Walt Disney World and Disneyland are the #1 vacation destinations for Disney fans, but they aren’t the only ones available. The cultural impact of the Disney and the Disney organization itself extends many places, and no Disney fan should limit their options to Florida or California. I live in upstate New York, and like millions of people on the East Coast of the United States, I live within easy driving distance of New York City, where there are many, many ways to get your Disney fix.
The first and most obvious is the flagship World of Disney store on the corner of 5th Avenue and 55th Street in Manhattan. This is not the Disney Store at your local mall! The items it offers are much more diverse, and it is well worth a visit even if you think youâ€˜ve seen everything that Disney offers to retail customers. The store itself is 3 stories! In additions to the standard items related to whatever Disney projects are being promoted, there is a large selection of other items.
For example, there is a huge Pin Trading station with hundreds of standard and limited edition pins being available. Collectibles such as Big Figs, porcelain and ceramic figures, and Christmas ornaments from the merely beautiful to the one-of-kind are also sold. Disney appears to be experimenting with high quality art-on-demand services, and has a large and exceptional collection of available images. They offer many toys that I have never seen before, including New York City themed items and Star Wars Mr. Potato Heads. They actually had a build your own Mr. Potato Head kiosk!
In truth, I get bored at times with Disney’s constant marketing and I find their small stores to be dull and one-dimensional as a result. But, my heart warmed when I found a book section with a large number of books dedicated to Disney art, Imagineering, Disney history, and Walt himself. Learning more about Walt’s talents and vision, as well as the inspirations and hard work of the Imagineers is what makes Disney more and more magical for me. Disney also offered Character meet-and-greets (with Photopass in tow), and several other programs where you can interact with characters. This is not an average Disney store and really stands out from the pack. My family and I really enjoyed our recent visit.
[Ed. Note: Disney recently announced that they will be closing the World of Disney Store when its lease expires in 2010. While they are looking to replace the store with a new one elsewhere in Manhattan, no location has been announced as of yet.]
In my opinion, the best way to experience Disney in New York City is to see one of the Disney Broadway shows. Currently playing in New York are The Lion King, Mary Poppins, and The Little Mermaid. The Lion King has always had exceptional reviews, while the other two meet with mixed reviews from critics. I encourage you to be willing to see any of them regardless. They are all wonderful, and the Disney on Broadway people do not disappoint the Disney faithful. You will be guaranteed a show that is a wonderful mix worthy of both the Disney and Broadway traditions.
If you want to be guaranteed a seat, buy your tickets in advance. But, extra tickets to Broadway and off-Broadway shows are discounted and sold at TKTS ticket booths, either the day of or the day before the show. Be aware that lines are long and patrons (mostly tourists from around the world) can be pushy so get there prior to the booth opening and secure a place in line. TKTS takes cash and travelers checks only! If you are buying tickets from TKTS, above all be flexible. Not all shows are available every day and popular shows of any genre may not be sold at TKTS at all. During my most recent visit, Mary Poppins was the only Disney show available with discounted tickets. If your first choices aren’t available you can wait a day and try again, but I encourage you to be willing to try a different show. Of the Disney shows, my family and I have seen Beauty and the Beast, and the Touring Productions of High School Musical and The Lion King. The touring productions I have seen have been excellent. Please be aware that that Disney on Broadway is offering a generous promotion currently, which you can learn about at the Mousesavers website.
Lastly, you should know that Disney pops up in places that seem unlikely. During my recent visit to New York City with my family, we visited the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). I found Disney references in 2 exhibits, though I had not expected to. In the exhibit Home Delivery, Pre-Fabricating the Modern Dwelling, I found a video that showed several minutes of the Contemporary Resort in Walt Disney World being constructed. For folks who didn’t know, pre-fabricated rooms were lifted with a crane and slid into the frame of the Contemporary Resort. In an exhibit of work by Salvador Dali, they showed video, storyboards, and concept art related to the animated short Destino. Salvador Dali was contracted by Disney to work on the short, and Dali and John Hench began work on the short in 1945. While the project was put on hold for financial reasons, it was later completed in 2003 and appears to be scheduled for release in November of 2008. Home Delivery will be open until October 20th, 2008, and the Salvador Dali exhibit until September 15th, 2008. This was all great stuff I hadn’t known about!
If it sounds like I love New York, I do. I have been visiting since I was a little boy and some of my fondest memories of New York City sit on a mental shelf beside my fondest memories of Walt Disney World. I encourage all visitors to explore Disney in New York City, as virtually any experience will be something fantastic and one-of-a-kind that should not be missed by any Disney fan.
Here are links to some of my video about Disney in NYC!
Photos by Pat Whitson Â©2008