Travel – The Royal Yacht Britannia

Britannia Royal Yacht - panorama

The Royal Yacht Britannia was used by Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family for over 44 years.  Once deemed an official Royal residence it has been used for state visits and official receptions, in addition it has been used for Royal family holidays and for the honeymoons of several Royal couples.  In this post I will discuss the history of Britannia from the time of the ship’s launch in 1953 to decommission in 1997.  The Britannia is now a tourist attraction in Edinburgh, Scotland and in this post I will give a brief tour of the ship.

The history of the Royal Yacht Britannia

The Britannia marked the end of the long tradition of British Royal Yachts used by the monarch dating back to King Charles II in 1660, to date there have been 83 Royal Yachts.   The most recent history of the Royal Yacht, prior to Britannia, goes back to the reign of Queen Victoria when the Victoria & Albert III (the first royal ship not powered by sail) launched in 1899, sadly the ship was completed in 1901 seven month after the Queen’s death.  The ship served four monarchs: King Edward VII, King George V briefly King Edward VIII and King George VI until it was decommissioned in 1939, the ship continue in service during World War II and was finally scraped in 1954.

By the 1950s, the Victoria & Albert III had become outdated and King George VI had made the request to Parliament for a more modern ship that could be used for Royal Tours, it would also serve as a type of floating royal residence.  The order was sent to the John Brown & Co. shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland but only the ship’s keel had been laid when the King died and his daughter became Queen Elizabeth II.

Work continued and when the hull was completed it was launched on April 16, 1953 and the young Queen christened the new ship Britannia.  Afterwards, the funnel and masts were installed and her sea trials were started in November 1953 and upon their completion the ship was commissioned into the Royal Navy in January 1954, it was the only ship in the world whose Captain was traditionally an Admiral.  Meanwhile the work on the interior continued and it would be the only new royal residence that the Queen would have final approval on the design and selection of furnishings aided by the British architect and interior designer.

Britannia Royal Yacht - boat launch 1  Britannia Royal Yacht - boat launch 16 April 1953

Throughout the 44 years that Britannia was in service it has been used for many State Tours visiting 600 ports in 135 countries logging over one million nautical miles (shown below is a photo of the Britannia in Sydney Harbor, Australia).  Since it was also a royal residence, the Queen has entertained numerous world leaders, such as Winston Churchill, Rajiv Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Ronald Reagan.

The Britannia has also been used by the Queen and the Royal Family during private times.  In the past the ship has sailed on the Queen’s annual Scotland tour of the Western Isles accompanied by members of the Royal Family with a stop over to visit the Queen Mother at Castle Mey.  (Shown below are two photos of the Queen and the Royal Family, the left shows a rare photo of the Queen wearing pants was taken in 1985 and on the right in 1997)

Britannia Royal Yacht - Royal family  Britannia - Royal Family during the last Western Isles Tour in 1997

The ship has also been used for the honeymoons by four Royal Couples; Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong Jones in 1960, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips in 1973, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 (as shown in the photo below) and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in 1986.

Britannia Royal Yacht - Charles and Diana honeymoon 1

On June 23, 1994 Prime Minister John Major’s announced the decommissioning of the HMY Britannia due to the increasing cost of repairs, there would be no future replacement planned.  Finally, on October 20, 1997 the Britannia embarked on one last voyage around England, as the ship sailed passed the John Brown’s Shipyard it gave a blast as a tribute to the place where she was built.  Britannia was formally decommissioned in a ceremony on December 11 1997 which was attended by the Queen and members of the Royal Family.  Perhaps remembering the important part that the Britannia played in both her public and most importantly her private life, the Queen did something very unusual and she was seen shedding a tear during the ceremony as the “Highland Cathedral” was played by the HM Royal Marine Band.

Britannia Royal Yacht - decommision ceremony - the Queen shedding a tear

A brief tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia

Today the Royal Yacht Britannia is currently berthed in Edinburgh, Scotland and visitors can tour the ship.  For more visitor information regarding hours of operation and admission prices, please click on the link to the Britannia website at

The Britannia Visitor Center is located in the Ocean Terminal, about two miles from Edinburgh.  Visitors will able to learn about the history of the Royal Yacht through several interesting displays, be sure to look for the 11 foot replica model of the Britannia made entirely of Legos!  At the Center, visitors will pick up complimentary audio handsets to use for self-guided tours of the ship’s five decks.   Special Note: All the clocks on Britannia were stopped at 15:01, the time the Queen was “piped ashore” for the last time in 1997.

Britannia Royal Yacht - bell

Listed below are several highlights of a tour of the Britannia’s staterooms, crew’s quarters and the engine room:

  • The State Drawing Room – The State Drawing Room is the main reception area of the Britannia and was often used by the Royal Family as well as entertaining dignitaries on State Tours.  Please not the baby grand piano that was used by Princess Margaret, Princess Diana and even famous Noel Coward.

Britannia Royal Yacht - living room

  • The State Dining Room – Since the Britannia used on State Tours, the State Dining Room was used for formal lunches and dinners with such famous guests as Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.  Please note the numerous displays of gifts given to the Queen, most of the items were received on the Queen’s first Commonwealth tour which lasted almost six months.

Britannia Royal Yacht - dining room

  • The Royal Bedrooms – The Britannia was considered a formal Royal residence and there are several bedrooms on board, such as Her Majesty’s bedroom and Prince Phillip’s bedroom, as shown in the photos below.  Also on board, is the Honeymoon Suite which is the only room furnished with a double bed and was used by four Royal couples.

Britannia Royal Yacht - Queen bedroom  Britannia Royal Yacht - Duke bedroom

  • The Queen’s Sitting Room – Even though the Britannia was used by the Queen and the Royal Family at private times, the Queen’s work never stopped and every day she would work on the State papers from the “Red Boxes” in the her private Sitting Room.  The room was also used to meet with her Private Secretaries.

Britannia Royal Yacht - Queen and red box 1991

  • The Bridge and the Wheelhouse – The Bridge of the Britannia was where the Captain and crew would run the ship; traditionally the position of Captain was held by a Rear Admiral of the Royal Navy although the first two were Vice Admirals and the last was a Commodore.  Visitors to the Bridge are able to tour the bridge and see all the navigational equipment, but Britannia’s steering wheel in located one deck below in the Wheelhouse.

Britannia Royal Yacht - bridge

  • The Laundry – The Britannia had a crew of over 240 Officers and Yachtsmen that changed their uniforms several times a day, an outfit for daytime work and formal uniforms for dinners or more formal occasions.  Visitors will be able to view the washing machines, dryers and presses for getting those sharp creases on the pants and shirts!

