Slow Down and Smell the Roses

Jack Spence Masthead

Where in the Magic Kingdom can you find a reference to former First Lady Barbara Bush?

Barbara Bush

If you answered “Hall of Presidents,” you’d be wrong. However, the title of this blog should have been a clue. You see, a rose has been named for Barbara Bush and it can be found in the Plaza Rose Garden located on The Hub of the Magic Kingdom.

Plaza Rose Garden Entrance

Barbara Bush Rose Plaque

Barbara Bush Rose

The Plaza Rose Garden is an often overlooked spot by guests, and this is a shame. There are few areas at Walt Disney World as lovely. Located on a winding pathway that meanders between the Tomorrowland entrance and a walkway leading to Fantasyland, this area is filled with hundreds of rose bushes and dozens of varieties. So beautiful is this spot that the All-American Rose Selections group awarded this park the Public Rose Garden Award in 1985.

Plaza Rose Garden

Plaza Rose Garden

Plaza Rose Garden

Plaza Rose Garden

Public Rose Garden Award

Here are few pictures I snapped in February (2012).









Some very artistic photographs of roses and Cinderella Castle can be taken from the pathway. Try crouching down to maximize your shot.

Artistic Rose & Castle Photograph

Artistic Rose & Castle Photograph

Artistic Rose & Castle Photograph

Artistic Rose & Castle Photograph

At the entrance to the Plaza Rose Garden, a Disney photographer is usually on hand to take your picture. He will be more than happy to snap a photo using his professional equipment or your own camera. Here is a shot of me posing with Cinderella Castle in the background.

Jack Having His Picture Taken

In this same area is perhaps the most famous topiaries of all. This is another fantastic photo op.

Mickey and Minnie Topiaries

The pavilion, located along the path, is the former queue and boarding area for the Swan Boats. This is a perfect spot to sit, relax, and unwind.

Rose Garden Pavilion

Rose Garden Pavilion

Rose Garden Pavilion

Swan Boats

The Plaza Swan Boats operated seasonally from May 20, 1974 to August 1983. The attraction required a D ticket. The ride lasted 17 minutes and each vessel held 26 passengers. The boats took guests on a leisurely trip around The Hub and even circled Swiss Family Treehouse. The attraction was discontinued for a variety of reasons – money, upkeep, and a changing public attitude. As other Disney attractions were added to the Magic Kingdom, “modern” guests found the Swan Boats to be a little too slow paced for their taste.

A similar attitude killed the Discovery River Boats (April 22, 1998 to August 21, 1999) that once circled Safari Village (now Discovery Island) at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Disney made several attempts to spice up this relaxed ride, but guests complained there was nothing to see along the way and they were bored.

Discovery River Boats

The Plaza Rose Garden will never compete with the likes of Space Mountain and the Haunted Mansion, but it is a wonderful escape from the frenzied atmosphere of the rest of the Magic Kingdom. On your next trip, take 10 minutes and stroll through this garden. Take the time to stop and smell the roses. You’ll be glad you did.

I once heard a proverb which said, “You can be sad that rose bushes have thorns, or you can be happy that thorn bushes have roses.”

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35 Replies to “Slow Down and Smell the Roses”

  1. As a kid I always remembered the beautiful smell of the Gardinia bushes used at Disney and have always loved those flowers.

    My favorite Rose garden is that huge area in EPCOT. The area is also an uncrowded place except for the Flower and Garden show or right after Illuminations. I love to take picures, enjoy the smells and relax in my secret spot.

  2. Wow, it’s just like you are always saying…”Stop and smell the roses.” Thank you for the beautiful pictures and a great write up of a Hidden Gem!

  3. Nice blog again Jack.

    You have been doing such a good job of proofreading your blogs that there is very little for an old spell checker like me to do.

    So I am going to be REALLY petty and critique one of your RESPONSES to a comment! :p

    “Disney claims these boat were to be nothing more than a transportation option to travel from one side of Safari Village to the other. This is ridicules! It wasn’t that far of a walk.”

    I think you meant “ridiculous” not “ridicules”.


    Your Pal,


  4. On our last visit (Nov. 2010) we took our ice cream over to pavilion to enjoy it in a quiet spot and then decided to just wait there for Wishes. We had a nice place to sit and relax for a while (well, the chairs could be a little more comfortable) and when it was time for Wishes we stepped out from under the roof to watch. Unfortunately, there were people smoking in this area, so we tried to stay upwind of them as my husband has a lung condition. Next time we will be sure to notify a CM. Thank you for the informative article.

  5. I visit the Rose gargen and take photo’s during each visit to the MK. I was a reluctent visitor to WDW on my first time in 1999. I envisioned an amusement park crammed with noisy rides (like a local one named Canobie lake)…..but I was so wrong!! I fell in love with the architecture and landscaping!! We have visited over 15 times since then with the Rose Garden high on the list of my favorite spots!!

  6. Great article! The family and I have never stopped there but now I definately feel the need to. Has it been there since the park opened?

    Jack’s Comment:

    Yes. For the most part, the Rose Garden has always been there. The original landing for the Swan Boats was across the way in the waterside area that is now the smoking area, but the Rose Garden was always planned to be a part of the Magic Kingdom.

