Comparing Disneyland, Disneyworld, Magic Kingdom, and Universal Studios
Written: Aug 9, 2012 (Updated Aug 9, 2012)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Great shows, parades, character meets, rides, and other attractions. Imaginative and beautiful family fun.
Cons:Crowds, less to offer than Disneyworld, the fast pass system.
The Bottom Line:
Disneyworld has much more to offer than Disneyland. However, if you wish to see California Disneyland is a great family oriented destination.
This is a review of Disney’s Disneyland theme park, which we recently visited. However, I am also making comparisons between the Disneyland resort and Disneyworld, particularly between Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. I am also making a few comparisons between Disney and Universal Studios.
The first time I visited Disneyland was in 1987. I had just arrived from Sweden as an exchange student. I remember being extremely impressed by what I saw. There was nothing like it Sweden and Disneyland in France did not yet exist. The Disneyland theme park is filled with Disney themed buildings and structures including sleeping beauty’s castle, Disney characters, lots of rides and shows, performances and parades. As I visited more theme parks in the United States and started comparing I was less impressed. Disneyland is certainly a great theme park.
However, the United States is the home of dozens of incredible theme parks and hundreds of incredible amusement parks. There is so much to compare with. United States is certainly the country in the world with the most amazing theme parks and people come from overseas just to visit theme parks. My relatives and Swedish friends are certainly among them.
A couple of weeks ago we were back in Disneyland and we had a great time. There are so many fun things to do, and so many amazing things to see and experience in Disneyland. Add to that the sights, the sounds, the parades, and the ambiance. Unfortunately it was a crowded when we visited. However, it is summer, and it was a sunny but not hot day, and will certainly draw out a lot of locals. Los Angeles is a big city.
Disneyland is primarily for young kids and it offers a lot of great attractions for young kids and families. However, it also a fun place for old kids, teenagers and young adults. Disneyland has a lot to offer.
Disneyland is quite large and it is divided into eight areas; Main Street, U.S.A., Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, New Orleans Square, Adventureland, Critter Country, Mickey's Toontown, and Frontierland. Each area has its own attractions, rides, shows, restaurants, shops, etc. In Disneyland you can meet Disney characters as they walk around, at special meet and greets, or when you have lunch or dinner with characters (special reservations).
There are many kid rides and play parks and they typically do not have long lines. Places like Mickey’s Toontown are also very imaginative and the children’s story based architecture is beautiful and inspiring to look at. However, there are also many rides and shows that appeal to an older audience. My favorite rides are Space Mountain and the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride in Tomorrowland, and Splash Mountain in Critter Country. Space Mountain is an indoor rollercoaster with a space/astronomy theme. When you ride the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters you shoot a laser gun at targets as you ride through a fantasy land. Splash Mountain is a themed flume ride through a story book land. However, the finding Nemo Submarine Voyage in Tomorrowland, the Haunted Mansion in the New Orleans Square, and the Jungle Cruise in Frontierland are also great attractions that even younger kids would enjoy. The smaller replica of the Matterhorn Mountain (which hosts a rollercoaster) in the middle of park is also an impressive sight.
However, the shows and the parades at Disneyland might be the best of what they have to offer. The most spectacular show that I’ve seen in my life is Fantasmic at Disneyworld and they have the same show in the evening in Frontierland at Disneyland.
I should add that in summer Disneyland is open from 8:00AM to midnight and 9:00AM to 11:00PM otherwise. If you visit California and you enjoy amusement parks and theme parks and you have not been to Disneyland, then a visit to Disneyland is a must.
Comparing Disneyland Resort and Disneyworld
Disneyland is not only Disneyland. Right across from the entrance to Disneyland is another theme park “California Adventure”, which offers a lot of great rides and attractions as well. California Adventure is more geared towards the older kids but they also have a lot of kid rides and kid attractions. California Adventure is almost as big as Disneyland. Together with the downtown Disney area (restaurants and shops additional entertainment) they form Disneyland resort.
However, Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida beats Disneyland resort in many respects. Disneyworld features four theme parks, two water parks, and a downtown Disney area that is much larger than the one at Disneyland. The four parks at Disneyworld are “Magic Kingdom”, “Epcot”, “Animal Kingdom”, “Hollywood Studios”, and the two water parks are “Typhoon Lagoon” and “Blizzard Beach”. Disneyland is quite similar to Magic Kingdom in Disneyland whereas California Adventure is pretty unique, but some of the attractions at Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios are similar to some attractions at California Adventure. The two water parks at Disneyworld are very large and considered among the best water parks in the world.
