Top 10 Attractions That Are Better at Disney World Than Disneyland

Honestly, this list should not exist. It’s true that some rides are better at Walt Disney World than Disneyland. But it’s very difficult to argue that there are 10 such attractions, even if playing fast and loose with the list and including shows and rides that are ‘spiritual successors’ to one another.

There’s a reason why you won’t find many lists like this. In almost all cases where direct clones exist in both California and Florida, they are either roughly equal or the Disneyland version is superior. The exceptions to that are few and far between. But, in my infinite wisdom, I backed myself into this corner without thinking of what such a list would include when writing my Top 10 List of Rides That Are Better at Disneyland.

To be transparent, my goal with that not-so-clever move was to avoid accusations of bias. Walt Disney World fans can sometimes have chips on their shoulders. There’s a reason “be fair to Florida” is a rallying cry, and I know WDW diehards get sick of hearing about all of the ways that Walt Disney’s original park is superior. How those two parks have as good of ride rosters as Florida’s four gates. While there is some truth to that, there are also many ways that Walt Disney World is better…

Of course, there are the common refrains among Walt Disney World fans who trumpet its superiority. The taller castle. The dozens of resorts and restaurants. That it’s the Vacation Kingdom of the World, and what Walt wanted to build to “fix” the shortcomings of Disneyland. That’s not what I’m talking about, though, as all of that would be better suited for Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World as a whole.

This is all about attractions, and there are plenty of ways that Walt Disney World “wins” on that front. It just usually doesn’t come down to cloned rides. There’s pretty much the entirety of Animal Kingdom, which–with limited exceptions–doesn’t have counterparts in California. (Well, aside from the San Diego Safari Park–but it doesn’t have an analogue in Anaheim!) There are the classic stage shows like Carousel of Progress and Country Bear Jamboree. There’s pretty much everything at EPCOT, which is still a sore subject among old school Disneylanders who lament the WestCOT that never was.

All of that’s just a partial list. The last decade-plus brought massive expansion to Walt Disney World, while Disneyland was comparatively ignored (having received its massive DCA overhaul at the tail end of the previous decade). Anyway, just wanted to demonstrate that I’m not biased towards Disneyland, but love both for different reasons. That may not be immediately apparent when you read through this fairly sad list of the attractions that are better at Walt Disney World…

N/A. it’s a small world – Just as we started the last list by explaining why Space Mountain didn’t make the cut, so too does this list begin with an exclusion. That’s because “it’s a small world” already made the Disneyland version of this list. And while I could get cute here and put it on both lists (it was an option when I was struggling to think of 10 picks), I’ve opted against it.

With that said, once you enter the show scenes, I do think “it’s a small world” at Magic Kingdom is better. I love the ‘flooded’ style, lack of characters, slightly superior score, and several little ways that Florida has a plussed version of the iconic attraction. This is the definitive version of the classic ride.

However, as demonstrated by preferring Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom, I’m all about the complete package of an attraction. The facade and opening act of “it’s a small world” at Disneyland just sets the perfect tone, whereas the Florida version feels like a ride in a strip mall by comparison. So I’ll say this: “it’s a small world” at Disneyland is the better attraction, whereas the Walt Disney World version is the better ride.

10. Hall of Presidents & American Adventure – Neither the American Adventure nor Hall of Presidents have clones at Disneyland. Instead, there’s Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, which serves as the spiritual forebearer to both. The “problem” with all of these patriotic attractions is that they’re fantastic…and distinct.

I guess think of it in MCU terms, except with our heroes being great Americans instead of mutants. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is like Captain America: The First Avenger (except that would be George Washington…but I don’t want to compare Lincoln to Ant-Man or whichever Avenger was #16) in that it’s all about one single patriotic figure. The Hall of Presidents is Captain America: Civil War, not because it often has that effect on audiences, but because it’s a great team-up production of all presidents. Finally, the American Adventure is Avengers: Endgame, because it’s the best of the bunch–the genre perfected.

