Essentials What’s the Difference?

Disneyland and Disney World, What’s the Difference?

Do you know the difference between Walt Disney World and Disneyland? If you don't, you have some catching up to do.

Photo Credit: Visit California, mrkathika.jpg

When you talk about visiting a Disney park, you might use the terms Disney World and Disneyland interchangeably, which makes sense, seeing as they both mean the same thing, right? Well, as you might have guessed from the title, they actually don’t. Don’t worry, it is a common mistake that a lot of families make, but it can sometimes cause some confusion. There are quite a few differences between Disneyland and Disney World (and I’m not only talking about the fact that Disneyland has a pink castle and Disney World has a blue one) As you know, this blog covers information on Walt Disney World, as this is, what some people like to say, my Home-Base park. However, I have had the privilege of being able to visit Disneyland, so while I may not be as knowledgeable on Disneyland as Disney World, I should hopefully be able to answer all your questions about both parks.

So, what really is the difference between these two parks?


Pictured: Locations of Disneyland and Walt Disney World according to Google Maps

One of the most important differences between these two parks is the location. While, both are located in the US, each is located in a completely different state. You’ll find Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Disney World (or Walt Disney World, as it is officially named) is found in Orlando, Florida.

Fun Fact: There are also parks in Paris (France), Tokyo (Japan), Hong Kong (China), and Shanghai (China), but that’s a different story.


Ever wondered why one park was called “-land” while the other was called “-World”? The name mostly relates to the size of each park! Walt Disney World is home to four parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom) while Disneyland only has two (Disneyland, Disney California Adventure).

Beyond the parks, we can also look at other facilities Disney refers to as “guest areas”. These include hotels, shopping districts and other activities. In regards to guest areas, Disneyland doesn’t have very much (their main focus is very much on the parks themselves). Their guest areas include three hotels and a Downtown Disney* district that connects directly to the parks.


Pictured: (slightly outdated) Map of Disneyland Resort Area (Photo Credit WDW Info)

Walt Disney World, on the other hand, well – I’ll summarize it with this fact: Disney World property, as a whole, reaches about 27,000 acres, which is about the size of San Francisco. In other words, it’s big enough to qualify as a city. There are more than 25 hotels, a Disney Springs* district, 2 Water parks, a Sports Center (ESPN Wide World of Sports) 2 Mini Golf courses and 3 full sized championship Golf Courses. Makes sense now that this is the one called “-World” doesn’t it?


Pictured: Map of Walt Disney World Resort Area (Photo Credit:

*Downtown Disney (Disneyland) and Disney Springs (Disney World) are the names of the shopping districts found in each location. Here you can find shops, restaurants, movie theaters and other activities)

Major Attractions


Pictured: Mickey’s Fun Wheel and California Screamin’ (Photo Credit: Kakely on Youtube)

So what can you find in Disneyland that you can’t find in Walt Disney World?

No Disney Park is identical to another, so there are bound to be differences no matter which parks you compare. In terms of rides Disney World and Disneyland can be fairly similar, with differences being found in the locations or theming of the rides more than anything else. For example, while in Disney World you might find Test Track, in Disneyland you’ll find Radiator Springs Racers, a similar ride with a Cars overlay. Another example is that while in Disney World you’ll find Dinosaur, in Disneyland you’ll find Indiana Jones Adventure.

However, there are some rides that you can find in Disneyland that you won’t find in Disney World, like:

  • Mickey’s Fun Wheel
  • California Screamin’
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout*
  • Haunted Mansion Holiday (A seasonal Haunted Mansion overlay found only at Disneyland)
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

*This is the only Marvel-themed ride in the US Disney parks – Another major difference is that Disneyland is allowed to do Marvel offerings, and the reason for that can be found here.

So you can see that rides make up many of the differences between the two parks – and we haven’t even talked about shows yet – but there’s one difference that (for Disney Nerds, at least) sets them apart the most.

Historical Significance


Pictured: Walt during a quiet moment before the park opens. (Photo Credit: International Traveller)

On July 16th, 1954, construction started on the very first Disney theme park, Disneyland. Overseen by Walt Disney himself, Disneyland would become the base template for all Disney Parks to come. To this day, Disneyland remains to be the only Disney park Walt Disney has ever step foot in (while he oversaw the construction of Magic Kingdom, the first park in Disney World, he passed away before its opening in 1971). in fact, during the construction of Disneyland, Walt would often sleep in the park to avoid the long drive home. His apartment still stands over the Main Street Fire Station today, and he would continue to use it not just during the construction, but while the park was open. As the legend goes, a lamp by the window would be turned on as a signal that he was in the park. After his passing in 1966, the lamp remains permanently on in his memory.

Wow, that was very mushy and very nerdy, but I think you get the picture.


In summary, Disney World and Disneyland have a lot of similarities and a lot of differences, but the point is that despite their similar names, they are two very separate parks in very separate locations with very separate experiences and backgrounds (did I mention the word “separate” enough?). If you have any further questions, please feel free to shoot them at me in the comments below, I’d be happy to answer them!



Thanks for reading! Today’s further reading is Disney and Universal, What’s the Difference? Not only is this another article in the “What’s the Difference?” series, but it also contains the explanation for why Disneyland had more Marvel offerings than Disney World, check it out!

Everyone's Guide To Disney is an advice and planning blog for Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Jada, who has been visiting Disney for now 12 years (and counting) writes from her personal experience, and hopes to help others have the best Disney trip they possibly could.

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