Britannia Royal Yacht - laundry

  • The Galleys – There are actually several Galleys (kitchens) on the Britannia, there are two galleys that prepare the food for the ships officers and crew, also there is the Royal Galley where the chefs from Buckingham Palace were brought on board to prepare her meals.  The Royal Galley is located adjacent to the State Dining Room; today the area is used as the Royal Deck Tea Room where visitors can have tea or lunch.

Britannia Royal Yacht - kitchen

  • The Engine Room – The Engine Room of Britannia is found far below deck and the engines generate 12,000 horsepower with a maximum speed of 22.5 knots, the Queen was known to bring her quests down to see the Engine Room after dinner.  The seemingly antiquated room of numerous chrome dials and two sets of steam turbines were fully functional and normally took eight men to operate the Engine Room and Boiler Room.

Britannia Royal Yacht - engine room

Travel – The United States Capitol

US Capitol Building

The U.S. Capitol is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Washington, D.C.  In this Travel Post I will discuss the history of the building and give a brief description of the various interior areas, such as the Rotunda where several Presidents have laid in state prior to their funerals, the Crypt which was originally instead as the burial site of the first President George Washington and the National Statuary Hall which holds numerous statues of prominent Americans.  To end this post, there is some fun trivia about the U.S. Capitol building.

A brief history of the U.S. Capitol

Once the permanent location of the Federal City (later to be known as Washington, D.C.) of the newly formed United States of America was determined, the site for the U.S. Capitol building was chosen to hold the legislative branches of the Federal Government, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and the judicial branch, the Supreme Court.  In 1792 the planning commission decided to hold a competition for the best building design and the winner was done by Dr. William Thornton, a Scottish physician living in the British West Indies.  Since Thornton an inexperienced architect, the construction would be directed by James Hoban, the designer of the President’s House (later to be known as the White House)

On September 18, 1793 the U.S. Capitol cornerstone was laid by President George Washington in an elaborate ceremony, a special commemorative metal plate also buried according to masonic traditions.  The festivities also included a parade, marching bands speeches and a pig barbecue for all those in attendance.  Special Notes: In the Cox Corridors of the House Wing of the U.S. Capitol Building there is a mural depicting the cornerstone laying ceremony, as shown in the photo above.

Capitol Cornerstone Ceremony Mural

The north wing of the Capitol was completed and the first session of Congress was held in the new building on November 17, 1800.  By 1803, construction on the south wing was started under the direction of Benjamin Henry Latrobe and when it was completed in 1813 a temporary wooden covered walkway connected the two wings.

US Capitol 1814

Then during the War of 1812, on August 24, 1814 British troops entered the city and set fire to many of the buildings of Washington, D.C. including the White House and the U.S. Capitol, luckily a sudden rainstorm prevented the city from being completely destroyed.  Repairs on the Capitol after the war ended and the anticipated plan was to join the two separate wings of the building with a domed center section in an architectural style that would be cohesive.

Special Note:  Held within the Capitol building was the small library which was for the special use of the members of U.S. Congress and the Supreme Court.  In 1802, President Jefferson signed legislation to establish a permanent building for the Library of Congress.  Unfortunately, before it could be built, the library was destroyed with other parts of the Capitol building.  Ultimately, Thomas Jefferson donated his personal book collection to replace the destroyed library and a permanent building was eventually completed in 1897.  (For more information on the Library of Congress, please click on the first of the three part series.

Meanwhile, since the number of US senators and representatives was increasing with the expanding size of the United States additional extensions were planned for both the north and south wings of the Capitol.  With these proposed renovations the height of the dome would appear out of proportion and plans were made to alter the size of the dome.  In 1856, the old dome was removed and work began on an updated replacement dome made of cast-iron that would be fireproof.  Then, with the onset of the Civil War in 1861, construction work on the Capitol extensions and dome were suspended while the building was used for military barracks and a hospital.  But a year later, President Lincoln firmly believed that the Union would ultimately survive and the construction on the Capitol resumed and were completed in 1868 after the end of the war.

Capitol - dome completed before statue

Over the following years, the Capitol building was periodically renovated and both the East and West Fronts were expanded, terraces were constructed and the surrounding grounds were landscaped by the famous Frederick Law Olmsted.  The Capitol measures 751 feet 4 inches in length from north to south, the width measure 350 feet in length and the height from the base of the east front to the top of the Statue of Freedom measures 288 feet.  There are six Congressional office buildings constructed in the immediate surrounding area which make up the Capitol extended complex on the appropriately named Capitol Hill.  As of 2014, a major restoration project was started on the Capitol dome and a massive scaffolding was erected, it is scheduled for completion in 2017.

U.S. Capitol Visitor Center

Visitors to the U.S. Capitol start their tours at the Capitol Visitor Center located in the area at the East Front of the Capitol.  The Visitor Center opened in December 2008 and it is an underground 580,000 square foot facility where all visitors are processed through a strict security checkpoint.  While visitors are waiting for their tours to start there are exhibits and displays, including a 10 foot model of the Capitol Dome, and an interesting view from overhead windows.  Also located in the Visitor Center Emancipation Hall is a plaster model of the Statue of Freedom which seats on the top of the Capitol Dome.  Before starting the tour of the Capitol, visitors will see a 13 minute film about the history of the U.S. Capitol and Congress.  The 450 seat Congressional theater as the Capitols venue for full-media governmental screenings and was designed for the joint session of Congress and special Library of Congress presentations.

Capitol Visitor Center - interior  Capitol Visitor Center - interior 2

Tours are available for free and tickets can be acquired in one of two ways.  Limited tickets are available at kiosks on the East and West Fronts of the Capitol or at the Information Desk at the Visitor Center.  Visitors can also book tickets in advance at or by contacting their local House of Representative or State Senator’s office or by phone at (202) 226-8000.  To watch Congress in Session, visitors can request House or Senate Gallery tickets through their Representative or Senator’s office.

A tour of the U.S. Capitol

The United States Capitol was built in a distinctive neoclassical style with a white exterior; the east front has an extended terrace which is the official reception area for dignitaries and visitors.  The Capitol is considered the center of Washington, D.C. and from the Rotunda the Senate chambers are to the north and the House of Representative chambers are to the south.

US Capital building - east front

The East Front

At the East Front of the Capitol are the 17 foot tall bronze doors known as the Columbus Doors.  The doors depict Christopher Columbus and his journey in discovering America; the doors were designed by Randolph Rogers and were cast in Munich in 1860.

Columbus Door

House of Representatives Chamber

The House of Representatives Chamber is the largest room in the Capitol and is located in the south wing where both the House and the Senate hold joint meetings.  Most visitors will recognize this room from the televised Presidential State of the Union addresses with the President standing at the podium on the raised dais, the Vice President seated behind on the left and the Speaker of the House seated on the right, the Chamber has 448 permanent seats arranged in a semicircle facing the Speaker’s rostrum and there is an upper gallery which surrounds the room and is where visitors and the press sit.  The Chamber has a Daniel Webster quote etched in the marble surrounding the walls, there are also twenty-three relief portraits of famous lawmakers throughout history.

