Disneyland vs. Disney World | What We Loved & Our Disappointments

If you’ve been a reader here for any length of time, then you already know that Ryan and I are mildly Disney World-obsessed. Just visit my travel archives, and you’ll see what I mean. 😉 So, there was practically zero discussion when we started planning our California vacation about whether or not we were going to spend a day at the OG Magic Kingdom at Disneyland. DUH! We were really excited to experience the place where it all started, but being us we couldn’t help but do a Disneyland vs. Disney World comparison throughout the day. I mean, it’s just too easy to do right? So that’s where I’m headed today to recap part two of our trip.

Disneyland vs. Disney World
Don’t forget to check out part one that recaps our day at Disney California Adventure! That’s where you’ll find all the info about where we stayed and my simple breakdown of the “confusing” Disneyland MaxPass.

Unlike the previous day, we were up and in line at the entrance with the best of them! Even in Florida, we usually like to get to Magic Kingdom early to get lots of pictures while the crowds are small. And, before I’m a sweaty mess. That leads me to one of the biggest differences between Disneyland and Disney World, as well as one of our disappointments:

There aren’t many Disney photographers in the park.

I think we saw a grand total of three the whole day! And, that includes character meet and greets, but more on that in a sec.

Because we’re used to the abundance of photographers at Disney World, this surprised us. We’ve come to rely on this service for our vacation memories, so it’s definitely something to be aware of before you go. Is there not as much of a demand for it in California? That wouldn’t make sense to me, but okay. Thank goodness for iPhones, Instagram-husbands and good Samaritans.

Disneyland Toon Town Doors Mural
If the professional photos are important to you, make sure to head to the park entrance in front of the train station and then over to the Walt and Mickey statue in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Both landmark spots seemed to have a photographer available throughout the whole morning and early afternoon.

There’s also maybe photographers available on Main Street under different circumstances, which leads me to the BIGGEST disappointment of the day:

Sleeping Beauty Castle was under construction!

I had read this in passing before we went, but in my mind I was thinking there was some scaffolding up and cranes hanging around.

No, no, no.

If we didn’t know better, we’d think that they tore the castle down! My inner eight-year-old came out momentarily because I was crushed. What a let down! I feel like there should’ve been more warning about that online so we knew what to expect.

Now, if we’re being honest Sleeping Beauty Castle is kind of a let down anyway in comparison to Cinderella’s Castle. Both Ryan and I had been to Disneyland once before when we were kids, but I didn’t really remember or fully appreciate just how dinky this one is. That said, it was still sucky to turn the corner on Main Street and see a printed screen of the castle instead of the real thing. I pouted for a good 10 minutes before I got over it. Ryan forced me to still take my traditional jumping picture, and now I laugh my ass off every time I see it. Ah, the memories.

Disneyland Magic Kingdom - Sleeping Beauty Castle under construction
After #CastleGate, we walked around a bit to grab some photos and get the general lay of the park. We don’t find Disney World’s Magic Kingdom that big – probably because we know our way around with our eyes closed -, so navigating Disneyland Magic Kingdom was really easy. It is small, but there’s quite a bit of open space so we never felt too crowded! Make sure not to get too swept away by the hustle and bustle – that’s when you’ll miss all the unique details and spots that this park has to offer.

Disneyland Magic Kingdom - Alice in Wonderland in Fantasyland
As silly as it sounds, my top bucket list item in this park was to ride the carousel. Remember in Saving Mr. Banks when Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks do just that? Well, being the freak that I am, I did some research and discovered that the horse Emma Thompson was on is Jingles. That was in fact Mrs. Disney’s favorite horse, and it was refurbished and dedicated to Julie Andrews not long ago for the 50th anniversary of Mary Poppins. Yep, I was that person running past small children to ensure that I got on that horse. Mission accomplished.

Disneyland Magic Kingdom King Arthur's Carousal - Jingles the horse
That leads me into where Disneyland does conquer over Disney World:

The rides are better!

Not only are there a few different rides – Indiana Jones is SO fun – but the ones that are the same Disneyland does infinitely better. Most notable in this category are Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World.

You guys, I never thought I would actually love It’s a Small World. I always viewed it as a right of passage that you kind of have to do. But, I’m telling you DO NOT MISS IT AT DISNEYLAND. It’s so cute, in way better shape, and even has different features than Disney World. Part of it almost made me cry because I’m that pathetic. Ask Ryan. That’s also a great area of the park to take a breather. There’s a lot of open space, it’s clean, and you can find shade if needed.

Disneyland Magic Kingdom - It's a Small World entrance
Disney World should really consider redoing Space Mountain to copy Disneyland’s version. We loved that we could sit side-by-side, and it’s legit pitch-black dark during the ride. You can’t even see your hand in front of your face! Super fast, too. And, as hokey as Pirates is this one is just better. I don’t even know how to explain it. Be prepared for not one, but two drops!

Rides that we thought were pretty much the same were Big Thunder Mountain and Haunted Mansion. Haunted Mansion is one of my all-time favorites, so I was fine with both being the same. I do like the outside/actual building of Disneyland better, though. Probably because it ties in with the New Orleans Quarters of the park. The one at Disney World is in the most random location and looks like a big pile of dirt, but maybe that’s just me …

It’s worth mentioning again that I can’t stress enough to buy the MaxPass for the day. I think we went on all our must-ride rides by 1 p.m.

I SWEAR I’M ALMOST DONE. Sorry (but not really) that these posts are novels. There’s just a lot to say, share, and it’s my blog so I do what I want. Thank you, next.

