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What Are the Major Differences Between the Disneyland and Disney World Experience?

03/23/2015 01:11 pm ET | Updated May 23, 2015

How different is Walt Disney World from Disneyland?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Answer by Michael Lee, Bi-coastal Disney theme park fan

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Disneyland

vs.

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Disney World

I'm a bi-coastal Disney theme parks fan - I grew up going to Disneyland (and even spent a Grad Nite there at the end of high school), and my wife and I spent our honeymoon at Walt Disney World. So I'll try my best to be balanced here, but there's no denying it: Disneyland Resort (DLR) and Walt Disney World (WDW) are aimed at two very different vacation experiences. In my opinion, they're both very good at what they're doing, but their audiences and experiences differ greatly.

Specifically:

  • WDW is significantly bigger. The Disneyland Resort is comprised of two theme parks, three resort hotels, and the Downtown Disney commercial district, all centered in a relatively small portion of Anaheim, CA. The Walt Disney World Resort, however, is made up of 47 square miles of Central Florida property, and contains 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 34 resort hotels, and 5 golf courses. And that has an impact on vacationers' trips! That is...

  • DLR guests stay for a couple of days; WDW guests (usually) stay longer. The Walt Disney Company's Imagineers have done everything possible to pack in attractions at the relatively smaller DLR, but it's still feasible to see the best-known attractions at both Disneyland Park and the Disney California Adventure within a couple of long days - at least if you plan carefully! Seeing all four theme parks at WDW takes the better part of a week, let alone exploring the resorts, water parks, or other attractions.

  • WDW is a bit more immersive. There's a reason people talk about the WDW resort being a "bubble" - after deplaning at Orlando's airport and making one's way to the Magical Express bus service, it's possible to go the entirety of your vacation on Disney property. Not so in CA: the land around the resort was quickly capitalized upon after Disney's folly became a success. DLR's offsite hotels are hugely popular among CA's park guests due to their more competitive pricing, and it's common for guests to bounce back and forth between the parks and their offsite hotels, resort houses, or other accommodations. Finally...

  • DLR's guests are more regional. The Disney company has tried for years to stimulate more attendance at its California parks, and to get guests to stay longer. (Hence DCA!) But many Californians still consider Disneyland to be a "backyard" park, and weekends there are madcap, particularly during the summer. WDW guests come from all over the eastern seaboard and Europe, and as stated above, tend to stay longer.

Now, all that might make you think that I'm not a DLR fan, but that's patently false! My wife and I took a trip to DLR just a couple of years ago, and it's still just as magical as I remembered from my youth. There's an intangible to Disneyland Park that can't be matched anywhere else: Walt Disney himself worked there, and frequently stayed in an apartment above the fire station. I can't help but be awed by that personal connection to the park and to Disney history.

In short, they're both absolutely worth your time. But you'll definitely want to plan a bit differently for each.

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