Capitol House Chamber

National Statuary Hall

The National Statuary Hall is located in the south wing of the Capitol and was the original House Chamber.  Around the perimeter of the semicircular high-ceiling room are several large Breccia marble columns, quarried from the nearby Potomac River, and each is topped with white marble Corinthian capitals which were carved in Italy.  In a niche above the colonnade is an Enrico Causici plaster statue, Liberty and the Eagle and in the frieze below that is an eagle sandstone relief figurine.  Above the door leading into the Capitol Rotunda is a large marble sculpture which depicts Clio riding the chariot of Time with the wheel of the chariot containing the Chamber’s clock.

National Statuary Hall - Liberty the eagle and the serpent  National Statuary Hall - Car of History

In 1976, the National Statuary Hall underwent an extensive restoration in preparation for the Nation’s bicentennial celebrations.  Based on the 1822 Smauel F.B. Morse painting, The House of Representatives which currently hangs in the nearby Cororan Gallery of Art, the room received new reproduction chandeliers, sconces and deep red draperies.  Bronze markers were placed on the black and white marble patterned floor marking the locations were former presidents sat when they served in the House.

National Statuary Hall - right  National Statuary Hall - left

The highlights of the room are the numerous statues which were originally donated by each of the fifty states which initially submitted two statues to honor their notable historical citizens.  Throughout the years, additional statues were added to the collection and ultimately Congress authorized that the statues could be displayed in other areas of the Capitol, such as the Emancipation Hall and the Hall of Columns.  Recently two more statues joined the collection; the statue of former President Ronald Reagan in 2009 which sits in the Capitol Rotunda and the Rosa Parks statue in February 2013 which sits in the National Statuary Hall.  Special Note:  The King Kamehameha I statue was donated by the state of Hawaii; it is the largest statue in the collection.  The bronze statue is 9.5” tall and placed on a 4.5”granite base, the combined weight of both is approximately 15,000 pounds.

The Rotunda

The Rotunda is situated in the center of the Capitol building, the circular room measures 96 feet in diameter and soars to a height of 180 feet from the floor to the interior of the dome.  The interior dome features the “Apotheosis of Washington” mural painted by Brumidi.  The first President of the United States is depicted as a seemingly Roman or Greek god ascending to the heavens surrounded by 13 goddesses.  At the base of the dome is a frieze depicting the history of United States arranged in chronological order, such as Christopher Columbus “discovering” America, the Pilgrims, Pocahontas and the first flight the Wright Brothers.   In the Rotunda there are also several notable paintings, on the west side is the “Declaration of Independence”, the “Surrender of Lord Cornwallis”, and the “George Washington Resigning His Commission”.  The “First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln” hangs over the west staircase leading to the Senate wing.

Great Rotunda  Capitol Dome - Apotheosis of George Washington

The Rotunda is also the location where eleven former Presidents, several Senators and Supreme Court Justices have been granted the highest honor to be laid in state, the last president to lay in state was Gerald Ford in 2006.  Exceptions have been made and with Congressional approval citizens such as Rosa Park was allow the privilege in October 2005.

The Capitol Dome

The Capitol Dome is located on the exterior of the Rotunda with the Statue of Freedom set on top.  The Dome was constructed between 1855 and 1866 and although it appears to be made of stone it is made of 8,909,200 pounds of cast iron and painted to match the stone of the building.  The architect of the Dome, Thomas Walter, based his design on several other famous domes, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.  The Dome is constructed as two structures, the exterior dome which rises to the height of 288 feet and the interior dome which measures 180 feet from the Rotunda floor, as shown in the drawing below.

Capitol Dome drawing

The bronze statue at the top is known as the Statue of Freedom and the Dome plans had to be altered to hold the weight of the statue which is 15,000.  The statue is 191/2 feet tall and depicts a female figure wearing a military helmet with points tipped with platinum and a crest of eagle feathers, in her right hand is a sheathed sword in her right hand and a laurel wreath and shield is in her left hand.  The statue is set on a cat iron globe with the national motto E pluribus Unum (Out of many, one)

Capitol dome lantern - exterior

Through the years, the Capitol Dome has undergone several restorations; the most recent is an extensive restoration which started with scaffolding being erected around the Dome in November 2014.  The project will involve both interior work to the Rotunda and the exterior of the Dome to repair the iron structure, repainting the exterior Dome and the installation of new lighting.  The restoration is schedule to be completed and the scaffolding removed in time for the 2017 presidential inauguration.

Old Senate Chamber

The Old Senate Chamber was used by the U.S. Senate from 1819 until 1859 when the larger Senate Chamber was built as part of the Capitol extension and then the room was used by the U.S. Supreme Court from 1860 until 1935 when the Supreme Court Building was built nearby on Capitol Hill.  Today, the 75 foot diameter semi-circular room is used as a museum.

Old Senate Chamber

Senate Chamber

The Senate Chamber has been continuously used by the U.S. Senate since 1859 and is located in the north wing of the Capitol.  The two story rectangular room is 80 feet by 113 feet and holds 100 desks (one for each Senator) are arranged in a semicircle facing the dais; the Democratic Senators sit to the right and the Republican Senators to the left.  Items of note are the white marble busts of the former Presidents of the Senate (a position held by the Vice Presidents of the United States)

Senate Chamber

Brumidi Corridors

Located on the first floor of the north wing of the Capitol is the beautiful vaulted Brumidi Corridors.  Constantino Brumidi designed the elaborately decorated hallways with murals depicting various people and events in the history of the United States; such as Benjamin Franklin and the Cession of Louisiana.  The walls are beautifully painted with animals, insects, plants and flowers indigenous to the United States.  Later, additional moments in US history have been added; such as the voyage of the Spirit of St. Louis, the Moon landing by Apollo 11 and the crew of the “Challenger” Space Shuttle.

Brumidi Corridors 2

The Crypt

Located on the basement floor directly under the Rotunda is the Crypt.  This area of the Capitol was originally intended to be the final resting place of the first President of the United State, George Washington, but according to his wishes as stipulated in his will be is buried at Mount Vernon.

Capitol Crypt

The West Front

The West Front of the Capitol is located facing the Mall area of Washington D.C., the Lincoln Memorial is located at the opposite end of the Mall.  The West Front has become the location of the presidential inaugurations which is traditionally held every four years on January 20 (or the 21st if the 20th is a Sunday).  The first inauguration ceremony to take place at the West Front of the Capitol was the 1981 inauguration of Ronald Reagan; his second term inauguration took place the Rotunda of the Capitol due to cold weather.

