Just past the entrance plaza at Anaheim’s Disneyland, visitors will find the charming area known as Main Street, USA. Modeled after a Midwest town of the first years of the 20th century, the long walkway is a shopping and dining area. Visitors may stop and listen to a wandering barbershop quartet, catch a ride on a horse-drawn vehicle, or even pause for a free showing of the oldest Mickey Mouse cartoons.
Legends say that Walt Disney was inspired by his hometown in Missouri to create the frozen-in-time entrance to his theme park. Mock buildings such as firehouses and dentists line the streets, containing souvenir shops, restaurants and guest relations offices. A constant soundscape of popular songs echoes through the area, including classic hits such as "Lida Rose," and 'Flitterin’." Several alcoves and alleyways also have small humorous sound bites of activity going on in the “shops” above.
At the front of Main Street, USA is the raised boarding platform for the Disneyland Railroad. Approximately every ten minutes, guests can board a steam train for the grand circle tour through the park, including visits inside Splash Mountain and even to see dinosaurs in the Primeval World diorama. At the opposite end of the long street stands the “Partners” statue, featuring Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney looking out over the park.
For many years, Main Street housed an animatronic show, The Walt Disney Story featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. This movie and motion show included elements of the history of Walt Disney and the park, as narrated by the animatronic 16th president of the United States. The attraction was replaced in 2005 with a film narrated by comedian Steve Martin, "Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years."
As you walk down the street toward the castle, duck into a dark building on the right to watch original Mickey Mouse short films at the Main Street Cinema. While "Steamboat Willie," the original Mickey Mouse cartoon is always showed, five other classic cartoons are presented in an occasionally changing schedule. As you watch, marvel at the unusual level of violence allowed in cartoons of those days.
Main Street USA is the main corridor for Disney parades. About an hour prior to the start of the parade, cast members will block off portions of the street and designate areas for seating. Disney parades are impressive spectacles featuring huge floats and many beloved characters. The parades are often crowded, so be sure to find a prime spot on the pavement with plenty of time to spare.
One of the largest features of the street is the central circle that holds the flagpole. At Halloween each year, the circle is home to a giant, Mickey-shaped pumpkin. For Christmas, guests line up for pictures in front of the 60 ft (18 m) tree. Off to one side of the circle is the firehouse, where you may notice a light burning in the second story window. Until his death, Walt Disney maintained an apartment there, and the light is left constantly burning in his memory.
Main Street, USA is a wonderful entrance area into the magical world of Disneyland. Although the unusual souvenir shops of the past, such as the Wizard of Bras lingerie store, the Tobacco Shop, and the plastic Flower Mart are gone, Main Street still provides numerous places to shop for Disney brand souvenirs. Although it may not have the flashy rides of other areas, Main Street is in many ways the heart of the park, a memory of Walt’s beloved hometown, and a memorial to a time of innocence and easy fun.