A trip to Walt's Happy Place - Marceline, Missouri September 2012

Discussion in 'Completed Trip Reports' started by MarbleBob, May 5, 2013.

  1. MarbleBob

    MarbleBob DIS Veteran

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    A trip to Marceline, MO last fall. I'm not sure if this sub-forum is dedicated to DW only, but I couldn't think of a better place to post this.

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    So, I’ve lived in the St. Louis, Missouri area for the last 20 years and had never visited Walt’s hometown, which is only about 3 hours away. We had talked about it several times, but just never got around to visiting. It had been about 2 years since we had done a proper trip to WDW, and we were hankering for something Disney related, so we said, “what the heck, let’s take a day trip to Marceline next Saturday”. I did a Google search and interestingly enough, their annual Toonfest was planned for that weekend. We “had” to go then. I called my parents, and told them what we were up to, and they were “in” on it. (We’ve gone DW with them more times than without them. Such great memories for the kids!)

    So, it’s been more than a few months since we made the trip. I didn’t originally plan on writing a trip report myself, but I broke my foot last week and I’m couch bound - and I’m incredibly bored right now.

    So, we (Me, DW, DD12, DS 9, DD5) met up with my parents early in the morning, all packed in a mini van and headed west from St. Louis.

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    It was a fairly boring and uneventful drive from St. Louis to Marceline, but we had fun chatting and there weren’t too many, “are we there yets” from the kids. Everyone got excited when we had our first glimpse of the town

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    The little one had to “go real bad!”, so we stopped at the first gas station in town for a pit stop. You know that you are in rural Missouri when you see goats in the backs of pickup trucks.

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    Actually, we arrived in town around 11:30 AM, and the Toonfest parade had just ended. I guess this little guy was pulling a wagon or something. The other interesting thing is that there aren’t a lot of places to eat in Marceline. Personally, I’d never consider buying pizza from a gas station, but it must have been pretty good, because there were a LOT of people coming out with slices in their hands. Strange.

    Anyway, after the pit stop, we decided to visit the Walt Disney Hometown Museum before heading down to Mainstreet for the Toonfest festivities.

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    First, off the museum http://www.waltdisneymuseum.org is awesome. It was much better than I expected. And I kicked myself for not coming sooner. Admission was reasonable. About $5 for an adult, half that for a kid, and smaller kids 5 and under are free. The entire museum is inside the old train depot. I didn’t take too many photos inside, although they permitted photos in most of the museum, with the exception of a large movie memorabilia section for the Great Locomotive Chase (which premiered in Marceline back in 1956). If you want more details on the museum, see the official link above as I’m certain that they can describe the exhibits much better than I ever could. In the meantime, here are a few highlights:

    Your’s truly and my DW
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    Mickey dolls that Walt and Roy gave to their parents
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    Upstairs, an entire room is dedicated to an amazing scale model of Disneyland hand made by the late Dale Varner. Really cool!

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    Here’s one of the original Midget Autopia cars.

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    If you aren’t familiar with the story, Walt sent the Midget Autopia cars to Marceline as a gift after he had the attraction removed from Disneyland. It ran in a park just outside of town for a few years until they fell into disrepair. Here’s what it looked like when they were laying the track. (Check back later to see what it looks like today. They turned the old site into a playground many years ago.)

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    We spent about an hour visiting the museum, including a few minutes in the gift shop. I could have easily spent another hour or two reading the info from all the exhibits, but the kids were hungry and ready to move on to the festival. This description of the museum doesn’t even begin to do the place justice. They had a ton of old family letters, photos, and artifacts. Really good stuff!

    On the way out, we explored the gardens around the museum for a few more minutes and we were greeted by a BNSF train as it passed through town

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    Well, that’s part one. I’ll try and get the rest posted up tomorrow evening. I’ll describe the Toonfest “festivities” (more like a fair), Main Street USA, our visit to the old Midget Autopia site (possibly my favorite part of the trip), our stop at the Walt Disney Elementary school to see the flag pole, the over to Walt’s boyhood home, the Dreaming Tree (what’s left of it anyway) and to Walt’s Happy Place (the recreation of his barn.) Lots more pictures to come.
     