Capitol - inaguration day

U.S. Capitol Grounds

Capitol Hill is the location of the U.S. Capitol; in addition to the Capitol building and Capitol Visitor Center there are six Congressional office buildings, the Supreme Court building, the Library of Congress three buildings and the U.S. Botanic Garden and Conservatory.  The Capitol Grounds cover approximately 274 acres are were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, planted from 1874 to 1892 with more than 100 varieties of plants and trees and an impressive array of seasonal flowers.  The U.S. Botanic Garden and Conservatory and the admission is free and a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year, for more visitor information please click on the link to their website

Interesting U.S. Capitol facts and trivia

  • The National Capitol Columns were originally used at the old East Portico and removed during the Capitol expansion in 1958, the old quarry identification marks are still on some of the columns.   Twenty-two of the original 24 Capitol Columns were relocated to the National Arboretum and placed in the Ellipse Meadow 1984 (the other two columns were placed at the top of Mount Hamilton, both were damaged and had neither a base or a capitol).  The stone foundation for the Columns was originally used as the steps on the east side of the Capitol with flowing water that runs down a channel into a small reflecting pool.

Capitol Columns

  • The US Capitol has a private subway station; it was built in 1909 to link the Russell Senate Office Building to the Capitol and requires a Capitol staff ID.  An additional subway line takes the Senators, Representatives and Capitol staff to the Hart and Dirksen buildings.

Capitol subway

  • The Congressional Chapel was opened in the Capitol in 1955 and is located near the Rotunda, it is available for the use of members of Congress who seek a quiet place for meditation or prayer and not open to visitors.  The Chapel is a non-partisan design so that it could be used by any Senator or Representative regardless of his or her faith.  The room’s main feature is a stained glass window of President George Washington kneeling in prayer, with the words from Psalm 16:1, “Preserve me, O God, for in thee do I put my trust,” and also included are the words, “This Nation under God”, from President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Capitol chapel

  • Back in 1859, most of the members of Congress lived in boarding houses with no running water, so the decision was made to install several bathtubs as well as a barbershop.  The bathtubs were carved from a single piece of marble and shipped from Italy.  After the installation of modern plumbing throughout Washington, the bathtubs were no longer needed or used and currently the water supply has been cut off.

Capitol bathtubs

  • At any given time, several United States flags fly over the Capitol building and the flags have been flown continuously day and night since World War I.  Two flagpoles are located at the base of the Capitol Dome on both the East and the West sides.  Two other flagpoles are located above the North Wing (the Senate side) and the South Wing (the House side) and are flown only when the Congress is in session.  There are also several additional flagpoles located west of the Dome and are not visible from the ground, these flagpoles are used to meet the congressional requests for flags flown over the Capitol.  Special Note: U.S. flags flown over the Capitol can be order through your local Congress member to commemorate specific events, such as the death of a veteran.  Personal Note: When we visited in Washington D.C. in 2002 we ordered a flag flown on the day we would be visiting the U.S. Capitol, it makes a wonderful and relatively inexpensive souvenir!

Capitol with flag

Travel – Philadelphia, PA (Part Two)

Previously, I posted a travel report from our family’s 2009 trip to Philadelphia, PA.  Due to Philadelphia’s numerous historic sites connected with the colonial and revolutionary periods in America history, I have divided the content into two separate posts.  The first post, Philadelphia, PA (Part One), covers Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell Center, Franklin Court, Betsy Ross House, Christ Church and Burial Grounds.  In this second post about Philadelphia I will cover the Franklin Institute, the National Constitution Center and the Philadelphia U.S. Mint.

The Franklin Institute

The Franklin Institute is one of the oldest centers of science education in the United States and its purpose is to honor the ideas and principals of Benjamin Franklin, the American statesman and scientist.  The Institute opened in 1825 on South 7th Street (as shown in the photo below on the left) and in the beginning it promoted science and offered classes in engineering, drafting and mechanics.  Throughout the years, the Institute held various scientific demonstrations of new technology and even hosted the International Electrical Exhibition in 1884.

Franklin Institute - original building  Franklin Institue 

Almost 110 years after the Institute opened, the Institute moved to its current location near the intersection of 20th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 1934 (as shown in the 2009 photo below on the right). 

For more detailed visitor information on the Franklin Institute, such as operating hours and admission prices, please click on their website at

A brief tour of the Franklin Institute

The Franklin Institute covers has more than 400,000 square feet of exhibit space, there are currently 12 permanent exhibits which offer visitors learning experiences with engaging displays regarding various aspects of science.  The Institute also offers space for various traveling exhibits, such as the very popular “King Tut” in 2007.  (Personal Note: When our family visited the Institute in 2009, we saw “Star Trek – The Exhibition” featuring costumes, props and other memorabilia which my Trekkie husband really enjoyed!)

Some of the highlights of the Franklin Institute are listed below:

The Benjamin Franklin National Memorial –

An immense marble statue of Benjamin Franklin is located in the Franklin Institute rotunda, the 20 foot-tall, 30 ton marble statue was sculpted by James Earle Fraser and sits on a 92 ton white Seravezza marble pedestal.  The Institute rotunda in which the Benjamin Franklin statue is placed was opened in 1938 and was designed by architect John T. Windrim.  The room measures 82 feet in length, width and height and features a floor, walls, columns, pilasters and cornices crafted from various types of marble imported from Portugal, Italy and France.  In 1972, the U.S. Congress designated both the rotunda and the statue as the official Benjamin Franklin National Memorial; it is the only privately owned National Memorial in the United States.  (Travel Note:  Visitors should check to see the time for the three and a half minute multimedia show which briefly discussed Benjamin Franklin’s contribution to the world as statesman and scientist)

Benjamin Franklin statue

The Benjamin Franklin Collection –

Located in the Pendulum Staircase area of the Institute is a rotating display of several items pertaining to Benjamin Franklin.  Visitors will see a scale model of the bust from the Benjamin Franklin Memorial, the figurehead from the USS Franklin, Franklin’s ceremonial sword from the court of King Louis XVI and the odometer that Franklin used to measure the postal routes, in 1775 Franklin was the Postmaster in Pennsylvania when it was still an English colony.  The 1751 publication of Franklin’s “Experiments and Observations on Electricity” as well as Franklin’s lightning rods, electricity tube and Franklin Electrostatic Generator are displayed in the Institute’s Electricity exhibition.

