This is for all of you who might be trying to decide where to go on vacation. I like to think of myself as a Disneyworld knowledge base but I had never been to Disneyland. How was I going to get around? Where should I go first? So I have developed a handy comparison for you.
1. They have some of the same rides but they aren't the same.
Space Mountain - better at Disneyland (cars are better, ride is smoother, it is darker inside)
Haunted Mansion - MUCH better at Disneyland because they themed it to Nightmare before Christmas. I don't like this ride at all but I rode it twice because of the theming
Splash Mountain - the one at Disneyland is a little longer but overall pretty much the same
Big Thunder Mountain - the one at Disneyland is a little longer but overall pretty much the same
Tower of Terror - different beginning to get to the top of the drop but overal the same awesome freefall experience
It's a Small World - much longer at Disneyland so if you don't want the song stuck in your head, don't ride it
Winnie the Pooh - Disneyworld is much better plus it is in Fantasyland instead of being way back behind Splash Mountatin at Disneyland
Soarin' - exactly the same
Pirates of the Caribbean - Disneyland is longers but I didn't notice much of a difference
2. Four Worlds compared to Two Worlds
Disneyworld has essentially four parks while Disneyland has two. That means that the crowds seem much larger at Disneyland because you can't spread the people out as much. Avoid any kind of school vacation time at Disneyland. Trust me, the crowds are terrible.
3. Fast pass and single rider
One of the best inventions for an amusement park is Fast pass. It seems like all of the popular Disneyworld rides have this option which basically makes an appointment for you to go to the head of the line. So no wait time. We used this to great success everytime we went to Disneyworld. Somehow Disneyland did not get the memo and only had a few rides with this option. This made it extremely difficult to avoid long lines (over 60 minutes in most cases). I don't go on vacation to stand in lines. That makes me cranky and defeats the purpose of relaxation. The other option that Disneyworld has is single riders. You choose that and get put in a seat when there is an odd number of guests on a ride. It works really well if you don't care who you sit with and it usually goes extremely fast. They only had three rides at both parks with this option.
The staff at both parks are great. But the visitors are different. I thought dealing with the "East Coast" crowd at Disneyworld was bad (especially since in Oklahoma people are pretty friendly and respect your space) but the people at Disneyland were just outright rude. I realize it was crowded, but please don't step right in front of me, push my daughter out of the way, and then look at us like it was our fault. Respect my personal bubble space. Also during shows please don't put small children on top of your shoulders so they can see. I respect you wanting to show your child the show, but please respect my right to see the show too.
5. Nighttime shows
Fantasmic at Disneyland is much better than at Disneyworld but the venue makes it lacking. Everyone just crowds around the lake instead of a separate theater where you can sit. And the World of Color at California Adventure is a joke to watch. You have to get a Fast Pass and line up an hour ahead of the schedule start of the show. Then it is a mad rush to stand around yet another lake for the show. If you aren't the first one in, you can't see anything up close. And if you are short, just forget about it. I enjoyed what I could see of the show, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.
6. Early Entry
We always stay on property at Disneyworld because of the extra benefits of going early and staying late. In California we didn't do that and stayed a couple of miles away. However the City Pass (I definitely recommend getting it if you are going to multiple places) offered one day of early entry with the three day pass. Unfortunately the parking lots don't open until one hour before normal park entry. So that extra hour we were supposed to have to get in got reduced to thirty minutes by the time we parked and rode the bus in from the parking lot. Come on Disney, get your act together.
7. Lack of Employees
I'm not sure why Disneyland thinks it doesn't need to be fully staffed during the busiest time of the year. There were a couple of rides that seemed to be staffed by two people. And they were too far away from the line to point people to the cars so the ride would be half empty while the line to ride was 30 minutes long. It got so bad that we were yelling at the people at the beginning of the line to just get in place. Really how hard is it to figure out that two people go into each seat. We never had this problem at Disneyworld.
8. Different Rides
Best rides at only Disneyland: California Screamin', Alladin show
Best rides at only Disneyworld: Expedition Everest, Rock n' Roller Coaster