Walt Disney World – Off the Beaten PathNovember 26, 2010 No Comments
Walt Disney World is a sprawling entertainment center consisting of four gated theme parks, two water parks, a shopping and dining complex, and dozens of recreational opportunities, as well as a myriad of hotels. It would be easy to spend a month at Walt Disney World and never run out of things to do. Once you have visited a few times, however, you may be interested in digging a little deeper. The Walt Disney World experience is multilayered, containing thousands of details that many visitors never notice. Below are only a few of the more notable examples.
Instead of rushing down Main Street U.S.A. on your way into the park, slow down and take your time. Notice the red tint to the street? Walt Disney saw the Magic Kingdom as his guests’ opportunity to step inside a motion picture. The red street represents the red carpet at a gala Hollywood premiere. Look up at the second story windows to see the “credits” — all of the names are tributes to people who were important in the design and building of the park. Walt Disney’s name is last, located in the window above the ice cream parlor.
Near the Main Street smoking area is a hat shop named the Chapeau. Inside, you will find an old-fashioned telephone on the wall. Pick up the handset to overhear a conversation on an old party line!
In Tomorrowland, keep an eye out for “Push.” Apparently just an ordinary trash can, Push is actually a radio controlled robot. A nearby cast member (Disney employee) operates Push and provides him a voice. It is a lot of fun to hang back and watch surprised guests’ reactions!
Epcot is filled with technological marvels and tributes to world cultures. The rotating exhibits in Innoventions East and West virtually guarantee that you will never have the exact same experience twice. While in Future World, stop by Inventor’s Circle. This huge circle located in Future World West (the side with the Imagination, Living Seas and Land pavilions) pays tribute to famous inventors throughout history. Legend has it that this circle also marks the exact center of Walt Disney World. On the other side of Future World, stop by Club Cool. This small pavilion offers free samples of Coca-Cola flavors from around the world. Have the camera ready when your kids sample the Beverly!
Notice how long the walk is from Future World to the World Showcase? The original Epcot design plans called for the two areas to be much closer together. Unfortunately, a sinkhole opened up during the construction process, forcing designers to relocate the World Showcase. As you walk along the bridge past the Odyssey building, take a look down in the pond. That’s actually the original sinkhole!
Over in the World Showcase, head to the back of the UK pavilion. Kids love playing in the always-deserted hedge maze, while adults enjoy the Beatles tribute concerts in the nearby gazebo.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is filled with experiences designed to put guests in the middle of a Hollywood film. Outside the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is what appears to be an abandoned well with a large rope. A sign says Do NOT Pull the Rope, but the word “not” is crossed out. Go ahead and pull it for a special surprise.
When the park opened, the Streets of America were accessible only by tram tour. Now, however, they are open for guests to stroll down. Stop by the giant umbrella, a tribute to the Gene Kelly film Singin’ in the Rain, for an excellent photo opportunity. Make sure you are holding onto the umbrella and standing on the metal plate below when someone snaps the picture!
Download a copy of the original Disney-MGM Studios (the name of the park until 2008) park map from 1989. Turn it upside down for a perfect Hidden Mickey. Later expansion has rendered the Mickey virtually impossible to see, but the park was indeed built in the shape of an upside down Mickey Mouse.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The entire theme of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one of jungle exploration. With over 200 species of animals and a bewildering array of plant life, it would take several visits to Animal Kingdom to see everything. But a few hidden secrets have nothing to do with the animals themselves.
The Africa section of the park has an elaborate back story. The premise is that you are in the fictional village of Harambe, a favorite among students and travelers. Take a moment to stop outside the Dawa Bar and listen closely. You might overhear the voices of several students and their landlady, who is trying to collect the rent!
Over in Asia, take a spin on the Kali River Rapids if your kids meet the height requirement. After the ride, make a quick stop on the bridge. See those water guns cleverly disguised as elephants? Squirting people on the ride is especially fun for kids who are too small to participate, especially if a parent or older sibling is on board.
Dinoland, USA has a wonderful dig site playground, which you may be hard pressed to get your kids back out of again. Before you leave, though, make sure your kids find the Xylobone. Located along the wall behind the Jeep, this musical fossil is sure to bring a smile to any child’s face.
These are just a few of the many hidden secrets at Walt Disney World. As you tour the parks, take time to really look around. Don’t be afraid to touch and interact with your surroundings (except when you’re on a ride vehicle, of course!). Disney is filled to overflowing with tiny details that most visitors will simply walk right on by.