Magical Blogorail: Lands of The Magic Kingdom – Liberty Square

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Green Loop. Today we are taking a tour of the Lands at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park.


You have arrived at Walt Disney World! Now, where do you start? Most will recommend that you begin your visit at The Magic Kingdom. If you’ve followed this loop in order, you will know that there are many Lands in this particular park. I hope to show you why the smallest of them is still worth your time!

I am concluding the tour of the Lands of The Magic Kingdom with:

LIBERTY SQUARE

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View from the Liberty Belle riverboat

“From this Gateway stirs a new nation waiting to be born. Thirteen separate colonies have banded together to declare their independence from the bonds of tyranny. It is a time when silversmiths put away their tools and march to the drums of a revolution, a time for gentlemen planters to leave their farms and become generals, a time when tradesmen leave the safety of home to become heroes. Welcome to Liberty Square!
―Entrance Plaque

This Land was adapted from a Disneyland concept called Liberty Street, which would have extended from Main Street USA. Themed after colonial America, replicas of both the Liberty Bell and the Liberty Tree can be seen here. Two very popular attractions are also found here, namely The Haunted Mansion and The Hall of Presidents. You can also find the beautiful Liberty Belle steamboat.

Many beautiful sights can be enjoyed from her deck:

Liberty Belle

The following thumbnails will attest to this fact:

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Below you can see The Liberty Belle coming and going:

Rivers of America     Liberty Belle sailing

You can even find references to old live-action movies, like Wilson’s Cave Inn from the Davy Crockett adventures where he met Mike Fink. Mike Fink’s Keel Boats ran on the same waters as the Liberty Belle from 1971 to 1997.

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And some good-natured fun can be had in the stockades! Although, I doubt prisoners found them much fun back in the day!

Fun

Here are some Fun Facts about Liberty Square:

  • Find the replica of the House of Burgesses and look upstairs in the window to find Paul Revere’s lanterns signifying “Two if by sea”.
  • The Liberty Tree is an actual 100-year-old oak found on the property and transplanted, with a younger oak grafted into the base.
  • The Liberty Bell replica was cast from the mold of the actual Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. It is the only bell ever cast from these molds.
  • The Liberty Bell was placed in Liberty Square in 1987 to commemorate the U.S. Constitution’s bicentennial.
  • There are architectural representations of each of the original Thirteen Colonies.
  • The state flags of each of the original 13 states, as well as the American flag, fly in a plaza in the center of Liberty Square.

There are three restaurants to choose from: Columbia Harbour House, Sleepy Hollow, and the Liberty Tree Tavern. Shopping opportunities are slim!

So if you like history and want a smattering of it during your next vacation, be sure to take in the atmosphere and edutainment of Liberty Square!

For more tours of the lands of the Magic Kingdom, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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Book Review: The Magic of Disneyland & Walt Disney World

I love finding books about Disney and the Disney parks. But this book I passed over several times before I finally broke down and bought it. The reason I didn’t buy it the first time I saw it was that it was in deplorable condition! In fact, it had been a library book but had been stamped  DISCARD no less than three times.

However, the photographs from Disneyland and Walt Disney World along with film stills were so good, and large, that I shelled out the $3.00 CAN and took it home.

And here it is, in all its ragged glory:

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Magic of Parks Book 003          Magic of Parks Book 005

Left: Back Cover / Right: Front Cover, no sleeve

Valerie Childs has released a few different titles about the parks with this one coming out in 1979. After several pages of history on Walt Disney and the parks, she gets right into the meat of the book, which is the beautiful pictures. But first:

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Can you find your pre-’79 favorite character?

Now let’s see some of the double-fold pages:

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WDW: Title Pages

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WDW: A memorable meeting with Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy

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DL: Admiral Joe Fowler next to Liberty Square

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WDW: Rainbow-colored balloons

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WDW: Empress Lilly Riverboat on Lake Buena Vista

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DL: It’s a Small World attraction

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DL: Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship and The Skyway

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WDW: Main Street and Cinderella Castle at night

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DL: Rocket Ships in Tomorrowland

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WDW: Mickey Mouse tees off on the 12th Hole

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WDW: The Polynesian Village Resort Hotel

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A final ‘tee-hee’ from Tigger!

I’m glad I finally broke down and bought this book, despite its condition. You can still get copies of this book on Amazon, mostly used, but some new hardcover copies as well. Most of the copies I’ve seen were from 1980 or later, so likely are second printings.

I’d give this book a 5 out of 5 Stars simply because of its beauty and that it achieves what it set out to do, that of being a giant picture book for adults! But kids can look at it too.

