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A Grand Circle Tour of the Magic Kingdoms of the World: Part 3 - The Wildest Ride in the Wilderness!
DisneyDan  Wednesday, December 17, 2014 4:01:07 PM
Hello everyone,

First of all I must apologise for the large gap between this post and the previous one in this series. We have had a huge amount of things happen in real life, and writing a large post like this unfortunately had to go on the back burner for a while. However, we are here now, and I am excited to finally present to you the third installment of our “Grand Circle Tour”, this time for Frontierland (and all its equivalents). In case you missed the previous parts, here they are again:

  • Part 1 - Main Street USA
  • Part 2 - Adventureland


  • In this edition I will be including Critter Country, Grizzly Gulch and Liberty Square at the various parks around the world. The reason for this is that they all share a common theme of the frontier and wilderness, and also because otherwise there would be nothing else to compare them to (for example, since there is only one Grizzly Gulch, that wouldn’t make for a very interesting article!).

    Standing on Central Plaza at Disneyland, Parc Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland we can enter directly into Frontierland (or Westernland as it’s known in Tokyo). At the Magic Kingdom we enter through Liberty Square (which we are including in Frontierland), and in Hong Kong we have to enter either via Adventureland or Mystic Point (an area which we will also cover later in this article).

    At all the parks, it is literally a case of walking right into the land. At Disneyland Paris you do walk in, but there is more of a build-up, and you enter the courtyard of Fort Comstock, and a Native American camp to the right. At Tokyo Disneyland, you just walk over the bridge and find yourself on the large open concrete area that is Westernland.

    Disneyland Park, California (below)

    Disneyland July 2012 - Wandering through Central Plaza

    Magic Kingdom, Florida

    The Magic Kingdom

    Parc Disneyland, Paris

    DLP April 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Tokyo Disneyland (this photo isn’t really of an “entrance”, but then Tokyo’s Westerland doesn’t have a defined entry area.)

    Exploring Westernland

    Hong Kong Disneyland Park

    HKDL Oct 2012 - Exploring Grizzly Gulch

    We will come back to discuss Fort Comstock again a little later, when we look at Tom Sawyer Island. For now, let’s head into the various lands, and take a look at some of the styles and things that immediately jump out at us.

    Upon entering Disneyland’s Frontierland, we find ourselves in a small courtyard with views towards the Rivers of America. To the left some stores and a walkway to Adventureland, and to the right the shooting gallery.

    Disneyland July 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Crossing the bridge into the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square, we encounter a more colonial style, with some stores to the left, and the Hall of Presidents to the right. Set a little later than the rest of Frontierland, but still fitting of a “wilder” time in American history, I’ve always personally felt that there is little transition between these two areas. While if you stood and studied the buildings enough you could point out the differences, the two areas share such a common area and feel to them, that they are virtually inseparable. Haunted Mansion sits on the Rivers of America, the riverboat, which is definitely a frontier icon is boarded from Liberty Square, and the Diamond Horseshoe, which is very much a “Western” venue (and resides in Frontierland at all other parks) is in Liberty Square here, which makes a nice transition from that Wild West era to the slightly more modern style.

    WDW April 2011 - Wandering through Liberty Square

    Once through Fort Comstock’s courtyard in Paris, you find yourself in the Thunder Mesa area of Frontierland, with the Lucky Nugget on the left, stores on the right, and the Rivers of the Far West ahead of you, with the incredible Big Thunder Mountain rising from the waters.

    Exploring Frontierland

    At Tokyo Disneyland’s Westernland, you find yourself amidst a vast concourse, with some stores to the left, a path leading to the right towards Fantasyland and the boat landing ahead. Of all the Frontier/Westernlands, Tokyo’s is probably the least inviting and least inspired, at least at this point it feels that way.

    Westernland

    In Hong Kong, you pass under the railway track from Adventureland, and have to climb some steps before being presented with a view of Big Grizzly Mountain.

    HKDL Oct 2012 - Exploring Grizzly Gulch

    From here it’s quite hard to give a walk-through comparison of each land, since they are all laid out so differently, so instead we will look at key elements from each land, even if they aren’t located in similar positions. Let’s start with Tom Sawyer Island and Fort Comstock.

    Fort Comstock is Disneyland Paris’ equivalent to the forts on Tom Sawyer Island in Westernland (Tokyo) and Frontierland (Magic Kingdom). A long time ago, Disneyland had a fort on their Tom Sawyer Island, but it has been closed down for some years. Disneyland Paris doesn’t have a Tom Sawyer Island, but instead their Big Thunder Mountain makes up the island in the middle of Frontierland, and they have an additional “island exploration” area, over in Adventureland, which we discussed back in part two of this series. Hong Kong does not have a Tom Sawyer Island either. To reach Tom Sawyer Island at the two US parks and Tokyo Disneyland, you must take a raft across.

