This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America). July 4th weekend brings out the patriotism in all of us, and nothing is more American than our favorite theme parks. Created with the opening of Disneyland in 1955, theme parks — along with comic books and jazz music — are one of the rare forms of art that we in the USA have given to the citizens of Earth. Thankfully, they are all so good that the world forgives us for everything else we’ve given them such as Zima, reality television, and the KFC Double Down. So raise Old Glory up to full staff, put Real American on the
CD mp3 player, and let’s dive into some theme park American goodness starting with…
# 6 – Voices of Liberty (Epcot)
Located at the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, the Voices of Liberty are an 8 person a cappella group that will have your heart swelling with pride as they belt out some of the most well known songs paying tribute to our country’s rich history. The playlist includes: “America the Beautiful,” “This Land is Your Land,” “This is My Country,” “You Raise Me Up,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” And you just may hear a song from a little movie called Frozen…
# 5 – Electrical Water Pageant (Walt Disney World)
One of our favorite parades is the incredible Electrical Water Pageant that takes place along Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. We’re not sure what is more amazing: a parade taking place in a lagoon or the fact that it has been doing so in various incarnations for over 40 years! We all have our favorite floats (our personal favorite is King Neptune and the four seahorses), but the parade ends with the floats turning into American flags along with red, white, and blue stars while patriotic music plays. Now that’s how you end a show!
# 4 – Liberty Square Riverboat (Magic Kingdom)
An often overlooked attraction at the Magic Kingdom, the Liberty Square Riverboat takes guests around the Rivers of America in a uniquely American form of transportation, the steam-driven riverboat. With narration by Mark Twain, the Liberty Belle is a 17 minute voyage that – like the Walt Disney Railroad – takes guests past several sites they cannot see while touring the park by foot. With four decks to explore, a relaxing jaunt on the Liberty Belle could be just what the doctor order as you try to navigate the congested streets of Liberty Square.
# 3 – The American Adventure (Epcot)
The American Adventure is a walk through American history narrated by audio-animatronic versions of Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain, two of our country’s most iconic figures. The Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II are briefly touched on as over 200 years of America are condensed into about 20 minutes. Using a combination of animatronic scenes and video, the American Adventure is amazing to watch just from a technical perspective. This is Imagineering bringing its A-game, brilliantly taking advantage of limited space and challenging subject matter and presenting it in a uniquely interesting way.
# 2 – USA Themed Fireworks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
No one does fireworks better than Disney, but to celebrate America even Disney takes its normal show up to an “11.” Our favorite is at Magic Kingdom, as not only are the outrageous fireworks lighting up the sky with a rousing score, but patriotic displays are also projected onto Cinderella Castle. The sheer over-the-topness of it all screams AMERICA and is an experience no one else in the world offers.
# 1 – Main Street USA (Magic Kingdom)
Nothing is more American than Main Street, U.S.A., in the Magic Kingdom. Nothing. You could take a picture of a bald eagle eating an apple pie on the top of Mt. Rushmore, and it still wouldn’t evoke the Americana feelings that come when Main Street, U.S.A., reveals itself as you walk under the Walt Disney World Railroad and into the Magic Kingdom. Main Street, U.S.A., sets the tone of your park day, as guests are transported to a different time and place, one in which you can leave your real world worries at the front gates.
A turn of the century small town American street should feel antiquated, but, all things considered, when you take the buildings (both inside and out), the period-authentic vehicles, the streetmosphere, the background music, the parades, and all the “little things” (such as the iconic Mickey balloons), Main Street, U.S.A., is a wonderfully immersive experience that all the theme park lands built afterwards have a hard time competing with. It draws us in without the lure of an E-Ticket attraction or a big movie tie-in and is a reminder of the visionary that Walt Disney was. Main Street, U.S.A., is a slice of America history that most of us today never experienced, but it feels as real as the streets we return to when we come home from vacation.
HONORABLE MENTION: Captain America (Islands of Adventure)
America’s super soldier, Captain America meets guests daily at Marvel Superhero Island. The origin of Captain America himself is tied to World War II and – in the pages of comic books – was fighting the Nazi army in Europe months before America itself officially entered the war in December of 1941. Draped in the red, white, and blue, Cap is the living embodiment of everything many of us strive to be: courageous, loyal, selfless, and unshakably honest.
So there you have it: a SATURDAY SIX Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America.) See you next weekend for the latest edition of the Saturday Six, where we are going to look at the new Hogwarts Express attraction at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. Yes, the first attraction in the HISTORY of theme parks to go from one theme park to another. If you had fun, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast.
Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, Omnibus driver Kendra Hayde, photo wunderkind Mike Sperduto, Disney Photography Icon Tom Bricker, and – of course – Blogger to the Stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and the afore mentioned Brian Carey, and I highly recommend checking out Kendra’s Flickr account to see some absolutely gorgeous shots of the Walt Disney World parks.
FINAL PLUG! Did you know The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. PRE-ORDER this baby now! (For every copy sold, a percentage of the profits* go towards buying a DVD of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train rap video.)