Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park: Which Park Will You Choose to Spend One Magical Day?

If you are planning a trip to the Disneyland Resort in Southern California and can’t decide whether a full day at Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park is worth your while- let us help you make the choice that best fits your needs!

The following informative guide explores and compares Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park to help you decide which Park is perfect for a one-day trip to the Happiest Place on Earth!

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Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty's Castle in Spring

Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park: Is One Park Less Expensive than the Other?

There really is no comparison when it comes to an adult, one-day ticket price for either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park because the cost is exactly the same. For an adult (ages 10+), one-day ticket at either Disneyland or DCA, the cost fluctuates between value-priced days (starting at $104.00), regular-priced days (starting at $129.00), and peak-priced days (starting at $149.00).

So with cost not a factor, let’s dig into some Disney details to help you choose: Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park!

If Disney history interests you, choose Disneyland for your one day trip!

Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park: Which Park Has More History?

A major factor in deciding to spend one day at either Disneyland or DCA can be swayed by the most important fact of all: Disneyland is the first official Park opened by Walt Disney himself on July 17, 1955. Walt Disney roamed the lush grounds of Disneyland, having first-handedly worked his magic to build Disneyland’s foundation. If history is what you are seeking, Disneyland is definitely the place to visit.

Griffith Park Bench

Disneyland holds some fun Disney artifacts, too, like the actual Griffith Park bench in the Opera House on Main Street U.S.A. where Walt dreamed of a place where kids and parents could spend quality time together (what is now Disneyland). Another activity to take part in if you are interested in learning more about Walt Disney and Disneyland’s history is the Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour.

Also, Disneyland holds some of the original attractions from opening day. If original is what you want to experience, take a spin on Autopia, Casey Jr. Circus Train, Disneyland Railroad, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Jungle Cruise, King Arthur Carousel, Mad Tea Party, Main Street Cinema, Main Street Vehicles, Mark Twain Riverboat, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow White’s Scary Adventure, and Storybook Land Canal Boats.

Nothing compares to the classic Disneyland attractions that are timeless and add to the magic of Disneyland.

Disney California Adventure Park’s history dates back to February, 2001

Disney California Adventure Park’s history only dates back to February, 2001. Located directly across from Disneyland, the smaller of the two Parks was initially created as a tribute to all things California. Because attendance was low, DCA got a Disney makeover in 2012.

Although DCA cannot compete with Disneyland when it comes to its history, all the imaginative Disney folks took Walt’s story and incorporated it into bits and pieces of the Park, including the lively entertainment (ever get the Red Car Trolley News Boys’ song A Suitcase and a Dream stuck in your head?) and World of Color. World of Color pays tributes to many Disney films and Walt himself. And it is not only the entertainment that honors Disney history, some other replicas of the past can be found throughout the Park. The Carthay Circle Restaurant replicates the Carthay Circle Theatre where Walt Disney’s first feature-length animated movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in 1937.

Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park: Which Lands and Attractions are Worth Exploring?

Pirates of the Caribbean is one of Disneyland’s most popular attractions!

Disneyland expands 85 acres and is comprised of eight lands that completely immerse Guests in imagination and wonder – Main Street U.S.A., Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventureland, New Orleans Square, Critter Country, and the new Star Wars – Galaxy’s Edge. Tucked away in each land are 55 attractions, designed for the entire family. Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion are, by far, the most popular attractions at Disneyland. For that reason, Disneyland has my vote for a one-day visit!

Disney California Adventure Park, on the other hand, is a bit smaller measuring 72 acres and has seven lands: Buena Vista Street, Pixar Pier, Paradise Gardens Park, Grizzly Peak, Pacific Wharf, Hollywood Land and Cars Land. A new Marvel-themed Land is planned to be opened in 2020! DCA has only 33 attractions. The attractions at DCA are where the difference between both Parks is noticeable because whereas Disneyland’s attractions are all geared toward family, DCA has family-friendly attractions, as well as two of Disney’s most popular thrill attractions: Incredicoaster and Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!

Another noticeable difference between Disneyland and DCA are the crowds. When DCA is crowded, you can really feel the difference because of its smaller size. There are many more areas in DCA that get more congested, especially around the popular attractions.

Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park: Which Park Offers Better Food Choices?