(Travel Note:  Please check out the Travel post Philadelphia – Part One for information on Franklin Court which holds not only the home of where Benjamin Franklin lived and worked but currently an active Post Office and an underground museum with displays of inventions and other items associated with Benjamin Franklin) 

The Giant Heart –

One of the most popular exhibits at the Institute, especially for visitors with children, is the Giant Heart.  The 5,000 square foot exhibit opened in 1954 and it allows visitors to crawl through the artery of Giant Heart.  Other interactive displays in this area of the Institute explain the anatomy and physiology of the human body.  (Trivia: The Giant Heart would be the correct size for a 220 foot tall person, which would be the approximate height of the Statue of Liberty)

Cardiac Adventure sign  Cardiac Adventure 1

Foucault’s Pendulum –

The Institute has a display which duplicates an 1851 experiment by Jean-Bernard-Leon Foucault, a French physicist which set out to prove the Earth’s daily rotation around its axis.  The Foucault’s Pendulum demonstrates this theory; during the course of day the pendulum knocks down a peg every 20-25 minutes and appears to change direction throughout the day which is an effect caused by the Earth’s rotation.

Franklin Institute - Pendulum

Fels Planetarium –

The Fels Planetarium opened in 1933 and at the time that it was built it was only the second planetarium in the United States.  In 2002, the Planetarium underwent an extensive reconstruction project which replaced the dome and installation of new sound and special effects equipment.  The Planetarium now has several astronomical presentations.  Please check the Institute website for current shows, time and admission prices at

The National Constitution Center

The National Constitution Center is located within walking distance from Independence Hall and it is the first institution completely dedicated to the United States Constitution.  In September 1988, President Reagan signed the Constitution Heritage Act which began the process of establishing the Center, although the idea dates back to 1887 at the time of the centennial celebration.

It took another twelve years before ground broke on September 17, 2000, which was coincidentally the date 213 year after the Constitution was signed.  The Center opened on July 4, 2003 and is located at 52 Arch Street which was specifically chosen because it was May 25, 1787 that the Constitutional Convention began in Philadelphia. 

National Constitution Center

Some of the highlights of the National Constitution Center are listed below:

Freedom Rising –

“Freedom Rising” is a multimedia 17 minute performance performed in a theater in the round at the Center.  The production takes visitors through over 200 years of constitutional history from the American Revolution to the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movements in an entertaining and musical way.

National Constitution Center - Freedom Rising

The Story of We the People –

The Story of We the People is the Center’s main exhibit where visitors can move through interactive multimedia displays involving several milestones in America’s history while demonstrating how the U.S. Constitution is relevant and important in the lives of the American people.  Displays include a rare copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, see Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s Supreme Court robe, there is a large American National Tree which has an interactive touch screen featuring over 100 average citizens and visitors can take the Presidential Oath of Office on a large screen and.  Please note that the memorabilia are rotated on display and are subject to change.

National Constitution Center - We the People - interior

Signer’s Hall –

In Signer’s Hall visitors can walk among 42 life-size bronze statues of the “Founding Fathers” who signed their names to the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787.  The room and statues are meant to recreate the Assembly Room at nearby Independence Hall in the final day of the Constitutional Convention.  Some of the famous faces include George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.  Travel Note:  Visitors can have fun taking photos with the various statues, just imagine standing next to one of the Founding Fathers.

National Constitutional Center - Signer's Hall

For more detailed information about hours, admission fees and other exhibits, please see the National Constitution Center’s website at

The United States Mint – Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Mint is the largest mint in the United States and the current facility opened in 1969, there have also been three previous buildings located in Philadelphia.  The Philadelphia location is also the site of the master die production for the U.S. coinage and the design and engraving departments of the U.S. Mint are also located there.  (Special Note: The United States Mint was created by Congress with the Coinage Act of 1792 and was originally a part of the Department of State. In 1799, the Mint was made an independent agency and later in 1873 it became part of the Department of the Treasury)

US Mint Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Mint is the world’s largest U.S. mint and offers free self-guided tours which will take approximately 45 minutes, during the Spring and Summer months there could possibly be a short wait.  As visitors tour the facility they will learn the history of the Mint and see the process involved in making U.S. coins from creating the coin designs to sculpting the molds to the manufacturing of the actual coins, visitors will be able to look onto the factory floor 40 feet below where one million coins can be produced in 30 minutes. 

US Mint Philadelphia 2 US Mint Philadelphia 4

Travel Note:  Adult visitors will be asked to provide photo identification, such as a driver’s license, for security purposes.  The United States Mint reserves the right to deny access to anyone at any time; in addition, members of the general public wishing to tour the facility may be subject to search by the United States Mint Police.  Photography, smoking, eating and drinking are prohibited.  Prohibited items include, but are not limited to, weapons and large packages.  All visitors are required to enter through a metal detector.

Travel – The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

In honor of John F. Kennedy’s birthday (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963) this travel post is about the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum located in Boston, Massachusetts.  JFK, the son of Joseph Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald, was born at his parent’s home on 83 Beals Street in Brookline, Massachusetts which is located about 10 miles from the JFK Presidential Library.   (Travel Note: I would suggest a visit to the John F. Kennedy National Historic Site either before or after a visit to the JFK Presidential Library.  A small museum and visitor tours of JFK’s birthplace and childhood home are offered, for more tourist information regarding hours, etc. please click on the link to

JFK Presidential Library and Museum

The history of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Customarily as a sitting President nears the end of their term in office they would look for the site location of their future presidential library.  In the case of President Kennedy, he took a trip to Boston, Massachusetts in October 1963 to view several potential sites for his future presidential library.  Kennedy initially selected a site located overlooking the Charles River located near Harvard University.  (Special Note:  The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum located in Hyde Park, New York opened in June 1941 was the first official presidential library.  Years later, Congress would pass the Presidential Libraries Act in 1955 which regulated the process and procedures to create and maintain future libraries to preserve the papers of the Presidents of the United States which would be built by private funding and then administrated by the National Archives.  For more information on the Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, please clink on the link)

After the death of John F. Kennedy in 1963, a special committee was formed to help select an architect but the final decision was to be made by Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, the president’s young widow.  Soon, donations were submitted from around the world and a traveling exhibit of JFK items was organized and sent on a nationwide tour in 1964 with the intention to promote and raise additional funds for the JFK Presidential Library and Museum.  The exhibit would include items such as: the Resolute desk used by President Kennedy in the Oval Office at the White House, Kennedy’s special rocking chair and the famous PT-109 coconut paperweight.  Look for more information on these historical items later in this post.  (Personal Note: As a young child I remember my parents taking us to see the exhibit in Los Angeles. Shown below on the left is a photo of the traveling exhibit brochure which I currently have in my Presidential memorabilia collection.  On the right is a photo of the PT-109 coconut paperweight which is currently on display in the JFK Library)

JFK traveling exhibit brochure

Eventually the architect I.M. Pei was personally chosen by Mrs. Kennedy in December 1964 to design the building for the JFK Presidential Library.  The original design was to incorporate not only the Library and also an additional building for the JFK School of Government.  The good news was that the initial goal of $10 million dollars building fund had easily been reached and by 1965 contributions topped the $20 million dollar mark.  The bad news was that the original site selection on the Charles River near Harvard was meeting with local opposition and there was additional delay in clearing the land.  Then, sadly in JFK’s brother, Senator Robert Kennedy, was assassinated in 1968, he also acted as president of the JFK Library Corporation.  Of course Jackie Kennedy was distraught about the situation of another tragedy in the family and by the early 1970s construction had still not begun.  Finally, by early 1975 plans for the Library at the original site were stopped.

