When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, it was just a twinkle in Disneyland's eye. As we know, Disneyland had become a huge success and it was the premier theme park for American families. Who could have imagined that the success that Walt Disney World would have, would dwarf that of Disneyland.
Now don't get me wrong, Disneyland is still a huge success and a big player in the theme park industry today, but to understand why Disney World is a different animal, we have to look at it's history and roots.
As you can see from the map below (taken from the Time magazine WDW opening edition), when Walt Disney World opened, it was a quaint little park with a very neat setup. This innovative setup included two resorts connected to the new park via a monorail loop that traversed a lake.
What was unique about Walt Disney World was that it was more spread out and had some extra activities that guests could enjoy. You couldn't go fishing, swimming, sailing, golfing, etc at Disneyland. So there were some advantages and additions to the Walt Disney World property over the Disneyland property.
One of the other neat features of this map is the future expansion items, such as the Venetian, Asian and Persian resorts and "future hotels". As we now know, Disney World has not expanded solely around this area but has sprawled across the entire property instead.
Walt was upset about the urban cluster that resided outside of Disneyland, so he kept that in mind when purchasing land for Disney World, and that is what sets Disney World apart from just about every theme park in the World. It has a massive amount of land to use for expansion and future projects.
As we look at the current day map of the property it's pretty amazing to see the progression of Walt Disney World from 1971 to 2014. That quaint little park is tucked into the top left hand corner of a massive amusement city that sees millions of guests every year.
So what is next?