We love finding unexpected places to learn something new, and sometimes dining locations provide just that. Roaring Fork at the Wilderness Lodge is a snack bar with plenty of history to show off. Every wall in the seating area is adorned with fishing gear and photos from a by-gone era. Incidentally, the Roaring Fork in question refers to a fork in a river, not a dining utensil. But it’s a nice play on words, don’t you think?
Spend some time perusing the frames and you’ll see what a fishing excursion was like in the early 1930s and 1940s. See the types of rods and flies and other equipment that were popular then. And get a load of what those sport fishermen wore! There aren’t many labels, but look closely. The fish artwork identifies species of fish found in the Pacific Northwest, and some of the photos are marked with place names and dates, or brief descriptions. It’s a fun trip down history lane.
FL Social Studies Standards: [using sources] SS.2.A.1.1, SS.3.A.1.1, SS.5.A.1.1, SS.8.A.1.2; [historical knowledge] SS.1.A.2.1, SS.1.A.2.2
As part of the first wave of Disney Springs expansion, this unique restaurant has been drawing more attention, not only for its great food and drinks but also for its atmosphere. The BOATHOUSE offers some spectacular water views and something quite different from the average seafood joint – a floating museum.
Step through the doors, past the raw bar, and outside onto the boardwalk to find the docks lined with vintage boats. Each one is accompanied by information explaining what year it was built, who built it, and what its special features are. You’ll see boats styled like everything from spacecraft to motorcars. And don’t miss the replica 19th-century steamboat – properly furnished to match any Victorian sitting room, of course. The boat museum offers a glimpse into the history of maritime design and how “California Crazy” personal watercraft could get!
While you take in the views and learn about some of these fun, sea-faring vessels, you can also brush up on your Maritime Signal Flags. Two masts, one in front of the restaurant and one on the docks, illustrate the alphabet in signal flags and invite you decode the flags flying overhead. It’s certainly a lovely place to learn something new.
FL Social Studies Standards: [historical knowledge] SS.1.A.2.1, SS.1.A.2.2, SS.8.A.1.7
FL Visual Art Standards: [historical trends] VA.912.H.2.1; [architecture/design] VA.912.C.2.8
P21 Skills: Creativity and Innovation
When you step onto Main Street U.S.A., you’re transported to a different time and place. The music in the air and the architecture around you signal that you’ve entered turn-of-the-20th-century, small town America. Look to your left, past City Hall, and you’ll see the quaint Firehouse. This home of Engine Company 71 (named for the year Magic Kingdom opened) has a lot of history inside.
The Firehouse has gone through a few changes over the years, and now it is a headquarters for the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom interactive game. But it hasn’t lost its original charm as an early 1900s firehouse. The walls are covered with photos and props that reflect those early firemen that might have called this place home. And at the back of the Firehouse are the stables for the horses that would have pulled their fire wagon.
Perhaps most interesting are the glass cases that display hundreds of real patches donated by city and county fire departments from all over the United States. These patches serve as a memorial to the brave men and women who put their lives in danger to make sure others stay safe.
Next time you visit, stop inside the Firehouse to glimpse at history and maybe find your hometown fire department’s patch.
FL Sunshine State Social Studies Standards:
SS.1.A.2.1, SS.1.A.2.2, SS.1.A.2.4
You don’t often expect to find learning opportunities in a gift shop. But if you look carefully, you just might. We’ve featured gift shops several times as part of our Bookstore Series, but this location is a unique find that goes beyond interesting reads.
The Shop for Ireland is just inside Ragland Road Irish Pub. The food is a terrific reason to visit, but pop into this gift shop and see just how Irish proud this place is. You can also learn a lot about Irish history and culture as you peruse the shelves and displays. You can search for your own family history or crest, and find out what your last name means. Maybe you’ll find you have some Irish heritage in ye.
There is also a display of notecards and drawings featuring Gaelic phrases with English translations. You can use these to teach yourself a few basic words. There are plenty of books and knick-knacks to round out the collection. See what you can learn about Irish culture, new and old.
Not all learning opportunities at Walt Disney World are quite explicit. As you wander around the parks, you’re likely to see subtle references to historic or cultural points of interest. In Hollywood Studios, there are plenty of design elements that harken back to the golden olden days of Hollywood and Southern California.
Next time you stroll down Hollywood Boulevard, check out the back of the old tip board (now a FastPass+ kiosk). You’ll find a map of the old Pacific Electric Railway system that connected much of Southern California in the 1920s. It’s fun to see the geography of the metro areas, and the advertisement on the map shows what an attraction the railway was in its heyday.
The map also connects the other design elements of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, since you’ll spot rail cars, trolley lines, and Pacific Railway logos. It’s all part of the plan to really put you into that classic place and time.
STEM Topic: Engineering
FL Sunshine State Social Studies Standards:
SS.K.G.1.2, SS.K.G.1.4, SS.2.G.1.1, SS.3.G.1.1, SS.4.G.1.4, SS.6.G.1.2
If you have a dinosaur fan in your group, you’ve got to check out DinoLand U.S.A. at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Make your way to the DINOSAUR attraction and spend a few minutes in the queue area to see a replica of a pretty famous dino.
Dino-Sue is a replica of the most complete fossil skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found. The skeleton at Animal Kingdom is finely detailed and measures the same 40 feet long as the real thing. You can read information posted nearby about how the original T-Rex skeleton was found and named Sue, after the fossil hunter who found it. You can learn where Sue was found and where she is now.
Standing next to Dino-Sue is truly amazing. The outside queue area for DINOSAUR isn’t really used any more, so you could miss Dino-Sue if you aren’t looking for her. And be on the lookout for even more hidden dinosaurs throughout the queue.
The France Pavilion is one of the more immersive pavilions in Epcot’s World Showcase. The beautiful buildings, fountains, winding alleys, and delicious bakery smells make you feel like you really are in some quaint French village or hidden corner of the City of Light.
As you head into the pavilion, you will see the Palais du Cinéma, which is home to the film Impressions de France. The 18-minute film is a delight to watch and listen to, with its staggering views of France and beautiful musical score. But before you even enter the theatre, there is plenty to see and learn in the waiting area.
A small gallery toward the front of the waiting area showcases four distinct collections of information about the famous Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral. Each collection highlights one aspect of art in architecture: Gargoyles and Chimeras, the Western Façade, Rose Windows, and Flying Buttresses. There are even some replicas of gargoyles, including the famous “Spitting Gargoyle” that was cast from the original in France.
Read through the placards and you’ll learn some interesting facts. Why were the statues on the Western Façade beheaded during the French Revolution? What is a flying buttress anyway? And how many Rose Windows did stonecutters and glaziers actually attempt to make?
You don’t have to watch the film to experience the gallery, but it does make for a relaxing break. Next time you’re stopping by France for an éclair, step inside the Palais du Cinéma to learn a thing or two about one of France’s most famous landmarks.
STEM Topic: Engineering
Florida Sunshine State Social Studies Standards:
Florida Sunshine State Visual Arts Standards:
VA.4.H.1.1, VA.5.H.1.1, VA.68.H.1.1, VA.912.H.1.1, VA.912.H.1.9