Monday, March 12, 2012

Differences Between Disneyland and Magic Kingdom

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom CastleDisneyland Castle

While Disney World’s Magic Kingdom (opened 1971) and the original Disneyland (1955) are generally the same park, there are a few differences. How do the two parks compare, and is one better than the other?

Park Layout. Both the Florida and California parks have the same general layout. Guests enter the park at the Main Street railroad station and take a walk down Main Street toward the castle. At the “center” of each park, from the castles and Partners statues, guests can either continue through the castle to Fantasyland, turn left to visit Adventureland or Frontierland, or turn right to visit Tomorrowland. Mickey’s Toontown in lacking in Magic Kingdom since Mickey’s Toontown Fair closed. A Fantasyland expansion was just completed at the Florida park in the old Mickey’s Toontown Fair area. There is also no Critter Country or New Orleans Square in Magic Kingdom. Instead Pirates of the Carribean, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh are placed in other lands in the Magic Kingdom park.

Size. Magic Kingdom in Florida is larger (Magic Kingdom is 107 acres, and Disneyland is just 80), but while Magic Kingdom may have more space, Disneyland has more rides and attractions. Magic Kingdom has taller buildings (this is especially obvious on Main Street and at the castle) and has much wider streets and wider and better lines. The wait times and comfort of waiting in lines are much better at Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom seems to have more FastPasses and shorter wait times. There is also more entertainment in Magic Kingdom lines, including hands-on entertainment at the Haunted Mansion and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh queues.

Haunted Mansion Disneyland
Haunted Mansion facade at Disneyland.
 The Castle. The Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle is more than 100 feet taller than Disneyland’s humble 77-foot-tall Sleeping Beauty Castle. In both parks, guests can walk through the castle into Fantasyland, but Disneyland’s castle is an attraction in its own, unlike the Magic Kingdom castle, which just features a restaurant. Park guests can walk through the inside of Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle and see dioramas that illustrate the story of Sleeping Beauty. Magic Kingdom, on the other hand, features beautiful mosaic depictions of Cinderella’s story in the castle’s corridor to Fantasyland.

Haunted Mansion Magic Kingdom
Haunted Mansion facade at Magic Kingdom.

 Different Rides. Disneyland’s PeopleMover was closed in 1995, but Magic Kingdom still has the ride (there it is called the Tomorrowland Transit Authority). Disneyland’s Country Bear Jamboree attraction closed in 2001, but the bears still play daily shows in Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland. Disneyland does not have the Coursel of Progress, The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Monsters, Inc. laugh floor or Stitch’s Great Escape. Magic Kingdom does not have Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden eye, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin, Matterhorn Bobsleds and others. Instead of The Hall of Presidents, Disneyland has Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln on Main Street, and instead of Swiss Family Treehouse, Disneyland has the updated Tarzan Treehouse (it was given the Tarzan theme in 1999). Although they have different names, Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland Speedway and Disneyland’s Autopia are the same attractions.

Rides in Other Parks. Some Disneyland Resort attractions, such as Star Tours, Fantasmic! and many rides in California Adventure, are spread throughout the other parks in Walt Disney World. Star Tours, Fantasmic!, Animation Academy, Tower of Terror and many more are located in Disney World’s Hollywood Studios. It’s Tough to Be a Bug is in Animal Kingdom, and Finding Nemo Subarine Voyage (called The Seas with Nemo and Friends) is at Epcot and features an actual saltwater aquarium as part of the ride.

Slight Differences Between Attractions. Visiting Disneyland or Magic Kingdom after you’ve become accustomed to one is like stepping into a bizarre Disney park! There are slight differences everywhere. Haunted Mansion has a different facade and is on the opposite side of the Rivers of America. Pirates of the Caribbean in Magic Kingdom does not have a drop, the bayou area with fireflies and the Blue Bayou restaurant. It’s a Small World in Disneyland features a giant facade that lights up, while the Magic Kingdom version is compact and has a smaller swinging clock face indoors. Main Street Cinema in Disneyland shows six classic Mickey Mouse cartoons, and while the facade is similar at Magic Kingdom, the inside is a shop. Each ride is slightly different but no less fun!

It's a Small World Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom's indoor
clock at It's a Small World.
 The Resort as a Whole. The Disney World Resort is much more spaced out, has two more parks (and two water parks) and has more official Disney hotels than Disneyland. The Disneyland Resort is in the heart of Anaheim, California, with less space to work with. Because of space, Disneyland has more congestion problems, less seating in dining areas, fewer places to view Fireworks and shows, and longer wait times in crowded lines. The park is cramped, and people will get irritated much quicker due to crowds and wait times. But because the Disneyland resort is so compact, guests can walk from the Disneyland entrance gate to California Adventure and Downtown Disney in less than five minutes, while Disney World guests must take Disney transportation or drive to get to the other parks.

Disney World seems to have many more tourists, while Disneyland guests are largely local annual passholders. This makes for a different experience, as Disney World guests have more enthusiasm than Disneyland guests. Tourists who have never seen Soarin’, for example, will clap and cheer after the ride is over.

It's a Small World Magic Kingdom
Disneyland's impressive It's a Small World facade.
 Disneyland, in addition to its history, seems to have better quality rides when compared to Magic Kingdom. Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World surprisingly are larger and longer than their counterparts at the more spacious Magic Kingdom park. Perhaps the most disappointing attraction adapted to Disney World from a Disneyland original is Fantasmic!, which appears at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The show has drawn-out scenes with Pocahontas (instead of Peter Pan on the Sailing Ship Columbia) and a very long scene with rising bubbles displayed on the water spray screen. The end is anticlimactic with a small Steamboat Willie boat in place of the Mark Twain Riverboat. The original Fantasmic! at Disneyland tells the story of Mickey’s imagination with a much better flow than at Hollywood Studios.

Disneyland also seems to have more attention to detail, especially when it comes to paint. Disneyland’s paint seems shiny and new, while the paint on the Magic Kingdom castle seems to have been done carelessly when viewed up close (you can see paint drips, for example) or the paint is less vibrant. The seats on the railroad have been painted, while the Disneyland Railroad has beautiful wooden seats and much more to view from the attraction. (Can you believe that there’s no Primeval World scene at the Disney World Railroad?)

So is one resort better than the other? No. All four Disney World parks and the Disneyland Resort parks are brimming with that special Disney Magic. And while Disney World boasts more parks, Disneyland is still the original, and it has the title of the first park that Disney created. If you are a big Disney fan, you can’t go wrong at either park, and if you are a fan of one park, you’ll love the other!


  1. I recently visited Disney World for the second time (the first was sixteen years ago), but I’ve lived in (Northern) California all my life, and I’ve been to Disneyland at least twenty times.

    For the rides that are the same between both parks, I can’t think of a single one where the Magic Kingdom version was better. No music on Space Mountain. No big drop on Pirates, no bayou area, no shootout at the end, no slow ride back up with exit music. Haunted Mansion has an actual working stretching room (although the line is better at Magic Kingdom, with interactive games for the kids to play). And Small World…don’t even get me started!

    Yes, Walt Disney World is an experience, but for the individual rides, Disneyland is better by a mile.

  2. Have been to both a couple times. For me, Disneyland wins out, even though there are less to see. The character of the park is much much better. Magic Kingdom is way more touristy, and perhaps because of the hotter weather, resulted in many more situations of visitors being rude.

    Magic Kingdom, probably due to larger staffing needs, seems to be fun of workers that are just there to earn money (or maybe just burnt out from all the rude tourists), whereas Disneyland has older workers (many retirees) who genuinely enjoy seeing the guests smile who are still smiling at the end of the day.