OTPN's Reviews: Disneyland Park in California

Part of the Orlando Theme Park News Team was able to visit the Disneyland Resort in California during the past week. Today we are going to share with you our very own comments and opinions about one of the two parks of the Disneyland Resort: Walt's original Magic Kingdom, the Disneyland Park. Let's start:

Size. Disneyland Park is quite different from the other Magic Kingdom Parks. We have had the opportunity of visiting Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom (of course!) and Disneyland Park in Paris in the past as well, and one of the biggest differences between those two parks and Disneyland Park in California is... size. The park's entrance, the Main Street U.S.A., Adventureland, Fantasyland... all of those themed areas are definitely much smaller and compact in this park. Does that mean that the park is not as beautiful as the other Magic Kingdoms? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Actually, that is one of the many reasons why we fell in love with this park. 

While we love the openness and grandeur of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, we really noticed that Disneyland felt "warmer" due to its intimacy. Many attractions overlap, some queue lines are so small that one person can barely walk through them (and I am very slim!), and the Sleeping Beauty Castle is about four times shorter than Magic Kingdom's Cinderella Castle (that being said, Sleeping Beauty Castle really works at Disneyland due to it being next to the Matterhorn, which is supposed to be much taller than the castle). All of these particulars didn't take anything away from our experience; actually, our experience was enhanced. Everything looks wonderful and harmonious.

Queue lines. If you are used to Walt Disney World's queue lines, you will be amazed when seeing Disneyland's lines. As we stated before, they are much smaller, more cramped, and - generally - not themed (there are a few exceptions, of course. We will mention those later on). They are also mostly outdoors, and some don't even have shade. The queue lines are definitely much better at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Park Hopping. It was truly wonderful being able to leave the park and hop to Disney California Adventure in less than 5 minutes. No monorail was needed, no tram, no car, no bus, nothing. This would never be possible at the Walt Disney World Resort (having four Disney Parks withing walking distance is virtually impossible). It definitely saves a lot of time, and one could even see Fantasmic!, Magical!, and World of Color all in the same night, within just a few minutes between those shows. Nice, isn't it?

Weather. The Southern California climate is known for being dry and comfortable. Call me crazy, but - overall - I prefer Florida's climate. Even though it can get very humid and hot in Florida during the summer, the rest of the year is very, very nice. Also, I personally had to wear a light jacket during the evening hours in Southern California, and we are in August. I am not sure how comfortable it would be for me after September/October. Also, it looks like it never rains in Southern California, and while it may be good for visitors (no cancelled parades, no wet clothes!), I am not sure this is good for the environment. It looked like the land was too dry, and grass didn't seem to grow in many of the areas we visited (outside the Disneyland Resort, of course) unless it was planted. Also, rain is needed for many other reasons...

Let's talk about food. Disneyland Park has many quick-service restaurants and quite a few table-service restaurants as well (that's what Magic Kingdom Park really needs). All of our meals have been great. The food is healthy (if you avoid burgers and fries, of course!), and there is a huge number of different food specialties to choose from. That's completely different than what the Magic Kingdom Park offers, as you will mostly find... well, burgers, fries, and hot dogs there. The food at Disneyland is definitely something we will miss.

The moment you have all been waiting for has arrived. It is time to talk about the attractions themselves! Since most of our Readers are acquainted with Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom (as we are), we will use the following system to let you understand better what we thought about a particular attraction/ride/show (Please, note that the following are completely personal opinions, and they may or may not differ from yours):

[BETTER AT DISNEYLAND]: These attractions are better at Disneyland Park;
[BETTER AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]: These attractions are better at the Walt Disney World Resort;
[SAME LEVEL]: These attractions are overall very similar. Both Disneyland's and Walt Disney World's versions are great (or just as bad!);
[NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]: These attractions currently do not exist at the Walt Disney World Resort;
[NOT RATED]: These attractions could not be rated due to the fact that they were closed or unavailable during our trip. In rare circumstances, we just weren't able to experience them due to lack of time.

