Overlooked Attractions of
The Magic Kingdom

by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Senior Editor

Feature Article

This article appeared in the June 8, 2010 Issue #559 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


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.


More than a few years ago (would you believe EIGHT?!), AllEars® ran a series of features on what we called "Overlooked Attractions" around the parks and resorts. You know, those little things that actually make you detour from your beeline to the thrill rides, the additional touches that demonstrate Disney's well-known attention to detail and make the World the fascinating place that it is.

Since so much has changed at Walt Disney World over the last few years, we realized that our overlooked attractions lists have themselves been overlooked -- it's time to revisit these articles and update them.

Over the next few months, I'll be thinking about the parks' Overlooked Attractions, most of which are free of additional charge. I know there's NO way I can include each and every special little thing about the World, but I'd like to point out some of my favorite "Overlooked Attractions," starting this week with Magic Kingdom.

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Main Street

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The original Walt Disney World theme park is chock full of amazing details that often go by the wayside as we hurry off to our favorite rides , many of them a throwback to an earlier era . A visit to the Magic Kingdom begins with a walk down Main Street USA, and there may be no other place that has such a long list of often-overlooked diversions.

The treats start almost the second you emerge from under the railroad station. Instead of running straight to the "Mountains" (Space, Splash, Big Thunder), take a few minutes to head over to your right, across Town Square, to The Chapeau, the Magic Kingdom's headgear shop. Yes, yes, you can find all sorts of Mouse Ears here, and outrageous hats for every occasion, but that's not why you're here. Instead, look at the wall opposite the cashier for the old-fashioned telephone. Lift up the receiver and you can listen in, party-line style, on a comical conversation between a mother and her daughter, circa early 1900s.

Or, instead of going to the right, hang a left to the other side of Town Square, and stop in at the Fire Department -- the building with 101 Dalmatians peeking out from upper windows. Not only is the shop full of firefighting-related merchandise, it also houses lots of antique paraphernalia that you might find in an old firehouse.

A few short steps from the Fire Department is the Harmony Barber Shop, marked with an old-style red-and-white-striped barber pole. It's 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 park's resident barbershop quartet. And if it's your child's first haircut, or even if you just want to clown around, barber Michal and his colleagues have a special cape, props and lots of pixie dust for silly pictures.

Have you ever visited Tony's Town Square restaurant? Stop for a minute before you head in to pose with Goofy on the bench in front of the entrance, and don't be surprised if he answers you back when you try to chat with him. Also, be sure to look down as you walk up the steps -- you'll find pawprints encircled in a heart from those romantics, Lady and the Tramp.

As you make your way up Main Street, take a moment to check out the shop windows -- but I don't just mean those at eye level. Look up at the windows on the second floor -- what you might not realize is that many of these windows are actually dedicated to Imagineers and notable Disney executives from over the years. For example, Card Walker, former president of the Disney Company, has a window touting him as "Practitioner of Psychiatry and a Justice of the Peace."

You may think Main Street is just a long shopping mall. Well, OK, it is, but there are a number of hidden delights if you take the time to poke around. For one, stop in at the Crystal Arts Shop to be amazed by glass-blowers creating fabulous pieces at various times throughout the day. Or pop in for a hot dog at Casey's Corner, on your left as you're walking toward the castle, just before the hub. Tucked in a back room are a few tables and bleacher-style 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. Don't be shy -- he takes requests.

As the day winds down, don't forget about the Flag Retreat, held daily at 5 p.m. in Town Square. If you are or someone in your party is a veteran, inquire at City Hall about acting as the "Veteran of the Day," so you can participate in this special flag-lowering ceremony.

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.

Finally, if you hang out on Main Street long enough 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.

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Fantasyland
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A few of the really sweet "Overlooked Attractions" in Fantasyland have gone the way of the dinosaur in recent years -- no longer can you find Tinker Bell in the Tinker Bell's Treasures shop, nor does King Arthur's wizard Merlin help you pull the sword out of the stone (although the Sword in the Stone is still there near the carousel). Still, Fantasyland holds some unexpected surprises for those who take the time to seek them out.

Tucked off to the side of Cinderella Castle is what's called "Fairytale Garden" and it's home to an unsung little attraction called Storytime with Belle. Several times each day, Belle appears and chooses a number of children (and even an adult) from the audience to help her recreate the story of her adventure with the Beast. After the skit, she even takes the time to sign autographs and pose for a picture. It's an up-close and personal treat that little ones love.

As you enter Fantasyland through the Castle archway, look for the Cinderella fountain on the left. You'll see a painting of Cinderella on the wall with the crown well above her head. As you bend over to drink from the fountain, you are 'bowing' to the Princess Cinderella. As your head is down, instead of looking at what you're drinking, glance upwards at Cinderella -- it now appears that she's now wearing her crown.

