Central Plaza at Magic Kingdom: Park or Arena?

It’s been called Central Plaza. It’s the space at the center of Magic Kingdom parks that comes at the end of Main Street, U.S.A. and lies before the castle. It also serves as the stepping off point for all other lands in the park. A plaza traditionally has been a large open space. But Disneyland’s plaza has always been characterized by park benches, shade trees, and flowers. For many families it was the place to meet up if at the end of the day, or if everyone got lost (something that occurred easily before cell phones).

Disneyland's Central Plaza puts the "park" into theme park. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Disneyland’s Central Plaza puts the “park” into theme park. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The idea of a central plaza was created before fireworks were first really introduced into Disneyland. The fireworks were a crowd pleaser. Everyone made their way in front of the castle to see the pyro burst in the shadow of Sleeping Beauty castle. That tradition has been carried on to this day.

A few years after Walt Disney World got built, another idea came along of staging a show in front of the castle. A stage was built, and it became a major part of the Magic Kingdom tradition. “Kids of the Kingdom” style shows were mainstays for many years. Such shows continue today, and now entire entertainment events such as Move It! Shake It! Dance and Play It! consume the entire Central Plaza. Making it easier for people to see Wishes fireworks at night has led the park to reducing shade trees and removing benches.

Popular shows like Dream Along with Mickey are given daily in the Magic Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Popular shows like Dream Along with Mickey are given daily in the Magic Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Disney was experiencing something even bigger. The popularity of their stage shows is even bigger. The good news is that they have a larger central plaza for hosting such events. The downside is now the entire front of the castle is consumed by benches saved for guests waiting in line to see the show. Major castle towers were added to house sound and lighting for the shows. Coincidentally, that same tower look is planned for the Magic Kingdom.

Truthfully, because I didn't stand in line for the stage show, this is the closest I got to the front of the castle during my entire stay. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Truthfully, because I didn’t stand in line for the stage show, this is the closest I got to the front of the castle during my entire stay. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The good news is that there is enough space at Tokyo Disney that they still offer benches and places to enjoy being in a park like setting. Even if you can’t stop and smell the roses in Central Plaza, there are still many other places to do so.

Example of benches near the Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland at Tokyo Disneyland. This is a missing element at the Magic Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober
Example of benches near the Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland at Tokyo Disneyland. This is a missing element at the Magic Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

This week landscaping and fountains were added to the new, enlarged Central Plaza at Magic Kingdom. I’m glad that they’ve enlarged the space. It’s needed with the millions of extra guests that come through this park. The fountain looks like something from the “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” park scene in Hello Dolly.

The fountain is something more like Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, New York. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
The fountain is something more like Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, New York. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Likewise, there is some beautiful landscaping in the form of topiaries that have been prepared for this area.

It's lovely, but it's still very urban--for a Disney park. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
It’s lovely, but it’s still very urban–for a Disney park. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

There’s a lot to like, such as the turn-of-the-century fixtures. But there are some things that are missing. As of yet, there have been no major trees planted. So there will likely be no shade. With no shade, will there be any benches? They were largely removed from Central Plaza before. Will they take advantage of the larger space to add some more shade and benches? Of all the Disney parks, I must say, there seems to be less places to pull up a bench and enjoy the park. And the great niches for enjoying the ambience seem dedicated to being smoking areas. Is that where this is going?

Of course, it’s important that as many as possible be given the chance to see the fireworks and other shows in front of the castle. It’s also will be great to be able to get around if you don’t want to stand on the street and see the parade? But where do you get to sit and watch the parade go by?

What do you think of the changes happening to Central Plaza at the Magic Kingdom?

Leave a Comment