The Seven Wonders of Walt Disney World
The Seven Wonders of Walt Disney World
Looking Beyond the Magic that You See Everyday at Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World is filled with magical icons, experiences and hidden treasures. But there are seven wonders in particular that stand out as truly iconic or impressive in a place that’s built entirely on the premise of being larger than life.
1. Cinderella Castle
The ultimate icon of Walt Disney World is wondrous simply because of its status as the Resort’s biggest single representation. However, there is a lot more going on with this building than meets the eye, which earns it the top spot on the list of Walt Disney World Wonders.
Cinderella Castle is quite ornate and extravagant (in a truly royal manner) and it has stood the test of time in its design to the point that it still appears completely magical to this very day. Disney Imagineers wanted to avoid having to put a flashing red light on top, so that is why the castle was not designed to be taller (to comply with FAA regulations). But Disney Imagineers also wanted Cinderella Castle to appear larger than it actually is. So they employed the concept of forced perspective in their design work — something that was originally implemented in the design work at Disneyland. You can also see forced perspective on Main Street U.S.A. and in other parts of Walt Disney World. Forced perspective forces your eye to see the building as larger than it really is. On top of all that, the ornate collage that graces the walls inside the castle is also extremely impressive (be sure to take notice of it next time you walk through the open castle).
For all of these reasons (and many more), Cinderella Castle is the First Wonder of Walt Disney World. There’s a lot more going on there than meets the eye (including the elusive Castle Suite that lies within).
2. The Savannas of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park
When Disney Imagineers set out to create the landscape plan for Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, they were very adamant about not creating a zoo-like environment for their animals. This meant that they didn’t want to have eyesores such as fences and gates dotting the landscape and site lines. But the challenge became: how do you separate species from different parts of the globe — and their natural predators — without any visual physical barriers? The solution was a creative array of natural barriers, berms and landscaping techniques that all combine to:
1. ensure that the site lines are not obstructed (or distracting) for guests while
2. also ensuring the safety, security and positive living environment for the animals who call this area home.
This was no easy feat, but the Imagineers persevered and the results were incredible. It’s something that is invisible to the eyes of Disney guests, which is precisely how it was intended to be.
3. The Utilidors of Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park
Did you know that Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park is actually the second floor of an elaborate construction project?
Next time you enter the Park, pay attention to the fact that you are walking fairly substantially uphill from the water of Seven Seas Lagoon to the Town Square area right inside the gates. In order to allow Cast Members to be able to perform maintenance and make their way around the park as discreetly as possible, Disney Imagineers came up with the brilliant idea of building an elaborate network of hallways underneath the Magic Kingdom.
While nothing spectacular to look at (this is a “backstage” area, after all), the “utilidors” (the word is a combination of utility corridors) allow for the covert movement of Cast Members from one Disney land to another, out of sight and underground. There are discreet exits and entrances located throughout the park. If you want to see the utilidors for yourself, there are a couple of VIP tours that include this as part of their itinerary. The creation of the utilidors was a brilliant idea and is my Third Wonder of Walt Disney World.
4. The Canals of Walt Disney World
Have you ever wondered how Disney Imagineers converted Florida swampland into the Vacation Kingdom of the World? Have you ever noticed the network of canals and ponds that dot the landscape throughout the 43 square miles of Disney property in Walt Disney World?
Walt Disney World was not always as it appears today. In fact, it took the creative efforts of Disney Imagineers and Roy Disney himself to come up with a magical way to reclaim swampland while redirecting water into ponds and waterways that appear to be (almost) natural. Nearly 50 years later, this is definitely one of the seven wonders of Walt Disney World Resort.
5. Seven Seas Lagoon
We all know the jokes about buying swampland in Florida, but did you know that the shimmering waters of Seven Seas Lagoon were once just that?
It should be quite impressive to everyone that Disney Imagineers dredged this swamp to create Seven Seas Lagoon and link it to Bay Lake next door, which was a natural body of water. The original white sand that you see on the beaches of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort came from the bottom of the swamp. As the story goes, the dredging unearthed this pristine sand and it was then used to grace the shorelines of these two premier Deluxe Disney accommodations.
So the next time you’re skimming across the top of Seven Seas Lagoon on your way to Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park, take a moment to appreciate the Fifth Wonder of Walt Disney World and the fact that the entire area was once one large swampland.
6. Electrical Water Pageant
Did you know that this twinkling night time show has been running virtually unchanged since 1971? Not sure that this is a wonder? Let’s think about it.
The Electrical Water Pageant has been running every single night on Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake for nearly 50 years. That is nothing short of incredible. Unfortunately, many guests who come out to watch the show don’t necessarily know the history behind it and therefore can’t appreciate the significance. Children will always love it because it’s dancing lights and music, but sometimes I’ll hear parents make comments about how underwhelming it is, as if Disney Imagineers just created it.
Back in 1971, this kind of technology was very cool indeed and the fact that Disney has managed to keep this running for decades on end is a feat in and of itself. (The Electrical Water Pageant was originally created to celebrate the opening of Disney Polynesian Village).
The longevity of this show and the fact that it has remained virtually unchanged (except for the music) illustrates why I love Disney Parks and Resorts so much. They really get it. Plus, they have a sense of history and respect for their roots. That helps to keep them grounded in the very reasons that Walt Disney first conceived of Disneyland in the first place. So for all of these reasons, the Electrical Water Pageant has earned its place among the Seven Wonders of Walt Disney World.
While there is talk that the Electrical Water Pageant may soon be replaced with a newer, more high tech version, its spirit will forever remain as one of the true wonders of Disney’s Magic Kingdom Resort area.
7. Top of the World, Bay Lake Tower
DVC members and their guests who stay at Bay Lake Tower have access to the final Wonder on the list.
The Top of the World bar and lounge is an exclusive area that offers several unique experiences from time-to-time, but it’s the lineage of this place that has earned it the final spot on this list.
The original Top of the World was a nightclub at the top of Disney’s Contemporary Resort (now California Grill). Back when I was kid, I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to get into Top of the World, a licensed establishment. When the club was closed in the early 1990s it was a sad day for many Disney historians (me included). So when the spirit of the club was reborn with the creation of Bay Lake Tower next door, the Top of the World was once again a presence on the scene and balance was restored to the Disney universe.
If you ever get a chance to visit the Top of the World, enjoy the view and raise a toast to the spirit of days gone by at the original Top of the World.
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As a Luxury Travel Blogger and author of The Very Best of Walt Disney World Resort, I blog regularly about upscale Disney vacations of all shapes and sizes.
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Mike Belobradic: The Finer Side of Disney Travel
Luxury Travel Blogger – Deluxe Disney Travel Specialist