    California (below)

    DL Oct 2011 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Disneyland Aug 09 - Where Three Lands Collide

    Disneyland Aug 09 - Exploring Tom Sawyer Island

    Disneyland Aug 09 - Exploring Tom Sawyer Island

    Florida

    WDW Dec 2009 - Enjoying the sites on the Rivers of America

    WDW Sept 2008 - Sailing the Rivers of America on the Liberty Belle

    WDW Sept 2008 - Sailing the Rivers of America on the Liberty Belle

    WDW Sept 2008 - Sailing the Rivers of America on the Liberty Belle

    Tokyo

    TDR Oct 2012 - Wandering through Westernland

    TDR Oct 2012 - Exploring Tom Sawyer Island

    TDR Oct 2012 - Exploring Tom Sawyer Island

    TDR Oct 2012 - Exploring Tom Sawyer Island

    Paris

    Exploring Fort Comstock - Legends of the Wild West

    Exploring Fort Comstock - Legends of the Wild West

    DLP June 2012 - Exploring Fort Comstock

    DLP June 2012 - Exploring Fort Comstock

    The Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square is host to a unique attraction in the world of Disney Parks, the Hall of Presidents. Some people love it, some people hate it. I personally think it’s a bit dull and that the space could be used more effectively, especially since they already have an epic animatronic patriotic show over at Epcot, but that’s just me.

    WDW Sept 2012 - Wandering through Liberty Square

    Both Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland have a Country Bear Jamboree/Theater, which play continuous animatronic shows. The one in Tokyo has a summer variation, and I believe they still do their Christmas version too. The Floridian version has been stuck on repeat in the same old format for decades. Although the Tokyo version is better maintained, and provides some respite from the insane Japanese crowds and intense weather, neither are too thrilling and could use with some TLC.

    Florida (below)

    WDW Dec 2010 - Exploring Frontierland

    WDW Feb 2012 - Country Bear Jamboree

    Tokyo

    Exploring Westernland

    Tokyo May 2014 - Country Bear Vacation Hoedown

    Each park, except Hong Kong, has its own shooting gallery (with varying names). There isn’t a lot to say except you pick up your gun and shoot the targets! Each park has slightly different scenery. All are at a small extra charge.

    California (below)

    Disneyland Summer 2013 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Florida

    WDW Dec 2010 - Exploring Frontierland

    Paris

    DLP Feb 2013 - Exploring Frontierland

    DLP Halloween 2010 - Rustler Roundup Shootin' Gallery

    Tokyo

    TDR Oct 2012 - Wandering through Westernland

    Disneyland Paris and the Magic Kingdom both have stations for the park-circling railroads. At Disneyland Paris this is located in the Cottonwood Creek Ranch area at the back of the land, and at the Magic Kingdom is located on an elevated section, above the entrance area to Splash Mountain. As I discussed in part 2 of this series, Tokyo’s railroad does not circle the park, but instead starts and ends at their sole station in Adventureland. However, most of this ride experiences takes place inside Westernland/Critter Country. Disneyland does not have a Frontierland railroad stop, although theirs does have a very “Western” feel to it, and the railway line does pass through parts of Frontierland and Critter Country. Hong Kong does not have a Grizzly Gulch station either, although you can see the train passing through at various points.

    Florida (below)

    Exploring Frontierland

    Exploring Frontierland

    Paris

    DLP Aug 2011 - Wandering through Frontierland

    The C K Holliday

    Two shots from Tokyo’s Western River Railroad, for reference, although “technically” an Adventureland attraction.

    Exploring Tom Sawyer Island

    Tokyo Aug 2010 - Riding the Western River Railroad

    A photo of the New Orleans Square Station at Disneyland, for reference, since it has more of a “frontier” style.

    Wandering around New Orleans Square

    Both Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland offer a play area. Disneyland Paris has a simple, good old fashioned climbing frames and slides area, while Hong Kong Disneyland has a much more thrilling water play area, complete with water cannons and geysers! While I am usually very complimentary of Paris’ take on things, on this occasion, Hong Kong wins hands down!

    Paris’ Pocahontas Indian Village (below)

    DLP Feb 2013 - Exploring Frontierland

    DLP Feb 2013 - Exploring Frontierland

    Hong Kong’s Geyser Gulch

    HKDL Oct 2012 - Exploring Grizzly Gulch

    Exploring Grizzly Gulch

    Both US resorts, Paris and Tokyo have riverboats that travel around the Rivers of America (Rivers of the Far West in Paris).

    At Disneyland you can set sail on the SS Columbia or the paddlewheeler, Mark Twain. The Columbia is a full scale replica of an 18th century sailing ship, complete with lower deck area, while the Mark Twain is a more leisurely 19th century style Mississippi River steam ship.

