Overlooked Attractions of the Magic Kingdom
Overlooked Attractions — 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. Here are some of our favorite "Overlooked Attractions" in Magic Kingdom. (This is by no means all-inclusive — if yours is missing, please send it along using our "Contact Us" form link at the bottom of the page!)
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.
On the opposite side of the street 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? 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. 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.
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." It's home to a little "Play and Greet" experience with Merida from the film "Brave".
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'…
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 PeopleMover and the Carousel of Progress. The spiel of the TTA, formerly known as the WEDWay People Mover, was updated a few years ago, losing some of its original 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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
If you look up into the big Liberty Tree you'll find 13 lanterns — one to represent each of the 13 original colonies.
Spend a few minutes looking over the buildings in this area — there are several neat things to keep an eye out for.
— Look for the crooked shutters on the windows. The colonists used leather straps to hold them open and often the leather would give out, causing the shutters to become crooked.
— One window shows two lanterns, which represent Paul Revere's famous "two if by sea".
— Spot the window with a rifle — in colonial times this meant a Minute Man resided there and he was ready to respond to action.
Odds and Ends
I know I said most of these Overlooked Attractions were free, but some little goodies are definitely worth the cost! There are some special sweet treats that you can get in the Magic Kingdom's Adventureland that you can't find elsewhere in WDW — 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, found at Fantasyland's former Enchanted Grove, now known as the Cheshire Cafe. 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.
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 using our "Contact Us" link below.