Liberty Square and Frontierland: A Photo Tourby Donald and Bonnie Fink, contributing writer
This month we visited Frontierland and Liberty Square at Disney's Magic Kingdom. These areas occupy the Magic Kingdom to the northwest of the Hub, or left from the Hub after making your way down Main Street. These lands together contain some of the most iconic rides available at Disney, and are host to some of the longest running attractions at any of the parks.
At first glance, Liberty Square looks like a very small "land" at the Magic Kingdom. In fact, it almost looks like an afterthought on the official Magic Kingdom map. And it may have been. But the truth is that Liberty Square is packed full of fun things to do. With the Haunted Mansion, the Hall of Presidents, and the cruise around the Rivers of America aboard the Liberty Belle, you need to set aside some time if you're going to take it all in. Meals are in great supply here too. With the Columbia Harbour House near the Haunted Mansion, and Liberty Tree Tavern and the Diamond Horseshoe at the other end near Frontierland, there's no shortage of great places to eat.
The Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom looks different than its California cousin. The first Haunted Mansion opened in Disneyland in 1967, in New Orleans Square. When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971 Liberty Square housed its Haunted Mansion; there is no New Orleans Square at the Magic Kingdom. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Getting to Liberty Square is easy too. Just walk down Main Street until you come to the Hub near the Castle, and turn left. It's across the bridge.
Not long ago, Tom Richards posted an article describing Liberty Square, and how he was able to use it as a stepping off point to visiting other sites in Colonial America. It's a good read and you can see it here.
This replica of the Liberty Bell sits at the center of Liberty Square. The original Liberty Bell was cast twice, once in England, and again in America after its first crack. The bell cast in America was used all throughout the revolutionary war, and cracked again on July 8th, 1835. The bell here at the Magic Kingdom was cast from the same mold as the second casting in America. Photo by Donald Fink.
As you make your way across the bridge from the Hub into Liberty Square, you may see a cart with parasols for sale. Look into the shade and you might also see an artist working on new parasols. There are two sizes, each with artwork already done, or you can request a parasol with your favorite characters. Photo by Donald Fink.
At the time of this writing, Disney Imagineers are testing a new interactive feature to the Haunted Mansion. During the part of the ride where, "A ghost will follow you home," guests with Magic Bands may see an alternative ending. They may be shown a tombstone with their name on it, or they may see a ghost holding a sign with their home state. Disney is in the beginning stages of making several of their rides more interactive, and this appears to be just the beginning.
Brian Bennett posted a great article about the Haunted Mansion. You can read it here if you want to know more about this great ride.
A view of the Haunted Mansion at Disney's Magic Kingdom as seen from Frontierland across the Rivers of America. One controversy surrounding the Haunted Mansion when it was first in the planning stages was whether to make it fun or scary. Disney went with fun, of course. We're glad they did, and it's paid off over the years with new and fun innovations with the ride. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
If you need a little shot of patriotism, stop by the Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square. It depicts what it means to be an American, followed by an introduction of all 43 audio-animatronic presidents. There are speeches by Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and the current sitting president, which is changed each time a new president is elected. Photo by Donald Fink.
The Columbia Harbour House is a quick serve restaurant in Liberty Square. Their menu features seafood in the form of fish and chips, but they also serve chicken and various sandwiches. We recommend it as a good quick serve restaurant at the Magic Kingdom. Photo by Donald Fink.
Liberty Tree Tavern is a full service restaurant that's one of our "go to" restaurants for the holidays. Reservations are available 180 days in advance, and we're usually on the web site making our choices for either Thanksgiving or Christmas at the earliest possible opportunity. This is serious stuff for us, and believe it or not, it gets competitive.
The inside of the Liberty Tree Tavern can make you think you're in a colonial tavern of the mid 1700s. The wooden floors with dowel pegs, wood beams, and cast members wearing authentic looking costumes from the time all contribute to a feeling of colonial America. Photo bu Donald Fink.
