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 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 2008 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.  For more information about the history of the It’s a Small World ride at Disneyland, please click on the link.  (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 – Walt Disney’s Marceline, MO

I grew up as a Disney child, our family has been going to Disneyland since it opened in 1955, but of course that was a few years before I was born!  Over the years I have become fascinated by the man that made such wonderful animated films and television programs, I have read many books about both Walt Disney’s personal and professional life.  The first book I read was the Bob Thomas book, “Walt Disney: An American Original”.  The book covers the life of Walt from his birth in Chicago, IL to his early childhood in Marceline, MO and then follows him to Kansas City as he starts the Laugh-O-Gram Company and then California as he created the Walt Disney Company and later built Disneyland.  (I highly recommend the book!)  Little did I know that many years later I would move to the Midwest and be able to visit the small town of Marceline and some say his inspiration for Disneyland’s Main Street.  So, in honor of Walt’s birthday (Born: December 5, 1901 Died: December 15, 1966) I would like to share our October 2012 visit to Marceline, MO.

Marceline is a small town located halfway between St. Joseph and Hannibal, Missouri.  In 1887 the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway began construction on a railroad station and main terminal because of the town’s excellent location between Kansas City and Chicago.  The town quickly grew and by 1906 when the Disney family moved from Chicago, IL to Marceline the population was 2500.

Walt and RuthElias and Flora Disney along with their five children (Herbert age 17, Raymond age 15, Roy age 12, Walt age 4 and Ruth age 2) moved into a farm just outside of town.  Elias purchased the small one-story house and 45 acres of land.  The farm had 5 acres of apple, plum and peach orchards and they grew corn, sorghum and wheat.  They also raised hogs, chickens, dairy cows and horses. While Elias and the older boys would work on the farm and in the fields and Flora did household chores.  Walt and Ruth would sell apples or Flora’s homemade butter in town and during the spring or summer they would swim or fish in the Yellow Creek located nearby.

Even though the Disney family only lived there four years, Marceline left a lasting impression on Walt and he had wonderful memories of his early childhood years.  Walt and his sister Ruth spent many happy hours playing around the farm and Walt would sit under a tree making up stories and dreaming of his future.  Sometimes Walt would walk into town and visit the railroad station; he was fascinated by the trains that came through Marceline on a regular schedule.  Eventually, Walt’s father sold the farm and the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1910.  It is said that Marceline is “where Walt Found the Magic”.

Many years later after Walt and his brother Roy built the successful Walt Disney Company and Walt never forgot his beloved Marceline … and it appears Marceline never forgot Walt.  In 1956, Walt received an invitation from the city stating that they were naming the recreation center and new swimming pool after him.  Walt accepted the invitation and he, Roy and their wives traveled to Missouri for the dedication ceremony.  During their time in Marceline, Walt and Roy visited the old family farm, they also visited Main Street and went to the old Santa Fe train depot and the nearby E.P. Ripley Park.  They also went to Walt’s old school, Park School, and Walt sat at his old desk and found the W.D. that he had carved into the top.  Of course there were many photo opportunities during the visit but the best part was the time Walt and Roy had to reminisce about all their childhood memories.  Walt later returned to Marceline in 1960 when the old school was rebuilt and renamed the Walt Disney Elementary School.

Marceline train station - Walt and Roy    The Dreaming Tree with Walt and Roy

Today, Marceline continues as an agricultural center, industrial community and also has one of the largest publishing companies in the Midwest.  The railroad trains no longer stops in Marceline, although the trains still travel through the town quite frequently.

 Listed below are some of the current Disney sites to see in Marceline:

 Walt Disney Hometown Museum

 Walt Disney Hometown Museum

An excellent place to start a visit to Marceline is the Walt Disney Hometown Museum located in the old Santa Fe train depot, which is fittingly the place where Walt and his family first arrived in Marceline back in 1906.  The Museum has a wonderful and unique collection of Disney family memorabilia which were donated by Ruth Disney Beecher, Walt’s sister.  Some interesting items in the museum collection include the following: Walt’s old school desk which visitors can see his carved initials, personal Disney family letters, a phonographic recording from Walt’s parent’s 50th wedding anniversary, family photographs including many from Walt and Roy’s visit in 1956, a framed piece of Walt’s Carolwood Pacific Railroad track from his Holmby Hills estate and an actual Midget Autopia car from the Disneyland ride that was donated in 1966 by Walt and Roy for Walt Disney Park in Marceline.