    Wandering thru Frontierland

    Disneyland Aug 2010 - Relaxing at the Hungry Bear

    Disneyland Aug 2010 - Relaxing at the Hungry Bear

    Disneyland Aug 09 - Riding the Sailing Ship Columbia

    Aboard the Sailing Ship Columbia

    At the Magic Kingdom, the Liberty Belle traverses their waters, and the boat itself is of very similar construction to Disneyland’s Mark Twain, with one notable difference being that it has one smoke stack instead of two.

    WDW April 2009 - Wandering around Frontierland

    WDW Sept 2008 - Sailing the Rivers of America on the Liberty Belle

    WDW Oct 2011 - Getting set up for the party

    At Disneyland Paris, there are two boats - the Molly Brown (the only sidewheeler at a Disney Park), and the Mark Twain (which is very similar again to Disneyland’s). Sadly, the Mark Twain has been out of service for “refurbishment” for a couple of years. It is not know when it will return.

    The Mark Twain

    The Molly Brown

    Taking a trip on the Molly Brown

    At Tokyo Disneyland, you can travel onboard their own Mark Twain, which is again very similar to Disneyland’s one.

    Down by the Rivers of America

    Let’s take a look at some of the views you can enjoy while travelling on any one of these six ships.

    California (below)

    Wandering thru Frontierland

    Disneyland Aug 09 - Riding the Sailing Ship Columbia

    Disneyland Aug 09 - Riding the Sailing Ship Columbia

    Florida

    WDW Sept 2008 - Sailing the Rivers of America on the Liberty Belle

    WDW Sept 2008 - Sailing the Rivers of America on the Liberty Belle

    Paris

    Taking a trip on the Molly Brown

    DLP Aug 2014 - Riding the Molly Brown

    DLP Aug 2014 - Riding the Molly Brown

    Tokyo

    Exploring Tom Sawyer Island

    Riding the Western River Railroad

    I thought I’d throw this one in - a rare view at a Disney Park!

    DLP Dec 2010 - Wandering through a very snowy Parc Disneyland

    The Rivers of America at Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland are also home to the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes (Disneyland) and the Beaver Brothers Explorer Canoes (Tokyo Disneyland). Having these extra vessels on the water really adds something to the energy of the Rivers of America. Along with the rafts across to Tom Sawyer Island at both these parks, it really makes the Rivers of America feel like they are real working rivers with traffic coming and going. It’s also fun to watch other guests (from the comfort of dry land of course) come to the realisation that they have to actually do some paddling in order to get off the canoe, if they don’t want to sit in the middle of the water all day!

    Down by the Rivers of America

    Exploring Westernland

    Down by the Rivers of America

    Exploring Tom Sawyer Island

    The next attraction is one that is actually more difficult to place in a definitive land. The Haunted Mansion exists in both US parks and Tokyo, as well as in the form of Phantom Manor in Paris. In the Magic Kingdom it is located in Liberty Square, in Tokyo’s Fantasyland, while in Disneyland it is in New Orleans Square and in Paris’ Frontierland! The reason I have included it in this Frontierland article is because ultimately, in two of the four parks it does fall into the “frontier” category (Paris and Florida). In Disneyland it is located so close to the Rivers of America and next door to Splash Mountain, that it is hard to separate. At Tokyo Disneyland, their Haunted Mansion is on the cusp of Westernland, and their lands suffer from the no-transition effect, too, which means you can be standing in Westernland looking at Haunted Mansion, and not really notice any difference.

    The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland is of course the original, classic version. It hasn’t been given the same upgrades yet that the Magic Kingdom has, which while are definitely good additions, means that we keep some originality to the Disneyland experience (although it has received some refreshed effects). The Magic Kingdom’s new effects include some new changing portraits in the attic, the “zig-zag” staircase room and the excellent animated ghosts in the mirrors at the end.
    Tokyo Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion is very much like Florida’s before it was upgraded, and therefore does not have the “zig-zag” staircase room mid-way through.
    California and Tokyo never really make it clear as to why the mansion is haunted, and is rather more whimsical. With its upgrades, Florida added a small storyline, with the bride being a murderess, and each of her grooms mysteriously vanishing.
    At Disneyland Paris, they designed an entirely new concept with Phantom Manor, which is a refreshing change from the other three that are all so similar. The Phantom Manor is set around the fictional town of Thunder Mesa, and tells the story of Henry Ravenswood and his daughter, Melanie. An earthquake killed Henry and his wife, Martha, leaving Melanie to marry her true love - a miner who worked in the Big Thunder mines. However, the groom never appeared at the wedding, and legend has it that the evil spirit of Henry Ravenswood led the groom to the attic and hanged him. Henry now haunts the manor as the Phantom, while Melanie also wanders its halls dressed in her wedding gown, waiting for her groom to arrive.
    I find it hard to decide overall which version I like the best. Florida definitely has the technological edge, while Paris has the vastly different storyline. The other two sort of fall into the “this is the regular version” category, which make them “classics”.
    Let’s step aboard a Doom Buggy and tour each of these ghostly houses.

