Are you planning a trip to Southern California and are debating visiting Disneyland vs LEGOLAND California? Keep scrolling for my full comparison of these California theme parks so you can make an informed decision.
This comparison of Disneyland vs LEGOLAND California was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Planning a family vacation and not sure which theme park to choose?
I get a lot of questions from families trying to decide between LEGOLAND and Disneyland so I thought this would be a great post to write so I could pour out all my thoughts and opinions.
Disneyland and LEGOLAND are both amazing theme parks but they offer different experiences. In this post, I’ll break down the pros and cons of each park so you can decide which is right for your next family vacation.
I know it can be tough deciding between the two parks, but hopefully, this post will make the decision a little bit easier for you.
So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip to Disneyland or LEGOLAND California today!
LEGOLAND vs Disneyland FAQs
LEGOLAND tickets start at $95 for kids ages 3-12 and $101 for people ages 13 and older. Disneyland tickets range between $98-$150 for kids ages 3-9 and between $104-$159 for people ages 10 and older (depending on the day). Kids ages 2 and younger are free at both parks.
Nope! Even on its most crowded days, LEGOLAND still doesn’t get the same crowds as Disneyland. And Disneyland often has special events and new attractions (like the Avengers Campus) that attract even more crowds.
Both parks are super fun for toddlers. If you are just going with toddlers or young kids and want a chill theme park, head to LEGOLAND. You can easily have a fun LEGOLAND vacation for just 2 or 3 days. If you have more time, Disneyland is really fun for toddlers if you have 3-5 days so you can go at a slower pace.
Best SoCal Vacation: Disneyland vs LEGOLAND California
Disneyland Pros and Cons
How Big is Disneyland?
Disneyland actually consists of two parks: Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure. These are right next to each other. Most people end up visiting both parks during their trip unless they are just doing a day trip to Disneyland.
Disneyland is about 500 acres and people end up walking between 6-8 miles each day.
Each park is set up with different “lands” that consist of rides, food options, and other attractions.
Getting to Disneyland
If you’re flying to Disneyland, you’ll probably fly into either Santa Ana (SNA) or Los Angeles (LAX). Santa Ana is much closer but sometimes the flight deals are better for LAX.
You can either rent a car and drive yourself to your hotel or catch an Uber/Lyft/taxi. Just be sure to bring your own car seats if your kids need them.
We’ve done both car rentals and Ubers and I personally prefer taking an Uber if we are just doing Disneyland and staying across the street from the Disneyland entrance. It’s really fast and easy.
Disneyland Hotel Options
One of the great things about Disneyland is that there are a TON of hotels within walking distance of the park entrances.
But, you can also stay at a “good neighbor” hotel at a variety of price points. We love the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground, Anaheim Fairfield Inn by Marriott, and the Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance.
The best place to get Disneyland tickets is through Get Away Today. They sell park tickets as well as hotel packages that include tickets. You can also find discount Disney gift cards that can help off-set the cost of a Disneyland vacation.
There are a few different Disneyland ticket options. You can do tickets for one park per day. This is the cheapest option but it limits you to visiting just Disneyland or Disney California Adventure in one day.
There are also Park Hopper tickets that allow you to switch parks at 2 pm each day (and then go back and forth as much as you like).
Finally, there you can pay extra to add on Genie Plus. This replaced their FastPass system and it lets you enter a separate (and usually much shorter) line for specific rides.
What are the Best Ages for a Disneyland Vacation?
Disneyland is pretty fun for people of all ages (including babies, toddlers, and grandparents).
There are plenty of rides in Fantasyland that work well little kids as well as people who “don’t like rides.”
And it’s a great place to find thrill rides like giant Disneyland roller coasters, dark rides, and ones with lots of scary drops.
If you’re traveling with teens, tweens, or other adults without kids, Disneyland is a better pick than LEGOLAND in terms of rides.
What Does a Day at Disneyland Look Like?
I’ll be frank, Disneyland days are LONG. The parks open pretty early (even earlier for Disneyland hotel guests) and sometimes don’t close until midnight.
Many families like to “rope drop” which means they are in line for the ride they want as soon as the park opens. They let guests into Disneyland 15-30 minutes early specifically so people can walk to the rides before anything is open.
But, you’ll need to go through security first (which can take a while) and then get in the entrance line (at least 30 minutes before the park opens). That’s a pretty early morning.
Once you’re in the park, you’ll need a solid game plan of which rides to do in what order. Disneyland is pretty spread out so it makes the most sense to do one “land” at a time.
After a bunch of rides, people usually either get a snack or get a full lunch. There are tons of food options and you can even mobile order to save time.
In the afternoon, a lot of families with little kids will go back to the hotel for a nap or pool break.
Then, it’s more rides, parades, and dinner inside the park. Usually, you’ll want a dining reservation so you can have a sit-down dinner.
Sometimes there’s another parade and then there are usually nightly fireworks. The parks stay open really late.
When it comes to Disneyland, they really have something for everyone. And each “land” is completely immersive.
You can find a full list of Disneyland rides, but a few notable ones include both of the Star Wars rides at Galaxy’s Edge, the new Webslingers ride at the Avengers Campus and the Incredicoaster.
They also have classic Disney rides like “it’s a small world”, Indiana Jones, the Pirates of the Caribbean, the teacups, and Dumbo.
