Archive for July, 2010

Foto Face-off Friday – Tower of Terror v. Haunted Mansion

by on July 30, 2010

As you count down the hours until your weekend begins, here is a visual treat! In this week’s edition of Foto Face-off Friday, the weekly blog that features photographs from our TouringPlans Flickr Group that are an extension of the Disney Debates we’ve been holding on our Twitter Account, @TouringPlans, we will attempt to resolve one of Walt Disney World’s “biggest controversies,” Tower of Terror v. Haunted Mansion.

I tried to rustle some feathers with some folks on Twitter (I mean, Haunted Mansion doesn’t even have a post show!), so it really isn’t fair to post just a selection of the comments, but most people were firm in their positions that Haunted Mansion is better. I disagree. Head over there and search for “disneydebate” to see some of the bickering.

Below are the top results from the Flickr entries; each Flickr poster’s personal thoughts on the Face-off are provided below their photo-entry. To view more of their photography click on their respective submission, which will direct you to their Flickr photostream.

Haunted Mansion

Todd_H:
Hitchhiking Ghosts
Tough, tough choice. I will have to first say that I think the Tower of Terror is the all around most well done attraction at WDW, both in ride design and decor/theming. However, my vote has to go to the Haunted Mansion for nostalgic reasons and the photographic challenge it poses. Plus Walt was personally involved in the creation of the Haunted Mansion.

Pigletfan:
The Haunted Mansion Stretching Room
Very tough choice, I love them both! But I gotta go with Haunted Mansion. It all goes back to remembering the first time I rode it when I was 8 years old. I was scared to death and then it turned out to be one of my all time favorite attractions. It is a must do for me every time I am in The Magic Kingdom.

Corsey21:
Hitchhiking Ghosts
Another tough call but I would have to give the slight edge to the Haunted Mansion. Obviously there is no comparing the adrenaline rush of the TOT, but from the great theming, duration, and (like Todd_H said) for the great photographic challenges. I could ride it over and over again and always catch something new.

dd_indy:
Who's next (by ddindy)
As others have said before, these choices are getting harder to make. I rode the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror when it was new, then avoided it for years, but now it’s one of my favorite attractions. The queue is another one of those where you want the line to stand still so you can study all of the little details in the lobby and library. The props that recall episodes from the classic TV show are priceless, such as the fortune telling machine that taunted William Shatner in Nick of Time and a copy of the book To Serve Man. And the ride is just plain fun. (Note to the younger generation: Check out The Twilight Zone on SyFy; it’s quality TV.) My vote, however, goes to the Haunted Mansion. You can’t argue against a classic. Sure, some of the effects are cheesy and the epitaths on the tombstones are corny. But from “Welcome, foolish mortals” to “Hurry back,” it’s just a spooky good time. This attraction has one thing that Tower of Terror doesn’t: A catchy theme song. Everybody sing along: “Grim grinning ghosts come out to socialize.”

Tower of Terror
Cory_Disbrow:
Hollywood Studios - My Most Magical Moment
I’m gonna be the first person to vote for ToT. I love both of these attractions, and could ride both of them over and over again. But, ToT is simply put, my favorite attraction in Walt Disney World, and I’ve had many great memories there, including this time I recently got to go past the queue to do some shooting.

Ring of Fire Hot Sauce 1:
Tower of Terror Sepia
As iconic of an attraction that Haunted Mansion is, at this moment, I have to go with Tower of Terror.

wide world of hilary:
Hotel Lobby Entrance
I debated with myself all week on which of these two amazingly, amazing attractions I could possibly call my favorite and finally by a slim margin I have come to the conclusion that Tower of Terror is mine. For me it came down to the details and TOT has endless possibilities that begin before you even make it to the end of Sunset Blvd and continue throughout the entire Hotel. Plus it’s just one thrilling ride that I could ride all day, every day.

