Dueling Disney: Square-off

Written by Keith Gluck. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort, Dueling Disney, Keith Gluck, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

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Published on May 22, 2013 at 3:00 am with 29 Comments

Ye come seeking adventure and salty old pirates, aye? Well don’t close your eyes, and don’t try to hide. For my fellow Americans, we have ourselves a good old-fashioned Square-off!

We can smell the pundit’s fresh ink now: “Not since Dueling Disney: Main Street has there been such an overwhelmingly lopsided victory in this neoteric and arresting series.”

Will this be Keith’s sweet, sweet payback for the Tomorrowland Duel?

(As usual: Keith will be representing Disneyland, and Jeff, Walt Disney World)

Topic 9: Square-off

Jeff: This one is a bit of a tough one for me. I can see myself pulling a Keith, and conceding right off the bat that Liberty Square is not nearly as amazing as New Orleans Square; but I will valiantly defend my home turf to the death!

So, let’s talk a bit about Liberty Square, shall we? It’s meant to invoke the colonial era feel, with numerous references to our nation’s early history all around. And from a history buff’s standpoint, they do an excellent job of creating an authentic atmosphere. For example, take a look at some of the residential houses. If you add an “18” before any of the house numbers, you’ll get the year that that house is meant to represent. Also, take a look at the shutters on the homes. No, that’s not shabby workmanship that is causing them to sag. It’s actually very authentic! Leather was often used to hold shutters in place, because the metal was going toward the war effort.

That’s not all of the great references to American history here, but I’ll let Keith have a go…

Keith: The first new land to be added to Walt Disney’s original Magic Kingdom officially opened on July 24, 1966. The mayor of New Orleans was on hand to help Walt with the dedication, and he was beaming with pride. No attractions were ready on opening day, however the “square” (I added the quotes because New Orleans Square isn’t really a square) was alive with beautiful French Quarter architecture, live jazz music, quaint French-named shops, and of course, Cajun-style cuisine. To this day, hanging plants can be seen decorating the wrought-iron wrapped balconies that loom over each charming little street. New Orleans Square is arguably the most beautiful land in any of the Magic Kingdom-style parks, and one of the many reasons Disneyland will always be my favorite park.


Jeff: While I will no doubt agree that New Orleans Square is gorgeous, I still have to back up Liberty Square. Aside from the historical aspects I mentioned (one if by land, two if by sea!), the area is also home to The Haunted Mansion. While not the original, it’s still a delight that is entertaining thousands of guests each and every day. The architecture of the Mansion is based on the Dutch Gothic Revival style, much like you would find in the Hudson River Valley region of New York. Heck, I even enjoy the interactive queue they added, despite its flaws. I mean, they throw a Rolly nod in there, come on! The attraction itself has a larger show building than its Western cousin, and even contains a few additional scenes! What is not to love about that?!

Keith: Confession time! I prefer the interior of your Haunted Mansion. The modern effects of the hitchhiking ghosts are neat, but as you alluded to, the staircase room and the mausoleum are two awesome scenes that I wish we had. That said, the exterior of our mansion is vastly superior. Please note, Jeff, that I bolded the word “vastly.”

Jeff: Noted and ignored!

Keith: As early as 1957, Imagineer Ken Anderson designed a stately Southern mansion, knowing that eventually Disneyland would receive a New Orleans-themed expansion. Standing at three stories tall, with four elegant columns, Walt himself ensured its beauty. Original concepts for a “haunted house attraction” had the building looking dilapidated and spooky. Walt wasn’t having it. He did not want anything looking run-down inside Disneyland. “We’ll take care of the outside,” Walt said, “And let the ghosts take care of the inside.”

Mister Heimbuch! Are there any places to eat inside Liberty Square?

Jeff: Well, over at Walt Disney World, the Columbia Harbour House will take care of all of your quick service needs. I particularly enjoy grabbing my food, and taking a seat on the upper level. Looking out over the crowd in Liberty Square is often a pleasant little way to spend some down time. If you’re looking for something a little faster, there is a snack stand that sells some healthy fruit just outside of Harbour House!

