The resemblance between Disneyland Resort and The Walt Disney World Resort–specifically Disneyland Park and The Magic Kingdom–is almost uncanny in a lot of ways. One way, in particular, is that they offer many of the same rides. Both Resorts have Space Mountain, Splash Mountain (and both will have Tiana’s Bayou Adventure), and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. They both feature a Jungle Cruise, an Enchanted Tiki Room, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Monorail, and so much more. But each attraction carries subtle differences from its sibling, like variants across Marvel’s multiverse.
Disney World is my home Resort, but after spending some time at Disneyland and experiencing the other variants of some of my favorite attractions, I was able to compile a list of which ride variant is better: the one at Disneyland or the one at Disney World.
It should be noted that in order for me to enjoy some of the exclusive Disneyland and Disney California Adventure attractions in the time I had, I was not able to experience every Disney World variant. But out of the ones I was able to get in, here are my definitive answers.
The Monorail: Walt Disney World
I decided that my day at Disneyland would begin the same as all of my days at Disney World: with a monorail ride. There was really no close call on this answer.
I should mention that the Disneyland Monorail is still great! The Mark VIIs are far nicer than the 30-year-old Mark VI Monorails in operation at Walt Disney World. Four Guests can still sit in the front with the pilot, and six can sit by themselves in the very back. I also love that Disneyland’s Monorail drops off Guests deep into the Theme Park, and it is really cool to ride on the first ever Monorail system built in the Western Hemisphere.
However, the Disneyland Monorail is far more of an attraction than the legitimate mode of transportation that is provided by The Walt Disney World Monorail System. The Downtown Disney District station feels equally far from both the entrances of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure as well as the Disneyland Hotel it was originally built to serve. And, for some reason, the Powers that Be did not add a stop at either the Disney California Adventure entrance or Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa–which the track literally goes through.
The Disneyland Monorail is also significantly smaller than its Disney World counterpart, offering no standing room. Guests are required to sit, which forces a capacity limit. The trains also have no a/c or climate control, which means that their operational status is determined by the weather, shutting down during the day when temperatures get too high or when the rain rolls in.
But most significantly, Guests need to provide valid Theme Park admission and a matching Disneyland Park Reservation in order to experience the Monorail. Meanwhile, Guests can hop aboard the Disney World Monorail without needing a ticket or Park pass, and they can take as many round trips as they want. We also have the Monorail Bar Crawl.
Jungle Cruise: Disneyland
Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise is vastly superior to Disney World’s variant. Experiencing the original made me realize how much awkward dead space there was in Disney World’s Jungle Cruise. Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise experience felt much longer and was stuffed with so many more animals. Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland omitted the giraffes, hippos, and–my new favorite segment–swarming piranhas that are found in Disneyland! Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise also seemed to carry a better balance of change and tradition, unafraid to keep guns involved in the adventure while also adding a better-sculpted multi-racial safari party sent up the tree by a raging rhino and removing an “offensive” Trader Sam animatronic.
It also became clear that Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise was built with an animal-first mindset, while Disney World’s was built with a focus on the best setup for scripts. Disneyland was also able to incorporate the ferocious tiger without having to waste time on a “spooky” jokeless temple. The Disneyland variety also had a more interesting queue through the Jungle Cruise headquarters, which featured the map from its movie on the wall.
Space Mountain: Walt Disney World
Disneyland’s Space Mountain is undoubtedly a cool ride, and it has better graphics than its older Disney World counterpart. But, it still does not beat the original Tomorrowland rollercoaster in Central Florida.
I personally found that Disneyland’s Space Mountain spends too much ride time building the anticipation while Disney World’s Space Mountain immediately drops its Guests into the ride, literally. The improved graphics also appeared to only make up for the fact that this roller coaster track was far tamer than what was found in Magic Kingdom Park. Disney World’s Space Mountain Queue is also arguably better due to its ambiance, theme, and interactive games, but, most of all, the entire queue is indoors.
A major revamp of Space Mountain is bound to be on its way–if for anything but to change the track, so Guests no longer feel as if they are going to be decapitated. But even in its current state, there is no comparison.