Next week’s Disney Debate subject of the Foto Face-off Friday is one people often find challenging: fireworks. Illuminations versus Magic Kingdom shows (so any special event shows are included). As always please help us settle the debate on Twitter by voicing your thoughts to @TouringPlans and entering your submissions in the TouringPlans Flickr Group discussion entitled “TouringPlans’ Foto Face-off Friday Blog – Illuminations v. Magic Kingdom fireworks!” You could have your comments and picture chosen to be featured in next week’s blog!

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WDW Today Episode 753- Listener Questions

by on July 30, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 753 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join TouringPlans.com owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

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Friendly Reminder: Disney May Increase Ticket Prices In Early August

by on July 29, 2010

Disney frequently announces admission price hikes in the first week of August.  We’re not sure of the exact date, but we think it’s likely Disney will raise their ticket prices relatively soon.

If you’re definitely visiting Walt Disney World later this year, buying admission now might allow you to save 3-10% off the cost of tickets.  For some multi-day trips, that’s enough to pay for a nice meal.   Use our Ticket Calculator to find the best bargains, before prices go up.

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Taste Of Africa And Animal Kingdom

by on July 29, 2010

There are many advantages to living close to Walt Disney World, as I’m sure many of you have contemplated in the throws of your Disney addiction.  One favorite of mine and my wife, Cheryl, is that we can almost always be at Disney World with friends.  And this past weekend was one that I’d been looking forward to for the past few weeks.

We’d made plans to spend the day with J.L. Knopp, @NDM_1 of The Disney Driven Life, and her family. They are recent transplants to the Central Florida area, and are now living close enough to us to be called neighbors.  We had agreed to meet at Lou Mongello’s Meet of the Month to start off our day.  To me this was perfect as J.L. and I met in person for the first time at Lou’s 24-hour live show and bonded as we took over “the box” for a bit to answer viewer questions.

As an added bonus, one of our dearest Disney friends was in town, the globetrotting travel guru herself, Kimberly Knight along with her mom and cousin.  We’d been failing to meet up with her all week, and so I finally suggested she join us at Lou’s meet.  This was brilliant as it was also an opportunity for Kim and J.L to meet in person as well.  I love bringing my Disney friends closer to each other like this when possible.

At the meet it was clear there was really only one way everyone who was there wanted to finish out their day.  You see it was the very last scheduled day for the Taste of Africa Street Party.  Without question, it was settled – at the end of the day, when all was said and done, and rides had been ridden, we’d all meet in Animal Kingdom for the party.  This is one of the other advantages of being local, you can almost always get to the various special events at WDW.

So Cheryl and I, along with J.L. and her family hopped into NDC#1 (Neurotic Disney Car) and headed over to Animal Kingdom.  It was a gorgeous though definitely “Animal Kingdom hot” day, and we walked in from the lot.  Before heading through the turnstiles everyone else needed a pit stop, so I headed through the gate to guest relations and got NDKs 1, 2, and 3 each a “Wild About Safety” set of cards and booklet from Guest relations which they were presented with as they entered the parks.  I love watching how excited kids can get over such treasures.

On walking through the Oasis toward Discovery Island and the Tree of Life we asked the kids what they wanted to do, and they all decided that our destination would be Dinoland.  Now, I sort of dig Dinoland, no pun intended.  Is it the greatest land in WDW?  No.  But it’s not terrible, it actually has a clever story to it, and the theming and decor of the area is something I sort of find appealing.

Our first stop was Primeval Whirl a.k.a. the roller coaster of spinning doom.  This ride takes quite a verbal beating from the online Disney community, but I honestly don’t mind it. However, because it’s so reviled I generally don’t find people to ride it with – to me, this was opportunity.  However, there was one small snafu, NDK#3 was too short to ride – J.L. planned to take her on TriceraTop Spin while the rest of us rode Primeval Whirl.  Then we’d change up and give J.L. a chance to ride Primeval Whirl as well.

From there we headed over to Dinosaur a.k.a. whiplash central.  The height requirement for this ride is much less so NDK#3 had no problems this time and she was psyched.  This is where I learned that this little girl is as fearless as they come, and she wanted nothing more than to find that baby dinosaur egg from the past, rescue it, and bring it back to the future.  Pesky Carnotaurs beware!  Fact: Most of the eggs later find their way to the area surrounding the lion kopjes on the Kilimanjaro Safaris.  No, really, I swear.

