Dueling Disney – Does Resort Size Matter?

Written by Jeff Heimbuch. Posted in Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort, Dueling Disney, Features, Walt Disney World

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Published on January 16, 2013 at 4:04 am with 45 Comments

Welcome to installment one of Dueling Disney. This new monthly column will run the length of 2013, and entail two friends on different coasts battling it out for Disney park supremacy.

Keith Gluck grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and has been to Disneyland every year since birth. Jeff Heimbuch grew up in New Jersey, and was exposed to Walt Disney World at the ripe old age of 3.

We both love not only our respective home resorts, but the “other coast’s” as well. Therefore, don’t be surprised if you see one columnist concede a point or two throughout the series. Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World is always a fun (and lighthearted) topic, so comments are definitely encouraged. Show your “home resort” pride and let us know which point of view you agree with most.



Resort Size

Keith: Okay Jeff, you got me here. This is a point that not only will I concede, but concede 43 times over (in honor of Disney World being a gargantuan 43 times larger than Disneyland). However I maintain that my home resort being much smaller does have its advantages. For example, park-hopping is a breeze! The two closest parks in Disney World are Epcot and Hollywood Studios. At a brisk walking pace (or even a light jog, provided you’re up for that while on vacation), you’re looking at about 10 minutes to get from one park to the other. Disneyland to California Adventure, however: 10 seconds!

Jeff: You conceded already? Well, that’s it, folks! Column’s over!

OK, fine, you want me to list some of my points? Fair enough.

Like you said already, Keith, Walt Disney World wins by a mile…42 square miles to be exact! As I’m sure most of you know, Walt, when looking to building Walt Disney World, was looking for the blessing of size, something he didn’t have when building Disneyland. Tons of cheap, low-rent motels popped up around Disneyland within its opening years, and Walt thought that was tacky. So, when it came time to build Walt Disney World, he wanted a large space so he could control what went up around his Parks. And control it, the Walt Disney Company does!
Now, I’m not necessarily going to say that the size factor is a huge score for us, but it has its ups and downs. But my main point to start with will be that we do have an over-abundance of space, which leads us to more room for expansions, a vast, city-like network, and controlled eye lines!

Keith: You are absolutely right, Jeff. Walt knew how valuable the land around Disneyland was going to be, but he just plain and simple had no more money. In fact he even told his friend Art Linkletter to consider purchasing the surrounding land prior to Disneyland’s opening, so together they could develop properties on it in the future. Mr. Linkletter, unfortunately, did not share Walt’s vision. He passed on the offer, and later probably set the world record for the amount of times one can kick oneself.

Walt was obviously in a better position when it came time to purchase land for “The Florida Project,” and the Disney Company has utilized said land by constructing (so far): four theme parks, a shopping district, two golf courses, a transportation hub, dozens of hotels, and more. However, Monsieur Heimbuch, I have only conceded that Disney World wins in resort size, because, it’s bigger! In terms of size management, you must concede that Disneyland does a much better job. In fact if you compare the similar parks, Disneyland and Magic Kingdom, you’ll notice that while MK is over 20 acres larger than its older sister, it contains fewer attractions!

Jeff: You definitely have me there, good sir! I think, in this case especially, that bigger is not always better! Like you mentioned, Magic Kingdom has fewer attractions than Disneyland, despite being much larger in size. However, it does make up for it in excellent theming. But, overall, I would have to say that the size of the resort may be more of a curse than a blessing. Just ask anyone that has used the Walt Disney World bus system, and I can almost guarantee you that they’ll say the same thing: It stinks (hat tip to movie critic Jay Sherman). The resort is just too huge to have an effective transportation system to keep everyone happy. Everything is so spread out that you almost always have to wait 30 minutes or more to get to your destination. Unless, of course, you’re staying on the Monorail loop, and you’re heading to Magic Kingdom. Then the Park is only a short walk (or Monorail or boat ride!) away! But even then, the boats and Monorails get over crowded during peak seasons.

Keith: Yep, that is a huge plus for our side, bud. If you are staying on-property at Disneyland, you are never more than a 10-minute walk to either park (and if you’re staying at the Grand Californian, you’re looking at a 30 second walk to California Adventure). Plus there are several reasonably-priced two to three star hotels right across the street from the Disneyland Resort (which I like to call “the strip”) on South Harbor, that are all also only a 10-minute walk (or less) away. I’d also like to add that being smaller adds to our charm. In the case of Disneyland vs. Magic Kingdom (which very well may end up being its own column in this series), Disneyland appears far more quaint, whereas the Magic Kingdom can look a little too big/spread out in certain areas. So, to wrap up our first duel, I’m going to say: charm, convenience of park-hopping, and space management are all reasons why even though Walt Disney World is bigger, Disneyland is the winner in terms of resort size!

