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Walt Disney’s Lamp

There is just something special about Disneyland. It was Walt’s dream, and he touched every single part of the park right up until his death in 1966. If you have not been to Disneyland, you really can’t call yourself a Disney fan. Walt Disney World is great and all, but Walt never actually set foot in any of the theme parks there. But Disneyland, Walt actually LIVED there.

During the construction of Disneyland, Walt decided that he needed a place to work and stay in the park, so the upstairs of the fire station on main street was built to fit his needs. It was completed by opening day, and it was from the window above the fire station that Walt watched as guest streamed into the park. Walt and his family spent quite a bit of time in the park during the early years, since there was constantly so much work going on.

Disneyland Firestation

Walt’s apartment was very private, you really could not tell if he was there or not, and Walt wanted it that way. Even the large patio overlooking town square was not easily seen from below, though apparently you could see down into the park quite well. While Walt wanted to keep his privacy, early on did decided that when he was in the park, he would light a lamp that was placed in the upstairs window of the fire station. Imagine during the early days seeing that lamp lit up as you entered the park! That meant there was going to be a great chance you may see Walt walking around the park that day, handing out “autographs”. What a treat that must have been!

walt disney lamp

On December 15, 1966, the day Walt Disney passed away, the light was extinguished to signal his death. The next morning, Walt’s lamp was lit again to signify his presence in the park (some say it turned on by itself), and not remains lit on a daily basis, only to be turned off on special occasions. On all the days I have been in Disneyland, I have yet to be there when the light was out.

A few years after the opening of Disneyland, and as the park was expanding to add New Orleans Square and the brand new Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, Walt decided to build a bigger apartment above the entrance to the Pirates of the Caribbean. Walt died before the completion of this apartment, so it was never occupied by anyone in the Disney family. For years, this apartment was accessible to the public as an art gallery, and recently has been remodeled into “The Dream Suite”, a luxury apartment only used on special occasions for VIP visitors (or some lucky guests if Disney is giving away stays there).

Walt’s little fire station apartment is still there, stuck in time if you will, and is accessible from time to time via special tours (Adventures by Disney often visits there if you happen to be on one of their Southern California Adventures). The fact that Walt’s lamp is still lit on a daily basis just reaffirms that this is Walt’s park, and he is still there on a daily basis.

Best Hidden Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom

Sure, everyone knows about the Crystal Palace, Tony’s Town Square and Be Our Guest, but have you ever eaten at Sleepy Hollow? If you have never been, please put it on your list of restaurants for your next visit.

sleppy hollow

Sleepy Hollow – Where is it?

As you walk down Main Street and enter the hub, there is an exit at about 10 o’clock that heads towards Liberty Square, the Hall of Presidents and eventually the Haunted Mansion. You cross the bridge, and it is immediately to your right. You can also go this way if you need to go around Cinderella’s Castle, that path leads right through the seating area of Sleepy Hollow. Many tables have fantastic views of the castle, but please note, there are very few tables that have any kind of coverage, so if it is raining, you are probably going to need to head elsewhere.

Sleepy Hollow Menu

So many good things. I get all Rumbly in My Tumbly just thinking about it. While Sleepy Hollow isn’t your normal Disney counter service restaurant, their menu is limited, the food they offer is unique and fantastic.

  • Waffle with Powdered Sugar
  • Waffle with Cinnamon
  • Waffle with Strawberries and Whipped Cream
  • Fresh Fruit Waffle Sandwich with Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
  • Funnel Cake dusted with Powdered Sugar
  • Funnel Cake dusted with Cinnamon
  • Funnel Cake topped with Strawberries and Whipped Cream
  • Sweet and Spicy Chicken Waffle Sandwich
  • Ham, Prosciutto and Swiss Waffle Sandwich
  • Nutella and Fresh Fruit Waffle Sandwich

Just so you are aware, some of the waffles are options with a snack credit from the Disney Dining plans, and the sandwiches are options with a counter service credit. Of course, the restaurant also has plenty of drink and dessert options, including a mean Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Waffle Sandwich
Sweet and Spicy Chicken Waffle Sandwich
fruit waffle
Fresh Fruit Waffle Sandwich with Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

What Makes Sleepy Hollow so Good?

There are a few things that make Sleepy Hollow fantastic.

  • First, it is out of the way, and rarely crowded. Sometimes there gets to be a line in the afternoon when that funnel cake desires gets a bit to strong for some folks, but otherwise, it is manageable.
  • Second, everything is made right in front of you. They cook your waffle right there while you wait, nothing comes from some central kitchen like you know the hamburgers at the other places do. This makes the line move a bit more slowly, but totally worth it.
  • Third, where else can you get a waffle sandwich for lunch?

