As I’ve said before in this Disneyland vs. Disney World series, Disney never does the same thing twice! It’s a common misconception that Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and the Disneyland Park are basically the same experience but on different coasts. That is absolutely not true! Even though Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was inspired after the original Disneyland Park, it was never intended to be a carbon copy. Both parks offer their own exclusive attractions, restaurants, character interactions, style, and overall experience. Of course, that gives rise to the question of which park is truly the best? That’s the question I intend to answer in perhaps the most ambitious installment of Disneyland vs. Disney World: The Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park Part II.
Walt’s Lantern Above the Disneyland Fire Department
Main Street, U.S.A. :
Everyone loves their Main Street, U.S.A. I know it’s the land I miss most when I’m not at the parks. The problem with comparing the two is that they are each unique and my favorite tends to depend on my mood. Seriously, my pick could be different by tomorrow! Anyway, let’s begin with the first thing guests seen when approaching either park, the train stations.
Mayor Weaver of Main Street, U.S.A. will be happy to give you a handshake and a business card
The Magic Kingdom’s Train Station is two stories high, spacious, and also symmetrical in comparison to Disneyland’s. It hosts the morning Welcome Show and offers fantastic seating for the parades and fireworks. Disneyland’s Train Station is more quaint and resembles a station that would have existed for an actual small town. It also serves as a stage for entertainment too.
Once guests enter the park, they find themselves at Town Square. Disneyland’s doesn’t seem as big as the Magic Kingdom’s, but it offers a park-like atmosphere with more trees and benches and its Main Street Vehicles operate into the afternoon while the Magic Kingdom’s only run a few hours in the morning. Disneyland’s Town Square is also rich with history due to The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at the Opera House and the lamp burning in the window of Walt’s private apartment at the fire house. But I can’t fail to mention that Magic Kingdom’s Harmony Barber Shop, where guests can actually get haircuts with a touch of pixie dust!
Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A.
Now the Magic Kingdom offers the best view down Main Street, U.S.A. due to the size of Cinderella Castle, and the whole street has a slightly grander and more ornate look than Disneyland’s. Although, I think Disneyland’s storefronts boast a bit more personality, inside and out, and I appreciate their few unique, specialized shops. I also believe that Disneyland’s Main Street dining options are a little better too. I love the Market House Starbucks, the menu at Carnation Café, and everything at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Café. But I do prefer the setting and character experience at the Magic Kingdom’s Crystal Palace, as well as Casey’s Corner menu and theme, compared to Disneyland’s The Plaza Inn and Refreshment Corner respectively. Lastly, I think the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A. does just a little better when it comes to entertainment due to the charming Main Street Trolley Show and Main Street, U.S.A. Actors.
Overall, I’m giving this category to Disneyland, but just barely! Disneyland’s dining, Town Square, and history just put it over the top, even though it’s difficult to beat that postcard view down the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We LOVE the Magic Kingdom. As you know, this July we’re celebrating Walt Disney World here on the SATURDAY SIX. At the beginning of the month we began our journey at Animal Kingdom, which now takes on new life at night. We then made our way over to Hollywood Studios, a park currently going through some growing pains but still has some of the best experiences in all of WDW. Last week? The one and only EPCOT, a theme park like no other across the globe. Today we are going to finish up by heading into the park which was the centerpiece of Walt Disney’s “Florida Project,” the Magic Kingdom.
The partners statue at the Magic Kingdom. (photo by Brandon Glover)
There are not enough superlatives for Disneyland out in California, but with Florida came the “blessing of size” which allowed Walt (and the Disney company) to fix problems they would never be able to in Anaheim. For example, driving to Disneyland is much like driving to the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida, in that you can see the park from the road. With the Magic Kingdom, Disney created a theme park where the very entrance to the park is an experience, slowly revealing itself to guests in a truly magical way. Opening in 1971, the Magic Kingdom quickly became the most popular theme park in the world, and retains that title to this very day. What makes it so great? Well, today we’re gonna look at six of our favorite things inside this truly special park. So, sit back, relax in one of the rocking chairs on Tom Sawyer Island, and let’s start our countdown with…
# 6 – Festival of Fantasy
Even with heated competition from Universal and many other parks from around the world, there are still areas which Disney parks are completely untouchable. One of those areas is parades, and one of the best parades at any Disney park is the Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy. With elaborate floats, stunning costumes, an original score, and filled with many of our favorite Disney characters, this is a parade worth waiting for. The backstory of the parade is that each of the units were built by the citizens of Fantasyland. It’s fascinating just looking at all the details on each float and how they seem to be designed from an era long ago. The music has that true Disney Difference, with Brave and Maleficent sections being standouts, and the amount of characters involved in the parade is staggering. From Anna and Elsa to Mickey and Minnie and almost everyone in-between, Festival of Fantasy has something for everyone.