Fun fact: The bathroom in the Columbia Harbour House is actually located in Fantasyland! Go figure, right?

There is also the Liberty Tree Tavern, which is a great restaurant located in the heart of Liberty Square. If you’re looking for a bit of relaxation that’s less hectic than the Harbour House’s quick service, you’ll certainly enjoy taking a seat inside Liberty Tree Tavern. Though, for a place with Tavern in the name, there is a suspicious lack of alcohol!


Keith: They serve alcohol in New Orleans Square. But you’ve got to know where to look.

Nestled behind the right side of the Pirates queue, a quick service stand called Royal Street Veranda sells delightful bread bowl soups, such as: Steak Gumbo, Vegetarian Gumbo, and Clam Chowder. Mere yards away you can find Cafe Orleans, a table service restaurant that offers delicious Southern fare, including freshly prepared crepes. Disneyland’s finest counter service, in my opinion, sits majestically over on the west side of the Square. The French Market has benefited from a healthier menu in recent years, to mixed reviews. However even if you’re sad over the loss of the fattier food choices, no one can ever lament the eatery’s location. It’s outdoor only seating, which is a good thing considering the views afforded. Gaze upon the aforementioned beautiful architecture of the Haunted Mansion, or watch the Mark Twain slowly steam along the Rivers of America. And if you time it right, you can take in a live Jazz performance as you dine. When you experience all three of those things at the same time, especially around dusk, it’s not hard to see why the French Market is a favorite of many guests. Oh, and you can purchase Mickey-shaped beignets in the Mint Julep Bar behind the French Market. Basically, French Market FTW.

Now Jeffrey, I could pretty much stop right there and claim victory for food service supremacy in this Square-off. But, I’m not going to.

On 31 Royal Street, just across from the Pieces of Eight shop, and right next door to… a door, resides the signature dining experience for most guests visiting Disneyland: The Blue Bayou. Located inside the Pirates of the Caribbean show building, this restaurant is as famous for its atmosphere as it is for its signature sandwich, the Monte Cristo. Now I am going to admit two things here: 1) I actually don’t love that sandwich, and 2), the Blue Bayou is kinda overpriced. However, neither of those factors prevent me from enjoying what is one of the coolest dining experiences in all of Disney. It is always twilight inside the restaurant, with shooting stars, fireflies, and the sounds of crickets enhancing your experience. If you are willing to wait a little longer to be seated, be sure to request a water-side table.

Okay Jeff, now I’m done. Oh wait, not just yet.

As for that “door” located next to the Blue Bayou, that just so happens to be a portal into the Disneyland Resort’s most exclusive, most elegant, and most sought-after dining experience. Club 33, originally created to be a private dining room for Walt and his family to enjoy, as well as entertain special guests, was meant to compliment the new apartment being added over Pirates of the Caribbean. Sadly, Walt passed away before either was completed. After Club 33 was finished, Disney did initially use the space to entertain VIPs. It wasn’t long, however, before they decided to turn it into a private club offering paid memberships. The memberships are, for lack of a better term, not cheap.

Neither is the experience of dining there, however. The club offers terrific views, beautiful decor, unique merchandise, and amazing food (probably the best steak I’ve ever had). It is also, as I alluded to in the start of this turn, the only place in all of Disneyland to obtain an alcoholic beverage. While expensive, and fairly hard to get into, Club 33 offers a luxurious and decadent experience no guest will ever forget.

Okay Jeff, now you can go. Wait a second, why are you holding that white flag?

Jeff: It seems as if you beat me into a form of submission over here. You have secret clubs, fabulous menus, and even alcohol. How the heck can we even compete with that?!

Now, granted, I still love Liberty Square, and everything it represents…but man, you certainly beat me down with your massive food options. I’d throw a chicken finger at you, but you’d come back with a gumbo in my face.

