Liberty Square

Liberty Square is located behind Cinderella Castle and in between Fantasyland and Frontierland.  As the name implies, the theme of Liberty Square is Colonial America.  If you know your architecture, you’ll notice that all 13 of the original colonies are represented in the various buildings, shops, and restaurants.  Pay special attention to the Liberty Bell replica, which is the only bell ever cast from a mold of the original Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.  There are three attractions here, all of which opened with the Magic Kingdom in 1971.  Although it’s a little out of place, The Haunted Mansion is located in Liberty Square, ominously daring visitors to enter.  The Liberty Square Riverboat and Hall of Presidents are relaxing attractions that guests who need a break or have extra time should take advantage.  The Hall of Presidents is an especially worthwhile visit for anyone who appreciates United States’ history.

There are three dining locations at Liberty Square, including Columbia Harbor House which is one of the best counter service locations at the Magic Kingdom and Liberty Tree Tavern, which is a popular a-la-carte table service restaurant for lunch and a family style buffet for dinner.  Of course, there are also four shopping locations, including the popular Christmas themed “Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe” and “The Yankee Trader” which offers some unique gifts and merchandise with a patriotic theme.

Liberty Square is one of the only lands that can be saved entirely for the afternoon and evening.  There’s no rush to get here in the morning because both the Hall of Presidents and Liberty Square Riverboat are best enjoyed in the afternoon and The Haunted Mansion sees short waits before 11am and again in the final two to three hours of Park operation.  Emerging from the Haunted Mansion at night also adds authenticity to the experience.  Of course, you can also ride the Haunted Mansion in the early morning or afternoon if you like, but your time may be better spent elsewhere.

Must visit: The Haunted Mansion

Visit in the afternoon or whenever you need a break from walking: Hall of Presidents, Liberty Square Riverboat

FASTPASS Available: None

Morning Extra Magic Hours: None

Evening Extra Magic Hours: The Haunted Mansion

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Hall of Presidents

by josh on May 14, 2010

Hall of Presidents

Opened: October 1, 1971, reopened after extensive refurbishment on July1, 2009

Location: As you cross the bridge from The Hub into Liberty Square, you’ll see it on your right after passing Sleepy Hollow Refreshments.

Extra Magic Hours: No

FASTPASS: No

Type: Animatronic theater show

Similar To: The American Adventure

Requirements: None

Scary Factor: Zero, unless seeing George W. Bush or Bill Clinton reprise their role as Commander in Chief will be too upsetting.

What to Expect: Similar to The American Adventure at the United States Pavilion in Epcot, the Hall of Presidents is a theater show featuring film clips and animatronics of all 44 of the United States’ Presidents.  The show is patriotic in focus and serves to expound on the hardships and triumphs of the United States through the years.  The theater is air-conditioned, comfortable, and seats over 700 people, which makes it a nice and easy attraction to enjoy in the afternoon heat.  The queue area features some impressive artifacts and memorabilia, including a collection of dresses worn by the First Ladies of the United States, George Bush’s inaugural cowboy boots, and the actual eggs from the annual White House Easter egg hunt.

Where to Sit: Shows usually aren’t very busy and you should have your pick of seats.  Sit at least half way back for a clear view of the entire stage.

When To Go: Visit in the mid-afternoon or whenever you need a break from walking around.  The queue area and theater are air-conditioned and this is probably the most comfortable place to sit and relax at the Magic Kingdom.

Expect to Wait: With the large theater capacity, it’s unlikely you’ll have to wait any longer than it takes for the previous show to end.  Arrive about 20 minutes or 50 minutes past the hour because shows usually start on the hour and half past.  For example, arrive at 2:20 for the 2:30 show or 2:50 for the 3pm show.  This will give you a few minutes to check out the memorabilia in the lobby before entering the theater.

Length: 25 minutes

Rating: 7/10

Commentary: Thank goodness for indoor, air-conditioned theater shows when it’s 100 degrees out.  The Hall of Presidents will likely resonate better with adults from the United States rather than kids or guests from abroad.  This likely won’t be a child’s favorite attraction, unless they particularly enjoy history class, but it is a thoughtful introduction to the United States and its leaders.  Hall of Presidents is recommended if you’re looking for a break or the subject matter is of particular interest, but if you’re short on time or your kids are particularly squirrely then you may want to skip this.  On the other hand, the audio-animatronics are amazing and it is a relaxing, engaging show.  In other words, visit if it sounds appealing and skip if it doesn’t.

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Haunted Mansion

by josh on May 14, 2010

Haunted Mansion

Opened: October 1, 1971

Location: Haunted Mansion is located across the way from Columbia Harbour House.  From Frontierland, you’ll see it on your left before arriving in Fantasyland.  From Fantasyland, it’s on the right after you pass it’s a small world and Peter Pan’s Flight.

