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Entering Disneyland, especially for the very first time, is always a breathtaking experience you won’t soon forget. In fact, it’s such an overpowering sight, that you may get lost and dazed. At park opening, most guests make a mad dash for their favorite attraction, whether it be Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, or the Indiana Jones Adventure, but if you were to stop and take a few moments to wander Town Square right when you enter, you may find yourself having an unexpectedly good time. Personally, I’m a mark for Main Street U.S.A. with it’s nostalgic look at mid-western town.
A few years back, I had my biggest Disney Geek moment at Disneyland….EVER! I convinced all of my friends to wait around on Main Street with me to ride down to the castle in the antique firetruck. So, why would I tell this story on this blog? Well, it’s been told that the Firehouse held a special place in the heart of Walt Disney. Many mornings you would see him riding up and down Main Street driving the firetruck before park opening. It was his own vacation away from the studio. He loved the truck, and for myself and my friends to ride along in it meant more to me then blasting off on the fastest or longest attraction. There was a sense of history and childhood innocence to that ride towards Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Not only was Walt fond of his firetruck joy rides, but he decided early on that the Firehouse would be his home away from home. Above the first floor where the firetruck is parked is an apartment that Walt had designed and built for himself. In the early years of Disneyland, he would spend the weekends there, watching over the park from the second story balcony or entertaining his grandchildren. Lilly, Walt’s wife, was also a huge help in decorating the Firehouse apartment. Lilly’s love for antiques lent to the nostalgic and historic feel of Main Street U.S.A. making the apartment seem authentic to the atmosphere around it. Walt would also have business meetings there, or for a bigger party at Club 33. He also had plans to build a bigger apartment for himself and his family on the second story of the Pirates of the Caribbean building, however he passed before the project was completed.
Today, Walt’s Firehouse love can still be seen. Cast Members have a lantern in the window lit at all times and is visible to all guests who enter Disneyland. The light represents Walt’s spirit and his vision of the park will inspire generations to come. The apartment is still used by Disney executives and Disney family members from time to time. (You may notice that when the doors to the Firehouse are shut, that means there is someone in the Firehouse.) Meetings between executives are also held there but infrequently. The Pirates of the Caribbean apartment was finished in the vision that Walt wanted in October of 2007. The apartment was named the Disneyland Dream Suite. A one night stay in the Suite is given out as a prize through various promotions and contests that Disney holds.
So next time you step on to Main Street U.S.A., look for the Firehouse and bow to the lantern in the window, thanking Walt and his spirit for all he has given us, or make a mad dash for Space Mountain. I won’t tell you how to spend your day at Disneyland, but if you want a bit of history or Disney nostalgia, go the place Walt called his home away from home and take a ride in the firetruck.
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