Disney has its hand in ventures across the world. I wanted to provide a brief summary of their theme parks, cruise line, tour company, and resorts.
The Disneyland Resort is located in Anaheim, California. It is home to the original Disneyland Park, which opened on July 18, 1955, a favorite among visitors to Southern California from all over the world for well over half a century. It was joined in 2001 by a sister park, Disney California Adventure, which is a stylized recreation and celebration of California’s rich history and culture.
To all who come to this happy place, welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideas, dreams and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.” — Walt Disney, July 17, 1955
“To all who believe in the power of dreams, welcome. Disney’s California Adventure opens its golden gates to you. Here we pay tribute to the dreamers of the past, the native people, explorers, immigrants, aviators, entrepreneurs and entertainers who built the Golden State. And we salute a new generation of dreamers who are creating the wonders of tomorrow, from the silver screen to the computer screen, from the fertile farmlands to the far reaches of space. Disney’s California Adventure celebrates the richness and the diversity of California, its land, its people, its spirit and, above all, the dreams that it continues to inspire.” — Michael Eisner, February 8, 2001
The Disneyland Resort is divided into two separate theme parks, three hotels, and a shopping and entertainment district. The first park is the original Disney theme park Disneyland, which opened on July 18, 1955. Its sister park, Disney California Adventure, which opened in February 2001, is located across the entry plaza on the former site of Disneyland’s parking lot. Both parks are divided into “lands”, or themes. At the western end of the entry plaza is Downtown Disney, the shopping and entertainment district. The three hotels are located at the west end of Downtown Disney.
There is one main difference between the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World, and that is in Anaheim, there are many non-Disney hotels, restaurants and shops just a short distance from the park’s main entrance.
Disneyland’s rides are generally considered classic well-themed dark rides (e.g. Pirates of the Caribbean) with the occasional thrill ride (e.g. Space Mountain), while California Adventure’s rides are more thrill-oriented (e.g. California Screamin’) with some family-style rides (e.g. Soarin’ Over California). The Cast Members (employees) in all sections of the park are widely known to be very friendly and helpful. The attention to detail throughout the parks is extraordinary; however, most Cast Members will not know the history behind the details.
The two biggest problems with the Disneyland Resort as a whole are crowds and price. However with careful planning, both can be minimized.
Disneyland is one of the most visited theme parks in the world (with 16.7 million visits in 2014, based on the TEA/AECOM figures, behind only Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland), so the parks can be pretty crowded, especially during the weekends, summer, and winter holidays, which leads to long lines for the most popular attractions. However, if you visit in the late winter or early spring, off-season lines can be short, especially during the weekdays. Disney California Adventure has fewer attractions but still has long lines, although not as long as Disneyland’s attractions.
Eating outside the parks is quite possible due to the close vicinity of several restaurants to the park and the benefit of hand-stamp and re-entry. Stick to just snacks and maybe one meal in the park, and you can save some cash.
Walt Disney World
At the Walt Disney World Resort, you can explore human innovation and cooperation; enjoy rides both thrilling and enchanting; relax and recuperate on the beach or the golf course; and discover an entire resort where children and adults can have fun—together.
Walt Disney World, located in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, near Orlando, is the flagship of Disney’s worldwide theme park empire. It is, by far, the most popular theme park resort in the world. Some visitors describe it as a place of magic, wonder, and fantasy; others speak of fun, excitement, and relaxation; and still others complain of crowds, artifice, and unrelenting tackiness. As with most things, the essence of Walt Disney World lies near the intersection of those three views.
The centerpieces of Walt Disney World are the four theme parks: The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Walt Disney World also has two of the world’s three most popular water parks,Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, both heavily themed. Two shopping and entertainment districts, Disney Springsand Disney’s Boardwalk, provide extensive shopping, dining, and entertainment options. If none of that strikes your fancy, check out some of the lesser-known activities: golf, tennis, boating, fishing, spas and health clubs, backstage tours, sporting events, character dining, and much more.
Simply put, there is always something fun to do at Walt Disney World.
Walt Disney World can be divided into five distinct areas—one for each of the four theme parks, plus Disney Springs. The various resort hotels, and the attractions and restaurants found within, are grouped with the nearest park.
- The Magic Kingdom — Based on the original Disneyland in California, this is the oldest and most popular park of the complex; in fact, with over 17 million visitors annually, it’s the most-visited single theme park in the world. This is the park people think of first when they think of Walt Disney World, a place where adventure meets fantasy and history meets the future. The Magic Kingdom has the most kid-friendly attractions and most of the classic rides beloved by kids-at-heart.
- Epcot — A sort of “permanent World’s Fair”, Epcot is dedicated to both international culture and technological innovation. The park is a combination of two disparate ideas. World Showcase takes you on a trip around the world as you visit themed pavilions filled with the art, architecture, people, and products of eleven different countries. Future World explores human achievements in pavilions dedicated to communication, imagination, conservation, and more. Not far from Epcot is Disney’s Boardwalk, a collection of restaurants, gift shops, and nightlife spots themed as a 1920’s Eastern Seaboard boardwalk.
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios — This park represents the “Hollywood that never was,” with attractions themed around movies and television. You’ll find a variety of live shows and attractions based on Disney, Pixar, and Lucasfilm productions. The ESPN Wide World of Sports complex is nearby.
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom — Not your average zoo, Animal Kingdom is a combination of live animals, foreign cultures, and traditional Disney magic. With an emphasis on understanding and conservation, Animal Kingdom is the largest and most diverse of the theme parks. Blizzard Beach, a water park themed as a melting ski resort, is nearby.
