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Friday, March 16, 2012

Top Ten: Disney World Places for Lovers of Retro

Happy Friday! The weather has been just glorious for the past few days and I have been basking in the warm sunshine. Isn't it the best feeling to put on your first sundress of the season?! Well I've been working on this post off and on for a bit... hope you enjoy!

In anticipation of my upcoming trip to Walt Disney World, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite vintage escapes on the property. Most people may not initially think of Disney as a place for retro lovers but when you take a moment, you can see that Disney does a top notch job of transporting you to another place and time. I’ve said it before that my trips there as a child have influenced my love of the fashions and settings of the past. You will notice that about half of the entries are located in MGM (Hollywood Studios) which makes sense as that entire park is themed to be “the Hollywood that never was and always will be.”

1. The Great Movie Ride

The Great Movie Ride (Hollywood/MGM Studios): This ride introduced me to so many genres of movies and absolutely sparked my interest in old Hollywood. I specifically remember seeing the Busby Berkeley girls all lined up in their matching swimsuits looking so glamorous and graceful. And of course I fell in love with the handsome Gene Kelley after seeing his audio-animatronic in the Singin’ in the Rain sequence. But perhaps the most magical scene is when you pass through colorful Munchkin Land from the Wizard of Oz and you can feel as if… just for a moment… you were really there on the set with Judy Garland. This is also an instance where the queue is entertainment on its own with loads of movie memorabilia and clothing. Oh and did I mention the whole thing is inside of a replica of the gorgeous Hollywood Chinese Theater…

2. The Sci-Fi Dine-in Theater

Sci-Fi Diner (Hollywood/MGM Studios): This is a personal favorite of mine. This restuarant allows you to experience a nightime under the "stars" at an old drive-in theater while you dine in your very own car table. Eating here as a child sparked an interest not only in 1950’s nostalgia, but also in old Science Fiction movies and cartoons. I just fell in love with this era’s idea of space travel, aliens, and the future! I remember becoming infatuated with Ed Wood all thanks to the trailer for Plan 9 from Outerspace. Thank goodness my Vampira phase didn’t last very long….

3. The Enchanted Tiki Room

The Enchanted Tiki Room (The Magic Kingdom; Adventureland): This attraction is perfect for both vintage lovers and die-hard Walt Disney fans. Walt fell in love with the Polynesian style and wanted to bring that feeling to his park. The original Enchanted Tiki Room was built for Disneyland in 1963 (during the height of the Tiki craze in the U.S.) and featured the first audio-animatronics, a WED Enterprises patented invention. The Disney World version was one of the opening day attractions on October 1, 1971. I adore this kitschy Hawaiian tribute… it just feels wonderful to surround yourself in this room full of tiki nostalgia and Walt Disney’s innovation.

4. 50's Prime Time Café

50’s Prime Time Café (Hollywood/MGM Studios): Well this is a no-brainer! The café was made to transport guests back to the stereotypical kitchen from the mid 1950’s complete with waitresses that yell at you for putting your elbows on the table. Their menu has home cooked staples such as “Mom’s Old Fashioned Pot Roast” and “Dad’s Traditional Meatloaf”. The décor is a blast from the past with sunburst wall hangings, black and white TV’s, formica tables, and fun nick-nacks. Their dessert menu is on a ViewMaster…. How fun! There is also a full bar called The Tune-In Lounge that is themed like a family room. Ladies… put on a comfy daydress and kitten heels, fellas… go grab your cardigan and horn-rimmed glasses and enjoy!

5. The Carousel of Progress

The Carousel of Progress (The Magic Kingdom; Tomorrowland): So… I feel that this can be an overlooked attraction if you aren’t a huge Disney fan but it is just the neatest audio-animatronics show! Walt had the attraction built for the 1964 World’s fair, then it eventually made its way to Disney World in 1975. You get to see an American family going through the 20th century and experiencing the changes in technology along the way. There is a different scene for each of the 4 time periods which means you get to see authentic clothing, kitchen and household gadgets, technology, and lifestyle changes throughout the century. You start in the early 1900’s, next the 1920s, then on to the 1940s, and finally end at the present day. And don’t even try to get the song out of your head!