Shopping at Disneyland
If you are a shopper, Disneyland is one of the most fun places to either browse adorable items or find unique gifts. You can shop at Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and Downtown Disney and they all sell different items.
If you’re staying at a Disneyland hotel, you can even have your purchases sent to your room!
However, the plethora of shopping options can be overwhelming, especially if you have kids who want souvenirs every 5 seconds. A lot of the rides even exit through a ride-specific gift shop.
Disneyland Food Options
You can find almost any kind of food at Disneyland. There are tons of sit-down restaurants (many with reservations available), fast-casual restaurants, and tons of snack stands. And they have Starbucks and other coffee options.
They also have Disney character meals at the hotels and in the parks.
What’s extra cool is that there’s often some sort of event going on where there are special food options.
LEGOLAND Pros and Cons
How Big is LEGOLAND?
LEGOLAND California is 128 acres, which means there is less walking than at Disneyland.
When most people talk about LEGOLAND, they are just referring to LEGOLAND Park. But, there’s also the Water Park and SEA LIFE Aquarium.
LEGOLAND Park is set up as one big loop that slightly goes uphill and then backs down again. There are different themed areas along the loop that include themed rides, food options, and decor.
Getting to LEGOLAND California
LEGOLAND California is about an hour’s drive from the San Diego International Airport. It can be even longer during rush hour.
You can either rent a car at the airport and drive yourself or do an Uber/Lyft or taxi. Just be sure to bring car seats or booster seats for any kids who need them.
The drive from the airport to LEGOLAND is fairly straight on the freeway and I wouldn’t call it a scenic drive.
LEGOLAND Hotel Options
I highly, highly recommend staying at one of these hotels because the themed rooms are amazing and they have TONS of activities to keep kids occupied once the park is closed. Read my reviews of the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel and the LEGOLAND Hotel.
Plus, both of these hotels come with a free buffet breakfast that is fantastic.
However, LEGOLAND hotels tend to be pricier than other hotels. There are a few others within walking distance to the park.
Another option is to take advantage of the LEGOLAND Black Friday deals directly through LEGOLAND California which is usually the lowest price of the year.
There are several options for LEGOLAND tickets. There’s the standard LEGOLAND ticket that gets you into the LEGOLAND Park.
Or, you can get a combination ticket that includes the SEA LIFE Aquarium.
What are the Best Ages for a LEGOLAND Vacation?
My opinion is that LEGOLAND is best for kids ages 2-10 years old. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t bring older or younger kids, but it’s really set up for toddlers to tweens.
There’s a section of the park geared for toddlers and preschoolers (DUPLO land) and little kids can do some of the other rides throughout the park.
There are also 3 roller coasters and a couple of medium thrill rides that are great for slightly older kids.
But, teens will be bored unless they are accompanying younger kids and are being good sports about it.
What Does a Day at LEGOLAND Look Like?
The hours at LEGOLAND California usually run 10 am-5 pm or 10 am-6 pm. That’s a much shorter park day than Disneyland.
So, most people do a leisurely breakfast in their hotel before heading to the park. The line to get into the park usually isn’t very long. Oh, and LEGOLAND hotel guests can get in 30 minutes early.
If you enter 30 minutes early, there are only 4 rides open. So people usually head for one of those first.
LEGOLAND is set up as a loop. So, you can either walk the loop to the right or the left.
People usually do a few rides and then sit and eat lunch for a bit. There are lots of playgrounds, LEGO building areas, and other non-ride things to do.
Then, families finish off their day with a few more rides before heading back to their hotel. LEGOLAND hotels have programming that starts as soon as the parks close and ends around 9 pm.
It’s a pretty relaxed pace of the day, even if you run around trying to find the shortest ride wait times.
Most of the rides at LEGOLAND California are a bit less “glitzy” than at Disneyland. Some of the rides have slightly outdated tech and a lot of the outdoor rides could use a bit of sprucing up.
However, there are a ton of rides for preschoolers, toddlers, and kids up to about 12 years old. See the full list of LEGOLAND rides.
I found that the ride wait times on the app aren’t very accurate. We went to a ride that said it was a 10-minute wait but we were there at least 30 minutes.
Shopping at LEGOLAND
There is definitely less temptation for shopping at LEGOLAND California. I mean, there are some really cool LEGO stores, but most carry the same items at the big Brick store at the entrance of the park. This is good and bad.
It’s helpful for parents who want to wait and buy souvenirs as they leave the park. Or have their purchases sent to the park exit. And kids are slightly less tempted to stop at every store because it’s mostly the same stuff.
But, if you’re a shopper, it’s not as much fun as shopping at Disneyland. And there aren’t very many items exclusive to LEGOLAND California.
LEGOLAND Food Options
The food options at LEGOLAND are pretty limited. There are a few fast-casual restaurants, lunch stands, and snack shops. And the food doesn’t open until an hour or two after the park opens.
Granny’s Apple Fries is one of my favorite theme park snacks. They are fries made out of Granny Smith apples that are coated in sugar and cinnamon and they are super tasty!
Should You Do Both Disneyland and LEGOLAND?
You can definitely do both parks on a Southern California vacation. We’ve done that before and it’s a blast.
I recommend starting with LEGOLAND California because it’s smaller, less overwhelming, and it’s a shorter park day. And it doesn’t have the same razzle-dazzle “magic” as Disneyland.
Then, take a transition day as you drive up to Disneyland to rest and play at a hotel pool or hang out in Downtown Disney before starting your Disneyland vacation.