Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland – Part One of Three

Jack Spence Masthead

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Adventureland had been located on the east side of the Magic Kingdom? To walk the length of Main Street and then turn right if you wanted to ride on the Jungle Cruise. There was no reason the Imagineers couldn’t have done this. After all, the Walt Disney World property was all virgin land. The planners could have arranged things pretty much anyway they wanted. Given this scenario, perhaps the Polynesian Resort would sit where the Contemporary now stands to add a tropical background to this exotic land. Well, this possibility isn’t as farfetched as you might think. It could have happened. As we know, the Imagineers used Disneyland’s basic layout when planning the Magic Kingdom.

But you’re saying to yourself, Disneyland’s Adventureland is located in approximately the same vicinity to the Hub as the Magic Kingdom’s version of this land – on the west side of the park. But this almost wasn’t the case. The concepts for Disneyland’s Adventureland began their existence on the east side of the park. This can be seen in an early Herb Ryman sketch and a Marvin Davis map. If you could actually read these maps, you would see that “True Life Adventures” (what would become Adventureland) is to the right of the Hub, approximately where Space Mountain and the Autopia sit today. Circus Land was slotted to be where the Jungle Cruise would eventually be located.

Disneyland Concept Map

Disneyland Concept Map

So why did the Imagineers change their minds and move this land? Two reasons: space and a stand of eucalyptus trees.

As ideas for “True Life Adventures” increased, it was realized that Adventureland would need more space to hold all of Walt’s ideas. The Ryman sketch had this exotic land squeezed between “World of Tomorrow” and Main Street. This area was far too confining.

After the property for Disneyland was purchased, planners found a windbreak of giant eucalyptus trees that had been planted around the turn of the century. Ironically, these trees helped determine the location of Main Street as it was decided that they would make a nice backdrop behind City Hall and help delineate between “civilization” and the “jungles of the world.” Thus, Adventureland was moved to its current location on the west side of the park.

Disneyland City Hall

These eucalyptus trees still stand today.

Disneyland City Hall

One of the original ideas for the Jungle Cruise had guests traveling down only one river, the Suwannee if Africa. But Harper Goff knew that the attraction needed more variety and pitched the idea of a skipper taking guests down a collection of exotic rivers found all over the globe. The working name for this attraction was “Tropical Rivers of the World.” This proposal transformed Adventureland into a non-specific location. During the design phase of Adventureland, Walt said:

“The spirit of adventure is often linked with exotic tropic places. To create a land which would make this dream reality, we pictured ourselves far from civilization, in the remote jungles of Asia and Africa. The result is Adventureland, ‘the wonderland of nature’s own design.'”

The vast majority of the land set aside for Adventureland was taken up by a single attraction, the Jungle Cruise. This left very little pedestrian space to convey the vast exotic locales Walt wanted guests to experience. All Adventureland really consisted of was a narrow walkway that led from the Hub to Frontierland (now New Orleans Square). There was very little space in which to excite your senses. The Swiss Family Treehouse and the Safari Shooting Gallery didn’t’ open until 1962 and Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room didn’t debut until the following year. Even today, Adventureland’s main thoroughfare is a very confining area.

Disneyland's Adventureland

Disneyland's Adventureland

When planning the Magic Kingdom’s version of Adventureland, the Imagineers wanted to correct this shortcoming and create an area that allowed guests to be immersed in the faraway lands that most of us only dream of experiencing. To that end, they created a much larger pedestrian expanse where visitors can be totally immersed in their surroundings.

The Crystal Palace acts as the transition piece that ties Main Street and Adventureland together. Based on the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, New York’s Crystal Palace, and Kew Gardens in England, this Victorian structure helps visitors prepare for the colonial architecture they’re about to experience around the next corner.

Crystal Palace

The main entrance into Adventureland is via a wooden bridge radiating off of the Hub. Up until a few years ago, this bridge was arched to allow the Swan Boats (1972-1983) to pass beneath. The bridge’s wooden planks were also ribbed to reduce guests slipping when the walkway was wet. This made for a noisy and difficult journey for those in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller. However, when age dictated that the bridge be completely rebuilt, this arch was removed and the ribbing eliminated. This created a level walking surface with no annoying obstructions. Now it is a much easier journey into Adventureland.

If you look at these next two pictures carefully, you can see the rise in the bridge in the first picture and the flattened surface in the second. It’s more obvious if you look at the railing.

Adventureland Entrance

Adventureland Entrance

But before you get to this bridge, the entrance to Adventureland has another welcoming landmark. To the right of the pathway is a planter made out of volcanic rock. This is a wonderful spot to pose group pictures. And just like the bridge, this planter has gone through a few changes over the years.

When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, the planter sported a prominent “Adventureland” sign. In subsequent years, the sign was moved to a less obvious position at the back of the planter and several tiki poles were added. Today, the sign is gone completely.

Adventureland Entrance Planter

Adventureland Entrance Planter

Adventureland Entrance Planter

The Adventureland entrance arch has also undergone a few changes. The current incarnation (third picture) features a more sinister look with a large collection of spears and the addition of human skulls.

