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Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival Performers: Jon Secada

posted on March 10th, 2015 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group

Take one look at Jon Secada’s résumé and it’s no wonder he’s been so successful. One of the first Latin crossover stars, he’s a Grammy winner who’s sold over 20 million records. Also an accomplished performer, songwriter and producer, Jon’s starred on the Broadway stage and has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the business—from Gloria Estefan to Frank Sinatra. He even performed for Pope John Paul II.


Lucky for us, he took time out of his busy schedule to chat about his upcoming debut at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (running March 4–May 17, 2015), his career and also his history with Disney.

RUSS: What will it be like to grace the Garden Rocks Concert Series stage for the first time?

JON: Looking forward to it! This will be a different experience because I’m used to playing Epcot in the fall. It should be a lot of fun to experience the park at a different time of year.

RUSS: So what can audiences expect?

JON: The hits. Everything that people know me for over the past 20-plus years. My show’s going to incorporate a little bit of everything that’s a part of my career. But for the most part, it’s a high-energy show with a concentration on the up-tempo stuff in my repertoire. That’s what I like to do. Keep the people moving. Everybody’s walking around and being active. So I like to be active as well.

RUSS: Will you have the same set list for each show, or mix it up?

JON: There are certain songs that stay the same. But the rest, I kind of mix and match with different recordings that I’ve done. So for each set, the fans will get the core songs that people know me for, and then they’ll also get a taste of something different. Maybe a couple of songs that they didn’t hear in the last set. That way, it draws people who maybe saw the last show. You can go knowing that you’re not going to experience the exact same set.

RUSS: How would you describe your music?

JON: It’s pop but with a fusion of different flavors. I grew up listening to R&B, rock, Latin music and jazz. I also studied jazz music. So my music has been kind of a fusion that’s integrated so many styles. There are melodies, hooks and lyrics that you remember and can sing along to. So that’s always been kind of the essence of my career and my recordings.

RUSS: I’m glad you brought up your different influences. How does it make you feel being one of the biggest bilingual crossover stars in the world?

JON: I was very fortunate in the early ’90s when my career got off the ground because I was one of the first artists to have success in both languages. And it created a wave of colleagues, friends and other artists who followed during that decade. It’s been the difference maker in my career. And I’m very proud of my heritage, very proud to be Hispanic-American.

RUSS: Will you be bringing your family?

JON: Yeah, they’ll be coming with me. They love the opportunity every time that I perform to enjoy the parks. We take advantage of maybe spending an extra day or so, whether it’s before or after the shows, to hang out and enjoy all that Disney has to offer.

RUSS: What do you hope people get out of your shows?

JON: Hopefully a strong, very organic, very transparent performance. There’s not a lot of sequencing going on. I truly sing live. I just love leaving it all on stage and being just as high energy and passionate as possible.

RUSS: Your admiration and respect for your fans is obvious.

JON: I owe everything to my fans. It’s the reason I have a career. They’ve really followed me through all the different paths that I’ve taken. And so I really appreciate that.

RUSS: You have a new book, “A New Day,” out. Tell us about it.

JON: Yeah. It was released in both English and Spanish a few months ago. It’s a memoir reflecting on my life and 25 years in the business, incorporating who I am as a Latino. I was very humbled, very flattered when I was approached to do this book.

RUSS: One last question. Just how big a Disney fan are you?

JON: (laughs) I’m a huge fan. My children grew up going to the parks. But I’ve also done a lot of work for the Walt Disney Company through the years. My first big project was the “Pocahontas” soundtrack; I did a duet with Shanice called “If I Never Knew You (End Title)”. And we sang it in English, Spanish and Portuguese. I did the Christmas Day Parade here at Walt Disney World Resort a few years ago. Yeah, so, I’ve had a 20-plus year experience doing different things for Disney along the way. A lot of memories there. Plus, I’d say I go the parks at least twice a year. And my kids, they’re growing older but they still love that experience!

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Filed: Celebrity Visits, Epcot, Special Events, Walt Disney World Resort

#DisneyKids: Experience the Ultimate Day for Young Families VIP Tour

posted on February 26th, 2015 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group

Carpe diem. Seize the day.

