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  For many people, it is the essence of childhood memories.  For me, growing up in the Northeast of the United States, a visit to “Walt Disney World” in Florida was an annual event.  Only an hour by plane and we were in the happiest place on earth.  At 35, I often find myself fondly reminiscing about those whimsical years of fun, when Mickey Mouse was real and there was a place where all your dreams could come true.


©Disney ©Disney/Pixar


Now that I live in New Zealand I appreciate just how close I used to live to the Magic Kingdom and what an investment it is for anyone on this side of the world to visit the place.  A few years ago, on a transit through Los Angeles, I stopped over for two nights in order to experience “Disneyland”.  It was a much different experience from the ones I had as a child in Florida.   How do you know which Disney Theme Park to visit?  



It helps to understand the background of the Disney Theme Parks when deciding which one to visit.  “Disneyland” in Anaheim California is the original.  Built in 1955, under the direct supervision of Walt Disney himself, the 165-acre park is the model off which all other Disney Theme Parks around the world have been built.  “Walt Disney World Resort” in Orlando Florida opened in 1971 to supplement the California Park and is significantly larger than its predecessor at 25,000 acres. 

Disneyland in Anaheim consists of two separate theme parks that sit across from each other: The original Disneyland Park and the newer California Adventure.  There is also Downtown Disney which has a number of shops and restaurants and three different Disney hotels of varying standards.  In addition, the surrounding area of Anaheim offers other forms of entertainment, accommodation and eateries and at only a 45-minute drive to Hollywood, you can trade one fantasy-land for another.  During the quieter season, it would be easy to visit both theme parks over a two-day period with peak seasons requiring three days due to larger crowds and longer lines. 


©Disney ©Disney/Pixar

One of the best parts about the California parks (besides the shorter and cheaper flights to get there) is that they exist as a great PART of any holiday.  Las Vegas is only three hours away by bus and is a gateway to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Zion National Park and other stunning natural sites.  San Francisco is an hour’s flight north and very near Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe.  Disneyland Anaheim could also be enjoyed during a two-night stopover on route to New York or London.

Disney World, on the other hand is a much larger, more immersive experience.  Rather than being a couple of theme parks within an already-existing city, Disney World is its own city with four theme parks, two water parks, two main shopping areas, 34 on-site hotels and a number of other affiliated attractions.  Upon driving through the Walt Disney World gates, you leave the regular world behind and enter a whole new one full of magic and fantasy.  It’s like going from black and white to colour almost immediately.     


The theme parks:

The Magic Kingdom—a replica of the original Disneyland Park in Anaheim
Disney’s Hollywood Studios—focuses on the film and animation of Disney
EPCOT—The Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow with a science/culture theme
Disney’s Animal Kingdom—an animal-based park bigger than the other three combined

The Water Parks:

Blizzard Beach—offers a snowy mountain theme juxtaposed against the Florida heat
Typhoon Lagoon—the more traditional tropical theme, including shipwreck

The Shopping/Dining/Entertainment Precincts:

Disney Springs
Disney’s Boardwalk

Other Attractions/features:

ESPN Wide World of Sports
Four world class golf courses
34 hotels and resorts of varying standards 
A complimentary mass transit system for guesting staying on site

The Walt Disney World Resort is not far from Kissimmee St Cloud and the city of Orlando, which are both full of worthwhile shopping and other forms of entertainment.  Additionally, there are all-day tours to The Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral where you can have lunch with an astronaut and explore inside old spacecraft.  It’s also incredibly easy to tack on a Disney, Carnival or Royal Caribbean Cruise that leaves from Ft Lauderdale or Miami. Whether during the quiet season or busy season, it would be realistic to spend a minimum of eight days at Walt Disney World to fully enjoy the experience.  Add on a 4-night cruise and a couple of days to relax by the pool and you’re looking at two weeks. 


©Disney ©Disney/Pixar

Florida’s Disney World Resort is most certainly the jewel in the Disney crown, but it also acts as a gateway to some of the most beautiful and interesting areas in the Southeast United States and beyond.  These include Miami, the Florida Keys, Cocoa Beach, the Everglades, the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Cuba…the list goes on.  So while the flights are a bit longer and more expensive, if you can allot a bit more time to a holiday around here it would make the airfare much better value for money.


So, which Disney Park is the best one?  As you can see, a lot of that comes down to time, budget and the type of holiday you want.  Also, if you are taking children, their age at time of travel should be a deciding factor as well.  If you have the time, the budget and children who are old enough to enjoy and remember the experience, it is my recommendation that you get yourself to Florida for a full-on Disney extravaganza.  If your children are a bit younger, time is a bit tight and you are keen to spend a little less, then stick to the West Coast park. 

Hopefully, you now have a clearer idea of the difference between Disneyland in Anaheim California and Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida.  I’d love to help you plan your next Disney holiday and have access to all the accommodation options,  park passes and special experiences so please contact me at!

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