Travel – Disneyland (Part Two)

Disneyland Railroad signIn Part One of a five part series on Disneyland, I went into detail about the origin of Walt’s idea for his famous park and the building process that took a little less than one year complete.  In the additional four posts in the series I will feature the eight different “lands” of Disneyland – Main Street, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland, New Orleans Square, Critter Country, Tomorrowland and Mickey’s Toontown.

In this post I will discuss two of the original “lands” in Disneyland.  The first “land” is Main Street which is located at the entrance to the park and it is the first area that guests see.  At the end of Main Street is an area called The Hub from which the various other “lands” of Disneyland can be reached.  Located near the center of the park is the Sleeping Beauty Castle which is the entrance to Fantasyland.  Fantasyland has several rides and attractions that were inspired by many of the famous Disney animated movies.

Main Street, U.S.A

Main Street in Disneyland was inspired and designed to look like Walt Disney’s boyhood home in Marceline, Missouri during the early 20th century, which is the time that he briefly lived there.  (We had visited this small Midwest town and for more information please click on the link to the December 2013 Travel post)  The photos shown below are of Marceline on the left and Main St. in Disneyland on the right, there are many architectural similarities between the two places.  For example the Emporium on Main St. in Disneyland resembles the Zurcher store located at the corner of the street in Marceline.

Marceline 1956 trip 01    Main Street
Marceline - Zurcher    Emporium

Upon entering Disneyland, guests passing through the main gates will see the Disneyland Railroad Station with the iconic floral Mickey in the front.  (Travel tip: This spot is the perfect place to take a photo with family and friends before starting the day at the park!)  When Walt Disney was a boy living in Marceline he became fascinated with trains and later he had a small model train that ran on a track through the property at his home in the Holmby Hills section of Los Angeles, CA.  The Disneyland Railroad is a great way to move around the park and guests can travel throughout Disneyland as the train stops in New Orleans Square, ToonTown and Tomorrowland.  As guests proceed into the park they will pass through two tunnels on either side of the Main Street Railroad station, be sure to look for the sign overhead that reads: “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy”.

Train_Station    Disneyland Railroad refurb Jan 2005

Main Street is one of the main shopping areas of Disneyland and many different stores and small restaurants line both sides of the street.  Some of the stores include: the Emporium which is a large store located at the beginning of Main St. and is filled with Disney souvenirs, the Disneyana store sells interesting memorabilia like animation cels, artwork and other types of items for serious Disney collectors but one of my favorite stores is the China Closet which sells Disney ornaments.  (Over the years, every time I have visited Disneyland, I always purchase a special ornament or souvenir to add to my large Disney Memorabilia Collection, please click the link for more information)

Walt on Main St under father's windowMost visitors rush through Main Street section of Disneyland into other areas of the park, but for first time visitors I would suggest time taking the time to browse the stores and look around at all the interesting things to see and the fun things to do.  Be sure to look for the Disneyland dedication plaque which has been placed at the base of the flagpole in the Town Square , it marks the opening of the park in 1955.  Next, visitors should stop in the Disneyland City Hall regarding park information such as parade schedules, etc. (Travel tip:  Don’t forget to mention if you are celebrating a first visit, birthday or anniversary to receive a special free button to celebrate the occasion)  Then, after leaving City Hall be sure to look for the light in the window on the second floor of the Fire Station which is located next door, it is lit in tribute to Walt Disney. (Travel tip: If you are interested in seeing the private Disney apartment located on the second floor of the Fire Station I would suggest purchasing the Disneyland Guided tour “Walk in Walt’s Footsteps” tour)  For first time visitors to the park, I would also suggest seeing the “Disneyland Story” exhibit located in the Main Street Opera House and the “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” attraction that pays tribute to a former President of the United States and one of Walt’s favorite people in history.  Then, as you walk down Main Street, be sure to check out the wonderful window displays of the Main Street stores and make a game of finding the numerous hidden Mickeys shown in the decorations.  Also look for the special tributes to some of the imagineers and other employees of both the Walt Disney Studios and Disneyland park that are written in the store windows, shown in the old photo is Walt standing in front of the window that honors his father.