Next we stopped for a much needed break – did I mention it was hot?  After resting, we decided it was time to get wet, so we headed over to the Kali River Rapids.  And we did get massively soaked – I’m pretty much a water magnet on this ride, don’t sit next to me – I always get wet.  While we were in line, Kim texts me to let me know she’s on her way over to AK, and we arrange to meet up in Africa once we’re off the ride – fortunately when on the Disney travel plan Asia isn’t all that far from Africa.

And suddenly there we all were.  We’re coming from Asia, Kim and her group are coming through the Harambe gate , and we’re strangely drawn to together at the Tamu Kibanda where we find the terrible trio of Lou Mongello, Glenn Whelan, and Scott Otis filming a future video segment for WDW Radio.  After chatting and watching the tail end of a Samosas demonstration, we agree to get some food and meet over at the Dawa Bar’s outdoor, but covered, seating area.

So I purchased a plate of the Samosas with Mango Chutney and headed over to meet with everyone.  What a great way to start the celebration, the potato and pea mixture of the samosas was extremely well seasoned and had a great flavor.  This contrasted well with the sweetness of the chutney.  I shared my plate with J.L.’s kids and they really seemed to enjoy it also which is good as the spices were not strong enough to overwhelm the palette of a child.

After sitting for a bit Cheryl sent me off to get her a Mango Shake that was over at the Tamu Tamu.  While there I bought myself a plate of Bobotie with Blatjang.  This is a very traditional dish.  You can find it at both Boma and Tusker House as well as it being a yearly regular during Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival.  Bobotie is a curried meat and fruit pie and is traditionally paired with blatjang which is an apricot chutney.  It’s also one of my all time favorite dishes, and this version did not disappoint.  Cheryl’s shake was a bit too sweet for my liking, but had good flavor, and she really enjoyed it.

By this time I was really enjoying myself.  There was a DJ on top of the building where the restrooms are, and he was doing an awesome job working the crowd.  I was eating and bopping my head to the music.  It was a great time hanging out with Kim and her mom and cousin – Kim has one of the most contagious smiles I’ve seen.  Cheryl wanted me to go find out if she could get some of the Joloff Rice without the Curried Chicken as she won’t have meat outside of our own home.  So I danced my way over to the Kusafiri Bakery.

Along the way I watched some sugar cane getting beaten, broken, and then juiced.  And then I danced with a few castmembers and tried out a musical instrument before the line had finally died down enough to get some food.  They had no problem giving me a double portion of rice instead of rice with chicken, and even alone, the rice was fantastic.  I got myself a Banana Bread Pudding.  This was a to die for desert – it was warm and rich and was accompanied by a vanilla cream sauce.  Kim and her cousin both tried this dish and without a doubt they approved – Kim’s cousin is a foodie in training.

I can’t say enough good things about the Taste of Africa Street Party.  It was amazing fun, awesome food, great times, and a much needed addition to Animal Kingdom.  Normally many guests leave each day right after Mickey’s Jamin’ Jungle Parade, but for the street party Harambe Village remained not just full, but full of life.  There was this fantastic energy permeating the event, and everyone there seemed to be having a great time.  Not only were park goers engaged and spending money, but the castmembers were having a great time too.  And something that engages both staff and guests at the levels I saw should always be considered a win.

I’m hoping that the powers that be at WDW deem the Street Party to be the success that it appeared to be and bring it back regularly.  This is an event they could run year round, though they’d have to push up hours for the parade on the shorter days of the year due to their “close at dusk” restriction.   At the very least they should consider fixing any kinks in the system they saw, get it going again come August, and run it through Labor day.

Afterward we all finished up with a ride on the Kilimanjaro Safaris, where were filled an entire truck ourselves.  It was a great way to finish out a fantastic Disney day.  Good food, awesome fun, and great friends to spend the day with.  I couldn’t have asked for anything more while getting my Disney fix.