All in all Disneyworld is about three times larger than Disneyland resort and Epcot at Disneyworld is probably the best theme park in the world for adults and families who want something other than just thrill rides. Disneyworld has more to offer and also offers quite a bit more variety.
The weather is nicer in California. Florida can get very hot and humid in the summer. So that is something Disneyland has going for it. Both resorts are very crowded in summer. However, it is my impression from visiting Disneyland three times and Disneyworld eight times that Disneyland has a more severe crowd problem. I am not entirely sure about this but it would make sense since Disneyland is located in the Los Angeles Metropolitan, which is a huge 14 million people Metropolitan.
Therefore my advice to those who are traveling from far away with the intent of visiting a large exciting theme park resort; go to Disneyworld rather than Disneyland. Well, my advice would change if you want to see California and not just a theme park resort.
Comparing Disneyland and Magic Kingdom at Disneyworld
As I mentioned the Disneyland theme park at Disneyland resort is pretty similar to the Magic Kingdom theme park at Disneyworld. Both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom feature many of the same, or similar rides including Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (or Astro Blasters), the Big Thunder Railroad, the Haunted Mansion, It's a small world, the Jungle Cruise, the Pirates of the Caribbean, etc. Both have a Main Street, similar “lands”, and parades.
However, there are also some differences. Magic Kingdom is slightly bigger and has a nicer looking castle and a few kid rides and attractions that Disneyland does not have. Magic Kingdom also has Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, and Country Bear Jamboree, and Mickey's PhilharMagic. On the other hand Disneyland has the Fantasmic show, Captain EO Starring Michael Jackson, and the Matterhorn Bobsleds, as well as a few kid rides and attractions that Magic Kingdom does not have. When you compare the Disneyland theme park with Magic Kingdom they come out pretty equal.
Fast Passes versus Universal Studios VIP First in Line Pass
I would like to make one final comparison and that is with respect to how Disney and Universal Studios deal with people who wish to avoid long lines.
When you travel from far away and you pay for airfare and hotel and you only have a limited time, then you have a bigger reason not to stand in long lines than locals do. After all, locals can come back any time they like, and they spend most of their money on the tickets. When a long distance visitor stands in line for an hour he loses his money’s worth on the tickets and also on the airfare and the hotel. His wasted hour is a lot more expensive.
Disney (Disneyland and Disneyworld) has solved the problem with people wasting time in lines by creating the fast pass system. Many of the rides at Disneyland and Disneyworld that have a tendency to have long lines accept fast passes, which allow you to bypass the regular lines. You have to pick up the fast passes at certain fast pass stations. Each attraction has a dedicated fast pass station that is typically located close to the attraction. The fast pass gives you a time when you should come back. You can only get a maximum of three fast passes at a time. However, the fast passes are free.
Universal Studios (California and Orlando, Florida) has solved the problem with people wasting time in lines by creating the VIP first in line pass. Many of the attractions at Universal Studios that have a tendency to have long lines accept the VIP pass, which allow you to bypass the regular lines. The nice thing about the VIP pass is that you can use it whenever you like. You don’t need to show up at a certain time and there is no restriction on how many attractions you can use it for or when you can use it, and you don’t need to pick up any tickets. However, you have to pay for it.
Instinctively you may say that Disney’s solution is better. After all it is free and keeps it fairer towards those with less money. However, after experiencing both I have to disagree with that. Disney’s fast passes have a tendency to get taken early in the morning on crowded days. Furthermore, you have to pick them up at different places, and you cannot visit the attraction in question when you want to. The fast passes carry with them restrictions that not only can be annoying but are more difficult for long distance travelers to be prepared for and to adjust to. First of all long distance visitors often do not understand how the fast pass system works and they may entirely miss the fact that you need to get them early even if you are planning to do the ride later. With the VIP pass the long distance visitor can bypass the hassle and the restrictions of the fast passes by paying more. Considering that the long distance visitor is pay for hotel and airfare that is often a worthwhile investment.
Summary and Conclusion
In summary, Disneyland is a great theme park. If you are visiting Southern California and you enjoy theme parks you should consider visiting Disneyland. However, if you are traveling from far primarily to visit a theme park resort then Disneyworld is a better alternative than Disneyland. Also the Universal Studios theme parks are a great alternative not the least because of the VIP first in line passes.
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