The impressive fire breathing Maleficent. Sorry Gringotts, but this dragon also moves. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Tinker Bell doing her best impersonation of a theme park blogger receiving constructive criticism. (photo by Brandon Glover)
In Festival of Fantasy, Merida gets her chance to shine! (photo by Brandon Glover)
In honor of July 4th we are presenting a special SATURDAY SIX with a Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America). July 4th weekend brings out the patriotism in all of us, and nothing is more American than our favorite theme parks. Created with the opening of Disneyland in 1955, theme parks — along with comic books and jazz music — are one of the rare forms of art that we in the USA have given to the citizens of Earth. Thankfully, they are all so good that the world forgives us for everything else we’ve given them such as Zima, reality television, and the KFC Double Down. So raise Old Glory up to full staff, put Real American on the CD player, and let’s dive into some theme park American goodness!
# 6 – Voices of Liberty (Epcot)
The Voices of Liberty (photo by Mike Sperduto)
Located at the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, the Voices of Liberty are an 8 person a cappella group that will have your heart swelling with pride as they belt out some of the most well known songs paying tribute to our country’s rich history. The playlist includes: “America the Beautiful,” “This Land is Your Land,” “This is My Country,” “You Raise Me Up,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
# 5 – Captain America (Islands of Adventure)
Captain America. (photo by Brandon Glover)
America’s super soldier, Captain America meets guests daily at Marvel Superhero Island. The origin of Captain America himself is tied to World War II and – in the pages of comic books – was fighting the Nazi army in Europe months before America itself officially entered the war in December of 1941. Draped in red, white, and blue, Cap is the living embodiment of everything many of us strive to be: courageous, loyal, selfless, and unshakably honest.
Are you a Disney Park critic? I know, it’s hard to be critical of anything Disney (at least I think so), but even I have to admit that I’ve experienced a few things that some parks don’t do as well as others. Of course, there’s also a number of things that each park does very well! Today, I’m breaking down Disney Park Strengths and Weaknesses with a focus on the most magical park of them all: the Magic Kingdom.
The Magic Kingdom Park first opened on October 1st of 1971. While inspired by the original Disneyland Park, the Magic Kingdom was bigger, featured a whole new land known as Liberty Square, had a much larger castle as its centerpiece, and was only the start of the ultimate vacation kingdom which is Walt Disney World.
The Magic Kingdom is home to six themed lands: Adventureland, Liberty Square, Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Main Street, U.S.A. In 2012, New Fantasyland opened at the Magic Kingdom and, in addition to the classic Fantasyland offerings, now has areas themed after the Beauty and the Beast film, a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster, Storybook Circus with two Dumbo the Flying Elephants, and the Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid attraction housed in Prince Eric’s Castle!
So let’s start with the Magic Kingdom’s best points, shall we…
Iconic Attractions – When you think of Walt Disney World, attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean, the Mad Tea Party, Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, and “it’s a small world” is usually what comes to mind. They are synonymous with the Walt Disney World experience and an expression of that Disney magic. Therefore, there’s rarely ever a question about whether or not visit the Magic Kingdom because its iconic attractions make it a must-do, a luxury that other Disney Parks have never been quite able to equal.
