It’s a bit of an idealized view, but I love the lands of Liberty Square and Frontierland in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park. The improvements on reality of those historic times in the U.S. work well for me as a person with disabilities who uses a wheelchair because these lands are made largely accessible in ways that, in reality, they never were.
Cruising Through Liberty Square
Often our first round through Magic Kingdom starts with a roll through Liberty Square. It may be just a passing through, but we always return for more throughout the day. I love the brick and the proud feel of the colonial-styled buildings. And I can’t get enough of the majestic beauty of the Liberty Tree holding branches aloft with the 13 unique lanterns representing the original U.S. colonies. It evokes to me the dream of unity and diverse people working together to create hope for a better world.
I love the story of how Walt himself picked out the tree for Liberty Square, and it had to be moved from deep in the wild swamplands of the property to its location with the use of enormous machinery and careful planning.
While it may not be a large part of the Park, Liberty Square is significant in meaning and was well-known to be important to Walt Disney himself. I also find it very accessible, from the shops (we always have to visit Ye Olde Christmas Shop to select a new ornament for our tree every year!) to the restaurants and even the accessible seating with a good view of the show in the Hall of Presidents.
Liberty Square Attractions
Another must-visit is the Liberty Square River Boat for a cruise around Tom Sawyer Island, past Big Thunder Mountain, and skirting by the Haunted Mansion. Even on hot, bright days, I find the trip cooling and always feel refreshed afterward.
The boat is accessible by going down the ramp to the left of the dock. A boarding door opens on the boat, and a Cast Member places a metal ramp over the gap to bridge the otherwise steep step. Unfortunately, the upstairs is not accessible as the boat is a renovated original paddle boat, but I find I get nice views sitting up near the front, and my husband gets a bench next to me for resting his feet.
Perhaps my favorite attraction in all of WDW is Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square, so we always ride (several times) during our visit. Once inside, I roll through the Stretch Room with my wheelchair. We are instructed to enter and exit this room last, and also park to the side to be out of the travel path of the other guests.
Afterward, a Cast Member asks if we can wait in the boarding line and walk on a moving platform. For me, this is not possible, so we ask to be boarded at the exit and have a short stop to allow me to pull my wheelchair close to the vehicle for transfer. Depending on the timing, it can be a short wait or about 10 minutes to get the right vehicle for transfer. These cars have a small cutout that many folks wouldn’t notice, to make transferring easier. Then my wheelchair is pulled back off the walkway and put to the side until we return from visiting the grim, grinning ghosts.
Liberty Square Sustenance
For meals, there is the excellent Liberty Square Tavern for table service, Liberty Square Market for snacks, Sleepy Hollow for delicious waffles, and a perennial favorite of ours: Columbia Harbour House for a quick service meal. We love the menu and appreciate the reserved tables for people with disabilities, as the upstairs dining area is inaccessible. This is always a must-visit during our trip for a nice meal and an air-conditioning break.
Wandering into Frontierland
Strolling down the path from Liberty Square, the music gradually changes to Western theming, and a more rustic look is reflected in the buildings of Frontierland. Even the bridge pathway with boat dock to Tom’ Sawyer’s Island feels rough and built quickly for necessity from wood planks.
Entertainment abounds from the characters wandering the street to the Country Bear Jamboree. This can be entered to the left with the assistance of a Cast Member. They open the rope to a ramp to go in the lobby, then a special door on the left leads down another ramp to accessible seating in the front with plenty of benches next to and behind open spaces for wheelchair parking. Every seat provides a great view of those musical bears!
The Wildest Ride in the Wilderness
My favorite attraction in this land is Big Thunder Mountain, as I love a good roller coaster. The standby queue is not accessible, so it helps to prebook a ride (either through the Disability Access Service or by asking a Cast Member at the entrance) and then enter up the ramp for the ride exit. There a Cast Member will scan your booking, then guide you inside to wait in a corral on the left that is out of the exit travel path.
They will ask if you can climb down into the car or if you need the “TAB” vehicle. I always request the TAB vehicle, which may require a longer wait as the ride circulates. This car is at the back and has a special door that opens and folds down for easier transfer. I pull my wheelchair up close, then slide down to the seat. After pulling the TAB door back into place, we pull down the lap bar and ride.
It’s fun, but very bumpy, so not a great fit if big bumps and being jostled make you uncomfortable or ill. For me, deboarding is a bit harder as I need help standing up in the car, then my husband pulls my chair to the door, and I sit back. The ride is lower than newer coasters, so more lifting is required for transferring.
Inaccessible Attractions in Frontierland
Unfortunately, the other attractions in Frontierland are not wheelchair accessible. Splash Mountain requires a huge step down (and back out) for riding the vehicle. Perhaps during the renovation and retheming, Disney will be able to install some features to improve accessibility, which has been done successfully on other rides like Frozen Ever After.
It’s a shame that it (and several other attractions) has remained inaccessible for so long. Additionally, Tom Sawyer Island cannot be traversed in wheelchair—very disappointing as I truly enjoy rolling through attractions and beautiful scenery in other areas of WDW.
While we enjoy a snack at Westward Ho, we’ve never visited when the Golden Oak Outpost was open, so we cannot comment on their offerings. Although we’ve heard the food is good, we haven’t visited the Diamond Horseshoe for their table service barbecue victuals.
We did visit Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe, and while the southwestern fare was delicious, the accessible seating was really hard to find because there was no reserved area and no Cast Member offered help. It would be an improvement if either guest in wheelchairs were given assistance with seating or if they set a couple tables aside to make it easier for disabled guests.
These classic lands (Liberty Square and Frontierland) at Magic Kingdom are beautiful and bring the imagination alive with historical embellishments. While I’ll continue to hope for accessibility improvements to increase inclusion of disabled guests, I’ll always treasure visiting these magical places and the fun attractions my husband and I can enjoy together.