We already know that Disney World is BIGGER than Disneyland…but is it BETTER? There’s actually a lot that we prefer about Disneyland Resort to Walt Disney World Resort. You can find Avenger’s Campus there, with a whole lot of cool characters. Some classic attractions are still available here that aren’t in Disney World (we’re lookin’ at you, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride). And can you get a GIANT Mozzarella Stick anywhere in Magic Kingdom? We didn’t think so.
However, Disney World still has some pretty awesome things that Disneyland is missing. The OG version of Tower of Terror is there, and eating around the world in EPCOT is one of our all-time favorite activities. So now that we’ve established that the parks are definitely not the same, let’s dive into something else that’s different about them: the GUESTS.
You might be surprised by just how different the guests are at Disneyland versus Disney World. And those differences could have a huge impact on your upcoming trip!
For many different reasons, guests at Disneyland are completely different from the ones you’ll meet at Disney World. We’re going past the simple “there are more locals at Disneyland” here — Yes, it’s true that Disneyland has a lot more local guests. But how does that impact the park? How does it change what’s offered to the guests? And which park should you visit, based on these differences?
We asked people who have visited both parks, and our team of Disney park experts also weighed in on the differences they’ve noticed. And we interviewed Tiereny Leonard, a Cast Member who has worked in both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World. Here’s what everyone said!
Disneyland Is Full of Locals Who Know the Park
If you usually visit Disney World, you might notice a Twilight Zone-esque change when you head into the Disneyland parks. All the guests are walking purposefully to the rides, restaurants, and shops, and somehow not one of them has their nose buried in a map!
Because a lot more locals visit Disneyland than Disney World, many of the guests already know the parks like the back of their hands. In fact, you don’t even need to ask a Cast Member for directions if you get lost — just flag down the nearest guest and they’ll likely be able to point you in the right direction.
Disney World guests, on the other hand, probably use a combination of paper maps, their phones, and directions from Cast Members to find just about anything. And it’s completely understandable, as many of them don’t visit very often and the parks are much bigger over in Florida! But pull out a map in Disneyland Park and you might get some funny looks from the people nearby.
When asked about how having more locals affected Disneyland, Tiereny Leonard (who worked in Disney California Adventure) said, “In Disneyland, I never got asked where things were. I can count on one hand how many times that happened.” Instead, guests in Disneyland would ask more about what time events were happening or when a certain offering would return.
So if you want to blend in with the locals at Disneyland, we recommend studying the maps ahead of time! Or — if you still don’t know where you’re going — just pick a direction and walk confidently that way. People will think you know where you’re going, and you’ll probably run into a fun attraction or tasty snack at some point.
Check out 9 reasons you still need to pick up a Disney World park map.
Disney World Has More International Travelers
With 4 parks, over 25 resort hotels, 2 water parks, and a huge shopping and dining center, Disney World is seen more like a “destination vacation” than Disneyland. For that reason, this park usually has more international travelers.
It’s likely that guests who are making a huge, once-in-a-lifetime trip choose Disney World over Disneyland because there’s simply more to see and do there. So while you’re in Disney World you’re more likely to run into people who are from all over the world!
But that doesn’t mean that Disneyland is 100% locals. The parks in California get their fair share of international visitors as well. Leonard said, “A lot more international visitors come to Disney World – but I wouldn’t discount Disneyland. There are still plenty of international visitors in Disneyland, particularly from Asian countries since it’s a shorter flight.”
Click here for our ranking of all of the character dining in Disney World.
Disneyland Guests Are More Chill
A large demographic of Disneyland’s guests are locals who have been visiting the parks for a long time and will likely continue visiting for a long time in the future. For that reason, they’re usually a lot more chill about their time in the parks.
Disney World guests, by comparison, usually visit less often (if not once in their lives), so they tend to do a lot more planning before the trip. There’s also a lot more that goes into planning a Disney World vacation than planning a Disneyland one. Disney World has more parks, rides, attractions, and hotels to choose from, so guests have to spend more time before their vacation figuring out all the details.
And Disney World guests usually stay in the parks for longer (because there’s more to do and many of them don’t live nearby), so they have more time and money invested in the vacation. That can mean Disney World guests tend to feel more pressured to make the most of that time and money while they’re there.
Leonard reported that, during her time at Disney World, many guests would ask questions like, “Is there something we might have missed that we should go do?” or “We have some extra time — where should we go now?” People likely planned this trip for months, and they don’t want to miss a single thing while they’re in the parks.
