Dueling Disney: Best Vacation Destination

Written by Jeff Heimbuch. Posted in Busch Gardens Tampa, Discovery Science Center, Disney, Disney History, Disney Parks, Dueling Disney, Features, Florida, Gaylord Palms Orlando, Knott's Berry Farm, Legoland, Legoland Carlsbad, Orlando Parks, Other Destinations, Other Florida Destinations, SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld San Diego, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Southern California Parks, Universal Hollywood, Universal Orlando, Universal Studios, Wet N' Wild

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Published on May 08, 2013 at 1:00 am with 33 Comments

This time on Dueling Disney, we thought we’d take a look outside of the theme parks, and cast an eye on the surrounding state. “What’s that?” you cry. “There’s more to a Disney vacation than just the Parks?”

Why, yes, there is. In fact, there are plenty of other things to be seen in the surrounding areas of Disneyland and Walt Disney World. In fact, you could even make a whole vacation out of it! So, let’s venture off Disney property and see what’s going on elsewhere.

(In this case: Keith will be representing Disneyland’s home state of California, and Jeff, Walt Disney World’s home state of Florida)

Topic 8: State as a Vacation Destination

Keith: I would like the readers to know that I chose this subject from our bank of Dueling Disney topics at this particular time because I thought it would be funny for Jeff to “oppose” California just days after he becomes a resident of it.

I love Florida. I actually prefer the humidity over dry heat. But as far as “state as a vacation destination” goes, I’m sorry, dear Floridians. Disneyland’s home state is going to come out on top here.

Jeff: While I will admit I like the opposite of Keith (I will take dry heat over humidity any day of the week…do you see what it does to my hair?!), I must disagree with his assessment of California winning out. Florida has an extremely rich history for those wanting to explore it. This, in turn, leads to an amazing vacation. And that’s not to mention the other variety of theme parks and tourist destinations you can visit!

Keith: From the Soouuth Bay, to the Vaaalley–From the West Side, to the East Side. Everybody’s… very happy–cause the sun is shining all the time. Looks like another perfect day…

Like beaches? Southern California has more than a few of them. Coronado beach is ranked amongst the best in the country. Practically perfect weather, paths for cyclists and skaters, a section for leashless dogs, and more beckon sun lovers from all over to this gorgeous area. Laguna Beach, Hermosa Beach, and the Santa Monica Pier all have great charm, while Venice Beach stands out as one of the most diverse collections of performers, sand sculptors, bodybuilders, and street artists in the whole world.

Like movies? Welcome to Hollywood! Millions of folks each year flock to the film capital of the planet to get a little taste of the silver screen. The Hollywood Bowl, the Hollywood Sign, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Chinese and El Capitan Theatres, all give each visitor a taste of Hollywood. You can also pose for a photo with people in hilariously bad movie costumes! Who wouldn’t love that?

Jeff: I won’t be quoting any song lyrics, because the first one about Florida that comes to mind is by Less Than Jake, and they don’t really help my case.

However, I will see your Coronado Beach, and raise you Miami, Tampa, and Key West. All three are absolutely beautiful destinations, no matter what time of the year. Now, personally, I would shy away during the Spring Break season, but if that’s your scene, then you would most definitely fit right in. I won’t break out the other local theme parks argument yet, but the three I just mentioned do have an assortment of locations that may be of interest to you.

Want to see where Ernest Hemingway spent his days in Florida? Key West has you covered! Want to see a gorgeous assortment of fish and sea life in breathtaking habitats? The Florida Aquarium in Tampa is the place to be. If you’re more into the wild side of things, then Zoo Miami will be right up your alley! These three cities alone are enough to fill up at least three vacations…and maybe more!

Keith: Theme parks? You want theme parks? We got theme parks! Roller coaster enthusiasts flock to Six Flags’ Magic Mountain in Valencia. Universal Studios Hollywood is the original movie studio/theme park, which to this day is home to many television and feature film productions. In Buena Park, just minutes from Disneyland, resides Knott’s Berry Farm. A sign reading “America’s 1st Theme Park” can be seen upon initial entry, and inside you’ll find areas themed around a boardwalk, a ghost town, even Snoopy. Since Cedar Fair took over in 1997, lots of new thrill rides have been added for those who prefer a more exciting experience. And every September-October, Knott’s Scary Farm sets the standard for all theme parks’ Halloween overlays.

A little south of L.A. you can dine with Shamu in Sea World, or enjoy more than 60 rides, shows and attractions at Legoland. Jump on the 5 North up to the Bay Area, and you can pick from places like California’s Great America or Six Flags’ Discovery Kingdom. And while not a “theme” park, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (voted “world’s best seaside amusement park” by Amusement today) has been around for over 100 years. Rich in history, it is perhaps best known for being the backdrop in much of the film The Lost Boys. In Oakland, Children’s Fairyland has been delighting families since 1950. In fact Walt Disney visited the small Bay Area amusement park not long after it opened, and it’s been said he incorporated ideas from it into Disneyland.