City Hall 10    Fire Department

At the end of Main Street is the Central Plaza, known as the “Hub”, and from this area in the park visitors can enter the various “lands” of Disneyland.  A large statue named “Partners” is located there and it was created by the Disney imaginer and animator Blaine Gibson.  It depicts Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse and was dedicated on November 18, 1993 which marked the 65th birthday of Mickey Mouse.  Placed around the Hub are other smaller statues of various Disney characters, such as Donald Duck, Pinocchio, Winnie the Pooh, etc.  (Travel tip: The “Hub” is a great central location in the park and could be designated as a meeting place if you become separated from family or friends during your visit)

Central Hub

Fantasyland

Fantasyland is one of the original “lands” of Disneyland and in Walt’s 1955 dedication speech of this area of the park he said, “Fantasyland is dedicated to the young and the young at heart, to those who believe that when you wish upon a star your dreams do come true”.  The attractions of Fantasyland were inspired by many of the classic Disney animation films and was said to be one of Walt’s favorite places in the park.  In 1983 this area of the park received a major refurbishment and was completely redesigned to showcase the fairytale villages as seen in the Disney movies, shown below are photos of Fantasyland at the time the park opened in 1955 and the 1983 and current version.  Many of the attractions received renovations during the redesign and some rides were entirely moved to new locations within Fantasyland, such as the King Arthur Carrousel was moved to the center and placed farther from the castle while the Mad Tea Party was moved close to the Alice in Wonderland attraction.  A new Pinocchio attraction was added while the Pirate Ship and Skull Rock attractions from the Peter Pan movie were removed.  (Travel tip: This area of the park is very popular with families visiting with small children and can get quite crowded during the day; if you are travel with kids I would advise making Fantasyland one of the first stops during a visit to the park to avoid the long lines to see the attractions)

Walt Disney opening dayFantasyland circa 1955

Most visitors to Disneyland will enter Fantasyland by passing over the drawbridge across the moat that surrounds Sleeping Beauty Castle.  This fairytale caste was one of the first structures to be built on the site and was named for the new animation film that was in production at the Disney Studios during the time of the park’s construction.  The design of the Sleeping Beauty Castle is said to have been inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle located in southern Germany which Walt had visited during a European vacation prior to the building of Disneyland.  (Travel tip: Be sure to look for the Disney family crest that is placed above the arched entrance to the castle and also the special plaque that marks the spot where a Disneyland time capsule that was buried in the area in front of the castle in 1995 to mark the 40th anniversary of Disneyland)

Disneyland Castle Disney crest Aug 2005    Disneyland 40th Anniversary Time Castle 1

As previously mentioned, the attractions of Fantasyland are based on several classic Disney animation movies and Walt wanted visitors to experience what it would be like to fly with Peter Pan over London to visit Neverland or to travel with Snow White to see the cottage of the seven dwarfs or to visit Geppetto’s village with Pinocchio or go down the white rabbit’s hole with Alice to see Wonderland.  Visitors can take a spin on the teacups from the Mad Hatter’s Party or maybe ride with Dumbo above Fantasyland or ride in the animal cages on Casey Jr’s train or ride on the beautifully craved Denzel horses on King Arthur’s Carrousel.  Originally, the term “dark ride” was used to indicate the Disneyland rides that were built within the interior of a “show” building and visitors rode in the dark through different scenes that were painted with fluorescent paint illuminated by black lights, animated props or figures, themed music or sounds and other special effects that were used to tell the story of a Disney film.  Also the attractions were designed by the imagineers for the guests to experience the ride as if they were the main character of the stories; specifically the characters of Snow White and Alice were not depicted within the older versions of those rides.  After the 1983 Fantasyland refurbishment several changes occurred during the renovation of the attractions and the main characters of Snow White and Alice were added to give the rides a more complete version of those classic Disney movies.  Also with the advance of technology, special effects such as fiber optics and holograms were added into the updated versions of the rides.  Special note: The majority of the fiber optics in Fantasyland can be found on the Peter Pan ride and the poison apple on the Snow White ride was taken b guests so often through the years that a hologram apple is now used to prevent it from being stolen!