Does that make some degree of sense? No? Well, the bottom line is that Walt Disney had something special in Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, but the Imagineers managed to expand upon and refine the concept at Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, which is where you can find the pinnacle of patriotic Disney stage shows. This list doesn’t get any better from here, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

9. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue – This isn’t being deemed better at Walt Disney World because we have more luck with the randomized ride sequences in Florida than California. It’s all about the queue.

Disneyland’s Star Tours is blended into Tomorrowland so that it doesn’t stick out as a Star Wars ride in a land focused on the future. Or at least, that was the thinking a few decades ago when it originally opened and Tomorrowland had a cohesive vision. Now it’s just a hodgepodge, and no one bats an eye at Star Wars in the land.

Nevertheless, the Walt Disney World version was created specifically for this spot in the then Disney-MGM Studios, with the conceit being that it was a hot set for the filming of a Star Wars story. Accordingly, the queue weaves underneath the feet of a towering AT-AT, and around the trees of an Ewok village on the Forest Moon of Endor.

Or at least, a simulated set depicting all of that. It’s easy to forget the filmmaking framework around which this park was created and at least partially still exists. Most guests just see the towering AT-AT and Ewok village and assumes that’s the theme, but some may wonder why some of this stuff is half-finished. Confusing or cheap as it might seem, that’s by design–it’s what you see versus what the camera sees.

Regardless, it’s all impressive and this area around Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was even better back when Jedi Training Academy: Trails of the Temple was being shown. It truly was like an immersive, ‘on-stage’ depiction of Star Wars. Different than Galaxy’s Edge, but still distinctly Star Wars!

8. Astro Orbiter – If you want to get technical, this is another attraction that doesn’t exist on both coasts. After all, Magic Kingdom has Astro Orbiter and Disneyland has Astro Orbitor. (Read both names carefully if you’re missing it.) While I’ll never understand the difference and hope there’s some stupid backstory to explain the “o vs. e” distinction, I think it’s fairly undeniable that Astro Orbiter flies higher than its Disneyland counterpart.

Quite literally. Astro Orbiter flies higher because it is higher, elevated on top of the PeopleMover. That same spot at Disneyland is home to the Observatron (yes, that name is real), just one of many bad ideas from Tomorrowland ’98 at Disneyland. While Astro Orbiter has closer views of Sleeping Beauty Castle, the elevated perspective of Astro Orbiter adds an extra dimension, and seeing the neon-drenched streets of Tomorrowland–not to mention Cinderella Castle, Space Mountain and the TRON Lightcycle Run canopy–take it to the next level.

7. TTA PeopleMover – While we’re in the area, we’ve gotta give a quick nod to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover at Magic Kingdom. This is the ride we ride most of any ride at Walt Disney World, and every time we see old photos of Tomorrowland at Disneyland, it breaks our hearts that we never got to experience the PeopleMover there. Maybe it’s just a “grass is always greener” thing, but Tomorrowland looks even better in photos of Disneyland from the 70s and 80s than any existing version of the land does today.

However, at this point I think it’s safe to say that the operational version of the PeopleMover at Walt Disney World is better than the abandoned tracks and load platform, plus whatever the heck the Observatron is supposed to be doing. But I suppose reasonable minds could differ. The shade the PeopleMover tracks supply can be quite nice! (Apologies for the knife twist, Disneyland fans, but I had to do it given the comparative weakness of the rest of this list.)

6. Tower of Terror – If you take the Tower of Terror and add a bunch of junk to the exterior and queue, while also changing the story and adding screens, is it still the Tower of Terror? That’s a question for the scientists. What I do know is that, against all odds, Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout is way better than it has any right to be. Even as someone with a strong Twilight Zone bias, it’s honestly better than the version of Tower of Terror that it replaced at Disney California Adventure.