I think, for the first time ever, I will have to accept this one like a gentleman, and bow out gracefully.

EXCEPT for the fact that I forgot to mention one, final thing.


That’s right, this amazing show, filled with audio-animatronics of every single President we’ve ever had, is a fantastic way to spend some down time while in Liberty Square. The show itself is updated every time we elect a new president, and features selections from such Presidents as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and our current president, Barack Obama. A lot of people put the show down, and think it’s boring, but I think it’s a fascinating bit of history. If you have little ones, it may even be a great way to introduce them to how the whole political thing works here in the good ol’ U.S. of A!

Keith: Speaking of audio-animatronics, I think it’s only fair to tell you that…

We’re devils, and black sheep. We’re really bad eggs.

Pirates of the Caribbean, considered to be one of Disney’s greatest attractions, opened on March 18, 1967. When it opened, its technology was groundbreaking. Disney Legend Blaine Gibson sculpted a cast of 119 creatures—64 humans, 55 animals—based on the brilliant sketches of fellow Disney Legend Marc Davis. These swashbuckling scalawags are one of several reasons why New Orleans Square is one of the most beloved lands in all of the Disney parks.

Pirates, Haunted, Club 33, Blue Bayou, the architecture, the music, the Disneyland Dream Suite, the gorgeous Court des Anges… New Orleans Square not only eclipses Liberty Square, it is also amongst the best themed lands in any theme park the world over.

What say you, folks? Was Jeff right to take his beatdown like a man? Or is Keith actually wrong, and Liberty Square is the one Square to rule them all? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Dueling Disney is written by Jeff Heimbuch & Keith Gluck

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email us at [email protected] or [email protected]

You can follow us on Twitter: @DisneyProject and @JeffHeimbuch


About Keith Gluck

Keith Gluck writes for and volunteers at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. He also runs a Disney blog called thedisneyproject.com, and travels to Disney Parks as often as he can. A fan of many facets of The Disney Company, Keith's main interest is the life and legacy of Walt Disney. For questions/comments, or to request a certain topic be covered, please send an email to: [email protected] Twitter: @DisneyProject Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Disney-Project/194569877288847

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Comments for Dueling Disney: Square-off are now closed.

  1. Liberty Square summarizes the Magic Kingdom and WDW for me. Without it there would not have been a DCA 1.0.

  2. Add an 18 to make the year? America was not in the colonial period in the 1800s. Forgive me if I’m misinterpreting this.

  3. Liberty Tree tavern is not a buffet. Dinner is served family style, but it’s brought to your table. Lunch is regular table service.

    Liberty Square is possibly my favorite MK land, but I’ve got to give this one to New Orleans, too.

  4. Thanks again guys…..your series is always a good read…….
    Not to pick but I was wondering about the “18″ statement too. The style of buildings did continue into the early 19th century but 1800s wouldn’t fit the period of the American Revolution.
    Anyway….enough said…..enjoyed the article and look forward to the next posting.

  5. It probably isn’t fair to compare these two squares seeing as how they are so different. There are aspects I like about both. I whole heartedly agree that New Orleans Square is better because it houses my two favorite rides and also showcases my favorite show Fantasmic. My first love is DL but I have grown rather fond of WDW as well. I am a total Disney fan and that will never change.

  6. Sorry to pile it on, but New Orleans Square has a very nice train station to boot!

  7. You forgot some important aspects of Liberty Square. That’s home to the Liberty Square Riverboat and it’s the best place to watch the parades!

  8. Does liberty square have any live entertainment or historical enactments? I’d die to see a group of revolutionary soldiers marching through the streets replete with drummers and fifers! Sure throw in G. Washington on horseback and I might faint! That should be one of Disney’s best lands, but without Walt things just aren’t “plussed” like when he was around.