    California (below)

    Disneyland July 2012 - Wandering through New Orleans Square

    Disneyland July 2012 - Wandering through New Orleans Square

    Disneyland June 2011 - The Haunted Mansion

    Disneyland Aug 09 - Riding the Haunted Mansion

    Disneyland Aug 09 - Riding the Haunted Mansion

    Disneyland Aug 09 - Riding the Haunted Mansion

    Florida

    WDW April 2011 - Venturing into the Haunted Mansion

    WDW Sept 2012 - Wandering around the park

    WDW Sept 2012 - Riding the Haunted Mansion

    WDW April 2011 - Venturing into the Haunted Mansion

    WDW April 2011 - Venturing into the Haunted Mansion

    WDW April 2011 - Venturing into the Haunted Mansion

    Paris

    DLP Aug 2014 - Wandering through Frontierland

    DLP April 2014 - Phantom Manor

    DLP June 2012 - Phantom Manor

    DLP June 2012 - Visiting Phantom Manor

    DLP April 2012 - Riding Phantom Manor

    DLP April 2012 - Riding Phantom Manor

    DLP June 2012 - Visiting Phantom Manor

    DLP June 2012 - Visiting Phantom Manor

    Tokyo

    Tokyo May 2014 - Wandering through Fantasyland

    Tokyo May 2014 - Haunted Mansion

    Tokyo May 2014 - Haunted Mansion

    Tokyo May 2014 - Haunted Mansion

    Tokyo May 2014 - Haunted Mansion

    Tokyo May 2014 - Haunted Mansion

    I deliberately have not mentioned Hong Kong’s Mystic Manor, which is located in Mystic Point. This one is a real tough one to place. While it clearly has its inspiration in the Haunted Mansion and Phantom Manor, it is so very different, that there really isn't anything to compare it to. The whole mini-land of Mystic Point definitely has a more Adventureland feel to it, but is separated from Adventureland by Grizzly Gulch, which of course is more frontier oriented. That, coupled with the fact the Mystic Manor is vaguely reminiscent of the Haunted Mansion, I thought it best to put it in here.
    Mystic Manor uses the trackless technology seen in two other Disney Parks attractions - Pooh’s Hunny Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland and Ratatouille at Disneyland Paris’ Walt Disney Studios Park. The house belongs to Henry Mystic, a great explorer and collector of many wondrous things. You are invited to tour his home, but get caught up in the crazy antics of his pet monkey, Albert, and some of the magical items around the house. This attraction is definitely one of my top favourites at any Disney Park. It’s a fun, thrilling, refreshing spin (literally) on a classic concept. Definitely highly recommended!

    DDE May 2013 - Mystic Point Preview

    DDE May 2013 - Riding Mystic Manor

    DDE May 2013 - Riding Mystic Manor

    DDE May 2013 - Riding Mystic Manor

    DDE May 2013 - Riding Mystic Manor

    DDE May 2013 - Riding Mystic Manor

    DDE May 2013 - Riding Mystic Manor

    DDE May 2013 - Mystic Point Preview

    Splash Mountain finds itself a home in Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland. Everyone has a different opinion on which one they like the best, and obviously no one answer is ever going to be correct, but I wanted to just offer my own thoughts here. I personally find Disneyland's to be very cramped. The boats are toboggan style (one behind the other), and overall the attraction is a bit more claustrophobic. I also find that the internal scenes are darker and less detailed than the Florida and Tokyo versions. Florida and Tokyo’s are similar, but have some differences. Tokyo’s is quite colourful, and while fun, in our experience you don’t get very wet! California’s on the other hand drenches you to the bone, which isn’t pleasant. I feel that Florida has the happy medium with the wetness, while Tokyo has the better upkeep and detail.

    California (below)

