With a two hour special commemorating the 60th anniversary of Disneyland airing this Sunday on ABC, I have found myself reflecting on a few questions that I hear whenever I book a trip to Disneyland. Is that in Florida? Didn’t you just go to Disney? Isn’t that for Kids? Why go to to Disneyland? Isn’t Disney World better?
I live on the East Coast which for me means that Walt Disney World in Orlando is more accessible. Flights are cheaper and shorter, as is the drive for those that prefer a family road trip.. When my friends went on a Disney vacation, it was to Florida. I get it, there aren’t very many parents who want to entertain young children for a 5+ hour flight to California before spending a week in a theme park.
Fortunately for me and my brothers, my aunt lives in the LA area and when we were younger we would visit her multiple times per year which always meant a trip to Disneyland. I went there for the first time when I was only six months old. Although we also went to Florida a few times, it is Disneyland that truly holds all of my sentimental park memories as a kid.
So back to those questions:
Is Disneyland in Florida?
NO! Disneyland Resort (DLR) is located in Anaheim, California. It consists of two theme parks. Disney’s California Adventure (DCA) and Disneyland Park. Additionally there are three onsite hotels, and a shopping and entertainment district ‘Downtown Disney.’(The word Disneyland in casual sometimes refers to the park and sometimes to the resort complex. confusing, I know.) What is now Disneyland Park opened in July 1955, completely revolutionizing the Theme Park Industry. For the first time, families could enjoy attractions together in a safe and clean environment.
Walt Disney kept coming up with new ideas for the park and quickly realized he did not have enough space to expand in Anaheim and in 1959, started scouting locations for another park. After a few years of operating Disneyland he “wanted to do it better” and plans grew from another theme park to a complete vacation destination and eventually a modernist planned community. Through a series of dummy corporations he secretly purchased 30,000 acres of land in central Florida by 1965 and feverishly began plans for the development of the ‘Florida Project.’ His untimely death in 1966 put the plans into a tail spin but in 1971 the project officially named Walt Disney World (WDW) opened with the Magic Kingdom Theme Park, Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Village Resort and Ft. Wilderness campgrounds. EPCOT followed in 1982 and was merely a shell of Walt’s plans for a functioning Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. The Resort now consists of Four Theme Parks – Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom along with 2 water parks, 27 themed resort hotels, 9 non-Disney hotels, 4 golf courses, 2 mini-golf courses, one camping resort, and a downtown-like shopping district.
Didn’t you just go to Disney?
Yes! I am going back because I love it and between both coasts, there is so much to offer that I can have a different type of vacation every time I go.
Isn’t it for Kids?
No! There is something for everyone to do.
Why go to Disneyland?
This is typically from people on the East Coast who know I go to Walt Disney World frequently. For me and any of you who may be Florida vets this is why I go to Disneyland and why you should too.
For the Southern California Experience -
When I go to Walt Disney World that is my vacation. I never feel like I have enough time in the parks and rarely venture off of Disney property. With it’s two parks you really don’t need more than 3-4 days to really experience Disneyland perfect for a long weekend. Looking for a longer vacation? Anaheim sits in the heart of Southern California with the Pacific Coast, nine national parks, Hollywood, and so much more just a short drive away.
2. For the Lighter Crowds -
Walt Disney World has become a vacation mecca. No matter what time of year or what day of the week it will be crowded. Disneyland appeals to a more local demographic. Go to the park off-season in the middle of the week and you will feel like you have it to yourself. Avoid holidays, weekends, and California school breaks and you will be golden. Disneyland is much smaller so when there are crowds the walkways get congested very quickly.
3. For the Planning Convenience -
Because Disneyland caters to that local demographic who want the flexibility to visit on a whim it is not necessary to make advance dining reservations six months in advance or plan when you want to ride Space Mountain. At DLR you can’t make dining reservations more than 60 days in advance. I recommend making them at least a week in advance especially if there is somewhere you really want to try but you can usually get in same day or even walk up.
Disneyland has not yet implemented the My Disney Experience, MyMagic+ or Fastpass+ systems currently in place in Orlando. They are still on the legacy Fastpass (FP) system. For those of you unfamiliar with Fastpass, it is free and available to all park guests and allows you access to a separate entrance to select rides allowing you a much shorter wait. In WDW this can be done online by reserving a time up to 60 days in advance of your vacation. It gets a little confusing with some of the regulations including limits, tiering and park restrictions. At DLR, there are kiosks where you enter your park ticket and are given the next available return time allowing you to enjoy another part of the park until the time printed on your ticket arrives. You can then return to the attraction and enter the fastpass line which allows you to limit wait time significantly. If the Fastpass you pull is for much later in the day there will also be an additional time printed on the bottom of the ticket to denote when you can pull another FP for the next attraction. Some fastpasses for the most popular attractions run out earlier in the day. Talk to your travel agent about FP priority to make sure you are getting the most of this service and spending less time in line.