Snow White entrance

One of Walt’s favorite attractions of Fantasyland was the Storybook Land Canal Boat ride; it is one of the original attractions from when the park opened in 1955.  The idea for the ride was based on Walt’s interest in miniatures and features small scale buildings from many of the classic Disney movies, such as the cottage of the seven dwarfs from Snow White, the castle from Cinderella and Geppettos village from the Pinocchio.  Guests ride on boats and enter the attraction through the mouth of the giant whale, Monstro, from the Pinocchio and this outside attraction is beautifully landscaped with miniature trees and shrubs.  (Travel tip: Look for the lighthouse in front of the queue line, this was originally a ticket booth back when each of Disneyland’s rides need individual tickets … remember the old ticket books with A to E tickets, I’m lucky to have a complete book of tickets and also several of the individual E tickets!!)

1968 Storybook Land    StoryBook Land Mar 2006 3

The Matterhorn Blobsled attraction was added to Disneyland in 1959 and it was the first steel track rollercoaster in the world and it has become one of Disneyland’s major thrill rides.  The Disneyland Matterhorn ride was built in the area between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland and it is 147 feet tall, which is 1/100 the size of the actual mountain located in the Swiss Alps that inspired the attraction’s design.  The ride was originally built to hide the support towers for the old Skyway attraction that traveled from Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, the Skyway buckets used to pass through the mountain until the ride eventually closed in 1994.  After a major refurbishment of the Matterhorn ride in 2012 at which time the seating changed to single rider bobsleds instead of double seating and the famous Disneyland mountain was once again painted white but tiny glass beads were added into the paint to create the illusion of glistening snow.  (Travel tip:  Be sure to look on the ride for the crate labeled “Wells Expedition” located in one of the snow caves, it was added during the 1994 refurbishment to honor Frank Wells, the former Chief Operating Officer of the Disney Company, who had died that year in a tragic accident.

Matterhorn 2002

In 1966, the area of Fantasyland was extended to accommodate the addition of the It’s a Small World attraction, the ride was originally a part of the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair in the UNICEF pavilion.  This enchanting ride features almost 300 dolls of children representing the countries of the world singing its theme song in over five different languages; the dolls were designed in the distinctive style of Disney imaginer Mary Blair.  During a 20XX refurbishment, several iconic Disney characters were added into the scenes of the various countries.  Some of the 37 new characters added Alice, the White Rabbit, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell characters were added to the England set; Cinderella and her friendly mice in France; Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket in Italy; Mulan in China; Aladdin and Jasmine in the Middle East; Simba, Pumbaa, and Timon in Africa; and Donald Duck as one of the Three Caballeros in South America and Ariel, Flounder, Dory, Nemo, Lilo, and Stitch in the South Seas scene.  (Travel tip:  Don’t miss seeing the parade of characters that perform each time the exterior clock in front of the attraction strikes the hour)

Small World exterior

This post completes the tours of Main Street and Fantasyland but be sure to check out the four additional posts in the Disneyland series.  Part One – The history of Disneyland, Part Three – Adventureland and Frontierland, Part Four – New Orleans Square and Critter Country, Part Five – Tomorrowland and Mickey’s Toontown.

Travel – Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

My son and I were fortunate to see Neuschwanstein Castle when we were on a trip to Germany in 1998.  King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein is a 19th century fairytale castle located on the hill above the small village of Hohenschwangau, near Fussen in southern Germany.  We were on a bus tour of this beautiful region known as Bavaria that originated from Munich.  The tour took us first to Linderhof, one of King Ludwig’s smaller palaces, then on to a brief shopping visit to Oberammergau which is famous for their woodcraving, beautifully painted houses and the Passion Play.  The final stop and the highlight of the tour was Neuschwanstein Castle and it was an enchanting experience and very exciting for this Disney fan to see the actual castle that was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle in Anaheim, CA.

