26 August 2021

Walt Disney World 50 for 50: Common Interest in Rose Growing

A small corner of the hub area of the Magic Kingdom once held two peaceful attractions that reminded us to stop and smell the roses and to enjoy the little things in life. While one has been extinct since 1983, the other lived until the recently hub renovation in 2014, both of which are well worth taking a moment to remember.
One of the earliest attractions in the Magic Kingdom took guests down the lazy waterways of Main Street U.S.A., near enough to almost touch Tomorrowland, and venturing briefly into Adventureland. This experience was in operation for just over a decade, from May of 1973 until August of 1983, and yet it is one of the most under-documented attractions from the parks. I am, of course, speaking of the Plaza Swan Boats.
The Plaza Swan Boats originally docked near the Plaza Restaurant, in what has become an outdoor seating area along edge of the canal. Once the permanent dock was built, the green roofed pavilion that can be reached by walking through the Plaza Rose Garden, the original dock was repurposed. Guests could board one of the twelve boats named after popular Disney heroines for a D-Ticket during the peak summer season, although one boat would be refurbished as a vacuum boat for cleaning the canals.
A solitary image of the Plaza Swan Boats, which ran on natural gas, would provide a glimpse of grace plying the channels of the Magic Kingdom. In truth, however, these swans roamed more like odd ducks. An electrical guidance system failed early in the attractions history, calling for an alternative navigation approach. The new steering mechanism consisted of two jets, one each in the front and rear, which could be employed by their own steering wheels by the piloting Cast Member. While these jets answered the problem caused by the failings of the electrical system, they also included the addition of user error. There were many accounts of boats running ashore, crashing into support beams and even spinning in circles.
With problems ranging from popularity that could not be supported to ever-increasing maintenance costs, the herd of swans were permanently docked after the 1983 summer season. While there were flaws in the Plaza Swan Boat’s system, a scenic tour of the waterways surrounding three lands of the Magic Kingdom, especially in such a regally designed craft, would have been a lovely way to spend some time in the park.
The second attraction to occupy this space was the Plaza Rose Garden. Recognized by the All-American Rose Selections, Inc. in 1985 for “contributing to the common interest in rose growing through its efforts in maintaining an outstanding public rose garden,” the garden featured a splendid assortment of gorgeous, and sometimes rare, roses.
The trail was a loop that made its way down to the waters edge, with the pavilion once used as the loading station for the Plaza Swan Boats, and back up towards the walkway to Tomorrowland. It was fragrant, but not overpowering to the point that it could be smelled by most passersby, and really was a wonderful spot catch your breath. While the roses are gone, it doesn’t mean that we can’t take our own stroll through them today.

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