4. For the Park Hopping Convenience -
Though the transportation system at WDW is definitely world class and is constantly amazing me with its efficiency, due to the sheer size of the property it takes a little bit of time to go from park to park or get to your resort. Park hopping at the Disneyland Resort takes 5 minutes or less and can be done on foot! Downtown Disney and your Disney Resort are also just a 5 minute walk. Not staying on property- you can walk to many of Disney’s good neighbor hotels in under 10 minutes.
5. For the Talent-
While all of Disney’s entertainment is world class, I think the performers at Disneyland are a step above. With it’s proximity to Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world and mecca for actors, singers and dancers- Disneyland has a larger talent pool than Orlando.
Disneyland is also known for being the best in Customer Service. The cast members (what Disney calls their employees) on both coasts are exceptional but there is a larger sense of ownership and pride at Disneyland. Most of the cast members at DLR grew up going to the parks and have been there for decades or have always dreamed of working for the company. Spend a few minutes getting to know a cast member at either park- you won’t regret it.
6. For the History -
Disneyland is where it all began. It is the only Disney park built under direct supervision of Walt himself. There are so many little details throughout the park that honor the imagineers involved in the creation of the park as well as Walt’s influence. If you are interested in learning more about these details Disney offers a “Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps” Tour. The tour offers stories about Walt, the construction of Disneyland and all the special touches that were added. In addition to experiencing the park and some of Disneyland’s attractions through Walt’s eyes you also get an exclusive look into backstage areas including Walt’s secret apartment on the second level of the Main St. Fire Station. The apartment was built as a refuge for Walt and his family from the crowds in the park. It also offered a work space for Walt, a place to entertain important guests and a great vantage point to look out over the crowds as Walt watched his dream become a reality. To this day a light sits in the window symbolizing Walt’s ever-present spirit.
Whether it’s your first time or your thousandth for many Disney fans stepping on to Main Street USA brings with it the sense of coming home.
Isn’t Walt Disney World Better?
Many people automatically assume bigger is better. I honestly don’t believe that one is better than the other. They are different and offer completely different experiences.
Even though Walt Disney World is larger, Disneyland offers more attractions unique to only that park. While WDW may have more entertainment options, the two Disneyland parks have more rides than the 4 WDW parks combined. I personally love that Disneyland still has many of the Fantasyland Classic Rides that have since been replaced in WDW.
Even with the rides that are the same in both locations the attractions in Disneyland are often better preserved. With locals making up so much of the audience in Southern California, Disneyland can afford to take attractions offline longer than Walt Disney World, where almost all visitors come from outside Central Florida. It is no big deal for an annual passholder to come back to Disneyland when the attraction reopens but for the international guest visiting Walt Disney World that might be their only time to experience that classic attraction inspiring WDW to complete their refurbishments in a shorter time frame.
There are some rides that are in both locations that are definitely better on one coast than the other (and vice versa) for example it’s a small world and Pirates of the Caribbean are longer and considerably different in Disneyland but I enjoy WDW’s versions of Splash Mountain and Jungle Cruise better.
Another area where the Disneyland Resort stands out is Carsland in Disney’s California Adventure. The 12-acre expansion completed in 2012 immerses guests in the Route 66 town of Radiator Springs from Disney/Pixar’s Cars. It is not just the three unique rides in this area that makes it worth the visit but the incredible theming. For a magic moment grab a Cozy Cone and walk down the street around dusk.
World of Color, the DCA nighttime spectacular, is my favorite in all the Disney parks. It is a unique experience with dancing fountains, water projections, lasers, and fireworks.
As a part of the Diamond Celebration for Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary World of Color is currently running a special tribute to Walt. The Disneyland Park is also offering special nighttime entertainment: the “Paint the Night” Parade and “Disneyland Forever” are running through September 2016. For more information about the Diamond Celebration tune in to “The Wonderful World of Disney: Disneyland 60” on Sunday at 8pm. To book your Disneyland Vacation, contact your As You Wish Vacations travel planner.
Whether you would like to enjoy a vacation at Disneyland or Walt Disney World, your As You Wish Vacations travel planner is ready to assist you in booking your trip.