Allow me to dream for a moment.
Those of us not within reasonable driving distance to World or Land are jealous of those of you who are.
If you listen to Connecting With Walt, you’ll learn that Walt Disney and subsequent planners had preliminary designs for a presence in Marceline, MS, New Jersey, and New York City. They came very close to opening a location in St. Louis near the Gateway Arch. Who knows where else he/they were planning that never materialized?
One of those places almost happened in my backyard (relatively speaking). At one point in the 1990s, the Walt Disney company was developing plans for “Disney’s America” in Haymarket, VA, just west of Washington, DC, off I-66. At the time, we were living in Richmond, VA, about 2 hours from Haymarket, and a very real temptation for me to change careers. It was to be a park to highlight early Americana, which I suspect would be similar to Colonial Williamsburg.
It was planned to portray historical events. But nearby residents, I suspect a sizable amount to have a significant influence on local lawmakers/decision makers, triggered an uproar that the new park would over-burden an already clogged interstate and drive down housing prices. Also, other groups had complained that the proposed park would diminish the significance of early American history, specifically the proximity of the Manassas National Battlefield Park, the site of two major Civil War skirmishes.
So the plans, and my dream of a Disney career, were scrapped. Or, at the very least, the ability to jump in the car and drive two hours to a Disney theme park was not to be.
Location for another park would be tricky. The farther north you go, the more likely you’ll encounter inclement weather, which would make outdoor attractions challenging to operate and unpopular. So maybe not another theme park.
Disney has conquered (so to speak) land with theme parks and resorts, shores with beach resorts in places like Aulani, Hilton Head, SC, and Vero Beach, FL, and seas with Disney Cruise Line. What should they do next?
I have an idea.
Walt Disney loved trains. He loved traveling in them and was fascinated with them as a mode of transportation and as a plaything. Mickey Mouse was dreamed up on a train ride between New York and California.
And I love trains. I’ve been on only a handful in my life, but each time I felt like I had room to move around, watch the countryside pass by, and relax. On an airplane, I am so rushed to get on, cramped and claustrophobic when on, and can’t wait to land and get off. And then there’s that whole plummeting to earth from 30,000 feet thing.
So I propose the Disney company set out to create a scenic railroad excursion.
This is not a new concept. For years companies have been offering scenic railroad excursions that provide sleeping and bathroom/shower accommodations. This one, however, would have the Disney Touch.
Perhaps the scenic train excursion could be only one day to a particular destination where guests would spend the day and board the train for the trip back.
It could make a multi-day rail trip with stops along the way, much like an Adventures By Disney excursion.
And if the train needed a destination, how about a Disney-owned dude ranch? Maybe something that would be appropriate for the area of the country where the rail excursion operates.
Or, stay with me here…how about stopping at a Disney-owned ski resort?
Walt Disney had made plans in the mid-1960s for a ski resort in California called Mineral King. Walt was interested in creating a healthy, family-friendly outdoor exercise facility.
What ultimately ended the project was the Department of the Interior opposing it based on environmental concerns. Congress subsequently passed a bill making Mineral King Valley a national park with stiffer environmental protections, ending Disney’s hope of building a ski resort. That’s not to say they couldn’t try again, perhaps in a privately-owned area of the country, or acquire an existing ski resort.
So here’s the plan. Disney should add a scenic railroad excursion to its portfolio of vacation options. And a dude ranch. And a ski resort.
Wouldn’t that be cool!??!!
Feature Image: Photo by Kristen Colada Adams on Unsplash
Dan Chapman loves everything Mouse - with a tattoo to prove it - and longs to step back into the Disney bubble any chance he gets. He has a particular admiration of Walt Disney the man, and reads every biography written about Walt Disney that he can get his hands on.
Dan is new to navigating the post-retirement landscape and stays busy putting kayak to water, bike to trail and pen to paper.
He and his wife live "beach-adjacent" in North Carolina (close enough to enjoy the beach but far enough to avoid the property taxes).