Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World -- The Castles

The centerpiece of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is Cinderella Castle (left). The centerpiece of Disneyland is Sleeping Beauty Castle. (Walt Disney Co. / September 14, 2012)

Which U.S. Disney park reigns supreme? Loyal Walt Disney World fans balk at the idea of deigning to visit the, in their minds, inferior Disneyland. Meanwhile those loyal to the original Disney park may visit Florida's Disney World for its additional offerings of Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, and Epcot, but they argue Disneyland and its neighboring California Adventure Park are far superior. Disney World is bigger than Disneyland by two theme parks and two water parks. But does the opening of Cars Land and other recent additions in Anaheim change things? It's time for a Disney throw down!

Cars Land and Other New California Adventure Attractions

Since 2008, the Disneyland Resort has undergone its most significant expansion since the opening of the California Adventure Park. This July the beloved fictional town of Radiator Springs from Disney-Pixar's Cars movies was brought to life in Cars Land. It is home to three rides, new retail stores, a trio of eateries, Cars character meet-and-greets and a nightly dance party.

A completely redesigned entrance to California Adventure, named Buena Vista Street, also debuted this summer. It was built with a theme of 1920s Los Angeles, when Walt Disney stepped off a train from Kansas City with a cardboard suitcase and $40 in his pocket. Visitors find one ride here, the Red Car Trolley, as well as numerous merchandise and food offerings. The area's centerpiece is Cathay Circle Restaurant and Lounge, inspired by the theater where the first feature-length animated film, "Snow White," made its cinematic debut.

About the additions, Jennifer Miner, co-author of The Vacation Gals blog, says, "From Buena Vista Street's sense of 1920s optimism to Cars Land's sense of scale and the feeling of being swept into a 1950s road trip through the American Southwest, the thrill of complete immersion into a nostalgic Disney-fied recent American past has to be experienced to be believed."

The Silly Symphony Swings ride, Games of the Boardwalk (with Disney-themed prizes), and the incomparable "World of Color" nighttime water, light and fire spectacle are just a few other notable attractions added to the California Adventure Park over the past few years, none of which can be found in Orlando.

Hollywood Studios vs. California Adventure Park

Of the Florida parks, Hollywood Studios is most similar to the California Adventure Park. Attractions the two parks share in common include the Tower of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania, Disney Junior Live on Stage, and Jim Henson's Muppet Vision 3D. Whereas Hollywood Studios offers a live musical production Voyage of the Little Mermaid, California Adventure competes with the Little Mermaid-Ariel's Undersea Adventure Ride, added in 2011.

Three big draws missing from Anaheim are the Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show, the incredibly fast Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, and the Studio Backlot Tour.

Not yet mentioned stand-outs found only at California Adventure are "a bug's land" with three tot-friendly rides, Mickey's Fun Wheel (a Ferris wheel with swinging gondolas), and the California Screamin' thrill-ride coaster.

Magic Kingdom vs. Disneyland

While Orlando's Magic Kingdom and Anaheim's Disneyland share many fantastical offerings, you might be surprised to learn how many differences there are between the parks.

There are a few attractions that are similar yet different at both. For example, at Disneyland there is Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and Tarzan's Treehouse, while at Disney World there is the Hall of Presidents and the Swiss Family Treehouse. Visitors to the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland can walk through the attraction to view miniature vignettes featuring Princess Aurora and the evil Maleficent while Disney World-goers can dine like royalty at the much larger Cinderella Castle. Also, Tom Sawyer Island is more expansive in Florida than the California equivalent, Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island.

I counted up 15 attractions that are unique to California's Disneyland, most notably Indiana Jones Adventure and the Matterhorn Bobsleds. Other attractions here include: Alice in Wonderland, Casey Jr. Circus Train, Autopia, Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes, Disney Princess Fantasy Faire, Pinocchio's Daring Journey, Pixie Hollow with Tinker Bell & Her Fairy Friends, Snow White's Scary Adventures, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, the Sailing Ship Columbia, Storybook Land Canal Boats, Gadget's Go Coaster and Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. There's also Mickey and Minnie's houses, Donald's boat, Goofy's Playhouse and Chip 'n Dale's Treehouse in Toontown, all missing from Disney World since it closed Mickey's Toontown Fair in 2011.

Orlando lays claim to less Magic-Kingdom-only attractions, namely: Mickey's PhilharMagic, Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak Station, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover, Carousel of Progress, Country Bear Jamboree, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, Stitch's Great Escape, Tomorrowland Speedway, and the Magic Carpets of Aladdin.

And then there's the expanded Fantasyland, which has already seen the addition of a second Dumbo ride with a unique queue and will soon allow guests to experience The Little Mermaid dark ride, Enchanted Tales With Belle meet-and-greet, dining at the Be Our Guest restaurant and more to come in 2013 and 2014 including a Snow White and Seven Dwarfs roller coaster.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park vs. Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney's Animal Kingdom is on par with the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the sister attraction of the world-renowned San Diego Zoo. While not a Disney property, the Safari Park can easily be reached during a Southern California vacation by driving about two hours south of Anaheim. Both parks offer animal exhibit trails and safari-like rides through natural-looking landscapes. The Animal Kingdom (the largest of all the Disney parks) is just 500 acres compared to the mammoth-sized 1,800-acre Safari Park. Disney offers more in terms of rides, such as the Expedition Everest roller coaster, but the Safari Park offers a thrilling zip-line over the park.