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5 Reasons Disneyland Is More Relaxing Than Disney World

We hear a lot about Disney World, but here’s why the land of magic is worth a trip 

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It’s hard to beat the allure of Disney World. Covering 43 square miles, it offers everything from roller coasters to golf courses to a replica African safari. The cluster of theme parks has made Orlando, Florida, one of the top tourist cities in the world.

But all those options can also be overwhelming.

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“Walt Disney World is a wonderful place, but you need a vacation after your vacation,” says Seth Kubersky, author of The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2022. With four theme parks, two waterparks and hundreds of entertainment options, even the most prepared visitor is likely to get hit with a case of FOMO (fear of missing out.)

“It’s thrilling and exciting, and it’s not relaxing at all,” Kubersky says.

For travelers looking for theme park fun — and the thrill of crossing everything off a to-do list — Walt Disney’s first theme park, in Anaheim, California, checks both boxes. 

At just 500 acres, Disneyland Resort, with its two parks — Disneyland and Disney California Adventure — is manageable. “Because of its scale, you can get your arms around it,” Kubersky says. “Visitors can feel like they’ve seen it all, without feeling overwhelmed.” 

Although it’s designed for families, Disneyland is not just for kids. For adults who grew up watching the studio’s animated films and remember Sunday evening television broadcasts of The Wonderful World of Disney, a visit is bound to evoke nostalgia. Others enjoy the park’s imaginative immersive designs and, of course, the thrill rides. 

Here’s why travelers should consider making the trip.

Disneyland is the original

If you love theme parks, thank animator and film producer Walt Disney, whose company will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2023. (The kickoff celebration is at Disneyland from Sept. 9–11.)

Before Disneyland opened in 1955, amusement parks with rides and attractions built around a specific theme really didn’t exist. Disney planned his creation as an alternative to roadside carnivals, which he considered dirty and unsavory. He wanted to offer a wholesome, educational place that appealed to children as well as adults. 

Today you can walk the grounds Disney himself designed, and see his four original “lands” — Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland and Fantasyland — all featuring some of the original (but often-updated) rides. 

You can even find sites with a tie to Disney himself. For example, just after entering the park, look for the firehouse on the left, where every evening a lamp glows from the second story. This was the apartment Disney used when he stayed overnight at the park, which allowed him to walk the grounds early in the morning, before the public arrived.

spinner image Socially-distanced riders inside Space Mountain at Disneyland
Space Mountain
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Same rides, less hassle

The park’s smaller size makes it easier to experience many of the same headliner attractions found at Disney World, including Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge; Space Mountain; Pirates of the Caribbean; and It’s a Small World. The resort also offers top-notch Broadway-style shows and entertainment, along with parades and fireworks.

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Plus, park-goers can experience Disneyland-exclusive rides, including Indiana Jones Adventure, Storybook Land Canal Boats, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

Lodging is convenient

Disneyland offers three hotels, including Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, a Craftsman-style building inspired by such National Park lodges as Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn and Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel. The Grand Californian welcomes guests with a soaring, six-story lobby with hewn wooden beams, a giant stone fireplace, and Tiffany-style stained glass and lamps. It has a private park entrance leading straight into Disney California Adventure, something you won’t find anywhere else.

There are dozens of other hotels around Disneyland Resort that put guests within a mile’s walk of the fun. No need for parking, which starts at $30 a day at the theme park.

spinner image Walt Disney is projected in water during the new World of Color at Disneyland
MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Disneyland California Adventure

In 2001, Disneyland opened a companion theme park next door, Disney California Adventure. Top attractions include the Incredicoaster, a ride themed to the Incredibles movies, and the park’s nightly World of Color water and light show, with 1,200 fountains illuminated by LED lights.

The park also has a replica seafront pier, a Hollywood section, and an area inspired by the Avengers movies. Special events throughout the year include December’s popular holiday-themed Viva Navidad. It offers folklorico and salsa dancers, mariachi performers, Mexican-inspired Christmas decorations, and guest appearances from characters like Mirabel from the Oscar-winning animated film Encanto, which is set in Colombia.

spinner image The Creekside Farms filet mignon at Napa Rose restaurant at the Grand Californian Hotel
MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

World-class dining 

The park’s Grand Californian Hotel offers high-end dining at Napa Rose. The menu features decadent entrées, including filet mignon and house-made pasta, plus an impressive selection of wines from around the world. A visit (reservations recommended) is unforgettable, Kubersky says. “You can have a gourmet experience only a few feet away from a roller coaster.” 

 

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