Eventually, a new location found at an area in Boston called Columbia Point overlooking Dorchester Bay.  With no public opposition for this site, the official groundbreaking ceremony took place on June 12, 1977 which was attended by Jackie Kennedy (now Mrs. Onassis), her two children Caroline and John, Jr., the mother of JFK Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy and the brother of the former President Senator Edward Kennedy.  The original architect, Pei, submitted a design for a simple geometric-styled building with a large glass pavilion.  Expenses were kept at a minimum using concrete instead the preferred stone and falling within the allotted budget and costing $20.8 million.

JFK Presidential Library  - ground breaking

The JFK Library and Museum was completed and an official dedication ceremony was held on October 20, 1979 and those in attendance included Mrs. Onassis (her second husband had died in 1975), her children Caroline and John, Jr. and other members of the Kennedy family and also President Jimmy Carter who graciously accepted the library on behalf of the National Archives for use by the American public.

JFK Presidential Library  - opening and dedication

A tour of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

It is advised that a visit to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum should start with the introductory film which plays in the theatre located on the first floor.  The film is uniquely narrated by President Kennedy himself and he discusses his childhood and political career ending with his 1960 presidential nomination.  Another film is also shown about the Cuban Missile Crisis which occurred during 13 tense days from October 16 to 18, 1962 during a time when the United States and the Soviet Union stood on the brink of war.

The first floor features seven permanent exhibits:

  • Campaign Trail – This exhibit concentrate of the 1960 presidential campaign and election which features displays of campaign memorabilia and items from the  Democratic National Convention which took place July 11 to 15, 1960 in Los Angeles, California.  There is a replica of an average Kennedy campaign office and visitors can hear the campaign song “High Hopes” as sung by Frank Sinatra and also listen to Kennedy’s acceptance speech from the convention.

JFK Presidential Library  - election campaign office recreation JFK Presidential Library  - presidential campaign hat

  • The Briefing Room – During the Kennedy administration televised press conferences were broadcast live.  Television had become a major factor in projecting the image of the young President and with the use this relatively new technology he was able to successfully promote his administration’s political agenda. This exhibit features several examples of Kennedy’s speeches.
  • The Space Race – On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy gave a speech to Congress stating that “before this decade is out … landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth”  With this challenge the Space Race had begun and featured in this exhibit are items relating to the U.S. space program, specifically the NASA Project Mercury.  One display shows an astronaut’s spacesuit and another showcases the Freedom 7 space capsule which was used when Alan Shepard became the first American in space.  (Special Note: The capsule came to the JFK Library in 2012 and is expected to be returned to the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. in 2016)  Sadly, Kennedy did not live to see his goal fulfilled and it wasn’t until several years after his death that Apollo 11 landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.

Space Race exhibit - astronaut spacesuit Space Race exhibit - Freedom 7 

  • Attorney General’s Office – Attorney General during the Kennedy Administration was Robert F. Kennedy, the brother of the President.  This exhibit features information about the work of RFK in regards to fighting organized crime and aiding the progress of the American civil rights movement.  One display shows items used by RFK in his office at the Department of Justice.
  • The Oval Office – One of the most popular exhibits in the JFK Library is the Oval Office exhibit.  The most prominent item displayed is a reproduction of the famous Resolute desk, an exact copy of the desk used by President Kennedy in the White House.  (Special Note: The original desk was a gift from Queen Victoria to President Hayes given in 1879; it was made from the timbers of the British ship the HMS Resolute)  The Resolute desk was used by many U.S. Presidents; most recently it is in use in President Obama’s Oval Office at the White House.  An additional item of interest on permanent display in the exhibit is the specially made rocking used by President Kennedy in the Oval Office.  Kennedy suffered from chronic back problems and his doctor suggested the use of a rocking chair, he enjoyed the rocker so much that he took the chair with him on Air Force One as he traveled in the United States and abroad on International State Visits.  He commissioned additional rocker for Camp David and his personal home in Hyannis Port on the Kennedy estate.  (Shown the photo below are both the Resolute desk and the Kennedy rocking chair)

JFK Presidential Library  - Oval Office

  • First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy – This exhibit in the JFK Library centers on the life of the First Lady and features several items and other artifacts belonging to her.  The main item of interest in this exhibit is the wedding dress worn by Jacqueline Bouvier on the occasion of her marriage to John F. Kennedy on September 12, 1953.  Also on display are several of the dresses worn by Mrs. Kennedy when she was the First Lady during the years of January 1961 to November 1963  (For more information about the Kennedy wedding, please click on the link.  Also for information about Mrs. Kennedy and her White House dresses, please click on the link.)

JFK Presidential Library  - wedding dress worn by Jackie Kennedy

JFK Presidential Library  - dress worn by Jackie Kennedy - Paris 1961  JFK Presidential Library  - dress worn by Jackie Kennedy for the White House television tour

  • The Kennedy Family – This exhibit showcases the famous Kennedy family and features photographs and several items belonging to members of the family.

JFK Presidential Library - Kennedy family exhibit 1

One of the most poignant areas of the JFK Library is the simple room near the end of the tour.  The room is painted entirely in black with the date, November 22, 1963, printed on the wall.  Unlike the other rooms in the library there are no display cases or memorabilia to view.  Instead there are several television screens mounted on the wall that show the television coverage and the famous broadcast of Walter Cronkite reporting to the nation that the President had died.  (I’m sure that this will bring back a flood of memories for people who lived through those tragic days back in 1963.  It is one of those moments in history that people will remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news)

JFK Presidential Library  - November 22, 1963

Additional Artifacts of the John F. Kennedy Library

The famous PT-109 coconut paperweight – When Lieutenant Kennedy was serving in World War II as a commander for PT109, the boat was hit by a Japanese destroyer leaving Kennedy and his crew were stranded in the Solomon Islands.  Kennedy carved a message into a coconut shell with a message stating their exact location and it was given to local natives to deliver the PT base resulting in the rescue of Kennedy and his crew.  Later it was encased in wood and plastic as a special war time souvenir, President Kennedy used it as a paperweight on his deck in the White House Oval Office.  In addition to the coconut paperweight, on display in the JFK Library is flag from the PT-109.  Both items are shown below

JFK Presidential Library  - PT-109 coconut  JFK Presidential Library  - PT-109 flag

The “Victura” sailboat – Located outside the JFK Library and on display from May to October every year is the 25-foot Wianno senior sailboat.  The “Victura” sailboat was acquired by the Kennedy family when JFK was 15 years old.  The Kennedy children enjoyed many hours sailing in the waters off of Hyannis Port, Massachusetts near the Kennedy compound.  After the death of President Kennedy in 1963, other members of the family continued to use the sailboat until it was donated to the JFK Presidential Library.