What about you?  Did you get to try the Taste of Africa Street Party?  If so, what’d you think?  If not, would you want it to come back so you could?  What other sorts of similar events might you add to Animal Kingdom to bring it that much needed evening energy boost?  Kwaherini.

This post is a proud part of the 8th Disney Blog Carnival

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BETAMOUSE #25 – UNPLUGGED!

by on July 29, 2010

betamouse logoA new episode of Betamouse is out, co-hosted by TouringPlans.com developer Henry Work.

Download the episode directly or subscribe via iTunes or RSS.

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WDW Today Episode 752 – Listener Questions

by on July 28, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 752 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join TouringPlans.com owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

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Planning a Trip to WDW with a Newbie

by on July 28, 2010

In about two weeks I am heading down to Walt Disney World for the second time this year and approximately the 12th time in the last four years.  I’m used to traveling with folks who frequent this vacation kingdom as much or more often than I do.  But this time around I’m taking a friend of mine, Erin, who hasn’t been to Disney World since she was a little girl.   Since I’m used traveling with folks who don’t bat an eyelash at making dinner reservations six months in advance how do I ease my non-geek friend into the ins and outs of Disney World?

Luckily, she knows I know a lot of the tips and tricks to Disney World which a lot of typical tourists may overlook.  She has let me take the reins with a lot of the planning, but I still want to make sure that she will get to do the attractions and such which are high on her list.  I also wanted to make sure that I was explaining everything that was going on and not just making plans without her.  One thing to keep in mind that there will be about 25 of my dearest Disney friends joining us!  I have told them all that we have to make sure to hit all of the activities on Erin’s list and make her feel welcome.

First things were first and we had to decide on dates.  Erin is a teacher so she had to go when kids were out of school.  Her schedule provided me with an excuse to head down in August to check out the end of Summer Nightastic! I had been to WDW at the end of August before and the crowd levels were light since most of the kids in the South and Midwest had already returned to school for the year.  So, despite the impending humidity I suggested we head down before she went to work.  After our plans were made a bunch of my Disney friends decided to join the party!

Next up, we booked flights.  I’m used to flying solo and then meeting my friends at the airport or once we all gather on Disney property.  I’m looking forward to having company for our flight from Newark to Orlando International.  JetBlue is generally my preferred carrier when making the trek from NJ to Orlando, and my guest was agreeable to whatever I thought was best since I make the trip several times a year.  She and I will definitely be checking bags (we’re Jersey girls after all) so while Continental was a little cheaper when we booked, the cost of checking a bag with them was not worth the savings.  As an added bonus, I’ve kept and an eye on our air fare and it has come down twice and I have gotten about $150 back to use for future flights!  This is another added bonus of flying with JetBlue.

Photo by Don Sullivan

Now, the question was where to stay.  I wanted to stick with a budget this time around and I didn’t think Erin would disagree.  I told her all about Pop Century and how it was the best of the value resorts, in my opinion.  She thought it sounded like a cute theme and gave me the go ahead to make a reservation.  When picking the resort for your party including people who are unfamiliar with the levels of resorts and their costs and benefits, make sure to lay it all out for them.  Perhaps show them photos on various websites to help them get a visual of the various themes at each resort.  Also, be aware of their budget and make your selection based on everyone’s needs. Then once they have a clear picture of the options, make your reservation.

You may also have to make sure your guests know about the benefits of staying on site vs. and off property resort.  Describing Disney’s free transportation system would be a good place to start.  I explained how Disney offered a free bus service from the airport called the Magical Express (DME) and how it all worked.  I let her know all about Disney’s transportation options between the resort and the parks.  Later on some friends and I decided it would be good idea to rent a car instead of using DME.  She was fine with grabbing a car without even having to describe the benefits of having one.  She was also on board with the concept of using the Disney transportation system when we went to the parks in the evening since we will most likely be having a good time with the big group and some adult beverages.

