I started to nod my head in agreement, then caught myself. Why? I don't think that Disney World's 30,000+ acres are an asset. The wide open spaces outside Lake Buena Vista have allowed Disney to create a sprawling, late 20th-Century exurban development, where guests waste hours and hours during the visit traveling between theme parks, hotels and other attractions on property. Who wants to commute on vacation?
Certainly, Disney would love to have another hundred acres or so at the Disneyland Resort, positioned in just the proper location to make a third park easier to develop at the resort. But not having tens of thousands of acres to work with in Anaheim eventually forced Disney to create a theme park resort on a much more human scale.
Forget the new land in California Adventure. Walt Disney World is the real "cars land," because you can't get around the resort without one. Okay, maybe you'll take a bus - and wait for it - but you've no hope of getting anywhere at the Walt Disney World Resort without motorized road transport.
That's not the case at every other multi-park theme park resort in the world. Once you arrive on property at the 510-acre Disneyland Resort or the 840-acre Universal Orlando Resort, everything's accessible in walking distance. At Universal Orlando, if you don't care to walk to the nearby on-property resorts, you can choose to take a short boat ride over to them, instead.
At Tokyo Disneyland, the two theme parks stand within walking distance of one another, separated by a long shopping area. If you're staying at one of the non-Disney hotels on site, a monorail awaits to whisk you to those hotels, if you're not up for a longish walk. I've not yet been to Disneyland Paris, but it also clusters its two theme parks, shopping district and many hotels around a walkable hub. And at both Tokyo Disney and Disneyland Paris, commuter rail stations connect the resorts to the regional mass-transit system, meaning that you don't even need a car to get to the resort!
So the question is - at what point does additional acreage become a liability, instead of an asset, for a theme park resort? I understand that many theme park fans in the United States have become acclimated to exurbia. They've gotten use to seeing acres of empty space around every grocery store, school, restaurant, and shopping mall in their communities and expect to have to drive to every destination outside their home. So, for them, there's no problem with the long distances between hotels and theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort. That extra space simply provides Disney with nearly limitless options for future expansion, and less need to consider siting issues than would exist in a more densely developed resort.
But I don't live in a far-flung suburb, nor do millions of other Americans. I live in a city, where I can walk a block to a pharmacy, three blocks to a full-service grocery store, and least a dozen restaurants stand within four blocks of my home. While I love taking long roadtrips with my family, once we get someplace, we like to get out of the car and enjoy being there. That's why we're such big fans of Disneyland and Universal Orlando, and our favorite spot at Walt Disney World is perhaps the most walkable section of the resort - the "Boardwalk" area between the Swan and Dolphin and Epcot's World Showcase.
So, for me, acreage becomes a liability when it tempts planners to start designing for cars, instead of for people. Once you've placed your theme parks and hotels miles away from one another, there's no going back. Even creating a workable mass-transit system to connect them becomes nearly impossible. (Witness Disney's inability to develop any other transit solution at WDW save for buses, and a few boats.)
Of course, having extra space for expansion's a huge asset for a theme park. But I think that experience with Walt Disney World, Disneyland and other multi-park resorts should suggest that the appropriate size for a theme park resort is measured in hundreds of acres - not tens of thousands. While I hope that Disneyland finds a way to expand its attractions, perhaps even adding a third park to the resort, I also hope that no developer ever makes the mistake of creating another spread-out, far-flung, car-dependent, unwalkable tourist destination like Disney World turned out to be. There's a better way to pack a ton of entertainment into a livable, well-themed and visually isolated space. Lots of extra acres aren't always an asset to a vacation destination.
Of course, you might think I'm full of it. :^) So let's put this up for a vote:
Thoughts? (And I expect some heated ones on this topic!)
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While the transportation issue can be frustrating to some, I think it provides each park and resort with its own identity. Animal Kingdom cannot be viewed from any other park. As you near it, via the swampy landscape surrounding its own devotged highway, the magic is already beginning, and you haven't even caught a glimpse of it yet!