That’s exactly what you can do on an Ultimate VIP Tour. Imagine experiencing cherished attractions at three theme parks with fast-tracked access, private transportation and a Table-Service lunch in one of the parks, all in one day — accompanied by a cast member with detailed knowledge of Disney lore.


I recently got the opportunity to go on The Ultimate Day for Young Families VIP Tour, one of two new offerings from VIP Tour Services (The Ultimate Day of Thrills being the other), so I of course jumped at the chance.

Tomorrowland Terrace at Magic Kingdom Park is the starting point for the tour. Tracy, our Tour Guide, handed out bottles of water to keep everyone hydrated and took lunch orders. From there, we headed to Magic Carpets of Aladdin to begin our journey. We hit some classics, including Pirates of the Caribbean and Peter Pan’s Flight, and newer highpoints like Under the Sea~Journey of the Little Mermaid. Then it was off to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (yay Toy Story Midway Mania!), via private van, that included a yummy sit-down lunch at a reserved table. The tour ended on a high note at Disney’s Animal Kingdom with front row seats at Festival of the Lion King, about as close as you can get to this beloved Broadway-style show without being in it.

WDW Attractions Lifestyle Shoot

Entering via the FastPass+ lines made for minimal waiting. Tracy was also in constant contact with Brian, our coordinator, who stayed ahead to ensure everything went smoothly. Patient, personable and well versed in all things Disney, Tracy shared trivia, helpful hints and background information along the way, like giving Toy Story Midway Mania! point-scoring tips and pointing out a hidden Mickey in the flamingo pool on Kilimanjaro Safaris. What a fascinating window into the magic.

In all, we enjoyed 11 attractions in three parks — with plenty of sunshine left at the end to go exploring on our own — accomplishing a lot but never feeling rushed. A steady pace kept us on schedule. It’s a unique, specialized way to splurge on yourself and loved ones, especially if you’re pressed for time.

And though designed with mild thrills for families with children under 10 years old, don’t let the name fool you. The Ultimate Day for Young Families is not just for the little ones. In fact, Tracy said adults frequently enjoy the tour sans kids. In other words, everyone’s the right age. Because fun never goes out of style.

This unforgettable guided adventure (that feels intimate since there is one Tour Guide per every 10 people) through some of your kids’ (and your) favorites while spending less time in line is worth the memories. Heck, maybe you’ll discover something new in the process. I did. Okay, I admit it: Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin was a first for me. What a blast (pun intended)! No wonder it’s so popular.

The tour is offered Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays and lasts six to seven hours. Attractions and entertainment offerings subject to change. The cost is $299 per person, plus tax (theme park admission not included). Call 407-WDW-TOUR (939-8687) for reservations. You can also access the online VIP Tour Services brochure here for more info

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Filed: Disney Dining, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, FastPass+, Magic Kingdom, MyMagic+, Vacation Planning, Walt Disney World Resort

Space Mountain: Laughing, Cheering, Screaming … and Learning

posted on January 7th, 2015 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group

Sure, Space Mountain has been a Magic Kingdom must-do since it opened 40 years ago—January 15, 1975—but did you know that it also teaches kids about physics in fun, interactive ways? Well, that’s exactly what happens with Disney Youth Education Series programs that offer incomparable opportunities for student groups and individual children like yours.

Properties of Motion Physics Lab allows kids to use the scientific method to gain understanding about inertia, centripetal force, speed, velocity and acceleration.


“We give a quick overview of the scientific method and why each process in that method is so critical to Theme Park attraction design,” explains Barbara Blake, Manager, Walt Disney World Youth Education. “Then the students begin experimenting (and developing their critical thinking) as they discover the energy needed to give a roller coaster attraction its effect.” In other words, they learn the difference between potential and kinetic energy.

The kids experience Space Mountain once they’ve made hypotheses about the top speed of the vehicles, the elapsed time of the attraction, the height of the track and the height of the longest drop. And they get to experience it with the lights on. The students review and record their observations then it’s back on the attraction for the same experience, but now in the dark. Who knew Space Mountain was such a great place to learn Newton’s first law of motion?

After a second Space Mountain flight through the galaxy, the students are asked what’s changed? Did the drops get higher? Was the ride faster? They discover how environmental differences—lights on or off—affect scientific observations.

