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Walt Disney’s: Main Street U.S.A.

Walt Disney's: Main Street USA
Main Street USA is the first part of any Disney theme park that a visitor encounters. Here is what one will find at each Main Street, as well as the inspiration around the original one Walt Disney created in California.
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Walking down Main Street has always been a highlight for me. Enjoying the sweet memories that rush in from when I was a child. Anyone who has been to one of the several Disney theme parks around the world will have encountered Main Street USA and those experiences will last a lifetime.

This is the first themed “land” inside the Disney parks. It is the part of the park that you walk through to get to the other “lands” where the rides are located. Most of the Main Street USA areas of the Disney theme parks are quite similar; any differences are subtle, to keep the overall look and feel of the parks similar anywhere in the world.

Your Guide to Disneyland from INA
Your Guide to Disneyland from INA (from my personal Disney Archive)

As an example of a subtle difference, each of the Main Street USA areas has a train station above the entrance, at every Disney park except the ones in Shanghai and Tokyo. Each Disney park Main Street also has a centrally located castle at the end of it, that leads into the portion of the ride of the park. However, the castles have different names at different Disney parks — the original Disneyland in California and the one in Hong Kong call it Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Walt Disney World in Florida and the Disney park in Tokyo call it Cinderella’s Castle, while EuroDisney in Paris calls it Chateau du la Bell a Bois Dormant and the Shanghai Disney park calls it the Enchanted Storybook Castle.

Each park’s Main Street has a Town Square located near the train station. There is also a Hub or Central Plaza at the far end of the street in front of the castle. The Town Square includes a City Hall, where the Guest Relations office can be found.

Main Street USA is lined with shops at any park, and the names that appear in the shop windows are there to honor and commemorate the many people who helped create the original Disneyland and its spinoff parks. Some of the shops are real ones, such as ice cream shops and souvenir shops, but most are fictional and labeled as real estate offices, gyms, dentists, and other such things. In addition to the name on the business, there is also usually a reference to some hobby or other of the person whose name is on the storefront. As an example, Walt Disney’s good friend and early collaborator in animation, Ub Iwerks, is a camera shop, in honor of his skill with cameras.

The Hub or Central Plaza (depending on the park) is an area where the entrances to the other lands of the park can be found. Most parks start with an entrance to Adventureland on the far left of the Hub, then Frontierland, Liberty Square (at Walt Disney World only), Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. The castle also serves as an entrance to Fantasyland.

Walt Disney modeled the original Main Street USA at Disneyland after his hometown of Marceline, Missouri (Marceline was also the inspiration for the town in the movie Lady and the Tramp). The town has been idealized from the original Marceline to be what Walt considered to be the perfect circa 1910 American small town. There are also some elements of the town of Fort Collins, Colorado in Main Street USA, thanks to Harper Goff, one of the Main Street designers. Harper showed Walt some pictures of Fort Collins, which was his childhood home, and Walt took a liking to the town, so incorporated some of the features of it into his design.

Of Main Street USA, Walt Disney said:

“For those of us who remember the carefree time it recreates, Main Street will bring back happy memories. For younger visitors, it is an adventure in turning back the calendar to the days of their grandfather’s youth.”

Main Street U.S.A. Your Guide to Disneyland from INA
Your Guide to Disneyland from INA (from my personal Disney Archive)

Walt Disney kept an apartment for himself above the Firehouse in the Town Square portion of Main Street at Disneyland in California. It was fully furnished, and personal to Walt and his family; it was off-limits to the public. Today, a lamp is always kept burning in the front window of Walt’s apartment in tribute to him, with the exception of the Christmas season, when a small Tannenbaum is placed in the window instead. The apartment is also sumptuously decorated on the outside during Halloween and at Christmas.

At Walt Disney World in Florida, there are elements of New England added to the street, which is a slight change from the entirely midwestern town model used at Disneyland in California. The most noticeable New England-like element of the Walt Disney World Main Street USA is the “four corners” area in the middle of the street; this is where there are different architectural styles on each of the four corners. Also, Walt Disney World has no Opera House on its Main Street USA, as Disneyland does. Instead, Main Street USA at Walt Disney World has an Exposition Hall, which is another New England feature.

In addition to the actual retail shops and restaurants located on the Main Streets in each Disney park, one will also find a real barbershop where one can get a genuine haircut, and Emporium with a wide array of Disney souvenirs like Mouse Ear Hats. There are even a couple of sit-down restaurants on Main Street (instead of its usual countertop soda fountain-esque shops that sell food). These restaurants are Tony’s Town Square and the Plaza Restaurant. There is a place called Casey’s Corner at the end of Main Street USA that serves fare one would find in the stands at an American ballpark, such as hotdogs, burgers, fries, and popcorn. Main Street USA is considered to be the “opening credits” to the Disney theme park it is attached to. As visitors enter the park under the train station and come onto Main Street USA, they view the shops and restaurants leading up to the castle and the entrances to the park’s other “lands.” With the names of notable Disney Company people on the shop windows as one walks by, like the names in the opening credits to a movie, one receives the opening credits experience that generates a thrill of anticipation as one approaches the castle and the entrance to the magic inside the beautiful Disney parks.

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