When planning my holiday trip to South Florida to see my family, I received an invitation from my friend Sarah to go with her to Disney World for two days. While I have been to Disneyland (1 hour from my house) at least once a year every year of my life, I had only been to Disney World once before- a single day with my mom and sister where we went to Animal Kingdom in the morning and Epcot in the afternoon. With two full days, we decided to spend one day at Epcot and one day at the Magic Kingdom.
Sarah, Sarah’s sister Elana, Elana’s boyfriend Kyle, and I left Miami at 4:55 AM in order to get to Epcot by the time it opened in order to spend the maximum amount of time in the park. It was at this hazy moment that I realized that Sarah and her family are Disney fanatics, the likes of which I have never seen. Sarah explained to me that she and her family go to Disney at least 4-5 times a year and own timeshares through a program called the Disney Vacation Club. Her parents even got engaged at the Magic Kingdom. Sarah estimated that she has been to Disney World over 100 times. For this trip, Sarah booked us in the special timeshare hotels and booked Fastpasses online for all of us to skip the lines on certain rides. Unlike Disneyland, Disney World requires a lot more planning to make a successful trip. I definitely went with the right people because our trip was planned perfectly.
After arriving at our Epcot hotel, we received Magic Bands, which are a park entrance ticket, FastPass coupon, hotel room key, credit card, and GPS tracker all in wristwatch form. We then checked in before walking over to the semi-secret back-entrance to Epcot at the park opening at 9AM. We stayed in the park all day until closing at 11PM leaving the park for an afternoon siesta and for dinner. Of the 11 countries featured at Epcot, I have only been to 5 of them (Mexico, France, US, Canada, and Japan). With the exception of Morocco, the other countries are not high on my to-go list. Since this was my second time at Epcot, we were able to explore all the areas I missed on my first visit including Test Track, Spaceship Earth, and Ellen’s Energy Adventure.
Exhausted but determined, we rallied the next day at 7 to get to the Magic Kingdom for the park opening at 9. We transferred hotels to one closer to the Magic Kingdom and walked the 5 minutes to the entrance gate. We stayed in the park from 9 until 12:30 AM for a total of 15.5 hours of magic. Because of the Fastpasses, we never waited in a line longer than 1 hour even though this was one of the most crowded days in the park (Saturday during the holiday season). In those 15 hours, we went on almost every ride in the park. I also ran into a friend who worked for Disney as part of the college program and got an inside scoop on what its like to work for the park.
My day at the Magic Kingdom felt like I had been transported to an alternate reality because the park was almost identical in layout to Disneyland, but had some differences as well. Despite having never been here before and not looking at a map, I still knew exactly where everything was located (for the most part). Rather than describe my day at the theme park, I think it would be more interesting to compare the Magic Kingdom to Disneyland Park:
Size of park/number of attractions: Advantage Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is slightly bigger since they doubled the size of Fantasyland a few months ago. Tomorrowland and Adventureland in Magic Kingdom are significantly larger, although there is no Toontown or Critter Country.
Efficiency: Advantage Magic Kingdom. The underground system of tunnels in the Magic Kingdom called Utilidors is amazing. Rather than walk on the crowded streets, employees can walk underneath all the streets to get to work and to transport materials such as food. Additionally, the Magic Band system makes getting and using FastPasses, retrieving ride pictures, and paying for food a breeze. In terms of park design, Magic Kingdom has wider streets and doesn’t have the horrible people bottleneck around New Orleans Square.
Nostaliga/History: Advantage Disneyland. Disneyland is the first Disney park and the only one visited by Walt Disney himself. In fact, Walt lived in an apartment on Main Street USA.
Thrill Rides: Advantage Disneyland. Maybe Disney realized that it’s a better business move to have better themed, less intense rides, but the Magic Kingdom does not have very many thrilling rides. Disneyland has all the thrill rides at Magic Kingdom plus the Matterhorn, Star Tours, Indiana Jones, and a better Space Mountain. Disney World does have decent thrill rides, but they are mostly in the other parks.
America-themed land: Advantage Disneyland. New Orleans Square is way cooler than the Philadelphia-themed Liberty Square. The food is better, the architecture is more interesting and the Magic Kingdom’s Hall of Presidents is an oddly patriotic place that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the park’s vibe. Disney World already has a bigger version of the Philadelphia-world in Epcot so it feels like overkill at the Magic Kingdom.
Central Castle: Advantage Magic Kingdom. Cinderella’s castle looks newer, is twice as tall, and has a hotel room. Nuff said.
People Watching: Advantage Magic Kingdom. While the people of Southern California are fun to watch, nothing beats the “I Am A Tourist” outfits of the Magic Kingdom. My personal favorites are homemade family reunion shirts.
Crowds: Even. While the wait times for rides at Disneyland are longer, the crowds at Magic Kingdom are smarter. More people at Magic Kingdom get to the park early, stay late, and know park “secrets”. Take your pick.
Overall: Even. While Disney World as a whole is without a doubt better than Disneyaland as a whole, in a straight-up battle, the Magic Kingdom is about equal to Disneyland park. While it is more efficient and has better shows, the big rides are definitely inferior. For me, the roller coasters are my favorite part of a theme park and so for that reason, I would call it a draw.
I’m very glad to have been able to go to Disney World and would go back to explore the rest of the resort. I really had a magical time and wouldn’t change a thing. That said, I’m in no rush to return to Epcot or Magic Kingdom when there is so much else out there.