But Space Mountain isn’t the only attraction to serve as a classroom. Because from there, it’s off to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad where Properties of Motion Physics Lab looks into centripetal force, inertia, vertical and lateral g-forces. And at either Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin or Pirates of the Caribbean, the kids learn about the use of pneumatic and hydraulic systems in creating “life’ in the Audio-Animatronics figures.

All the Disney Youth Education Series programs are designed to enhance the classroom experience to show real-world application of principles learned in school. These programs take place in the information-rich setting of Disney Parks in Florida, California and Hong Kong, China. They help students practice teamwork, critical thinking and problem-solving skills even as they participate in unique moments that use the magic of Disney to make learning even more impactful.

“These programs are meticulously conceived under the highest educational guidelines, accredited by AdvancEd, a national organization that also accredits brick-and-mortar schools. The studies are standards-based and designed to reinforce classroom lessons. But what a fantastic way to give students and their teachers a hands-on, educational adventure,” Barbara says.

The Energy & Waves Physics Lab looks at the physical properties of light and sound waves and how Disney uses those properties to create special effects in Magic Kingdom Park.

For instance, the properties of light waves are explored at Haunted Mansion to see how black light (ultraviolet wavelengths), refraction of light and reflection of light work. The students get to go under the working attraction to see the “Pepper’s Ghost” effect that allows the “ghosts” to dance through solid tables in the ballroom scene. What a cool ghoul school!

Any youth group of 10 participants can book a group physics program most days of the year. But for individuals and smaller groups, open enrollment is also offered. Open enrollment dates for individuals at the Properties of Motion Physics Lab at Magic Kingdom Park are July 22, August 19 and October 14, 2015; dates for individuals at the Energy & Waves Physics Lab at Magic Kingdom Park are January 14 and February 4, 2015.

For more information, visit

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Filed: Disneyland Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland, Hotels & Resorts, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Making a Greener Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom Park

posted on October 10th, 2014 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is one of the most anticipated events of the year here at the Disney Parks. It’s a guest favorite and loads of fun. But are you aware of all the eco-friendly efforts that go on behind the scenes?

Trick Or Treat?

Lawrence Whiteside of Magic Kingdom Environmental/Recycling recently shared with the Disney Parks Blog what goes into this green endeavor and why they do it.

“For the last 13 years, the MK Recycle Team and its partners have committed to support our corporate goals and standards. I hope our actions provide a deeper knowledge and understanding of our environmental efforts, and to also inspire others to take action and make even more of a difference.”

Conservation at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is serious business. For instance, some of the initiatives during last year’s party included recycling 25,000 cardboard boxes and 500 pounds of shrink wrap, salvaging Craisin boxes to store over 3,000 pounds of scrap electronics and repurposing “Monsters University” cardboard boxes to help out with the Toys for Tots drive.

The due diligence of the MK Recycle Team during this event just keeps getting greener, according to Lawrence.

“Our environmental successes and stories are a rich part of our history and a key focus of our growth. We not only recycle on stage but, through a collaborative effort, recycling happens backstage to reduce waste and our carbon footprint.”

The Walt Disney Company has a longstanding tradition of corporate citizenship. From providing children’s environmental education programs to pledges to reduce energy and waste consumption on property, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party’s goals fall right in line with this environmental stewardship.

So, while you’re enjoying Mickey’s “Boo-To-You” Halloween Parade, your favorite spooktacular Disney characters, the Happy HalloWishes fireworks spectacular and all the rest of the festivities, maybe you can take a moment to consider the concentrated effort put forth to giving back to Mother Earth.

Though he was speaking specifically of the U.S.A., Walt Disney’s words of wisdom could easily be applied to the big picture: “Its preservation and the wise conservation of its renewable resources concerns every man, woman and child whose possession it is.”

Lawrence echoes those sentiments. “Personally, I think everybody needs to play a role in preserving our planet,”

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Filed: Magic Kingdom, Special Events, Walt Disney World Resort

Try a Slice of Poolside Heaven: Rent a Cabana at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on September 5th, 2014 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group

One surefire way to enhance your Walt Disney World Resort stay even more is to rent a poolside cabana — a private, shaded retreat perfect to while away the hours or to gather with friends and family for some added fun.