Main Street, U.S.A.
  • Disneyland Railroad [BETTER AT DISNEYLAND]:

The Disneyland train is very different from Magic Kingdom's. First of all, Guests face the train stations at all times (like the Wildlife Express Train at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park). The trip around the park may be shorter, but there's much more to see. The Grand Canyon diorama and the Primeval World (with dinosaurs very similar to the ones found inside Ellen's Energy Adventure at Epcot) are beautiful. Also, the park has four different stations, even though this can slow things down...
  • Main Street Cinema [BETTER AT DISNEYLAND]:

Our Main Street Cinema is just a shop now, while theirs is still a cinema. No seats, though.
  • Main Street Vehicles [BETTER AT DISNEYLAND]:

Even though the vehicles are only out in the morning hours (just like at the Magic Kingdom Park), the Disneyland Park still has the gorgeous Omnibus. That's a plus in our book.
  • The Disney Gallery [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:
A nice little museum, nothing major.
  • The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:

This is actually a mix between the Hall of Presidents and The American Adventure. It only features one Audio-Animatronic figure (President Abraham Lincoln) and it lasts less than twenty minutes, but it is a nice attraction where you can cool off and learn something about the history of the United States of America. Of course, this is by no means at the same level of The American Adventure or even the Hall of Presidents.
  • Magical! Fireworks Spectacular [BETTER AT DISNEYLAND]:

We found Magical! to be better than Wishes - A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams. Maybe it's because we have seen Wishes way too many times, but we thought that the soundtrack and the fireworks used were better. Also, they not only have Tinkerbell flying around the castle; they also have Dumbo, and he flies without using his feather. Truly amazing sights, let me tell you...


The Walt Disney World version goes much higher, even though Disneyland's version has a better theming (we are in love with Discoveryland's theme, which is also present at Disneyland Park in Paris).

The Disneyland version of Autopia looks much better, and there are quite a few different paths to choose from. Also, at Disneyland this attraction has a much smaller footprint. Walt Disney World's version (called Tomorrowland Speedway) takes a lot of space, but it is useless.
  • Disneyland Monorail [BETTER AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:

Disneyland's monorail is more of an attraction than a mean of transportation. It is much smaller (but better in appearance), and stops at Downtown Disney and Tomorrowland.
  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:

This attraction will feel quite familiar to Walt Disney World fans. In fact, it has a lot of the scenes of The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot, and a lot of scenes not present at Epcot. It actually takes place in a submarine (which is not really comfortable, and it would definitely not be suitable for those who are claustrophobic or that dislike tight and enclosed spaces), and there are quite a few neat effects worth seeing.
  • Innoventions [SAME LEVEL]:

It is just as bad as at Epcot. The Innoventions Dream Home at the bottom floor is pretty cool, though.
  • Jedi Training Academy [SAME LEVEL]:
This is the same show seen at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It seems to fit better at DHS, though.
  • Space Mountain [BETTER AT DISNEYLAND]:

Disneyland's Space Mountain is much more "modern" and exciting. It is definitely smaller (Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain actually has two separate tracks), but it is overall a much better and thrilling ride.
  • Star Tours: The Adventures Continue [SAME LEVEL]:

This is a copy of Disney's Hollywood Studios' ride. The exterior is not as beautiful, but the indoor (!) queue line is actually a bit longer than the Florida version.
  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters [BETTER AT DISNEYLAND]:
The cannons of the Disneyland version can be fully detached from the ride vehicles, and that allows Guests to take a better aim at the various targets found throughout the ride. That being said, the ride time seemed to be shorter in California.
  • Captain EO Tribute [BETTER AT DISNEYLAND]:

Disneyland's pre-show is located outdoors, the theater is much smaller, and some of Epcot's special effects are missing, but the theater itself moves a lot during the musical parts of the show, making it even more entertaining and fun. It basically "forces" Guests to dance along with Michael Jackson. It can be hilarious watching people bouncing in their seats. Definitely something we will miss.

  • Alice in Wonderland [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:

A wonderful dark ride that retells the story of Alice in Wonderland. We didn't really understand the outdoor section (it is really bare), but it feels like a classic Fantasyland attraction.
  • Casey Jr. Circus Train [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:

A small train brings you around the charming Storybook Land. Great for kids, very relaxing for adults. Just remember not to sit directly behind the locomotive, as you will breathe some nasty (but not dangerous) fumes.
This is the newest area of the park. It includes a themed meet-and-greet as well as a very tiny theater that presents two different shows throughout the day. Very nice minor addition.
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant [BETTER AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:

