Friends often ask me what the difference is between Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris, and why they should go to one or the other. They are the two Disney resorts I visit the most and there are plenty of differences between the two.
If you are from the UK and/or considering visiting a Disney park for the first (or twenty-first!) time, this exercise in ‘compare and contrast’ will hopefully help you decide between the two resorts. These are the main and most significant differences. There are, of course, differences between the attractions, shops, dining etc available within the parks themselves. I’m not going to cover these in this post. This is designed to be an overview comparison only.
If you’ve visited both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris, let me know in the comments (or via social media) which one you prefer.
Walt Disney World is 27,000 acres large – twice the size of Manhattan. It is HUGE. Less than half of that has been developed. It is virtually impossible to walk between the different areas of the resort due to the size of the property and the distance between each area. Luckily, transportation is readily available in the form of buses, boats and monorails (and soon to be gondolas too!).
Disneyland Paris is 4,800 acres. The main visitor areas of Disneyland Paris are all walkable (the hotels, Disney Village and the parks themselves).
The main ‘Disneyland’ park (Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World and Disneyland Park in Disneyland Paris) is bigger in Disneyland Paris by 33 acres. (source: Disneyology.blogspot.co.uk)
This one goes hand in hand with the first point. Walt Disney World is bigger, therefore there is more to do. Still, Disneyland Paris has a lot on offer considering how much smaller it is.
Walt Disney World has four theme parks, two water parks, twenty-seven Disney hotels, nine non-Disney hotels, four golf courses, an entertainment, dining and shopping area (Disney Springs), a sports complex and … well, the list goes on.
Disneyland Paris has two theme parks, seven Disney hotels, seven non-Disney hotels, a golf course, an entertainment, dining and shopping area, and a separate shopping centre with regular and outlet shops.
This one perhaps goes without saying. Walt Disney World is based in the USA where English (or a variation thereof …) is the first language.
Disneyland Paris is based in France, so the majority of Cast Members speak French as their first language. All Cast Members do have to be able to speak conversational English, as so many of the guests are English speaking. They do not have to be fluent, however. It is not unusual to encounter a language barrier if trying to have more than just a basic conversation.
The CMs in locations like Guest Services and hotel receptions are most likely to be fluent, so if you do have an issue that needs a detailed explanation (as opposed to making a simple food order, for instance) they will be the best ones to speak to.
Walt Disney World is in Florida, known as the Sunshine State. Disneyland Paris is in France. Need I say more?
Walt Disney World can be unbearably hot in summer (which lasts for a lot longer than the French summer). It sounds appealing but it’s really not pleasant when you can’t be outside for more than 5 minutes before sweat starts pouring off you.
There are often a lot of thunderstorms, which can cause ride closures and show cancellations.
Disneyland Paris can get very cold and grey in the winter, but summer there is usually more pleasant.
Something I noticed more on my most recent trip to Disneyland Paris than I had on previous visits was the cultural difference. Cast Members tend not to be as friendly as the ones in Walt Disney World. This is not the rule across the board, of course, but the CMs in Disneyland Paris do tend to be more reserved.
There seems to be less enforcement of the rules – for instance, I frequently saw children standing on bins (trash cans), ledges etc. As a former Walt Disney World Cast Member I wince every time I see these things, and can’t help but look around and wonder where all the CMs are.
I also saw selfie sticks and smoking far more than I should have.
Although none of these things have a huge effect, as a guest I definitely felt that these differences in combination led to a less magical feeling than I experience in Walt Disney World.
For Disneyland Paris, a 1 day 2 park ticket can cost as little as £53 during off-peak season.
For Walt Disney World, I could not find any information on a one day ticket for the UK – they don’t seem to be available.
A one day value off-peak ticket to Magic Kingdom (with no Park Hopper option) costs $101, which roughly converts to £72. That’s the price of a 1 day 2 park Disneyland Paris ticket during peak season. The other Walt Disney World parks are slightly cheaper, admittedly, but it is acknowledged that Magic Kingdom is expensive.
A UK offered 7 day ticket is available for £369, which is £53 per day. The most popular UK ticket is 14 days for the price of 7*. This works out at roughly £27 per day. That is amazing value for money.
Of course, the price of the park tickets are not the whole story. Flights across the Atlantic by their very nature are more expensive than a train or ferry across the English Channel. Depending on the time of year and when the travel is booked, though, there may only be £200 or so difference.
There are many differences besides the ones that I have listed here. Both Disney resorts have their own merits, appeal and sense of magic.
Disneyland Paris is great for a short trip. From the UK, you can hop on a train and be there in under three hours. That’s brilliant for a long weekend break. It’s also quite easy to experience most things in three days.
For a first time trip to a Disney resort, Disneyland Paris is relatively easy and not such a large commitment.
Walt Disney World, on the other hand, is huge and sprawling with so much to do. It’s an amazing holiday (vacation) resort and you would really need at least 10 days to experience most things.
I’ve been to Walt Disney World over twenty times, and lived out there for over a year and I’ve definitely not experienced everything. There’s always more to see, more to do. It’s what keeps people going back year after year.
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