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What No One Tells You About Your First Visit to Disneyland

I’m a huge Disney nerd. I’ve grown up at Walt Disney World Resort and have visited countless times. I try to know all things Disney and am typically the person family and friends call for Disney advice when planning a vacation to Walt Disney World. But, after all these years, I FINALLY visited Disneyland for the first time! Here’s what no one told me.

Yes, It’s Small

We were warned about this one but didn’t fully understand just how small Disneyland would feel.

The Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World is much larger than Disneyland Park’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Plus, Walt Disney World expands across four theme parks while Disneyland Resort is only made up of two Parks.

castle-disneyland
Credit: Disney

Once inside Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure Park, everything is much tighter and close together within the Parks, making going from one area to the next a breeze. Even hoping from one Park to the other can be done with ease.

MagicBands Still Aren’t a Thing

Since Disneyland has yet to introduce its promised MagicBand+, visiting Disneyland means no MagicBand is needed. It’s an odd feeling, but you pull your ticket and any Genie/Lightning Lane selections up via your phone.

MagicBand+
Credit: Disney

Want to pay for something? With no MagicBand, use the Disneyland App for mobile ordering or merchandise check out (or be prepared to pull out your credit card).

Disney Genie+ Actually Works

We’ve tried Disney Genie+ (former complimentary FastPass service) at Walt Disney World. It’s not terrible, but let’s say it’s 9:00 am… you can suspect to be attempting to make a Genie+ for closer to 11:00 am. This, however, is not the case for Disneyland.

Disney Genie Logo
Credit: Disney

If you buy Genie+ ($20 per person per day) at Disneyland, you can practically walk on every ride. When looking for a Genie+ reservation, they are typically available for the current time, which is very different from Disney World. At Disneyland with Genie+, it was one ride after another!

Indiana Jones Adventure Ride Is a Must-Do

The Indiana Jones-themed ride is incredible. It’s like an extra fun DINOSAUR attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom attraction. If visiting Disneyland, be sure Indiana Jones Adventure is a priority.

Indiana Jones Adventure
Credit: Disney

Dare we say, when walking off this attraction, we even had the thought that this ride should come to Disney’s Hollywood Studios as a replacement for Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.

Disneyland Ride Versions are Better

While you may think visiting Pirates of the Caribbean at Walt Disney World or Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain keep you from needing to experience them at Disneyland, you are wrong!

In fact, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain are just a few attractions that are very different from Walt Disney World’s version.

pirates-of-the-caribbean-disneyland
Credit: Disney

RELATED: Which of Disney’s 5 Pirates of the Caribbean Attractions Is Best?

In all honestly, Disneyland does much of the attraction experience better. For example, Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean is like experiencing an incredible extended version of Disney World’s version.

Some Rides are the EXACT Same

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Credit: Disney

With that said, yes, some rides are identical. If you’ve done or are not huge fans of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance or Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, they are no different at Disneyland, so save your time and visit other attractions.

Mobile Order Isn’t “Required”

When visiting Walt Disney World, most of the quick service locations will require Guests to mobile order via the My Disney Experience App before entering the restaurant for a seat.

mobile order
Credit: Disney

At Disneyland, it doesn’t seem like many people care to mobile order. It reminds us of the way Disney World used to be when you just went into the restaurant, have the family find a seat, and go to the counter to order food.

It’s a Great Way to Save Money

Trying to decide between Disneyland and Walt Disney World? If the flight budget is not an issue and you can reach either destination, you’ll save visiting Disneyland over Disney World.

Credit: Disney

You’ll only be paying for two Parks vs. four to experience many of the same (or at least the best) attractions. With so many non-Disney Resort Hotels a stone’s throw away from the Disneyland Parks, it’s easy to find a cheap place to stay vs. Walt Disney World’s hotel costs.

The Walt Nostalgia Is Real

Walt Small World
Credit: D23

Disneyland was Walt’s baby, and you can feel that when visiting Disneyland Park. There is something unique about exploring the Park, especially Main Street, U.S.A, knowing Walt used to patrol the area and had a hand in so many of the attractions.

Downtown Disney Is TINY Compared to Disney Springs

The amount of restaurants and experiences at Disney Springs in Florida is almost overwhelming. But Downtown Disney in California is almost laughable in size.

disneyland-downtown-disney
Credit: Disney

RELATED: The Places You MUST Visit at Disney Springs

Furthermore, Downtown Disney is right outside of Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure. Disney Springs is almost like it’s own Park at Walt Disney World.

Walt Disney World Is Still Better

Keep in mind, this is an opinion from a die-hard Walt Disney World fan.

While we love several attractions at Disneyland better than Walt Disney World, we will say Disney World beats out Disneyland due to its sheer size and ability to cater to all Guests, with a seemingly endless sea of entertainment and rides.

Characters / Cinderella Castle - 50th Anniversary
Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom (Credit: Disney)

We do love that Disneyland Resort is manageable. It feels like a perfect weekend vacation away. But, if you’re looking for that destination Disney experience, Walt Disney World still can’t be completed in a week’s time.

The bottom line is all Disney fans should try visiting both Walt Disney World and Disneyland if they ever get a chance! They are both magical in their own ways.

Happy planning your Disney getaway, Disney fans!

About Jamie Sylvester

I'm a Disney nerd! A kid at heart who loves the magic and memories of Walt Disney World. I follow all things Disney and enjoy the vacations, day trips, and weekend getaways, and geek out over the planning of such events. My goal is to experience as many Disney desserts and cocktails as possible! Married to another Disney nerd and blessed with a daughter and son, we thoroughly enjoy the magic at Disney and are here to help others experience the magic as well.