Magical Blogorail: Disney Photography Tips

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Red Loop. Today we are sharing tips to get great photos on your Disney vacation.


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We all like to get our pictures taken with Disney characters! But with the long lines and the short time available for posing, it can be hard to get anything other than the standard stand-and-smile shot like the one above.

So today I’m here to help you one and all break out of the same-old same-old with tips on how to get great character photos:

T I P    o n e    T I P

Photograph Characters on Their Own

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This is perhaps one of the hardest things to achieve due to the popularity of the characters, especially with the youngsters, who tend to rush up almost before the last guest has cleared the posing area. But with patience and good timing, a great shot can be had!

The one above was taken just before the meet-and-greet officially opened, so Aladdin and Jasmine were waiting off to the side, away from the crowds.

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The picture of Mary Poppins was achieved through the miracle of cropping. A little guest was rushing over to the Practically Perfect Nanny when I saw my opportunity. With just two feet remaining between this shot and the inevitable hug-filled greeting, I had room to isolate my subject in post-editing!

Donald was easier, as he was on the way down the ramp from the Aztec Temple in the Mexico Pavilion. He saw me lining up the shot and struck this pose. Thanks Donald!

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Photograph Characters Interacting

Warm Hugs

Photo Credit: The Mousekatools Mom

We all know Olaf loves hugs, so this shot really plays to his strength. With everyone in on the premise, we have a great , and heartwarming, moment captured forever!

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Most face characters will take the time to speak and interact with each guest, especially if the guest is a cute little child! Both Alice and Mary Poppins took the time to engage these little girls. One with a conversation, and the other by putting the little one to work! Can you imagine how thrilling it would be to hold Mary Poppins’ umbrella?

These kinds of shots capture a moment in time that will never be repeated by your child, and not exactly by another child. This makes each shot priceless!

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Photograph Characters in Close-ups

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If you just have to have the obligatory stand-and-smile shot, make it more interesting by cropping out the extra stuff that does not add to the finished product. Legs, for example, aren’t that interesting and so can be amputated in post-editing.

Another tip for making this kind of shot better is to, if possible, choose a neutral background. Nothing can wreck a great shot like an unintentional photo bomb from some other park guest who is unaware they are in the frame. Hence the weird facial expressions or nose-picking moments that are all too common among the background extras when taking a character shot!

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Photograph Characters Being Funny

Alice in Funland

Photo Credit: Home is Where the Mouse Is

Welcome to Alice in Funland as she introduces this guest to a new way of getting an autograph! As you can imagine, this was fun for the subject, and is much more interesting for those who will look at the picture later.

Fooling Around

Photo Credit: My Pixie Dust Diary

This is a nice shot because it shows a bit of the personality behind the character. Chip is being silly as he helps his littlest poser obtain the same height as her brother. Mischievous. And priceless!

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Photograph You Being Funny with Characters

Oh no you didn't

Photo Credit: Love Our Crazy Life

Doing something funny with a character is a great way to get a unique shot. Of course, if you want to try the pose above, you might want to bring your own apple. I’m just saying.

Don’t be afraid to really ham it up! Most costumed and face characters love it when they get a ‘live one’ to break up the shift.

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Utilize PhotoPass Add-ons

If you’re OK with spending some extra money to get the professional shots from the PhotoPass Photographers, be sure to check out all of the great add-ons and fun extras available to you.

For example, you can add borders:

Borders

You can add Disney characters, and pretend they are posing with you, or photo bombing you:

Characters

And don’t forget the ride photos. Because a ride is a character too!

Ride Photo

And last but not least, be sure to ask your PhotoPass Photographer if they can add any special elements to your picture in post-production. Like this:

Tinker bell add on

Photo Credit: My Pixie Dust Diary

I hope these tips have given you some ideas for your next photographic adventure at Disney!

For more Disney photography tips, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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Magical Blogorail: Family Adventure – Museums

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Peach Loop. Today we are discussing museums that your family needs to visit.

THE   HENRY   FORD

HF Museum

My wife and I first visited this museum in 2007. At the time, we were living just outside of Windsor, ON. Being as this was just across the Detroit River from Dearborn, MI. it made for a short drive, and we had season passes for a few years.

Partnered with The Henry Ford is Greenfield Village, a re-creation of turn-of-the-century living featuring actual historic houses and industrial buildings from around the United States. But more on that later.

Henry Ford was an avid collector. Of course, his collection of cars is front and center in this museum:

HF Car

But he also collected planes, trains, farm equipment, antiques, furniture, silver artifacts, chandeliers, and so much more. So this museum is a well-rounded peek into the past! And also a peek into the humorous side of this famous man:

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Don’t you wish you were an Oscar Mayer wiener… mobile?

