Disneyland is for the true Disney lovers and Walt Disney World is for the tourist. I have officially been to every Disney park (other than the two water parks) in the United States
Growing up, I don’t remember going to the parks very often (if ever, as a young child) despite living a few hours away from Disneyland for most of my childhood. The two times I went to WDW were quite memorable—my mom discovered I had the chicken pox in line at Dumbo at two-years-old, and then a three-park excursion when I was seven.
Like a lot of kids, my love of Disney kind of waned when I hit my teens. Deep down in my heart, I still loved Disney, but I was trying to be too cool for school. About halfway through high school, I decided I didn’t really care what other people thought of me and slowly slipped back into my love of Disney and started going to the parks.
I slowly started going to the parks more frequently—even playing hooky from school with my dad and sister to have s Disney day. Even in college, I went at least once every school break and my family started a tradition of going to Disneyland on New Years Day—surprisingly not as crowded as you would think. With my sister working at the park, it was really easy to drive down to Anaheim, have her sign me in, and spend a few hours at the park. So many of my greatest memories with my best friends have been at the Disneyland resort. birthday weekends, mother daughter dates, dance performances, all happened on the Disney property. Theres nothing like spending a day with your best friends at such a magical place.
It wasn’t until December 2010 that I returned to Walt Disney World for a family trip to Orlando. We only did one park, Magic Kingdom, but had a great time comparing everything to our park back home. Who knew that nine years later, I would now be calling Walt Disney World my park.
On the surface, most people think that WDW is, hands down, the more superior resort. Its about the size of the city of San Francisco while DLR is only 500 acres. There are four theme parks, two water parks, and countless resorts that, to me, is very overwhelming. Their version of Downtown Disney—Disney Springs—is so big that it feels like another theme park, only devoted to shops and food. All of this is fun and great—I really do love the parks and I can’t wait to explore them more as the year goes by with my pass—but, honestly, I would much rather spend my time at the Disneyland Resort.
At WDW, the architecture, the outsides of buildings, and the ride queues are all exquisite. The attention to detail continues to blow me away and I feel like I see something new every time I walk through the gates. Seeing EPCOT as an adult was pretty cool. My mom and I went in April to see the topiaries from The Flower and Garden Festival they have every year—it just transforms the park. I felt I could appreciate every thing so much more now looking at EPCOT as a 27-year-old.
My most recent trip that actually happened earlier this week, I visited Animal Kingdom for the first time. We went on a safari and through a trail to see some Silverback gorillas. All of this was really cool, but it just felt more like a zoo. I also got visit Hollywood Studios. The last time I had been there, it was called MGM Studios and they had Hercules parade that I was really excited about—again, I was only seven. I was most excited to see the new Toy Story Land, which was really, really awesome. Toy Story is probably my favorite Disney franchise so to see a massive Woody greeting me as I walked through the land was overwhelming. My biggest complaint of Hollywood Studios, I guess you could say, was that there wasn’t much to do. I know the park has had their down times with the closing of some attractions, but it is going through a little bit of an up swing with the opening of the new Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening at the end of the summer. I hope they could try to rework some new rides or experiences in the park because there is so much potential for it to be really awesome.
However, the rides themselves are so much better in California. Everything is so pristine, rides or buildings have been either updated or refinished regularly, and just offer so much more magic. I love that they take the time to decorate the ENTIRE park for the holidays, including the The Nightmare Before Christmas overlay on The Haunted Mansion. Whereas, WDW really just decorated Main Street and the castle. Despite being so much smaller, DLR packs in so many rides into each land, I feel WDW misuses it’s space. Even getting down to the cast members: working at WDW is a job or even a career, but the people who work at DLR seem to care more—they truly love their jobs and go above and beyond to make your trip magical.
No matter where I live, or where I have annual pass, The Disneyland Resort will forever be my “home” base.