Walt's school desk    Walt's school desk - carved initials

Travel Note: Take the time to walk through the museum and look at the displays and read the Disney family letters which are displayed in chronological order.  Sadly one of the letters written by Walt’s mother, Flora, to Ruth on November 7, 1938 references the new house in California that Walt and Roy bought for their parents.  In the letter she complains about the fumes coming from the furnace, sadly a few days after writing the letter Flora was overcome by the fumes and died.

We enjoyed the museum but what made our visit so special was the volunteer that was our tour guide, Inez.  When Walt and Roy visited Marceline in 1956 they stayed at the home of Rush and Inez Johnson instead of the local hotel because it was the only home in town with air conditioning for the comfort of the Disney family.  Walt and his wife, Lillian, stayed in the room of the Johnson’s 7 year old daughter Kaye.  Kaye and her husband now own the old Disney home in Marceline and Kaye also runs the museum.  Inez had so many wonderful stories to tell about Walt during his visit back to Marceline!

For more information, prices and hours of operation, please check the Museum’s website at

Main Street USA

The town center of Marceline looks like every other small town in the Midwest but what makes it special is that it has been said that this main street in  Walt’s boyhood hometown was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Main Street USA.  Take a look and you will notice the Zurcher building at the corner looks a lot like the Emporium Store in Disneyland … is it a coincidence, I don’t think so!

Marceline - Main Street USA    Marceline - Main Street USA 1

Travel Note: From the museum we would suggest taking a short walk over to the center of Marceline, that way you will see the other Disney sites located a short distance away and you don’t have to move your car.

Uptown Theater

Located in downtown Marceline on Main Street USA is the Uptown Theater which had been in operation from 1930 to 2010.  It was the location for two Disney film premiers, “The Great Locomotive Chase” in 1956 which was held during Walt and Roy’s visit back to Marceline and the other was “The Spirit of Mickey” in 1998.  The Theater is now a Bed & Breakfast which has five themed room, the Walt Disney Suite, the Americana Mickey Room, the Santa Fe Room, the Winnie the Pooh Room and the Toonfest Room.  (Toontest is an annual celebration held in Marceline during the third weekend in September that focuses on the art of animation or “cartooning”.  For more information, please see

Walt Disney Post Office

Walt Disney Post Office

Located just off Main Street USA, near the center of Marceline is the Walt Disney Post Office.  In 1968, the US Postal Department issued a Walt Disney commemorative stamp and it was officially released from this location with the entire Disney family in attendance along with thousands of Disney fans.  In August 2004, the US Post Office was officially renamed the Walt Disney Post Office in honor of Marceline most famous person.

Walt Disney stamp

E.P. Ripley Park

Located across the street from the Walt Disney Post Office is the E.P. Ripley Park which is named in honor of the Santa Fe Railroad’s first president.  In 1898, the railroad donated the land to the city of Marceline.  When Walt was building Disneyland he knew he wanted to incorporate steam trains and named one of them the E.P. Ripley.  Two trains are located at the park, an original Santa Fe 2546 steam locomotive and a red caboose.  (Both of these make a great photo opportunity!)

 EP Ripley Park - Santa Fe steam locomotive    EP Ripley Park - red caboose

Also located in the park is a Gazebo which was built in 1898 and it is where band concerts took place every Sunday.  The Disney family attended many of those concerts during their stay in Marceline.  It has been said that the gazebo was the inspiration in the 1935 Disney cartoon, “The Band Concert” which featured Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.  (Listen carefully and you can almost hear Mickey leading the band in a rendition of the William Tell Overture just like in the movie!)