Walt Disney World's version recently doubled in size and added a great indoor queue line/playing area for kids, so we have to give a point to the Magic Kingdom Park in this case. That being said, Disneyland's version is better than Magic Kingdom's former Dumbo attraction.
  • Fantasyland Theater - featuring Mickey and the Magical Map [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:

One of the park's newest shows. We thoroughly enjoyed it, especially thanks to the wonderful and very talented Cast Members who bring the story to life. There are not a lot of props on the stage other than a few buckets and a gigantic screen, but it is definitely great seeing some of the most famous Disney princesses singing and joining Mickey on his journey to imagination. Certainly better than Magic Kingdom's Dream Along with Mickey.
  • "it's a small world" [SAME LEVEL]:

Yes, the outside facade is bigger, and there are a lot of Disney characters present, but the attraction itself seems to be "better" at the Magic Kingdom Park. That said, when it comes to "it's a small world," the word "better" should be used cautiously...
  • King Arthur Carrousel [BETTER AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:

Disneyland's carousel may be older, but Magic Kingdom's is much bigger.
  • Mad Tea Party [SAME LEVEL]:

Disneyland's version of this attraction is much more charming, especially due to the beautiful lanterns that hang above the tea cups (and the lack of a roof... how can they do that??), but the Florida version includes a nice tea pot in the center, and... it has a roof. That is why we give props to both versions (even though we are not fond of spinning rides. Ugh!).
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds [NOT RATED]:

This ride was (sadly) closed during our visit. It reopened the very last evening, when we were at Disney California Adventure (even though both parks are really close, we had some plans for the rest of the evening)...
Walt Disney World's meet-and-greet area is larger and better themed. It is nothing major anyway, though.
  • Mr. Toad's Wild Ride [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:

This has to be our favorite Fantasyland dark ride. It is simple, entertaining  quite fast (for a Fantasyland dark ride), and has some great characters (Mr. Toad is especially a very interesting and fun character). We simply cannot believe that our Magic Kingdom Park was so foolish to remove its version. We fell in love with this attraction, and we rode it more than five times during our short trip.
  • Peter Pan's Flight [BETTER AT DISNEYLAND]:

This version is maintained much better, and it also looks much better that the Walt Disney World counterpart (especially the volcanoes of the Neverland section of the ride). This reminded us just how much help our versions of Peter Pan's Flight needs.
  • Pinocchio's Daring Journey [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:

Another great Fantasyland dark ride. It looks exactly the same as Disneyland Paris' version.
  • Pixie Hollow [BETTER AT DISNEYLAND]:
Our Pixie Hollow is indoors, while Disneyland's version is completely outdoors and more immersive. Of course, keep in mind that this is only a meet-and-greet area, not an attraction.
  • Meet Rapunzel and Flynn Rider [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:
Again, we are talking about a meet-and-greet, so it is nothing too exciting.
  • Sleeping Beauty Castle [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:

Much smaller than Cinderella Castle, this very charming castle actually houses a small walk-though attraction that retells the story of Sleeping Beauty through some elaborate dioramas that also include some nice special effects. The only thing that it is missing is a nice full-size Audio-Animatronic dragon (like the one found at Disneyland Park in Paris). Great castle.

A very relaxing little corner with a waterfall and some statues of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It is especially great at night.
  • Snow White's Scary Adventures [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:

The story of Snow White is completely messed up in this version of the ride, but it has some modern special effects that put it above the former Walt Disney World version. Sadly, we do not have this attraction any longer, even though we personally don't miss it as much as Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
  • Storybook Land Canal Boats [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:

Another very relaxing boat ride that goes through the miniature villages of Storybook Land

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad [NOT RATED]:

This attraction was closed for refurbishment during our trip. It will reopen this fall.
A themed petting farm with a large theater.
  • Fantasmic! [BETTER AT DISNEYLAND]:

The Disneyland version of the show is just a tad bit shorter, but it also has some exclusive scenes (include the Peter Pan segment), better fountains and lasers, and a truly magnificent dragon (yes, it is really nice-looking!). It puts to shame our own dragon, which is a head on a stick. So sad...
  • Frontierland Shooting Exposition [BETTER AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:
Walt Disney World's version is a bit larger, otherwise they both look very similar.
  • Golden Horseshoe Stage [BETTER AT DISNEYLAND]:
This restaurant is constantly closed at the Walt Disney World Resort, while it is always operating at the Disneyland Park (at least, it was during our visit, which was off-season). It also has a lot of characters walking around the tables interacting with Guests. A very nice place to hang out and just enjoy the entertainment.
  • Mark Twain Riverboat [SAME LEVEL]:

