(A rare sight...an empty Main St. USA! PRO TIP: for your best chance to experience a "near empty" Main St. make a breakfast reservation for before park opening at one of the MK restaurants! Photo cred: Disney Tips).
Welcome to our next installment of the “Around WDW” series where we take a step by step look through our favorite place in the world, Walt Disney World. In this edition, we’ll continue to explore Magic Kingdom with a leisurely stroll down Main St. USA (perhaps the single place out of all the parks that makes us, and probably most of you, feel like you’re IN Disney). From the smell of popcorn, to bunches of balloons blowing in the wind, there really is nothing else like Main St. So without further ado, let's “walk” out of the entrance hub and down Main St.
Did you know that Main St USA is actually considered the first themed “land” in Magic Kingdom? Of course you did, but for those who may not get the chance to visit WDW as often as others, it can be easy to just walk quickly down the middle of the street toward your first ride or show without giving a second thought to the beauty and history around you. We tell everyone we talk to about planning their visit that they need to take at least a couple minutes to really take in all the perfect little touches the Imagineers poured into Main St.
The overall theme of this area is early 20th century, small-town America. Unlike Disneyland (where it was made to resemble a Midwestern town), Main St. Disney World actually gives nods to small towns from various places like New England and Missouri. Take a second to look at the architectural details of the buildings with their turrets, shingled roofs, and intricate trims. Another really cool aspect of the area is how the Imagineers used forced perspective to make the buildings (and castle in the distance) look taller than they actually are! Now, if you are someone who is just walking down the road to get to their first attraction, you could easily miss this, but if you take your time and really observe the buildings, you’ll notice that the second stories (and third if they have them) are actually shorter than the first giving you the illusion of the building being taller. This gives the benefit of the buildings along Main St. looking larger, but also makes the castle look even more imposing in comparison.
(Disney uses forced perspective throughout its parks to make everything feel larger than it actually is! Photo Cred: All Ears)
The thing we enjoy most about Main St. USA though is how it is actually giving recognition to and honoring those who were so vital to making Disney World happen. We personally believe that the main thing that separates WDW from other theme parks are the cast members and seeing those who helped make our favorite place a reality get acknowledged is amazing! If you believe in Disney’s thought that a visit to Disney World is a “show” then Main St. is the opening credits. As you stroll down the street, take a second to check out the windows on the buildings and read what's on them. While the “theme” of that window has been designed to fit into the overall area as a business of some sort, the names on those windows are very real people. For example, look above the Emporium and you’ll see a window for Dr. Gard Walker (the one time President, CEO, and Chairman of Disney)! - perhaps we'll have to do a separate post on all the windows in the future?!
Now, while Main St. USA’s exterior may have experienced some slight changes over the years, it has primarily remained the same since opening in 1971. However, that doesn't mean Disney hasn’t worked to overhaul the area. The biggest change can be seen on the inside of the buildings flanking Main St. When Disney first opened, the stores (while the buildings were connected) were separate, meaning that you had to walk in and out of each one. These stores were also themed individually where you could find different items in each. Everything from a camera store to a penny arcade have graced the buildings in the past, but today it is much different. The exterior of the stores still present as separate locations, but once you walk in you'll see that they are all connected from one end to the other. This is especially so inside the Emporium. We once discussed this with a CM who explained that one of the main reasons behind the change had to do with…the increase in crowds. Opening up the interiors of the building created new exit/entrance paths to use rather than everyone being funneled onto the street creating a bottleneck. It also puts guests inside a store where they are more likely to purchase something on their way out than if they were just walking in the street…this definitely gets us every time ha.
As you walk out of the hub and enter Main St. (facing the castle) the building along your left side is a single store, the Emporium. This is Magic Kingdom’s main gift shop and is one of our personal favorites on property. Here you’ll find everything related to toys, clothes, and houseware. It is also home to the “seasonal” merch. If you’re looking for Halloween decor (in August) or that Christmas Party t-shirt, this is where you want to go. If you walk all the way through the store to the other end, you’ll end up in a small interior dining area for Casey’s Corner before heading out into the eatery's outdoor dining area. Casey’s Corner is home to some of the best hot dogs you’ll get in WDW and a staple for a quick lunch everytime we go (we’ll be sure to do a full review of Casey’s in a future post)!
