10 Biggest Attraction Differences Between Walt Disney World and Disneyland (Ride Differences between Florida & California)

Are you a Disney regular on one coast and a visitor on another? Here are some differences that you will notice between the attractions at each park.

It’s interesting to note that Walt Disney World was built 16 years after the opening of Disneyland in 1955, but the newer attractions in Florida might not be as large or as entertaining as their older counterparts in California. Let’s look at a few differences between the rides to manage your expectations when visiting both locations.

Submarine Voyage

Submarine Voyage at Disneyland with Matterhorn in background
Image credit: Cressie Lewis / Dips and Trips

No Submarines in Florida, but they are alive and well in California! As a child, I remember riding 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage. It was one of my most vivid memories in the parks and I truly thought we were diving deep underwater. Sadly, the attraction in Florida closed in 1994 but the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland in California is still operating, just with a Finding Nemo overlay. Helpful tip: If you don’t feel up to riding in the small enclosed submarine, ask a cast member to direct you to a video room nearby so you can watch the ride experience from a screen.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland from the Blue Bayou eatery.
Image credit: Cressie Lewis / Dips and Trips

One version is almost twice as long at the other! Pirates of the Caribbean opened at Disneyland in 1967 to rave reviews. Although it was originally not planed for the Magic Kingdom at Disney World, guests complained so much that they couldn’t see the animatronic pirates in the newest park that it was quickly added to Florida in 1973. However, major changes occurred such as the omission of the 2nd drop and the ride time was shortened from over 15 minutes in Disneyland to 8 minutes in Disney World . The Disneyland version also has a high-end restaurant inside the ride called The Blue Bayou. It’s incredibly immersive and one of my favorite places to dine since it feels like you are dining off the coast of New Orleans -complete with lightening bugs! The Magic Kingdom version omits this restaurant in it’s much smaller footprint. Helpful tip: Don’t want to get wet on this ride? Sit by yourself in the back row of the boat in the dead center of the seat. Most of the water (if any) comes from the front and sides of the boat.

Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout vs. Tower of Terror

Guardians of the Galaxy at Disneyland
Image credit: Cressie Lewis / Dips and Trips

One you dance, both you scream! Both coasts boast basically the same tower ride: a dark ride with windows that open to reveal views of the park before you drop and bounce back up to the top multiple times. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, or simply Tower of Terror in Florida was built in 1994. The counterpoint on the west coast, was built 10 years later in 1994. Strangely enough, the newer version in California received the first major thematic upgrade with the inclusion of the Guardian of the Galaxy characters and storyline. Instead of the dark and spooky storyline of the Twilight Zone, the Guardian version is more like a dance party with 6 possible lift sequences and 6 different song choices. To me, it’s less dark and foreboding than the spookier Florida version. Helpful tip: After sunset during the Halloween season at Disneyland, this ride turns into Guardians of the Galaxy: Monsters After Dark with a slightly different storyline and a more metal song. The rides closes temporarily before sunset to “switch” it over to the more rocking monster version.

PeopleMover in Tomorrowland

PeopleMover at WDW Tomorrowland
Image credit: Cressie Lewis / Dips and Trips

You can only take a nap on one coast! The PeopleMover in Tomorrowland is one of my favorite rides at Magic Kingdom in Florida. It’s such a calm and relaxing experience and a great place to rest your tried feet after a long day in the parks. However, it’s only available in Florida. The original version of the PeopleMover in Disneyland opened in 1965 and closed in 1995 to make way for a short lived faster version called Rocket Rods which closed in 2000. However, you can still spot the track system from certain vistas in Tomorrowland. Helpful tip: If you notice that Space Mountain is closed, run and jump on the PeopleMover for a chance to see Space Mountain with the lights on! It’s amazing how compact the tracks are in the building!

Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise Signs at Walt Disney World and Disneyland above water from the ride
Image credit: Cressie Lewis / Dips and Trips

Why does one version go inside a cave of ancient ruins? Both Florida and California parks boast similar versions of the boat ride with improv comedians as skippers. Both cruises have a similar 10 minute ride time, however the Disney World version feels like a longer voyage since it ends in a dark temple of ancient ruins and snakes. Helpful tip: Be sure to ride Jungle Cruise at night for a more romantic and darker journey.