    • Or have the declaration of independence read aloud as if its “news” that the town just received with a few cannon blasts afterwards. That’s be awesome too so much they could do there.
      Or a dark ride containing iconic scenes from the war. Paul reveres ride, valley forge, Princeton and Trenton Washington’s best victories, breeds hill, and a naval battle with the French at Yorktown. That would easily rival POTC if done right.

    • They do have a town crier! When he saw my sister’s birthday button, he rang his bell and made a big hear-ye hear-ye announcement about it.

      I’ve seen pictures of a fife and drum corps, but they’re all old pictures and I’ve never seen one there in person.

    • The drum corps are at the America pavilion in Epcot. The good stuff gets spread too thin at WDW sometimes.

      • Yes, the fife and drum corps are now at The American Adventure at Epcot, but pre 1982, they resided in Liberty Square. Each day (or multiple times per day), the F&D’s would perform in Liberty Square and a boy and girl were selected to participate in the event and they would be proclaimed “sons and daughters” of Liberty. As I recall, each was also given a copy of the Declaration of Independence. It was a neat little ceremony that should be brought back to the MK.

      • They still do that ceremony at the American Adventure pavilion at Epcot – the last time we were there, there was a crash of thunder right at the moment he proclaimed the kids to be the sons and daughters of liberty – it was actually pretty cool. :)

  9. You left out lots of facts of Liberty Square… Liberty Bell, Liberty Tree, Liberty Belle, the brown elements in the sidewalk, Paul Revere’s house, etc…

    AT LEAST TRY to give the Walt Disney World parks a fight at these duels.

    • And the Sleepy Hollow waffle stand!

    • And Sleepy Hollow waffles!

  10. New Orleans Square. Without a doubt.

  11. I do like Liberty Square, and in particular I like eating at the Harbor House, but this one really is no contest. New Orleans Square for me is my favorite land in any Disney theme park. I actually prefer the DL Haunted Mansion (I like that you can stop and look at the changing portraits rather then going past them as part of the ride) a little bit, but other then the outside and the very beginning of the ride, they are identical. I think that DL’s Pirates is probably the most perfect ride that Disney has ever done. I don’t mind the PC update back in the 90′s, and I can even live with them adding Jack Sparrow to the ride. It’s still perfect. And the Blue Bayou definitely puts New Orleans Square way over the top. As far as I know, it is the only restaurant in any Disney park in the world where you can see part of a ride from the inside of the restaurant (I don’t count the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot because the ride part doesn’t start until you’re past the restaurant, but from the Blue Bayou you can see the houseboats, fireflies, etc.). I also love all of the restaurants at New Orleans Square, and I think that the Blue Bayou, Cafe Orleans, and French Market are three of the best restaurants at a Disney park. The shops are a lot of fun to walk through, and the live entertainment is outstanding. I love watching the bands in NOS and love the atmosphere. Liberty Square is fine for what it is, but to compare it to New Orleans Square is like comparing Knott’s to Disneyland.

    • Disneyland Paris has the Blue Lagoon restaurant inside its Pirates. That Pirates is insanely great, too, and no Jack Sparrow nonsense to be found.

      • I didn’t know that but I’m glad for their sake that they have something just as cool. I haven’t made it to DL Paris yet, but I will!!!

    • I think you can see into the Living with the Land boat ride from the restaurant in the Land Pavilion at Epcot – but I haven’t been there since it’s been the character dining, so that tells you how long it’s been – I may not be remembering correctly! :) You can also watch the It’s a Small World Boats leaving the loading area from one part of the Pinocchio restaurant at the Magic Kingdom, but that’s counter service.

  12. Now that you’re a Disneyland passholder and CA resident, will you be passing the torch to someone on the East Coast to defend WDW? And… you never had a chance on this one, sorry.

  13. Having had my first dining experience at club 33 on Saturday, got to give New Orleans Square the edge.

  14. My friend used to live in New Orleans before coming to SoCal. What really surprised me was that he said whenever he visited New Orleans Square at DL, he felt like he was back home in New Orleans. That level of detail and authenticity is what makes me love Disney so much!

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