Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World

D O W N T O W N      D I S N E Y

Although they have the same name, the Downtown Disney districts of Disneyland and Walt Disney World (now called Disney Springs here) couldn’t be more different! But as you will see, comparing the two isn’t altogether fair. The sheer volume of WDW’s DTD makes this comparison a bit like pitting a heavyweight boxer against a ballerina. But that doesn’t mean DLR’s DTD has anything to apologize for!

I’d like to compare the DTD’s using three main categories:


Winner: WDW’s DTD. You can easily spend a day taking in the streetmosphere, shops, restaurants, shows, carts, and speciality attractions.  Splitsville. Cirque du Soleil. Characters In Flight. Disney Quest. Truly something for everyone! And when they finally finish revamping the old clubbing area, it will offer even more.

WDW’S DTD     Florida Three 003     Unique experiences!

Rebuttal: DLR’s DTD is smaller and closer to the Parks and both on-property and off-property Hotels. WDW’s DTD is so big that you have to drive to it or spend time on a bus just to reach it, making it a less convenient source of fun.


Winner: DLR’s DTD. The same argument that diehard Disneyland fans use to put their Resort above its big sister in Florida puts the smaller shopping district in the winners seat here. There is a more intimate feel to this place. You don’t have to walk for miles to take it all in. It’s easier to do an impromptu meet-up with friends.

Rebuttal: WDW’s DTD does have character, though, especially when you factor in the waterfront and nighttime lighting.

WDW’S DTD     Florida Three 011     A beautiful view!

DISNEYNESS (it is too a word!)

Winner: WDW’s DTD. Everywhere you look, you are reminded that you are experiencing something Disney. Even though there are many non-Disney shops and restaurants, they are far outnumbered by Disney and Disney-style offerings. Some say that Disney went overboard just to sell swag, but I say: ‘That’s OK with me!’

Rebuttal: You do have to walk between the entrances to Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure to get to DLR’s DTD. And on the other end of it you have the iconic Disneyland Hotel complete with Monorail Station! Now that’s a pair of Disney bookends!

DLR’s DTD     DLH 2 +     Location is everything!

So WDW’s DTD comes across as one of the world’s best heavyweight retail and entertainment districts. But DLR’s DTD is like a beautiful ballerina with style and grace, and that’s not a bad thing. Overall, though, I have to give a clear decision in favor of WDW’s DTD.

If you want to shop or play Disney, the biggest bang for your fun is to be found in Florida!

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25 Responses to Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World

  1. I agree! I do love WDW’s version, but DLR’s was a better location and so quaint! What’s your favorite DTD store?

  2. yelverto says:

    I haven’t really spent a lot of time at Disneyland’s Downtown Disney and I really think that after Disney Springs sets in this will be no contest! I agree with your comparison and great wording!

  3. DIStherapy says:

    Well, I can see why you used the point, counterpoint approach here- this one’s tough! Your ballerina/heavyweight fighter analogy is perfect; I just love the convenience of Downtown Disney District, but am drawn to the sprawling complex on the water that is Downtown Disney, (especially when arriving by boat). Perhaps when Orlando’s expansion is complete there will be a clear winner here!

    • disneynouns says:

      Have you seen the artwork for the new area expansion yet? Some of the ideas look interesting (i.e. floating cars???) but we’ll have to see if Disney hits it out of the Park. Hopeful! Thanks for commenting!

      • Mary says:

        I had not see the floating cars yet. I could be intrigued. And I do believe if they do it right it will be more than a shopping district like today.

  4. Becca says:

    I can’t wait to check out DTD on my first WDW vacation. I am a Disneylander so this half to whole day experience will be new to me. What is one thing you think I should check out while there that Disneyland doesn’t have?

    • disneynouns says:

      Characters in Flight is in DTD in Florida which will give you a great view of the Disney property. You go up in a tethered balloon! Shopping you definitely need to check out D Street. It’s just cool! Enjoy your first visit!

  5. Jenn Lissak says:

    I can’t wait to see DtD at WDW after the full facelift. It’s an alright place to spend an hour or so now, but I think it will be awesome in a few months. I do love that you calk walk right to DtD at Disneyland, though – definitely something to be said for that!

    • disneynouns says:

      Yeah, but I’m beginning to wonder if they’ll ever finish that facelift! But you’re right, it should add a lot to the area. And I would like to see more places to sit down to rest tired feet. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Dawn Cullo says:

    I agree – I prefer WDW’s Downtown Disney as well, so much more to see and do. What is your favorite place to shop at WDW Downtown Disney?

    • disneynouns says:

      World of Disney is great, but it is getting a little too much of the ‘One Park’ merchandise, not much unique anymore. So I’d have to say D Street! How about you?

  7. Love this post Lee, and Disneyness is most definitely a word. I liked that DL’s DTD was convenient. I liked that I didn’t feel exhausted walking end to end. But I really love some of the shops in WDW’s DTD that you can’t find at Disneyland. I agree, I’d have to give WDW the edge with this one! (Maybe it’s just Ghiradelli?)

    • disneynouns says:

      Yeah, the size of Florida’s DTD is a drawback, only eclipsed by the parking situation! Once they complete the new parking structure, that should be lessened somewhat. But a visit to Ghiradelli’s can make it all seem worthwhile!

  8. Great post, Lee! I really love the way you compared and contrasted the 2 Downtown Disney’s. I have to admit that I LOVE the WDW version, but don’t have the DL version to compare it to. We’ve been in the Orlando area on business a few times, and just spending a few hours at DtD is enough to give me a Disney fix! I love that. And some of our favorite restaurants are located there too – T-Rex Cafe, Wolfgang Puck Express, and Earl of Sandwich. And the World of Disney Store — I could spend hours in that place!

  9. I love that you argued with yourself in this post. 🙂 We don’t spend too much time at WDW’s Downtown Disney just because it’s a bus or car ride away. We spent a lot more time in Disneyland’s because it was right outside of our hotel and I loved that! Plus there is a Sephora which makes me happy. What’s your favorite restaurant in the WDW version?

  10. Lisa Cameron says:

    Great comparison of both DTDs. I love that at DTD in WDW there is something for everyone no matter what kind of mood you are in. Do you get the same feeling at DL? What about the food? Is there a lot to choose from?

    • disneynouns says:

      I found the DL version to be more nightclub orientated, definitely an adult vibe. Food was great with interesting options, but fewer restaurants than WDW version. DL’s DTD is just so much smaller it felt like a cheat after years of visiting WDW’s DTD. I hate to say it, but…

  11. I would think it’s nice to have the DtD district so close to the parks at Disneyland, but I’m so used to WDW’s roomy space, it might make me claustrophobic, lol! How do the shops & eateries compare?

    • disneynouns says:

      The eateries are somewhat better at DL but not as numerous. The shopping is somewhat disappointing at DL because there are way fewer stores and not many Disney-themed ones at that! I much prefer the WDW version, minus the crowds!

  12. Mickey says:

    Great post, Lee! I’m not one for shopping that much, so overall, I do give the nod to the Disneyland version of Downtown Disney. I liked being able to walk there and pass through on my way to one of the parks. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


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