Main Street, U.S.A.
With its pastel Victorian-style buildings, antique automobiles oohga-oohga-ing as they stop to offer you a lift, sparkling sidewalks, and atmosphere of what one writer has called "almost hysterical joy," Main Street is more than a mere conduit to the other enchantments of the Magic Kingdom. It is where the spell is first cast.

Like Dorothy waking up in a technicolor Oz or Mary Poppins jumping through the pavement painting, you emerge from the tunnel beneath the Walt Disney World Railroad Station into a realization of one of the most tenacious American dreams. The perfect street in the perfect small town in a perfect moment of time is burnished to jewel-like quality, thanks to a 4/5-scale reduction, nightly cleanings with a high-pressure hoses, and constant repainting; neither life-size nor so small as to appear toylike, the carefully calculated size is meant to make you feel as though you're looking through a telescope into another world.

Everyone's always happy in this world, their spirits kept sunny thanks to outpourings of music: Dixieland jazz, barbershop quartets, brass-band parades, and scores of Disney films and American musicals played over loudspeakers. Old-fashioned horse-drawn trams and omnibuses--horns a-tootle--chug along the street. Street vendors in Victorian costumes sell balloons and popcorn. And the Cinderella Castle floats at the end of Main Street: the Holy Grail that is for once within reach.

Although attractions with a capital "A" are minimal on Main Street, there are plenty of inducements--namely, shops--to spend more than the 40 minutes most visitors usually take. The Main Street Gallery, a bright yellow, Victorian-style gingerbread building, is filled with animation art and other memorabilia. The Main Street Athletic Shop sells a variety of "Team Mickey" clothing and houses a sports memorabilia museum and small eating area. The Harmony Barber Shop is the place to have yourself shorn. A milliner's emporium stocks Cat-in-the-Hat fantasies. If the weather looks threatening, head for the Emporium to purchase those signature mouse-eared umbrellas and bright yellow ponchos with Mickey emblazoned on the back.

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Main Street is also full of in-jokes for those in the know. For instance, check out the proprietors' names above the shops: Crystal Arts honors Roy Disney, Walt's brother; the Shadow Box is the domain of Dick Nunis, chairman of Walt Disney Attractions; at the Main Street Athletic Shop, Card Walker--the "Practitioner of Psychiatry and Justice of the Peace"--is the company's former chairman of the Executive Committee. At last glance, today's Head Mouseketeer, Michael Eisner, still doesn't have his own shop.

City Hall  This is information central, where you can pick up maps, guidebooks, and inquire about all things Disney.

Walt Disney World Railroad  Step right up to the elevated platform above the Magic Kingdom's entrance for a ride into living history. Walt Disney was a railroad buff of the highest order--he constructed a 1/8-scale train in his backyard and named it Lilly Belle, after his wife. Another Lilly Belle rides the rails here, as do Walter E. Disney; Roy O. Disney, named for Walt's brother; and Roger Broggie (named for a Disney Imagineer and fellow railroad aficionado). All the locomotives date from 1928, coincidentally the same year Mickey Mouse was created. Disney scouts tracked down these vintage carriers in Mexico, where they were used to haul sugarcane in the Yucat�n, brought them back, and completely overhauled them to their present splendor. And splendid they are, with striped awnings, brightly painted benches, authoritative "choo-choo," and hissing plumes of steam. Their 1-1/2-mi track runs along the perimeter of the Magic Kingdom, with much of the trip through the woods. You'll pass Tom Sawyer Island and other attractions; stops are in Frontierland and Mickey's Toontown Fair. Though the ride provides a good introduction to the layout of the park, it's better as relief for tired feet and dragging legs later in the day. The four trains run at five- to seven-minute intervals. Duration: 21 min. Crowds: Can be substantial beginning in late morning through late afternoon. Strategy: Go in mid-afternoon if you don't see a line; otherwise, skip on a first-time visit. Audience: All ages. Rating: *