A Brief Histoy of Neuschwanstein Castle

King Ludwig IIIn the Middle Ages there were three castles near the village of Hohenschwangau, which is located at 2,620 feet elevation near the border of Germany and Austria.  Schwanstein Castle was located nearest the village and on the hill overlooking were twin castles known as Vorderhohenschwangau Castle and Hinterhohenschwangau Castle.  Over the centuries all three castle fell into ruins.  Then, in 1832 King Maximilian II began to build a new castle known as Hohenschwangau Castle near the ruins of the Schwanstein Castle.  By 1837 the palace was completed and became the summer residence of the King and his family.  In 1864 King Maximillian died and his eldest son became King Ludwig II.  Ludwig was only 19 years old when he became king of Bavaria and he was a very shy and introverted man who spent his childhood exploring this area of southern Germany.

Several years later, Ludwig wanted to build a secluded personal refuge and he decided on the area where the twin castles once stood.  The building design was drafted by the stage designer Christian Jank and the King insisted on control over all aspects of the palace and is largely regarded as his own creation rather that the architects involved.  The foundation stone for Neuschwanstein Castle was laid in 1869.  Over 200 craftsmen were employed with additional 100 workers at different times in order to meet the King’s specific deadlines for the construction of the palace.  The materials used for the construction of the palace were approximately white limestone for the exterior walls, sandstone for the portals and Salzburg marble for the arched window frames and columns.  Transportation of these materials was difficult due to the site located on the steep hill, cranes and scaffolds were also needed during the construction.  In 1884, the King moved into the still unfinished palace to oversee the completion of the construction and the final interior details.  Ludwig only spent six months at his beloved Neuschwanstein before he died under mysterious circumstances in the water of Lake Stanberg new Berg Castle in 1886 at the age of 40 years old.

The exterior of Neuschwanstein Castle is designed in the Romanesque style of architecture and the building has numerous towers, turrets, gables and balconies.  Built on the hill above the village of Hohenschwangau with the Pollat Gorge to the south and the foothills of the Alpine mountains and lakes to the north, the palace’s setting offers many picturesque views in all directions.  Neuschwanstein was intended to be King Ludwig’s private residence and the interior design is based on the German legend of Lohengrin or the Swan Knight as immortalized in the operas of Richard Wagner and his music was very inspirational in the design of the palace.

At the time of Ludwig’s death, only 14 finished rooms of the palace were completed and furnished.  The original 65,000 square feet floor plan was designed with more than 200 rooms with the majority of those rooms intended as guest and servant accommodations.  The largest room of the palace is the Hall of Singer’s which is 89 feet by 33 feet and is located in the east wing of the palace.  The Hall was designed with a stage at the far end but was never intended for court entertainment of the reclusive King.  No performance was held in the room until 1933 when there was a concert performed to commemorating the 50th anniversary of Richard Wagner’s death, he never lived to Neuschwanstein.

Neuschwanstein Castle - Hall of Singer's

The Throne Room measures 66 feet by 39 feet with a 43 feet high ceiling takes up the space of the third and fourth floors and is located in the west wing of the palace.  At the request of King Ludwig, this Byzantine style room is designed to incorporate the symbols of unrestricted sovereign power and the divine right of kings.  Hanging overhead is a chandelier in the shape of a Byzantine crown and at the far end of the room is a dais but is without a throne since King Ludwig’s throne was not finished at the time of his death.  The walls surrounding the dais have paintings of Jesus and the twelve apostles and also portraits of six canonized kings: Saint Louis of France, Saint Stephen of Hungry, Saint Edward the Confessor of England, Saint Wenceslaus of Bohemia, Saint Olaf of Norway and Saint Henry the Holy Roman Emperor.

Neuschwanstein Castle - Throne Room

King Ludwig’s bedroom suite is in contrast to the other rooms in the palace and is decorated in a Neo-Gothic style.  It took 14 woodcarvers 41/2 years to complete this room; the bed is crowned with the intricate woodcarvings and covered with embroidered draperies.  The wall painting is “Tristian and Isolde” a story from one of Wagner’s operas.  The adjacent dressing room is completely paneling in oak and the painted trellis on the ceiling gives the impression that the room is open to the sky.

