Every time I go to Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean, I fall in love with the map. You know the one. The soggy guide map crumpled in a corner, with a coke spilled over it, seemingly missed by every cleaning crew since last Thanksgiving, and still promoting Captain EO on the cover. You can actually read the parade times, if you bend down close enough. That thing is awesome.
But there’s also a great large map that closes the ride, and visible when you first enter the queue. The one with the talking parrot, who also has the parade times, if you know how to ask. Anyway, that map is one of those great old pirate maps showing buried treasure, lost caves, and the nearest Panda Express. And right at the edge of the map, the unexplored territory, with the inscription “Here There Be Monsters.”
|My other favorite detail is the shadow of an airplane passing over the island on the lower left.|
That line made it into the first Pirates movie. It’s a foreboding and wickedly delightful way to say that you are now in uncharted waters. Someplace where mortals fear to tread. Mortals can’t tread on water anyway, so that makes sense.
I say all this because when it comes to Walt Disney World, there are very few uncharted waters. Fans like us live at the parks, and some of us even get prosecuted for it, because you are not supposed to be on Tom Sawyer Island after dark, hiding under a bridge and hoping nobody finds your sleeping bag and the tins of franks-n-beans you stashed in the bushes behind Aunt Polly’s. I personally go to the parks on average 2 or 3 times a week, and have been doing so since I moved down here several years ago. There are some people who are even crazier than I am. I began to wonder if it is even possible that there are places inside the parks that I have yet to visit.
You read things on message boards about supposed fans who have never seen Hall of Presidents or something, despite dozens of visits. I find such things inexcusable. So I proposed a little challenge for myself. I wanted to see if I could find a hidden corner of Walt Disney World that I had never before set foot in. One a week in each of the four parks.
Obviously there are going to be some limitations. We have to think small in scope. There aren’t going to be any attractions that I haven’t seen at least once. I’ve even seen Disney Jr. a few times, which is extremely uncomfortable for a lone adult male waiting in line, pretending to buddy up with a few preschoolers (come on, people, I’m only kidding — if I’m going to buddy up with preschoolers, I’ll do it at the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground by offering them free candy, like any rational person). But it can’t be too small in scale, like a park bench that I’ve never sat on, or a paver block that I’ve never walked over. It’s got to be a legitimate room or place. Oh, and it has to be someplace all guests have access to. No backstage areas. No Future World corporate lounges. And since I’m technically allowed in only half the bathrooms, those can’t really count either.
I predict that Epcot will be the easiest for me. There’s a restaurant or two in World Showcase that I’ve never eaten at, and a couple Innoventions exhibits too (mainly because most Innoventions exhibits do not allow you to eat in them). But the other three parks are indeed a challenge. Part of the problem is that if you’ve never been to a place, it’s hard to imagine yourself being there. There must be blind spots, but I’m rather blind to them. So this week I started with the park I thought would be the hardest (if I’m going to fail, I’d rather do it quickly).
I walked all over the Magic Kingdom, and visited all my old haunts. The little courtyard tucked away at the entrance to Pirates. The recessed smoking area off to the right of Space Mountain. The overpass seating area of Columbia Harbor House. It took all evening, but I eventually did find someplace I’ve never set foot in.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway Grandstand!
|Futuristic Indy racing is nowhere near as popular as Futuristic NASCAR.|
For those of you unfamiliar with this little gem, it’s a waiting area (I think) for people who don’t want to ride the Speedway with everyone else in their party. Like grandstands at real auto races, this one gives you a breathtaking view of a concrete loading zone, complete with authentic exhaust fumes and obnoxiously loud revving engine noise. Here you can curl up for a nap, breastfeed your infant, and catch up on your carbon monoxide poisoning, all in the comfort of what is usually baking Florida heat.
It is the most ridiculous waiting area ever devised. Not mobile enough to get yourself in and out of the tiny Autopia cars? Just mount 8 or 9 concrete steps and stretch out on our gleaming aluminum benches for some quality downtime! I was fortunate to have my visit at night, and it was miserable enough, but I can imagine this place is pretty well intolerable in the middle of the afternoon.
|What could be more riveting than watching the slowest, non-racing-est part of the ride? Also, it affords an excellent opportunity to contemplate just how dreadful those background billboards are.|
The Grandstand isn’t hidden. You walk right past it whenever you exit the ride. And there are even signs directing you to its location. I’m sure many of you have even been there. But for whatever reason (such as the fact that I hate the Speedway like France hates deodorant), I had never visited it before. And now I can cross it off my list. There were no monsters, but I kind of wish there were.
Next week, I’ll bring you another undiscovered territory, which I will then claim for king and country, in spite of the fact that there are thousands of natives already living there. In the meantime, what places in the parks have YOU never set foot in? Give me some details in the comments, I promise not to scoff at you. And will you just go see Hall of Presidents, already? It’s not that bad!
|There is nothing sadder than watching a miniaturized of stop-and-go traffic, and having absolutely no one to share it with.|