I am a Disney girl through and through. As a girl from Louisiana, Disney World has always been the place to go for summer vacay, Mardi Gras break out of town, or any other school break. We can drive there, it's fun, and it's popular in the area. We now go once a year because of dance team nationals. The past two years in a row though, we have found ourselves in California and made the trip to Disneyland, and, let me tell you, it is SO worth it! Now, I'm not sure how much of it is that it was new to me, but Disneyland is my new absolute favorite. Let me tell you why! (Don't get me wrong- I'm obsessed with WDW- that's what makes this revelation so amazing!!)
1. Everything is walkable
When you walk into the entrance area of Disneyland, you can either turn left to go to California Adventure, turn right to go to Disneyland Park, or go straight to visit Downtown Disney. Everything is right next to each other and it is SO accessible. This is AMAZING for children so that there isn't unnecessary walking across the entire freaking world to get from one place to the other. It's also great if you want to parkhop during the day! All you have to do is exit one park and cross the courtyard and you're at the entrance for the other!
You can see the park entrance on my insta highlights under travel (livingforthesummerblog) (https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17965816669020300/).
We stayed at a Fairfield Inn that was RIGHT across the street from the park entrance. We just crossed the road and walked to the park and back- no buses involved. It wasn't some huge ordeal if we wanted to go back and sit in the room for few minutes or leave the park for a meal. Plus, there was a McDonald's right by our hotel for a much cheaper breakfast than it would have been in the park and a Panera Bread if we wanted to eat out of the park (we didn't, but it was nice to know that we could have.) There's also a CVS right by the park entrance, so if you need something, you can just walk to grab it. If you forget something at Disney World, you better damn well hope they have it in the gift shop in the hotel!
2. Characters are interwoven throughout the very fabric of the park
Instead of the characters standing in one area and the park-goers standing in line forever to meet with them, the characters in Disneyland walk around, interact, and ride rides. Of course you can wait in line and catch some, but the fact that you'll see a character almost anywhere you go is amazing. It is SUCH a magical thing to see.
The Incredibles were out walking around the Pier area and they took the hands of my girls and walked around with them for at least 5 minutes!! It was such a great experience for them that they will not soon forget!
We saw Cinderella and Ariel coming out of a store near Tomorrowland. They waved and smiled at everyone, but didn't stop to take pictures- they were just strolling around. We saw Belle walking around, and then Gaston was coming from a different direction. They ran into each other and did a little mini-show right there in front of us! We saw Mickey coming off of a ride! We saw Tiana on the riverboat. It's just really special to see them interacting with the guests instead of having to wait in a long line to meet them. That way, EVERY park-goer gets to enjoy them in the most unexpected times!
I find at Disney World that they take a lot of the magic out of the characters because you have to wait so long to see them and then they TALK TO YOU FOREVER. Geez Ariel, I just want a picture- you dont need to talk to me about your dinglehopper for 45 minutes. Let's get this show on the road! I would much rather catch glimpses of them all around and my girls thought it was so so magical.
3. The attractions are amazing!
While there are for sure many many MANY amazing attractions at Disney World, my favorites at Disneyland outweigh my favs at the World.
-- Guardians of the Galaxy-- this used to be Disneyland's Tower of Terror, but it has been reimagined as a rockin mission to help Rocket Raccoon. My kids were both scared of Tower of Terror, but this one is pure fun and none of the creepiness. You get to listen to music from the soundtrack while dropping up and down and feeling your heart in your throat. It is my FAVORITE ride at California Adventure and, really, all of Disneyland.
-- Incredicoaster- when we had gone two years ago, it was still California Screamin'- just a regular old boardwalk style roller coaster. Fun, but nothing special. Now that they have reimagined it as the Incredicoaster and we get to follow Edna and Elastigirl looking for Jack Jack, it is AMAZING. We could not get enough of this ride!!
- ALL OF CARS LAND- This entire section of the park is very very popular and for good reason. The attention to detail is UNREAL. From the racing style ride of Radiator Springs Racers to the dancing cars of Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters, there is something for everyone in the family. My girls LOVED this land, and so did I!!
