With the weather in Paris being what it is (most notably, rainy), the Imagineers at DLP had to come up with some pretty spectacular alternatives for safe cover near Main Street USA. This area of France doesn’t get the regular blue skies and sunshine that dominate the East and West of the U.S., with Walt Disney World and Disneyland, so a completely cover free Main Street wouldn’t do. Similar in terms of weather dispostion, Tokyo Disneyland opened with a glass covered Happiest Street on Earth, known as World Bazaar. But at the time of DLP construction, some were relating it more to a shopping mall (though unlike any shopping mall I’ve ever seen) than turn of the century America. Couple that with Parisians general love of fresh air and outdoor living, and the Discovery Arcade was born.
Original plans seem to indicate that a second story railway platform would run above the current walk through, but that idea was scratched. Unfortunate really because how neat would a mini Disneyland Railroad be to take guests to and from Town Square? The Paddy Wagon, Omnibus and horse drawn trolley are certifiably awesome, but I never say no to an old fashioned train ride.
If nothing else, Discovery Arcade is a great way to get from Town Square to Discoveryland (see what they did there?) during fireworks, parades, crowds and yes, unfortunate weather, but it really is much more than that. Gas lit lamps hang from posts decorated with Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man and light your way as you walk through a veritable history lesson of 19th century innovation.
Glass cases filled to the brim with inventions, patents and actual small scale models line the walls, honoring the inventors of the 1800′s and their imaginations. From a swimming apparatus to a washing machine, moveable fire escapes to the electric light bulb – even a wine helper (yes, it’s a thing and why it didn’t make it big I’ll never know), it’s all in the name of progress.
Take some time to read the tags attached to each model and peruse the sketches that adorn the cabinets – which have, fantastically, come from the U.S. Patent Office. Even the Hyperion Airship on display was used to help create the Café Hyperion in Discoveryland (home to burgers, fries and epic lines).
My favorite window, though only sightly edging out the “Paris Opera Electric,” is the comparison between the the Ferris Wheel and the Eiffel Tower, both built for enormous exhibitions – the World’s Fair in Chicago and the Universal Exposition in Paris, respectively.
Throughout the Arcade, guests will notice posters depicting what appears to be American cities of the future. These were actually designed in the 1800′s to showcase what artists imagined the major cities to be like in a century or so. 1999 Washington D.C. has flying carts, a double winged plane and not to be outdone, Victorian-era styling for the ladies and gents. Pin curls and poofy dresses never go out of style.
Disney and More has a great article showcasing all the posters of Discovery Arcade here.
Access to shops and restaurants on the right side of Main Street is available through Discovery Arcade, so guests can still get their sweet treat fix if need be. There are even to-go windows that open right onto the Arcade, so you don’t even need to leave the area – talk about modern convenience. Restrooms, telephones, benches and outlets round out the amenities.
The Arcades (both Discovery and Liberty), and by extension Disneyland Park, are a lot like Paris itself. With an emphasis placed on the beautiful rather than the easy, Imagineers created an amazing space ripe with details and history. Nooks and crannies aren’t overlooked simply because they aren’t visible to those guests flying by in search of the day’s first fast pass, they are embellished and thought upon, giving guests plenty of quiet corners to explore and enjoy. Discovery Arcade is a place to meander and take your time, which is the French way, bien sur, and as some might argue, the best.