One of my favorite aspects of the expansive WDW complex is actually something very small, the road signs. Once I've entered WDW and I see the purple, green, and yellow directional signs and speed limit signs, I know that I am somewhere else entirely than Central Florida. Make fun of me if you wish, but those road signs make the magic real. Without the massive scale and size of WDW, guests would not be truly enveloped in the magic as they are now. I feel as though this characteristic is actually a key to their success, the opposite of a liability.
I went to Disneyland last summer. I liked how compact it was, but also saw it frustrating. I stayed on property so everything was close, but it still felt like there was too much space to just walk around. The monorail there was little help. I found the Esplanade startling small, plain and too close to DCA.
I think the one problem WDW suffers from is the lack of monorails. A reasonable system can be built, and if Disney is really looking to grow it's attendance it will have to invest in something besides buses. The monorail is still charming and fun to ride and affords a first and safe time for people to experience mass public transit and if expanded wouldn't be the bullet of reality in the Disney landscape that buses are.
I even think USO should have some kind of vehicle to move people from the garages to the parks because the distance walked is still too large. Ulitimately, USF doesn't use the space it has as well as other places like Disneyland and USC. They are land locked, and could use more land, but the way the parks are laid out and the surrounding land is used, it's not as tight or dense or organized to it's best use.
My idea of a stress-free, relaxing vacation does not consist of waiting in long lines for mass transportation in the blazing, sweltering Florida sun. I can't tell you how UNpleasant the experience was in 2006 when we had to wait for the buses to arrive in order to get to our desired locations -- sometimes the wait for a second bus was required, depending upon the number of people in line ahead of us. The boat option was better when we traveled to the Magic Kingdom, but let's not forget about all of the other parks & Downtown Disney locations that were also a must-see! Bus transportation simply stunk.
I realize that many Disney supporters will comment on the fact that Universal also has its share of long lines when catching a water taxi from the resorts to the parks; however, the option to walk ALWAYS exists. In fact, my husband & I typically prefer a shaded walk or an occasional bicycle ride.
IMO, UO's layout just makes the most sense!
Let me see.... When I come to Orlando this November and stay at Port Orleans Riverside does it matter to me that I need transport to get around 'The World'? The answer is a massive 'no' and I'll tell you why. Sure I could stay at Universal Orlando and walk (or maybe boat) from my hotel room to the -uh - two theme parks. So that's maybe, um, 2 days of activity? Perhaps I'd want to go back again another day to redo the major rides and attractions but that's about it. Or would I rather use a bus (or a monorail) to access FOUR different parks and about ONE HUNDRED different restaurants spread over 20 something resorts? To my wife and I there's not even a discussion to be had here. Disney World Orlando is a no brainer! We have 4 parks on our doorstep, easy access to Universal, Seaworld and even Busch Gardens and Legoland, plus more restaurants than we can visit in 2 weeks. And honestly, we've never had a problem with the transport system. The fact that I can book a premier restaurant and get there and back without driving so I can enjoy a few drinks is a real bonus.
Give me -too much land' any day!
The shopping area and the two parks are right next to each other, meaning there's no need to use transportation to park hop as you do at Walt Disney World. On top of this, unlike Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Disneyland Paris still has plenty of room for expansion.
What's the best part about the way in which Disneyland Paris is set out and the transport system is organised? I can get on a train in London and get off, two hours later at a train station which is in the heart of Disneyland Paris, literally a 30 second walk from the entrance to Disneyland Park.
That isn't to knock Walt Disney World's layout, but maybe when EPCOT was planned they could have considered a location with a closer proximity to the Magic Kingdom. Yes, they have the space to spread it out, but so long as it doesn't damage the visitor experience (it may even improve it) why not have the parks a little closer together?
Part of the beauty to us is that an on-site hotel like Coronado Springs, AK Lodge, or even the All Star resorts are themselves attractions, and their separateness makes them relaxing.
We stayed at Dolphin last year, and it was awesome getting the boat to Epcot the first day, but the second time we tried it to MGM-Studios there was a huge delay. So I can see the complaints from people who don't typically rent a car and rely solely on Disney transportation.
That said: Our family has never been bothered by needing the car, and car/tram to a park is usually pretty quick. The only real hassle is Magic Kingdom where it's car/tram/monorail (or ferry), and the monorails and ferries are packed at park closing. From now on we plan to car everywhere except MK, and then take the bus directly to/from the front of MK.
