March 6, 2015

Disneyland vs. Disney World: A Look at the Parks in 2015

Disneyland versus Disney World again? Sure, it's done all the time by park fans on discussion boards and folks deciding where to take their next Disney vacation. With so much news about the parks in the last few months, taking another look just makes sense.

I'm a huge Disney park fan of decades with lots of visits and photos to prove it. So, I am not here trying to be unfair. For some folks, a Disney vacation is the last thing they would do. Not me. By their actions, the Disney Company itself has forced me to reevaluate where I spend my hard earned cash. And if you've read the blog for awhile, it's generally been elsewhere these days. I am a tough critic to please as I've seen Disneyland and Disney World at their best. Unfortunately, that was then, and this is now. Very, very different times. 

What's the bottom line? At this point in time Disneyland and the expanded resort are worth your travel dollars if you just have to go to Disney this year. Avoid Florida unless you've never been or its just been way too long between visits... or if you're dying to see the Harry Potter attractions at Universal Orlando.

Just taking a closer look at the Florida parks should tell you it's not the right time to go.  Animal Kingdom is a beautiful destination but strange mess of construction walls, broken effects on key attractions like Expedition Everest and the poorly generically named Dinosaur. Avatar won't be open for years. Nor will Rivers of Light evening water show, and even the more recent expansion of Africa will add additional shops and restaurants but not attractions. 

Don't even get me started on the third Walt Disney World park: Disney's Hollywood Studios. "Hot Set"? More like hot mess. Thankfully, that hat is gone, but then, so are a few attractions in a park that has so little to do. Star Wars Land is light years away. An expansion of Toy Story Mania only adds capacity but nothing new. Speaking of new, you can go to see the new Starbucks if that's enough to make you pay for a ticket there.

Epcot. Once my favorite Florida park, it's been a hodgepodge of additions that are more like subtractions. Characters have invaded and continue to do so where they do not belong. More booze, more food. It's the new theme of a once amazing place, a place now on creative life support.

A beautifully redone but somewhat shallow New Fantasyland is worth a visit to see the Magic Kingdom in person. Just not yet. One park addition does not a Walt Disney World vacation make. There is nothing show stopping, compellingly new, that's been built in the World to get me to hop on a plane. Maybe one day, but not now.

As it stands, from a park alone viewpoint, Walt Disney World is three days- one at Magic Kingdom, one at Epcot, and one day split between two half parks. If you go to Florida, take time to visit Universal Orlando and the beaches to fill out your week. Like most anything these days, the natural wonders created by the Almighty God are just as fascinating and beautiful as manmade magic.

Let's go over to the Disneyland Resort in comparison. It's not perfect there either, but it is still a better choice this year for a diehard Disney park fan. 

With the 60th Anniversary celebration coming, guests can get their fill of new parades and shows and a retro, nostalgia fueled day at the park. After all, Walt himself built the place. Notice, again, a trend: There's no new attractions, but at least those that are there- and there are plenty- are generally in working order. 

California Adventure continues its reign as the pretty younger sister that everyone has to see for themselves. A single visit to Cars Land will remind many old timers of the kind of excellent, immersive, attractions and areas that old school Imagineers used to build. Before the age of short attention spans of guests and money grabbing antics of Company leaders more interested in lining their pockets than providing first class entertainment. Remember when Disney led the way in constantly adding to their parks and not Universal?

Even though the offerings are better and with far less construction than in Florida, a visit to the Disneyland Resort remains a two day experience, one for each park. Again, get out of the parks and into the State. Or just get out of the parks altogether. At least for a few years until Disney earns your money again.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)


Keith Mahne said...

Very well said. I'm One of those types that hangs on to hope and will visit regardless but I definitely see where you are coming from. Enjoyed reading this.

Mark Taft said...

Thanks, Keith. I love WDW, but right now, there's just too much construction and the unknown for me to justify dropping a couple of grand. I know in the future, it's a definite, though!