  7. Jack,
    Thanks for the great article about the rose garden. This is one of my favorite spots at the Magic Kingdom. Not only does it remind me of my grandmother, who had a deep love of roses, but it was the location where my husband asked me to marry him in July 2004 right after Wishes! The location is not only beautiful, but very romantic too. 🙂

  8. Hi Jack,
    I actually got engaged to my ex-wife in the Rose Garden. I set the whole thing up through WDW itself. The closed off the entire garden except for us they laid out a carper and set up a red velour chair for two. On a table next to use there were a dozenof the most amazing roses Ive ever seen. They were the size of softballs. There were a doven truffles a bottle of sparkling Apple Cider (no alcohol in MK) and a glass slipper with our names on it. After she said yes we sat for a little as cast members took pictures for us and we drank our cider. They then escorted us to Cinderella’s Royal Table for dinner and gave us the best seat in the house (a table for two overlooking fantasy land….)

  9. The Swan Boats are gone but not forgotten. When passing the boarding area, we always say, “This is where the Swan Boats would be if they still had them”. The attraction was dismissed by many as too passive but beauty and serenity awaited the few who knew better. Many times we have recited the “saga of the Swan Boats” to both newcomers and strangers. Every WDW trip is filled with “roses” to smell. However, you can’t just look, you must actually see.
    Thanks Jack for the beautiful pictures and thanks for the memories.
    Keep up the excellent work.

  10. One of my best Disney memories is travelling with another family and resting in this spot. My youngest was 18 months old at the time and this was a great place for the kids to run around while the adults relaxed. My photo taken several years ago was selected as “photo of the week” with the 2 toddlers appearing to discuss where we were going next…
    thanks for the memory!

  11. Hi Jack:

    Our visits to the Magic Kingdom always include a stop at the rose garden and a rest at the “Swan Pavillion”. We have twin girls and this is our favorite place to rock them back and forth in their stroller until they fall asleep for a nice afternoon nap. My husband and I then cuddle and relax on the benches and take in all the sights and sounds of the hub between Fantasy Land and Tomorrow Land. Our girls usually wake up refreshed and love to greet the ducks that usually are swimming by. Definetly one of our favorite spots in the Magic Kingdom! Great blog!

  12. We like to walk around the Rose Garden. So relaxing. It is a place where we take a picture almost every time! But we encounter smokers so often we thought it was a smoking area too!

  13. Jack,
    Great article as usual- I admit don’t stop there as often as I should. I didn’t find watching the fireworks from there as good as you can’t appreciate all that there is from this spot but still a nice place to stop.
    Thanks again for the blog I love all you do.

  14. I always find it sad when something like Discovery River Boats or the Swan Boats goes under. Don’t people just want to settle back and relax? I end up going on Jungle Cruise a thousand times whenever I’m at Disneyland because it’s so pleasant to have a quiet place to sit and it’s ALWAYS walk on! Heck, a couple of times they’ve just let us sit on the ride two or three times around because noone was there other than us and another couple and we were blowing a while before our fastpass for Indiana Jones came up.

    Nobody wants to relax at Disney and I think it’s a shame. I, too, want to see and do everything, but it’s nice to just put your feet up for a while. I’ll be trying out that rose garden spot for the fireworks whenever we get down to Disneyworld. =) I don’t mind off-center.

  15. I often use the Rose Garden path for pictures and a shortcut, but I’ve never taken notice of the Swan Boat Pavillion. Now that I am planning a trip for my daughter’s first birthday I find myself racking my brain for quiet, out-of-the-way spots for those times when we need a break. This pavillion looks like a wonderfully relaxing respite from the business of the Magic Kingdom!

  16. Just wondering how the swan boats circled the Swiss family tree house? I never noticed any water around it. Sad to say I passed up the Swan boat ride. Never did get to ride it. But did ride the discovery river boats. They had some kind of spider they showed us on the boat in a glass. It was boring but nice way to relax and see the area.

    Jack’s Answer:

    Swiss Family Treehouse sits on an island. In fact, up until late last year, the bridge into Adventureland was raised so the Swan Boats could travel beneath. Check it out next time.

    When Disney was frantically trying to make the Discovery River Boats more interesting, they started having cast members bring small animal aboard to entertain guests. It didn’t work.

  17. Hi Jack, We “discovered” the Rose Garden several years ago, we were avoiding the crowd for the show at the castle, and used it as a shortcut. Now whenever we go to the Kingdom we make sure that we use “that path less travelled”, and stop to take a short break, and smell the roses! Every time we’ve been there there are only a few others, so it is a nice, quiet restful place.

  18. Hi Jack,

    My favorite photo from my 2010 trip to the World is a shot of the Castle taken from the Rose Garden. Those tall, trimmed hedges make me think of Alice in Wonderland, for some reason.

    One of my favorite attractions at the MK is the less-than-exciting People Mover because it is so relaxing. I hope they don’t decide to get rid of it because it isn’t thrilling enough. I never got to ride the swan boats (or if I did, I was too young to remember) but I think that would be a very nice, relaxing ride, and a great way to see the park. The only way to ride around the park now is by railroad, and you can’t see half of the park from it.

