Coast-to-Coast: The Best Rides at Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World from Coast-to-Coast: The Best Rides at Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World

Coast-to-Coast: The Best Rides at Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World

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Coast-to-Coast: The Best Rides at Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World

To the average visitor, there aren’t that many differences between Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. While each park has attractions that are wholly unique, there are a lot of things that you’ll find on both coasts — Disney fundamentals like castles, Mickey Mouse and iconic mouse-shaped snacks. Heck, both Disneyland and Walt Disney World share a lot of rides! No matter if you’re on the East Coast or the West Coast, you’re going to find Space Mountain, The Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World. These are some of the best Disney attractions of all time, and they’re exactly the same, right? Oh, so wrong.

While both American Disney resorts have rides with the same (or similar) names and nearly identical themes, the experiences are pretty different. So we decided to compare 12 comparable rides from each coast to see which is better. After all, just because you’ve been on one version of Pirates of the Caribbean, that doesn’t mean you’ve been on them all.

So how did we compare one Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to another? Well, this writer has been lucky enough to go to both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. And as we rode each attraction, we noted things like differences in theming, tracks, storyline, animatronics and queues. You know… all those things that make a Disney ride a Disney ride. And we learned that there are just as many differences as there are similarities.

That being said, there are some rides that are just too darn similar to compare. Whether you’re in Anaheim or Orlando, your experiences on Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Peter Pan’s Flight or the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh are going to be virtually identical. But these 12 rides offer surprisingly different experiences.

Autopia/Tomorrowland Speedway

Autopia/Tomorrowland Speedway

Scott Brinegar/Disneyland Resort

Unless you’re a child who has never driven a car before or you’re someone who has a deep nostalgia for your childhood, you’ll probably find Autopia (in Disneyland) and the Tomorrowland Speedway (in the Magic Kingdom) to be one of the worst Disney attractions of all time. But, if you’re going to pick one of these to do, definitely head to Disneyland Park. This version of a racecar track features lush vegetation, hills and a few robotic and futuristic scenes, giving you much more to see. Comparatively, the Walt Disney World’s version is just gray roads.

Winner: Disneyland

Astro Orbiter

Astro Orbiter

Disney

On this carnival-style ride, you board a rocket and soar through the air of Tomorrowland. Truthfully, you can also skip this ride at both Disneyland Park and the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World during the day. However, if you’re still in the Magic Kingdom at night, be sure to board the Astro Oribter. The way the park lights up at night is truly spectacular, and you see it better at Magic Kingdom because its Astro Orbiter is on an elevated platform. For a true one-of-a-kind view, ride this during the fireworks.

Winner: Walt Disney World

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland

The “wildest ride in the wilderness” is a top-tier attraction at both Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Disneyland. And while your ride experiences are going to be pretty similar on both coasts, Disneyland has the edge on this one. The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Anaheim got a big upgrade in 2014 with new special effects that blow Orlando’s out of the water. While the queue in Florida is more interactive, the ride itself in California is superior.

Winner: Disneyland

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters/Space Ranger Spin

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters/Space Ranger Spin

Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland

If you have a want to team up with Buzz Lightyear and fight the evil Emperor Zurg, ride Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland. While both rides feature carts that spin and laser guns that you shoot at nefarious targets, Astro Blasters has a more detailed storyline and a more engaging queue. Most importantly, you can actually pick up your laser guns in the Disneyland version of the ride, compared to the stationary guns on Space Ranger Spin. That means you can shoot with much more accuracy and rack up a higher score.

Winner: Disneyland

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout /Tower of Terror

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout /Tower of Terror

Scott Brinegar/Disneyland Resort

Before the Guardians of the Galaxy took over Disneyland’s drop tower in 2017, the Tower of Terror at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios had the superior experience. But now the West Coast takes the cake. Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout at Disney California Adventure took the mechanics of Tower of Terror and re-themed it for the modern era. With six different versions of the ride featuring a classic rock soundtrack and the always-entertaining Guardians of the Galaxy, you almost don’t feel the massive 13-story drop… almost.

Winner: Disneyland

The Haunted Mansion

The Haunted Mansion

Matt Stroshane

Grim-grinning ghosts come out to socialize at both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, but if you have to pick just one delightful spooky experience, get yourself to Walt Disney World. While Disneyland does have the famous Hatbox Ghost and the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay, the larger building in the Magic Kingdom allows for multiple scenes to be extended. The Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion also has a more immersive queue, complete with a graveyard that helps to tell the stories of some of the ghosts who live inside the ride.

Winner: Walt Disney World

It’s a Small World

It’s a Small World

Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland

You’re going to get fairly similar experiences on It’s a Small World at both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, but the original attraction at Disneyland has an overall better experience. The outside of the show building is simply stunning at Disneyland, while it looks like any other Fantasyland ride in the Magic Kingdom. Disneyland’s It’s a Small World has a little less space, but that means that each and every scene is jam-packed with animatronics and colorful dolls.

Winner: Disneyland

Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise

Disney

No matter which coast you’re on, the Jungle Cruise offers a relaxing riverboat cruise through various areas of Asia and Africa alongside some A-plus punny commentary. But we give this edge to the Jungle Cruise at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. This version of the Adventureland attraction is a bit longer and includes a notable journey through a spooky enchanted temple. The more opportunity for jokes, the better.

Winner: Walt Disney World

King Arthur Carrousel/Prince Charming Regal Carrousel

King Arthur Carrousel/Prince Charming Regal Carrousel

Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland

To the casual Disney fan, the ride experience on the King Arthur Carrousel in Disneyland and the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in the Magic Kingdom will be similar, with white horses, organ versions of Disney tunes and ornate décor. But the Disneyland version is steeped in history — after all, it was a carousel that inspired Walt Disney to build Disneyland. If you can, hitch a ride on the carousel’s lead horse, Jingles. It’s the one decorated with beautiful straps of golden jingle bells.

Winner: Disneyland

Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean

Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort

Long before it was a mega-hit movie franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean was a dark boat ride at the Disney theme parks. On both coasts, this is a must-ride attraction, but the Disneyland version is far superior to the one in the Magic Kingdom. The West Coast Pirates is nearly twice the length of the East Coast attraction and features one more hill and an extended storyline about the bone-chilling skeleton pirates.

Winner: Disneyland

Space Mountain

Space Mountain

Disneyland Resort

Which coast has the better Space Mountain is the subject of much debate. If you prefer a rollercoaster that gives you thrills by whipping you around a bit, go to the Magic Kingdom. If you like a smooth ride and the potential for fun overlays, go to Disneyland. The Space Mountain track there was replaced and updated in the early 2000s, and the differences are easily felt. Disneyland’s basically brand-new Space Mountain also has the ability to be turned into Hyperspace Mountain, a Star Wars-themed overlay that helps to breathe new life into this iconic ride. But at the end of the day, it comes down to what you look for in a thrill ride.

Winner: Tie

Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain

Garth Vaughn

Splash Mountain has everything that you want out of a Disney attraction. No matter where you ride it, you’ll find amazing animatronics, an engaging storyline and a few thrills. And while we love the "Burrow's Lament” scene in Disneyland, you’re going to get a more cohesive storyline about Br’er Rabbit leaving home, evading Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear and then coming back home again in Walt Disney World. Additionally, the side-by-side seats at the Orlando version are far more comfortable than the way you straddle a bench in Anaheim. There’s a reason the East Coast ride tops our ranking of every ride in the Magic Kingdom.

Winner: Walt Disney World 

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