No travel and attraction site would be complete or relevant if they didn’t cover Disney World. On the other hand, covering Disney World is like reprinting the Webster dictionary. The information is repetitive and has almost daily coverage from some media around the world. Everyone pretty much understands Walt Disney and brother Roy created four themed parks on 25,000 acres around Orlando.
Epcot Center, Animal Kingdom, Disney Studios and, in my opinion the foundation of Disney World, the Magic Kingdom make up the various key parks. Each has their own additional themes within. These ever evolving parks combined attract over 58,000,000 visitors annually. This alone is beyond remarkable, but is far from the real Disney “Bubble”. From almost the very minute Walt Disney World opened it was like dropping a stone in a pond and watching the circles of commercial activity surround Disney World.
Soon after Disney World Open it was followed by attractions and commercial venues like;
- SeaWorld Orlando – 4.6 million visitors annually.
- Universal Studios and their various parks that draw 9.15 million visitors.
- Orange County Convention Center that has 1.2 million attendees annually.
- Hundreds of hotels popped up within a few miles of Disney including the 24 hotels/resorts on the Disney property. That number includes several world class resorts like Waldorf Astoria, Reunion Resort, Wyndham Grand, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, Orlando World Center Marriott, Gaylord Palms Resort and many more. The resorts mentioned here hold tens of thousands of people!
- Even more restaurants than hotels dot the streets. McDonald’s alone has a dozen locations in and around Disney World including the largest McDonald’s in the world! Many have luxurious and entertaining accommodations even if Disney is not on your schedule.
All of these and many more support businesses make up what we call the Disney Bubble. Without Walt and Roy’s visions, none of this would exist. This “Bubble” extends for several miles in every direction. What do hotels, resorts, theme parks, restaurants and businesses need? Employees! And what do employees need? A place to live.
The never ending construction around Disney includes condominiums, apartments and housing subdivisions. Every type, every price range and with
options growing. The Orlando metropolitan area has grown from sleepy little town of under 350,000 people in 1971 to almost 2 million people. It is hard to believe that Orlando and Disney World aren’t intertwined in a magnificent experiment in hospitality and family entertainment.
So how does someone navigate and travel this Disney “Bubble”? Planning well ahead of time solves the travel dilemma of what to visit, when. Of course, you could spend several days on the Disney properties alone, but the competition for visitor’s dollars is fierce. Disney has some of the classic characters that mom and dad grew up with like Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Donald Duck and Cinderella. And then Mom and Dad come back to reality by visiting the wildly popular Epcot Center dealing with everything from hydroponic vegetable growing to today’s space travel. Those may not satisfy the kids!
While Disney has the time-tested animated characters, Universal Studios recently opened up their latest attraction based on the unbelievably popular movie series Harry Potter. Try to tell a ten year old you are just going to Disney and NOT visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter complex at Universal! The attraction was a boost to Universal’s appeal, but they were doing pretty well with commercial successes based on their Jurassic Park, Marvel Comics and Men in Black:Alien Attack features from big screen and TV popularity.
Next week, next month or next year another movie, fad or wildly popular cartoon character will spawn another
adventure at Universal or Disney. That forces choices. Most people discover their family’s priorities when discussing a trip to Orlando. Marketing reaches every age segment and you soon find children (of all ages 5 to 95) have their favorites that are hard to dismiss. You will certainly be faced with making difficult theme park choices that may not be popular with the whole family, and soon your pocketbook and budget will play a role in the decision making process. A family of four will spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars in just a few days at visiting a half dozen of their favorite themes.
Our suggestions for maximizing your visit from our experience include;
- Stay somewhere close to your destination. Travel to and from the parks will take time and patience.
- Plan to take regular breaks so the family isn’t tired by noon. Sometimes people watching is as fun as trudging through the parks.
- Nothing is inexpensive. A simple treat at the Harry Potter complex for the family will see another hundred dollar bill disappear. Plan your times to eat, snack and drink.
- Comfort is king. You will be doing a LOT of walking. Make sure clothing and shoes will withstand the heat, cold or distance you will travel. For complete advice on seasonal Disney attire click here.
- Each of these parks are on hundreds of acres. Find a central meeting place should family members split up. Yes we know about cellphones, but they lose their charge, get lost and just malfunction occasionally. The nightmare of retrieving a lost family member will ruin your day.
- In the peak periods restaurants are very busy. Some require reservations and others have long lines. A few phone calls may save a lot of time. Keeping young family members entertained is difficult when they are hungry, tired or bored!
Its All About the Total Experience
The whole Orlando Disney World – Universal Studios experience is enhanced by planning and family compromises. Which is better, Disney World or Universal Studios? That’ depends on you and your preferences, but most likely you should visit them both if time and your pocketbook allows.
Trust this veteran of forty years experiencing Disney and Universal with children and grand children, there is nothing like the expression on a child’s face as they enter the Magic Kingdom or the utter fascination of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!