cover image disneyland castle vs disney world castle

Among us Disney fans, there are a lot of discussions about the Disneyland Castle vs Disney World Castle and which is preferred.  The Disney World Castle fans note its grand size, which also reflects the larger size of the Walt Disney World Resort. The Disneyland Castle folks appreciate it’s the original and the very park where Walt Disney himself once walked.

The truth is that whether you are more a fan of the Disneyland Castle (officially called Sleeping Beauty Castle) or the Disney World Castle (officially called Cinderella Castle), it’s really more about the similarities and differences between the parks.

 Ask any experienced Disney fan, and they will give you different answers about which park they prefer. Often it depends on where they grew up or how close they live to one of the resorts.  The truth is that any Disney fan is usually excited about both Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort, as both are very magical in very different ways. 

But one of the questions I get asked the most involves the comparison of Disneyland Castle vs. Disney World Castle. The Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland has been the most iconic attraction in the park since 1955. And the Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World is one of the prettiest Disney castles in the world – a true representation of an enchanted storybook castle.

As a confessed Disney expert, I worked at Walt Disney World (the park in Florida) and visited too many times to count (it’s one of our favorite vacation spots). I have also visited Disneyland California, Disney’s Aulani Resort, and Disneyland Paris, and taken Disney cruises. I am also a Disney Vacation Club Member, so I can clarify the difference between the castles and the two parks in general.

If you are reading this, I assume you are thinking about visiting one of the Disney Parks. But let’s explore the similarities and differences so you can decide whether Disneyland or Walt Disney World Resort is best for you.

I am a plan Disney Panelist, but all content and opinions in this article are my own. This post contains affiliate links which means I receive a commission at no cost to you should you make a purchase using this link. See my disclosures.

About Disney Castles All Over the World

Castle at Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris Castle, Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Before I compare Disneyland vs. Disney World castles, let’s talk about  Disney castles worldwide. There are six Disney Castles:

  • Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World Resort Florida, USA
  • Sleeping Beauty Castle Disneyland Resort California, USA
  • Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant at Disneyland Paris
  • Cinderella Castle At Tokyo Disneyland Japan
  • Castle of Magical Dreams at Hong Kong Disneyland, China
  • Enchanted Storybook Castle at Shanghai Disney Resort

All the Disney parks have their own unique castle for a few of the most beloved Disney princesses.

Shanghai Disneyland’s Castle at Shanghai Disneyland is like no other Disney castle in the world. You can eat at the Royal Banque Hall at the Enchanted Storybook Castle and have a magical dining experience with a storybook-style feast.

Making Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant at Disneyland Paris unique was a challenge as there were about 45,000 castles in France when it opened. Though it’s considered Sleeping Beauty’s second castle, it’s different from the first in that the chateaus and castles of Loire, Valley France, inspired it. This castle is a delight for European guests and visitors.

Hong Kong Disneyland’s castle, the Sleeping Beauty Castle, is technically the third of its kind. It was inspired by the Chenonceau Castle in France and the Neuschwanstein Castle to be reminiscent of the first yet different. And it was designed with feng shui in mind.

Tokyo Disneyland actually has two castles now, with the second being Beast’s Castle which opened in September 2020. Tokyo’s Cinderella Castle was a copycat of the Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World in Florida. Designing an exact replica allowed more people to experience the famous castle, which turned out to be a good thing for the Disney brand.

We’ll talk about Disneyland and Disney World’s castle in just a little bit.

Location and Overview of Disneyland Castle vs. Disney World Castle

disney world cost calculator picture of magic kingdom castle
You can visit Walt Disney World on any budget. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Location: Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World Resort (also known as the Most Magical Place on Earth and known especially for Magic Kingdom) is in Florida – Orlando, to be precise.  Though Walt Disney himself was a big part of the Walt Disney World vision, unfortunately, he died before construction on the resort could even begin.

This Disney park opened in 1971 and has expanded from a few onsite hotels and the small original Magic Kingdom Park to a much bigger Resort of four theme parks, two water parks, and numerous Resorts for all budgets and more. The people who were raised going to the Most Magical Place on Earth as children typically like this East Coast treasure better than all the other Disney parks.

Those living in the middle of the U.S. seem to have mixed opinions about which Disney theme park they prefer. But there is no hard and fast rule. West coasters visit the Magic Kingdom in Florida, and east coasters like to visit California’s Disneyland.

Walt Disney started construction on the Cinderella Castle in the 1960s, and the castle was finished the same year the park opened. It was derived from several European castles across the continent, including Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany.

This Cinderella Castle may be the most iconic of them all, as it’s larger than the castle at Disneyland. And for some, the new castle, the Beast’s Castle (which is the Be Our Guest Restaurant) here, was built for the Fantasyland expansion and is their favorite Disney castle. But I won’t be covering it in this article.