Splash Mountain: Walt Disney World
The Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World is also better than the one found at Disneyland for one reason only: The log boats. Disney World’s splash mountain features log boats that sit Guests two-by-two with plenty of space to fit backpacks and souvenir bags that one is bound to carry throughout a Disney day, and those bags actually have a chance to stay dry throughout the adventure. Disneyland’s Splash Mountain offers the exact opposite. Seated single-file, I was stuck holding my bags in my lap. I was also stuck in the very front of the log, totally exposed.
I understand that it is Splash Mountain and that I am bound to get a little wet. At Disneyland, I got SOAKED. I got more soaked on Disneyland’s Splash Mountain than I did at Khali River Rapids in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. The locals behind me, who were also getting drenched, were screaming that it was not a normal experience, but I didn’t believe them.
Now, I admit that I probably would have enjoyed it far more if I had some kind of warning and was not cradling a laptop and iPhone-filled backpack on the day before I was supposed to do live reporting on the biggest Disney fan event in three years. But even with that self-awareness, I would still prefer Disney World’s Splash Mountain due to the fact that I feel more secure in those seats than I ever did at Disneyland.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: Disneyland
This is the one Mountain ride that Disneyland does better than Disney World, in my opinion. While the caverns at the opening of Disney World’s variant are cooler, Disneyland’s offers a better overall experience. The ride itself is smoother. It is easier to get to from the central hub, and the quality of the ride itself is better.
The biggest difference can be found in the third incline segment. Disney World’s Big Thunder still tries to convince its Guests that the tunnel is about to cave in and the activity already broke the track. Meanwhile, Disneyland rethemed that segment to appear as if Guests were passing through a demolition site with dynamite blowing up all around the train. Sometimes it is the little things that can make something better.
“it’s a small world”: Disneyland
Even though people have been complaining about some cosmetic issues recently, Walt Disney’s original “it’s a small world” attraction at Disneyland is uncontestedly better than its Walt Disney World Variant.
For starters, Disneyland lets “small world” be the Fantasyland landmark it is supposed to be, sporting the iconic facade from Walt Disney Imagineers Mary Blair and Rolly Crump. They are also able to decorate it special for the Holidays to brighten up all of Fantasyland. Disney World hides its “small world” attraction inside beneath the lackluster guise of a medieval Fantasyland festival tent.
I also appreciate how Disneyland incorporated the Disney characters appropriately into each area represented in its “it’s a small world.” I think it improves the overall experience. There is also, arguably, no better attraction merchandise than Disneyland’s “I survived ‘it’s a small world’” t-shirts.
Finding Nemo Attraction: Disneyland
Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World feature a ride that takes Guests into the world of Pixar’s Finding Nemo, but Disneyland does it better.
You can find Disney World’s Nemo attraction in EPCOT as the rethemed entrance to The Seas with Nemo and Friends Pavilion. While it has a decent enough staging, the ride is a slow slide from screen to screen that projects our favorite characters seemingly into the pavilion’s massive tanks.
Disneyland’s, on the other hand, is manifested in a re-theme of the iconic Submarine Voyage. Yes, it is more cramped than the EPCOT variant, but this Tomorrowland attraction is far more adventurous and immersive, which gives a stronger feeling that you are really on an undersea adventure. I mean, you are actually below the waterline of the submarine, after all. The scenery throughout the voyage also appears to be of higher quality. It is also a great way to repurpose and preserve one of the most iconic attractions in Disneyland.
Better Park Overall: Magic Kingdom Park
While it is Disneyland Park, it cannot compare to its closest competition: Magic Kingdom Park at The Walt Disney World Resort. The Magic Kingdom may not have the same amount of rides, but it is bigger and far more spacious. New Orleans Square is far superior to Liberty Square, but Magic Kingdom has the better Tomorrowland with the better Space Mountain and an operational PeopleMover. Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland is far more expansive than Disneyland’s as well. Disney characters may not have the same freedom to walk around the Magic Kingdom as they do at Disneyland Park, but there is something even more magical about the complete cutoff from the outside world that is found not just in Magic Kingdom but also in its Resort area and as far as the eye can see.
Sleeping Beauty Castle also does not come close to the majesty of Cinderella Castle.
But at the end of the day, I am so glad I found better variants at Disneyland Resort than I was used to at Walt Disney World Resort. It only means that I was able to have new magical experiences and that I have plenty of reasons to make the trip back to Anaheim in the near future.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s and may not reflect the sentiments of Disney Fanatic as a whole.