But my vote goes with Disneyworld and I know every time my vacation has ended I say where did the time go. Disneyworld does not makes it seem you are spending 7 days in a theme park with so much to do.
Also, you have to consider things like conflicting noise from nighttime events and such as that for the different parks..... You don't want the sights and sounds of one parks nighttime spectacular bleeding over into the sights and sounds of another. You also don't want the sounds of loud attractions or things more associated with one environment of one park possibly interfering with the theme or environment of another park.
Still, I do like the idea of the parks being a little closer together and more connected when possible. I do like the set up of CityWalk in association to the parks at Universal better than Downtown Disney in association to its parks.
I think maybe if parks can't be that close or connected being a close enough you could have a monorail or train or some sort of fun transportation system to get you there would be great. Maybe an amusement park Subway system of sorts!
As cool as the park is for being in front of a giant lake, I really wish I was able to walk to a parking lot to catch my bus back to my timeshare.
I'm also one of those people who never do park hopping - unless I'm at Universal Orlando. I consider Disney World to be more like "park commuting."
The last thing I want to do when I'm on vacation is get in the car and drive from location to location. Don't even mention riding the bus to me. I stopped doing that after my sophomore year in high school. Compact and walkable is my preference.
If my wife and I were going on a short weekend retreat I would rather stay at USF because the resort hotels are within walking distance to the parks. My personal preference is the Royal Pacific with HRH a close second.
I like the fact that your room key is an Express Pass for USF and IOA. That alone lets you save hours of waiting in line and one can ultimately ride until they are sick of riding and that can be done pretty much before lunch!
If I were spending a week in Orlando, I would opt to stay at Disney because let's face it, there is no contest on who has more to offer. Sorry USF, but it is Disney....AND why does Disney have the edge(really more than an edge in my book)? It is because they have so much land that they are able to continue adding world class entertainment for years to come and still keep a natural feel to the park.
I like the fact that for the most part once you are in a Disney park the outside world doesn't exist. You just can't say that for USF because you can see one park from the other and also the highway and surrounding areas and that just takes some of the WOW away from it for me.
I agree that one could spend much more time travelling between parks at WDW, but really, the people who gripe about that for the most part are the people who schedule every minute out of a vacation and there is no way they will ever be satisfied. I know this first hand. I see it every week as we now live in Orlando and hit the parks regularly and LEISURELY! The secret to a perfect Orlando vacation is......
YOU CANNOT DO EVERYTHING DOWN HERE IN A WEEK SO DON'T TRY!
Most people ruin their vacations by having the attitude that they have to do everything there is to do in Orlando on their trip because they don't know when or if they will ever return. That is a formula for a BAD time!
Sorry for my long winded answer! In conclusion, I would ask USF if it is possible to have too much land. I bet they say no!
The biggest clue that even Disney realize that the set-up of WDW isn't the best, is that they never repeated it at any of their subsequent resorts.
WDW really has no such issue. Each of the four parks still have room for expansion that can increase the overall show area for guests to visit, and once those areas have been exhausted, there's always room for a 5th gate if need be, years down the line. As said before, I kind of like each park having its own space, allowing them to become their own separate experience without impeding on the other parks intended atmosphere. I don't want to see icons from other parks that I'm not in, I want to be in the midst of the intended story of whatever gate I happen to be enjoying, while all of the strategically placed weenies in that said park do there job to pull me further into the experience.
The other thing about the WDW Resort Complex, is that it really is it's own community, it's own world if you will. I love passing through those roadway entry gates and knowing that I have arrived. The roads I travel on don't bother me because they lead to the magic. The street signs I read help to point me in the direction, and once I reach my intended destination, as I come around the corner and start to visually take in the park I am visiting for the day, there's a sense of discovery, or rediscovery if you will, and comfort in knowing that I have once again arrived for yet another day of adventure. If I had only one day to cram in 2 parks to maximize my visit, then I'd go with a more quaint, cute park set up like DLR or USO, but other than that, I'll take the "blessing of size" any day of the year.
