Frontierland
Frontierland, in the northwest quadrant of the Magic Kingdom, invokes the American frontier. The period seems to be the latter half of the 19th century, and the West is being won by Disney staffers dressed in checked shirts, leather vests, cowboy hats, and brightly colored neckerchiefs. Banjo and fiddle music twang from tree to tree, and guests walk around munching on the biggest drumsticks you've ever seen.
The screams that periodically drown out the string-sawing are not the result of a cowboy surprising an Indian. They come from one of the Magic Kingdom's big guns, Splash Mountain, an elaborate water flume. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, one of the park's two roller coasters, also gives vocal cords a workout. Other Frontierland attractions are somewhat tamer: Tom Sawyer Island, an enormous landscaped playground perfect for games of hide-and-go-seek; the Frontierland Shootin' Arcade, an electronic shooting arcade that pleases even the sulkiest adolescent; and two musical revues--the Country Bear Jamboree and the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon Revue. The rust-red rock spires of Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain serve as local landmarks and set a landscaping tone best described as "Arid, Extra Dry." In contrast to the lush vegetation of Adventureland, Frontierland is planted with mesquite, twisted Peruvian pepper trees, slash pines, and many varieties of cactus. The unpainted buildings and wooden sidewalks have a ramshackle quality, and even though you know that no dust is allowed in Walt Disney World, the setting evokes dusty thoughts.

Shops and eateries are along the avenue bordering the southern curve of a body of water that looks like a lake but because it variously represents the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and their tributaries is called Rivers of America. Emporia here are generally referred to as "posts," as in the Frontier Trading Post and Prairie Outpost, which sell sheriff badges, leather work, cowboy hats, and southwestern, Native American, and Mexican crafts. Then there's Big Al's, for genuine Davy Crockett coonskin hats. Yee-haw!

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The Walt Disney World Railroad makes a stop at Frontierland. It tunnels through Splash Mountain and drops you off between Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain.

Splash Mountain At Rope Drop, the hordes hoof it to this incredibly popular log-flume ride. Based on the animated sequences in Disney's 1946 film Song of the South, it features Audio-Animatronics creations of Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Bear, Br'er Fox, and a menagerie of other Br'er beasts (including Br'er Frog and a Heckle-and-Jeckle duo of Br'er Crows) frolicking in bright, cartoonlike settings. No matter what time you get there, you will, repeat will, wait in line. So the Disney folks have made the waiting area here as entertaining and comfortable as possible, with lots of large shade trees, little critters in tiny houses, and toe-tappin' country music wafting from speakers hidden in rocks. When you finally do settle into the eight-person hollowed-out logs, Uncle Remus's voice growls, "Mark mah words, Br'er Rabbit gonna put his foot in Br'er Fox's mouth one of these days." And this just might be the day.

As the boat carries you through a lily pond--just bopping with Br'er Frogs merrily singing the ride's theme song, "Time to Be Moving Along"--past signs for Br'er Fox's lair and Br'er Bear's den, Br'er Rabbit's silhouette hops along in front, always just ahead of you. Every time some critter makes a grab for the bunny, the log boats drop out of reach. But Br'er Fox has been studying his book How to Catch a Rabbit, and our lop-eared friend looks as if he's destined for the pot. Things don't look so good for the flumers either, as the boats creak up and up the mountain, past a pair of pessimistic crows. You get one heart-stopping pause at the top--just long enough to grab the safety bar--and then the boat plummets down a long, sharp flume drop right into a gigantic briar patch. In case you want to know what you're getting into, the drop is 52-1/2 ft--that's about five stories--at a 45-degree angle, enough to reach speeds of 40 mph and make you feel weightless. From the boat--especially if you are in the front seat--it looks truly as if you are going to be impaled on those enormous spikes. Try to smile through your clenched teeth: As you begin to drop, a flashbulb pops, so you can purchase a photographic memento of the experience before exiting the ride. Br'er Rabbit escapes--and so do you, wet and exhilarated--to the tune of "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," whose bouncy melody has become something of a Disney theme song. If you want to get really wet--and you will get splashed from almost every seat--ask the ride attendant to seat you in the front row.

Knowing how much we all like to watch people getting the pants scared off them, Disney constructed the flume so that spectators can see the plunge into the briar patch (and sometimes get a little splashed themselves) from a nearby footbridge. In an especially creative touch, it looks as if the log boats disappear into the pond below the briar patch with a giant splash--leaving only bubbles in their wake. Duration: 11 min. Crowds: Yes! Strategy: If you're not in line by 9:45, your only hope is during meals or a parade. Parents who need to "baby swap" can take the young ones to a play area located in a cave under the ride. Audience: All except very young children; they would like the music and scenery but may be terrified by the final drop. No pregnant women or guests wearing back, neck, or leg braces; minimum height: 40". Rating:

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad As any true roller-coaster lover can tell you, this three-minute ride is relatively tame; despite the posted warnings, you won't stagger off, you won't throw up, and you won't vow never to subject yourself to the experience again. The thrills are there, however, thanks to the intricate details and stunning scenery along every inch of the 2,780-ft track.

Set in Gold Rush days, the runaway train rushes and rattles past 20 Audio-Animatronics figures--including donkeys, chickens, a goat, and a grizzled old miner surprised in his bathtub--$300,000 of genuine antique mining equipment, tumbleweeds, a derelict mining town, hot springs, and a flash flood.

The ride was 15 years in the planning and took two years and close to $17 million to build. This price tag, give or take a few million, equaled the entire cost of erecting California's Disneyland in 1955. The 197-ft mountain is based on the monoliths of Utah's Monument Valley, and thanks to 650 tons of steel, 4,675 tons of cement, and 16,000 gallons of paint, it closely resembles the real thing. Duration: 4 min. Crowds: Large. Strategy: Thunder Mountaineers swear that the ride is even better at night, when you can't anticipate the curves and the track's rattling sounds as if something's about to give. But then you'd miss the scenic details. The solution--go twice. Audience: All except young children, though it's a good starter coaster for kids who have mastered Toontown's Barnstormer. No pregnant women or guests wearing back, neck, or leg braces; minimum height: 40". Rating: ***

Set in Gold Rush days, the runaway train rushes and rattles past 20 Audio-Animatronics figures--including donkeys, chickens, a goat, and a grizzled old miner surprised in his bathtub--$300,000 of genuine antique mining equipment, tumbleweeds, a derelict mining town, hot springs, and a flash flood.

The ride was 15 years in the planning and took two years and close to $17 million to build. This price tag, give or take a few million, equaled the entire cost of erecting California's Disneyland in 1955. The 197-ft mountain is based on the monoliths of Utah's Monument Valley, and thanks to 650 tons of steel, 4,675 tons of cement, and 16,000 gallons of paint, it closely resembles the real thing. Duration: 4 min. Crowds: Large. Strategy: Thunder Mountaineers swear that the ride is even better at night, when you can't anticipate the curves and the track's rattling sounds as if something's about to give. But then you'd miss the scenic details. The solution--go twice. Audience: All except young children, though it's a good starter coaster for kids who have mastered Toontown's Barnstormer. No pregnant women or guests wearing back, neck, or leg braces; minimum height: 40". Rating: ***

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