Kids in front of of Disneyland Castle
Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids, LLC

Location: Disneyland

Disneyland Resort (also known as the Happiest Place on Earth) is located in Anaheim, CA. It’s the original resort, opened in 1955 under the supervision of Walt Disney. It is a favorite among those who grew up going there, Disney history buffs, and usually those living in the Western half of the United States.

Walt Disney himself also oversaw the construction of the Sleeping Beauty Castle. The Walt Disney Company paid attention to every detail of the beautiful Sleeping Beauty Castle as it was the first castle for the Disney franchise.

Interestingly, the movie Sleeping Beauty was not out when Disneyland first opened. Walt Disney was very clever and used the theme park to promote the film when it came out. For many West coasters, the Sleeping Beauty Castle here at this Disney park is their favorite.

Disneyland Castle vs. Disney World Castle

Now let’s compare the two Disney castles. They are both amazing for different reasons, and my family loves both. There’s nothing more magical than the castles of your favorite Disney princesses, and The Sleeping Beauty Castle and Cinderella’s Castle are simply stunning to look at.

Size of the Castles and Theme Parks at Disneyland & Walt Disney World

One of the most significant differences between the Disney Park in Florida and Disneyland is their size. The same goes for the castles too.

Family walking into epcot.
Disney World has something for every age. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Size: Walt Disney World

Florida’s Disney Resort is comprised of over 40 square miles. This theme park features four main theme parks – EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.

This park also includes two water parks, two mini-golf courses, a campground, and more than 25 on-site Disney Resort Hotels. There is also a separate entertainment and shopping area known as Disney Springs. This park also has an extensive transportation system with a Disney Skyliner, a Monorail, watercraft, and buses.

Tokyo Disneyland’s Cinderella Castle is smaller than the one in Florida, but the clock is an impressive 168 feet tall.

Disney's California Adventure
Disney’s California Adventure is unique to Disneyland. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Size: Disneyland

Disneyland is actually pretty small, as it is only one square mile. It has two primary theme parks – Disney’s California Adventure Park and Disneyland. 

There are only three onsite Disney Resort Hotels here, but several close “good neighbor hotels” are right by the resort. Disneyland also has plenty of options for infamous Disney entertainment and a downtown Disney shopping district.

The Sleeping Beauty Castle is 77 feet tall and smaller than Cinderella’s Castle in Orlando, Florida. The new Sleeping Beauty Castle at Hong Kong Disneyland is twice as tall as the one at Disneyland Paris Castle.

The Exterior of the Sleeping Beauty Castle and Cinderella Castle

Both the Cinderella Disney Castle and Sleeping Beauty Castle have several similarities:

  • They both have blue towers and roofs
  • The upper part of both’s castle walls has gold hints
  • The main structures are also similar since they were both inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany.
  • Also, both used forced perspective, which is a common technique Disney uses. Basically, the details of the boards and bricks progressively get smaller to give the illusion that the castles are bigger than they really are.

One of the most significant differences is that The Cinderella Castle isn’t made of bricks as it looks; it’s actually constructed from steel and concreted and covered in fiberglass. Their facades are also different, as the Disney castle in Florida is primarily gray and white, while the Disneyland castle includes various shades of pink.

Fun Fact – Did you know that all the Disney Castles face north to south? The reason is that this position always provides good lighting for photos.

Disney's Magic Kingdom Castle
Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

What’s Inside the Two Castles

Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney

We love the inside of this Disney World castle as it has some pretty magical things children love, like:

  • The Bibbidi-Bobbid-Boutique, where kids can get makeovers
  • The restaurant Cinderella’s Royal Table
  • Beautifully handcrafted glass mosaics that tell the Cinderella story – these are our favorite things inside Cinderella Castle.
  • A secret invitation-only Cinderella Castle Suite
  • Other smaller activities and exhibits

One neat thing to note is that Tinker Bell flies out of the top of the Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella Castle at both Disney parks.

You may have heard about the Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour and associated it with the one at Disney in Florida because of the hidden suite. But that actually took place at the castle in Tokyo.

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland

Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle has evolved over time as it used to just be a storage space for the theme park, but now it has extravagant decor and designs.

The best thing the Disneyland castle features is the walkthrough attraction of murals that depict the Sleeping Beauty story. And the stunning stained glass windows are simply breathtaking. The medieval-themed banquet hall is also quite impressive.

Fun Fact – Did you know that the drawbridge of this Disney castle actually functions? It’s only been opened twice – when it first opened in 1955 and when Fantasyland was rededicated in 1983.

I didn’t feel like this article would be complete without covering the similarities and differences between the parks overall, as I wanted this to be the ultimate guide so you can choose between the two (or visit both as we do!) Your family may prefer one of the Disney parks over the others.

