I recently had the opportunity to visit Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida, and of course, when you’re used to walking the alleys of Disneyland Paris, you can’t help but “compare”: it’s much better at home, it’s much better there…
But what about it? Ready for a little visit?
First we set the scene:
- Disneyland, in California, was the first park to open in 1955. In fact, it is the only finished park Walt Disney saw during his lifetime. Disneyland Resort includes Disneyland Park and Disneyland California Adventure Park (which will not be discussed here).
- Walt Disney World in Florida is the big artillery, 4 parks, 2 water parks, an area that covers more than 100 km². We will only focus here on “Magic Kingdom” to be able to compare, that is to say the park with the castle 😉
- Disneyland Paris is our home. We like it, we even love it! But we’re still going to try to remain objective!
- The first impression
In California, it’s a bit like in Paris, you walk to the park, you arrive on a large esplanade: on one side Disneyland Park, on the other side the other park, and in the middle Disney Downtown (the equivalent of our Disney Village).
In Florida, there is a 20 minutes bus ride between Disney Springs (a Disney Village which is not a village but rather a megalopolis !!) and the arrival at the monorail, which will take us to the entrance of the park. So between the hotel and the entrance, it’s quite a hike! And as a result, impossible to check or see the other parks, they are too far away.
Personally, I like the proximity of the parks as in Paris or California, and the idea to know that you can easily change park during the day, even several times if you want!
- The park
For the 3 parks, the configuration is the same: you go through the gateline, Main Street Station, you arrive on Town Square, and there, THE view: Main Street and the castle at the end… Everywhere?
Oh no !!! In California, the castle is very small, well let’s say it’s wider than it is high, so from the entrance of Main Street, it doesn’t stand out, it’s really weird !
A little extra for the Magic Kingdom park in Florida, which opens its doors every morning with a little “welcome party” with all the characters at the foot of the castle, which immediately sets the mood!
- The castle
At Disneyland Paris, we are familiar with Sleeping Beauty’s castle, a bright pink to contrast with the often gloomy skies of Paris. Inside the castle, there are 2 boutiques, the Sleeping Beauty gallery with its stained glass windows, and of course, the Dragon’s Lair, which is for me the essential part of every visit to Disneyland Paris!
In California, in Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and in Florida, in Cinderella’s castle, no dragon! Big disappointment for me! There’s not much to do in those castles either… a big corridor, and that’s about it…
Aesthetically speaking, it’s up to everyone to make up their own mind… The majority of people I talk to tell me that Disneyland Paris is the most beautiful of Disney’s castles. Personally, I have a soft spot for the design of Cinderella’s castle in Florida…
When you’re used to Disneyland Paris, you can’t get lost in the American parks! When you look at the map of the 3 parks, they are really similar: the Main Street with Central Plaza, the castle and Fantasyland, Tomorrowland on the right and Adventureland / Frontierland on the left. That’s what we know, and then we add in the USA the lands that don’t exist here, I think in particular of Galaxy’s Edge (the Star Wars land) in California (it wasn’t open yet when we went to Florida in 2018).
What I found most “confusing” was to do the “same” attractions as in Paris, but different: Big Thunder Mountain, it’s a small world, Peter Pan, Dumbo, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain… All the must-sees from home, with different settings, sometimes even very distant concepts, so it feels like home, but not completely 😉
- Fast Pass
So now unequivocally, American parks are winning…
At Disneyland Paris, we have the traditional FastPass system, i.e. going directly to the attraction (and therefore through the park) to go and badge your entrance ticket and get a schedule. This system allows us to have only one FastPass at a time. For some time now, there are also passes that you can buy to get more FastPasses, but the prices are a bit scary:
U.S. parks each have a different FastPass system, but each is just as effective as the other:
- In Florida, at Walt Disney World, when you buy your tickets, you can already pre-book 3 FastPass for 3 attractions 3 months in advance. Then, thanks to the park’s mobile application, as soon as you use one FastPass, you can book another one via the application, without having to go through the park, and free of charge.
- In California, you have to buy a Maxpass pass, $15 per person. It allows you to reserve FastPass via the mobile application, and to reserve a new one as soon as you’ve used one. So we arrive at the attraction, we badge the entrance ticket, and during the 5 minutes of queue we have to do before the attraction, we book the next FastPass. The good surprise of the Maxpass pass, as a bonus, is that you can download for free all the photos taken by the park’s photographers and in the attractions on your mobile phone. So while the Maxpass is not free, when you know the price of a souvenir photo bought on an attraction, it pays for itself quickly!
These FastPass systems allowed us to do ALL the attractions of the American parks in one day, including some attractions like Big Thunder Mountain several times, something that must have happened to me only once in Paris in 25 years of visits to the park !
- Shows and Parade
The highlight of our “Disney Stars on Parade”, in my opinion, is Evil and its flames!
In Florida, we saw the “Festival of Fantasy” Parade, whose Evil One did not spit flames since it had caught fire a few months before during a parade…
In California, we didn’t… we didn’t see a parade! We went there in October, and because of the Halloween party that was specially planned for that day, there was no parade for the people who didn’t go to the special night… Big disappointment for us then!
- Shops / Restaurants
Because you don’t leave a Disney park without a good meal and a trip to the shops…
Globally in American parks, there are many more restaurants and snack bars than in Paris, but fewer souvenir shops, and fewer points of sale, which does not mean that there are fewer things to buy 😉
Concerning meals, the same observation in all parks: it’s ultra-expensive!
In conclusion, we can always say that it’s better elsewhere, but the truth is that our park is certainly perfectible (here, I think especially of the FastPass system !!) but that we are still well in the alleys of our Disneyland Paris! The Dragon’s Lair, the Parade, the shops, the proximity of the 2 parks, the new lands to come, so many things that make me return again and again with as much pleasure! What about you?