Neuschwanstein Castle - King Ludwig's Bedroom

The Living Room is completely inspired by the legend of the Swan Knight, Lohengrin, which had significant meaning and held great importance to Ludwig.  In this room there is a mural called “The Miracle of the Grail”, the Grail King was a medieval legend of a pauper that had risen to become King because of his pure soul and he achieved this success by overcoming sin and winning his inner battles.  Ludwig’s obsession with the Grail King is very understandable when looking at his diaries indicate that he also suffered with deep inner turmoil in repressing his homosexuality.  Another mural in the room is called “The Arrival of Lohengrin in Antwerp” is important given that the young prince Ludwig was so overwhelmed by Wagner’s opera Lohengrin that he considered the opera a form of enlightenment.  Ludwig was a recluse and completely identified himself with the Swan Knight whose tragic downfall was his overwhelming loneliness that he frequently dressed as the character.  Neuschwanstein means “New Swan Stone” and King Ludwig II is still thought of today as the “Swan King”.

Travel tips for visiting Neuschwanstein Castle

  • Before ascending the hill, purchase castle tour tickets at the ticket center in Hohenschwangau or tour tickets are also available for a small additional reservation fee on the Neuschwanstein website, www.neuschwanstein.de

TRAVEL NOTE:  The tour ticket is valid only for a specific date and time and be advised that it takes awhile to reach the castle at the top of the hill.  If you have purchased tickets online, please arrive at least 1½ hours before your reserved time to allow for travel up to the castle entrance.

  • There are various options to get to the top of the hill and the castle entrance.  The price for the bus and the horse-carriage ride will variety from one fee for the uphill trip and another fee for the downhill trip.   (When we visited Neuschwanstein, we took the bus to the top of the hill to the castle entrance and then after the castle tour we walked back down to the village).

Walk:  A strenuous hike from the village at the bottom on the hill up to the castle at the top can takes about 45 minutes to an hour.  A hike down the hill after the tour is a great way to see the beautiful views across the way to Hohenschwangau Castle with the village down below and also Alpsee Schansee, a picturesque lake located on the other side of the castle.

Bus:  There is fee for the bus and will depart from in front of the Schlosshotel in the village.  Visitors will ride up the hill to a stop near Jugend lookout and Marienbrucke.  From the bus stop there is still a strenuous and steep path which will take visitors about 15 minutes to reach the castle entrance.

TRAVEL TIP: Be sure to take a moment to look at the lovely view of Neuschwanstein and the Pollat Gorge before walking to the castle entrance.  The location at the Maienbrucke (or Mary’s Bridge) is a wonderful vantage point for pictures of Nesuchwanstein and the waterfall below the bridge.

Horse-drawn carriage:  There is a fee for the carriage ride and will depart from in front Hotel Muller in the village, then from the carriage stop it is a shorter walk to the castle entrance.  (If you can afford this mode of transportation is can be a wonderful way to travel up the hill to the castle)

  • Guided tours of the interior of the castle take about 35 minutes and are held in German and English, other languages are available as audio guides.

TRAVEL NOTE:  The castle tour can be strenuous for visitors, please be advised the tour will covers 5 floors of the castle, 165 stair steps upstairs and 181 stair steps downstairs.  Call ahead to inquire about special arrangements made for the disabled persons using a wheelchair or walker.

  • Neuschwanstein has more than 1 million visitors every year and in the busy summer months of July, August and September there can be 6,000 visitors per day.  Arrive early in the day to purchase castle tour tickets at the ticket center in Hohenschwangau or pick up pre-arranged tour tickets at the will call window.
  • Photography is not allowed inside the castle.

For more information regarding times, prices, etc check out the Neuschwanstein website, www.neuschwanstein.de 

Neuschwanstein Castle and the Disney connection

When Walt started the construction of the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, CA he wanted something at the end of Main Street to draw his guests into the park.  At the time the Disney animated film “Sleeping Beauty” was about to be released and Walt thought a fairytale castle would be the perfect solution.  The castle they built as the entrance to Fantasyland is called the Sleeping Beauty Castle and it was one of the first buildings to be completed for the new theme park that opened July 17, 1955.

Sleeping Beauty Castle has been noted to be a composite of the architecture of French and Bavarian castles which were originally built during the Middle Ages.  But in actuality the inspiration for the Disneyland castle is a place Walt Disney and his wife Lillian visited many years before on a European vacation, Neuschswanstein Castle in Germany.  The resemblance between the two castles is uncanny and the architectural features are undeniable.

Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty's Castle - 1995