Disney vs. Disney: Storybook Land Canal Boats & Casey Jr. Circus Train

Storybook Land vs. Casey Jr.

Our ongoing Disney vs. Disney series usually compares two similar theme park attractions at different locations, but today we’re visiting Disneyland’s Fantasyland for a look at a pair of very different rides that occupy the same space. Whether you’re a fan of the Storybook Land Canal Boats or the Casey Jr. Circus Train, you’ll want to read today’s head-to-head matchup of these all-time family favorites.

Waterway entering the mouth of a large Whale sculpture in Disneyland's Storybook Land Canal Boats
Dive into Monstro’s mouth or drive around? The choice is yours in our Disney vs. Disney showdown between Disneyland’s Storybook Land Canal Boats and Casey Jr. Circus Train. (Photos/Videos by Seth Kubersky)

Storybook Land Canal Boats and Casey Jr. Circus Train are both considered opening day attractions at the original Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California. Both opened with the park on July 17, 1955, although the elaborate theming along the riverbanks wasn’t added until 1956. They both continue to delight children today, much as they have for over a half-century, but which one is worth your time when touring the park?

Storybook Land Canal Boats

The Storybook Land Canal Boats are guide-operated watercraft that wind along canals situated beneath the same miniature landscapes visible from the Casey Jr. Circus Train. This ride—offering stellar examples of bonsai cultivation, selective pruning, and miniaturization—is a must for landscape-gardening enthusiasts.

The landscapes include scenes from more recent Disney features—such as the kingdom of Arendelle and Elsa’s ice palace from Frozen—in addition to those from such classics as The Wind in the Willows and The Three Little Pigs. Best of all, the boats’ pilots deliver live narration that (depending on the driver) can be delightfully droll.

If you ride the boats, try to get on before 10:30 a.m., but the ride often starts the morning with only two boats in circulation, so avoid it for the first hour of the day. If the queue isn’t prohibitive, this ride is especially appealing after sunset, when the creative lighting adds a whole new dimension.

Take a grand circle tour aboard the Storybook Land Canal Boats with our 4K POV below:

Casey Jr. Circus Train

A pet project of Walt Disney, Casey Jr. is a miniature train ride that circulates through the same landscape of miniature towns, farms, and lakes. Visible from this ride are some stunning bonsai specimens, as well as some of the most manicured landscaping you are ever likely to see.

Casey Jr. covers the same sights as the Storybook Land Canal Boats but does it faster and with less of a wait. Accommodations for adults, however, are less than optimal on this ride, with some passengers having to squeeze into diminutive caged cars (after all, it is a circus train).

Watch our complete reverse POV taken from the caboose of Casey Jr. Circus Train in 4K below:

Storybook Land Canal Boats vs. Casey Jr Circus Train: The Final Verdict

In Storybook Land’s favor, the boats are much more comfortable than the train, the view of the miniatures is better, and the pace is more leisurely. On the downside, the lines can be long and slow-moving. The ride itself also takes a lot of time.

Our recommendation is to ride Casey Jr. if you have children or are in a hurry. Take the boat if your party is all adults or your pace is more leisurely. You can enjoy the same sights more comfortably by riding the Storybook Land Canal Boats, which also benefit from live narration instead of Casey Jr.’s canned soundtrack.

In the Unofficial Guide, we rate Storybook Land Canal Boats 3 stars (out of 5) and Casey Jr. Circus Train 2 1/2 stars.

Finally, a father of two toddlers from Menlo Park, California, has this to say:

Casey Jr. Circus Train and Storybook Land Canal Boats are totally different experiences—if you are 4 or younger. Hey, one is a boat, and one is a train! Seems obvious in the mind of a 4-year-old. We did
both, and the kids loved both.

Which of these Fantasyland classics do you prefer, or do you skip them both entirely? Let us know in the comments below!

For all there is to see and do in Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. If you are visiting Anaheim, you will want to get The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland. All Disneyland fans should also check out The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney’s Dream by Sam Gennawey.

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