The boat is slightly bigger at Disneyland, and there is a little more to see there.
  • Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island [BETTER AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:
Disneyland's version seems to be smaller. Also, their fort was closed during our visit. If you will be visiting this attraction, though, make sure you don't miss the Dead Man's Grotto. There are a lot of nice interactive features over there, which the Walt Disney World version is missing (also due to the fact that our version is still themed after Tom Sawyer's adventures).
  • Rafts to Tom Sawyer's Island [BETTER AT DISNEYLAND]:
The rafts themselves are much larger at Disneyland.
  • Sailing Ship Columbia [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:

A truly beautiful ship that sails on the Rivers of America. It follows the same path as the Mark Twain Riverboat, but it offers some additional thrills and interactive moments...

  • Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:
One word: "WOW!!!!" That is exactly what we said after riding this ride for the very first time. We had to ride it other five times to really enjoy all of the details of the queue line (which is almost half a mile long!) and of the ride itself. The only thing that this ride has in common with DINOSAUR at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park is the ride system. Everything else (the theming, the special effects, the queue, the narration, the pre-show) is much, much, MUCH more superior in this version of the ride. Even though we love dinosaurs in general, Indiana Jones Adventure is much cooler. It even has three different beginnings, fire, scarab beetles, and more! Simply an amazing dark ride that is still incredibly relevant after more than 15 years after opening.

This version felt shorter. It also lacks the temple section of the Walt Disney World version. The piranhas effect didn't impress us at all, unfortunately. It is still a great ride, of course.
  • Tarzan's Treehouse [BETTER AT DISNEYLAND]:

There is much more to see in this version of the Treehouse. Nothing too exciting, but worth seeing at least once.
  • Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room [BETTER AT DISNEYLAND]:

This show is longer than the Walt Disney World version, but those additional segments are really irrelevant. Our version could be considered superior, but Disneyland's pre-show and the presence of a nice fountain in the middle of the theater still make it a better overall experience (even though Magic Kingdom's version has better LED lights and a bigger theater).

New Orleans Square
  • Haunted Mansion [BETTER AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:

The first few scenes from the Walt Disney World version are completely missing. Also, the entry area is much smaller and more cramped, and the sound has not yet been upgraded in this version of the ride.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean [MUCH BETTER AT DISNEYLAND]:

Disneyland's version is a TRUE MASTERPIECE, period. The truncated  Walt Disney World version is half the size and the length of this beautiful ride. The swamp, the indoor restaurant, the two drops, the longer cave scene, the longer finale, and the journey back to the upper floor of the building all make a gigantic difference. You have to experience it to believe what we are saying. Even though the queue line is not as detailed as Magic Kingdom's, the ride itself is a thousand times better. We already looked down upon our own version when we compared it to Disneyland Paris' version and the Corsari attraction of Gardaland, but we now dislike it even more. Two thumbs up to the Disneyland version. Walt did - once again - a marvelous job.

Critter Country
  • Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:

Be prepared to work really hard to ride this! We didn't really like it too much, and it looks like locals also avoid it...
  • Splash Mountain [SAME LEVEL]:

Very similar to our version, even though the logs are smaller, and some Audio-Animatronics were not working (it's funny, but our version may actually be superior to Disneyland's in terms of quality now!)
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh [SAME LEVEL]:
Both versions are nice. Disneyland's show-building is hidden underneath a beautiful hill and has an outdoor loading/unloading station (which is very well themed, by the way), but Walt Disney World's version also has the "bouncing" effect that is not present in the Disneyland version.

Mickey's Toontown

Mickey's Toontown at Disneyland is much, much superior than the former Mickey's Toontown Fair that was located in the current Storybook Circus area of the Magic Kingdom Park. The facades of this themed area are very extensive, highly detailed, interactive, and - overall - there is a lot to do and see there.

  • Chip 'n Dale's Treehouse [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:
  • Gadget's Go Coaster [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:
  • Goofy's Playhouse [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:
  • Mickey's House and Meet Mickey [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]:
  • Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin [NOT FOUND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD]

This is a nice dark ride based on Roger Rabbit's story. It has a remarkable indoor queue line, and there are many nice special effects, but the option of spinning the ride's vehicles is absolutely useless. It takes four people to spin it, and the vehicle only has space for two people. Go figure...