Attractions and Entertainment at Disneyland vs. Disney World

While both Disney World and Disneyland are centered around Mickey and friends and share many rides and attractions like Space Mountain, you’ll find some noteworthy differences. 

Space Mountain Early Theme Park Entry
Staying at Disney Resort Hotels gives you Early Theme Park Entry to get on more attractions like Space Mountain. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Differences

The iconic castles are the most noteworthy difference between these Disney parks. The Disneyland castle is the main attraction of Main Street in the park and the home of Sleeping Beauty. You can walk through it.

At Disney World, the magnificent home of Cinderella greets all the guests as the centerpiece of Main Street, USA. You can’t tour the whole castle, but you can eat at Cinderella’s Royal Table and see some stage shows.

Similarities

Both the Walt Disney Resort and Disneyland Park have the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge area. The Magic Kingdom and Disneyland have a few shared attractions and rides like the Haunted Mansion, Space Mountian; It’s A Small World, Big Thunder Mountain, and Pirates of the Caribbean, just to name some of them. The ride experiences may differ slightly, but they are generally similar. 

toy story land at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Toddlers see toys come to life at Toy Story Land in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Rides and Attractions: Disney World

This Disney World Resort has so many amazing attractions for all ages: Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, in addition to Magic Kingdom Park, which you can only visit here. You’ll find a broad range of attractions and rides inside each of these parks unique to the Most Magical Place on Earth.

Disney's California Adventure
Disney’s California Adventure Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Rides and Attractions: Disneyland

Disneyland has some fascinating rides and attractions, such as Car’s Land and Mickey’s Toon Town. Disney’s California Adventure is unique to Disneyland.

As a mom to two boys, Disneyland’s Radiator Springs Racers and Cars Land are two of the top attractions of all Disney properties everywhere. Disneyland’s Cars Land is one of my favorite experiences at any Disney park.

Entertainment At Disneyland Or Disney World

Both the Happiest Place on Earth and the Most Magical Place on Earth have tons of neat parades, character meet and greets, performances, and shows. You may find different performances at each park, but the high-quality Disney experiences are the same.

You’ll discover many things to keep your little mousketeers busy for days. 

Transportation: Disneyland vs. Disney World

The Transportation in these two theme parks is quite different because of their difference in size.

monorail at Disney World
Toddlers love a ride on the Monorail.

Transportation: Disney World

At Walt Disney, the property is enormous, so you must use the buses,  Monorail, Skyliner, or watercraft to get around. Or, you can take a Minnie Van to the theme parks, activities, water parks, and activities outside the property. While it may not be easy to get around on foot, it is convenient, complementary,  and adds to the whole experience.

Transportation: Disneyland

It’s easy to get around Disneyland on foot. While there is a Monorail, the park is quite walkable to the hotel area and Disney’s California Adventure. You can also easily access the Downtown Disney District. 

On-Site Resort Hotels: Disneyland vs. Disney World

Hotels: Disney World

Walt Disney’s 25+ resorts have various themes, so there is an experience for everyone. Enjoy Disney’s Art of Animation Orleans Resorts to the Caribbean and Port Orleans Resorts to the All-Star Resorts. 

And Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Grand Floridian, and Polynesian Resorts are also worth checking out. We love Disney’s Pop Century and All-Star Music Resort too. Disney’s Fort Wilderness also has cabins and a campground for outdoor experiences.

The resorts offer a broad range of pricing, from value to moderate to deluxe. 

Hotels: Disneyland

Disneyland has three on-property hotels with different themes.  There are also several approved “good neighbor” hotels included on their website.

Food At Disneyland vs. Disney World

It’s purely a matter of opinion which park has the best food. Both Disneyland and Disney World have plenty of eating options, and Disney snacks are something to behold. 

Though you’ll find some of the dining options are specific to the region, and the themes of the restaurants are a little different, you can find Turkey Legs, Dole Whips, Tonga Toast, Mickey Pretzels, and a variety of snacks at either one of these Disney theme parks. Each park also has character dining and themed dining too.

Disney dining is another cost in your budget. Space 220 Restaurant
Dining at Disney World is definitely something to budget for, as a few thematic meals like Space 220 are worth splurging for! Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Food: Disney World

Walt Disney World has just returned pre-paid dining plans for vacation packages booked for arrival on or after January 2024. Until then, Disney Dining Plans are not available.

Food: Disneyland

Disneyland doesn’t offer any pre-paid dining plans.

kids with Minnie Mouse at Disneyland character breakfast
Character Dining at Disneyland, Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids, LLC

Disneyland Castle vs Disney World Castle: Cost of Disneyland vs Disney World

When asked which Disney theme park is the cheapest to visit, it’s difficult to compare the costs of the respective Disney vacations because there are several factors to consider.  The price of tickets is relatively comparable, but flight, food, and hotel costs, how many days you’re going, and how many parks you plan to visit will vary for each family. 