-- FROZEN Live- This show was one of the best pieces of live theatre I have seen in the past few years. The performers were out of this world and the set was beautiful! It was a full hour long and I enjoyed every single minute of it! Best live show I have seen at any Disney park hands down!
Even some of the main attractions are a little better here in Disneyland. For example- Splash Mountain.
In Disney World, the vehicle you ride in for Splash Mountain is two by two. At Disneyland, as you can see, you sit one behind the other. It's just BETTER! I am SO glad we got this amazing shot from our first time riding it!!
4. The food is great!
Now I know there are a TON of great dining options in WDW, but I'm a quick service girl. Because of that, it's what I'm basing my opinion on.
While there is no shortage of chicken tenders, it is certainly NOT the norm in Disneyland. We had some AMAZING Mexican food while in the park at different locations and it wasn't as expensive as some of the quick service items in Disney World. For example, if you look at the meal in this picture (from Rancho del Zocalo in Frontierland-- we watched the riders of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad the whole time), the two adult meals are HUGE and $12.99. The kid's meal was a taco, veggies, and rice with an apple sauce and a juice for $6.99.
We got some other amazing Mexican food again in California Adventure and I got a great Asian rice bowl there too. I also got a LEGIT margarita at the pier while watching the night time Pixar parade! Food win!
5. You can easily integrate it into a Cali vacation!
There isn't as MUCH to do at Disneyland as there is in Disney World, so if you're looking for a 7 day vacation all based on the parks, you'll be out of luck; however, I think that is what I LIKE so much about Disneyland. You can spend 2-3 days there are REALLY get the full park done and hit almost everything, while still enjoying it. Because of that, you can incorporate Disneyland into a Cali vacay and get so much MORE from your vacation. LA is right down the street and you can take a quick ride south to San Diego.
We flew in to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, hit up Disney for three days, took the Amtrak out of Anaheim to San Diego, and then flew out of San Diego. It was amazing!
You could do a whole coast and just do a pop-in to Disneyland and it will be perfect! It doesn't have to be the WHOLE vacation. Parents can enjoy the coast while the kids get a few days in Disney :) Sure, I guess you could hit up lots of spots around Orlando, but WDW requires so much time and energy to feel like you got the full experience. Every time I leave WDW I feel drained. Leaving Disneyland, I was ready to go back!
Also, right down the street is the stadium for the Angels- we caught a game the first night we were there and we were back in time for the fireworks! It was all just so easy and close.
6. It was cheaper!
For under $2000, we were able to get:
- Three nights at the Fairfield Inn that is right across the street from the entrance gate (and we could watch the fireworks from our room!)
- Three day park pass (for four people- 2 adults, 2 kids)
- Max pass option on all four tickets- it allows TONS of fast passes and free pictures from all of the photogs in Disney!
We were also able to get cheaper breakfast because we were right next to the McDonalds. We grabbed coffee and breakfast before we walked over so that we didn't have to pay park prices. (Also, there are a LOT fewer options for breakfast in Disneyland than there is in WDW.)
Because there was a McDonald's right by the hotel, we got cheaper breakfast than if we ate within the park.
Being that close and having those options is non-existent in Disney World. You'd have to stay at one of the expensive resorts right next to one of the parks, but then you'd still have to bus around. Our trip was just so easy and convenient, and it was so much cheaper than a comparable trip to WDW.
Now- there are for sure some downsides...
- The workers are NOT as magical as they are in Disney World. They aren't in character all the time. Now, I've never had a bad experience with any of them, but there is just a certain magic to the cast members in Florida that Cali just can't touch.
- There are only three Disneyland hotels and they are pretty expensive. The upside to that is that there are TONS of hotels around the area that are considered "good neighbor" hotels and are much cheaper. Many of them are in walking distance to the parks, and the ones that are a bit farther out are on the bus route. This also is great in that if you are, like me, a Marriott Rewards member (or any other hotel brand) you can stay right next to the property and get points too!
I want to know what YOU think! Have you traveled to both?? Which did you prefer and why? Want to know more about our trip? Let me know! Follow me on instagram at livingforthesummerblog!