Timeless Appeal – While Walt Disney never saw the completion of the Magic Kingdom, his fingerprints are all over the park. It was inspired off of the original Disneyland Park in regards to the general layout, the number of similar attractions, a castle at its center, and the Main Street, U.S.A. entry. In short, so much of what makes up the Magic Kingdom came from the mind of Walt and his ideas and projects had that timeless appeal, meaning that they transcend time and generation and fads. It truly is a rare thing in today’s rapidly modernizing world for attractions thirty years old or more to still fill queues, such as Peter Pan’s Flight and the Jungle Cruise and Space Mountain. It’s also rare for characters who are decades old to still have merchandise on the shelves and lengthy lines for autographs, but that is certainly reality at the Magic Kingdom. Basically, this park never gets old! That fact is one of the Magic Kingdom’s greatest strengths and it’s why people will keep passing through the turnstiles, year after year, and bringing their kids and then their grandkids to relive it for themselves and to introduce it to the next generation.
The light in Walt’s apartment window above the Disneyland Fire Dept.
One of the many things I love and appreciate about the Disney Parks is that, while they are constantly evolving and improving, they stay true to their history and even celebrate it; and when I’m at Walt Disney World, I’m always looking for it. Much to my family’s chagrin, I have this inner need to educate them about the history of each attraction we find ourselves waiting in line for or about the individual windows on Main Street, U.S.A., or about the original name of Cinderella’s Royal Table or…well…you get the idea. As you can imagine, this self-pronounced Disney World Historian was beyond thrilled to experience her first trip to the Disneyland Park to finally walk in Walt’s footsteps, a literal treasure trove of Disney History and the original. So stay tuned for A Disney World Historian’s Guide to the Disneyland Park.
Main Street, U.S.A.
There is so much history for the Walt Disney World fan to appreciate on the original Main Street, U.S.A., more than I could ever mention in one article! However, a personal favorite of mine has to be Walt Disney’s Griffith Park Bench found just inside the Opera House. According to Walt, he was sitting on a bench in Griffith Park watching his daughters ride the merry-go-round when he first dreamed up a Disney-themed park where families could have fun together.
The Opera House is also where guests can take in Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, the predecessor to the Hall of Presidents at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. Walt originally wanted audio-animatronic American Presidents in a show, but the technology just wasn’t available at the time for such a large-scale show. It was possible, however, when Walt Disney World opened and The Hall of Presidents was somewhat of a fulfillment of Walt’s original vision. Therefore, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is something every Disney World Historian should check out and is sure to create an even greater appreciation for The Hall of Presidents.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at The Six BEST Souvenirs at Walt Disney World. Last week we took a look at some of our favorite pieces of merchandise available at the Univeral Orlando Resort and today we are going to cross the street and see what the very best souvenirs are at Walt Disney World. This is a much harder task because as we mentioned previously, Universal only ramped up their merchandise game with the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade in 2010. Disney, on the other hand, has been producing great souvenirs from Day One. In fact several items on this list are as synonymous with a Disney vacation as Cinderella castle or Mickey Mouse himself. So sit back, relax, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…
# 6 – Mickey Ears
The classic Mickey Ears are THE iconic souvenir at Walt Disney World and one whose popularity has exploded in the last decade. Besides the classic black ears, there are now Mickey Ears for almost any part of the Disney fandom: princesses, pirates, Muppets, Star Wars, World Showcase, and almost any Disney character you can imagine. Who hasn’t seen a newlywed couple at the parks wearing bride and groom Mickey Ears? Getting a pair of Mickey Ears has become part of the Disney experience itself.
You can’t help but smile wearing a pair of Mickey Ears. (photo by Stacey Lantz)
There’s a pair of Mickey Ears for everyone, no matter what they like. (photo by Brandon Glover)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America). July 4th weekend brings out the patriotism in all of us, and nothing is more American than our favorite theme parks. Created with the opening of Disneyland in 1955, theme parks — along with comic books and jazz music — are one of the rare forms of art that we in the USA have given to the citizens of Earth. Thankfully, they are all so good that the world forgives us for everything else we’ve given them such as Zima, reality television, and the KFC Double Down. So raise Old Glory up to full staff, put Real American on the CD mp3 player, and let’s dive into some theme park American goodness starting with…
Located at the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, the Voices of Liberty are an 8 person a cappella group that will have your heart swelling with pride as they belt out some of the most well known songs paying tribute to our country’s rich history. The playlist includes: “America the Beautiful,” “This Land is Your Land,” “This is My Country,” “You Raise Me Up,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” And you just may hear a song from a little movie called Frozen…
Recently, my family decided to make a last minute trip to Disney World the week of New Year’s. Before everyone faints at the heresy of going during the busiest week of the year, my brother’s school was playing in a bowl game in Tampa, so my family decided to kill two birds with one stone. Quickly putting aside the loud warnings in the back of my head about the massive crowds, I couldn’t turn down a pseudo surprise Disney trip. The resort reservation was all set (we would be staying at a Finding Nemo Suite in Disney’s Art of Animation Resort), and I already had my annual pass, but the flight fares were absolutely insane from Baltimore, which is the closest airport to me. Being a more intelligent person than I, my girlfriend suggested a simple alternative. Why don’t we just drive down? So we did. I hope everyone who is considering the possibility of driving instead of flying finds this useful.