(The Emporium's Main entrance a the front of Main St. Photo cred: Disney)
If you decide to hit the right side of Main St you’ll actually find two buildings. The first is in the same connected style as found in the Emporium, but still feels like they are separate stores (just with an opening to walk into the next one). First up you’ll enter the recently renovated Confectionary (candy store). Complete with a wall of M&M’s, a make your own savory and sweet popcorn counter, and of course home-made sweet treats this is a kids dream. Before you even enter the store you can already smell the treats awaiting inside all the way out on the street (as Disney pumps the aroma into the area to draw you in)! Once you’ve had your candy fix, you can move into the next area which currently is home to various retro Disney merch (as part of the 50th celebration…I want to know what will happen to the area once the celebration is over - perhaps it will return to an Art of Disney location), and then further onto a Jewelry store, which is also home to the higher end products like Loungfly and Gucci bags!
(The Confectionary has been recently updated on the inside. This includes a much more open feel, a wall of M&M's and a popcorn station).
Like we mentioned earlier, this side of Main St. is actually home to two buildings and upon exiting the Jewelry store you’ll find yourself on a little “side street” called East Center Street. Now the name might seem a little odd as the “east” part indicates that there must be a “west” Center Street as well. However, if you look across Main St. USA from East Center Street you will notice there is not another road but rather just another entrance to The Emporium. Well that’s because at one point there WAS a street there, but an addition to the Emporium building back in 2001 took up that space. What was in that space before the addition took it over you ask? Well everything from a flower shop to a New England clock shop were once located there. Back over on East Center St. today you really won’t find much in the way of stores other than entrances to the main buildings. But that doesn’t mean it’s worth not taking a quick stroll down. If you head toward the back of the street (you’ll find some shaded benches to relax on or a tabe or two) and spend a couple minutes you’ll actually hear the sounds of singing lessons coming from one of the second story windows! This is also one of the usual spots to snag a balloon if you’re looking to get one on your way into the park.
(The rear section of East Center St. has reopened after some "road work" - with the front half now partially blocked off. Photo cred wdwnews)
As we move past East Center St. you’ll come to the last building along Main St. Here you will find 3 eateries (separated in the traditional walk-in-walk-out style). First up is a “more recent” addition to the Disney parks (by more recent we mean for the past 10 years) of Starbucks. Yes, the popular coffee chain has a location right on Main St. USA and serves as the park's bakery and coffee shop (although there is a small Joffrey’s stand in Tomorrowland which we prefer - I know…debate time). We should also point out that in order to keep with the theme of Main St. It’s not technically called Starbucks (although it is on the dining app) but instead Main St. Bakery. Now, after you’ve grabbed your cup of joe, you can head to the next spot, the Main St. Plaza Ice Cream Parlor! This store is located right on the corner of the building and is a great stop to fulfill that ice cream desire when a Mickey bar just won't cut it. Sundaes, cones, milkshakes, this is your small town ice-cream store. Finally, if you hang a right past the ice cream store, you’ll come to The Plaza Restaurant. A small sit-down spot (with seating both indoors and out) here you can grab sandwiches, salads, and a few “home favorites” like meatloaf or chili. (we’ll do a full review of this spot at a later time).
(We LOVE stopping in for a cold treat once in a while...especially when we surprise our son with ice cream for breakfast! Phot Cred: Disney)
Well, there you have it, a brief rundown of Main St. USA. While it’s primarily a shopping location in Magic Kingdom it is honestly one of our family’s favorite spots on property. Nowhere else do we feel as much as “being at Disney” then we do strolling Main St. and munching on some popcorn. We can't stress enough to everyone to be sure to just slow down a little and take in all the subtle details crammed into this area and just enjoy that sense of nostalgia. We’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on Main St. USA and invite you to continue the conversation over on our Facebook page. Thanks for following along on our virtual “tour” and as always,
See Ya Real Soon!