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Disneyland vs California Adventure: Which One Wins?

Disneyland vs California Adventure Park… Which One Really Wins?

I was fortunate enough to celebrate my birthday a little early this year at The Happiest Place on Earth! I have a wonderful friend who gave me a park hopper pass to Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure for the day, and I can never pass up a trip to Disneyland so I went with my sisters. I may be an adult but going to Disneyland never gets old, and with the recent additions to Disneyland California Adventure, there is just as much to be excited about now as there was when I was a child!

I celebrated my birthday at Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure last year too. Since then many people have asked: which park is better? Everyone knows that Disneyland tickets are expensive, especially after the recent price increase.  An adult park hopper pass costs $167-185 depending on peak season, which is steep on almost any budget. You can save a little money by visiting one park, which can be a good idea for those who don’t want to exhaust themselves by jamming two parks into one visit. So for all those inquiring minds out there, I’ll do my best to help you decide which park is right for you!

 Disneyland California Adventure:

Disneyland vs California Adventure: Which One Wins?

This is a photo from Disneyland California Adventure Park!

I like to think of Disneyland California Adventure as Disneyland’s cool big sister. Disneyland California Adventure Park manages to maintain it’s family friendly atmosphere while kicking it up a notch with thrill rides and a boardwalk where you can purchase beer. It still has the nostalgia of your childhood with characters from your favorite Disney films walking around and performing, but many of the characters and lands are dedicated to characters from more recent films like The Little Mermaid and A Bug’s Life, which is cool for 80’s and 90’s kids like myself. I also appreciate the shows here because they are enjoyable for all ages. The Genie in the Aladdin show was hilarious, and made jokes about everything from Aladdin’s muscles to Honey Boo Boo.

Disneyland vs California Adventure park - which one to choose!

California Screamin’ is the big roller coaster! It’s about as fast as Space Mountain, but really fun because it has a loop and awesome views of Anaheim when you reach the top!

I remember when Disneyland California Adventure first opened in 2001. Many people complained that it was nothing more than a boardwalk with a roller coaster and wasn’t worth the money. Fast forward a decade, add eight lands, throw in some brand new rides with the latest technology, and you have a full day of fun!

Disneyland vs California Adventure - carsland ride

Cars Land is where the brand new Radiator Springs Racer’s ride is – grab a FastPass because the lines are always long!

Best Rides: Guardians of the Galaxy, Soarin’ Over California, California Screamin’ Coaster, The Little Mermaid, Radiator Springs Racers

Other useful info: I noticed that Disney California had a lot less little children running around (or being pushed in strollers) than Disneyland. I saw more teens and adults there to enjoy themselves. Be sure to grab your fast passes early because they sell out almost immediately!

Highlight: My favorite thing about Disneyland California Adventure is the Mad T Party, a nightly dance party with drinks (the ice cubes light up – how cool is that?), performances, live band and dancing! Check out the short clip below to get a feel for what the vibe is like:

The band features the Mad Hatter and Alice on vocals, the March Hare on bass, Dormouse on guitar, Caterpillar on keyboard and the Cheshire Cat on drums and usually play classic hits like “Hit Me Baby One More Time” and “Sweet Child of Mine.”  Afterwards there’s a DJ that comes out dressed in rabbit ears, and that’s when the party really gets crackin’.

*Editors note: the Mad Tea Party has unfortunately been replaced. You'll have to check the schedule online or when you arrive to see what they have in store for guests.

Disneyland or California Adventure Park - which one to choose - mad hatter tea party



Disneyland vs California Adventure theme park

One thing about deciding on Disneyland vs California Adventure is that you have to choose if you want to see the castle!

Disneyland is of course the classic choice. There is nothing that will ever change that. It is the first one of it’s kind, and the Disneyland experience is something that engages almost all of your senses. The sweet smell of ice cream as you walk down Main Street, the sight of Sleeping Beauty’s Beautiful pink castle, and the sound of classic Disney melodies as you make your way around the park come together to create a magical experience for children and adults. I don’t know how they do it, but it gets me every time!

Disneyland vs California Adventure theme park

Make sure you head to Toon Town first – it closes early for the fireworks!

Disneyland is best for traveling with your family, because the characters appeal to all generations. It’s divided into eight themed lands—Main Street, U.S.A., Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Mickey’s Toontown, Frontierland, Critter Country, New Orleans Square and Adventureland where you can sail with pirates, meet fairy-tale princesses, explore outer space and party with Michael Jackson all in the same day.

It’s definitely geared more towards children, and it is clear that they are the priority at this park. If you are easily annoyed with kids or prefer not to spend too much time in a family-friendly environment then obviously this is not the park you would want to visit.

Disneyland vs California Adventure theme park. These are nightly fireworks

Disneyland has nightly fireworks that illuminate the sky while “Someday My Prince Will Come” plays in the background – definite tear jerker

Best Rides: Indian Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, Splash Mountain

Other useful info: Many of the best things to see require setting aside time to find a spot and wait. If you want the best spot for one of the parades, like Fantasmic, then I recommend you seek out a place at least 45 minutes in advance.