If you take the upper path to the right of the Castle you'll run into Cinderella's Wishing Well. Now, I'm not promising your wish will come true if you drop a coin into this well, but I do know a certain teacher friend who stopped here and wished for a proposal -- within two weeks after making the wish, she was engaged! Just sayin'...

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Tomorrowland
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Tomorrowland has one of my favorite Overlooked Attractions -- PUSH, the walking, talking trashcan 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.

While most items on this list are activities and details that aren't true "attractions" in the strictest sense of the word, two in Tomorrowland are. Consider this my personal plea for you to not overlook the Tomorrowland Transit Authority and the Carousel of Progress. The spiel of the TTA, formerly known as the WEDWay People Mover, was recently updated, losing some of its charm in the process, but still its 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. The Carousel of Progress is one of Walt Disney's original attractions, dating back to the 1964-65 World's Fair -- there's usually no or a very short wait to board this 20-minute ride through history, and for a Disney fan there's nothing better than seeing this somewhat dated vision of "A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow."

One last note about the "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.

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Frontierland
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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 Langhorn, 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!

In front of the Shooting Gallery (an overlooked attraction that you do have to pay for), there's a couple tree stumps and a checkerboard --  nothing like a nice game of checkers to slow down the pace of what might be a hectic park day.

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Adventureland
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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.hiddenmickeysguide.com/ for a full list of Hidden Mickeys throughout Walt Disney World!)

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Mickey's Toontown Fair
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Yes, this part of the Magic Kingdom will soon be history, but while it's still there, you may want to visit oft-overlooked Minnie's House. Everyone wants to see the Big M, but stop by Minnie's palace of pink and tinker with her 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!

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Liberty Square
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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.

Everyone has a chance to read the humorous tombstones while they wait to enter the Haunted Mansion (hope you haven't missed the animated Madame Leota's headstone!), but do you ever stop to examine the graveyard after you exit the attraction? It's a pet cemetery, filled with funny grave markers.

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Odds and Ends
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I know I said most of these Overlooked Attractions were free, but some little goodies are definitely worth the cost! There are some sweet treats that you can get in the Magic Kingdom's Aloha Isle in Adventureland that you can't find elsewhere in WDW -- Dole Whips, which are pineapple/soft-serve ice cream concoctions, and Citrus Swirls, a refreshing combination of orange juice concentrate twirled with vanilla soft-serve. (By the way, I'm still grieving over the loss of the Citrus Swirl's blushing cousin, the Strawberry Swirl, formerly found at Fantasyland's Enchanted Grove. It was, in my opinion, even better than its orange counterpart.)

Also, scattered throughout the Magic Kingdom these days you can encounter a variety of character actors who blend in with the theme of various lands. Their appearance times aren't usually published in the times guides, but cast members or Guest Relations should be able to tell you when you might meet up with Mayor Weaver, Scoop Sanderson, or one of the other characters. Having the chance to interact with them just might make your day a little more magical.

In addition to the character actors, there's a multitude of musical acts worth not only stopping for but actually seeking out, from the aforementioned Dapper Dans, to the Main Street Philharmonic, to the Banjo Brothers and Bob. (Here's a taste of the Main Street Philharmonic doing what they do best: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FD2V2f9HzGA) The times for these performers aren't necessarily listed in the times guide published weekly either, so be sure to ask cast members what or who may be performing daily, or check Steve Soares' Entertainment Guide before you leave home (see "RELATED LINKS" below).

Finally, one of my very favorite things that you might be tempted to skip at the end of a long, tiring day: The Electrical 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: allearsnet@yahoo.com

(AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'll be updating the Overlooked Attractions for each of the other theme parks in the coming weeks, so feel free to send your ideas along for those, as well!)

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RELATED LINKS:

AllEars.Net's Magic Kingdom pages start at: http://allearsnet.com/tp/mk/mk.htm

Overlooked Attractions in the Animal Kingdom (to be updated soon!): http://allearsnet.com/tp/ak/issue183.htm
Overlooked Attractions in Epcot (to be updated soon!) : http://allearsnet.com/tp/ep/issue099.htm
Overlooked Attractions in Disney's Hollywood Studios (to be updated soon!) : http://allearsnet.com/tp/mgm/issue085.htm

More Overlooked Attractions (to be updated soon!) : http://allearsnet.com/tp/ola.htm

Times for all the live acts in Walt Disney World can be found on Steve Soares' Unofficial WDW Entertainment site at:
http://wdwent.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Debra Martin Koma, AllEars.Net's Senior Editor,
fell in love with Walt Disney World on her first visit there -- when she was 34! She's lost count of how often she's returned to her Laughing Place in the ensuing (16!) years, but knows that she still isn't tired of it. (And doubts she ever will be.) Read more of her writing for AllEars® here: http://allears.net/btp/dkoma.htm


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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.