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Disney World and Disneyland are some of the most well-known landmarks in the United States. Even if you’re not a fan of its animated films, Disney’s property runs the gamut from Marvel movies to the Star Wars universe.
You’ll find characters from many of Disney's hits at the theme parks, though exactly what rides you’ll encounter and whom you’ll meet will vary depending on where you go.
Let’s look at Disneyland versus Disney World, including tickets, resorts, locations and attractions.
The main difference between Disneyland vs. Disney World is …
What's the biggest difference between Disneyland and Disney World? Size! Disneyland is the original Disney theme park and as such was a much smaller undertaking.
Disneyland comprises two theme parks and three hotels, while the Walt Disney World Resort complex includes four theme parks, two water parks, 31 hotels and a golf course.
Disneyland vs. Disney World location
Disneyland is in Anaheim, California. It’s 35 miles from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), though traveling to the park can take a while because of traffic.
If you’re flying in, there are other airport options in the Los Angeles area, including:
John Wayne Airport (SNA).
Long Beach Airport (LGB).
Ontario International Airport (ONT).
Walt Disney World, meanwhile, is in Orlando, Florida. Its nearest airport is Orlando International Airport (MCO), which is about 16 miles away from the resort.
» Learn more: Which is cheaper, Disneyland or Disney World?
Disneyland vs. Disney World theme parks
Disneyland and Walt Disney World have two very different vibes, in part because of the theme parks each contains.
Disneyland is the first theme park Walt Disney opened, doing so in 1955. Inside, the park features nine distinct lands, all of which include different theming and attractions:
Disney California Adventure is the second theme park within the Disneyland Resort. Just across the walkway from Disneyland, this park is home to a more adult atmosphere than its sibling. You’ll find bigger rides, such as a looping roller coaster and a drop tower, as well as far more opportunities for purchasing alcohol.
» Learn more: Disneyland vs. California Adventure
Walt Disney World Resort
Walt Disney World debuted in 1971, roughly 16 years after Disneyland's launch. Clear across the country, Disney World is far larger than Disneyland — and its four theme parks reflect this.
Magic Kingdom: Built similarly to Disneyland Park, Magic Kingdom offers a central hub ringed by different lands. These are much the same and include Fantasyland, Adventureland and Tomorrowland, among others.
Epcot: The second of Walt Disney World’s parks, Epcot focuses on two things: world culture and the future. This can be seen from rides such as Mission: Space, which simulates a trip to Mars. It can also be seen via the World Showcase, whose 11 pavilions highlight global food and culture.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: With a focus on the movie and film aspects of Disney’s property, this park has attractions such as Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom: A wholly unique park in that it blends live attractions, such as a safari, with more standard fare like roller coasters.
» Learn more: How to save on your first — or next — Disney vacation
Walt Disney World vs. Disneyland tickets
Disneyland and Walt Disney World tickets start at a similar price range: Disneyland’s tickets start at $104 for a one-day ticket, while Walt Disney World’s tickets begin at $109 per day.
However, Walt Disney World tickets will vary in price according to demand no matter what type of ticket you’re purchasing; this is true for single-day and multiday tickets. For example, a four-day ticket for a visit in late August will cost $485.
At Disneyland, multiday tickets are a fixed price. You’ll be able to visit anytime and pay the same cost, no matter how busy it is. A four-day ticket to visit Disneyland costs $395.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now
Both theme parks offer annual passes, though a Disneyland Magic Key pass is more costly than one for Walt Disney World. For 2023, a top-tier Inspire Key Pass for Disneyland will run $1,599 — and that pass still includes blockout dates.
Walt Disney World’s most expensive annual pass is the Disney Incredi-Pass, which costs $1,399 and allows you access to all of its parks every day of the year.
» Learn more: The best ways to buy Disney tickets
Walt Disney World vs. Disneyland resorts
The Walt Disney World and Disneyland resorts have their own hotels on property. However, Disneyland’s options are much more scarce than Walt Disney World's. Within Disneyland, you’ll find just three options from which to choose, with price points that vary based on luxury.
At Walt Disney World, there are a whopping 31 on-site hotels. All of these feature incredible theming — such as overwater villas — and also run the gamut for pricing depending on where you stay.
» Learn more: Best Disney World hotels to book with points
Is Disneyland or Disney World better?
Which is better, Disneyland or Disney World? The one you prefer is going to come down to the type of vacation you enjoy. Because Disneyland is so much smaller, it’s easier to pack more into your day. This also means it’s possible to explore everything within the Disneyland Resort within a couple of days.
Walt Disney World has twice as many theme parks as Disneyland but also has other activities, which means that if you’d like to thoroughly explore the resort, it can easily take you more than a week to do so.
Walt Disney World and Disneyland feature theme parks with rides, characters and classic Disney favorites, but at their heart, they’re distinct. Before visiting either of these theme parks, you’ll want to do some research to see which is right for you.
Disneyland is smaller, features fewer theme parks and hotels and costs less than Walt Disney World. Walt Disney World is a sprawling complex that encompasses four theme parks, more than two dozen hotels and other attractions to boot.
(Top photo courtesy of Disneyland Resort)
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