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  3. wiigirl

    wiigirl DIS Veteran

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    In for your TR! :)
     
  4. MarbleBob

    MarbleBob DIS Veteran

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    After we finished touring the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, we headed over to Toonfest. It's is an annual event celebrated in Marceline for the last 15 years or so. It's really more like a small town fair than anything, and it didn't appear to bring in a lot of out of towners like us. Which is a shame, because it was actually pretty cool. It's based in E.P. Ripley Park, located in the center of town. They have a parade, all kinds of craft booths, vendors, music, and kid activities. They also have various cartoon exhibits and the Cartoonist Symposiums at the Uptown Theater. Go to http://www.toonfest.net/home.html for more details :)

    We parked the car along the edge of the park, and my kids were immediately drawn to some cow milking contraptions. Luckily, they only squirted out water. It would have been a real mess, otherwise!

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    They also had tunnels made from hay bales, bouncy gyms, games, a barrel train, pirate ship play area, princess booths, as well as a permanent caboose, locomotive, and playground equipment. Lots of fun stuff for the kids to interact with.

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    You gotta love a good old school merry go round thingy. (I don't know what they are really called.) It seems like most parks got rid of these contraptions years ago due to safety concerns. Brings back memories from my local playground as a kid :) (Off topic, but I saw a video on YouTube once where some idiots laid a motorcycle on its side with the rear wheel touching the base of one of these things. They revved up the engine with a volunteer on it, it spun so fast that the dude lost his grip and flew 20 feet like a rag doll. Crazy stupid!!)

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    The locomotive was restored and rededicated in 1998 in honor of Santa Fe employees who lost their lives on the job.
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    After letting the kids roam and play for a little while, everyone was starving, so we went over to see what the food options were. I was surprised to see that there was really only one food vendor. If you didn't want to leave the fair to find a restaurant, then this was the only option.

    The prices were reasonable and the food was just OK. We had fun anyway.

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    I went for the fried pork tenderloin sandwich. It was OK, if not a little bland. Kids went for hamburgers, and they were about what you'd expect. I can't remember what everyone else had, but the moral of the story is don't come to Toonfest if you just want to get some good carnival/fair food. Overall, I was a bit disappointed in lunch. They had a few tables that you could sit at on the street, and a country music band in the background. (I normally don't care for country music, but it added to the ambiance :) )

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    DD5 rode the barrel train while everyone else finished eating and relaxed for a few minutes. It went down Main Street, and around the park. It was really cool and she loved every minute of it!!!

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    We decided to explore the Toonfest area a while longer before checking out Main Street USA more thoroughly.

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    I really should have taken more pictures of the park area, as you really need them to get a feel for what the crafts and vendor booths were like. They also had a princess boutique area, where they would "doll up" your little ones for a few bucks, if you wanted. We skipped that option.

    My mom and DD couldn't resist picking up a fresh watermelon. The guy at the booth lived in Marceline and grew them in his backyard. It was tasty! We should have just ate a few of these for lunch instead of hitting the food area ;)

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    At this point we were pretty much finished with Toonfest and wanted to go walk down Main Street. Disneyland's Main Street USA has the reputation of being based off of Marceline's Main Street. It seems like the Disneyland version was only inspired by it, or at least by its nostalgia. Because, it didn't really look too much like the Disneyland version. Regardless, it was fun to look and around and see the places that Walt visited as a kid.

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    Here's the Uptown Theatre where Walt came back for the Midwest's premier the Great Locomotive Chase in 1956
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    This sign describes it well
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    This was also the location for Toonfest panel discussions with various cartoon artists throughout the day.

    I guess that's it for this portion. More to come with our stops at Walt Disney Municipal Park, Midget Autopia 2.0, Walt Disney Elementary, the Dreaming Tree, and Walt's Barn.
     
  5. DaeHyFoog

    DaeHyFoog Let's all sing like the birdies sing...

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    DW chiming in: Thanks for putting the trip report together that I was hoping to do and never got around to doing. :laundy: You're doing a great job! :thumbsup2
     
  6. MarbleBob

    MarbleBob DIS Veteran

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    After we browsed around Main Street for a while, we decided to head over to the Walt Disney Municipal Park to see the old Midget Autopia site.
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    It's a really great park just outside of town with a nice lake, ball fields, public swimming pool, playground, and amphitheater. The park and pool were named after Walt. Walt and Roy were there for the dedication in 1956. Pretty cool.

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    Hey look! Another one of those carousel thingies!!! (Keep your motorcycles away please :) )
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    But we came to visit the Midget Autopia site!

    If you want more information on the history of Midget Autopia, http://www.yesterland.com/autopia3.html has a great write up about it. They refer to plans for re-creating it closer to the museum, but I don't think enough funding was secured, and it looks like the effort was abandoned. Too bad :(

    Well, we had fun visiting the 2.0 version as-is today!