Available at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (note, the cabanas at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort are closed during the resort’s renovations), these private sanctuaries include standard amenities like 32-inch LCD television with cable access, DVD/CD/MP3 player, ceiling fan, mini refrigerator stocked with complimentary sodas and water, fruit basket (may only be available with advance reservation), plush towels, and padded chaise lounge and straight-back chairs. Plus, a cabana attendant helps take care of all your needs. Private dining is available at an additional cost.

If you’re splish-splashing at one of the water parks, yeah, you’re covered (pun intended) there, too. Beachcomber Shacks at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Polar Patios at Disney’s Blizzard Beach include a locker, refillable mugs, a cooler full of bottled water, lounge furniture and towels. Attendants also offer “tips and tricks” for the water parks.

Cabanas are a great way to spoil yourself and enrich your whole resort experience. Call 407-WDW-PLAY (939-7529) for reservations and info. You can also visit the Cabanas page on our website.

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Filed: Hotels & Resorts, Walt Disney World Resort

Experience the Ultimate Day VIP Tour at Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

posted on August 15th, 2014 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group

What could possibly be better than enjoying all there is to enjoy at the acclaimed Epcot International Food & Wine Festival? Enjoying it via the Ultimate Day VIP Tour!

Delicious Desserts Tempt the Sweet Tooth

Begin the daylong festivities at the VIP Lounge hidden within the Festival Center at the Wonder’s Retreat. This special tour includes Champagne, a beverage tasting, six-course tapas-style lunch, wine, private backstage tours, time on some of the most popular Epcot attractions, food and beverage pairings with Disney chefs, VIP seating at the Eat to the Beat Concert Series, reserved seating for IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth fireworks spectacular and more. Whew!

Sip, taste and enjoy as you travel World Showcase at Epcot. You won’t want to miss this extraordinary celebration of all things culinary, the grape and brew as your Disney VIP Guides accompany you throughout, highlighting special moments not everyone gets to experience.

Occurring rain or shine Thursday and Sundays on select dates September through November, this private tour lasts six and a half hours and costs $399 per person (21 and up only). Call 407-WDW-TOUR (939-8687) for reservations. You can also access the online VIP Tour Services brochure here for more info.

For more about the 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festive, visit the posts below:

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Filed: Disney Dining, Epcot, Special Events, Walt Disney World Resort

Disney Billboards: More than Meets the Eye

posted on July 30th, 2014 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group


When was the last time you looked at a billboard — I mean really looked? Ever spot a facet of one that you missed at first glance? Something that made it pop?

When it comes to Disney theme park billboards, bet you didn’t realize all that’s entailed into making them so exceptional, filled with sly references and artfully hidden gems. Well, those creative whizzes at Disney’s Yellow Shoes Creative Group know how to ensure they don’t just look amazing and enticing, but also tell a story. But why go the extra mile?


“We hope to remind guests of how much fun they had on the attractions or that they create a sense of anticipation to want to go on them if they haven’t,” explains Yellow Shoes Senior Art Director Steve Carsella. “Having all the details in the billboards is in line with a Disney theme park experience by adding something special wherever you look.”

For instance, on one of the latest Expedition Everest billboards, subtle yet oh-so-clever tidbits include the Yeti’s footprints in what looks like random texture in the snow, an authentic Tibetan carving embedded in the “T” in the word “EVEREST” and the Yeti’s shadow disguised as a rock cropping. Meanwhile, a new Twilight Zone Tower of Terror board includes a falling brick that is actually an old-timey radio that’s a prop from the attraction’s queue and a Hidden Mickey stamped on another brick.

Disney Billboards: More than Meets the Eye Disney Billboards: More than Meets the Eye
Disney Billboards: More than Meets the Eye Disney Billboards: More than Meets the Eye

When designing and implementing billboards, there are general creative tenets that are taken into consideration, of course. Does it accurately depict the attraction? Is it readable? Does it feel cinematic? Are there strong details that don’t impede the message? But it takes that Disney magic of adding just enough originality and ingenuity that assures they are always surprising, dynamic and uncommon.

“I think it follows in the steps of Walt himself to pay attention to the details and to offer our guests something out of the ordinary,” Steve says.

So now that you know, maybe next time you’ll take the time to appreciate all the thought and effort that go into Disney billboards. Just wait until it’s safe to check them out!

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Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort

Light Up Your Night With a Campfire at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on May 29th, 2014 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group

Campfires are a social event like none other. There’s the night sky, the smells of burning wood, the laughs and the kinship. Did you know that they’ve been a beloved and longtime tradition at Walt Disney World Resort?