The thing is, these were never clones to begin with. The ride system for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is different, and significantly more complex and maintenance-intensive. Which is precisely why DCA (and even Tokyo DisneySea!) opted for the simplified version. So I’m comfortable saying that Mission Breakout beats Tower of Terror at DCA, I’m also confident in proclaiming the OG Twilight Zone Tower of Terror the undisputed champion among all three.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror’s mood, atmosphere, and environments before the ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios are all top-notch. It’s ominous, intimidating, and foreboding from the moment you set eyes on the Hollywood Tower Hotel looming at the end of Sunset Boulevard. From there, the build-up continues in the queue and pre-show and the ride-through portion before the drops dials up the tension even further. While it features a ton of nods to Twilight Zone episodes, the attraction’s masterful use of suspense is downright Hitchcockian.

5. Dumbo – Oh great, another spinner. Magic Kingdom’s dueling Dumbos are better for a few reasons. First, there are two sets of them and two trumps one. Second, the lines are typically shorter (see first reason). Third, the beautiful nighttime lighting.

When Dumbo was moved and its capacity doubled, it also received an excellent new lighting scheme that really gives it added life at night. Missing is that iconic view of Cinderella Castle, but the view is still breathtaking with most of Fantasyland visible, plus there’s some excellent lighting, so we consider the dueling Dumbos a better attraction than the one (1) Dumbo at Disneyland.

4. Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid – Like Astro Orbite/or, this is a ride that has different names at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Unlike that one letter difference, this is multiple words and punctuation marks: Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid vs. The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. I eschew both unwieldy names for a simple “Little Mermaid dark ride.”

The reasons that the Walt Disney World version is better has nothing to do with names or even the substance of the dark ride. Rather, it comes down to the exterior and queue. The Disneyland version repurposed the facade for Golden Dreams, a show about the history of California, during the DCA overhaul. That exterior based on San Francisco’s Palace of the Fine Arts is cool and fitting for Disney California Adventure, but the queue is short and basic.

By contrast, the Little Mermaid dark ride at Magic Kingdom was purpose-built during the New Fantasyland expansion, and features Prince Eric’s Castle plus a lot of rockwork and water. You might even argue that the (very long) queue and exterior are better than the ride itself. That’s no knock on the ride itself, which I actually think is underrated. The queue of the Little Mermaid dark ride at Walt Disney World is just really underappreciated.

This isn’t just true in the outdoor portion where there are peaceful reflecting pools and waterfalls, which are beautifully illuminated at night. It’s also the case in the caverns as outdoors transitions to inside the castle. If you ever stop to appreciate all of the little details when this line more or less empties out, you’ll see that a huge portion of the budget for Walt Disney World’s version went to placemaking. And that’s important, as it sets the stage for a more enjoyable ride-through experience.

3. Happily Ever After – This might be a suspicious selection, especially since we usually distinguish nighttime spectaculars from attractions. (Do Walt Disney World fans really want to open the entertainment comparison can of worms?!) Also, we previously proclaimed that Wondrous Journeys is Better Than Happily Ever After.

Well, two things have changed between then and now. The big one is that Wondrous Journeys has no dates left on the calendar in 2024. It’s unquestionably the best Disneyland fireworks show, making this a more favorable comparison to Disneyland’s other fireworks. The second is this list, which requires grasping at straws for attractions that are better at Walt Disney World.

Honestly, though, no straw-grasping is required here. The fireworks for the remainder of the year at Disneyland are Together Forever – A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular, “Halloween Screams” and “Believe… in Holiday Magic.” All three are fine, but none of them reach the same stratospheric heights as Wondrous Journeys or Happily Ever After.

Even in that above-mentioned post, we conceded that it’s a “why not both?!” scenario. They’re both phenomenal nighttime spectaculars, and just as easily as I can make the below case for Wondrous Journeys being better, someone else could advance arguments in favor of Happily Ever After. In fact, I can think of 112! (What is the height difference, in feet, between Cinderella Castle and Sleeping Beauty Castle?)

