Comparisons between Walt Disney World and Disneyland are as numerous as they are hotly contested. Families, chatrooms, and indeed nations stand resolutely divided as to which resort is best. You are, of course, welcome to love both and each of their parks, shows, lands, Dole Whips, hotels, restaurants and attractions, though you surely have a your favorites.
It is difficult, perhaps even a fallacy, to measure Expedition Everest in terms of the Matterhorn, or to compare the Grand Floridian to the Grand Californian. A more relevant argument exists regarding those elements, attractions especially, which both resorts share similarly. For, while both Walt Disney World and Disneyland possess their own Pirates of the Caribbean, any dedicated guest will tell you, they just aren’t the same.
1. Pirates of the Caribbean
As an entity, Pirates of the Caribbean occupies a special place in the hearts of every Disney devotee. The Disneyland attraction was the last to which Walt Disney personally put his hand, and his spirit veritably resides there. The timeless attraction was one of the earliest added to the Magic Kingdom and has been thrilling guests, along with its west-coast counterpart for a collective century. The spawning of an interminable movie franchise and subsequent infestation of the Pirates’ ride by some wholly unnecessary, if unwelcome, cinematic elements has done little to diminish this beloved institution. Though that’s not to say Pirates of the Caribbean does not inspire an excess of passionate debate.
Central to the controversy is the pure, unavoidable fact that the Disneyland ride is way, way better. Beginning with their respective lines, the wait time at Disneyland is historically and consistently shorter. One might observe this as an indication that the Walt Disney World ride is more popular. Well, you’d be wrong. They are both comparably, exceedingly popular, and they are both above average in terms of passenger volume. Pirates is one of the fastest loading attractions in these, or any, theme parks. The Disneyland design and Cast Members are just incomparably efficient. While the Walt Disney World queue regularly jams up with guests battling to escape heat, hurricanes and the haughty white ibis, the Disneyland line stays smooth, steady and singularly manageable.
Then there’s the ride itself. Perhaps because it is the original, but even through scenes that are essentially identical, Disneyland’s Pirates has an undeniably different, more sentimental feel to it. Where the passenger boats pass by the skeleton piloting pieces of a wrecked ship through that storm, the mournful loneliness is palpable. Both versions have small drops, though Disneyland’s is just long enough to give that thrilling, actually-falling sensation. Both rides pump in authentic humidity in certain segments, leaving desert-acclimated Disneyland guests relieved, and Floridians wondering whom they can keelhaul.
Blue Bayou is the finishing touch. The authentic, fantastic restaurant past which you drift as the Disneyland ride begins is an indelible part of the transition from being part of the modern mundane world to colonial Caribbean castaway. The dining room itself has essentially nothing to do with the ride, though is an inseparable part of the atmosphere and experience. Surprising Disney has not sought to recreate the restaurant/attraction confluence in other realms. It truly is incredible.
2. Space Mountain
From characters to colors to contours, a number of detailed elements contribute to the quality of any worthwhile theme park attraction. Disney attractions consists of several million of them. Space Mountain, for all its subtlety—80-percent of it exists in almost complete darkness—seems to defy Disney’s inherent dedication to detail. Though, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean Space Mountain isn’t bristling with Imagineering brilliance. Both parks’ Space Mountain representative is amazing, and a lovable classic. But, again, one is just better.
Where Walt Disney World’s Pirates of the Caribbean first falls short—in the queue—is where it topples its Disneyland rival. A much lengthier respite from the elements, as you enter and even as you exit the Floridian Space Mountain, you are entertained as well as protected. Interactive astronaut missions help you bide your time in line, then a Disney glimpse of the future awaits you as you make your way back to the park. Those exiting the Disneyland ride may enjoy a set of escalators which were perhaps designed to not function and a poster of an alien shilling for FedEx.
Everyone who is not from San Diego would hurl stones at anyone from Anaheim complaining about weather, but sometimes it can get warm within the gates of Disneyland. If the Space Mountain line extends beyond its building, as it often does, the patio on which you are asked to wind and wait is comparably awful. With little shelter and zero distraction if this area hadn’t been left this way for several decades one would think it an oversight.