    Disneyland Summer 2013 - Wandering through Critter Country

    Disneyland Aug 09 - Riding Splash Mountain

    Disneyland Aug 09 - Riding Splash Mountain

    Florida

    WDW April 2011 - Wandering through Frontierland

    WDW April 2009 - Riding Splash Mountain

    WDW April 2009 - Riding Splash Mountain

    Tokyo

    DDE May 2013 - Riding Splash Mountain

    DDE May 2013 - Riding Splash Mountain

    DDE May 2013 - Riding Splash Mountain

    Now we come to the wildest ride in the wilderness - Big Thunder Mountain! Disneyland definitely has the most compact version of this ride, but it still holds its own charm, and since its long refurb last year, it feels better than it did before. Differences in the Californian version include a small town with an assay office, saloon and general store. The Magic Kingdom’s and Tokyo Disneyland’s versions are bigger than Disneyland’s. Florida has the space and feels slightly less cramped, while Tokyo’s feels more elevated somehow. Perhaps it’s the seemingly taller outcrops and deeper canyons - or perhaps the perspective just tricks you into thinking that! The very different positions in each park for each version mean that the views differ greatly between each one, too. We rode the upgraded version in Florida just recently (after it was also closed for an extensive refurbishment), and it definitely felt a lot wilder than it used to. Of the three mentioned so far, Florida’s would be my favourite.
    Then we arrive at Paris. Big Thunder Mountain there is a whole other experience! Set on a large island in the middle of the Rivers of the Far West, Big Thunder Mountain is huge and majestic. “How do you get onto the island?”, I hear you ask. The trains travel in complete darkness through a tunnel under the river at the start and end of the experience. Paris’ is fast, too. Whisking you around turns, and plunging you into darkness, Paris takes the crown for the wildest ride. I will say however, that Paris needs to do a large refurbishment of this attraction as it has started to show signs of age, and the noise when you climb the hills aboard the train can be painfully loud. For me, at the moment, Florida and Paris are tied. Florida is fresher, up to date and definitely fun. Paris had the edge, but is slipping slightly. Once they do a major overhaul, it will without doubt be top again. Let’s take a look.

    California (below)

    Disneyland July 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Disneyland July 2012 - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

    Disneyland Aug 2010 - Riding Big Thunder Mountain

    Disneyland Aug 2010 - Riding Big Thunder Mountain

    Florida

    WDW Dec 2009 - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

    WDW Dec 2009 - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

    WDW April 2009 - Wandering around Frontierland

    Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

    Paris

    DLP June 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    DLP Aug 2014 - Riding the Molly Brown

    DLP April 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    DLP Halloween 2009 - Riding on the Keelboats!

    Tokyo

    Tokyo May 2014 - Wandering through Westernland

    DDE May 2013 - Riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

    DDE May 2013 - Riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

    Tokyo Aug 2010 - Riding the Western River Railroad

    Hong Kong Disneyland does not have a Big Thunder Mountain, but instead has Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars. As you saw from the photo I posted above from entering Grizzly Gulch, the mountain takes on the shape of a bear’s head. Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars are overall of a very similar concept to Big Thunder Mountain, but is smoother, and goes backwards! There are also bears involved in this attraction, but don’t worry, they are friendly! I really like the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars. It doesn’t rattle you around like Big Thunder, and the backwards part adds a more thrilling element to it. It is a refreshing change from Big Thunder Mountain’s presence at the other four parks.

    Exploring Grizzly Gulch

    Exploring Grizzly Gulch

    DDE May 2013 - Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars

    DDE May 2013 - Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars

    DDE May 2013 - Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars

    HKDL Oct 2012 - Grizzly Gulch at Night

    HKDL Oct 2012 - Riding Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars

    Finally for attractions, there is one more I haven’t mentioned, and for good reason. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in Disneyland’s Critter Country is the only one of the four versions of this attraction to not be in Fantasyland, so I feel it would be better discussed in the Fantasyland edition of this series. However, I am going to just put a photo below for reference.

    DL Oct 2011 - Wandering through Critter Country

    Before we move onto stepping inside the stores of Frontierland, I wanted to “take a walk” around the lands, exploring some of the hidden details, signs, pathways etc, to give you a greater sense of depth and feel to them.

    Let’s start in California. Although Frontierland in Disneyland doesn’t really feel that big, there are some nice little areas that give it some real character. The trail from the main waterfront area up to the ranch and Fantasyland is very picturesque, and the Big Thunder Ranch is a great place to hang out. Live music, characters and seasonal entertainment are usually offered at the ranch, making it one of our favourite places in the park. Critter Country, which we are including here as an extension of Frontierland, definitely makes you feel like you’ve stepped further out into the wild, but that area is so small that if you’re visiting on a peak day then it can feel very busy and crowded. On an off peak day however, it’s really quite charming.

    Disneyland Aug 2010 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Disneyland July 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    DL Oct 2011 - Halloween in Frontierland

    Disneyland Jan 2013 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Disneyland Aug 09 - Wandering around Frontierland

    Disneyland Aug 09 - Wandering around Frontierland

    Disneyland Aug 09 - Big Thunder Ranch

    DL Oct 2011 - Hey... I have seen this sign somewhere else before...

    Wandering around Frontierland

    Exploring Frontierland

    Wandering thru Frontierland

    Down by the Rivers of America

    Wandering thru Frontierland

    Wandering thru Frontierland

    Wandering thru Frontierland

    Disneyland Aug 09 - Where Three Lands Collide

    Wandering thru Critter Country

    Disneyland July 2012 - Wandering through Critter Country

    Wandering around Critter Country

    Wandering thru Critter Country

    Florida sadly lacks any real “hidden” areas. There is the area at the exit of Splash Mountain, but that really is just an exit area, and is very crowded. The wooden walkways around the outskirts of the Rivers of America can make for a nice stroll, providing it isn’t a peak day.