Highlight: I love the parades at Disneyland! The actors look so much like the characters, and they really get into their roles. It’s almost enough to make you believe you’re waving at a real princess! I also LOVE the It’s a Small World ride in Fantasyland. It’s probably my favorite ride on Earth. 🙂

Disneyland vs California Adventure theme park. This is a parade

I loved Marry Poppins as a kid.. She wished me a happy birthday, which was adorable! Lucky me! 😀

Francesca’s Final Say:

I hate to disappoint you guys, but I can’t really declare a “winner” here because I actually think both parks are great to visit! They are at an equal playing field when it comes to rides and entertainment in my opinion. Your experience will simply depend on what you’re looking for! If I had the option to go back and spend only one day at one park, I think I would choose Disney California Adventure, because many of the rides are about the thrill and can be done several times, while many of the rides at Disneyland are about the charm. I don’t know if I’d ride through the Hundred Acre Wood with Pooh back to back like I would the Screamin’ Coaster.

If you are looking for a place to stay near Disneyland and California Adventure Park, have a look at this list of nearby hotels. I recommend the Budget Inn Anaheim, because this hotel is affordable and under half a block away from both parks! There are also plenty of suitable Airbnb accommodations nearby. Rest up and arrive early so you can make the most of your stay – whichever park you choose!

Which park would you choose? Comment below! 🙂

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  2. Leta L

    April 19, 2019 at 11:50 am

    Wow I’m so excited to have come across your blog as I’m still trying to figure out which park to do for one day as I’ll only be available one day and my husband and I with our 17,13,9 year old children want to make the most of our one day and I was thinking of the Park hopper but I’m not sure if that’s a good idea as there is so much to do and see in each park so how will one have enough time to see all of each park ?


    • Francesca M

      April 19, 2019 at 6:39 pm

      I’m glad you found my blog! I definitely recommend picking one if you want to enjoy your day to the fullest


      • Chanté Walker

        May 9, 2019 at 2:52 am

        Hi, I’m going to California next week and have a 19 month old daughter?

        Which park would you recommend ?


        • Francesca M

          May 9, 2019 at 9:40 am

          Hi Chante,
          I would recommend Disneyland because it’s more geared towards small children. However be advised that the park is really packed these days! Try to pick a weekday morning if you can so you can avoid being too overwhelmed


  3. Delta

    April 8, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    Wow! I only have a few days in San Diego and Los Angeles, and we could not decide on a single park … so your publication will help me a lot in my summer vacation this year! Thank you!


    • Francesca M

      April 9, 2018 at 8:42 am

      You’re very welcome! Enjoy!


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  7. Brandi

    September 1, 2017 at 10:41 am

    I know this is an older post, but I am planning to go to California with my boyfriend (who loves roller coasters). Problem is that I’m kind of a baby, even being 22. We just went to Disneyland a few months ago and it was so much fun, although I couldn’t calm my fears to go on the Matterhorn 🙁 but we’re planning to go somewhere at the end of September, and I was maybe thinking California Adventures. Looking at the rides online it looked like they had not all roller coasters. I wouldn’t want to ruin his time there if they are though and I’m more afraid to get on them than not.. what is your best advice? A Part of me really wants to go because it does look like a lot of fun, I really wish I was able to easily get on a ride and erase a fear of a high drop roller coaster, etc. Help! Haha 🙂


    • Francesca M

      September 4, 2017 at 10:58 pm

      Hi Brandi! I think you would still have a good time at California adventure, you would just have to sit a few of the bigger roller coasters out. Don’t forget there are plenty of shows and parades to keep you entertained – it isn’t just about the rides! ^_^ Have fun!


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  10. Alojamiento web

    September 5, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    Although there was still plenty we could have done in Disneyland, we had rode everything on our list, so it was time to head over to California Adventure. The entrances are just opposite each other so it’s easy to go from one to the other.


  11. Rizwan

    June 10, 2016 at 5:07 am

    Hi. I’m travelling to LA with my wife and two boys Age 11 & 9. Could you please advise that which part would be better option as all afraid to ride on speedy rollercoasters.


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  14. Marita

    February 3, 2016 at 2:48 am

    Thank you for this article! I’m from Holland and we would like to go to California in November.
    We need to decide between these 2 parcs and the rides are very similar to Disneyland Paris, so I guess we’ll be visiting Disney California Adventure


  15. Madde

    January 22, 2016 at 10:41 am

    Thank you so much, now I know where to take my children age 3 and 6 years old when we go to disneyland and not the adventure park =) We travel all the whay from sweden, thank you!


    • Francesca M

      January 22, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      Aww, nice! Glad I could help! Enjoy – they’re going to love it!!!


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      Yes, there will! After the big anniversary!