Please note, because of fireworks and other events around the castle during the evening, Sleepy Hollow only serves their sandwiches until 5;30 pm. They are open after that and still serve a fantastic waffle with strawberries, but don’t plan on going to Sleepy Hollow for dinner, it is a lunch thing only.

 

My Favorite Disney World Value Resort

art of animation

Did I give it away? I have stayed at every single Walt Disney World Value Resort a few times, and my answer here is pretty easy: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. In fact, the contest really isn’t even close.

Opened during 2012, Disney’s Art of Animation is Disney World’s newest “resort” (technically, there have been a few Disney Vacation Club Resorts open since then). The resort was originally planned to be the second half of Pop Century, but only the main building and a few buildings were started before construction was halted due to a slow down at Disney. When the time came, Disney decided it needed a brand new resort, mostly because they finally figured out people would rather stay somewhere that is themed after their fantastic animated movies rather than giant rubik’s cubes and bowling alleys.

Disney’s Art of Animation features 864 Little Mermaid themed “standard” rooms and 1,120 family suites, with either Lion King, Finding Nemo or Cars themes. The standard rooms are identical in size and layout to the rooms at Pop Century, since these were completed in the existing buildings that were abandoned earlier. The family suites are brand new, and not really available anywhere on property.

What about the other Value Resorts?

I don’t really have a problem with the other value resorts, but they just aren’t as good as Art of Animation. The All-Star Sports, All-Star Movies and All-Star Music resort suffer from a few setbacks that are just too much for me to overcome. They tend to the be home base for any youth dance, cheer or sports teams staying at Disney. This severely skews the adult to child ratio, and leads to a less enjoyable experience. Also, these three resorts are built next to each other, and most times, the three resorts share one bus, so if you happen to be near the end of the line, there are times the bus will not even stop due to capacity. If your family really wants to stay at the resorts (especially Movies), you will have a blast.

Pop Century was for quite a while my default value resort, and while there isn’t really any downsides there like at the All-Stars, Art of Animation is just much, much better. I am still very happy to stay at Pop Century, it just isn’t my first choice.

The Big Blue Pool
The Big Blue Pool

What makes Art of Animation Special?

Little Mermaid rooms – Who has a little girl that doesn’t love the Little Mermaid? Think about it, these are the only rooms on Disney property themed after a Disney princess. All-Star Movies has sections themed after The Mighty Ducks and Herbie the Love Bug. How many kids even know who The Mighty Ducks are? The Little Mermaid rooms are super cute, and really well done. There is even a Little Mermaid themed pool for your little mermaids to enjoy.

Family Suites – These family suites were probably the most requested room option at Walt Disney World for 20+ years. If you were on a budget, and had a family of 5+, you were extremely limited at Disney. There were the cabins at Fort Wilderness, but those don’t really suit some people. Some of the rooms at Port Orleans – Riverside could sleep 5 with the use of a trundle bed, or you could get 2 connecting rooms at a value resort. None of the options were optimal, but the family suites are fantastic. They feature a “master bedroom” with its own bathroom, a front room with a fold down table/bed combo as well as a pull out couch and another bathroom. These work great for a family with kids, and who doesn’t love Cars, Lion King or Finding Nemo?

Landscapes of Flavor – This is Art of Animation’s food court, and it is head and shoulders above the other food courts in terms of offerings and food. You can find a pretty decent meal here.

The Big Blue Pool – My favorite Value resort pool by far. Located in the Finding Nemo section of the resort, this pool is just beautiful, and surrounded by great Nemo decorations and oversized characters. Did you know this pool is the largest pool at Disney World outside of the water parks?

Cars Family Suite
Cars Family Suite

What are the downsides of Art of Animation?

Not every Disney resort is perfect, and the Art of Animation has a few drawbacks:

No discounts – Ever since the Little Mermaid rooms opened in 2012, they have been excluded from every single Disney discount that has been released. If you want to stay there, you are going to pay the full rate. Sometimes during the years, like over Christmas, that really doesn’t matter since nothing is discounted, but most of the year, you pay a decent premium to stay in these rooms. The Family suite are usually included in all discounts.

Value resort – This is after all, still a value resort. So, you aren’t near a theme park, the pools don’t have slides or other amenities, there is just a food court, not a nicer restaurant, and the room quality isn’t as nice as the moderate or deluxe resorts. That said, I think I would rather stay in an Art of Animation family suite that most of the moderate resorts, if the price is close.

Cars area at Disney's Art of Animation Resort
Cars area at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

Have you stayed at Disney’s Art of Animation?