Oh, and you mentioned zoos. California has a few of those as well. Our best, San Diego, consistently ranks not only higher than Florida’s best (Miami or Disney’s Animal Kingdom, depending on which list you’re looking at), but amongst the top five in the whole country!

Jeff: I wasn’t going to break out the theme park card yet, but Florida also has them in spades! Universal? Sure, we have one of those, too. Yours may make actual movies there sometimes, but ours is more fleshed out AND we have two of ‘em. Also, Harry Potter. Come on. That counts for a lot right there.

If movie-parks aren’t your thing, you can also check out SeaWorld, which has some truly amazing exhibits and coasters. Busch Gardens is also nearby.

We also have a LegoLand. It’s new, and it has some amazing stuff to see at it…including, gigantic scenes made of Legos! I mean, it’s an entire park built around my favorite toy. How could you go wrong with that? Oh wait. You can’t!

Keith: I agree, you can’t. That’s why I listed it for our side! Haha.

We could go on for days when the topic is an entire state. However at the risk of running long, I am going to wrap my argument up with my stomping grounds: Northern California. Like skiing or snowboarding? Check out South Lake Tahoe. Like wine? We have more than a couple of world-class wineries in the Napa Valley. Like nature? Visit Yosemite National Park, or beautiful Muir Woods, just north of San Francisco.

Speaking of San Francisco, the City by the Bay is consistently one of the most visited cities in the world. Home to classic neighborhoods like Haight/Ashbury and Chinatown, it is also where you can find some of the best restaurants in the nation. And while not exactly vacation spots, tourists have been known to visit some of our more famous companies’ campuses, like Facebook, Apple, and Pixar.

San Francisco’s Cable Cars are one of only two National Historic Landmarks in the entire country that move. Every year AT&T Park is voted amongst the top three ballparks in all of baseball. And over in the historic Presidio of San Francisco, we’ve got a little museum called The Walt Disney Family Museum.

Oh, and you didn’t think I’d forget to most iconic American structure west of the Mississippi, did you? The Golden Gate Bridge was the longest span in the world when it was first completed in 1937, and is one of the most visited, traveled, and photographed bridges on the planet. As far as “home state as a vacation destination” goes, Disneyland wins this time, Jeff!

Jeff: You want historical landmarks? That’s fine. How about ones that deal with outer space?! Cape Caniveral is the place to be. I mean, you can see all sorts of cool stuff there, and learn about our nation’s fantastic space program in the process. If that’s not enough, then why not visit the numerous forts that line the coast. Most of them date back to the 1600s, so you’ll be getting a real place from the past.

And did I mention pirates? That’s right, Florida had REAL pirates. None of that audio-animatronic stuff. You keep an eye out, and you may just be able to find some buried treasure yourself!

So, what do you guys think? Is California the better place to stay when not visiting the theme parks, or does Florida seem to be a better choice?

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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  • mrwagnal9

    FL might have the Cape, but we have JPL (Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity), Edwards AFB if you want a shuttle tie in (and Cal Sci Center with the real shuttle).
    But our (Californian’s) big draw that was completely left out is Art. At the top of that list, the Getty.

    • fnord

      St Pete has the second most amazing Salvador Dali collection in the world!

  • clewandowski

    Loved to tie the score, Florida will prevail! All hail Florida!

  • Bill

    I live in Florida, and even I have to admit that California is a better state for a vacation.

    • Susan Hughes

      Epcot pretty much sums up with winner. Soarin Over Florida? I don’t think so. Unless you want a three minute attraction. Soarin Over California shows how diverse and beautiful California is. And in particular Southern California. You can surf in the morning, snow ski in the afternoon, and camp out in the desert in the evening.

  • ttintagel

    Aren’t there official tourism numbers somewhere to compare?

  • gboiler1

    It’s really personal preference but I’d rather go to California than Florida even though it’s twice as long a flight from Illinois. I may be biased too but I have relatives in California. There are more things I’d prefer to do in California than Florida but that may just be sentimentality of my childhood visits.
    I also prefer the climate and scenery of California.

  • tomjmoses

    California by a country mile. Sorry, Jeff–and, by the way, Welcome to California!

  • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

    While Florida is the official winner if you look at overall travel statistics, the fact is that California has the better and classier options. I pick California for this one.

  • eicarr

    I wish Florida didn’t have such opressive heat and humidity. The 3rd day of dealing with ponchos on my last trip did it for me forever. While I’m glad the land was cheap for Disney, it’s just not for me.