  22. lauren

    March 19, 2015 at 8:26 am

    i was looking for something to help me decide which one for only a day. We have more teens in our family, so i think I’m going to go for CA, but i also like Disneyland because it’s a classy choice!


    • Francesca M

      March 19, 2015 at 12:31 pm

      Hi Lauren,

      Disneyland CA is definitely a good choice for teens! Just make sure to double check the website, they’re undergoing renovations right now for their anniversary so a lot of rides may be closed!

      Thanks for reading!


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  26. Mark

    February 22, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    Nice article! I’d go with Disneyland Park over Disney California Adventure. I think the HUGE collection of top-notch rides is superior on balance (Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Space Mountain Start Tours…), plus the atmosphere of makes it feel much more like you’ve left the real world behind (whereas at California Adventure you can see telephone poles that are outside the park… boo!!!).

    If you get a chance to visit the four parks of Walt Disney World, let us all know what you think of those!


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  29. Vicky and Buddy

    February 3, 2015 at 4:03 am

    I haven’t been to either park, but I grew up in Florida so I’ve been to Disneyworld a bunch of times. Besides the waits in lines, I don’t think you can really have a bad time in theme parks. They’re so much fun!


  30. Dana

    February 2, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    I’ve been to Disneyland but not Disneyland California Adventure. Now I want to go! I’m trying to talk my husband into a visit to Disney Paris this year. Maybe we will make it to CA in 2016.


  31. Brenda

    February 1, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    I would probably enjoy the original more because I get a bit sick in most rides. We went to Disney World in 2012 and Peter Pan was our favorite!


    • Francesca M

      February 2, 2015 at 10:51 pm

      Looove Peter Pan! They have it at Disneyland as well 🙂


  32. Brent N Stacey-jean Inion

    February 1, 2015 at 8:53 am

    Thanks for your family-oriented and informative post. We’ll keep this in mind when we travel back north.


  33. Toni | 2 Aussie Travellers

    February 1, 2015 at 9:39 am

    Pretty hard to pick a winner but I’m a Disneyland fan, probably because I’m not so much into the thrill rides and love the ones with a theme and story that goes with them. I really want to go to Disney in Japan next but we always seem to run out of time doing other things and don’t quite make it.


    • Francesca M

      February 2, 2015 at 10:49 pm

      Wow cool! I’d love to read about it if you do go!!


  34. Brent N Stacey-jean Inion

    February 1, 2015 at 8:51 am

    Thank you for a post that addresses family concerns. We’ll keep your thoughts in mind for when we travel up the coast. Thanks!


  35. Howard @ Backroad Planet

    February 1, 2015 at 2:31 am

    Love California, but never been to either of the Disney parks. Not a huge Disney fan, other than the movies, but if I had to pick a Disney theme park it would be EPCOT in Orlando. Probably because of the international and educational emphasis.


  36. Carol

    February 1, 2015 at 2:13 am

    I wonder if it is like Disney World in Orlando where Epcot Center is more for the older kids like us??? That was the one I chose!


    • Francesca M

      February 2, 2015 at 10:49 pm

      I’ve been there as well, and I’d say that Epcot is far more for adults than the Disney Parks in California!


  37. Mary

    January 31, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    Since my kids are getting older I think Disney Adventure would be more our speed. I honestly didn;t even know that existed and though Disneyland was the only option there. Thanks for sharing, we head to the West Coast soon so maybe we’ll add that in to the plan.


    • Francesca M

      February 2, 2015 at 10:50 pm

      Great! I’m glad I was able to show you something new 🙂 I’d say California Adventure is definitely the better park for teens!


  38. Fiona @ London-Unattached

    January 31, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    Do you know what – I could tell you were not going to be able to pick a winner! You looked as if you were having such a wonderful time!


  39. Nadeen

    December 23, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    looks like you had a great time at both! I have been to all the Disney World parks in Orlando but will need to check out the ones in California on my next visit! I love parades and Classic Disney!


  40. Valentina

    July 15, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Agreed! I can’t pick a park. Some days I’m in the mood for some good summer CA Adventure fun with my friends and others I want a bit of magic!


  41. Jamie Chan

    July 9, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    I went to Disneyland California with my family last year, it was so fun! Nice post


  42. Jess

    June 21, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Hope you had a great birthday, Francesca. My sister and I went to Disney and Disney California last year and loved it! I wish we’d known about the Mad T dance party at the time, though. Looks like it was a lot of fun. 🙂


    • One Girl: One World

      July 6, 2014 at 5:07 am

      Hi Jess! Thanks so much for your comment! Yes, the Mad T Party is a good time! You’ll have to check it out next time!


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My name is Francesca and I'm the editor-in-chief of One Girl One World! Life is a journey, and I'm excited to help you live yours out loud! Be it finally embracing your natural curls, perfecting you skincare routine, or traveling solo for the first time - you'll be sure to find the inspiration and resources you need right here.

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