Victura sailboatFor more information regarding the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library hours of operation and prices, etc, please click on the link to their website at

Travel – Disneyland’s It’s a Small World

It's a Small World poster

This post is in honor of the 50th anniversary of the world famous “It’s a Small World” attraction which opened in Disneyland on May 28, 1966.  It’s a Small World is considered a classic Disney dark ride which means that it is an amusement park ride contained inside a building.  The whimsical attraction features hundreds of animatronic children dressed in their national costumes and singing a memorable song in their native languages.  So, in this post I will discuss the history of the “It’s a Small World” attraction including the construction of the ride and the many refurbishments throughout the years and finally I will end with some fun and interesting trivia about the ride.

The history of the “It’s a Small World” attraction

The It’s A Small World attraction was originally created for the UNICEF pavilion sponsored by Pepsi at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.  The basic concept of the ride was intended to promote peace and unity as interpreted by the children of the world.  The basic design was created by WED, a division of the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.  The attraction was actually one of five created WED for the Fair; the other four attractions were the Skyway ride sponsored for the Ford Motor Company, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln built for the Illinois pavilion, the Carousel of Progress sponsored by General Electric, and CircleVision sponsored by Kodak. 

It's a Small World model with Walt Disney

Disneyland had opened in 1955 and Walt Disney was always looking for ways to improve his amusement park and he is famously quoted as saying, “Disneyland will never be completed and it will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world”.  So, by working on these various sponsored attractions for the World’s Fair, Disney was able to develop new ride systems which would eventually be used in Disneyland.  The boats for the It’s A Small World ride were built at the Disney Studios and the vehicle propulsion and guidance systems were designed by the Arrow Development Company.  The ride system developed for It’s a Small World would also solve the problem of moving the large crowds anticipated for the World Fair through the ride in a timely manner.  (Special Note: This same ride system was used again for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in the New Orleans Square area of Disneyland)

Arrow Developement Company boat patent  Arrow Developement Company boat test track

Prior to the New York’s World Fair, Disney had developed the technology of audio- animatronics which was first used for the Enchanted Tiki Room attraction that opened at Disneyland in 1963.  (Audio-animatronics is the term used for robots that move in sync to pre-recorded soundtracks, thus giving the illusion that the figures are brought to life)  Several of the attractions that the Disney Imagineers were creating for the World Fair would also use audio-animatronic figures; such as the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and the Carousel of Progress attractions and of course the It’s a Small World ride.  After the conclusion of the New York World’s Fair in 1965, all the attractions were disassembled and moved to Disneyland in Anaheim, California.  (Special Note:  Walt Disney died in 1966 and the four attractions created for the World Fair were some of the last projects that Disney was directly involved in from concept to ride completion.  However, the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction was officially the last one that Disney was involved in and the attraction opened in 1967 three months after his death)

Disney with Mary Blair

Alice Davis concept art for Its a Small World costumes 1  Alice Davis concept art for Its a Small World costumes 2

The original It’s a Small World ride for the World Fair featured several hundred audio-animatronic children designed by Mary Blair (the Disney art director for animated classics films including Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan) and sculpted by Blaine Gibson (per the request of Disney, each of the children’s facial features were identical) with the colorful sets designed by Rolly Crump and the children’s costumes designed by Alice Davis (featuring the native dress of each country).  Initially Disney wanted have the children depicted in the various scenes of the ride to sing the national anthems of each country but ultimately he requested one song be used that could easily be translated into many languages. Robert and Richard Sherman, Disney staff songwriters, came up with the iconic “It’s a Small World” song.  (Shown in the first photo is the It’s a Small World ride under construction in Disneyland, the second photo shows Walt Disney with Marc Davis and Mary Blair with her doll)

It's a Small World consturction 1 Disney with Marc Davis and Mary Blair - It's a Small World costumes

After the It’s a Small World attraction moved to Disneyland and the newly refurbished ride re-opened on May 28, 1966 in the Fantasyland section of the park.  The opening ceremony featured a gathering of children representing countries from around the globe.  In preparations for the grand opening ceremony, Disney representatives gathered the waters from the oceans and seas around the world.  Then, during the ceremony the waters were symbolically poured into the ride’s canal creating a grand version of the “waters of the world” flowing through the attraction.  It was a great public relations idea orchestrated by Jack Lindquist who at the time was the advertising manager of Disneyland.

It's a Small World opening day at Disneyland 1

The Disneyland version of the It’s a Small World attraction featured an exterior façade which was inspired by an original drawing of Mary Blair, shown in the photo below.  The large flat façade was painted white with gold and silver trim and depicts the stylized versions of the landmarks of world, such as Paris’ Eifel Tower and Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa.  The area in front of the façade features several fanciful topiary animals that are meticulously maintained by the Disneyland horticultural department.  (Special Note: The exterior of the It’s a Small World attraction has undergone several different color schemes from the original white to one with various shades of blue to another version painted white and pink with pastel colored trim.  In preparations for Disneyland’s 50th anniversary in 2005, the façade returned to the original color scheme)

Mary Blair concept art for It's a Small World It's a Small World exterior 1

In the center of the It’s a Small World attraction façade, Disney had requested a special 30 foot high timepiece which would work like a giant cuckoo clock.  To mark each quarter hour, the side doors would swing open and a parade of wooden dolls dressed in their national costumes would move past the base of the clock.  Then, as the last doll proceeded back into the door on the other side, the large central doors below the swinging face would open to display the time and bells would ring to count the hours and quarter hours.

It's a Small World clock 1  It's a Small World clock 2

After boarding the It’s a Small World boats, guests will slowly travel through the main show building and into several room.  About 400 specially dressed children are wearing their native costumes and singing the ride’s theme song in their native languages.(Shown below are examples of Mary Blair artwork and designs used on the ride)

Mary Blair concept art for It's a Small World 1  Mary Blair concept art for It's a Small World 2

The various countries depicted on the ride currently include:

  • Scandinavia and Canada
  • England, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland
  • Thailand, India, Korea, China and Japan
  • Africa featuring the various animals of the jungle
  • South America featuring Brazil and Mexico
  • South Sea Islands of the Pacific Ocean featuring the animals of the oceans (including a few mermaids) and now including the animals of the rainforests
  • North America
  • The Finale Room features all the children of the world now dressed in all white versions of their native costumes and singing the ride’s theme song in English.

