My Disney Top 5 - Things to See in Walt Disney World's Liberty Squareby Chris Barry, contributing writer
One of the great things about being a regular visitor to Walt Disney World is the ability to slow down and really soak in all that it has to offer. When you venture there often enough, you can take the time to stroll, to appreciate the boundless details that exist all around you, and to find that quiet spot that most guests miss as they scurry from land to land with their faces buried in a park map—or let's face it, nowadays with their faces buried in a phone. That's precisely how I've discovered just about all of my favorite things about places like the Magic Kingdom, or World Showcase. Time is precious and devoting the time necessary to really exploring Walt Disney World consistently pays off.
Several years ago I was at Walt Disney World for MouseFest, a gathering of online communities catering to like-minded Disney fans. MousePlanet was hosting a mini MouseAdventure, a small version of our famous scavenger/treasure hunt through the Disney parks. I wasn't there to participate. I was there to assist the players as they completed their tasks in the Magic Kingdom. I was assigned to Liberty Square, an area that, up until the time, I pretty much used as a pass-through to get to the Haunted Mansion or the big attractions in Frontierland. On that day, however, I was forced, for lack of a better word, to meander around Liberty Square for about two hours and make sure that I was visible enough to help out anyone with questions.
It was the most amount of time I had ever spent there and I couldn't believe how much I was enjoying myself. I wasn't in the queue for Haunted Mansion. I wasn't having dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern. I was wandering around Liberty Square discovering detail after detail that I never knew existed. It was such a fantastic way to spend 2 hours at Disney and I'm quite positive that I never would have taken the time to do so had I not been stationed there on that day.
What did I find out in this land unique to Florida's Magic Kingdom? Let's find out as I continue my clockwise tour around the Magic Kingdom. Last time we were hee-hawing it up in Frontierland. This time around it's my Top 5 things to see in Walt Disney World's Liberty Square.
5 – Liberty Square Market
There are certainly good places to eat in Liberty Square. You could have classic American comfort food at the Liberty Tree Tavern, although I do miss the character meals here in a big way. One of the best-kept secrets in the park is the second floor of Columbia Harbour House. Grab a Lobster Roll or a Lighthouse Hummus Sandwich and head upstairs, and most days you will dine in relative tranquility. However, my favorite thing to do food-wise in Liberty Square is to grab something healthy from the outdoor Liberty Square Market. That's right, I said healthy. Sure, you can get a hot dog here, but this is one of the few places to find refreshing healthy snacks in the Magic Kingdom.
It's hard to beat cold watermelon on a scorching hot Orlando summers day. They also have apple slices, oranges, tubs of mixed fruit, carrots and celery sticks and my favorite the cold pickles! There's nothing better than getting a cold, crunchy, salty pickle and an ice-cold bottle of SmartWater and then finding either a table or a bench to sit and watch the people go by in Liberty Square. Better yet, is if you can snag one of those precious few rocking chairs scattered on porches throughout the land. It sounds simple, but it's become something that I make sure I do on each trip to Walt Disney World and I thoroughly enjoy myself when doing so.
4 –The Liberty Tree
The focal point of Liberty Square and something that I'm quite sure most guests ignore is the massive, 100+ year-old oak tree occupying prime real estate in the square. If you could find substantial shade at Walt Disney World, especially in summer, by all means, take advantage of it. Why not spend some time around this majestic, sprawling tree so-named as a nod to Disney's 1957 live action film, Johnny Tremain? Although it's technically the largest living thing in the Magic Kingdom, it wasn't always there. The Imagineers actually moved it to this spot from elsewhere on Disney property; an impressive technological feat for sure. My favorite time to enjoy the Liberty Tree is at night when the light from the tree's 13 lanterns representing America's original 13 colonies creates a subtle, warm, ethereal glow. It's a beautiful sight and one that's more or less ignored by the majority of park goers.
3 – Liberty Square Riverboat
This is one of those things that we seemed to pass up year after year on our family trips. The idea of slowly plying around the Rivers of America on a big old boat never appealed to us. Then one year we embarked on a quest to do different things or things that we had bypassed before and the Liberty Belle was right there on the list. I'm so glad we gave her a shot. Riding the Liberty Belle provides you with so many unique views of Frontierland, Tom Sawyer Island, Big Thunder Mansion, and the Haunted Mansion, as well as the Powhatan Village, Beacon Joe's bait shop and the pirates of Cutthroat Corner. These are all views that you can get no place else.
The ship itself is a masterpiece of design featuring beautiful woodwork, different rooms that you can explore, and an actual working steam engine that indeed powers the craft along its submerged guide rail. It's about as authentic as you can get and a great way to power down and see parts of the Magic Kingdom that not everyone gets to see.