  19. Hi Jack! This is actually one of my “hidden treasures” at the MK. My grandfather owned a bunch of greenhouses in Pana, Illinois where he grew and sold roses. Every color and variety was represented, and the Plaza Rose Garden brings back those memories for me. Thanks for a wonderful walk down memory lane. I can almost smell the roses…

  20. The Rose Garden is one of my favorite “quiet spots” in Magic Kingdom (of course I’m a little bias since my last name is Rose…)love the framing you did around your Cinderella Castle shot!!

    One of our favorite photos we took last trip was in this area–we had the Photo Pass photographer take a shot of us facing away from the camera and pointing above Cinderella Castle–I added the house from “Up” floating above the Castle when we got home 🙂

  21. Is the pavilion where they used to load the swan boats a good place to watch the fireworks? It looks like it has a decent view of the castle. I’ve been to Disney over 10 times but never really considered this spot. Thanks! Oh and great article!

    Jack’s Comment:

    I have never watched the fireworks from this location, but another reader tells me it’s a good and uncrowded spot. However, the fireworks are meant to be seen from Main Street with the castle positioned directly in front of the fireworks. If you watch them from the Rose Garden, your view will be off center. If this isn’t a problem for you, then give it a try.

  22. Hello Jack,

    Thank you so much for this article. I’m one of those who has never walked through this area and will now make sure that I do! But if I’m not mistaken the roses aren’t in bloom in december….. which is usually when I go. I loved your photos of the castle through the roses, MAGNIFICENT! I will make sure to walk through this garden and hopefully even watch the fireworks from there.
    You warm my Canadian heart with your writing!

  23. Once again, thanks for pointing this out. On our next trip in October we plan to do just that, take time to smell the roses.

  24. We’ve tried a couple times to visit this beautiful area, but I thought it was a designated smoking area, there were so many people smoking there. Hopefully this won’t be the case next time!

    Jack’s Comment:

    This is definitely NOT a smoking area and to my knowledge, never has been. If on your next visit you find smokers in this area, find a cast member to ask them to move to a designated area.

  25. Thanks again for providing us some of the hidden magic in WDW. I too have walked by and only casually look at this beautiful garden. I will not do that again. I will be there in 145 days, but who is counting.

  26. Thanks Jack! I’ve always seen the rose garden from the other side, but never walked through it. I will make sure I will now. Little things like that is what I love about WDW. It seems like I always see this area used in promotional pictures taked when celebrities are visiting WDW, or on “My Yard Goes Disney”.

  27. The rose garden is also a lesser known really good spot to lean against the railing down by the pavillion and watch the fireworks. Not as crowded as out on the main sreet. We can enjoy the fragrant aroma of roses and watch the sparkle of fireworks overhead.

  28. Another lovely post! I could spend all day at WDW just taking photos like the ones you have showcased. Makes me want to be a First Lady!! What an honor! 🙂 And thanks for the walk -cruise- down memory lane… always a little sad to see those discontinued attractions… Have a magical day, Jack!

  29. I have always enjoyed the rose garden, mostly for the fantastic picture opportunities, as well as the roses themselves. I have to admit however, I’ve never taken the time to read the plaques. I’ll have to make a point of that next time.

    As you do know, one of the best things about living here is the freedom from the feeling that one must run to get one’s moneys worth. My problem is that I almost always have camera equipment with me, so although things like riding Space Mountain may not be a “must do,” sometimes I do get a bit obsessed with photography.

    I rarely have trouble taking time to smell the roses, but sometimes I forget to read the signs and plaques!

  30. Very interesting, as always Jack. I must confess we’ve never visited the Rose Garden in all our trips to WDW! I’m not interested in gardening, although I appreciate the beauty of a well-kept garden, and almost ignored this article – until I saw that it had been written by you – then I knew it would be worth reading!!! The ultimate accolade!

  31. Jack — On our first visit to Animal Kingdom, it was when the park was in soft opening and we really enjoyed the Discovery River Boats. It was a great way to see the park and it was very relaxing. Thank you for pointing out this attraction, since we went back later and it couldn’t be found, I thought that I was imagining it!!!! I know that it wasn’t something exciting like Expedition Everest, but it was a nice little ride.

    We are heading to WDW in 28 days (but who’s counting?) and will definitely plan to spend some time in the Rose Garden!

    Jack’s Comment:

    Disney set themselves up for failure with the Discovery River Boats. First, the name of the attraction contained the word “discovery.” This made people think they were going to “discover” something — which they didn’t. Also, this is the “Animal” Kingdom. Since people were riding in boats similar to the Jungle Cruise, they thought they would be seeing animals along the way — which they didn’t. Disney claims these boat were to be nothing more than a transportation option to travel from one side of Safari Village to the other. This is ridicules! It wasn’t that far of a walk.

  32. hey jack
    i am sad to admit i walk around that area of the magic kingdom but have never took the time to as you say stop and smell the roses. After seeing the beautiful flowers and views that the garden provides, I will make sure that I will slow down and enjoy the little things a lot more. Can’t wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.