Yes, I know, Disneyland is wonderful. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time at Walt Disney World. Why should you go if you’re already intimately familiar with Disneyland? Well, for starters you get four parks to explore which gives you many new attractions to see. While I will not be listing all the differences, I will try to highlight some of the main ones.
If we first consider the Magic Kingdom, right from the start you get something new: an opening ceremony, with a family of honor arriving on the train with Mickey, et al., and features an opening song and greeting. (Disneyland’s opening was a bit of a let-down in comparison, with an empty train showing up and nothing else except a simple countdown.) You are also admitted to the area in front of the Main St. station prior to opening (but held back from entering the tunnels into the park under the RR). Once admitted, you get many familiar rides, but also some new ones. While DLR has three of the four 3-D movies, in my opinion the best is the one that is missing – Mickey’s PhilHarmagic. This animated movie features Donald Duck unleashing the magic of the Sorcerer’s hat and has many favorites such as Aladdin, Ariel, etc. Another treat is FP for two Fantasyland attractions – Pooh and Peter Pan. Incidentally, as you fly over London in WDW’s Peter Pan, you can see the headlights of the moving cars below you. And yes, you can still meet the Little Mermaid. Of course there’s also the castle, which has an excellent restaurant inside (although you’ll need to make reservations first thing 90 days ahead for the Princess character meal). The character meal includes a photo package with Cinderella on her throne, then past the suit of armor you go up the spiral staircase to the beautiful dining room, adorned with banners, etc. for the meal and more princesses.
There are other new things you will find, such as the Hall of Presidents, which features AA presidents (all of them) and also familiar things, such as the Haunted Mansion, although the gothic façade of the WDW version is much more spooky than Disneyland’s.
Other treats: a longer Jungle Cruise where your boat actually enters a ruined temple; side-by-side seating on Splash Mountain so you don’t have to ride by yourself; Country Bear Jamboree still exists (for those who miss it). In Tomorrowland I also enjoyed the rotating Carousel of Progress for a chance to rest. Here’s another little joy: you can actually go in the fort on Tom Sawyer’s Island, and even fire the rifles at the people waiting in line for Splash Mountain. (well you're supposed to be fighting off imaginary Injuns, I suppose, but that's not as much fun!)
Now, you will notice some differences. The Teacups, which features a larger ride area and a teapot complete with dormouse in the middle, have a roof (much like the carousel). The Small World clock façade is completely indoors (and also more conveniently located near the rest of Fantasyland). This is all due to this new thing called RAIN with which you may not be familiar. Rainshowers, although common especially during the summer, are usually brief. Carry a poncho in a waist pack and you’ll be fine. We were there for a week in Sept. and only got significant rain for a period during one day.
OK, what else? Well, imagine taking Toy Story Mania and the Backlot in DCA, and making a whole park out of it by adding similar attractions, and you’ll have Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Don’t forget to add a really cool indoor coaster across from Tower of Terror, and some shows (Indiana Jones stunt show, auto/motorcycle stunt show, Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast broadway-style show). Unfortunately there is no Monsters, Inc. ride, which is one of the gems in DCA, but you gain so much more. In my opinion, this is what DCA should have been. You also get a dedicated amphitheater for Fantasmic!, with bleacher seats (yay!). What else? Here you’ll find Star Tours, with a life-size Imperial Walker out front (makes for a cool photo op).
Moving on, there is the Animal Kingdom, which has a river raft ride (although not quite as wild as DCA’s). However, it does have a simulated safari ride in a real vehicle with real animals. You will also find the best (in my opinion) Disney coaster, Expedition Everest which includes a Yeti and has you going backwards through the mountain during part of the ride. Nice visuals, great ride. Another neat ride is Dinosaur which takes you to meet some rather large and rather loud AA dinosaurs. That one’s not for little kiddies. What else? Well, you get more animals, both a bird show and some trails you can follow yourself to see wildlife. Let’s not forget the worderful Festival of the Lion King show, which features some colorful costumes and great acrobatics (real people, not characters).
Lastly, there is EPCOT, which features a number of areas themed for different countries, and some future-ish type exhibits and attractions. It’s been over 20 years since I’ve been there so I can’t offer much info beyond that.
There are a few other things I should caution you about. I already mentioned rain. Another drawback is the water, which really tastes awful. Do yourself a favor and drink bottled water. Also, there is this other invention called HUMIDITY. Go in the cooler months unless you like to sweat like a hog(it’ll still be 70 in Jan.). Lastly, there are no hotels within walking distance as in Disneyland, and the parks are physically separated from each other so you will need some kind of transportation. Disney has its own buses, monorail, etc. for its resorts so you don’t need a car although it would be easier if you did. Another thing, the Magic Kingdom can be reached only by boat or monorail (once you park).
So, there you have it, in a large nutshell. I’m sure I forgot lots of things, but hopefully this is enough to get you interested in a trip. It’s not the same as Disneyland, but you will have fun. Why not give it a try?