    WDW Spring 2013 - Wandering through Frontierland

    WDW Spring 2013 - Wandering through Frontierland

    WDW Sept 2012 - Wandering through Liberty Square

    WDW Dec 2010 - Exploring Frontierland

    Rivers of America

    Disneyland Paris is really good at the “hidden” area concept. There are pathways and little areas that open up to you while you’re wandering, and it makes the land have a lot more of an organic feel to it. Although functionally it is only really used seasonally, the Cottonwood Creek Ranch area is a very peaceful area of the park to sit and watch the world go by, and watch the trains as they stop at the Frontierland Depot for passengers and water.

    DLRP Feb 2009 - Thunder Mesa

    DLP June 2012 - Wandering through Cottonwood Creek Ranch

    DLP June 2012 - Exploring Fort Comstock

    Taking a trip on the Molly Brown

    Exploring Frontierland

    Exploring Frontierland

    Exploring Frontierland

    Exploring Frontierland

    DLP April 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Tokyo Disneyland’s Westernland has vast swathes of flat concrete that are not very inspiring, but the land does redeem itself with a small seating area that they have down by the Rivers of America that used to host a small stage show (but hasn’t for many years). It’s nice to sit and watch the boats go by on the river while having a drink and a churro. Critter Country here is another matter, though! Although small and cramped, like Disneyland’s, Tokyo’s Critter Country has this really quaint little area with tables and chairs, and views over the Rivers of America. The cute details on the rock faces and along some of the pathways really make Critter Country here feel very cosy and rustic.

    Tokyo Aug 2010 - Wide Open Spaces in Westernland

    Tokyo May 2014 - Taking a break at the Lucky Nugget Cafe

    Tokyo May 2014 - Wandering through Critter Country

    Tokyo May 2014 - Wandering through Critter Country

    Wandering thru Critter Country

    Tokyo May 2014 - Wandering through Critter Country

    Hong Kong’s Grizzly Gulch is very shiny and new, and lacks the real rugged charm of the other Frontierlands, sadly. While I like Grizzly Gulch as a whole, it’s too small, and too fresh, to really offer anything really charming.

    Wandering thru Adventureland

    Wandering thru Grizzly Gulch

    Wandering thru Grizzly Gulch

    HKDL April 2013 - Wandering through Grizzly Gulch

    DDE May 2013 - Wandering through Grizzly Gulch

    Now let’s take a look inside some of the stores of the various Wild Wests of the world. Tokyo Disneyland, for me at least, seems to have kept intact the more specialised stores, while the US and Paris parks have some specialised areas mixed in with a lot of generic park merchandise. Hong Kong has one small cart, which I think is a real shame since there is actually some neat, unique merchandise offered there. There are huge amounts of space in Grizzly Gulch, they could have easily put in a full store.
    It’s hard to compare store-for-store since each Frontierland is so vastly different from the next, so I’ll just go through each land and show you what they offer.

    California (below)

    Disneyland Summer 2013 - Wandering through Critter Country

    Disneyland Dec 2012 - Wandering through Critter Country

    Exploring Critter Country

    Disneyland July 2012 - Wandering through Critter Country

    Disneyland Dec 2012 - Christmas in Critter Country

    Wandering thru Frontierland

    Wandering thru Frontierland

    Wandering thru Frontierland

    Wandering thru Frontierland

    Wandering thru Frontierland

    Disneyland July 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Wandering thru Frontierland

    Disneyland July 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Exploring Frontierland

    Exploring Frontierland

    Florida

    I should mention here that, to their credit, the Magic Kingdom recently changed one of its Liberty Square stores to be completely Haunted Mansion themed. Momento Mori is a filled with great Haunted Mansion merchandise, and you can even get your very own spooky portrait taken!

    Momento Mori

    WDW Oct 2011 - Wandering through Liberty Square

    Wandering thru Liberty Square

    WDW Spring 2013 - Wandering through Frontierland

    WDW Sept 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    WDW Sept 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    WDW Sept 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    WDW Dec 2010 - Exploring Frontierland

    Wandering thru Frontierland

    Frontier Trading Post

    Wandering thru Frontierland

    WDW Mar 2012 - Exploring Frontierland

    Wandering thru Frontierland

    WDW Sept 2008 - Splash Mountain

    Around Splash Moutain

    Paris

    DLP April 2014 - Spring in Frontierland

    Exploring Frontierland

    Exploring Frontierland

    DLP Aug 2011 - Wandering through Frontierland

    DLP Halloween 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    DLP Spring 2010 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Exploring Frontierland

    Exploring Frontierland

    DLP April 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Pueblo Trading Post

    Tokyo

    I want to mention here one of the greatest areas of Westernland/Critter Country, which comes in the form of a store. Hoot and Holler Hideout is tucked away underneath Splash Mountain in the tunnel area that connects the upper part of the land to the Splash exit and seating area (which also has another store and snack location). It’s just such a neat little area that really sets the tone for the land, with its cute props and underground location.