And because Walt Disney has two water parks, two mini-golf courses, and four theme parks, you can easily spend more because there are so many attractions, shows, and rides here.

Remy's Ratatouille Adventure is an Individual Lightning Lane Ride
Some rides are available for Individual Lightning Lane passes. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Genie + and Lightening Lanes

Both Disney World and Disneyland have Genie + and Lightening Lane entrances that can help you make the most out of the time you have at both parks. Let’s face it; you can wait a long time to get on some of the popular rides, so these services are a must for us.

While there still may be a wait for one of the attractions or shows, it’s typically shorter. You may just wait for 15 minutes or so (compared to a much longer wait if you don’t have a Lightening Lane Pass or Genie +).

Free Genie Service

Disney’s Genie + offers convenience in the palm of your hand with an app for your phone. Disneprovidesrs a complimentary Disney Genie service that helps you create the perfect day based on your top interests, and it even has a personalized itinerary creator. We love having our whole day mapped out.

Disney Genie will also give you dining and attraction recommendations based on your input in the app, but you can easily swap out options.

Genie +

Disney Genie + amps up flexibility and convenience because you can save time by using the Lightening Lane entrances at certain rides. There is a limit of about two to three rides per day. But this can still save you a ton of time when you can choose a time to use the Lightening Lanes.

You also can unlock Disney-themed lenses for your smartphone, which make your photos extra cool, and listen to audio tales that provide a behind-the-scenes view of the parks.

When you can purchase Genie + is different for both theme parks. You can purchase Genie + as an in-app purchase starting at midnight on the day you plan to use them. However, you can no longer buy Genie + as a ticket add-on at Disney World. You can’t schedule your rides until 7 AM. The same goes for Individual Lightning Lane Passes.

For Disneyland, you can’t purchase Genie +, or Individual Lightening Lane passes on the day of your visit (rather than in advance) until you enter the theme park.

The cost for the Genie + is different between the two parks and costs vary per park, per day, depending on the time of your visit. At Walt Disney World, it costs approximately $15-$25 a day per ticket, and at Disneyland, it costs $20 a day per ticket.

Individual Lightening Lane Passes or Individual Attraction Selections

Some really popular rides require individual Lightning Lane passes or virtual queues. The Individual Lightning Lane is an additional cost to your ticket and Disney Genie+ purchases, though you can purchase them without Disney Genie+. The rides and attractions that require these at Walt Disney World include:

  • Star Wars Rise of the Resistance
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind
  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • TRON Lightcycle / Run

The rides for Disneyland include:

  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
  • Radiator Springs Racers

When you have a limited time to get through Disneyland and Walt Disney, getting Genie + and Individual Attraction Selections Passes can be a more efficient way to tackle the rides. 

Which is the Best Park to Visit? Disney World or Disneyland

Deciding on which park to visit is definitely a matter of opinion. And certainly, you aren’t necessarily considering whether you’d rather see the Disneyland Castle vs Disney World Castle when trying to decide. But they are the iconic figureheads of each park and represent which park you may want to visit. Here are my thoughts.

Disney World

Disney World in itself can be a complete vacation; you don’t need to spend each day in one of the parks, as you’ll find plenty of things to do to keep everyone busy. Transportation here is also a big bonus; in many ways, transportation options like the Monorail and watercraft are attractions themselves. My kids loved riding the monorail.

Disneyland

My favorite thing about Disneyland is that it packs a lot of fun, entertainment, and attractions in one small area. It’s also easier to get around and quite iconic. There is something very special about Disneyland being the original Disney park. The fact that it is so accessible and easy to get around can simplify your vacation.

Final Thoughts on Deciding Between Disneyland Castle vs Disney World Castle and Their Parks

For all Disney fans, a visit to either park is totally worth it, as both offer a lot of value and fun for the whole family. A few factors will determine which resort will be a better fit for a vacation, like:

  • Where you are located
  • How many vacation days you want to spend
  • Whether you are okay with a smaller resort or want a bigger area to explore
  • Could it be a stopover to another destination nearby (like Disney’s Vero Beach Resort in Florida or Hawaii with a stopover at Disneyland)

Each Disney castle is unique in its own way and shouldn’t be the deciding factor on which Disney park to choose though you should try both.

Both Sleeping Beauty Castle and Cinderella Castle tell the story of two of the world’s favorite Disney princesses. And this is further evidenced in Tokyo Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant at Disneyland Paris.

Disney World and Disneyland are both magical places and, in this mousketeer’s humble opinion, are some of the most magical and happiest places to visit. No matter which location and resort you decide on, your whole family will have a magical and fun-filled vacation, spending quality time as a family, and that is what makes a trip to Disney one of the greatest experiences of all.

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