Disneyland California Vs. The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World

As most of you know, the first Disney park in the world to open was Disneyland in California.

Disneyland Train Station

July 17, 1955 was the opening date, with Walt there to meet guests at his park. There were some glitches the first few days, but within a very short time Disneyland became “the” place for families in the area (and families from all over the world) to visit. Its popularity once again proved that Walt Disney, who had been known primarily for his acclaimed work in the field of animation, was an innovator. Walt saw that the amusement parks of the time were mostly unkempt and had very few things parents and children could do together. So he decided to open a park that was clean, family-friendly, and it would NOT just be an amusement park, it would be a Theme Park!

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse Partners statue at Disneyland

The thing Walt regretted most about Disneyland was not buying up more land. He really could not afford to at the time, but he hated seeing the cheap businesses that sprung up near his park, capitalizing on his success. So, when Walt decided to open a park on the East Coast he was determined not to repeat what happened at Disneyland.  He was more successful financially by then and had his lawyers make a number of dummy companies, so no one would know that the mysterious buyers purchasing land in the area had anything to do with Walt. He knew the price would skyrocket if the sellers were aware that Disney was the buyer. Indeed, when word finally did leak out, the price per acreage in the area soared. But Walt succeeded in buying over 40 square miles, which virtually guaranteed he would be able to have total control of the environment he wanted in the new park. Sadly, Walt died before Walt Disney World opened in 1971, although he did take part in most of the planning. The park was going to be known as Disney World, but after Walt passed away, his brother Roy decided it should be Walt Disney World, so no one would forget the originator.

For the first 11 years, Walt Disney World was almost a carbon copy of Disneyland; there was just one park. It would not be until 1982 that Epcot would open, (with a very different look than Walt had imagined, but that’s a story for another blog). The Imagineers based the Florida park almost entirely on the original one, although there were some differences, the blueprint was basically the same.   Today the Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World is still very much like Disneyland Park in California. Both places have added additional parks since they first opened, but this blog will focus on comparing what is similar and what is different as of now at Disneyland in Anaheim, California and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Florida.

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse Partners Statue at the Magic Kingdom

First is the size. The Magic Kingdom is 107 acres, while Disneyland is 85. As a guest, I can feel the difference between the two. Although the Magic Kingdom can be packed some days, on an average day Disneyland feels more crowded than the Magic Kingdom. Another size difference is the castles.

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland

Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle is 77 feet tall, while the one at Walt Disney World is a whopping 189 feet tall!

Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom

Walt had wanted the castle at Disneyland to be larger, but the cost was prohibitive to him at the time.  As a Walt Disney World veteran, the first time I saw the castle at Disneyland, it almost seemed comically small. But when it was first unveiled in 1955 it was quite impressive.  And it is still very charming.

 

Disneyland has New Orleans Square, Critter Country, Toontown, and the brand new Galaxy’s Edge.

New Orleans Square Disneyland

The Magic Kingdom has Liberty Square. Both parks have Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Frontierland, and Adventureland. Some of the attractions are the same at both places, while others are not. One interesting bit of trivia: When Walt Disney World first opened, due to its proximity to the Caribbean, no Pirates of the Caribbean attraction was planned. However, there was an outcry from guests who were very disappointed not to have the attraction on the East Coast. The powers that be listened, and at the end of 1973 the Pirates attraction opened at the Magic Kingdom.

 

Let’s see what both parks have in common:

  • It’s a Small World (which made its debut at the 1964 NY World’s Fair) can be found at both parks, but the one in Disneyland is more elaborate, with many well-known Disney characters included among the dolls in the ride. Additionally, there are a number of topiaries outside the attraction, and the entrance look is more impressive.

Its a Small World Exterior Disneyland

It's a Small World Topiary Disneyland

  • Pirates of the Caribbean is on both coasts, although the Disneyland version of the ride is a bit more spectacular than the one at Walt Disney World, and the queue in Florida is more interesting than the one in California.

Pirates of the Caribbean Disneyland

  • The Dapper Dans Barbershop Quartet make appearances at both parks; their costumes can vary from coast to coast.

Dapper Dans Disneyland

Dapper Dans at the Magic Kingdom

  • Pin trading is big at both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom.
  • Space Mountain is at both places, the cars in California have 2 riders next to one another, in Florida the cars are built for riders to be seated individually
  • Autopia is found at both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom.
  • Buzz Lightyear can be found at both parks, but the one in Disneyland has a gun that can be held in your hand, vs the stationary one at the Magic Kingdom. The Disneyland version is known as Astro Blasters (as opposed to the Magic Kingdom’s Space Ranger Spin).
  • Both parks can be reached by monorail. The Walt Disney World version has a longer track; the Disneyland one is newer and sleeker looking. Word has it they are working on updating the Florida monorails.