It’s not just that standing on Main Street and seeing Cinderella Castle towering in the distance. Due to Walt Disney World’s less urban location, the Magic Kingdom fireworks have bigger and better pyro. They also have more regular pyro, with the “projections only” versions of the Disneyland shows being presented quite often…and fireworks being cancelled even in the slightest Santa Ana winds.

Even though I think Wondrous Journeys is the slightly better show from a storytelling perspective, the overall fireworks experience is better and more predictable at Magic Kingdom. If you had to pick a day at random to try to watch fireworks on one of the coasts, the better bet–on average–would be Magic Kingdom’s Happily Ever After.

2. Expedition Everest – Animal Kingdom is the park of “on steroids” attractions. There’s Avatar Flight of Passage, which is Soarin’ on steroids (Avatar Flight of Passage) and this. Okay, that’s only two attractions. And arguably, several others are inferior versions of what exists elsewhere (Kali River Rapids, DINOSAUR, and TriceraTop Spin).

Regardless, Expedition Everest is a modern roller coaster that pulls pages from Matterhorn’s playbook and improves upon that iconic ride in nearly every conceivable way. Expedition Everest features a foreboding queue, incredible details, interesting ride vehicles, a spectacular ascent, and on-ride encounters with a yeti.

Many effects on the attraction now do not work; the most notable of these is the large Audio Animatronics “Disco” Yeti. Despite this, Expedition Everest is still impressively fun and Walt Disney World’s most ambitious roller coaster. In more ways than one, Expedition Everest is to Matterhorn what Indiana Jones Adventure is to DINOSAUR. So turnabout is fair play, as that was the #2 entry on our version of this list touting superior Disneyland attractions.

1. Fantasmic – This list has been a bit spicy and probably won’t be particularly satisfying to a lot of WDW diehards searching for ways that their home park is better than Walt Disney’s original magic kingdom. So why don’t we go out on a high note, giving the Florida fans a feather in their cap that is sure to enrage the Disneylanders out there.

Fantasmic is better at Walt Disney World. That’s right–it’s true. For decades, their Fantasmic being dramatically better than the DHS version was a huge point of pride for Disneylanders. The viewing area is more intimate and it feels like the show comes out of nowhere, they said. Murphy the Dragon is better than Maleficent on a stick, they boasted. The Mark Twain and Sailing Ship Columbia add so much, they argued. Florida’s is basically Pocahontasmic, they half-joked.

The “they” in these sentences was me. I said that if you haven’t seen Fantasmic at Disneyland, you haven’t really seen it. Well, a lot has changed. The first big one was that Disney’s Hollywood Studios reimagined its version of Fantasmic and added an all-new sequence that brings to life heroic moments from Disney stories such as Moana, Mulan, Aladdin, Frozen 2, and Pocahontas. That replaced the interminably long Pocahontas scene and the difference it made cannot be overstated.

The other things all occurred on the Disneyland side of the ledger, with crowds and congestion making Fantasmic painful to watch upon its return. Oh, and Murphy the Dragon caught fire and has been replaced with a belated B-mode. There are still little things that Disneyland’s Fantasmic does better, to be sure, but it’s no longer the superior show.

There was once a point when we avoided Florida’s Fantasmic and went years without seeing it, while never skipping Fantasmic at Disneyland. It’s not quite the exact opposite of that now, but Fantasmic at DHS is a can’t miss, whereas we only do it at Disneyland if crowds aren’t terrible. And they’re probably going to be pretty bad for the foreseeable future!

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Which Walt Disney World attractions do you think are better than their Disneyland counterparts? Any rides that this list snubbed that are superior in the Florida parks? Anything on this list that you think is actually worse at Walt Disney World? Do you agree or disagree with our picks? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

45 Responses to “Top 10 Attractions That Are Better at Disney World Than Disneyland”
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