Adventureland Entrance Arch

Adventureland Entrance Arch

Adventureland Entrance Arch

As you enter Adventureland, you’ll find Bwana Bob’s to the left. This outdoor shop sells a few Adventureland-themed items, but mostly generic Disney souvenirs. Bottled water is also available.

Bwana Bob's

Across from Bwana Bob’s is a lovely covered patio. This area has been used as a meet-&-greet area in the past, but currently this space offers a FastPast+ distribution point.

FastPast+ distribution point

FastPast+ distribution point

FastPast+ distribution point

Next to this patio is “Tinker Bell’s Magical Nook.” This is the spot to meet Tink and some of her fairy friends.

Tinker Bell's Magical Nook

Tinker Bell's Magical Nook

Inside these doors guests wait in a switchback line until it’s their turn to enter the magical world of fairies. Usually on hand are two of these enchanted creatures and families are given ample time with both to pose for photos. As always, a Disney photographer is on hand and can take pictures with either their camera or your own. This meet-&-greet area often has a long line. If this venue is on your kids’ bucket list, arrive early.

Tinker Bell's Magical Nook

Tinker Bell's Magical Nook

Tinker Bell's Magical Nook

Tinker Bell's Magical Nook

Thematically, Tinker Bell’s Magical Nook has no business being in Adventureland. What do fairies have to do with the “adventurous” climes of the world? This attraction belongs in Fantasyland. However, Disney had an unused building going to waste and decided to fill it with a popular commodity.

So why is this building hear? In the early years, this space was occupied by a counter-service restaurant called Adventureland Verandah. It featured indoor and outdoor seating, the outdoor being on a “verandah” that overlooked the Swan Boats as they passed by. Much of this verandah has since been boarded up (decoratively).

Adventureland Verandah

Adventureland Verandah

Adventureland Verandah was an opening-day restaurant that served fried chicken and hot sandwiches. In 1977, Kikkoman took over sponsorship and the food took on a Polynesian/Asian-ish flavor offering items such as teriyaki hamburgers topped with pineapple slices.

In 1993, the Adventureland Verandah began closing two days a week. Soon after, it was open only seasonally. And in 1994, it closed for good Рalmost. In 1998, Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Caf̩ closed for an extensive refurbishment and the Adventureland Verandah opened for a few months to fill this void with a limited menu.

I miss the Adventureland Verandah. It was perhaps the most relaxing spot in the Magic Kingdom to enjoy a meal. The energy level was subdued here. When sitting on the verandah, I felt miles away from the hustle and bustle of the throngs rushing around just beyond the Swan Boat canal. The only other spot in the Magic Kingdom that came close to this relaxed atmosphere was Aunt Polly’s on Tom Sawyer Island, and sadly, it is gone too.

Across from Tinker Bell’s Magical Nook is the smoking area for Adventureland. It is positioned behind planters to create a wide separation from those that partake and those that don’t.

Smoking Area

This is a good time to start appreciating the architecture found in the area. It would be difficult to pinpoint any one locale or nationality’s influence on these structures for these buildings represent the colonization of Africa and Asia by many European nations.

Adventureland Architecture

Adventureland Architecture

Adventureland Architecture

Having grown up with Disneyland’s rather simple Adventureland, I was always impressed with this next structure. Its intricate detailing always amazes me. If I ever were to move to a Caribbean island, I would want my house to look like this. Notice if you will, this structure has seen several different color schemes over the years.

Adventureland Architecture

Adventureland Architecture

Adventureland Architecture

Tucked in amongst all of these buildings is one of the Magic Kingdom’s best resting places. Covered, protected from winds, and fan cooled, this hideaway offers guests a wonderful spot to get off your feet and give your aching dogs a rest. Disney tour guides also use this spot to stop and explain Adventureland to their followers. If you time your respite right, you can listen in on some of their interesting facts.

Resting Spot

Of course, no discussion of this area would be complete without mentioning Aloha Isle, home of the famous Dole Whip. Loved by many, detested by some, this spot always has a long line. Personally, I don’t think they’re worth the wait, but I know many, many people would disagree with me. For those few of you unfamiliar with this taste treat, it is soft-serve pineapple sorbet. It can be served float-style, with pineapple juice, or all alone. To see their full menu, click here.

Aloha Isle

Aloha Isle

That’s it for Part One. Check back Thursday for Part Two.

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16 Replies to “Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland – Part One of Three”

  1. I remember the old sloped bridge entrance to Adventureland well because when my daughter was young she would love to be strolled over it and let go on the down hill part and she would laugh hysterically. My wife would catch her on the other end of course.

    The memories you hold on to 🙂

  2. I miss Aunt Polly’s (on Tom Sawyer Island) as well. When I was a kid, I used to take the boat over just to get a lemonade (which was delicious!); the food lines were always much shorter there.

