My Disney Top 5 - Things to See on Walt Disney World's Main Street U.S.A.by Chris Barry, contributing writer
"Hello my name is Chris… it's been 8 months since I've been to Walt Disney World." That might not seem like a lot of time to the average person, but it seems like an eternity to this Disney fan. And boy oh boy, I am aching to go back. It's especially torturous that, as of this very moment, I don't in fact actually have a Walt Disney World trip on the planning table. Knowing me that could change any day now. Essentially, I'm always planning the next Disney trip in my head. It's a daydreaming type of thing. I think about where we'd stay, where we'd eat, who'd be with us, when we'd go; it's an all-consuming thought and I really need to stop it and try to think about something else for a change.
When I have these thoughts of longing for Walt Disney World, how do I cope? One thing that definitely helps me is to sit here at the old laptop and pour my thoughts into a Top 5 article. If I can't actually be there, what better way is there to celebrate all of the intricacies and special details that make Walt Disney World so special to me than by sharing them all with you? That's the mission here on MousePlanet and we fulfill it dutifully each and every day.
My Disney thoughts tend to start and end with the Magic Kingdom. Simply stated, for many of us, this writer included, the Magic Kingdom defines Walt Disney World. Make no mistake, it's the very heart of the entire resort. Designed to mirror Walt Disney's beloved Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom took all of the charm and magic of the original and raised it to a new level of magnificence. It's one of my favorite places anywhere and this article begins a more in depth series of pieces examining the first of Disney's parks in Orlando. I decided it was time to delve into each of the Magic Kingdom's lands separately and explore what I love about each one of them.
What better place to start than with the first land you enter once you emerge from under the train tracks, Main Street U.S.A. It's Walt's personification of the idyllic American main street and it's woefully passed by as most guests rush down its main thoroughfare on their way to the parks many wonderful attractions. But there's a fair bit of wonder to be found all around you as you sprint by, Fastpass in hand, so let's stop and take a look at my Top 5 things to see on Walt Disney World's Main Street U.S.A.
5 – Uptown Jewelers
It figures that the guy that wrote about collecting Disney Stuff here for so many years would start off this list with a shop. Indeed, shopping is a pretty huge thing on Main Street. Some people feel that it's the only thing to do on Main Street and while I don't agree with that, it would be hard to compile this list without mentioning a shopping destination. Sure, the Emporium across the street has just about everything you could possibly want, but this shop across the way is my favorite for one reason: watches.
I'm a huge collector of Mickey Mouse and Disney watches. Yes, you could find them in most big stores in each park, but this is timepiece central as far as I'm concerned. I can't pay a visit to the Magic Kingdom without stopping into Uptown Jewelers and fighting the overwhelming urge to buy a new watch. More frequently than not, that urge wins and I come home with a new treasure from my favorite shop on Main Street.
4 – Center Street
About halfway down Main Street as you make your way towards Cinderella Castle there is a rather unobtrusive and little visited corner of the Magic Kingdom. On your right hand side just as you pass the aforementioned Uptown Jewelers and before you get to the Crystal Arts, is a tranquil dead end known as Center Street. In days gone by, there was a West Center Street and an East Center Street. West Center was enclosed and swallowed up by the Emporium. The east side of Center Street remains and is a little treasure that the majority of guests never bother to visit. How can it be that on one of the busiest streets in the world there exists a quiet little corner that most guests ignore?
Next time you're rushing past, stop in. Have a seat. Enjoy the greenery. Listen carefully for the sounds emanating from the upper window dance studio. Center Street is a prime example of a small thing that Disney doesn't have to do – there's no shop, no attraction, no character meet and greet—and yet they do it just to add to the complete and total immersion that exists in their magical lands.
3 – Main Street Windows
Once again, in the category of things they don't have to do but do anyway, we find the Main Street Windows. Remember, Main Street U.S.A. is supposed to be a representation of an actual classic American Main Street. Stenciled into the upper level windows throughout Main Street are a large assortment of businesses and proprietor's names.