It’s understandable that Disney World guests would feel the need to have a plan and get more done in the parks. And we tend to create detailed itineraries before our vacations, too! But sometimes it’s nice to be around guests who aren’t stressed about their vacation. Disneyland guests tend to be more patient and chill about their time, which leads to a more relaxed atmosphere in general.
Learn how to make your next Disney World trip EASY.
Disney World Guests Are More Awed by the Magic
Although coming to the parks fewer times can make Disney World guests more stressed about the experience, it has a positive effect of also making them more awed by the Disney magic. Leonard said, “The sense of amazement and being struck with Disney magic is a lot higher at Disney World.”
Since Disneyland guests have been visiting for years, they often know what to expect and are less impressed by the special Disney touches. They’re not necessarily jaded about it, they’re just used to the Disney standard and aren’t as surprised when Cast Members go above and beyond to make their trip special.
For example, while Leonard worked at the Hyperion Theater (where the Frozen-themed stage show played) in Disneyland, she sometimes got to choose a family to be recognized by Anna and Elsa during the show. Although it was meant to be a magical moment for the guests, she said that only about half of the families she chose were excited about it because so many of them already knew it was happening.
In Disney World, however, when Leonard got to make magical moments happen for the guests, there was more “complete shock and awe.” So while Disneyland guests are much more relaxed and chill, Disney World guests tend to have them beat when it comes to excitement about the parks and attractions.
Have you experienced a Magical Moment? Learn how to give a Cast Compliment in Disney World here.
Disneyland Guests Are Collectors
The differences in guests affect more than the atmosphere of the parks, though. Leonard noticed that the merchandise selection between Disney World and Disneyland was adjusted to accommodate those differences as well!
She said, “Collectors’ items were HUGE in Disneyland. If there was a limited-edition popcorn bucket, it was huge news.” Guests at Disneyland were more excited about the Minnie Mouse Main Attraction Collection, which was a limited-edition souvenir series from 2020 that featured Minnie Mouse dressed as different Disney rides. The plushes, pins, ear headbands, and more in those collections were “big-ticket items” in Disneyland, more so than in Disney World.
Leonard particularly noticed the difference when she shifted to working for shopDisney once Disneyland closed due to the pandemic. She said she talked to a lot of people who wanted to buy collectibles online because they couldn’t go into the parks, and there was “an overwhelming amount more from Disneyland who wanted the collectibles than from Disney World.”
Because the locals can visit the parks more often, it makes sense that Disneyland guests would be more interested in collectibles. By contrast, many people only visit Disney World once or twice, which doesn’t really work if they’re hoping to frequently add to their collections.
Did you hop aboard these Disney trend trains?
As you can see, there are many ways that Disneyland guests and Disney World guests are NOT the same. But is either group actually better? It really just depends on your preferences! If you love to plan and create itineraries, you might feel more at home in the Disney World crowds. In fact, the relaxed attitude of Disneyland guests could be more stressful if you have a “go, go, go” personality.
But if you’re looking for a relaxing vacation or need a break from the more intense crowds at Disney World, Disneyland could be the better option! But in our opinion, it’s great to have both options available.
We’ll use an analogy to help you decide which park you’ll fit in better: Picture someone walking at a fairly slow, casual pace. And then picture another person behind them who is walking much faster and is clearly annoyed to be caught behind the slower walker. We’ve all been in that situation, right?
If you’re usually the casual walker who’s taking their time and enjoying the views, you will probably fit in better at Disneyland. And if you’re the one behind them with a strict schedule and places to BE, you might be more of a Disney World person. Neither is better than the other, it’s just a matter of preference.
And of course, sometimes it’s good to mix up the pace and try out the other park to see which you actually prefer for your Disney vacations! We’ll keep bringing you all the latest from both of these Disney parks, so stay tuned to DFB for more updates and planning tips.
Click here to find out how Genie+ is different in Disney World versus Disneyland.
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Which do you prefer — Disney World or Disneyland? Let us know in the comments.
It’s incorrectly stated here that there’s “more to do” at each WDW park. Disneyland park has FAR more than any of the 4 WDW parks individually, despite being smaller.
When you directly compare Magic Kingdom to DL for example, MK seems quite LACKING in attractions.
In fact, Disneyland Resort has MORE RIDES than ALL of WDW resort. Don’t get me wrong, WDW has more attractions and shows overall, but not rides!