  3. I too had wonderd about the flattening out of the Adventureland bridge… I have a picture of it posted to my cube wall at work, circa the second picture you show. I have a little stick figure drawing of myself stuck to it and when I’m down at WDW on vacation I move it to my PC, so folks know I’m off having a little adventure!

    Looking at your pictures of Adventureland helped me to relax during a very hectic day – thanks for sharing… great job as usual!

  4. Fantastic article as always, Jack!

    Adventureland has always been my favorite area of the Magic Kingdom, and it was a great surprise to check in and see that I had so much to read about it today. Of all the lands, Adventureland is the one that I try my hardest to duplicate in my own back yard.

    You cleared up a big question for me as to why leveling the entry bridge was such a big deal. To be honest, I couldn’t figure out why that little hill was such a detraction but it makes perfect sense now.

    I’ll be anxious for the next two installments!

  5. We noticed Sunday that the Swan Boat canals and moat are dry all the way to Tomorrowland, with construction barriers blocking the view of some of it, probably due to the re-do of the plaza in front of the castle. There were two parallel tracks of wires on the bottom, possibly the guidance system for the old swan boats? We’ll miss the water, but even Walt said the parks were an ongoing project.

  6. Hi Jack-
    I really enjoyed your first part of your series on Adventureland. I particularly liked your comments about Dole Whip. I am one of the anomalies of people who order the Orange and Vanilla swirl whip as I detest pineapple. One question to go with the Dole Whip, is it dairy free? I have heard both and thought I would ask the expert.
    Regards,
    Your Friend Mary

    Jack’s Answer:

    I’m sorry, but I can’t answer your questions about Dole Whips. I know that soft-serve ice cream is usually made from a powdered mixture, but I have no idea if Disney uses one that contains dairy products. If you are concerned, just ask next time you buy one. They will certainly be able to answer your question.

  7. I have always appreciated the architecture of Adventureland. I do share your affection for the Caribbean Colonial building. I don’t know how many pictures I’ve taken of it. I wish my Walt Disney World experience went back as far as yours. I have seen so many changes over the past 26 years, I can only imagine going back 42+ years.

  8. HI Jack,
    OMG- How many pictures do you have of WDW?? TO have 3 pictures of the same spot over the years It looks like you must have taken pictures of every inch of the park. Do you have a separate room for all these pictures??? Anyway totally love the blog as usual – I am a fan of the Dole Whip BUT NOT being across from the smoking section-it really is not good to have those across from each other.
    Can’t wait for the rest of the blog. Thanks as always for all the research and work you put into these- it is so appreciated by all your fans.
    Bonnie

    Jack’s Comment:

    I must admit, I do have a lot of Disney pictures. I just wish I had taken more in the days of film and developing. But that was expensive. Today, I have almost no “paper” photographs. Everything is on my computer and backed up.

  9. Hi Jack! I’m already having Disney withdrawal. Adventureland is one of my favorite areas, and I really enjoyed my time there last week. When we rode the Jungle Cruise during EMH last Sunday night, our “guide” gave us a “Keys to the Kingdom” tour of the attraction instead of the usual jokes. I learned how there are heaters spaced every few feet for those cold, Florida nights, so the tropical plants and trees don’t sustain damage. I learned of 2 hidden Mickeys, and was told how one of the dancing natives actually says “I love disco.” It was a cool behind the scenes look at one of my favorite rides. 🙂

    PS I LOVED the magic bands and FP+. Everything worked out VERY well. 🙂

  10. Great post as always! I miss a lot of the quiet spaces also as it seems the parks are always crowded these days.

    Jack’s Comment:

    There used to be slow days at Walt Disney World, but not anymore. Between marathons, Food & Wine, Flower & Garden, and more, Disney keeps it busy all year long. I guess it’s good for business, but I miss the more leisurely pace.

  11. Great post, Jack. I like WDW’s Adventureland on the whole and think the wider paths work, but the presence of the Magic Carpets ride messes with the tone of the entire section. Disneyland has a much smaller area, but it works better for that reason. I do love picking up a Dole Whip at Aloha Isle, though I wish it was connected to the Tiki Room somehow like at Disneyland. That’s about perfect, though their lines are very long for it.

    Jack’s Comment:

    I speak of the Flying Carpets of Aladdin in Thursday’s post, but I agree. It has made this area very crowded. At busy times, it’s a real hassle to negotiate through this area.

  12. Hey Jack
    It is always interesting to learn about the history of different areas of the park. Do you plan on doing this for all of the lands? Can’t wait for part 2 and as always keep up the great work.

    Jack’s Answer:

    It is my intention to write similar articles about all of the lands in the Magic Kingdom. However, these blogs are labor intensive and take time. In addition, I am subject to Magic Kingdom block-out dates during spring break and summer. But I will get it done eventually. LOL

  13. I miss Adeventureland Veranda’s Teriyaki Burgers! They were awesome! I love the music as you cross over the bridge into Adventureland. And I have a picture of that same house I took long ago when I was maybe 8 because I wanted to live in it! We always get a Dole Whip every trip and sit on that “hidden” patio and enjoy.

    Thanks for this great blog, Jack!