30 March 2008

Why don't you sit back

Walt Disney World is not only for children, or even for those who are young at heart. I am sure that this won’t come as a shock to many people. After all, we have seen the dining options available at the Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and the like, we have strolled around World Showcase taking in the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes, and we have even ventured a peak at the golf courses and spas, and all of these have a distinctively adult air. Yet, when the average adult hears the words ‘Magic Kingdom,’ their thoughts immediately turn to storybook attractions, child-friendly rollercoasters, and grown men and women in costumes. While this may sound sweet to the child inside, it does nothing for the palate of an adult whose taste for adult experiences cannot be swayed.

What is past over with a glance, however, are wonderful experiences that may be family friendly, but will definitely feed the famine soul of the adult. From transportation, to quiet areas full of life, gardens, architecture, and even a backstage secret or two, the Magic Kingdom is not just a playground for pint-sized people and their families; it has something to offer every guest.

Right inside the entrance is the Main Street Station of the Walt Disney World Railroad. This station is full of information about the namesakes of the Railroad’s steam engines, as well has history, art, and models all dedicated to riding the rails. Should you hear the whistle coming around the bend, hop onboard and take a full-circle around the park. This not only gives you a feel for the park, and ideas on where you might like to visit, but it is full of little details that cannot be seen from anywhere in the park. If a passing attraction catches your eye, the Railroad makes stops in Frontierland and Mickey’s Toontown Fair, and the latter station is only a short walk away from Tomorrowland.

After the circuit is complete, and should you be of the mind to study the trains a bit closer, be sure to reserve a spot on The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour. This tour, which comes with a price tag of 40 dollars per person, spends three hours preparing the trains for the day, discussing Walt’s fascination with trains, and how, through Walt’s adoration, the trains became a fundamental component of the parks. The tour, which begins before the park opens, includes an excursion to the roundhouse, where the steam engines are housed and cared for. Theme park admission is required in addition to the cost of the tour.

The Walt Disney World Railroad is not the only mode of transportation adults can enjoy in the Magic Kingdom. Main Street U.S.A., with its turn-of-the-century charm, offers passage up and down Main Street in a variety of vehicles. Choices include: horse car, omnibus, jitney, horseless carriage, or a fire engine, each is its own enticement to its passengers. In Liberty Square, the Riverboat coasts gently along the Rivers of America, offering the sights and sounds of bygone days that are displayed in Frontierland, Tom Sawyer’s Island, and Liberty Square. Tomorrowland offers guests a grand-circle tour of the land on the innovative Tomorrowland Transit Authority. While on board, observant guests can even glimpse into the past to find a peek into the future that never was for Walt Disney World.

After all of the riding around and sitting, a stretch of the legs may be needed. The majority of the walkways of the Magic Kingdom can be overcrowded, and not conducive to a quiet stroll. However, the pathway from Tomorrowland to the Toontown Fair Railroad station, while not the most scenic of walkways, is isolated enough for a quiet walk and conversation. If woods are more your pace, seek out a raft to Tom Sawyer’s Island. While this may seem like a hotspot for children and paintbrush seeking enthusiasts, it is generally overlooked by a majority of the guests. The paths that meander over and around the island make their way through reconstructed mills, forts, and patches of underbrush.

Just because you have entered the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy doesn’t mean you have to suspend reality. If you are going to be making your way through the park on foot, be sure to take in your surroundings. Every detail of every window, walkway, and building has been meticulously planned to create an immersive environment. Be sure to take note of the architecture, and the scale in which it is presented. The upper floors of buildings may look full size, but forced perspective is employed throughout the park to give you the feeling of walking through full-sized villages, towns, and forts. As well, Walt Disney World (combined with Disneyland) employs six-hundred and fifty professional horticulturalists. These horticulturalists provide the exotic flora of Adventure, the tumbleweeds of Frontierland, the well manicured gardens o f Main Street and the Hub, the window boxes of Fantasyland, Cinderella Castle’s rose garden, the other-worldly designs of Tomorrowland, and the ever-popular topiaries. These dedicated professionals spend hours making planned gardens look wild and unruly, such as the blood red roses that run rampant outside of the Haunted Mansion. While all of this is to immerse guests in an environment, most children and families hardly take notice of such details, details that can be awe-inspiring under a carefully cultivated eye.

The Magic Kingdom also offers a variety of tours. Aside from the Stream Trains Tour mentioned above, adults may also enjoy the Keys to the Kingdom or Mickey’s Magical Milestones Tour. Keys to the Kingdom is a four and a half to five hours walking tour of the Magic Kingdom. The tour not only includes an in depth talk on the history of the park, its attractions, and the values and vision of Walt Disney, but it also takes guests behind the scenes to view the inner-workings of a couple of the park’s most well-loved attractions. Mickey’s Magical Milestones Tour takes guest on a two hour journey from Walt’s creation of Mickey Mouse, all the way to Mickey’s CGI debut in Mickey’s PhilharMagic. They Keys to the Kingdom tour costs 60 dollars per guest, while Mickey’s Magical Milestones Tour costs 25 dollars per guest, and both require separate them park admission. To reserve a spot for any of the tours mentioned, including the Steam Trains Tour, call (407) WDW-TOUR (407-939-8687).

Near the end of any day, whether you have been experiencing attractions or wandering aimlessly, it is always nice to find a quiet spot to sit and relax. The park is full of benches with which to rest your weary bones, however, most of these are along crowded walkways. For a commotion reduced rest, check out the rocking chairs in Liberty Square (along the side of the Hall of Presidents) and the area surrounding the Cinderella Wishing Well (along the path from Cinderella Castle to Tomorrowland.

Adults in the Magic Kingdom. Walt Disney once said, “Disneyland is not just for children. I don’t play down.” This belief is engrained in everything at Walt Disney World, where every element has been tailor-made to be one-size-fits-all. In the Magic Kingdom, children are given a chance to explore new ideas and to push new boundaries, adults, that are so inclined, may relieve fond memories, and adults who are adult for adult sake can even find adored pieces of solitude or edutainment. At the end of the day, the Magic Kingdom welcomes one and all to find their place and their adventure, even if that adventure is found in the welcoming arms of a rocking chair.


Greg said...

Nice post Ryan. A bit of inspiration for an upcoming visit. I really do need to consider a Backstage at some point.

FoxxFur said...

If you're interested in the steam trains I suggest you go check out the Steam Boat, where you can get a much closer look at the actual boiler, turbines and such. If you ask nicely I'm sure the CM working the boiler down there on the bottom deck will explain what does what to move the boat.