You spend way more time traveling between parks, getting to attractions etc at WDW since it’s all so spread out. You have to spend at least 4-6 days if you want to do everything at the parks. That’s 4+ park tickets and at least 5 nights at an overpriced hotel.
Ultimately you waste much more time and money at WDW. Even with 2 extra parks there aren’t many EXCLUSIVE attractions to make it worthwhile. There’s actually a better lineup of exclusive rides at DLR, especially dark rides. You get much more for the price of admission.
It should be noted that Disneyland has SUPERIOR VERSIONS of nearly every attraction that’s shared too. Not to mention fantastic seasonal overlays to the Haunted Mansion, Small World etc.
Oh and better upkeep and food!
Walt’s New Orleans Square>>>Liberty Square as well.
I’ve been to all 12 parks worldwide, and everything considered, its clearly and objectively DL>WDW.
Pam Dunahay says
I lived in Southern California for 23 years and frequented Disneyland and California Adventure hundreds of times. It is much more laid back in SoCal than WDW. I have also been a Disney Vacation Club member since 1995 (OKW). So I have been to WDW at least 40-50 times, sometimes for a week or longer. I actually prefer WDW now since I now live in Colorado and my husband and I are retired.
But that’s because we have been on nearly all of the WDW rides and shows numerous times. Also lots of the rides are the same between WDW and Disneyland/California Adventure. If I was a first time or infrequent visitor though I would much prefer Southern California.
When you’ve been to both WDW and DLR you absolutely feel the difference. It’s in the vibe. DLR has so many unique events to appeal to its locals. It feels like a hometown park. In the evenings it becomes a chill place for 20 somes to come and hit up a few attractions. They are both amazing and unique and filled with Disney magic!
Heather O says
I was recently at WDW (at the 4 parks) & noticed not a lot of people wear Mickey ears compared to Disneyland & DCA. Maybe because of the heat & humidity. I found it strange because it feels like EVERYONE wears them in California. Just an observation
@Jeff…..wrong. For those of us interested in Disney shopping and dining nothing competes with WDW. Disney Springs in WDW is superior in every way to downtown Disney. More stores and signature dining is king at WDW. I grew up near Disneyland and can easily conquer that park in a few hours. Then what to do?
There is way more magic at Disneyland. And that last picture of an empty main street … That must have been in the pandemic or taken many many years ago.
I’m a DVC (OKW) member live in NY visit DW a couple times a year. I have gone to DL twice a few years ago. Most amazed at how late everything gets started there, on the East coast hustle and bustle begins very early. I was surprised at how much smaller some of the iconic rides were -the train , the castle. I loved the vibes. The feel in DW is presently horrible. The guest are horrible and rude. They have no patience and no appreciation of the hard work of the Imagineers who workout the ride walk
through and explain the rides.
I’ve just returned from 3 weeks in WDW. I have been visiting WDW almost every year, even in 2020 when parks were semi empty and lots of restaurants and stores were closed. But then I went to DL, in 2021, and I hadn’t been there in YEARS. I was amazed by how different it was.
IN FAVOR OF WDW: you can actually spend weeks in there without getting bored. There’s so much you can do after visiting the parks (water parks included) you can shop, eat, resort hop. I found myself walking the woods in Fort Wilderness, reading a whole book lying on the beach in Caribbean Beach Resort, having coffee in Riviera Resort, or riding a boat from Wilderness Lodge to Magic Kingdom or from Port Orleans to Disney Springs. You can even go horseback riding in Fort Wilderness, fishing, or riding a bike.
AGAINST WDW: lines are sometimes impossible. I think that having to wait in line for 200 minutes after paying over $160 for a ticket is a total lack of respect, bordering abuse. In peak season, don’t even expect going into just a few of the rides. Consider yourself lucky if you get to ride Snow White’s rollercoaster once. I appoligize for the next racist comment, but I do find myself in the group I discriminate against: many of us, South Americans, are not as respectful or well educated, don’t be surprised if you get bumped into without an appology, if they cut in line infront of you, or if they move in huge groups that won’t stop shouting.
IN FAVOR OF DL: I didn’t remember DL had so many rides! AndDL has all rides closer together, it’s easier to go from a ride to the other and you can actually ride many of them in a day. DCA is so much fun, and you won’t find many of those rides in WDW.
AGAINST DL: after visiting both parks there’s not much left you can do. You can shop and dine in Downtown Disney or visit the 3 resorts, though IMO only the Grand Californian is worth a visit. Then you will have to leave the magical land of Disney to visit other places in California, (absolutely worth it, but a totally different experience).