“They started at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground many years ago,” explains Michael Cooper, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Lodging Line of Business – Recreation. “Then their popularity grew so much that they spread across property.” Today, campfire activities (held nightly, weather permitting) can be enjoyed at many resort hotels.

Marshmallows and sticks are provided at all locations that host a campfire, except for Fort Wilderness, where you can bring your own or purchase a s’mores kit. It’s a great way to relax when the sun goes down after visiting the parks — a roarin’ good time in the great outdoors to gather ‘round and share stories and connect with your little (and not-so-little) ones.

But it’s not all fun and games. “As much as we want our guests to enjoy themselves, safety is always top of mind,” Cooper says. “There are always two cast members present at every campfire to ensure everybody’s well-being.”

For an extra-special treat when the unwinding winds down, the singing and dancing kick in (pun intended) near the Meadows Trading Post at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. The complimentary Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long is a spirited campfire entertainment experience. And an ideal opportunity to interact with two of your favorite Disney characters plus a guitar-strummin’ cowboy.

And if that isn’t magical enough, you can snuggle up with those you care about most and take in a favorite Disney movie on a huge outdoor screen with Movies Under the Stars. Bring your own chair or blanket for these complimentary screenings of Disney films; some resort hotels even offer benches. Can you think of any better way to top off a magical day at Walt Disney World Resort? Yeah, didn’t think so.

For campfire times and movie schedules, check the recreation calendar of the particular location you plan to visit or the front desk at your resort hotel for more information. You can also call 407-939-2273.

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Filed: Hotels & Resorts, Walt Disney World Resort

Lots of Fun Horsing Around at Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on April 2nd, 2014 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group

It’s 7 a.m. and the barn doors slide open. The aroma of hay hangs in the air and soft whinnying can be heard as the horses peek out from their stalls anxiously waiting for their morning grain. The familiar ritual of feeding, grooming and bathing prepares these wonderful animals for their day of entertaining, educating and delighting.

And another day at Tri-Circle-D Ranch begins.

“I love that guests have an opportunity to visit the horses and ponies at the stables in their everyday environment,” says Assistant Animal Operations Manager Jay Sanderson. The barn is open from 10 a.m. to dusk for leisurely strolls to learn about the horses and to observe a genuine blacksmith at work (on select days). Heck, you can even check out the 1907 Dragon Calliope that Walt Disney purchased for the opening of Disneyland Resort. Later featured in the 1960 film “Toby Tyler,” it’s one of those unique Disney history gems not to be missed.

But the ranch doesn’t provide just stable tours. Unique wagon, romantic carriage (at both Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and Disney’s Port Orleans Resort—Riverside) and thrilling horseback trail rides are also offered—and kids love the pony rides!

There are 90-plus residents—including such distinct breeds as Arabian, Appaloosa, Paint, Clydesdale, Percheron, Belgian, quarter horse and Shetland pony—that call Tri-Circle-D Ranch home. While certain breeds pull the trolleys down Main Street, U.S.A. and appear in parades and special events, we can’t forget to mention those lovable ponies that pull Cinderella’s Coach during the enchanting wedding ceremonies on property.

The wagon rides, perfect for the whole family, are one the most popular activities. Two large draft horses pull a rustic wagon that can accommodate up to 35 guests. That may seem like a lot of weight to you and me, but not for 2,000-pound horses that can easily pull three times their body weight. Taking riders through the fertile, green surroundings that encompass Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, the wagon drivers keep the journey lively by offering tidbits and facts about the animals as the wagons pass the Pony Farm and the Draft Horse Barn. Rides last about 45 minutes and are always a big hit. For a really fun time, book reservations (call 407-WDW-DINE) to experience the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Pioneer Hall, then board the wagon to complete your evening out.


In the autumn, an extra-special treat includes the Headless Horseman riding his trusty black steed before Mickey’s “Boo-To-You” Halloween Parade at Magic Kingdom Park on select nights. And in December, guests are thrilled for the opportunity to enjoy horse-drawn sleigh rides at Fort Wilderness. Okay, it’s obviously too warm here for snow, but with a sprinkle of Disney magic, these sleighs just glide right through the Florida terrain.