    Exploring Critter Country

    Exploring Critter Country

    TDR Oct 2012 - Wandering through Critter Country

    Tokyo May 2014 - Wandering through Critter Country

    Tokyo May 2014 - Wandering through Westernland

    Tokyo May 2014 - Wandering through Westernland

    Westernland

    TDR Oct 2012 - Exploring Westernland

    Westernland

    Westernland

    Wandering thru Westernland

    Westernland

    Tokyo Aug 2010 - Wandering through Westernland

    Exploring Westernland

    Tokyo May 2014 - Wandering through Westernland

    TDR Oct 2012 - Exploring Westernland

    Hong Kong

    HKDL Oct 2012 - Wandering through Grizzly Gulch

    Exploring Grizzly Gulch

    Since I included Mystic Manor in this edition, I have to really include the store over at Mystic Point, too, even if it really doesn’t fit. I can’t see which other land I’m going to put it in anyway, therefore I’ll put it here for reference.

    DDE May 2013 - Previewing Mystic Point!

    Mystic Point Preview event

    Mystic Point Preview event

    Now that we’ve taken a look at the stores of the Wild West, let’s see what food there is on offer. We’ll start with table service restaurants.

    At Disneyland there is only one full time table service restaurant, and that is the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ. We tried this once, and I have to say, it’s a really nice area. Open air, surrounded by trees and featuring live music, it’s got a real outdoor country BBQ charm to it. The other restaurant that offers table service is the River Belle Terrace. By day it’s a counter service location, but you can get Fantasmic! dining packages here for dinner, when it becomes table service.

    Disneyland July 2012 - Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue

    Disneyland July 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Disneyland Summer 2013 - The River Belle Terrace

    At the Magic Kingdom Liberty Square hosts one table service location, Liberty Tree Tavern. This used to be a character dining location, but sadly the characters departed a number of years ago now. We haven’t dined here in a long time due to the loss of characters.

    WDW Dec 2010 - Walking through Liberty Square

    Disneyland Paris two table service locations. The Silver Spur Steakhouse is soaked in dark colours and ambience, and often features a pianist or live band. As the name suggests, steak is the speciality here, although if you’re not from France, be warned that even “very well done” can be anywhere from rare to medium! If you like “well done” meat, I’d ask for a cremation!
    The other location in Frontierland is the Lucky Nugget Saloon. Although you have to order and pay at the counter upon entry, you are seated by a host and your food brought to your table. Drinks are also refillable here, which is a rarity in France. The Lucky Nugget nearly always features a live band. In my own opinion, the Lucky Nugget at Disneyland Paris is stunning. It is far superior in design compared to the other Lucky/Diamond Horseshoe/Nuggets’ of the other parks. I only wish they had the same style shows that Tokyo does, which we will come on to next.

    DLP Christmas 2010 - Wandering around Frontierland

    DLP Dec 2013 - Lunch at the Silver Spur Steakhouse

    Exploring Frontierland

    DLP Aug 2014 - Dinner at The Lucky Nugget

    DLP Oct 2013 - Lunch at the Lucky Nugget

    Tokyo Disneyland’s Westernland is home to two of the park’s four dinner shows, presented at the Diamond Horseshoe. At lunch the Horseshoe Roundup features Woody, Jessie and Bullseye, and at dinner you can enjoy Mickey and Company, with Mickey and friends. While I have generally refrained from mentioning characters and show experiences at the parks in this article series due to their changeable nature, these shows are very permanent fixtures in Tokyo, and even if they do get changed, it isn’t usually for five or more years. If you are able to get reservations (which is a challenge in Japan, not least because advanced reservations are in Japanese only), then I’d highly recommend seeing either of these shows, although, most people might get more out of Mickey and Company, as it is a more spectacular show.

    Wandering thru Westernland

    Tokyo May 2014 - Horshoe Roundup

    The Diamond Horseshoe Roundup

    Mickey and Company

    Finally we come to counter and window service locations, of which there are plenty across the parks. From burgers, chicken nuggets, Mexican, to desserts and more, the Wild West has it all! Let’s take a look inside some of the more prominent locations at each park.

    A point to note here is that Disneyland and Walt Disney World both have a Horseshoe restaurant similar to those I mentioned above in Tokyo and Paris, however, Disneyland’s is more a counter service/dessert place and the Magic Kingdom’s is rarely ever open (and when it is, it’s usually just sandwiches). Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe does feature some entertainment, but like with Paris, it isn’t Tokyo! (In all honesty, we found Disneyland’s venue to be very rowdy and busy, which we didn’t like when we just wanted to sit with drinks and ice cream.)

