As a child, I would visit Disneyland some summers and Walt Disney World others. I’m honestly not sure how big of a difference I noticed between the two resorts, other than one of them having Spaceship Earth (a large golf ball to 8-year-old me), and the other not. Now that I have reached adulthood, and have visited Disneyland and Walt Disney World in the same year, it has become apparent how entirely different the variations of some rides are on either coast.
As someone who is quite interested in the detail of the parks, I have decided to compare aspects of Walt Disney World and Disneyland that they have in common. Today I want to highlight some of the differences in the two Space Mountains that reside in the U.S., and determine which variation of the ride is superior.
Both rides are located in the Tomorrowland of their respective park, and are enclosed in the same white mountainous façades. Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain was the first to be created, and was opened in 1975. Disneyland ‘s version opened two years later in 1977. With the same name, location and outdoor design, you would assume the rides inside are also similar. As someone who is a large rollercoaster fan, I regard these two rides as completely different experiences.
Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain features two separate tracks, much like the Matterhorn. The trains on that attraction seat only one rider per row. In contrast, the Disneyland iteration only has one track and seats two wide per train. I’ve often been a fan of the one rider per row (Disneyland Splash Mountain, Matterhorn, etc.) but the trains in Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain are seated very low, and are difficult to get in and out of.
The seat bar comes up right between the rider’s legs, located in the perfect spot to cause many knee bruises during rides. The Disneyland trains are more comfortable by a long shot. That is made even more abundantly clear when you leave the Walt Disney World loading platform. I would equate the ride to an afternoon on the Matterhorn in terms of herks and jerks. These quick movements are enhanced by the pitch blackness of the interior of the mountain.
Compared to the Walt Disney World ride, I could easily take a nap on Disneyland’s smoother version. There is no snoozing though, as the amazing soundtrack Disneyland pumps through the speakers of their train cars keeps the adrenaline going. That was another difference that startled me after riding both. The entire countdown sequence in Disneyland’s iteration is not present in Walt Disney World’s. And, without speakers in the train cars, the iconic Space Mountain music fades in and out as you ride in the Magic Kingdom, and is often overtaken by the technological sounds of the actual ride. The lack of music punctures the immersivity of this iteration in my opinion.
I think you’ve realized by now that I am a much bigger fan of Disneyland’s Space Mountain than Walt Disney World’s, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see some appeal in the east coast version. I love the lift hill on Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain. The entire spaceship and astronaut scene is a lovely centerpiece to the mountain and I love seeing it from every which way as I speed by. I also love the way the track doubles back and zooms by the lift hill. That makes for the amazing experience of having a spaceship fly by your train car as you are pulled up the lift hill. This is an experience that the Disneyland version lacks. I am also a large fan of the exit tunnel of Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain with the dioramas and moving walkways. With that said, the Disneyland version is much smoother and immersive than the original Space Mountain.
Which Space Mountain do you think is better? What differences did we miss? Let us know your thoughts or questions below in the comments! Planning a trip to Disneyland or Walt Disney World? Check out our planning guides for help! If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney, please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages. You can do both of those things on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!