Once you know a bit more about Disney and about the Magic Kingdom, you will learn that each name represents someone from the Walt Disney Company that has typically retired and simultaneously earned the highest level of respect from the park management and Disney's Imagineers.
Some of my favorites:
- Above the Confectionary – legendary Imagineer X Atencio, who wrote the lyrics for the Pirates of the Caribbean song "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" and "Grim Grinning Ghosts" from The Haunted Mansion has a window that reads "The Musical Quill – Lyrics and Librettos by X. Atencio."
- Above the Plaza Restaurant – "Walter E. Disney – Graduate School of Design & Master planning."
Each of the people on the Main Street windows were instrumental in bringing the magic to life and all are "disguised" as business owners that relate to their particular field. It's a fine tribute and a beautifully hidden detail.
2 – Sharing the Magic
Most of us Disney fans would easily consider Walt Disney to be one of our heroes. That's a no brainer. But those of us who love and adore Walt Disney World should seriously consider Walt's brother as a hero as well. After all, it was Walt's brother Roy who picked up the pieces after Walt passed away and managed to complete and open Walt Disney World. It was Roy that stood in the plaza beneath the flagpole and opened the Magic Kingdom in 1971. And it was Roy who insisted that the resort's original name, Disney World, receive his brother's first name as an addendum so that everybody would say "Walt" when they mentioned the resort by its new proper name.
Don't forget to stop by the statue of Roy seated next to Minnie Mouse named "Sharing the Magic" the next time you arrive on Main Street U.S.A. and pay tribute to the man that ensured that we would all have our beloved Magic Kingdom to treasure for generations.
1 – Emporium Windows
The thing that I really love to do when I walk down Main Street U.S.A. is to make sure I stop and look at all of the Emporium windows. These are not the aforementioned upper windows. These windows are down at eye level and feature beautifully detailed scenes from the classic Disney animated films Snow White, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Pocahontas. This is the kind of simple, artistic thing that Disney does so well and yet, every day thousands of people pass them by.
I'm a big fan. It would be great if they get updated once in a while like the ones in Disneyland. My favorite window is Beauty and the Beast, and I make sure to stop and see them each time I walk by. The animated films are what got me started on Disney in the first place so many years ago. These windows are wonderful tributes to these wonderful films. They're little works of art all unto themselves.
When the Imagineers were designing this first land they knew that Main Street would act as the funnel to lead guests into the hub where they could then break off and explore the different magical lands waiting for them. Walt wanted it to be a transition of sorts. He wanted something familiar to ease you into his new world where his stories would then come to life. At the end of the day after you've been swashbuckling with pirates, or cascading down a waterfall, or traveling through the stars you were supposed to arrive safely home on Main Street U.S.A. It was supposed to remind you of a time, a place and a feeling that even though you may never have experienced it, you were still made to feel nostalgic for a happier, simpler and more gracious time.
Just imagine how many thousands of people have photographs of themselves surrounded by family and friends standing on Main Street U.S.A. basking in that happy, simple, and gracious place. It's the gateway to the magic and most people don't even realize just how much effort has been put into this entranceway in order to draw you into Walt's magical kingdom.
The next time you arrive at the Magic Kingdom, hold off on the mad dash to Space Mountain or the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train… you'll get there soon enough. Stop and admire the period details. Look up at the windows honoring the builders of the kingdom. Drift off onto Center Street for no particular reason. Stop and listen to the different singers and performers that call the street their stage. Allow it to be more than just the passageway in and out of the Magic Kingdom and you'll soon come to the realization that Main Street U.S.A. was, as the song says, "made with a magical plan."
Of all the places on Walt Disney World property that I cherish, I think that Main Street affects me the most. My wife has caught me on more than one occasion with "that look" in my eye when we arrive in Magic Kingdom's plaza and begin to meander down Main Street. She'll glance over at me and say, "You are so happy right now aren't you?" It's painfully obvious; Walt's magical plan works on me—every time.