It’s a Small World

Its a small world facade at disneyland
Image credit: Cressie Lewis / Dips and Trips

Different dolls, same song! It’s a Small World first opened in Disneyland in 1966 following a successful debut at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The Walt Disney World version of the attraction premiered on opening day of Magic Kingdom in 1971. One noticeable difference between the rides is the queue line. Due to the hot Florida sun and heavier rainfall, the Magic Kingdom version is entirely covered and easy to miss when walking around Fantasyland. The Disneyland version boasts an outdoor facade with pastel colors and a much larger clock with a 5 minute longer ride time. The Magic Kingdom version does include an observation window from the Pinocchio Village Haus eatery. I made my parents eat many meals here so I could watch the boats as a child. Helpful tip: Disneyland’s version changes to a holiday overlay each winter and the dolls sing various versions of Jingle Bells in addition to the main theme. Be sure to visit at night to see the facade illuminated with beautiful holiday lights!

Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion Nightmare Before Xmas at disneyland
Image credit: Cressie Lewis / Dips and Trips

Does the ceiling grow or are you moving downwards? While both Haunted Mansions have similar ride times, the biggest difference is in the pre-show. During the Disneyland version, guests enter the round room which turns into an elevator to the caverns below. The Magic Kingdom version was unable to install an elevator and instead “stretches” the ceiling for a similar effect. Since both mansions were in development at basically the same time, duplicate parts were made but Florida has the addition of the music room and library. Helpful tip: Disneyland’s version turns into a Nightmare Before Christmas overlay for the holidays which is not to be missed!

Incredicoaster vs. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

Incredicoaster at disneyland
Image credit: Cressie Lewis / Dips and Trips

Inside out or upside down? The impressive outdoor roller coaster called California Screamin’ in Disney’s California Adventure was an opening day attraction in 2001 which later was rethemed into the Incredicoaster after the area changed into Pixar Pier. The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida is an indoor rollercoaster with a similar ride launch. Both of these attractions boast a 0 to 55 mph launch at the start of the ride with a speaker on each seat and both will turn riders upside-down making them the two of the most intense rides in all of the Disney parks. The biggest difference is in the theming. Helpful tip: Just outside of the Incredicoaster exit is Jack Jack’s Cookie Num Nums which serves warm, deep-dish chocolate chip cookies. It’s a great reward for braving this coaster. I recently heard you can also find them in Disney’s Hollywood Studios near Pixar Place too.

Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge

Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland
Image credit: Cressie Lewis / Dips and Trips

Same Galaxy, slightly difference orientation. As a visitor to Disney parks on both coasts, the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge area will feel very similar with one exception: the lands are oriented slightly different. It’s just enough to make you have deja vu with the Disneyland version facing another direction and with more entrances/exits to other lands. They also have different food and drink options. For instance, the Oga’s Cantina at Disneyland recently started serving a new five-blossom bread which is basically a large pretzel with garlic dipping sauce but it isn’t available at the the Florida location. However, Walt Disney World was the the only location to get the now-defunct Galactic Starcruiser 2-day experience. Helpful tip: I’ve discovered that if you have a reservation at Oga’s in Disneyland this will usually guarantee you a table (but you might have to share it with strangers). At Oga’s in Walt Disney World in Florida, a reservation just gets you in the door and the tables are just pure luck.

Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye vs Dinosaur/Countdown to Extinction

Indiana Jones at disneyland
Image credit: Cressie Lewis / Dips and Trips

Same ride system, wildly different experiences. When the Indiana Jones attraction opened in Disneyland in 1995, it was a thrilling dark ride alongside an animatronic Harrison Ford complete with the boulder scene! When Animal Kingdom opened in 1998 in Florida, the same ride system, down to the same track and vehicles were rethemed with dinosaurs and called Countdown to Extinction. Once Disney’s 2000 film, Dinosaur, was released, the name was changed to Dinosaur. While both rides offer the same sensations and movements, the Disneyland version feels more impressive and fun. Apparently Disney agrees and has confirmed that an Indiana Jones attraction will soon replace Dinosaur. Helpful tip: If you are the first person in the first row, you get the steering wheel!

Cressie Lewis

Author: Cressie Lewis


Cressie Lewis is a crafting, sewing, and Disney expert who has been featured on PBS, The Mary Sue, Mashable, and more. She has competed in national costuming contests including those at San Diego Comic Con, and was a top 10 finalist for Disney’s D23 Halloween Mousequarade. She is the founder of Home and Geek.

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