For Jay, the most rewarding part of his job is “the opportunity to work with the cast members and horses at the ranch to create stories for our guests. These stories are what connect us, and without a doubt, the reason our guests return year after year to visit our magnificent animals. Some of these stories include a bride being picked up in Cinderella’s Coach, a child’s first pony ride, a group gathering on a guided horseback excursion, or even an unforgettable proposal on a carriage ride. These stories cannot be written without the team that cares for our gentle giants on a daily basis.”

Cast members at the ranch are part of Disney’s Animal Programs (“committed to delivering uncompromising excellence in animal care and nature conservation”) that care for the animals across Walt Disney World property. And the equines’ welfare is always paramount. “Our horses and ponies are just as much a part of our team as our cast members,” Jay explained. “They all have a role in the show and get plenty of rest when they are not ‘on stage.’ They work part-time hours, but get full-time benefits!”

The horses and ponies receive top-notch care from the staff, veterinarians, blacksmiths and nutritionists. It includes yearly physical examinations, vaccinations, routine dental appointments and getting new shoes every five to six weeks. Jay likes to call them the “happiest horses on Earth!”

As a child, Walt Disney, a well-known horse enthusiast, would draw his neighbor’s horse “Rupert.” Later, he became an avid polo player. With the Disneyland Resort a glint in his creative dreams, Walt wanted to showcase the animals in his brand-new, never-before-seen-kind-of-theme-park. When it opened in 1955, some of the equine-themed attractions included Stagecoach Ride, Conestoga Wagons, a horse-drawn fire wagon and horse-drawn surreys.

So it made sense that when he was planning Walt Disney World Resort (originally called “The Florida Project”), Walt was determined to repeat history. Tri-Circle-D Ranch was established before opening day, October 1, 1971, so that Walt’s vision of having horses in Magic Kingdom Park would be realized. If you attended the park’s opening, you may have been lucky enough to ride one of the street cars down Main Street, U.S.A. pulled by—you guessed it—horses.

Visit Tri-Circle-D Ranch and you’ll invariably overhear guest comments such as: “Oh my, they’re beautiful.” “Wow, they’re huge!” and “Wait, is that the same kind of horse that’s in those commercials?”

Tri-Circle-D Ranch, located near Pioneer Hall at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, is the perfect place for animal lovers, nature lovers, horse enthusiasts and everyone of all ages in between. Call 407-WDW-PLAY (939-7529) for reservations or 407-824-2832 for more information.

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Ride a Train into Disney History at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on January 23rd, 2014 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group

Clankety clank…chug chug…Woot! Woot!

Anyone who’s been to Magic Kingdom Park is familiar with the ubiquitous Walt Disney World Railroad as it transports guests on its 1.5-mile track. But do you know the story behind the trains? How they run? The names of the trains?

You can learn all that and more, as I did recently, on The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour. This three-hour outing before the park opens to guests, offers a behind-the-scenes peek at the railroad’s operations, led by a tour guide who also happens to be one of the engineers. Joe, our guide, was lively, entertaining and informative, weaving tales of the railroad’s story and its complexities, general railroad lore, and especially of Walt’s longtime affinity for trains.


We found out what the fireman does (fire up and tend to the steam engine…and to “make the engineer happy”), how the station conductor and train conductor coordinate so the trains leave the stations safely, how the steam engines run, and how they’re prepped each morning and repaired in the roundhouse.

The park’s four trains—the Walter E. Disney, Lilly Belle, Roy O. Disney and Roger E. Broggie—run on low-sulfur diesel that heats the water that creates the steam power. Originally wood burners, these rusting steam engines were rescued from Yucatan, Mexico, and painstakingly refurbished to the magnificent machines we know today.

Walt’s fascination with trains began in his youth working for the Santa Fe Railroad. He later built his own railroad, known as the Carolwood Pacific, in his backyard at 1/8 scale. Not surprisingly, Walt came up with the initial sketches for both Mickey Mouse and Disneyland park while riding on trains.

You don’t have to be a train aficionado to enjoy The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour. And the great thing about it is each tour guide is unique, sharing their own wisdom and facts, making each tour a possibly brand-new experience. It’s a fascinating journey into an important chapter of Disney history not to be missed. Call 407-WDW-TOUR (939-8687) for reservations.

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