As for other resort guest benefits, I also made sure she understood the concept of extra magic hours since we’ll most likely be using them.  I talked to her about the resort mug option, but will let her decide if she’d like to purchase one.  Since I have an annual pass we can park our rental car for free whether or not we stay at a Disney resort.  I let her know about how we could check in for our return trip flight at our resort and even check our luggage there.  I think Erin is especially excited that she can have her souvenir purchases sent back to Pop Century at no additional fee!

I often forget about the expense of purchasing a park ticket since I have an annual pass.  This is an important aspect of Disney World travel to cover with your newbies.  Since there are so many ticket options available selecting the right one for you group can be tricky.  Since we’ll be staying for five days Erin will be purchasing a five day pass with the park hopper option. Since the rest of the people we’ll be traveling with have annual passes, it’s pretty hard to break the park hopping habit.  She seemed to be fine with the added cost, much to my relief.  I also thought about having her add the water parks fun and more option since we’ll be heading to Typhoon Lagoon.  However, since we’ll only be going one day it didn’t make economic sense to add it.   It should also be noted her having to purchase a ticket also affected our selection of flight times.  Since she has to pay for a full day in the park on arrival and departure days we’ll be taking the first flight from Newark to Orlando and an evening flight home.

Since the trip includes so many folks Erin let me go ahead with making any ADRs, but I was sure to pick some places I thought she would like.  Since everyone in the group knew my non-geek friend was coming along for the ride they also wanted to make sure she had a good time at some of Disney’s more well known eateries.  I’m not sure when the last time I went to a character meal might have been, but we’ve booked Chef Mickey’s so we can immerse our newbie in the Disney magic.  While I was sure to include some quintessential Disney dining experiences in our line up, like 50s Prime Time Cafe, I was also sure to avoid some places I knew Erin wouldn’t enjoy.  My dear friend is a very picky eater even in her 20s so I knew places like the Tangerine Cafe in the Moroccan pavilion and Sanaa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge were off the list.  I also gave her a few websites to check out where she could take a look at restaurant menus to ensure she would find something to her liking in each stop on our tour.

After our initial plans were made I gave her a copy of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and a few of my favorite informative websites.  I asked her to check out the book and let me know some things she really wanted to do.  She has since let me know that she’s never been to Animal Kingdom or seen Illuminations: Reflections of Earth (my favorite).  There are some things I want to make sure to do with her on this trip.  For example, I usually only see Fantasmic! about once a year, but because Erin has not seen it before I made sure to include it in our schedule.  My friends and I often take a more relaxed approach when touring the parks since we know we are there often.  This time around, I’ve made them promise to get my guest on rides and I think everyone is on board with the plan.

A few weeks ago Erin and I had dinner together to discuss the trip.  While we chatted I gave her some tips for packing and preparing for the expedition.  We also decided on how we would get to the airport since our flight leaves at 7 a.m. and some other details as we got closer to our departure date.   She brought the Unofficial Guide with her to the meal and pointed out some things she really wanted to do.  She still remembered the mountains of the Magic Kingdom so she is most excited to ride those again.  It’s important to get together with your guest and answer any questions they may have.  I have the added task of giving her a little background of the 25 people who will be joining our group!

I’m excited to share one of my favorite places with one of my friends from home.  I realize some people bring down family friends who are reluctant to jump into the magic, but Erin seems ready and raring to go.  She squealed when I told her we would be going to a character meal and has told me she wants to meet Ariel.  While I generally avoid character meet and greets, we’ll be seeking them out this time around.  Her joining me on the trip will give me an excuse to check out some things (like character meets) I usually ignore.

I think it’s important to have the right attitude when traveling with folks who aren’t as familiar with WDW.  While there are certainly things on my to do list, I’m trying to make sure to hit all of the things Erin wants to see as well.  I know I’ll be back again in October and December and can see anything I may miss in August.  This trip is all about showing her how much fun Disney can be and letting her meet a bunch of my friends.  If you are bringing friends or family who are unfamiliar with WDW on your next trip, be sure to accommodate them especially if they are traveling to the house of mouse reluctantly.

