There is a lot of spirited debate in the Disney community comparing Walt Disney World to Disneyland Resort, with passionate opinions on both sides of the issue. Indeed, there have been plenty of articles comparing the two parks on this site and others, and our very own Savannah Sanders has an ongoing series comparing attractions at the two resorts.
The following is objectively true: Disneyland is smaller, has fewer parks, fewer hotels, and fewer restaurants than Walt Disney World, and versions of most of the major Disneyland attractions can also be experienced in Orlando. Accordingly, a common misconception seems to have developed among Walt Disney World veterans that Disneyland is a “lesser” park and there’s no reason to go when you could go to Walt Disney World instead. The oft-cited fact that “Walt walked there” isn’t enough to convince them to try out the original park.
The reality, however, is that the World’s smaller, older sibling has merit — a lot of merit, in fact — and is very worthy of a visit. Moreover, far from providing you with an excuse to skip Disneyland, your familiarity with Walt Disney World makes it an even betterdestination than for someone who had never been to either park. I’m going to take this a step further, however, and tell you that if you’re an Orlando veteran, you need to get to Anaheim and take in the original at some point for reasons that have nothing to do with which place is “better” or the footsteps of one Walter Elias Disney.
Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, the long-running nighttime spectacular at Epcot, is beloved by many. But is it really that good? Let’s break it down.
Backstory: The first incarnation of an Epcot nighttime show premiered in the fall of 1982 and was called Carnival de Lumiere (no relation to the candelabra from the not yet conceived Beauty and the Beast film.) This small scale fountain show was replaced a year later by A New World Fantasy and that show was replaced yet another year later by Laserphonic Fantasy. Both of these shows used fireworks, lasers, lights, and projection screens on barges all set to classical music. The first version of the show actually titled IllumiNations began in 1988 and continued with some variations until 1999 when it was replaced by the current show Reflections of Earth. This version of the show was originally conceived as a signature attraction of the Walt Disney World Millennium Celebration but has been showed continuously ever since with the only variation being a special ending for the Christmas holiday season.
Touring Strategy: The show takes place at the center of World Showcase lagoon so it can be seen in full from anywhere around the lagoon, with the fireworks visible from many parts of Future World as well. The really good spots for IllumiNations do go early, however, especially in busier times of year. Without a reservation at a restaurant on the lagoon, your best walk-up locations to see IllumiNations are the raised area in front of the Italy pavilion and the area in front of the Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the United Kingdom pavilion. If these areas are being used for special events, consider the bridge between France and the United Kingdom and the area between Mexico and Norway. Just keep in mind that these locations can fill up by 45-minutes before showtime. If you don’t mind being partially blocked by a tree, a fence, or a guy taking selfies in front of you, then you can grab a location at pretty much any point before the show begins. (FastPass+ is not recommended but if you choose to use it, you will be positioned between the gift shops at the front of World Showcase and should arrive at least 20 minutes before showtime.)
Thanks to the folks at the WDW Today podcast, I was able to put together a timeline of things that my parents and I will have to do to prepare for our Walt Disney World trip. I put it together in August and sent it to my father…and then completely forgot about it.
Suddenly a couple of weeks ago, I realized that some of those things on the timeline were quickly approaching. I called up my dad and we discussed a few things concerning our lodging. With his input, I know that we made some good choices.
Our Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar uses a 1 to 10 scale to describe how crowded each theme park will be, every day for the next year. But if you’re a first-time visitor trying to pick a week for your vacation, it can be difficult to visualize the difference between a “4”-level crowd and an “8.”
To help with this, we’ve created a set of video walk-throughs of the Magic Kingdom for crowd levels 4 through 10, shown below. Each video was taken at the same time of day, goes through each land in the park, and lasts around 45 seconds.
Disney World has truly spectacular offerings during the holiday season.
It’s no secret that I dress for success when I plan my outfit choices in Walt Disney World – no detail is left out. While this usually refers to some light DisneyBounding, it means something a little different in December, when a cute dress and Mickey ears isn’t enough to get you through the cold evenings in the parks. Thanks to the fantastic holiday offerings, December is one of the most exciting times to visit Disney World. You’ve got Magic Kingdom’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP), Epcot’s Candlelight Processional, and Hollywood Studios’ Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. On top of that, the resorts and parks are decked out in their holiday finest, so even if you don’t want to spring for the extra cost of a party ticket to MVMCP, you can still enjoy the ambiance during the day. Just make sure, as you’re planning for your holiday trip, to give serious consideration to the weather. As unlikely as it sounds, Florida gets COLD at night in December!
I know what you might be thinking, “I’m from [insert cold state here — mine is Michigan]; Florida doesn’t even know what cold is! I walk eight miles uphill both ways through six feet of snow just to get to the Disney Store!” Okay, that might not be exactly what you thought, but it is pretty close to my viewpoint on the subject before my first December trip. Luckily, I followed the advice of others and (even though I scoffed) I packed for the cold weather. And thank goodness I did! Based on that experience, I’m going to give you a breakdown of my 5 must-pack items for cold weather, some tips specific to nighttime holiday entertainment options, and a few final pieces of advice so you can dress for success on your holiday adventures in Disney World!
Here I follow up on Disney’s 4th Quarter FY 2015 reporting from last week, which stated domestic theme park attendance (Disney World and Disneyland) for was up 15% year-over-year including the extra week in 2015, 7% without it.
Disney’s fiscal 4th quarter ran from June 28 through October 3, 2015. Here’s a look at the change in number of people in line at Walt Disney World, by park, versus the same dates in 2014, with the same methodology we’ve been using:
The biggest gains were at the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. My guess is that the Animal Kingdom is getting a lot of traffic from Hollywood Studios. And as The Motley Fool just pointed out, the long-term trends indicate Epcot might be WDW’s least-visited park by 2020 .
The average wait in line at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2015 is up about 1.6 minutes versus a year ago: from 21.9 minutes to 23.5 minutes. The average number of people in line across all of the Animal Kingdom’s major attractions is up by about 260 people, or 6.2%:
We think the all of this increase can be attributed to 3 things, each of which we’ve already discussed at other parks:
Growth in attendance
Better handling of FastPass+ return lines in the park
A quirk in the way Disney displays its posted wait times
Attendance grew 2% at Animal Kingdom in 2014, without any major new rides or shows. If you said attendance was up 2% in 2015 as well, I would believe that – maybe even another half-percent or so because of a slightly better economy and lower gas prices.