When visiting the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort, every single Guest walks down Main Street, U.S.A. upon entering the Disney Park, but very few stop to truly appreciate the immense level of theming and details that go into making the area so wonderful. Home to several shopping and dining options as well as an attraction, Main Street, U.S.A. is an often overlooked area that is much more than just an entry into the Magic Kingdom.
Main Street is based on the town of Marceline, Missouri, where Walt Disney’s family lived for some time as a child. It’s a romanticized version of an American town from the turn of the century that features all the charm that one might expect as well as customary businesses like an Emporium, sweets shop, barber, and more.
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Right when entering Main Street, U.S.A., Guests pass underneath the Walt Disney World Railroad Station where they can take a ride on beautifully restored steam engines from the early 1900s on a grand circle tour of the Magic Kingdom with stops in Frontierland and Storybook Circus. Up a short flight of stairs is the station itself, where Guests can enjoy a balcony with beautiful views down Main Street showcasing Cinderella Castle.
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Those who spend time walking through the Walt Disney World Railroad Station can spot lots of details that bring the turn of the century timeline to life, as well as props and items forgotten or left by passengers. Fans of Mary Poppins will enjoy spotting a wooden leg whose tag reads the name Smith, a reference to a favorite joke from the classic film.
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Underneath the Walt Disney World Railroad Station is an area for stroller rentals and returns, as well as a small area with photos of vintage steam trains and information about them. Guests can also spot a train bulletin board that may seem like it is filled with random information but actually contains many nods to little bits of Disney history.
The first line of the train bulletin board features the names Grizzly Bear Flats and Kimball Canyon, which refer to Imagineer Ward Kimball, who was a train enthusiast like Walt Disney and even had his own miniature railway in his backyard that was named the Grizzly Flats Railroad.
Further down on the board, Guests can spot the names Medfield and Rutledge which were rival schools in the films The Absent-Minded Professor and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Hickory and Siddons which were the name of the town and main character in the film Follow Me Boys played by Fred MacMurray, and Harrington Hills and Pendergast which were the town and villain from the film Pollyanna.
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Once past the Walt Disney World Railroad Station and onto Main Street, Guests can check out Town Square, which features a large central flagpole proudly displaying the American flag. While there are plenty of other American flags up and down Main Street, U.S.A., this is the only “real” one and is lowered each night in a ceremony. The rest of the flags all feature very minor changes to the design to avoid the custom of having to lower them each evening.
Also found in the Town Square is the firehouse which is named Engine Co. 71 paying homage to the year that the Magic Kingdom and the Walt Disney World Resort opened, as well as Tony’s Town Square Restaurant which recreates the famous eatery from Lady and the Tramp. Guests who look closely at the pavement outside of Tony’s Town Square Restaurant can even spot Lady and Tramp’s paw prints surrounded by a heart as a tribute to their love.
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Continuing down Main Street, Guests can really get a feel of the style of the turn of the century through the beautiful buildings that feature unique molding, architecture, and color schemes. Forced perspective is greatly used on Main Street to create the illusion that the buildings are larger than they are as each floor becomes increasingly a little shorter, and many of the second floors are actually used as offices for managerial Cast Members.
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As Guests move down Main Street, they can note a special detail that actually showcases the progression of time through innovation and invention. At the beginning of Main Street, the light posts are all recreations of gaslights that were often found in small towns. However, closer to Cinderella Castle, the light posts change to electric to signify the passing of time and the introduction of new technologies in small towns.
Much of the left-hand side of Main Street is taken up by the Emporium which features many connected rooms that sell all sorts of merchandise including apparel, housewares, toys, jewelry, and more. Near the first entrance into the Emporium, Guests can spot a sign saying that the store was founded in 1901 which pays tribute to the year that Walt Disney was born.
Another nearby window on the Emporium declares that the proprietor is “Osh” Popham which is the name of a character from the film Summer Magic played by Burl Ives. Popham was a shopkeeper in the film in a small town just like Main Street, and he also sang several songs written by the Sherman Brothers, including “On the Front Porch” which can be heard in the background music loop that runs in the area.
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Guests should also notice that the windows that line the Emporium are very low to the ground, which was an intentional design choice originally made by Walt Disney for Main Street in Disneyland. He wanted small children to be able to see into the beautiful displays just as much as the adults, so the height of the windows was lowered closer to the ground.
Inside the Emporium are plenty of wonderful details that pay tribute to the style and architecture of the turn of the century, and Guests who take the time to wander through each room can spot some great little details. One such detail is a vintage telephone that features a party line of local residents that Guests can listen to if they lift the receiver. There are several of these party phones on Main Street, Guests should try to discover another!
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About halfway down Main Street, Guests can spot a small street to the right that dead-ends into a lovely little courtyard. This is Center Street, which is a great spot to take a break and enjoy the ambiance of Main Street. Guests who even sit quietly enough can hear the sounds of the local music shop and dance studio floating down from the businesses above!
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Perhaps the greatest details on Main Street are that of the dedicated windows that honor former Imagineers and Walt Disney Company employers who made significant contributions to the Walt Disney World Resort and the Magic Kingdom. Each name honored also typically features a little nod to that individual’s hobbies or role in the Disney Parks.
Walt Disney is the only individual to have two windows, the first of which is on the front of the Walt Disney World Railroad Station facing out towards Seven Seas Lagoon and the second is above The Plaza Restaurant facing Cinderella Castle. It’s a nice nod to think that Walt Disney’s memory and tribute has two of the nicest views in all the Walt Disney World Resort.
Other windows pay tribute to individuals including Marc Davis, Claude Coats, Bob Gurr, Frank Wells, Tony Baxter, X. Atencio, Mary Blair, Yale Gracey, Blaine Gibson, Marty Sklar, and Card Walker. Each window features beautiful details and fitting tributes to individuals who dedicated so much to helping make Main Street, the Magic Kingdom, and all of Walt Disney World Resort the magical destination that it is today!
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