6. The Polynesian Resort

The Polynesian (Deluxe Resort): This luxurious resort is another example the wonderful tiki culture that I so cherish and long to recreate. Even though Walt had passed before the opening of this resort, he was around for the initial planning in the 1960’s. He wanted the location of the Polynesian to be the backdrop for Adventureland (and the Contemporary the backdrop for Tomorrowland). I have never had the chance to stay here but have visited many times. The Polynesian is on the monorail loop and you can also take a boat to the Magic Kingdom making it a great place to stop for a short visit. So put on your favorite tropical print dress and some hand-tooled wedges then head to the Tambu Louge to enjoy some vintage tiki cocktails (the Lapu Lapu is even served in hollowed out pineapple!). And don’t forget to throw your best floral two-piece in your straw bag so you can take a dip in the volcano pool!

7. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Hollywood/MGM Studios): Well… the name should give it away, I mean come on… The Twilight Zone; any vintage sci-fi nerd can appreciate that!! “The attraction is themed to resemble the fictional Hollywood Tower Hotel. The story of the hotel, adapted from elements of the television series, includes the hotel being struck by lightning on October 31st, 1939, mysteriously transporting an elevator cart full of passengers to the Twilight Zone” (quote from There is so much detail in this gorgeous out of service hotel from the decorations found in the interior to the gardens around the exterior. Waiting in the queue is an attraction by itself as you can gaze around at a hotel that seems to have been quickly and eerily abandoned.

8. Chester and Hester's Dinorama

Chester and Hester’s DinoRama (Animal Kingdom): This seems to be another overlooked area of the parks for many people. “Chester and Hester’s DinoLand U.S.A: The story goes that DinoLand U.S.A originally started as a small highway town where an amateur fossil-hunter found some dinosaur bones in 1947. Chester and Hester, two locals, were determined to make a quick buck and converted their gas station into a fossil souvenir shop" (quote from The detail found in this part of Animal Kingdom is so creative and fun! If you look down you will notice that you’re now walking on an “asphalt” parking lot. Well… not really… the imagineers just wanted it to look that way but asphalt would not hold up in the hot Florida sun so they had to come up with an alternative. You will feel completely transported back to the roadside attraction nostalgia of a mid-century trip down route 66. Put on your cat-eye sunglasses and enjoy a refreshing coca-cola as you walk through this section of the Animal Kingdom!

9. Tomorrowland
Alright, I know it's a bit unfair to put an entire land in the Magic Kingdom but I just love the feel of the whole area. Space Mountain, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (People Mover), the beautiful Astro Orbiter, and the Carousel of Progress. This area of the parks radiates with that wonderful Jules Verne-esque feel of the future. I especially love riding the TTA and seeing the architectural model of Walt Disney's Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT) originally envisioned as a working city of the future.

10. Dinosaur Gertie's Ice Cream of Extinction

Dinosaur Gertie’s Ice Cream of Extinction (Hollywood/MGM Studios): I realize this is just a quick-service food stop but something about this little gem makes me smile. This “building” was made in the California Crazy style that was popular around the beginning of the automobile age during the early half of the century to catch the eyes of travelers. From the sign near the stand “Gertie first amazed vaudeville audiences in 1914 when she was projected life-size onto a screen and shared the stage with her creator, Winsor McCay.” Perhaps Gertie appeals to me because of her connection with early vaudeville and cartoons. Also… the story is just so fascinating!

Honorable Mention:
The Grand Floridian (Deluxe Resort)

I also think that any lovers of the Victorian era must check out the incredible Grand Floridian Resort. If you can’t afford to stay there (like most of us!) you can stop in at the Garden View Lounge for some afternoon tea and finger sandwiches.


  1. Wow...I had so much fun reading this posting! Thank you for the pics and great comments about the different places in Disney. Guess my favorites are the Carousel of Progress, The Great Movie Ride (especially liked the Casablanca sequence), Prime Time 50's Cafe, Sci-fi Diner, & the Tiki Room. Of course, I always enjoyed going on the monorail and visiting both the The Floridian and The Polynesian.

  2. I've been to all these places with you!!!