Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World – What’s the difference?


K and I recently returned from 5 whole days in the happiest place on Earth… Orlando! I had such a good time on my trip, I wanted to share my experience and some helpful tips with you on theculturebite.

Being from California and a regular at the Disney parks in Anaheim, it was hard to understand the difference between Disneyland and Walt Disney World other than its size. WDW spans across 30,000 acres of land and consists of 4 parks – Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom. When planning for our trip, our biggest questions were:

“What Disneyland attractions are in Disney World?”
“What makes Disney World different than Disneyland?”
“Do I need to visit all Disney World parks?”

With those questions in mind, I built a grid of all Disneyland / California Adventure attractions and mapped them to the corresponding Disney World park. I’ve also listed out the current unique attractions at each Disney World park.

If you were to ask me which park I’d recommend, I don’t think I could answer. I love each park in its own way. I love Disneyland because I grew up there. I also think the biggest draw of Disneyland and California Adventure are the thrill rides. There are so many between both parks that you could spend an entire day visiting each ride only once. If you’re interested in the entertainment and activities, Orlando’s Walt Disney World is for you. The new Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom is a must see as is Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom and the Main Street Electrical Parade.

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Disneyland – Star Tours: The Adventure Continues

This weekend, we had the opportunity to visit Disneyland!  And as an added bonus, we were able to check out the updated Star Wars ride, Star Tours: The Adventure Continues.  I sorely missed the ride when we took a trip to Disneyland in December and noticed that it was closed for renovations.  What was a Star Wars geek to do in Disneyland without RX-24 to take me on a trip headed for Endor?  Oh yeah, there’s always Jedi Academy!

Star Tours: The Adventure Continues opened in Disneyland on June 3rd, 2011.   We didn’t get to Disneyland until June 4th.  Luckily for us, the hosts for our trip, APTRA, reserved Fast Pass tickets for that day.  The standby line was about 240 minutes.  You read that right, 4 hours!  The fastpass return line was only 20-30 minutes.  Once again, use our strategies for avoiding the long lines at Disneyland! Of course, there were certain parts of the day where the fastpass return lines were 150 minutes.  More on time saving tips on the bottom.

Star Tours now has 54 different variations switching between the characters you encounter and destinations you can travel through.  The ride starts with an encounter with either Darth Vader or an Imperial Probe Droid with SkyTroopers.  On our first ride, Darth Vader stopped our StarSpeeder 1000 to look for a Rebel Spy that is on board.  It turns out that the Rebel Spy photo is actually someone that is on the ride with you.  This adds to fun factor because you never know when you might be the spy!  Darth Vader then uses Force Pull to pull the StarSpeeder towards him, where R2D2 responds by firing lasers at him, allowing us to make our escape out of the Star Tours hangar.

We light speed our way to our next scene.  This part can either be on Tatooine, Hoth, or Kashyyyk.  On our first ride, we went to Tatooine and got caught up in a Pod Race.  The motions and scenes were actually pretty neat here.  As we fly into a few racers, we latch onto a pair of the Podracers turbines to give us extra speed.  It’s neat seeing Sebulba from the Episode I here.

Once we get back into space, you encounter a Rebel leader that asks for your help in Episode IV hologram-style.  This could be either Princess Leia, Admiral Ackbar, or Yoda.  On our first ride, Princess Leia says something about the rebel spy, and “Help my Star Tours, you are my only hope”.  C-3PO agrees to help, and we’re off to another destination.

The scenes for the final destination can be Naboo, Coruscant, or the Death Star (above Geonosis).  We had the Death Star for our first ride.  When you exit lightspeed, you encounter Boba Fett next to a mid-construction Death Star.  He’s here to get the bounty for the revel spy.  After fighting with him and flying through the Death Star, you make it safely back to a Rebel Hangar.

Our second ride had us speeding away with the Millenium Falcon from Skytroopers looking for the spy.  We took a podrace trip through Tatooine again.  Admiral Ackbar asked for our help in bringing the Spy back this time.  On this ride we took a trip through Naboo.  You start out in the sky, but C-3PO loses control and we end up in the water (nearly hitting Jar Jar Binks).  Here we are attacked by Naboo’s Sea Monsters and finally fly (swim?) our way out of the water and into a hangar.  In the hangar, we crashed into a starfighter and droid.  The3D effects are great and really make you duck out of the way as the starfighter almost hits you in the face.

On our last ride, we had Darth Vader, Princess Leia, and Naboo again, but the second scene was on Hoth.  I thought this was really neat, as you fly through the snow, nearly buy it under an AT-AT and finally lose control while sliding down a snowy mountain path.  I’m hoping I get to encounter Kashyyyk, Yoda, and Coruscant the next time I get to a Disney resort!  Needless to say, I had a lot of fun on this ride and would definitely recommend it to everyone!

The beginning of the queue still has the familiar C-3PO, R2D2 and StarSpeeder interactions.

Rex and the Baggage Scanner.  The Baggage Scanner has some pretty funny interactions.

Alright, here are the tips as promised (in addition to these):

  1. Get to the park at opening.  Or, if you are a Disney resort guest, an hour before opening.  This allows you to grab your first Fast Pass early.
  2. Once you are in the park, skip the photos in the front and grab your entire family’s tickets and run over to grab your fast passes.  While everyone and their mom’s are taking their photos at the Mickey Lawn, you will get your Star Tours passes at 8:15am for 11:30am.  Once you get the fast passes, return to take photos, or…
  3. Ride the other Fast Pass rides.  This is your chance to wait in line for Space Mountain or Indiana Jones.
  4. After two hours of your first fast pass, grab that second Star Tours fast pass for 11:00pm.
  5. Run over to California Adventures (opens at 10am) to grab your World of Color fast passes.
  6. While we’re here, let’s wait in line for Ariel’s Undersea Adventure or Toy Story Mania.  From there, do anything you want.
  7. 9:00pm Watch the World of color.  You can also watch Fantasmic and/or the Fireworks show.
  8. Sometime between 10:00pm-12:00am, time to use the Star Tours fast passes.  I choose to ride late, because the families have to go home and the wait times shorten to 20 minutes.  The wait times during the day for Standby was around four hours and for fast pass, two and a half hours!
  9. Another tip for the ride itself, the back row corners are the parts with the most turbulence.  Those seats are for the thrill seekers out there!
  10. Also, if you don’t care much for parades, fireworks, or World of Color, these are the best times to wait in line for rides!

Let me know what variations you got!  Also, did anyone find the hidden Mickey’s on this ride?