Probably the highlight of our day because it was so unique was:

Toon Town and Character Sightings

Not sure if anyone else remembers this, but Toon Town used to be at Disney World, too! That was the highlight of my first trip back when I was seven, and experiencing it again really took me back. I mean, I have to question why in the world Disney World got rid of this little land? IT’S SO CUTE. And, for kids it’s extra magical. Seeing the characters’ houses and getting to walk around inside really brings it all to life. We’re 30, and even we were geeking out.

Disneyland Magic Kingdom Toon Town - Mickey's HouseDisneyland Magic Kingdom Toon Town - Minnie's GardenDisneyland Magic Kingdom Toon Town - Minnie's House
Make sure to visit Mickey and Minnie in their respective houses. We caught both at good times so there was a minimal wait, but it’s worth sticking it out if the wait time is long. Our meet and greet with Mickey was actually pretty long and super fun – not the norm since we’re adults! I was excited that it was OG Steamboat Mickey, and we shared a pinky promise that next time I’ll bring him a cheese head hat from Wisconsin. So, we’re basically BFF’s now.

Disneyland Magic Kingdom Mickey Meet and GreetDisneyland Magic Kingdom Minnie Meet and Greet
Last thing to note are the character sightings throughout the park! Since everything in Disney World is methodically planned out and scheduled, the randomness of seeing characters walking around took us off guard at first! Like, we were walking through Fantasyland, and all of a sudden Sleeping Beauty comes gliding by and wishes Ryan a happy birthday (I made him wear a birthday button like the good wife I am). We couldn’t help but start laughing because it was kind of a WTF moment, but also like how cool! No cast member or photographer with them either. Especially for younger kids, we felt that it really added to the magic of the place since it makes the characters seem more real and approachable.

We even grabbed a selfie with Pluto because why not.

Disneyland Magic Kingdom - selfie with Pluto
Overall, regardless of Disneyland vs. Disney World and who does it better there’s no denying the magic that this place provides! We had the best, most fun day, and it was the perfect way to wrap up the first part of our California trip.

Disneyland vs. Disney World | What We Loved & Our Disappointments
Will we be back anytime soon? Probably not. Disneyland, to us, is still a day or two at most, while Disney World is an entire vacation. Plus, we can’t argue the two-hour plane ride vs. four and a half! If you love Disney like us, though then it’s worth visiting at least once to add it to your trip repertoire and so you can experience where the original magic began!

Leave a Comment


  1. 5.8.19
    Cara said:

    A. You’re so cute!! I absolutely adore your t-shirt! B. This is SO helpful! We’re planning a trip to Disney next spring and love all these tips. Sorry the Sleeping Beauty Castle was under construction. Such a bummer, but your jump shot was still cute! lol

    • 5.12.19
      Karly said:

      Awe, thanks girl! Would you believe me if I found that shirt on Kohl’s in clearance for $5, and it was an XL so I washed/shrank it until it fit right?! True story, lol. Yay for an upcoming Disney trip! We’re hoping to get back to Florida ourselves soon – if you need any help/tips, please let me know!

  2. 5.4.19

    Loved this comparison! I’ve only ever been to Disney World and it is seriously my favorite place to go!

    • 5.6.19
      Karly said:

      Disney World is our favorite place, too! Hopefully someday you can make it to Disneyland to compare for yourself. 🙂

  3. 5.1.19
    kristen said:

    ugh, bummer about the castle! and i love the tidbit about the horse on the carousel, glad you got the horse you wanted. i do agree about disneyland being 1 or 2 days, though i love that you can walk between the two parks. i think i will always like disneyland a bit better for that reason, plus it was the first one i went to with my mum. i do love disney world too, but how far apart the parks are drives me bonkers.

    • 5.2.19
      Karly said:

      I agree! That was the biggest difference for Ryan and I. Our first day, we couldn’t get over that we could walk to/from our hotel in 4 minutes to the parks. We’re so used to Disney World’s bus system that it threw us off a bit at first, ha!

  4. 4.29.19
    Biana said:

    What a bummer about the castle and the photographers. This is so incredibly thorough – I definitely want to visit disneyland being that I’ve gone to disney world so many times growing up in Florida! Love the lats photo of you guys – a framer for sure! xo, Biana –BlovedBoston

    • 5.2.19
      Karly said:

      Awe, thanks girl! That is my favorite photo of us from that day – props to the stranger that I asked to take it for us, ha!

  5. 4.29.19
    Ashley said:

    Very informative. My hubs and I have been to Disneyland tougher, but not Disney World… only separately. I’m really not a ride fan and as I get old I get less and less excited about spending vacations around screaming children. However, there is something super magical about Disney!!!

    • 5.2.19
      Karly said:

      Lol, I totally get what you mean! We’re usually at Disney during “off-season,” so the screaming children are usually at a minimum … or we’ve become so used to it that we just don’t care anymore!

  6. 4.29.19
    A said:

    I haven’t been to Disney World in years, nor have I ever been to Disney Land, but I found this SO interesting! It’s made me want to visit both places!

    • 5.2.19
      Karly said:

      I’m so glad! I think both are definitely worth visiting, each has their own set of pros/cons and magic!

  7. 4.29.19
    Debbie said:

    This was fun to read and you both looked like you had a lot of fun!

    • 5.2.19
      Karly said:

      You already know that we had the best time!

  8. 4.29.19
    Samantha said:

    I”ve only been to Disneyland. Love your photos!

    • 5.2.19
      Karly said:

      It would be fun for you to try Disney World sometime then! Both are such fun places!