Jeff: To further your point, I’ll quote my good friend, Disney Legend, and former Imagineer Rolly Crump (excuse me for a moment while I pick up this name I just dropped): “Disneyland hugs you. Walt Disney World just made way for all the strollers.” And he’s right. While I think the sheer size of the resort comes in handy for the other Parks, you lose the feeling of quaintness at the Magic Kingdom that you find at Disneyland. It’s too big, not as charming, and definitely a check against it. I do have to say that SOME areas of Magic Kingdom exceed their Disneyland counterparts, for the most part, Disneyland wins. So, while Walt Disney World wins for physical size…I think Disneyland wins this round.

What do you guys think? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of your home resort’s size?



Dueling Disney is written by Jeff Heimbuch & Keith Gluck

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email us at [email protected] or [email protected]

You can follow us on Twitter @DisneyProject and @JeffHeimbuch


About Jeff Heimbuch

Jeff has been in love with all things Disney since a very early age. He writes From The Mouth Of The Mouse and The 626 every week for MiceChat. He also collaborates on The Disney Review every weekend. Aside from that, he is one half of the devastatingly good looking duo of the weekly vid/podcast Communicore Weekly (the other half being fellow MiceChat columnist George Taylor), which you can find at www.communicoreweekly.com Jeff is also writing a book with former Imagineer and Disney Legend, Rolly Crump. You can find out more about the book at www.itskindofacutestory.com

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  • gratefulbob

    People traveling from afar to the Los Angelas area would certainly enjoy a day in DL, and that’s all you would need. Then it’s on to the Hollywood, Beverly Hills, the star studded tour and a relaxing day on Venice Beach. People traveling from afar to Orlando would not be able to do WDW in a day or even 2 days and what else is there to do in Orlando anyway? I think you guys should do this column everyday!

    • jasmineray

      There’s no way ANYONE could do all of Disneyland in one day. Disneyland alone requires 2-3 days. Add on DCA and possibly Downtown Disney, you’re looking at a 5+ day visit, IMO.

  • BC_DisneyGeek

    There’s really no answer to which is the “best” resort. They’re different, and the one that a visitor prefers, may have more to do with what they want out of a vacation, than any measure of superiority.

    As has been pointed out, the space at WDW allows for a wider variety of activites and options. Sure the Grand Californian is a 30-second walk from Disneyland, but it’s out of the budget for most visitors. Other than a nice pool and setting, what does one really get out of staying there?

    In comparison, for a fraction of the price one can stay at Coronada Springs, or Port Orleans. Both are true resorts, offering expansive grounds to enjoy (chilling in a lakeside hammock at CS is great), and are great places to spend time at.

    Disnseyland is cheaper to stay at (no need to spend more than $100 to be within walking distance) and the smaller space makes touring the resort a breeze, but it lacks the true resort experience that WDW offers.

  • Mickey777

    I personally don’t feel much difference in terms of size when I am at either/or. And I would like to note that MK has plenty of “quaint and charming”. Just look at Caribbean Plaza, Liberty Square, or take a stroll on the path on the west side of Cindy’s castle at night (the one that links the hub with FL).

    • Mickey777

      “Either/or” meaning DL and MK. Not the resorts in general. Sorry.

  • Malin

    An idea for a further column how about an opinion poll afterwards.

  • Ravjay12

    At Disneyland resort, you are too close to the outside world to have that feeling of “getting away from it all” that you do at Disney World. Plus the lack of golf courses and water parks further hurt Disneyland as a total resort destination. But, Disneyland Resort seems to have the best of Disney World’ s attractions in two theme parks. There’s different but great things about both places.

  • LoveStallion

    I love ending every sentence with an exclamation point! I yell everything I say!

  • LoveStallion

    First off – Disneyland Paris is my favorite so far, though I’ve yet to go to Tokyo.

    Secondly, regarding the argument that DW taking up a much larger space allows for more immersion and atmosphere – I do not completely agree. I get the argument, but when I go to Disneyland, I love the stark contrast between the joy of being inside the property and the ho-hum lameness of Anaheim. It is certainly not as ideal of a situation in terms of branding and monetization, but I just get such a kick out of leaving my daily grind behind and entering the pearly gates.