- Disney Springs — For more “grown-up” activities, Disney Springs has shopping, nightclubs, restaurants, and unique entertainment. This is where the most action is after dark. Disney Springs is divided into four sections: The Marketplace, The Landing, West Side, and Town Center, each offering a slightly different mix of retail, food, entertainment, and nightlife. Typhoon Lagoon, a massive water park, is nearby.
The most important thing to understand about the Walt Disney World Resort is that it was designed to be fun for everyone. Don’t make the mistake of staying away just because you don’t have kids. Singles and couples without children who think a Walt Disney World vacation is just for kids ignore the many “adult” entertainments available throughout the resort. Gourmands, sun-worshippers, world travelers, thrill-seekers, comedy-lovers, film devotees, sports fans, club-hoppers, and history buffs will all find plenty of ways to have a great time.
Of course, if you do have kids, the best part of your Walt Disney World vacation is in experiencing the parks through their eyes. That is when you really understand Walt Disney’s vision of a place where kids and parents can have fun together.
Walt Disney World is enormous, a multi-day resort destination. Each of its four theme parks is big enough to occupy visitors for a full day (and often two, depending on crowds). Unless you live nearby, four days is considered the bare minimum length of visit to even begin to experience the resort; some people stay as long as two weeks and still bypass some attractions.
Traveling to Walt Disney World represents a major pilgrimage for many American families. The “typical” visit involves flying into Orlando International Airport, busing to an on-site Disney hotel, spending about a week without leaving Disney property, and returning home. There are infinite variations possible, but this remains what most people mean when they talk of “going to Disney World”.
Everything at Walt Disney World is carefully constructed and choreographed to maintain your perceptions of visiting an idealized world. Company jargon frames every aspect of customer service as part of the “show”: employees are “cast members“, visitors are “guests“, and every prop and costume must be completely “in-character” while “on-stage” (visible to guests).
Disney prides themselves on customer service and friendliness. You will never find garbage lying in the streets or bathrooms that are too dirty, and anything that is damaged is either removed or fixed immediately. The streets are almost sparkling and the buildings look brand new no matter what time of the day or year you are there.
While some people find this attention to detail cloying and artificial, the vast majority of visitors are happy to immerse themselves in this relaxing, carefree environment. Even so, the realities of Walt Disney World can be stark: long lines, sweltering heat, rude guests, and expensive merchandise are common. There are ways to avoid the worst elements (namely by carefully choosing when to visit), and customer service is almost universally impeccable, even (or perhaps especially) when things go wrong.
Many first-time visitors try to do too much during their stay. Unless crowds are unusually small, this is a sure-fire recipe for burnout and exhaustion. You need to have a basic schedule in mind, but you should remain flexible in order to account for closed rides, full restaurants, special events, and just changing your mind. If the crowds get too heavy or the weather gets too hot, smart guests staying on-site head back to their hotels to relax, grab a snack, or take a swim, then return later in the day. Trying to adhere to a rigid schedule will only frustrate you and your family, and you’re not going to Walt Disney World to get frustrated, are you?
With some careful basic planning, an open mind,e, in every sense of the word—one you’ll never forget.
Disney Cruise Line
Bringing Disney-style entertainment and theatrics to the high seas, Disney Cruise Line (DCL)  is an American cruise line owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company. Not surprisingly, the three majestic ships in the line appeal the most to families with children, but teens and adults also enjoy spending several days at sea with the Disney characters. Disney cruisers also have exclusive use of Castaway Cay, a private island in the Bahamas.
The line’s fleet currently cruise the Bahamas and Caribbean out of Port Canaveral and Miami in Florida, and Galveston inTexas, as well as seasonally to Alaska from Vancouver. One ship will move to Barcelona for the summer of 2013. Walt Disney World is only an hour away from Port Canaveral, and combining a cruise with a trip to the World is becoming more and more common. The “Land and Sea” vacation packages also come to Disneyland when a ship is assigned to the Port of Los Angeles.
The Disney Cruise Line fleet is small compared to the other major lines, but Disney has placed their focus on quality over quantity. They’ve taken the design principles and customer service standards that make a Disney theme park such a memorable experience and adapted them to fit the cruising industry. On a Disney ship, you’ll find multiple swimming pools, a Broadway-style theater, a full-service spa, world-class cuisine, happening night-spots, supervised areas just for kids, and more activities than you can shake your mouse ears at.
A Disney cruise isn’t just for families with kids; while children are a major part of the line’s customer base, they have taken great pains to entertain adults traveling solo (as well as parents who just want a break). Teens have their own spaces, too, where they can hang out with their peers instead of being sentenced to watch little siblings or to tag along with their parents.
Do be aware that babies under six months of age are not allowed on the ships.
Adventures by Disney
On an Adventures by Disney guided group vacation, you’re a traveler and an adventurer, not a tourist. You and your family members become active participants in incredible stories, experiences and cultures through immersive activities while your Adventure Guides take care of all the details.
Choose from more than 35 vacations spread out over six continents–including the all new Danube River Cruise through Europe. Visit eight exciting destinations and experience four countries as we sail with AmaWaterways, a leader in luxury river cruising. Adventures by Disney trips include: ease of travel, authentic experiences and activities, adventure guides and local experts, spectacular dining and exceptional hotels, and VIP treatment and admissions.
Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa
Aulani is located on the western shore of O’ahu on the beautiful beaches of Ko Olina. Aulani truly represents “a whole new world” for families vacationing in Hawai’i. Built from the groud up by the people who know families best, Aulani is quite literally a family paradise. And so much is already included at no additional cost. From the state-of-the-art kids’ club to world-class entertainment and some of the greatest pools in all of Hawai’i. There are tons of fun choices for adults, kids, teens, and families. Excursions can also be scheduled to explore the island when you’re there.