It’s said that Disneyland in California can fit into the parking lot of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Florida. This week and in the weeks to come, we’ll see how the opposite is true: there’s plenty of WDW tucked neatly inside the Disneyland Resort, including some enchanted bits and pieces of the Magic Kingdom. Here’s how to find it.
When you visit the Disneyland Resort with Magic Kingdom eyes, go ahead and practice a bit of tunnel vision. For a truly MK experience, focus on two things: 1) shared rides and restaurants and 2) a few beloved and dearly departed attractions of the Magic Kingdom that are still living their happily-ever-afters at Disneyland.
If you’re a fan of the Magic Kingdom, there’s a lot for you to love at Disneyland and DCA. Some rides and restaurants are so similar the only way you’ll be able to tell you’re not in Florida is by the lack of daily thunderstorms. For instance, on either coast, you can circle the park on the steam-powered Railroad or spin until you’re sick at the Mad Tea Party. Both places have a carousel filled with white horses, too, and a stately riverboat that paddles around the Rivers of America. Autopia and the Speedway each take up way too much valuable real estate in their respective Tomorrowland.
And Tom Sawyer Island and “it’s a small world” feature just the tiniest of differences from east to west. If you love the Little Mermaid in the Magic Kingdom, you can love her in California, as well, in the identical dark ride over at California Adventure.
Disneyland even has some food options for fans of Magic Kingdom Park. Get your favorite flatbreads and salads at Village House, your cold and congealed Disney burgers at Tomorrowland Terrace, or your hot dogs at Refreshment Corner – that’s Casey’s Corner, where you’ll find the same ragtime tunes played live all day, every day. The Golden Horseshoe will feel friendly to those who enjoy its cross-country Diamond cousin. The West Coast original is a quick-service location all day, and it’s a little more modest in scale. On the plus side, you’ll find live entertainment! And speaking of entertainment, the Disneyland Band and the Dapper Dans both have West Coast outfits.
Not all attractions and restaurants are exactly the same in the Magic Kingdom and at Disneyland Resort. Some have special surprises, better tech, or additional scenes. A magical moment in Peter Pan is best kept a secret for first-time visitors, but it’s a surprise worth waiting for – which you’ll have to do: Disneyland’s ride has no FastPass option. The improvement on Buzz Lightyear is simple; the blasters come out of their holsters for more accurate aim, so you can finally get past Ranger First Class (theoretically). Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean is known for a bayou beginning and not one but two watery plunges, as well as a couple of extra rooms to explore. It also brings you past the dim and delectable Blue Bayou Restaurant (but we’ll get to that when we talk about Disneyland for Epcot fans in a few weeks). Space Mountain is an absolute must at Disneyland for any fans of the Magic Kingdom’s dark coaster. Out west, experience a noticeably smoother ride and better sound, where the speakers are inside each vehicle instead of positioned around the room. Music travels with you, intensifying the thrill. Finally, be sure to enjoy the original and best Enchanted Tiki Room, which has existed virtually unchanged since Uncle Walt hit the “on” switch in 1963.
Of course, the pendulum swings both ways, and not all ride differences at Disneyland are better. The Haunted Mansion, Winnie the Pooh, and Jungle Cruise all have additional scenes and improved effects in Florida. Perhaps the biggest gap in experience is on Disneyland’s Splash Mountain, which will get you wet and singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” but that’s about it. As the prototype version of the ride that was going way over budget, it has long stretches without set pieces, animatronics, or even music. What animatronics are there are largely castoffs from defunct America Sings attraction, and their age is obvious.
If you decide to take the plunge on Disneyland’s Splash, you may need some consolation after you’ve emerged soggy and disappointed. As a fan of the Magic Kingdom, you’ll be happy to know that two of your favorite treats are available at Disneyland. Mickey Bars are sold at every turn, in carts just like the ones you know and love from WDW. And, you can get your Dole Whip fix at the Tiki Juice Bar, located in Adventureland right where it should be: near the Tiki Room.
We’ve saved the best for last. If you’re a fan of the Magic Kingdom and its former glory, Disneyland has some amazing time machine action for you. Several rides (or versions of rides) that used to entertain guests at Disney World and have since been replaced still live on in the park that Walt built. The entire Toontown area will have you singing “Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!” again as you hang out with Mickey and friends. At Disneyland, you can also still head 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – only now you’ll adventure with Nemo the fish in your submarine instead of the Nemo the salty sea captain. Disneyland’s scary Snow White adventure and all its ragged storytelling may make you long for pre-Mine Train days. But the best Afterlife of a Disney Parks Ride Award goes to wild Mr. Toad. His story lands him in hell, but if you have any kind of soul (and are old enough to remember the Florida version), you’ll be in heaven when you get to enjoy this attraction again.
Up next week: Do Disneyland Like a Bachelor