Walt Disney World Bits and Bites
by Debra Martin Koma
ALL EARS® Senior Writer
This article appeared in the June 4, 2002, Issue #141 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
If you're a regular reader of ALL EARS®, you've probably read our periodic columns on observing the little things at Walt Disney World. I'm sure many of you already do that anyway, but perhaps some of you are thinking, "What are they talking about? What 'little things?' I'm in a hurry to get to (Splash Mountain, Test Track, Rock n' Roller Coaster, fill in major attraction of your choice.)"
This is another in ALL EARS®' occasional series designed to give you an insight into some of the little things you might have missed -- some of those "stop-and-smell-the-roses" details (often free!) that help enhance the magic of a Disney trip. This week we're going out on a limb -- if there's any place in WDW that's chock full of overlooked details, it's the Magic Kingdom! We know there's NO way we can capture each and every special little thing in the MK that you ought to stop and enjoy, but we'll point out some of our favorites -- the "Overlooked Attractions" in the Magic Kingdom.
Mainly Main Street
Just walking into the Magic Kingdom is a treat, isn't it? The busy sounds of laughing people hustling and bustling, the bright bouquets of silvery mylar Mickey-head balloons, the luscious perfume of fresh-baked cookies and sticky-sweet candy wafting down Main Street USA... the senses almost overload the instant you pass under the railway tunnel.
But those are the *obvious* delights of the Magic Kingdom. There are so many subtle details you really ought to slow down and look a little more carefully -- you don't want to overlook what the Imagineers have so skillfully hidden for you to discover.
For example, if you're lucky enough to be celebrating your big day in the Magic Kingdom, a delightful treat awaits you. Stop in at City Hall to pick up a special Birthday Button that reads "Today is my birthday!" You'll be surprised at the extra special attention it gets you.
Did you know that you can get your hair cut right there on Main Street? The newly renovated and recently relocated Main Street Barbershop is a little easier to find than it used to be, but it's still too easy to walk right by unless you know it's there. As you're looking up Main Street from Town Square, glance toward your left. Look carefully... See the barber pole? Take a stroll inside -- they're open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, no appointment necessary. If you're lucky, you'll be treated to harmonies from the Dapper Dans, the MK's resident barbershop quartet. And if it's your child's first haircut, or even if you just want to clown around, barbers Michal and Billie have a special cape and props for silly pictures.
Waiting for the Walt Disney Railroad at the Main Street train station? Put a quarter into the Antique Music Box located in the waiting room to hear a selection of tunes. Or put a coin into some of the other machines scattered around the station to watch a short movie.
Some of the most famous guests who ever dined at Tony's Town Square restaurant have left more than their pictures behind -- be sure to spot Lady and the Tramp's paw prints in front of the stairs that lead up to the restaurant!
Watch the clock -- daily at 5 p.m. there's a Flag Retreat in the Town Square, complete with grandeur of a snazzy color guard. Thursday through Monday, the Main Street Philharmonic also performs. If you are a veteran, inquire at City Hall about assisting in this special flag-lowering ceremony.
Need a break from the busy Main Street bustle? Pop in for a soda and a hot dog at Casey's Corner, on your left as you're walking toward the castle, between Main Street and the Crystal Palace Restaurant. Tucked in a back room are a few quiet tables and benches, in front of a wide-screen television playing old black-and-white sports-themed Disney cartoons! Or, if you venture to the outside seating area, you might stumble across the ragtime piano player who performs periodically throughout the day. He takes requests! Around twilight, take a walk through the All American Rose Garden outside Cinderella Castle (between the Castle and Tomorrowland), down near the old Swan Boat dock. It's off the beaten path, but offers beautiful views of the castle and the heavenly smell of roses surrounds you. Occasionally, you'll even find a family of ducks, with their ducklings, waddling amongst the blooms.
Since the Main Street shops don't close until a half-hour after the park, consider stopping for an ice cream treat or a bake shop goodie, while letting the departing crowds thin. If you linger long enough, maybe you'll get a photo of the Castle with virtually no one else in it! Also, most nights you'll be able to experience the "Kiss Goodnight" -- the Castle is drenched in a rainbow of changing colors. It's truly magical to stand there for a few quiet moments as the day fades away.
Fairies (and More) in Fantasyland
Want to prove to a skeptical little one that pixies really exist? Be sure to stop in to Tinker Bell's Treasures, where you can spot the flighty Miss Bell flitting among the merchandise. Be patient -- it sometimes takes a few minutes to find her! Several times each day, your young prince or princess has the chance to become King or Queen for the Day at the Sword in the Stone ceremony, held right next to Cinderella's Golden Carrousel. That wacky wizard Merlin challenges guests to pull the magical Excalibur from the stone, then presents the strongest lad or lass with a regal crown, cape and proclamation. This brief encounter is well worth the wait for the photo ops alone.
If the tune for It's a Small World drives you crazy, you can get a bird's-eye view of the attraction's interior without the maddening melody when you eat lunch in Pinocchio's Village Haus. It's kind of fun to sit there and peer down, watching the boats load and unload.
Too Much in Tomorrowland
Tomorrowland is rife with whimsical little hidden extras! One of my favorites is the Talking Trash Cans. They're a little hard to find, but so worth it! Go to Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe, to the big dining area where that lounge lizard Sonny Eclipse (himself an oft-overlooked attraction!) performs his "live" act. On the left-hand wall, as you enter the room from the service counters, are some trash cans. Just deposit a little trash and listen! (If you're not sure you have the right cans, look for the little electrical wires leading into them -- that's the giveaway!)