Walt Disney Park and Pool

Just south of the center of Marceline is the Walt Disney Park and Pool which was officially dedicated in July 1956 with Walt, Roy and their wives in attendance.  The swimming pool is still in use seasonally by the city of Marceline.  The park was also the site of the Midget Autopia ride from Disneyland was donated by Walt and Roy in 1966.  It is the first attraction that has ever left Disneyland and been operated outside of a Disney-owned themed park.  The track was reconstruction on site and was used by the children of Marceline for many years, parts of the track still remain and a restored Midget Autopia vehicle can be seen at the Walt Disney Hometown Museum.

Walt Disney Elementary School

Walt Disney Elementary School

Travel Note:  When the school is in session please respect it as an educational institution and ask permission before entering the building or taking pictures.

Located a short drive from the center of Marceline is the Walt Disney Elementary School.  There are several Walt Disney Elementary Schools across the country such as the Anaheim and Burbank, CA, Chicago IL locations and the first one to receive the honor was in Tullytown, PA.  The Marceline location was very special to Walt because he attended the school with his sister Ruth.  The original school, known as Park Elementary, was a 2-story brick building and when it fell into disrepair it was replace by the current one-story modern building in 1960.  When Walt received a letter from the school officials in Marceline requesting that the new school be renamed in his honor Walt graciously granted permission and he even bought the school new playground equipment.

In addition, he installed a special 55 foot flag pole that was originally used in the 1960 Winter Olympics held in Squaw Valley, CA of which Walt was the Chairman of Pageantry.  During the games there were 30 flagpoles which flew the 30 flag of the participating nations and all the flagpoles had special plaques signed by Disney; visitors can see this plaque on the flagpole in front of the school.  Walt also gave the school an official Disneyland flag and it is the only place outside of Disneyland to fly this special flag.

Walt Disney Elementary School flagpole    Walt Disney Elementary School flagpole plaque

Located in the lobby of the school, when it is not on display at the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, is the school desk of Walt from the old Park School with the initials WD carved into the wooden top.  At the time of the school’s dedication, Walt commission one of the Walt Disney Company artists, Bob Moore, to create artwork for the school’s entrance, hallway and gymnasium.  The artwork is still in use and features many of the Disney characters and can be seen throughout the building.  (Take a peak inside from the window’s of the school and you can see some of the murals)

Walt Disney Elementary school - interior

The Old Disney Home, Walt’s Barn and the Dreaming Tree

The old Disney family home

Travel Note:  The old Disney home is currently a private residence so please be respectful during your visit.

Located north of town is the old Disney Home and we highly recommend a stop there before ending a visit to Marceline.  Traveling north from the museum, turn left at Broadway.  The house is on the northwest corner and be sure to look carefully for a very small parking area just past the house on the right side of the street.  Hopefully, you will find the path over the foot bridge and through the bushes because at the end are two very special hidden Disney sites.  As you walk along the path there are signs that explain the time period that Walt lived in Marceline.

The first site is the Dreaming Tree which got the name from the time Walt and Ruth spent during the afternoon sitting under the large cottonwood tree daydreaming.  Unfortunately, the tree has not survived over the years in very good condition.  Walt called his time sitting under the tree and observing the nature surrounding him as “belly bounty” and it was to influence him many years later and served as his inspiration for some of the films and television programs that he made.  As you visit the spot, pause and take the time to reflect and imagine Walt all those many years ago.  (Earlier in this post, there is a photo of Walt and Roy at the Dreaming Tree during their visit to Marceline in 1956)

The Dreaming Tree

Continue to follow the path past the Dreaming Tree and you will see several more signs that lead toward the second site, Walt’s Barn.  The barn located on the Disney farm was another place where Walt and his sister Ruth would spend their days playing together.  This replica was built in 2001 and features a distinct pitched roof similar in style to the original barn that stood at this location.  As visitors enter the barn, they will be amazed to see thousands of signatures and messages left by devoted Disney fans.  We added our signatures and also took the time to write a message with our heartfelt thanks to Walt!  (Look for our message under the windowsill overlooking the Marceline water tower)

Walt's Barn    Walt's Barn - interior

That concludes our family visit to Marceline and it was a wonderful and very memorable trip for this Disney fan!