Carthay Circle Restaurant

Carthay Circle Restaurant

Whether you choose Disneyland or DCA, the dining options are equally impressive. Everything Disney offers Guests is over-the-top delicious. Both Parks offer a variety of internationally-inspired cuisine, as well as all-American cuisine. You have your choice of table-service restaurants, on-the-go meals, and the convenient mobile ordering.

Blue Bayou inside the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride

Disneyland’s infamous Blue Bayou restaurant is a Guest favorite, not only because of the delicious Cajun and creole cuisine, but because lunch and dinner are served in continual twilight, lit by twinkling lantern lights within a dark bayou. While Guests dine, riders float on down the swampy waters on their way to see swashbuckling pirates on the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. Carthay Circle, located on Buena Vista Street in DCA is another Guest favorite not only because of the sophisticated gourmet food, but because this restaurant is a replica of the Los Angeles Carthay Circle Theatre where hundreds of Hollywood movies made their premiers in the late 20s and throughout the 30s.

The noticeable difference between Disneyland and DCA is the sale of alcohol. DCA has an abundance of places that sell alcohol while Disneyland only sells alcohol inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

If you’ve heard about the fabulous churros sold at Disneyland, don’t worry, they are also sold in many places around DCA, too! So if that warm treat was a deciding factor, Disney has just made the choice a little more difficult! The only treat that Disneyland is keeping all for itself is the delicious Dole Whip.

Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park: Which Park Offers Better Entertainment?

Fantasmic! at Disneyland Resort

Disneyland offers Guests much more entertainment options that DCA and for that reason, Disneyland is the better of the two choices if you are solely there to see many great shows.

Disneyland’s schedule of daily events is full of multi-showings of parades, live shows like Fantasmic!, stage shows, and the much anticipated fireworks. DCA does offer guests entertainment throughout the park, but not as extensive as Disneyland.

World of Color lit up at night

World of Color at Disney’s California Adventure

What DCA does have that Disneyland does not have is the popular World of Color show, taking place on select nights.

Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park: Which Park Offers the Best Character Meet-and-Greets?

You can only find Anna and Elsa in Disney’s California Adventure

Character meet-and-greets are based on individual preferences. Of course, both Disneyland and DCA offer meet-and-greets with Mickey, Minnie, and friends (Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Chip, Dale, etc.), however if you or someone in your party loves Disney Princesses, classic Disney characters like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, and characters from Star Wars, you better head to Disneyland.

DCA houses Oswald the Lucky Rabbit if you are into nostalgic characters. If you or someone in your party is a big Pixar, Marvel, Disney Junior, or Frozen fan, better head to DCA!

Disneyland or Disney California Adventure: Hours of Operations

The clock on Main Street at Disneyland

Disneyland stays open later than DCA, so you may feel as if you are getting cheated out of your money if you opt to visit DCA. But that is so not the case! DCA offers its own unique magic that is well worth the ticket purchase price! Better yet, buy a Park Hopper so you hop between both parks.

Disneyland or Disney California Adventure: Which Park Would I Choose?

I choose Disneyland (and so does my family)!

If it is not obvious from this article, I tend to favor Disneyland. The choice, however, does not come that easy since both Parks are unique in their own way. My parents took me to Disneyland throughout my childhood and I am continuing to carry on the magical tradition with my own family. What brings me back to Disneyland month-after-month is the magic I feel when I walk down the middle of Main Street U.S.A., lured by the sweet smell of caramel wafting from the Candy Palace, making my way with my family, past horse-drawn street cars to the iconic majestic Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. A cool, musty sail past rum-drinking, swashbuckling pirates, a guided tour through a spooky Haunted Mansion, and the crunch of a deep-fried pickle at Carnation Cafe makes the choice easy!

Disneyland or Disney California Adventure: Now You Decide!

Disney is adding more and more magic to Disney California Adventure Park, giving Disneyland a true competitor! Which Park will you choose? Subscribe to our free newsletter to help you decide! Our newsletter also provides helpful planning information, exclusive Disney deals, and access to the lowest priced Disney tickets anywhere! You can find more information on planning your vacation here:

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About Kim Schultz

Kim has her Bachelor's Degree in English Literature with a minor in Technical and Professional Writing from San Francisco State University. She received her editing certificate from University of Berkeley Extension and won numerous awards for fiction writing from the San Mateo County Fair Literary Stage.

One thing she loves most in life besides family and writing is Disneyland! Kim and her family are season pass holders and travel to Disneyland numerous times a year (between 10-15 times to be exact!).

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