Did I mention Henry Ford collected everything? I purchased a book called Dog Days: A Year in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile by Dave Ihlenfeld and it was a real hoot! The cover features a Wienermobile parked in someone’s driveway. Too much!

The museum even has some unique things you can’t find anywhere else, like these concept models:

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The one on the upper left became the 1960’s Batmobile!

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Now onto Greenfield Village:

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This working village is made up of a farming community, an industrial section, a Main Street area, and a residential district. Model T Fords whisk you along paved roads past Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park factory, the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop and homestead, and even Mr. Webster’s house, where you can see a display of his works, including his most famous dictionary.

These buildings aren’t replicas! They are the actual houses, bought and saved and moved, brick by brick or board by board to Greenfield Village. Yes, you will be walking on the same floors as the famous people listed above!

Oh, and Henry Ford even moved the farmhouse of his friend Mr. Firestone to the farming district. You may have his tires on your car.

But the Village isn’t just about historic houses. Each year they have two car shows: The Motor Muster and Old Car Festival.

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Muscle Cars and Vintage Automobiles

And they have Jazz Festivals, Food Festivals, Holiday Events, and so much more. Even celebrity trains drop by:

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There are similarities between Disneyland and Greenfield Village. Both have vintage carousels, steam trains that circle the property, period-costumed characters roaming around, and vintage vehicle rides.

GV Train

All Aboard!

And just one more thing before I wrap this up: Walt Disney visited Greenfield Village twice before he opened his first theme park, Disneyland, in 1955. He posed for a tintype picture while visiting the Village on April 12, 1940.

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Walt Disney

Karen and I consider The Henry Ford/Greenfield Village our second home-away-from-Disney! The sheer number of things to see and do, the level of quality and cleanliness, and the friendly staff, make this museum every bit as exciting and memorable as a visit to Disneyland or Walt Disney World!

And I don’t say that lightly!

For more information on museums to visit with your family, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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Magical Blogorail: WDW Value Resorts Review

Value Resorts Offer Way More Eye Candy

AoA Resort

Welcome to the next stop on Magical Blogorail Orange. Today we are reviewing the value resorts at Walt Disney World.

It is common to think of the value resorts only in terms of money. How much can I save by staying at one? But we might also think of them in terms of fun for families. How kid-friendly are they? Or we might choose one based on location. How close is it to my favorite theme park? All of these reasons for staying at a value resort are valid!

But you just know they aren’t the reasons I’m going to promote! No, I love the value resorts because I honestly feel they have a higher level of theming than both the moderate and deluxe resorts. Visit the Coronado Springs  or Polynesian resorts and you’ll come away with a few dozen photographs. Visit a value resort, like the Art of Animation (pictured above) and you can potentially come away with literally hundreds of amazing shots!

Pop Century

Pop Century Resort

Each value resort has a theme worthy of a photo essay! So let’s break them down:

All-Star Music – Music styles include: Calypso; Rock; Country; Broadway; and Jazz

All-Star Sports – Duh! But seriously, the sports represented are: Surfing; Baseball; Basketball; Tennis; and American Football

All-Star Movies – Expect to see giant representations of: 101 Dalmatians; Toy Story; Fantasia; The Mighty Ducks; and Herbie, The Love Bug

Pop Century Resort – Featuring pop cultural icons such as the: Yo-Yo, Mickey Phone (pictured above), Big Wheels, and too many more to list here!

Art of Animation – Four mega-themes: Cars; Little Mermaid; Finding Nemo; and Lion King

Of these five resorts, I’d say the best for theming are the Pop Century and Art of Animation. This is not to say the other resorts don’t yield magnificent photo opportunities, especially if music, sports, or movies are your thing. But Disney seems to have added so much more to the last two value resorts.

All Star Music

All-Star Music Resort

Karen and I stay almost exclusively at value resorts, even though we don’t have children, and could save up to stay at more expensive lodgings. But just walking through the themed walkways of each section of a value resort almost makes our vacations!

So when you’re looking to book your next on-site resort, don’t forget to consider the most themed resorts of all: Disney’s All-Star and Value Resorts!

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Review: Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage in Disneyland

In January of 2013 we took our first ever (and only, at this point) trip to Disneyland. The weather was cold and wet but we enjoyed ourselves anyway! On one of the rare sunny days we decided to continue the wet theme by taking an undersea voyage on a classic attraction:

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Not the big red thing, the smaller yellow thing below it

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage is a reworking of the old North Pole Expedition (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Voyage in WDW) and one of my favorite attractions. John Lasseter oversaw the bringing back of this great ride and Disney pumped millions into making it perfect.