So, as you can clearly see, we absolutely loved the Disneyland Park. We plan on going back again next year. And the following. And the one after that. Yes, it is really a fabulous park, and there are a lot of different experiences, rides, and shows that make us want to visit the park again soon. We can't wait to see it again!

In the meantime, we will see YOU again soon, as we prepare a similar review for Disney California Adventure. We also have to post almost 2,000 photos of the Disneyland Resort, Universal Studios Hollywood, Madame Tussaud's Hollywood, Los Angeles, and much more! Stay tuned...


  1. Awsome review!!! I always wanted to make my way out there but only got as far as Utah. Now I need to check out their Pirates ride. It's twice as long??? :D

  2. Wow what a great report!
    Makes me realize how pathetics Disney World has become compared to Disneyland. :P
    Way to drop the ball on that one Disney.

  3. Good post on Disneyland. I would like to point out that Disney World has different attractions than Disneyland, like the laugh floor. Disney World consists of four parks, where Disneyland has only two. It should also be noted that Disneyland has a higher percentage of their business from local residents, where Disney World is more of an international operation.
    This means the scale of operations between the two is vastly different. The operations and maintenance budget for Disney World is huge. This means that more money is spent on just trying to keep things up. In essence Disney World is a super sized Disneyland, with the budget to support it.
    I believe that Disney is now making more of an effort to get Disney World in better shape. This was shown with the expansion of Fantasy Land and the addition of Avatar Land at Animal Kingdom. In essence we need to look at all of the variables before passing judgement on one park or another.

  4. Great review with ride comparisons. I found your site in preparation for my first trip to Orlando parks this November - as a So Cal native/Disneyland expert it was fun to see your thoughts.

  5. "the addition of Avatar Land at Animal Kingdom."
    I thought you said "in better shape". XP

  6. Thanks for this interesting update. Nice to read your comparisons of the rides.
    I just wonder how much your opinions were swayed by the fact that WDW is so familiar to you, whereas Disneyland was a new (albeit similar) experience.
    It would be interesting to hear a review of WDW from a Disneyland regular.
    Even if Disneyland IS superior in many ways, there is no escaping the fact that WDW is still very, very good!

  7. As a native Floridian, Disneyland looks like the same set up as Universal Orlando; two parks side by side, two huge parking garages right off the highway, and a few hotels. What makes WDW unique is not seeing the outside world at all, even if "future world" is a trip back to the 1980s.

  8. Wonderful report! I enjoyed seeing this park and I agree with most of what you said. I was just there for the first time back in January. I can’t believe the Matterhorn was closed for your visit! I was looking forward to that ride since it isn’t in WDW and I enjoyed it but it is uncomfortable but I still liked it. I liked the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters better but I was not good at them compared to the one in MK. I’m not sure why as I’m decent at the Men in Black ride at Universal Studios. I did like It’s a Small World in DL better. I loved the exterior and also was there for their holiday overlay so that might be why I liked it better. Big Thunder was closed again? I thought it was down for a while earlier in the year when I went. Maybe it has been down all this time? I haven’t been following much about DL since it will be awhile before I can get back there. I was blown away at Pirates of the Caribbean! I think it was my favorite. I also ate at the Blue Bayou and just loved the ride and atmosphere. The Indiana Jones ride was also a nice surprise! I felt that the DL Splash Mountain had a better variety of animals and liked it better even though it was shorter (at least I think it was shorter). I miss that there was no peoplemover but I too really enjoyed my time at these parks and on the west coast. I am from the east coast and never really was out west and was fascinated by it. Now I get all the fuss over DL! I can’t wait to see the rest of your pictures and reports! Thanks for sharing!

    I too wonder if my opinions are swayed since I am more familiar with WDW and agree that there are superior things in DL but WDW is still good. I just miss the days where everything was in good working condition.

  9. Good review! The only two things I would say is that while WDW's Haunted Mansion is much better on the inside, the exterior of the Disneyland Haunted Mansion is superior. And the audio 'upgrade' in WDW was actually a downgrade, IMO. I also think that the Splash Mountains are actually quite different from each other and I would actually give the nod to WDW's version. Overall, Disneyland Park is significantly better than the Magic Kingdom in almost every way, but on few rare instances, the Orlando park does outdo it's sister in Anaheim.


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