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Disney World vs Disneyland: A first time Florida visitor's perspective
As a teen, my very large youth choir had plans to visit Florida on tour- including Disney World- and though I was a rather shy, timid little thing, I was pretty excited at the prospect. Unfortunately, for reasons I can’t remember, the choir tour was cancelled.
Years later, as a newlywed living on the east coast for the first time, I got to visit many areas in and around Virginia, going as far north as New York City and Pennsylvania, and as far south as North Carolina. My husband and I talked of going down to tropical Florida but alas, it never happened. Then we moved back to Oregon and it really never happened.
In 2008, we took our little girls on our first family road trip to California, which included San Diego and of course, Disneyland. It was actually my third trip to Disney, but my husband and daughters’ very first. Admittedly, for me it wasn’t quite as magical as I remembered from my carefree youth but experiencing it through my little girls’ eyes had its charms, and the new California Adventure park that was added was packed full of new fun.
Years went by and then, in 2014 when my oldest daughter’s best friend moved to Florida, we started talking in earnest about finally flying across the country once and for all and finally seeing this elusive state. And of course, Disney World.
Now, although I had never been there, I had spoken to many people who had- and the general consensus was that it could be a bit overwhelming. The rule was “not to expect to see everything because you just couldn’t.”
So armed with this knowledge- plus my many hours of research on the internet- I pretty much thought I had a fairly good concept of how to tackle the four main parks of Disney World.
But what still lingered in my mind as we headed off into the wild blue yonder was that if Disney World was so big, than it must have everything Disneyland had- only more!
This preconceived idea turned out to be surprisingly wrong on many levels.
There were many attractions which I had remembered fondly from Disneyland actually missing from Disney World. Two children’s rides come to mind- the “Alice in Wonderland” ride and of course, “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”. Not to mention many other rides and attractions missing from the park that is supposed to be so grand, it is called a “world”.
On the other hand, the space owned by Disney World is indeed like a world. It is so huge and vast, that you must take a bus and head out on the highway and biways to go from point A to point B. For example, I had conducted enough research to know that it might be best to stay in one area of Disney World at a time. Four days- four parks: Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. But on the day we took our hotel shuttle, which only went to Epcot, we had to wait for at least an hour or so just to board the bus to Animal Kingdom, and another hour standing in line to board the Monorail. And not only can the weariness of waiting in just that many more lines start to wear on us, it also seemed that all the vastness of space at Disney World was taken up with resort after resort. After resort.
Was it interesting to see each part of Disney World? Of course! Each park was distinct and I did have some fun each day that we were there. Epcot had beautiful landscaping while Animal Kingdom had a very cool safari tour through wild animals in their habitat. I loved walking through the old Hollywood retro town in Hollywood Studios, where big band music floated through the streets, and our day at Magic Kingdom concluded with an amazing lighted show displayed onto the castle! But even so, there were disappointments for me personally. For example, Epcot was divided into its futurist space area, called “Future World” and the other part into various “countries” of the world- “World Showcase”. I loved the concept of this, but to be honest, I actually loved this concept more when I visited Busch Gardens in Virginia, which incorporated more rides and live shows associated with each country (shows, by the way, which you could actually just walk over to, sit down and watch- rather than waiting in line once again to see a hidden show.)
And the walking seemed to go on forever between each “country”. Our family is all relatively healthy but nevertheless, it seemed as though there was a lot more walking down the pathways than there was to actually see or do. Taking the monorail was out of the question since it only went in a circle around Future World. Sigh…
But beyond these disappointments and the fact that some of some actual Disneyland attractions were missing, there seemed to be a few things even more crucially lacking for me. Disneyland seemed to have that extra charm-that almost small town feel and quaint original park quality-that Disney World seemed to be missing.
One Disney World fan and video blogger (called a vlogger, by the way) visiting Disneyland for the first time said, “Disneyland’s New Orleans Square is just fantastic. You can sit there and just relax. And that’s what’s neat about Disneyland…I felt as if it was OK for me to sit and relax and not feel pressure to power through.” She also stated that even though Disney World is home to her, it lacks the intimacy of Disneyland.
Alright, I admit it. When I last visited Disneyland seven years ago, it did on occasion still feel crowded and even a little overwhelming to me at the time. There's no getting around the fact that either park is going to have crowds. However, we were surprised just how incredible the crowds were at Disney World, even though we timed our trip to beat the spring breakers. And looking back now I realize that compared to ever-stretching land of Disney World, Disneyland was anything but overwhelming! At least it shouldn't have been, and if we get to go back, I'm sure it wouldn't seem so anymore. When I think back on it now, it seemed to possess that great balance of excitement and yet relaxation and charm.
(And really, with original Disneyland now having California Adventure right next door, there is no lacking in entertainment there.)
But to be fair, Disney World had many positives. The shows were highly professional and so worth seeing. (My favorite was Beauty and the Beast, which was quite beautiful and tender.) Most of the staff were very friendly and helpful and both the quick service and restaurant food excellent.
And of course, we really need to go back to Disneyland again to better compare since it’s been awhile. Memories tend to fade a bit with time and it isn’t exactly fair to compare an experience from years ago to a few weeks ago. Of course, that may have to wait a little while since we have to re-pad our piggy bank. But in the meantime, I am honestly glad we got to finally visit Florida. We had many wonderful moments…a visit to the dolphin “stars” of The Dolphin Tale movies at Clearwater Aquarium, a drive across the state to Cocoa Beach, and my oldest daughter reuniting with her best friend. And yes, there were great times within Disney World itself!
Florida is lovely.
But next time ….California, here I come!
Do you prefer Disneyland or Disney World?
What do you think?
This is only my opinion and my own personal experience...I know many, many people who simply LOVE Disney World.
Have you been to either or both parks? What are your thoughts?