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Our voyage would be aboard the Neptune

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I wonder what happens if you press the BIG red button?

Disneyland 414     Disneyland 416Boarding is slow, yielding long wait times, but worth it!

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And away we go around the Lagoon

Disneyland 417 Disneyland 425Submerging to find the beauty below

When this attraction was coming out of a refurbishment, some sites claimed, or hypothesized, that Disney was going to close this attraction because it was to expensive, with long wait times. I never believed this to be a real possibility due to the sheer amount of money that was pumped into it. So far, I seem to be right as it is still sailing as of this date!

I’m glad it’s still here and prettier than ever!

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Photography and Disney Photo Pass Tips

… that you can find many interesting things just by looking up, down, or behind the obvious photographic opportunities? Today I’m going to share Four Tips that I used when visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2010:

DID YOU KNOW NO. 1

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Little details are everywhere

Just after you enter the Park but before you start down the main street, you can find this survey marker (but I’m not going to tell you just where.) It’s obvious that it doesn’t mark the center of the Park, but must be used, or was used to map out the sections at one time or another. It’s a great little Hidden Mickey that most just step on or over on their way to the E-ticket attractions.

So keep your eyes open for what others may miss!

DID YOU KNOW NO. 2

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Characters can be photographed on their own

If you’re patient and then very quick! Often I don’t want to wait in a long line to pose with a character but still want a picture of them. Sometimes there is a lull between guests, perhaps when a child is a bit shy, and must be coaxed to approach. Usually the Cast Member will stay on model and continue to act and move like the character even though there is no guest immediately in view to interact with.

Have your camera ready and capture that one-of-a-kind shot!

DID YOU KNOW NO. 3

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Many attractions have a unique feature

I had visited this attraction, The Tower of Terror, many times before I noticed this fantastic (and eerie) smoke effect. At first it may simply appear as if the sprinklers have come on to water the foliage, but Disney wouldn’t do that and soak guests in line. Once again, it’s something that only patience and/or timing will allow you to capture.

DID YOU KNOW NO. 4

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PhotoPass Photographers will shoot in any direction

I know! As a photographer, you like to be the one taking the pictures. But sometimes you want to be in the shot and so you avail yourself of the PhotoPass option. Most PhotoPass Photographers have their tripods set up to face a particular Disney backdrop. In the photo above, the PPP was actually facing the opposite way so that the Sorcerer’s Hat would be behind us. We hate that hat! So we asked the PPP to swing his tripod around and use the Crossroads booth for our backdrop. After a moment of silence (complete with stunned look) he complied.

This gave us a unique shot that perhaps no one else has, and gave the PPP a new story to tell. Win win.

So did you know these things?

King ‘Mickey’ Kong Climbs New York’s Times Square

I’m always trying to find unusual things to photograph and this fun picture presented itself while I was visiting the Disney Store in Times Square, New York:

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I wonder how many litres are in that Corona Light?

I wanted a shot that would show both Times Square and represent the reason for my visit which was, of course, the Disney Store. So this shot of a huge Mickey Mouse seemingly climbing the side of a building like King Kong was ideal.

Fortunately, I’m the only one who shot him!

Visiting Florida Without Going to Walt Disney World

There’s more to Florida than Walt Disney World. There, I said it. The last visit we took in January yielded an opportunity to really explore the State and see its many attractions and natural beauty. We visited museums, beaches, stores, and more.

Here are some of the highlights in pictures:

Sunshine

   Disney Last Days 174After all, Florida is called the Sunshine State. Most of our visits over the years have been blessed with lots of sun and high temperatures. Above, I am cleaning the excess sunshine off my windshield so that I can drive safely.

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I was staying with the in-laws in a rather large trailer community and got lost trying to get out. I ended up at a golf course where I was delayed as these four birds decided to cross the road. I guess the answer to the famous joke as to why a bird would cross the road is ‘to play golf’!

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Birds on the beach and… at Wendy’s Restaurant.

Scenery

today 006today 030     So many interesting shapes and shades of colors

I find the indigenous plants to be very interesting subjects for photographic essays! I rarely visit Florida without coming home with hundreds of scenery shots.

Lastly, I have an exclusive shot of a new Hotel on one of the beaches:

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It may not be a Marriott Hotel, but these small snails seem to consider this heel from a flip-flop shoe to be 5-star! My wife found this and called me over and we enjoyed watching the snails heads come in and out of their shells… until the tide came in and gave us all soakers!

So these are just a few of my impressions of Florida, not as a tourist trap, but as The Sunshine State.