  • brianpinsky

    Tthank you for agreeing. When I was at WDW I got so tired from walking around (Being a huge and long term DLAP) You could only do a singal park at one time because by 2pm you were so tired from walking around. Disneyland on the other hand is just a stone thow from its second gate. If DLR opens a third gate IDK were it would go. WDW could open 10 more park and still have room.

  • brianpinsky

    …And by the way We want the Electrical Parade back.

  • lctom1

    First off, a disclaimer: I’ve been going to Disneyland since 1957 so naturally I have developed a huge bias for what is familiar to me. Still …

    If you are comparing Disneyland vs. MK then Disneyland wins hands-down. Not only for the sheer number of attractions, but also (as was hinted at in Rolly Crumps quote) because Disneyland’s smallness adds a certain charm to the guests’ experience. Walking down Main St. U.S.A. at DL I get drawn into the setting, which is unlike the more metropolitan feeling I get at the MK. Disneyland wins easily.

    Looking at the overall resorts, however, the ability of WDW to distance itself from its surrounding civilization is a major plus. Granted, the transportation system can be tiresome, but at least one can get away from the hustle of everyday life that surrounds Disneyland and DCA. DLR does the best that it can given its contrained acreage, but in this regard I think that WDW would have a slight advantage.

  • JiminyCricketFan

    First off size always matters… But I would say that WDW has not taken real advantage of its size. Many more attractions could be fit into MK. It really has been neglected. Even the Fantasyland expansion, I see, as only keeping up with the other parks. It really does not put it ahead.

    What Disneyland has going for it is the closeness of the attractions while still maintaining a theme in a specific area. I see theme leakage, when you see Tomorrowland from Fronteirland for example, as a problem for being small. But over all, Disneyland manages its closeness well.

    Now if we were talking size of castle… We all know who would win.

  • Lonnie0616

    I have only been to Epcot at WDW but I grew up down the street from Disneyland. I often explain to people why I like Disneyland better and that’s because if the scaled-down size. You can walk across the park or even to your hotel quickly. One time we had too much weight in our POTC boat and it literally took on about a foot of water (before we even got through the bayou!). Also at every drop, a huge wave would come back over the front of the boat. I walked to Tomorrowland, took the monorail to the Disneyland Hotel, changed clothes, took the monorail back and met my friends and all in just under 20 minutes. That’s just not possible at WDW. It takes a good 20 minutes just to walk from one side of Epcot to the other.

    But the thing I like most is when I’m at the Disneyland Resort, I am completely disconnected from reality. I’ve started paying extra to stay at the Disneyland Hotel or Grand Californian as from the moment I arrive to the moment I leave, I never see anything other than Disney (I’ll often not turn on the tv in the room except for the Disney Channel). With the rare exception of views from the monorail you don’t see cars, powerlines, etc. when staying on property. At WDW I remember driving a long ways from our hotel room to Epcot. It loses some of that magic. I love that I have no concept of reality when I spend 3-5 days at Disneyland Resort. I go to immerse myself in the magical world Walt created and Disneyland truly is the perfect place for that due to its compact, intimate design.

  • Disneylandfan85

    I agree that Disneyland is small, which can be a weakness, yet also a strength, as you don’t need as much time to get from one area to another. It’s also a strength in that it has an intimate feel to it, whereas WDW isolates everything from everything else. Simply put, Disneyland feels informal, while WDW feels impersonal. You might say Disneyland is the Hyperion Avenue to WDW’s Burbank (referring to the two locations of the Walt Disney Studios over the years (Hyperion, where the studio was from 1926 to 1940, was much smaller and cramped than Burbank, which was and is today large)). Also, Disneyland has something else going for it, namely history.

    Oh, yeah, and Disneyland is packed with more rides than WDW. Many of those rides (at both resorts) are scattered to several parks, but at Disneyland the resort, many of those attractions are concentrated in Disneyland the park.

  • Gullywhumper

    Disneyland wins. Disneyland Resort also has better quality of Theme as well as more elaborate attractions, better maintance and Cast Members.

  • Geezer

    I think Walt purchased all the land to build his original EPCOT. If he’d lived, to build WDW, I believe that it would have been the “whole city” concept he envisioned. I’ve always thought the company fell back on tried and true theme parks because they didn’t have the singular person who could say yes or no to the projects.

    To tie this into the current thread, I think they had far more land than was needed to simply build theme parks and hotels. It might have been better if they sold off portions and built all the attractions nearer to one another. Too late now…..*shrugs*