  • Mr. Disney

    And you didn’t even mention Mexico, which is just a couple of hours away from Disneyland! :)

  • tofubeast

    I just don’t think this is a great topic for the DUEL. It’s just way, way, way too broad. (My most humble opinion of course.) It’s not that I don’t KNOW my stuff here. I was raised in SO CAL and I moved to SO FL. I know both areas quite well.

    But if we want to be truly fair, why not stick to the nearby area to each Disney park(s)? Orange County to the coast vs Orlando to the coasts (pick either direction!). When I look from this perspective, Florida wins by a landslide due to the amount of places to see and the beaches. There’s just way more to do in the *immediate areas* outside WDW without justifying switching hotels. Suddenly Anaheim doesn’t seem all that exciting. hahah.

    And I’m sorry, Coronado has NOTHING on any Florida beach. Water temps in SD at its warmest day will be the coldest you would experience in a FL ocean. Coronado is pretty, but no comparison to the crystal clear blue/aqua ocean and white sands of Florida.

    • LoveStallion

      As a native of SoCal, I have to agree with you on all your points. This was a weird duel. Talk about phoning it in.

      Yes, California water is chilly, so while the beaches are more picturesque, actually going in the water is far less pleasant than the great bath known as the American Atlantic. Florida water is quite lovely.

  • danielz6

    This is actually an easy choice for me based on 2 conditions. Theme Parks or no theme Parks. No theme Parks(not including Disney since that’s the basis of the article). No theme Parks CA easily wins. you have 3 major American cities with with so much to see and do as well as a beautiful Capitol city. Not to mention countless charming seaside towns the run up the entire Pacific coast from Santa Barbara to Monterrey and beyond. Then you have natural attractions. Sorry but once you’ve experienced Yosemite and the giant redwoods there is little else in the whole country that compares. I do give the win for beaches to FL however, lets face it CA beaches are cold for the average person and the endless barrage of waves is tiresome unless you are a surfer, and natural kelp forests ensure that CA beaches are never as clear as FL.

    Non Disney theme Parks…Florida easily wins. Immensely superior Universal studios and Sea world. And of course Busch gardens, for which California has no direct comparison. CA may have more roller coaster Parks but seriously, how many roller coasters do you really need? Once you’ve experienced a drop, a loop a corkscrew and a launch you’ve pretty much experience experienced all. Quality over quantity and FLs non Disney Parks have it. Now if throw in Di

  • danielz6

    But I also agree with tofubeast the comparison is way too broad as CA is the size of all New England! I agree the immediate area say 2- 3 hours around the Disney Parks is a better duel, and I would vote FL as well.

  • LoveStallion

    Fresh out of ideas or duels?

  • jasmineray

    No question. California wins. Mountains, valleys, deserts, cities, multiple landmarks, so much entertainment… No competition. You can go skiing, surfing and hiking in the same day in California.

    • disneyland255

      EXACTLY! That’s why CA wins for me…then add in the BEAUTIFUL (not horridly humid and HOT like FL) almost year round weather for CA….hands down win. :D

  • PecosBill

    Beaches = Florida
    While Californian beaches are breathtakingly beautiful with the combination of ocean, mountains, and bluffs they are prosaically unusable. The only people you ever see in the water are the diehard water sport fanatics and seldom w/o a wet suite. Where as Florida has 1,350 miles of useable beaches for year round sunbathing and water sports. The water in the Gulf is as warm as a bath, and the Atlantic has some good surfing.

    Theme Parks. Let’s call it a draw. While California may have more Parks, Florida has newer parks, larger parks, and in closer vicinity to each other.

    Non-Theme Park Attractions = California
    While Florida has the Everglades and Canaveral National Seashore California has Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Redwood, and Channel Island National Parks. I’m a lifelong Florida native but lets face it, there is only so much visual splendor offered by swamp marshes, palmetto bushes, and alligators. California is simply a visually stunning location. And although the beaches are useless, you can go skiing in the Serra Mountains.

    Weather = California
    There are only 3 downsides to the weather in Florida: 1) Humidity, 2) Rain, and 3) absence of Fall. Granted it gets hot in July/August but w/o the aforementioned Humidity, it’s no worst than many other locations in the country (there are a lot of other places I’d rather NOT be in the summer outside of Florida). However, California’s weather is gorgeous, as long as you don’t care about it ever being warm enough to swimming in the ocean. I love the fact that anytime I’m in California I get to eat just about every meal sitting on an outdoor patio (with the exception of the Blue Bayou, which is simulated outdoors).

    If it weren’t for the Earthquakes, Fires, Landslides, People, and restrictively burdensome Governments California would be utopia. Give me the California and Disney and Reagan and I’d give up Florida for good.

    • frankiefalzon


      • frankiefalzon

        cause his homeless and mentally ill contribution to California is so appreciated