Traveling to Disney World for the first time can be a daunting undertaking.  While we Disney geeks know there is a ton of information to be had about all aspects of a trip, try not to overwhelm your guests.  Try to take care of some of the little things for them so they don’t have to be intimidated.  On the other hand it is important to make them feel included in the planning of the trip!  Finding a balance there may be a challenge, but it is certainly achievable.

I’m sure there are items I have forgotten to mention in this blog post, but I’m sure we’ll get to them once we are actually on property.  So have you taken friends of family who were new to Walt Disney World?  How did you prepare them for their adventure?  Let me know your tips and tricks for touring with newbies!

Next week I’ll share how I prepare and pack for an upcoming excursion to WDW…

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Disney Dining — Working It

by on July 27, 2010

Dining at Walt Disney World can be a challenge.  Wait, let me say that another way.  Having your dining reservation when you would like to dine can be a challenge.  So today’s post is going to offer tips on working Disney’s Advanced Dining Reservation System — henceforth to be called ADRs.

The first thing to note,ADRs are not like reservations that you traditionally make at a restaurant. ADRs  guarantee you the next available table for your party size. If you have an ADR for 12:00 pm at Le Cellier,  there won’t necessarily be a table waiting for you at noon.    Sometimes you have to wait and sometimes you don’t.  Keep that information in mind when making your ADRs.  If you are late, Disney isn’t going to refuse to seat you.  If you are only able to snag an 11:00 a.m. ADR and your party gets delayed on Soarin’,  no worries.  You may have to wait, but you will get to eat.  Getting to eat is what an ADR guarantees you.  It’s your foot in the door of the legendary Disney restaurants.

Tip #1 — If you  really want to eat at a particular restaurant, take whatever ADR you can get.

Let’s say you’re going last minute or you had no idea that you even needed to make ADRs.  What should you do?  The first thing: walk up and ask if they by chance have any availability.  One of the big flaws in Disney’s ADR system is that tons of reservations are taken, but not all are fulfilled.  It may be your lucky day, so give it a try.

Tip #2 — Walk up

You didn’t have any luck with ADRs and no Walk up availability or you just like to live on the edge.  Plan C.  Eat at the Bar.  There’s a plethora of restaurants that have bars that offer a full menu.  Flying Fish and California Grill are two of my favorites.  There is also the option of trying Biergarten as it has family style seating.  Getting in is rarely a problem.   Give Kona Cafe at the Polynesian a try.  It’s one of my favorites in all of Walt Disney World and because it’s housed inside a resort hotel it’s lesser known.  Trails End over at Fort Wilderness is a great option — out of the way, flies under the radar with good food. 

Tip #3 — Eat at the Bar or Resort Restaurant

My best universal advice when going to Disney World: be on the flex team.  Put your type A personality aside and be the best type B or C you can be.  Crankiness has never upped the fun factor.  Don’t live or die by your dining reservations.  Use them as a guide to plan your day — not an absolute, written in stone contract.

Tip #4 – Be Flexible

Eating at Walt Disney World is one my life’s great pleasures.  I’ve visited with ADRs and without.  Either way, it’s been a culinary success.

What tips do you have?  You can follow me on Twitter @Caroline251.

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Marceline: Where Walt’s Memories Were Made

by on July 26, 2010

Guest Blogger Ryan Kilpatrick started his life long love of Disney when he visited Walt Disney World with his grandparents in 1982, just a week after Epcot opened, and got his picture in Communicore printed in Southern Living magazine.  Since then, he’s drafted his wife and kids into the mix! Between Disney trips he started his blog, The Disney Film Project, where he is starting the adventure of watching all the Disney shorts and features in chronological order.  You can find him on his blog or on Twitter.

When you visit Walt Disney World and stroll down Main Street, USA, you may not realize that you’re really strolling through Walt Disney’s memories.  After all, Main Street was designed to be a turn of the century street, just like Marceline, Missouri, the town where Walt spent some of his formative years.  My family and I recently traveled to Marceline to see where it all started, and it was an absolutely amazing experience.

