8 Differences Between Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure

Your lucky group is heading to Anaheim, one of the biggest entertainment cities on the West Coast, congratulations!

There is probably one thing on your mind at this point: DISNEY! Did you know that there are actually two amazing Disney Theme Parks in Anaheim, though? While Disneyland remains the most popular in influence and attendance, Disney's California Adventure makes a really excellent option as well, offering all the Disney fun you'd expect at any Disney theme park!

So what are the main differences between Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure? We have 8 of them listed below!

  1. Size 

    While the entire area including hotels and Downtown Disney sits on 500 acres total, Disneyland sits on only 85 acres, whereas Disney's California Adventure is at an even 72 acres.

    Disneyland Map Credit Disney Resort

    Disneyland Map Credit Disney Resort

    DCA Map

    DCA Map Credit Disney Resort

  2. Attendance

    According to the Themed Entertainment Association's 2015 Theme Park Index, Disneyland saw around 18 million guests throughout the year. DCA, on the other hand, saw just about half of that with 9 million.

  3. Themes

    There are 8 total themed lands at Disneyland, following classic characters and themes such as Main Street USA, Tomorrowland, Mickey's Toontown, Frontierland, Critter Country, New Orleans Square, Adventureland, and Fantasyland.

    Disney's California Adventure holds just 7 lands, the result of much hard work and reinvention to make this park unique. These themes include Buena Vista Street, Grizzly Peak, Paradise Pier, Hollywoodland, Car's Land, Pacific Wharf, and 'A Bug's Land'.

  4. Attractions

    Each of these parks has its own major attractions, a point of difference that may make your decision when deciding between the two (though you should really go to both if you can and then compare them)!

    Disneyland holds the fan favorites Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Matterhorn Bobsleds, The Haunted Mansion, Dumbo, and the iconic 'Small World' attraction.DCA hold's some seriously iconic attractions as well, even if it is a fairly new park. Guests absolutely love Mickey's Fun Wheel, Soarin' Over California, Radiator Springs Racers, Toy Story Midway Mania, and the only inverted coaster in the area, California Screamin'.

  5. Night Show

    Each Disney theme park has its own unique, exciting, and mind-blowingly impressive nighttime show, a point that makes another big difference with these two parks.


    Enjoy the Fantasmic! firework shows, including characters, puppets, floats, and live music. In early 2017 Disneyland is also adding the Electric Parade, a feature previously found at Florida's Magic Kingdom. Disney's California Adventure will offer one of the most impressive light and water shows in the nation, the World of Color - Celebrate the Wonderful World of Disney show. This one features Neil Patrick Harris as the onscreen host with Mickey, surrounding guests with mist, water, color, and high-quality projection (19 square feet). There are 1200 fountains reaching heights of 200 ft to create the projection screen!

  6. Alcohol

    While this isn't exactly an important point for our students, it may be for the parents, chaperones, or teachers involved in the trip. Either you may want to keep your students away from that atmosphere, or you may want the option for yourself. (Sometimes you need a nightcap after a long day traveling, am I right?)

    Disneyland does not offer alcohol within its park, whereas DCA does.

  7. History

    One of the biggest differences overall between these two parks is the simple history behind them.

    Disneyland was opened on July 16, 1955, seeing it's millionth guest just 7 weeks after opening, completely setting the standard for theme parks around the world.DCA opened more recently, in early 2001. This park does have an impressive historic connection, though, with Buena Vista Street holding a reproduction of Carthay Circle Theater, the very spot where Snow White was premiered in 1932. DCA also has an interesting development story, first planned as a park in Long Beach under the name of 'Westcot' (like Epcot).

  8. Castles and Statues

    One of the most iconic things about any Disney theme park is its iconic castle background and/or Walt Disney Statues. This is also the main differential point between these two Anaheim parks.

    Disneyland has the gorgeous Sleeping Beauty Castle as it's the main piece, as well as the Partners statue featuring Walt and Mickey hand in hand. Disney's California Adventure doesn't have an iconic castle backdrop, but it does have the Storytellers statue depicting Walt arriving in L.A in 1923.