These chatty receptacles are not to be confused with PUSH, the walking, talking trash can who delights unsuspecting guests several times a day while roaming the sidewalks of Tomorrowland, frequently just outside Cosmic Ray's. Ask a Cast Member when and where PUSH will be making his appearance.
Even though the Skyway is history, there's still a great way to get an overview of Tomorrowland -- the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. Formerly known as the WEDWay People Mover, this smooth 10-minute ride not only offers a bird's-eye view of the futuristic landscape, it lets you peer into the interior of some of the land's most popular attractions, like Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin and Space Mountain. It's easy to pass by the slow-moving escalator that takes you up to the trains, but it's a peaceful way to spend a few minutes waiting for a FastPass window to open -- and be sure to listen for the humorous announcements made throughout the trip. "Tom Morrow, paging Tom Morrow!"
Not interested in seeing the galaxies on a terrific indoor roller coaster? As the rest of your group rides Space Mountain, you can wait next door in the Tomorrowland Light & Power Company game arcade. While you kill some time, stop at the Kodak booth where you can make customized stickers (about $4). Or wait outside and take a stroll around the side of the building along the shady path. You'll come upon a circle of private benches that afford you an excellent view of the WDW Railroad as it circles the MK. If you smile and wave sweetly, the engineer may even sound the horn for you!
One last note about the many "little things" you can find in Tomorrowland: Just before the fireworks, this land is the best location for spotting Tinker Bell as she makes her nightly flight from the Castle. Ask a Cast Member to recommend a good viewing spot.
Finding Fun in Frontierland
The raft ride leading from the dock in Frontierland isn't just for atmosphere. There's actually something to *do* once you get to the other side -- even *lots* of somethings. Tom Sawyer Island is home to Fort Langhorne, a play area for kids that features underground mazes and lookout platforms. There are plenty of places for the "old folks" to sit and rest while the young'uns blow off some steam.
Another little-known thing to try on Tom Sawyer Island is find one of the paintbrushes Tom and Huck left behind. If you find one, don't just leave it there -- take it back to a Cast Member for a special prize, maybe even a "go to the front of the line" pass for a major attraction!
As you approach the Jungle Cruise (entering from Main Street), don't hurry past the giant Tiki God statues, next to Bwana Bob's. If you listen carefully, you'll hear the sounds of distant drums... and if you're not careful where you step, the angry gods will spit at you!
Adventureland is also a great place to practice your Hidden Mickey spotting ability. Did you know that there are about a dozen Hidden Mickeys in the Pirates of the Caribbean alone? Don't know where to begin to look for these little images of Mickey that the Imagineers have disguised in the theming of the attraction? Start with some obvious ones, like the cannonballs in the ride's loading area (they form a tri-circle Mickey head!), and move on to the more obscure -- for example, there are supposedly three weld holes that form a Mickey head on the plane in the Jungle Cruise, but I've never been able to see them! (Check http://www.hiddenmickeys.org/ for a full list of Hidden Mickeys throughout Walt Disney World!)
Secrets in Mickey's Toontown Fair
The first time we visited Minnie's house here, we thought it was pretty boring. But that's because I didn't know its secrets. Don't you pass by the microwave, which pops a bowl of popcorn when you turn it on, or the dials on the stove, which cause the coffee pot to perk and the utensils hanging above the stove to dance in time to music. You can even listen in on Minnie's answering machine messages!
Lastly, Liberty Square
On the side of the Hall of Presidents' building, across from the Liberty Bell, you'll spy two old-fashioned rocking chairs on a small brick porch. They're not just props -- you really can rock away a few minutes (or hours) from this comfy spot. Stop at Sleepy Hollow for some caramel corn or an ice cream sandwich, and bring your treats back to the chairs for savoring as you people-watch from this out-of-the-way spot.
Odds and Ends
OK, I know I said most of these Overlooked Attractions were free, but some little goodies are definitely worth the cost! These are some sweet treats that you can get in the Magic Kingdom that you can't find elsewhere in WDW: -- In Adventureland, at the Sunshine Tree Terrace: Citrus Swirls, a refreshing combination of orange juice concentrate twirled with non-fat vanilla yogurt. Is it ever good!
-- Just down the lane at the Aloha Isle -- Dole Whips, which are pineapple/frozen yogurt concoctions.
-- Over in Fantasyland's Enchanted Grove: the Citrus Swirl's blushing cousin, the Strawberry Swirl. Mmm-mmm -- possibly better than its orange counterpart.
Also, scattered throughout the Magic Kingdom these days you may encounter a variety of character actors who blend in with the theme of various lands. Their appearance times aren't usually published in the park guide maps, but Cast Members or Guest Relations should be able to tell you when you might meet up with Mayor Weaver or City Councilman Eugene Shinn on Main Street; or Golddust Gus, the prospector, and Marshal Jack Dalton in Frontierland. Having the chance to interact with them just might make your day a little more magical!
Finally, one of my personal favorite bonuses that can be easily overlooked at the end of a long, tiring day: The Electric Water Pageant. Each of the barges in this nightly floating parade, which circles the Seven Seas Lagoon in front of the Magic Kingdom starting around 9 p.m., carries a 25-foot-tall screen of lights. Neptune leads the parade, followed by a string of his aquatic subjects swimming along to Disney music. The conclusion of the parade is a patriotic salute to America, with flags and stars accompanied by a score that would make John Phillips Sousa proud.
Like I said earlier, I know I can't possibly touch on every "overlooked attraction" the Magic Kingdom has to offer -- there are just too many in this most magical place.
But please, since I've shared some of my favorites, feel free to share yours with us!
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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.