2 – The Period Details
Walt was a stickler for making sure that period hardware and details went into the different lands in Disneyland. Legend has it that some of his designers would question why he wanted so much period hardware on Main Street U.S.A. "The average guest will never notice." was the sentiment. Walt's response was something to the extent, and I'm paraphrasing here, "No, they probably won't notice, but if it's wrong, it won't be special, and that they will notice." It's a shame he didn't live to see Liberty Square. That day I spent strolling around the land checking out details, I was consistently impressed, and the more impressed I became, the more I researched what the Imagineers did here. I was simply blown away with the attention to period detail that exists throughout the land.
One of my favorite details is the brown wavy concrete "pathway" that runs through the center of Liberty Square. That's not just a difference in color you see, nor is it a path. That brown wavy pathway represents what would actually be running through an actual colonial village, essentially an open sewer! It's not very magical, but certainly very accurate. While we're on that subject, where can you find the public restrooms in Liberty Square? Well, you can't. No plumbing in a colonial village, means no public restrooms in Liberty Square. Have you ever noticed that the shutters on all the buildings are crooked? The metal used to hang the shutters was considered a rare commodity and would have been used to make ammunition. This literally precious metal was conscripted and the shutters were then re-hung with leather, which over time would give way and sag, so naturally the Magic Kingdom shutters sag. I could go on and on. Better yet, the next time you're in Liberty Square, take it upon yourself to look around carefully and you'll find that all sorts of incredible and authentic details are all around you.
1 – The Haunted Mansion
Does the Haunted Mansion really fit in Liberty Square? To some degree yes and to some degree no. The architecture on the outside of the show building is supposed to represent the grand homes of 1700s era Hudson River Valley here in New York. After that, once you enter the attraction, I suppose it could be a mansion from any time period, but I have to admit, when it comes to this ride, I'm fine with it not one hundred percent fitting in.
The Haunted Mansion is high atop my list of favorite things to do and see anywhere on Walt Disney World property. It's a tried and true Disney classic, a defining achievement in what an attraction could be. The term is thrown around a lot but in this author's eyes, there's no other way to describe the Haunted Mansion then to classify it as a "masterpiece." It's definitely my favorite thing to do in Liberty Square and it's one of my favorite things to see in the entire Magic Kingdom and for that matter, the whole of Walt Disney World.
Despite my obvious love of The Haunted Mansion, I have found many other things to see and do when I visit Liberty Square. It's a unique place; the only one of it's kind in any Disney park and the Imagineers turned on the details when they built it. You might notice two glaring omissions from my list. The first is the new Muppet show, "The Muppets present…Great Moments in American History." It's off my list because when I was there last July, this show hadn't begun yet. Chances are if I revisit this list after my upcoming visit, my beloved Muppets will make the list. I'm thrilled that they're being utilized someplace else besides Hollywood Studios.
The second glaring omission is a timeless Disney classic, The Hall of Presidents. I will officially go on record right here, right now and admit that after all my years of visits I have yet to experience this attraction. I can't say that about too many things at Disney, but this is certainly one of them. Mock me if you must. Tell me I'm missing out on a Disney classic, scold me for being a tad bit hypocritical by offering advice on seeing all of the details this land has to offer and yet I've never been inside The Hall of Presidents.
I just have yet to find any reason to experience this attraction. Maybe one day, I'll be the completist and give it a shot, but the concept does nothing for me. It never has, and I don't expect it ever will. There's a handful of gentleman represented in that room that I wasn't too crazy about when they were actually serving as my president but there's also more than a handful whom I consider to be heroes. It's not about discrepancies in political beliefs. It just doesn't interest me. Maybe someday.
So, the next time you're in the Magic Kingdom, you're done rushing around, and you've run out of FastPass opportunities, take a nice long moment to explore Liberty Square. Enjoy the Christmas Shop, even if it's July and your thoughts are nowhere near Santa Claus and snow. Try the pickles. Trust me on that one. Check out the Liberty Bell and the Liberty Tree. Study the structures. Look for the lamps in the window that reference Paul Revere's famous ride. It's an endless list of details and well worth your while to pay it some more attention than I bet you typically do.
Liberty Square is incredibly themed and its bursting with details. All you have to do is slow down, look around and you'll discover what I did, that it's so much more than a shortcut.
As usual, I'd like to hear what you have to say about my choices and what kind of Liberty Square list you would construct. Click on the link, let me hear your thoughts and check in with me next time as I head off to Fantasyland for my next Disney Top 5.