    The old queuing area was turned into a picnic site
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    The old concrete track is still there, and it has been amended with additional playground equipment

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    We brought the scooters and tricycle with us, and the kids had a blast riding on the old track!
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    Here's a quick YouTube video showing the kids cruising around. Sorry for the poor quality... It was recorded on my phone.
    http://youtu.be/U4n9pMs3j44

    They had fun on the playground equipment too
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    Then, the girls decided that they needed to put on a show for us at the amphitheater
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    We watched a few more trains pass by, and at this point, it was time to move on. The next post will cover Walt Disney Elementary, the Dreaming Tree, and Walt's Barn.
     
  7. OhMari

    OhMari WDW PreTrip and Trip Moderator Moderator

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    What a cool TR.
    You are more than welcome to have it on the Trip Reports Board.

    We picked up our new puppy in Lancing MO.
    I know-we are bad for getting a puppy at sort of a breeder.
    We were only 20 miles away.
    I still could kick myself for not insisting we go.
     
  8. JohnstonMandy

    JohnstonMandy Earning My Ears

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    This is super interesting! Thanks for sharing!!
     
  9. shalom

    shalom DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for this! I had no idea there was anything Disney-related in Marceline. So many people here write such great trip reports, I often wish there was a "non-Disney Trip Reports" forum. But even if there were, this one qualifies as a Disney Trip in my book. :)
     
  10. MarbleBob

    MarbleBob DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for the feedback everyone. I have another post or two coming to cover the rest of the trip. I'll post up the next installment tomorrow :thumbsup2
     
  11. disnemimi

    disnemimi Mimi to 6 Awesome Grandchildren

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    Wow, Marble Bob.....this trip report is awesome. Makes you want to live in Marceline. We just went to Marceline's Confectionary in Disneyland, CA (well, Downtown Disney) and this trip report makes it even more special than all the yummy sweets. Keep the report coming.
    Disnemimi:cool1:
     
  12. MarbleBob

    MarbleBob DIS Veteran

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    Our next stop was the Walt Disney Elementary school. The old school was replaced with a new facility around 1960, and it was named after him. Apparently, they have some Disney related photos and artwork inside the school, but it was closed and you couldn't go in. It must be really cool for the students to say that they go to the Walt Disney school!!!

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    Walt was the Chairman of Pageantry for the 1960 Winter Olympic games in California. He had one of the flag poles from the Olympic site sent to the school after the games were finished.

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    Also, I read that he sent them a Mickey Mouse flag from Disneyland. And that the school is the only place outside of the theme park that is authorized to fly it. I don't know if they still fly it (or a newer version, or none at all), but it wasn't flying when we visited.




    We spent a few minutes at the school and then headed out of town and over to the Dreaming Tree and Walt's Barn. They are sort of hidden out of the way, and you wouldn't find them if you weren't looking for them. They are on private property back behind Walt's boyhood home. Thankfully, the property owners welcome visitors. (I'm sure that they don't welcome strangers to the home, since they actually live there.)

    There's a small parking area on the side of the road with a sign

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    Instead of paraphrasing the significance of the tree, I'll just let you read the sign. Good stuff!
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    As a group of Disney fans, it felt like we were making a pilgrimage to sacred ground!!!!

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    DS pretending like he's in deep thought :)
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    Unfortunately, the tree was hit by lightening a few times and is in pretty bad shape these days. (It's sort of sad, and reminds me of the "Giving Tree" storybook. Not in the sense that anyone has taken advantage of it or anything like that, but that it's happy when someone comes to pay homage to Walt and maybe it "straightens itself up a little" as they approach.) It probably won't be around much longer, so if you want to ever make the pilgrimage, don't wait around!!

    On the positive side, they planted "The Son of Dreaming Tree" a few years ago. They even brought soil and water from Disney World for the planting ceremony. How cool is that!?!?!? (Extremely cool, if you ask me!)
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    Here's the son (right) with the father (left).
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    Now, on down the path to Walt's Happy Place....

