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:
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.
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!
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 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 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.
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. 🙂
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! 🙂