Land vs. World: A Tale of Two Disneys


If you had told me eight years ago that I would have taken three trips to Disney in the last four years, I would have said, “No way.” It’s not that I was anti-Disney. Plus, my husband and I both love to travel; I just didn’t think it would be on our list so quickly or so frequently, for that matter. But fast forward seven years and two kids later, and it’s happened. I recently returned from trip number three, this time to Disneyland, and while I am no expert, I thought it could be helpful to compare the parks in the ultimate Disney showdown, the land versus the world.


Location is key when deciding where to take your kids on a trip. I say trip because I just traveled across the country with a seven- and two-year-old, and while it was fun, it was by no means a vacation. Disney World is, of course, in Orlando, FL. There are direct daily flights out of Indy, and they are a relatively painless 2 hours. Fair warning, though, everyone else going to Disney World will be on the same flight. Most planes to Orlando are packed with families, and justifiably so. Disneyland is located across the country in Anaheim, California. You can fly direct to Los Angeles, but those flights are harder to come by. So anticipate having to change planes. Not to mention the speedy four hour and twenty minute flight time and a 45 minute plus drive thereafter. If you are going to ease of access, Disney World takes the cake here.


On our most recent trip, we hit Disneyland. We did two days and a different park each day. Disneyland includes California Adventure and the actual “Disneyland” (the original!). In my opinion, Disneyland really shines here. We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel and could walk to both parks and downtown Disney within ten minutes each day. On the contrary, during our most recent trip to Orlando, we again stayed “on park,” but if you were hitting multiple parks during your stay, there was really no way to be able to access everything via foot. Parks are more spread out in Disney World. There are more options because of it, but if you are looking for a smaller, more intimate park experience, Disneyland is for you! It should be noted that our first day at California Adventure did feel less crowded, but day two in Disneyland definitely felt like we were repeating Disney World with the number of people everywhere. I don’t think it would be fair to compare crowds, so go into both expecting a lot of people.


I am going to go ahead and call this one a tie based on experience. I realize that both California and Orlando have different weather cycles, but we hit Disneyland at the hottest time and Disney World at the perfect time. It was unbearably hot in Anaheim last week, so much so that we saw several people collapse from the heat. The kids were troopers, but man nothing says fun like an over-tired family in 90-degree heat. Having lived in Orlando for several years, this is more what I would expect down south, but going to Disney World in October and November was perfection. It was cooler and comfortable, not to mention avoiding the summer crowds. So this is a toss-up, but just be sure to choose your trip timing carefully.


Overall, both parks produced several happy days, full of fun and a few tired tears for our family. If you had asked my son, daughter, husband, and I individually which we liked better or what our favorite experience was, I am confident they would all be very different. We loved the intimate feel of Disneyland. As I said previously, walkability is big for us and that was huge. While at Disney World, we stayed near Animal Kingdom and could walk to that park, but we had to drive 15 minutes to the Magic Kingdom. Disney World also has a ton of differently-themed hotels, so if you are into that sort of thing, that could give Orlando an edge. These many options impact character involvement too. More hotels and parks, more chances to book a meal or hang out with Mickey and Goofy too! It also could be helpful to think about what is around the local area. I am by no means a Disney purest, so in addition to the many Disney theme parks, you should consider what’s around, such as Universal Orlando near Disney World. Orlando is an easy sell if your children love Mickey but want to see Harry Potter Land. As far as the attractions go, my son generally loved one of the larger rides at each park. During this most recent trip, he loved the Incredicoaster at California Adventure, while my two-year-old daughter found ample things to do at Disneyland. But he also loved several rides at Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Magic Kingdom as well. Do your research and figure out height requirements beforehand so you aren’t going to a park where your children can’t ride much or see what they want.


I am going to call this battle a draw. I feel like it’s not fair to pick an actual winner when it’s Mickey vs. Mickey after all. The best advice I can give you when deciding which location is best is to take a hard look at your needs. Disneyland and Disney World offer many amazing options, and one will likely be better suited for your family. At the end of the day, it will be fun and stressful, but the magic of the mouse always wins.

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Lauren is a wife, mother and public relations professional. A born and raised Hoosier, she loves all things Indiana. After spending two years fighting the tourists in Orlando, Florida, Lauren returned home to this great state and now lives in Carmel. A self proclaimed "boy mom", Lauren loves spending time with her little man Andrew and husband James. She is a sports lover, runner and avid traveler. Lauren considers motherhood her greatest adventure and loves that she gets to share her stories with IMB readers!