Happy Halloween, everyone! Did you know that the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a week from today. And that it’s sold out? Enjoy your 6 days of downtime between the 2 month holiday of the Food & Hallowine Festival and the next 2 month holiday of Christmas and New Year’s.
Christmas will be here before you know it, and you might be asking yourself, “Hey, self, should I make my holiday season even more magical by going to Disney World?” I’m glad you asked. Disney World during the holidays is one of my favorite times of year to visit. It’s a time when there are several unique elements from decorations to food present that transform the parks into something special. That’s not to say that it’s the perfect time of year to go. Like any season, there are positives and negatives. While I believe that every Disney enthusiast should aim to visit at least once during the holidays, here are some of my personal pros and cons that should help you decide if it’s worth it.
PRO: The Decorations
Walking down a fully decorated Main Street, U.S.A., is almost worth the trip alone for me. I already enjoy spending time just wandering around the Magic Kingdom staple but when the decorations are up, the ambiance gets even better. The decorations don’t stop there. Obviously the rest of the areas in the parks have decorations, but the hotels do, as well. I enjoy hotel hopping just to see how each one is decorated. The level of detail will vary, but some of the hotels go all out: for example, there’s a huge gingerbread house at the BoardWalk!
CON: The Crowds
Like any popular time of year at Disney, you’re going to feel cramped at some points. If all you want out of a Disney trip is short wait times and you don’t care about Christmas, maybe plan a trip for some other time. I could be perfectly happy just walking around the parks and taking everything in, but I understand how some people might not enjoy this and need plenty of attractions. If this is you, whatever you do, do not go during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s the busiest time of year by far. Check out our crowd calendar for more information, but generally it’s less crowded the earlier you go in the season (besides the week of Thanksgiving, of course).
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons Breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table is Worth Your Time and Effort. One of the most coveted dining experiences at Walt Disney World is Cinderella’s Royal Table (CRT). Even with its high price tag ($58.15 for adults, $35.86 for kids, or two table service credits on the Disney Dining Plan) this restaurant can be a challenge to get into, especially for breakfast. Is CRT worth the hype? I believe it is, but to get the best possible experience it is going to take more than just money. It is going to take a decent amount of planning, a little bit of patience, and maybe just a pinch of luck to get the opportunity, but you and your family are worth the effort, right? Remember that clicking on any picture will bring up the full size version, and let’s get to counting down what separates Cinderella’s Royal Table from everything else, starting with….
# 6 – An empty Main Street, U.S.A.
How much is this view worth to you?
This won’t come easy, but it is a wonderful reward to some hard work. To be able to get an early morning walk down Main Street, U.S.A., you’re going to have to get up even earlier 180 days ahead of time to book your CRT reservation. With Disney on-site guests getting “180 days + 10” for advance dining reservations, it certainly wouldn’t hurt your chances to be staying a night or more on Disney property. I recommend using this Priority Seating Calculator (not affiliated with TouringPlans) to figure out when you’ll be 180 days out from the date you’d like. On the day you are eligible to book your advanced dining reservation, you need to be prepared to go online or call (407) WDW-DINE at 6 AM. I would recommend the phone call and make sure you are ready by 5:45 AM. The earliest seatings at CRT are one of the hardest reservations in the Disney system, but luck favors the prepared and your chances of scoring an elusive 8:05 AM reservation will increase tenfold if you go into this with a plan.