Monorail at WDW

  • You will find the Walt Disney Railroad in both places; the Disneyland one has more stops.
  • The Dumbo attraction is the same at both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, but the Florida version has a playhouse for small ones in the queue.
  • Big Thunder Mountain RR is on both coasts, it is bigger and has more scenes at The Magic Kingdom.
  • Astro Orbiter needs an elevator to reach in the Magic Kingdom; consequently, it’s high up in the air. It used to be the same on the West coast, but it’s been relocated to ground level at Disneyland.
  • The Haunted Mansion can be found on both coasts. The exterior in California looks like an old plantation while the Magic Kingdom one is much spookier and gothic-looking. The interior of the Mansion is more elaborate in Florida. As a special treat, each year in Disneyland the Haunted Mansion gets a Nightmare Before Christmas overlay, which makes the attraction very different at those times.

Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom

Exterior image of the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland

Halloween Decorations at the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland

  • Jungle Cruise is at both places and is mostly the same. The main difference is in the Magic Kingdom you go through a tunnel at one point, there is no tunnel in Disneyland.
  • The Carousels have different names, but they are pretty much the same experience and theme in both places.
  • The Riverboat has a little more space to paddle around in the Magic Kingdom, but the boats are very much the same with the exception of double smokestacks in Disneyland.
  • Peter Pan’s Flight is also basically the same both places,
  • As is the Tiki Room, now that the one on the East Coast has been restored to its original version.
  • The Mad Tea Party attraction is covered by a roof in Florida; otherwise it’s the same in California.

Mad Tea Party sign at the Magic Kingdom

  • Splash Mountain is on both coasts. It’s better themed and longer at the Magic Kingdom.
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is the same ride, but the queue is more impressive at Disneyland
  • Tom Sawyer Island is found at both parks, Disneyland’s has a Pirate’s Lair that is not found at the Magic Kingdom.
  • Both places have Treehouses; originally, both were based on Swiss Family Robinson. The one in Disneyland got a makeover a few years back and is themed on Tarzan.
  • You will find a number of modes of transportation to get from the entrance of the park to the Castle hub at both venues. This includes but is not limited to Horse-drawn carriages, Antique Firetrucks, Double Decker buses, and trolleys.
  • Disney characters are found at both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, although the characters most frequently seen at each park can often differ.
  • Gadget’s Go Coaster in Disneyland is quite similar to Goofy’s Barnstormer in the Magic Kingdom.

 

Okay, we have discussed similarities; now let’s see what is different.

Disneyland attractions that cannot be found at Walt Disney World: Pinocchio’s Daring Adventure: Alice in Wonderland (a personal favorite); Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes (at one time these were also found at the Magic Kingdom); Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage; Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln; Indiana Jones Adventure (Fun Fact: This happens to be the same exact track as Dinosaur! at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, although the story is quite different) ; Matterhorn Bobsleds; Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (Another one that was at the Magic Kingdom at one time. It was removed to be replaced with Winnie the Pooh, to the chagrin of many who were big fans of the Toad attraction); Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin; Storybook Land Canal Boats.

Alice in Wonderland Attraction Disneyland

Mr. Toad Attraction Disneyland

Pinocchio Attraction Disneyland

Disneyland Matterhorn

 

Magic Kingdom attractions that cannot be found at Disneyland include Carousel of Progress (another attraction that first opened at the ’64 World’s Fair. Originally it was moved to Disneyland after the fair ended, then it was dismantled and sent to the Magic Kingdom to be reassembled and where it remains today); Casey Jr. Splash and Soak; Country Bear Jamboree; Enchanted Tales with Belle; Goofy’s Barnstormer; (as mentioned earlier, it is very similar to Gadget’s Go-Coaster in Disneyland); The Hall of Presidents; Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor; Seven Dwarfs Mine Train; Tomorrowland Transit Authority; Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid (This attraction can be found in Disney California Adventure, a separate park across the way from Disneyland).  The Main Street Cinema, which used to be at the Magic Kingdom, is now only available in California. You can see the original Mickey Mouse Cartoon “Steamboat Willie” at the cinema.

Main Street Cinema from Disneyland

 

So, as you can see, there are many similarities, but there are also a number of differences between the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and its predecessor, Disneyland. This blog concentrated on the attractions, but the shops can vary as well, although some are the same. Many people love the idea that Disneyland was “Walt’s Park” and the man himself walked the streets there many times. Some people feel nothing beats Florida’s Magic Kingdom. When we compare Magic Kingdom to Disneyland, we can see that each has its own charm and attractions to enjoy. I hope everyone gets a chance to experience both coasts at some point!

Train Station at Disneyland

Train Station at the Magic Kingdom

 

~Marilyn

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