The food is served family style at dinner, meaning that when you're seated, the wait staff brings your meal to you and you enjoy. They do give you a menu, but it's only to let you know what you're having. At lunch they serve from a regular menu. The food is American cuisine, with roast turkey, ham, and roast beef being prominent on the menu. We recommend this restaurant at any time you can get reservations and especially during the holidays—and we can't stress the importance of reservations for this restaurant. It's extremely popular, and it's not uncommon for walk-ups to be turned away.
The Diamond Horseshoe is currently operating as a full service restaurant in Liberty Square, next to Liberty Tree Tavern, specializing in American cuisine, including barbecue pulled turkey, roasted ham, and beef stew. Reservations are accepted or you can try your luck at walking in. Photo by Donald Fink.
You can see the Diamond Horseshoe menu here.
Frontierland opened in 1971 with the opening of the Magic Kingdom, but it was probably a bleak place. It had only three attractions, which were the Disney Railroad Station, Country Bear Jamboree, and Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes, which closed in 1994. After that, Tom Sawyer Island opened in 1973 and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened in 1980. Construction for Splash Mountain began in 1991.
Today there is plenty to do in Frontierland. From Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain to a quick serve Mexican meal at Pecos Bill's before heading over to Tom Sawyer Island, there's enough to occupy an afternoon. Don't forget to take in a performance of the Country Bear Jamboree too.
When we first rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, we agreed that there was definitely some Disney Creative license involved in the coloring of the rocks. It wasn't until years later when we traveled through Utah that we realized that the rocks on this southwestern train ride roller coaster were spot on accurate. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Splash Mountain was inspired by the controversial Disney movie "Song of the South," from 1946. You travel along a log flume and meet up with characters including Br'er Rabbit while listening to songs including Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah. Finally, you plunge five stories into the Briar Patch, and you get wet. Really wet. Photo by Donald Fink.
Tom Sawyer Island is surrounded by the Rivers of America. This adventure is inspired by Mark Twain's writing about the adventures of Tom Sawyer. If you have younger people with you, this is a good diversion. It would be nice to provide a little background, or maybe introduce them to the books after the visit. Photo by Donald Fink.
A bridge suspended on floating barrels is fun for some, and a bit of a challenge for others. It is constantly moving while you're trying to walk. This bridge is part of the adventures awaiting on Tom Sawyer Island. Photo by Donald Fink.
Chip 'n' Dale. Or is it Dale 'n' Chip? These guys are old, first introduced in 1943. Originally they were hard to tell apart, but several differences were introduced to help differentiate them. The one difference that we remember most often is that Chip, on the right, has a dark nose, resembling a chocolate chip. Photo by Donald Fink.
We never get tired of the Country Bear Jamboree. Apparently, other folks agree. It's been playing in various forms since the Opening of the Magic Kingdom in 1971. The bears in the band are Zeke on Banjo, Zeb, with a red bandanna on Fiddle, Ted in the back on Jug, Fred, the big guy in the back on Mouth harp, and finally on the left is Tennessee, on Thang. Not sure what Thang is, but it only has one string. Photo by Bonnie Fink. Video by Donald Fink.
In the finale of Country Bear Jamboree, all the bears are on stage at once. You can see the Bear Rug Band on the main stage with Liver Lips McGowl on the right stage. From the ceiling is Teddi Berra and rising from below in front is the Sun Bonnet Trio, Bunny, Bubbles, and Beulah. Gomer is on the left on piano. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Jim Korkis posted an informative article on MousePlanet entitled Lost Biographies of the Country Bears.
These guys are the Notorious Banjo Brothers and Bob. They appear at different times during the day to entertain guests in Frontierland. If you see them performing, be sure to stop and have a listen. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
As with all our Photo Tours, we think we're just beginning to scratch the surface with all there is to do and see in Liberty Square and Frontierland. To cover it all, we would be here awhile, and you would certainly get tired of looking at the pictures. Instead, we think you should plan some time in these two lands next time you visit the Magic Kingdom. You won't be disappointed.