This could obviously be fixed via a massive capital expenditure linking Downtown Disney and Typhon Lagoon to the TTA, expanding the Epcot line to Boardwalk and DHS and a Blizzard Beach and DAK line and an obvious overhaul to the TTA. While you would still have to bus to TTA it might long term create a savings instead of having literally thousands of indivduals bus routes and restore a certain degree of magic as guest enter the parks.
The secondary problem of "excess land" is landscaping...many times when riding on WDW roads "there is no magic" its just spotty grass and whatever trees where there to begin with. While with less land you can manicure everything and create a more immersive complete enviroment.
A primary example of these issue is riding the Monorail into MK...ask yourself when you last saw a topiary from the window?
I expect within 2 years, using Extra Magic Hours and RFID technology, only WDW resort guests will be able to fully use the theme and water parks. I also expect that Annual Passholders who live nearby and do not stay at the resort and all others who stay off-property (to save money) will be totally excluded from Fast Passes and Advanced Dining Reservations at the parks and resorts. These measures would have to be implemented to maximized the room capacities at the resorts and income from vacationers in order to pay for all the new and planned resort rooms. This will also be a restraint on the huge numbers of people currently going to the parks. The crowds for the last 2 years have been constantly growing with no let up in sight.
For these predicable consequences of what "size" means, I would have to say that the blessing of size is not a blessing at all.
Looking at the WDW property, one sees that there are several districts within the available space. The Magic Kingdom has its set of hotels, Epcot and the Studios have their own set, Downtown Disney has its own set, as well. Travel within each of these districts is essentially trivial. It is only when traveling from one to another that one has to use the mass transit system. If it were not for the huge assortment of activities available on property, the mass transit system wouldn't be necessary, and I don't hear anyone complaining that Disney has too much to do. If it came down to cutting the mass transit system at the cost of the variety of attractions or using mass transit and leaving the variety intact, I think the choice is clear.
How many attractions have been built at Disney's Hollywood Studios since Sounds Dangerous became outdated? The same could be said for Ellen's Energy Adventure over at EPCOT.
Whilst having less space is a disadvantage when it comes to expansion, it can mean that the overall quality of a park is better as the older attractions are getting moved out and replaced with better ones to save space.
Not only does Disney World not have enough to do with each theme park unlike their California and Tokyo counterparts, getting around the parks are a nightmare. I don't like using busses and the monorails to get around. Contending with breakdowns, congestion, and crowds are not helping with the immersive environment unless the idea is to mix with tons of smelly guests. Crowds are not fun especially when you have to contend with yet another line when the park closes.
Disney World isn't as immersive as claimed. It is a Florida swamp with nothing to look at after a day at the parks.
You can do this at Disneyland California too. The idea is you eat at Disney, shop at Disney, and do all things Disney. I get it. It's called a tourist trap. Just make sure your wallet survives the raid.
PD Also I hate when im on splash mountain on MK and nned to get to space mountain asap is a very tiring walk if you ask me. People like comfortness space yes, but Disneyworld is too commercial now to please everyone.
Think about WDW:
-Monorail is OLD. While not necessarily outdated,(it is obviously updated and kept modernized)the circuit itself has become inefficient compared to what it was during its inception. It is unfortunate that we will likely never see a large-scale expansion of it (running spurs to the remaining, unconnected properties, or maybe multiple tracks on the circuit to double or triple capacity).
To be frank, I tend to hate buses. Don't know why, I think it just makes me feel like I am sitting on a city block at the stop back home or something... kinda removes me from the magic of it all. Plus an individual bus does not have a terribly high capacity anyhow. Maybe some ground-based rail in addition to the super-expensive monorail infrastructure? How about a REAL people mover system? Something of that nature would be cool, efficient, and would serve as a unique attraction in and of itself.
However, for a simple daytrip I'll take the compact walkable resort for pure convenience.
For example, in the transition to the Simpsons Ride, the old building went through a lot of upgrades, and the ride units and control systems themselves were completely overhauled. If you owned a park and were putting that kind of cash into an attraction under-the-hood, would you simply open it back up and keep it the way it was?
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