Driving into town, the signs let you know that you’re headed to Walt Disney’s Hometown, and when you pull onto Main Street USA (yes, that’s the street name) you know it.  Driving down that street, you can see the vision of the entrance to Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom.

All along the street are reminders of the Disney parks.  When you get out of the car, loudspeakers are playing Disney music.   The hotel we stayed at, the Uptown Theatre Bed and Breakfast, looks just like the outside of the Main Street Cinema.  Across the street is the Zurcher building, which was the model for Coke Corner.  Signs up and down the street show you what building on Main Street in Disneyland was based on buildings here.

I cannot say enough about the kindness of the people in town.  Debbie Foster, who runs the bed and breakfast, me us when we arrived, and showed us all around the theatre, including other rooms, the back entrance to the theatre itself as well as pointing out areas of interest around town.  Then, in the morning, she brought us a breakfast of a “quiche” that had ham, eggs, hashbrowns and cheese, along with Mickey waffles, blueberry muffins, fresh squeezed orange juice, apple juice, fresh strawberries and grapes.  Yum!  After that, she showed us a short movie in the theatre and let my kids parade around the stage.

The kindness continued at the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, located in the old train depot.  We paid our admission and began the guided tour, which reviews Walt’s boyhood in the town, as well as his visits back to town in 1956 and other times.  Our guide was speaking and I was reviewing the exhibits, when she said:

“And since our house was the only one with air conditioning, the town decided that the Disneys would stay with us while they were in town.”

What?  I was talking to someone who met Walt Disney?  It was amazing.  From that point forward, I peppered our guide with questions about Walt, and she kindly answered every single one of them.  Our guide, along with the fabulous exhibits, really told the story of Walt’s time in Marceline.

Away from the museum, there are several other sites to visit.  Just around the corner is EP Ripley park, named for one of the engines on the Disneyland Railroad.  In the park is an engine that Walt had painted to say “Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad,” which is just one of the gifts he gave to his hometown.  Outside the Walt Disney Elementary School, you can find a flagpole from the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics, donated by Walt after he ran the entertainment for those games.  But Walt’s biggest gift to the town could be found at the Walt Disney Municipal Park.

If you drive down to the park, you’ll see the pool that was named after Walt when the complex was renamed, and off to the left is a section of track.  This is where Walt sent the Midget Autopia, an expired ride from Disneyland.  For years, the ride ran in the park, a little piece of Disneyland in Marceline!  The ride is long gone, and grass is growing in the track, but the townsfolk are hoping to fix the cars and get it back up and running.

The last site we toured was Walt Disney’s original homesite.  It’s a private residence now, but in back of the home are two things I think every Disney fan will want to see.  First is Walt’s “Dreaming Tree.”  When he came back to town, he told the people about how he would lay under the old cottonwood tree and sketch, because he was not yet old enough to work in the fields with his father.

The second thing is a reconstruction of the barn that stood on the property when Walt was there.  It’s a reproduction, sure, but when you walk into the open field, you can easily imagine young Walt Disney there in 1905.  Inside the barn, you can sign the walls, leaving your thanks to Walt.  So many people have signed, including Pete Docter of Pixar and many other animators and cartoonists.  Leaving your signature where so many great artists have signed was a humbling experience.

If you are a Disney fan, and you want to see where it all started, I can’t recommend a quick trip to Marceline enough.  It’s not just the sites that inspired Main Street, or the fields or barns that inspired so many of the early cartoons.  No, the main thing I took away from Marceline was the attitude.  It was pure Disney.  Everyone there has an unflagging optimism that Marceline will be a destination for Disney fans.  They believe that the Uptown Theatre will re-open, that the Midget Autopia will come back, that the trains will start stopping there again and that the Disney Museum will be a huge attraction.  Based on visiting them, I have to say I hope they’re right, because Marceline deserves it.

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WDW Today Episode 751 – Listener Questions

by on July 26, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 751 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join TouringPlans.com owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

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