Main Street Cinema  In the air-conditioned peace of this little theater, six screens run back-to-back vintage Disney cartoons and give you a great opportunity to see the genius of Walt Disney and to meet the endearing little mouse that brought Disney so much fame. Steamboat Willie, the first sound cartoon, was also the first chance America had to meet Mickey Mouse, who, in his silver-screen debut, meets Minnie and is inspired to serenade her using a cow's udder. Disney said that he loved his creation more than any woman, which could make one wonder how Lilly Belle felt about this, especially since it was she who convinced her husband to change the character's name from Mortimer. The fact that there are no seats and the lure of other attractions farther inside the park keep Main Street Cinema from ever being too crowded, but you can sit on the raised platform in the center of the screening room and still see all the films--all of them silents, without dialogue, screened with organ music. Duration: Stay as long as you like. Crowds: Negligible. Strategy: A refuge on hot, crowded afternoons. Audience: All ages. Rating: *

Mickey's Toontown Fair
For a company that owes its fame to a certain endearing, big-eared little fellow, Walt Disney World is astonishingly mouse-free. Until, that is, you arrive here, a concentrated dose of adulation built in 1988 and originally named Mickey's Birthdayland to celebrate the Mouse's Big Six-O. Owing to its popularity with the small-fry set, it was retained year after year under the appellation Mickey's Starland. The area is now an official Magic Kingdom "land," complete with its own ride, the Barnstormer, a pint-size roller coaster.
Like a scene from a cartoon, everything is child size. Its pastel houses are positively Lilliputian, with miniature driveways, toy-size picket fences, and signs scribbled with finger paint. The best way to arrive is on the Walt Disney World Railroad, the old-fashioned choo-choo that also stops at Main Street and Frontierland.


Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacres Farm  Traditional red barns and farm buildings form the backdrop here. The real attraction is the Barnstormer, a roller coaster whose ride vehicles are 1920s crop-dusting biplanes--designed for kids but large enough for adults as well. If there are any questions in your mind as to whether your offspring are up to Big Thunder Mountain, stop here first. Rating: **

Toon Park  This spongy green area is filled with foam topiary in the shapes of goats, cows, pigs, and horses. Kids can jump and hop on interactive lily pads to hear animal topiaries moo, bleat, and whinny. Duration: Up to you. Crowds: Moderate and seldom a problem. Strategy: Go anytime. Audience: Young children mainly, but everyone enjoys watching them. Rating: *

Donald's Boat  A cross between a tugboat and a leaky ocean liner, the Miss Daisy is actually a water play area, with lily pads that spout jumping streams and spray without warning. Although it's intended for the kids, there's no reason for you not to cool off on a humid Central Florida afternoon, too. Duration: Up to you. Crowds: Can get heavy in late morning and early afternoon. Strategy: Go first thing in the morning or after the toddlers have gone home. Audience: Young children and their families. Rating: **

Mickey's Country House  As you walk through this slightly goofy piece of architecture right in the heart of Toontown Fairgrounds, notice the radio in the living room, which is "tooned" to scores from Mickey's favorite football team, Duckburg University. Down the hall, Mickey's kitchen shows the ill effects of Donald and Goofy's attempt to win the Toontown Home Remodeling Contest--with buckets of paint spilled and stacked in the sink and paint splattered on the floor and walls. The flowers in the garden, just outside the kitchen, are shaped like Mickey's familiar silhouette and Mickey's Mousekosh overalls drying on the clothesline next to oversize tomato plants, cactus plants, and pumpkins (complete with ears, of course). Duration: Up to you. Crowds: Moderate. Strategy: Go first thing in the morning or during the afternoon parade. Audience: All ages, although teens may be put off by the terminal cuteness of it all. Rating: **

Toontown Hall of Fame  Stop here to meet and greet Disney characters and check out the blue-ribbon-winning entries from the Toontown Fair. County Bounty sells stuffed animals and all kinds of Toontown souvenirs. Duration: Up to you. Crowds: Can get heavy in late morning and early afternoon. Strategy: Go first thing in the morning or after the toddlers have gone home. Audience: Young children. Rating: *

Minnie's Country House  Unlike Mickey's house, which is somewhat inaccessible, this baby-blue and pink house is a please-touch kind of place. You'll get a look at the life of Minnie, who, as editor of Minnie's Cartoon Country Living magazine, is the Martha Stewart of the mouse set. While touring her office, crafts room, and kitchen, guests may check the latest messages on her answering machine, bake a "quick rising" cake at the touch of a button, and open Minnie's refrigerator door to feel a chilling blast of arctic air. Duration: Up to you. Crowds: Moderate. Strategy: Go first thing in the morning or during the afternoon parade. Audience: All ages, although again, teens may be put off. Rating: **

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