    California (below)

    Wandering thru Frontierland

    Taking a break at the Golden Horseshoe Stage

    Disneyland Summer 2013 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Disneyland Aug 2010 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Disneyland July 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Disneyland Dec 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Disneyland Summer 2013 - Wandering through Critter Country

    Disneyland Summer 2013 - Wandering through Critter Country

    Magic Kingdom

    WDW Dec 2010 - Exploring Frontierland

    WDW Spring 2013 - Wandering through Frontierland

    WDW Oct 2011 - Wandering through Frontierland

    WDW Dec 2010 - Exploring Frontierland

    Diamond Horseshoe

    The Columbia Harbour House

    The Columbia Harbour House

    WDW Sept 2012 - Wandering through Liberty Square

    WDW Sept 2012 - Wandering through Liberty Square

    WDW Oct 2011 - Wandering through Liberty Square

    Disneyland Paris

    DLP Aug 2014 - Cowboy Cookout Barbecue

    DLP Feb 2010 - Cowboy Cookout Barbecue

    DLP April 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    DLP Feb 2010 - Fuente del Oro Restaurante

    DLP Feb 2013 - Exploring Frontierland

    DLP Halloween 2012 - Wandering through Frontierland

    Tokyo

    I want to point out here that the Plaza Pavilion is listed as being part of Westernland, but it definitely does have a more Main Street (or World Bazaar, as it is in Tokyo) feel to it. I’m not sure why it is part of Westernland, but it is.

    Also Grandma Sara’s Kitchen is an awesome place to check out. It has this very cool underground design, and is set on two levels. If it wasn’t always insanely busy in there, we would probably eat there more often!

    Tokyo May 2014 - Wandering through Westernland

    Tokyo May 2014 - Wandering through Westernlandv

    Tokyo May 2014 - Taking a break at the Lucky Nugget Cafe

    Wandering thru Westernland

    Tokyo Aug 2010 - Wandering around Westernland

    TDR Oct 2012 - Exploring Tom Sawyer Island

    Critter Country

    TDR Oct 2012 - Wandering through Critter Country

    TDR Oct 2012 - Grandma Sara's Kitchen

    Tokyo Aug 2010 - Grandma Sara's Kitchen

    Hong Kong

    Sadly Hong Kong really lacks anything substantial, but does have one small window location with outdoor seating, which shares a name with some other Disney Frontier venues, the Lucky Nugget Saloon.

    Lucky Nugget Saloon

    DDE May 2013 - Lunch at the Lucky Nugget Saloon

    Since we are including Mystic Manor for purposes of Haunted Mansion, I have to include the restaurant at Mystic Point, even though it doesn’t really fit any Wild West theme. It’s a neat place for sure, with rooms with varying designs based on different parts of the world.

    DDE May 2013 - Mystic Point Preview

    DDE May 2013 - Mystic Point Preview

    DDE May 2013 - Mystic Point Preview

    So we have come to the end of this wild ride through the wilderness of Frontierland, and we have seen some amazing sights! We have uncovered the secrets of the Phantom Manor, we have splashed down into the Briar Patch, we have taken a hair raising ride on a runaway mine train, and much more!

    Disneyland’s Frontierland, although seemingly somewhat small at first, opens itself up with the ranch, Tom Sawyer Island and Critter Country. Frontierland and Critter Country are very pretty, with lots of trees and plants. I like Frontierland at Disneyland, despite its compact size.

    At Walt Disney World, Frontierland and Liberty Square actually deliver some of the best versions of the attractions contained therein. Big Thunder Mountain and Haunted Mansion both benefit from the newer technology and upgrades, and Splash Mountain has a good balance between size, theming and level of wetness! The only thing I wish Frontierland here had, was more hidden walkways and little “pockets” that open up when you turn a corner. It all just runs into one.

    Disneyland Paris has a vast Frontierland. There is a lot of space, and lots of trees, water and intimate pathways, but lacks perhaps an additional attraction to really support it (Splash Mountain being the key one missing). Big Thunder Mountain in Paris is unique and thrilling. I like Frontierland here, and I like how the story of Phantom Manor ties to Big Thunder Mountain and the town of Thunder Mesa.

    Tokyo’s Westernland has large areas of open walkway with not much filling the space in between. It does redeem itself with its version of Tom Sawyer Island and Critter Country, which is very quaint and rustic.

    Hong Kong’s Grizzly Gulch has a great attraction (which goes backwards!) but really lacks anything else at all. There are no stores, and only one outdoor quick service food location. Mystic Manor however, is an incredible attraction. While not really comparable to anything, it finds its roots in the Haunted Mansion and Phantom Manor, which makes it feel familiar, yet altogether different.

    The next land to discover is Fantasyland. Check back in a couple of weeks to see what magic and enchantment await in the magical realms of fantasy and dreams!

    Dan.
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