Disneyland was once a solitary resort. A lot of people don’t realize that Florida got its four Disney theme parks well before Disneyland got Disney’s California Adventure as a neighbor. When it did open, some people noted that they preferred it as a parking lot. At the time, it was a glorified outdoor shopping mall with a vague premise and few attractions. It was hardly any competition for Disneyland. Nearly 20 years later, the park still has its quirks, but overall it’s a very satisfying place to visit and it has some things you just can’t get at Disneyland. If you are visiting the resort for just one day, choosing a park to spend your time at is not so simple anymore. Here are some considerations for planning a trip to Disneyland vs California Adventure.
Main Street VS Buena Vista Street
One of the coolest things about the two parks is how they mirror each other, even though they are totally different. This development came a decade after California Adventure first opened. The overall lack of story in the park changed when Imagineers designed Buena Vista Street. If Main Street USA was a nod to Walt Disney’s hometown Marceline Missouri, then Buena Vista Street harkened back to Disney’s first impressions of Hollywood as he and Mickey Mouse began their great adventure.
Instead of horse-drawn coaches, there’s a cable car. Instead of the Partners statue, California Adventure has a unique statue depicting a younger Walt traveling with his newly created companion. At the end of Buena Vista Street is a theater (really a restaurant) instead of a castle. The Carthay Circle Theater is a historical landmark for Disney fans as the site of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premier.
Batuu VS Radiator Springs
Theming comes in all varieties, particularly when you look at Disneyland vs California adventure. We take the lands of Disneyland for granted as they have been replicated around the world. Although California Adventure bears a resemblance to a couple of other parks, it is totally unique. It has a different set of themes based on what a visitor to California might experience. It’s lost a bit in translation as it gets updated, but both parks have new-ish lands that attempt to capture a new type of land at Disney parks.
Most recently, Disneyland expanded to add Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. The land is supposed to feel like you are on the planet of Batuu. Although the typical Disney theming is there, the highly anticipated level of immersion is missing. Some ideas never made it. Some were pulled back because they confused guests. Much of the remaining roleplay is hit or miss. Despite efforts to create an alien land, it still unavoidably feels like a theme park.
In contrast, Cars Land never should have worked but it absolutely does. The California Adventure expansion is by far the most immersive and mind-blowing land in the Disneyland resort. When you are there, you really feel like you are in Radiator Springs. Although this world is exclusively populated by cars, somehow it still works in a theme park full of people.
The flagship attractions in both expansions are thrilling immersive experiences with multiple phases built into the ride. However, Radiator Springs Racers offers superior storytelling and better use of projection (TV screens) than Rise of the Resistance does.
Pixar VS Lucasfilm
If you are a Lucasfilm fan and want to know which is better: Disneyland or California Adventure, you’ll want to stick with Disneyland. They have Batuu and the original Star Tours. They also have the Indiana Jones Adventure, which is the best of the lot. California Adventure, on the other hand, is better for Pixar Fans. With Pixar Pier, Cars Land, and a Monsters Inc. dark ride, it’s way ahead in terms of Pixar representation. California Adventure also prominently features Marvel and will continue to expand Marvel representation.