Throughout the years, numerous minor adjustments and a few major changes have been made to the It’s a Small world ride.  In 1997, Disneyland decided for the Christmas season to create the It’s a Small World Holiday version of the ride with an elaborate overlay and the iconic theme song was replaced with holiday songs.  It proved to be so popular with the park guests that every year since then the attraction is closed in late October to assemble the temporary holiday overlay and it reopens in early November just before the start of one of the busiest times in the park, which is the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.  The attraction is closed again in January for a few weeks to remove the holiday overlay.    

Small World Holiday 1In 2008, the It’s a Small World attraction was closed for a 10 month period for major refurbishment.  This was a long time for a popular Disneyland attraction to be closed but the ride was in desperate need over some major changes.  The original ride system from the 1964 World Fair was now over 40 years old and despite occasional repairs it was time to upgrade the water canal and boats. The outdated fiberglass boats were replaced with redesigned boats made of durable plastic which was lighter and more buoyant.  The water propulsion system that guided the boats through the ride was replaced by a more modern electric water jet turbines developed for a more efficient and smoother ride.  Prior to the refurbishment the boats would often “bottom out” in the water canal causing the boat to stop.  This happened because at the time the ride was originally built the estimated combined weight of the guests was calculated lower than the current weight of a heavier generation of guests!  So, during the refurbishment the water canal was built deeper to accommodate the increasing weight of the guests!

Small World 2008 refurbishment

The exterior façade was repaired and repainted, a new entrance sign was created and the topiary garden was replanted.  The interior ride sets, the majority of them were from the original World Fair attraction were dismantled, repaired or replaced and then repainted.  (Special Note: During the 2008 refurbishment, the rainforest area previously located in a separate room was incorporated into the South Seas Islands room.  The section of the ride formerly occupied by the rainforest was then used to create the North American room.  Prior to the renovations, the Cowboy and Indian children representing North America appeared near the end of the Finale Room)

As part of the major refurbishment, all the dolls were removed from the ride to be repaired and repainted, the dolls costumes were cleaned, damages were repaired or new copies of the costumes were made.  Also at this time a very controversial decision was made to incorporate additional doll characters into the attraction.  In the past, Disneyland had successfully added Disney movie characters into other attractions without too much public outcry.  In 2006 the Captain Jack Sparrow, Barbossa and Davy Jones characters from the popular Disney “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie series were added to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disneyland.  Then, in 2007 the classic Submarine Voyage ride in Tomorrowland which had been closed for almost ten years re-opened as the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage featuring characters from the popular Disney-Pixar film, “Finding Nemo”.  But for some reason the public were having a hard time adjusting to the fact that It’s a Small World, one of the most beloved attractions in Disneyland, would be changed.

Undeterred, Disney went ahead with their plans to incorporated the 37 new characters into the It’s a Small World attraction.  The additional characters came from several of the Disney movies, some were from the older classic Disney fairytale movies and others were from more recent Disney films, were added into the appropriate sections of the ride corresponding to the settings of their original stories.  Some of these additional characters are listed below: 

In the England section of the Alice and the White Rabbit from the classic animated film “Alice in Wonderland” were added, shown below in the photo on the left.  Peter Pan and Tinkerbell from another Disney animated film “Peter Pan” can also be seen flying above the England section near the Tower of London, shown in the photo on the right. 

Small World 2009 Alice1  Small World 2009 Peter Pan 1

In the France section of the ride are Cinderella with the friendly mice Jaq and Gus from the classic Disney film “Cinderella” were added, shown below in the photo on the left.  Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket from the animated film “Pinocchio” were added to the Italy section of the ride, shown in the photo on the right.

Small World 2009 Cinderella  Small World 2009 Pinocchio 1

In the China section of the ride guests will see Mulan and Mushu form the Disney animated film “Mulan”, shown below in the photo on the left.  In the section of the ride depicting the Middle East, the characters of Aladdin, Jasmine and Abu from the animated film “Aladdin” can be seen overhead flying on a magic carpet, shown in the photo on the right.

Small World 2009 Mulan 2  Small World 2009 Alladin

In the Africa section, the characters Simba, Pumba and Timon from the “Lion King” movies were added, shown below in the photo on the left.  In the South America section guests will see the characters Donald Duck, Jose Carioca and Panchito Pistoles from the Disney animated short “The Three Caballeros, shown in the photo on the right.

Small World 2009 Lion King 2  Small World 2009 Donald Duck 3 Caballeros 1

In the South Seas section of the ride guests will see the character Ariel and Flounder from the “Little Mermaid”, the characters of Lilo with Stitch from Disney animated film “Lilo and Stich” riding on a surfboard and also added are the characters of Nemo and Dory from the very popular “Finding Nemo” movie.  Finally, some of the last characters to be added to the It’s a Small World ride are in the North America section and they are Woody, Jessie and Bullseye from the “Toy Story 1 & 2” movies.

Small World 2009 Ariel 2  Small World 2009 Nemo 1

Small World 2009 Toy Story 1

The It’s a Small World attraction at Disneyland proved to be so popular with the park guests that as the other Disney Parks were opened around the world other versions based on the original ride were built with slight variations: the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida in 1971, Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, Disneyland Paris in 1992 and Hong Kong Disneyland in 2008.

It’s a Small World trivia and fun facts

  • During the development process for the original World’s Fair attraction was tentatively named the “Children of the World” ride.  In the first version of the ride the dolls would sing the national anthems of the various countries, but this sounded too chaotic.  So, Walt Disney brought in the staff song writers Richard and Robert Sherman to compose a song for the ride.  Disney liked the catchy “It’s a Small World” song so much that he changed the name of the ride to It’s a Small World.

Sherman brothers

  • The “It’s a Small World” song was performed and recorded with the various native instruments from around the world, as an example in the Scotland scene bagpipes can be heard and in the South Seas scene Tahitian drums are played.
  • During the hours of an average day at the park the iconic “It’s a Small World” song is played approximately 1,200 times.
  • When the It’s a Small World ride moved from the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair to Disneyland, each section of the ride was disassembled and shipped to the park.  Today, some of the shipping stickers dating back to 1965 can still be found on the back of some of the ride’s set pieces.
  • In the Disneyland version of the It’s a Small World attraction in the France section there is a special Mary Blair doll to honor the Disney Imagineer who designed the original ride for the World’s Fair.  A little blonde haired doll wearing glasses can be seen flying from a balloon near the Eiffel Tower.

Mary Blair Doll

  • The whimsical animal topiaries located outside of It’s a Small World are created and maintained by the Disneyland Horticulture Department, it takes approximately five year of growing and trimming before the topiaries are ready to be put on display.

It's a Small World topiaries

  • Through Disneyland guest research it was determined that on the average one in every four guests, especially families with small children or those that grew up riding the attraction, consider a ride on It’s a Small World a park tradition.  (Personal Note: This is definitely true for our family because we always visit the It’s a Small World attraction for a ride in honor of our father, it was one of his favorite rides!)