    The original barn is no longer standing. This replica was built in 2001 in honor of Walt's 100th Birthday. Apparently, Walt spent a lot of time and had a lot of fun in the barn as as kid. One of the stories has it that he held a circus in it and charged the local kids admission. Starting out as a showman at a young age :)

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    The barn that was in his 1949 movie, "So Dear to My Heart" was designed according to his memories of the barn in Marceline. Then later, he created the barn again at his home in California. That barn is where he worked on his miniature Carolwood Pacific Railroad, sort of a precursor to Disneyland rides. (Also extremely cool!) The Carolwood barn still stands, and was moved to Griffith Park in LA. According, to the their website http://carolwood.com/walts-barn/ the Carolwood barn is open the 3rd Sunday of every month. (Coincidentally, we'll be on our way to Anaheim from Yosemite on the 3rd Sunday this July, and Griffith park is right on the way. Looks like the stars might be aligned for us on this one!!!!)

    Another cool thing is that inside the Marceline barn, everyone signs their name and leaves notes for Walt. There must have been thousands of signatures on on every square inch within reach.

    This beam was signed by attendees of the 2001 Disneyania convention and shipped to the site when the barn was raised.

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    We took a few minutes to read through some of the signatures and add our own. Such a cool idea!

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    Rural Missouri can be truly beautiful, and this place was no exception! The gardens/landscaping around the area were really pretty.

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    We still had a long drive back home and decided it was time to be moving on. But of course, we had to pull over for a snap shot of Walt's former home on the way out of town. It's so cool that the current owners are Disney fans and put a lot of work into keeping the magic alive. I believe the lady who owns the house also runs the museum in town. So awesome!!

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    Finally, we "had" to stop in Columbia, MO on the way back to St. Louis for some Shakespeare's pizza!!!
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    All in all, it was an outstanding day. I hope we can make it to Marceline again this year!
     
  13. MarbleBob

    MarbleBob DIS Veteran

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    Toonfest or not, a trip to Marceline is definitely worth a day trip for anyone living in Missouri, or for someone who can spare a several hour detour as they pass through the state on Hwy 70. If you are more than a day trip's distance away, I'm not so sure I'd say the trip is worth it unless you are a true die hard Walt Disney fan. But if you have read this far, then you probably are indeed a die hard Disney fan, and you should go see it soon :thumbsup2

    Oh, and here's the museum's facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyHometownMuseum It's a great way to keep up with what they are doing in Marceline :)
     
  14. DaeHyFoog

    DaeHyFoog Let's all sing like the birdies sing...

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    Great job on the TR! :yay: :yay: :yay:
     
  15. MarbleBob

    MarbleBob DIS Veteran

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    Thanks DaeHyFoog! :)
     
  16. savannahcat

    savannahcat DIS Veteran

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    What a great trip report! I always wondered what it would be like to visit Marceline. Thanks so much for taking the time to write this!
     
  17. MarbleBob

    MarbleBob DIS Veteran

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    Thanks savannahcat! The visit to Marceline was fun, and I had fun writing the trip report too :)
     
  18. SleepyMom

    SleepyMom DIS Veteran

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    :goodvibes This is wonderful! Thanks for sharing!!!

    You have inspired me!

    I am a fan of Walt Disney and have always thought it would be cool to visit his hometown, but had honestly never looked into it at all. I had no idea there is so much related to him still there.

    DH is traveling to Kansas City, MO for work in August and wants DD (19yo) and I to tag along with him. We have been with him several times before, so figured we would be doing some of the same things we have in the past.

    After reading your trip report yesterday, I looked into visiting Marceline while on our trip and it is only 2 hours away!!!!! Perfect day trip for DD and I while DH works (he's not as big a fan as DD and I). I am so excited!!!

    DH and I were just in San Francisco a few weeks ago and I was able to visit the Disney Family Museum, so to visit Walt Disney's hometown as well would be amazing!!! DD couldn't go on the San Francisco trip because of college, so she will be excited to get a little "Disney fix" too.
     
  19. MarbleBob

    MarbleBob DIS Veteran

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    That's awesome SleepyMom! I hope it works out and you and DD have lots of fun :)

    We are visiting San Francisco this July. We haven't made up our minds on whether or not we'll visit the Walt Disney Family museum. We have a limited amount of time and there is so much to see and do in the Bay Area. How did you like the family museum?
     
  20. MarbleBob

    MarbleBob DIS Veteran

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    Don't forget to bring a Sharpie marker when you visit Walt's barn. We had an ink pen, but a Sharpie would have been a lot easier and your name will stand out a little more :)
     
  21. matblake

    matblake Earning My Ears

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    Very cool trip. It's awesome that Walt continued to be inspired by the things that were important to him as a child. Thanks for the TR!
     

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