differences between the two parks, so as I share my experience I am going to share my thoughts from that lens.
Right off the bat, we noticed some major differences between the two. When we arrived to where we had paid for parking we waited in line for over 30 minutes to get into the parking garage. Unfortunately we were in our dually truck and at the very end we were told we couldn’t park there and given a map with cursory instructions to a different lot. It took us another 20 minutes to find the lot but eventually we managed to park. From there we had to take a bus to the entrance and I was interested that the plaza had the entrance to Disney California Adventure (a separate park) to the left and Disneyland to the right.
The first thing we saw was Main Street and it was great. They had tons of shops we visited later in the evening and in my mind it was a better version of the one in Disney World. We had downloaded an app to use to navigate the park and ordered a Lightning Lane pass so that on some rides we could get in a priority line. Altogether I found the app a little buggy and frustrating but the extra cost for the pass was well worth it. One major difference as we walked in the door was the castle was different. I was surprised by this for some reason, but even though Sleeping Beauty’s castle is MUCH smaller than the one at Disney World it was still beautiful.
Right away we noticed that the areas were smaller but they had all the standard areas in Disney World PLUS the Star Wars area which was new to us and I was super excited about. As you can see in the maps below the layouts are somewhat similar. What’s hard to see is that Disneyland is 85 acres but Disneyland is 107 acres. And you can really feel the difference. The good news is its much easier in Disneyland to get quickly from one area to another which helped as we jumped around to get on the rides with the smallest wait time.
I always like to go left when I go into a park for the first time and the very first thing we ran across was the Tiki Room. That is one of my absolute all time favorite “rides” and since it was early in the day we made its first show. It was exactly the same as what I remembered from my Magic Kingdom childhood and the magic was definitely back during and after the show.
Next we jumped over to Tomorrowland which had several different rides. They did have space mountain which seemed different than I remembered plus they had a super cool Buzz Lightyear ride which was a blast. The whole area was pretty compressed so it was easy getting from one ride to another but it was pretty packed by the time we stopped to eat a quick lunch. The food was fine, nothing to write home about, but it was much needed fuel for the pace we were setting.
The Buzz Lightyear ride had lazer pistols you shot shot at targets that made things move and as you can see from Lee’s score on the left he crushed it. I would love to blame my dismal score on the fact I was taking picture but honestly I just wasn’t that good at it. Still super fun though and I kept thinking about how much my grandsons would love it when they got older.
We rode a variety of rides into the afternoon including Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride which I vaguely remember from my childhood. I don’t think they have this at Disneyworld anymore. They also had some characters walking around and a play with characters at an outdoor theater. All in all I saw less characters than I have seen at Disneyland but I saw enough and of course in the evening parade we saw a ton.
My one big wish was to do the Jungle Ride and right after it opened at noon we headed over. I remember this ride so fondly as a child and although the ride itself was almost identical our boat captain was definitely not!! The young man we had did a terrible job talking in a weird voice and barely making any sense. At one point I seriously though he might be high but when I went and talked to him at the end he seemed clear. I told him I waited 45 minutes to ride the boat and he really should just follow the script because he had ruined it for me. I was really unhappy about the whole thing and I wasn’t the only one, but at least it looked really pretty when we were on the boat.
Honestly it was one of the few sour spots of the day and its just a shame that it had to happen on a ride I was so looking forward to. Next up we did Pirates of the Caribbean which seemed much bigger to me than the one at Magic Kingdom. We also rode on a huge ship called the Columbia which is a super cool replica and takes you around the lagoon. That was actually pretty neat and nothing I have ever done before.
That was all really exciting but nothing beat the new Star Wars area. It was incredibly well done and you really felt like you were in the world. They also have a newer ride called Rise of the Resistance which was part ride, part interactive with people, and involved several stages. It was absolutely incredible and I wont ruin anything but I will say if you go don’t miss this ride. I have truly never been on anything like it.
Next we went into the French Quarter which was really cool and needed to get something to eat and sit down for a bit. I will say the number of nice sit down restaurants was a disappointment and they definitely need advance reservations. We ate instead at the Horseshoe Salon which was reasonably priced and the food was super good. Especially the mozzarella sticks. I sat for a while and just chilled because the pace was starting to get to me. Even with a smaller footprint we walked over 20,000 steps that day.
Next up was Critters Corner which is a small section with a Winnie the Pooh ride. We called our youngest daughter Pooh when she was a baby so we knew we needed to ride that one.
Then we headed up to the parade which I am really glad we did because even 1/2 hour early it was hard to get a good seat. My pictures aren’t that great but I really enjoyed it and I am glad we took time out to see it.
After the parade we went over the Fantasyland thinking that since it was later in the evening the lines would be smaller. Lots of other people had that idea also and we waited 45 minutes for the Peter Pan ride. I remember riding this as a child and it looked the same but unfortunately I would have to say it isn’t worth the wait. Nostalgic though and Lee had never ridden it.
It was a really cool day and we did everything I wanted to but overall I would have to say I personally prefer Magic Kingdom to Disneyland. That being said I was left with the desire to see all of the Disney’s now and hopefully one day I may get to do so. I did skip one ride though which is my very favorite ride of all time in any park. I was thrilled by my experience with that ride, but decided it deserves its own post so stay tuned for next time.
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