Extra Magic Hours: Evening

FASTPASS: No

Type: Dark ride

Similar To: Spaceship Earth

Requirements: None

Scary Factor: Medium.  The Haunted Mansion is intended to be a fun and goofy ride, not a frightening experience.  You won’t see anything gruesome or disgusting and there aren’t any sudden drops or surprises that will pop up unexpectedly.  Still, it is a haunted house full of ghouls and the ride is almost entirely in the dark, which may be enough to make youngsters apprehensive about riding.  Chances are they won’t be frightened by anything they see during the ride, but they may be too scared from the thought of a haunted house to enjoy the attraction.

What to Expect: The queue for the Haunted Mansion is outdoors under a large canopy.  It protects from the rain, but won’t do much to keep the afternoon heat out.  In fact, it can make it seem even hotter because there isn’t a lot of air flow.  In 2011, Disney installed an interactive queue near the entrance to the mansion.  You can elect to walk through it by taking the left path or bypass it entirely by taking the right.  Walking the interactive queue adds about five minutes to the overall wait.  It’s recommended and adds a bit of ambiance before entering the mansion.

Once it’s your turn to enter the Mansion, you’ll be greeted and led in by two caretakers.  After a neat room-expanding pre-show, you’ll be let into another larger room where you’ll wait to board your “doom buggy,” which is a small ride vehicle similar to those found at Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin and Spaceship Earth.  Unfortunately, this room has become more and more crowded and it can be a bit of a hassle to walk with hundreds of other people down the narrow corridor.  Grab a hold of children to make sure you don’t lose track of them.  The vehicles move on a conveyer belt and will occasionally turn 180 degrees automatically so your buggy is facing the correct direction.  Your slow ride through the Haunted Mansion will take about eight minutes to complete and features some of the best, most detailed scenes and animatronics in all of Disney World.  For a detailed explanation of the story and the different scenes, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Haunted_Mansion

When To Go: To find the shortest lines, visit before 11am or in the last two hours of operation.  Be aware that the Liberty Square Riverboat and Hall of Presidents let out about 750 people every 20 minutes.  Many of those people head here, so try to find something else to do (ice cream sounds good) while the line dies down if you see a horde of people descending on the Mansion.  Also, The Haunted Mansion is usually a walk-on during evening Extra Magic Hours so be sure to check back then as well.  Like most haunted houses, it’s even better after dark.

Expect to Wait: Waits before 11am are usually ten minutes or less.  When the overall crowd level is a five or below and Magic Kingdom is recommended, waits should be 20 or less minutes all day.  When Magic Kingdom is not recommended and the overall crowd level is an eight or above, wait times can peak as high as 40 to 50 minutes between 12pm and 5pm.

Length: 9 minutes

Rating: 9/10

10 Years Plus in the Making: During planning and construction, Disney Imagineers couldn’t agree on the theme or scope of the Haunted Mansion.  At one point, the building was to be surrounded by overgrown weeds, decaying trees, boarded windows, and hundreds of bats.  Walt Disney didn’t like the idea of an ugly building in an otherwise beautiful Park, so the building’s design changed to what you see today.  For a complete background story, make sure to read the Wikipedia article linked above.

Commentary: Although riders expecting a frightening experience will be disappointed, the Haunted Mansion is great fun and one of Disney’s best and most enduring rides.  This is a must-ride for all guests, although youngsters may be too nervous to ride or enjoy the Mansion.  This is also one you’ll probably want to ride at least twice because there’s a lot to see.  This will also give young riders a chance to see that the ride isn’t “scary” the first time and actually enjoy it the second time.

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Liberty Square Riverboat

by josh on May 14, 2010

Liberty Square Riverboat

Opened: May 20, 1973

Location: Liberty Square Riverboat boards across from Columbia Harbour House.  As you pass Haunted Mansion on your right, you’ll see the entrance shortly after.  Heading up from Liberty Square, you’ll see it on your left before arriving at the Haunted Mansion.

Extra Magic Hours: No

FASTPASS: No

Type: Boat ride

Similar To: Unique

Requirements: None

Scary Factor: Zero

What to Expect: The Liberty Square Riverboat is an “authentic” three-tiered paddle wheel boat that has a capacity of about 300 people.  It slowly circles around Tom Sawyer Island and offers fantastic views of Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and several other popular attractions.  The voice of Mark Twain narrates your journey of about one half mile.

When To Go: The Liberty Square Riverboat is a fantastic attraction to ride in the middle of the afternoon when the Magic Kingdom is at its hottest and most crowded.  There are plenty of seats on the boat and it’s much cooler than most other areas at the Park.

Expect to Wait: Because of the large capacity and relative unpopularity of the ride, it’s rare that you’ll have to wait any longer than it takes for the boat to return to the dock.  The boat boards every half hour, on the half and full hour.

Length: 17 minutes

Rating: 7/10

Commentary: This is a great ride if you’re looking to relax and get away from the crowds for a while.  You won’t necessarily be missing much if you can’t fit it into your schedule though.  It’s basically a slow moving tour of what you’ll see while walking around the Park.  It does give you a nice opportunity to slow down and appreciate some of the details of the Magic Kingdom though.  Ride this if you need a break in the afternoon, but skip it if you don’t have the time.

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