Frontierland, one of the original lands that opened at Disneyland in 1955, is a tribute to the old West and the characters, places and adventures that happened there.
Above the fort stockade entrance to Frontierland are the flags of the original 13 colonies. Just ahead, specialty shops and entertainment, including the Golden Horseshoe, which features entertainment several times throughout the day. Nearby you may be able to meet Woody and Jessie from Toy Story 2. Also, don’t miss the street performers Laughingstock Company throughout the day in front of the Golden Horseshoe. . Themed dining, such as the Rancho Del Zocalo, River Belle Terrace and the Stagedoor Cafe..
Attractions such as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition Arcade provide entertainment for all ages.
The Rivers of America feature several different attractions, including the Mark Twain (which opened with the original park in 1955). This paddle wheel steamboat makes leisurely trips around the river every 20 minutes. The river also offers rafts to Pirates Lair, a chance for parents to rest while children explore the island’s caves, tree house and numerous pirate trails and activities. The Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes offer a chance to see the island and river from a different perspective.
The original Tom Sawyer’s Island opened just one year after the park’s opening in 1956, and the Columbia was added and dedicated in 1958.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
A roller-coaster-style thrill ride with a mine train running out of control keeps this attraction at the top of the “must ride” attractions in Disneyland. Guests board the train with the warning to “hang on to your hats and glasses” for the “wildest ride in the wilderness”. While as a roller coaster it’s relatively tame, the attention to detail in both the attraction and queue sets this attraction apart from the rest. The ride begins by plunging the train into a dark cave, and climbing to the top of a small hill. You then race around the mountain, over hills and dips, into a collapsing mine, and splash down in the small lake. The “town” you see in the queue area is actually a part of the old Rainbow Ridge, which was part of the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train attraction. (This is the attraction that Big Thunder replaced, more information about this attraction is available in the History section of Frontierland). You’ll hear various noises and music playing from these buildings. They were also a part of the old Mule Pack ride.
Practically as much of an icon as the Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Mark Twain paddle-wheeler has been operating since the opening in 1955. In fact, Walt Disney had a private 30th Anniversary party just four days before Disneyland officially opened, and it was on this night that the Mark Twain had her maiden voyage.
On opening day, July 17th 1955, the vessel nearly capsized when it was overloaded with anxious passengers crowding to one side to see the sights of Tom Sawyer’s Island. Limits set that day are still in effect.
The ship burns diesel fuel to heat the immense boiler. When not in operation, the ship resides in Fowler’s Harbor, named after Joe Fowler, the retired U.S. Army Engineer who was responsible for much of the earth-moving involved in the construction of Disneyland.
During your voyage, you’ll catch some interesting sights, such as the Settlers Cabin, and numerous animals and pieces from the now-defunct Nature’s Wonderland attraction.
The ship is featured in the nighttime extravaganza, Fantasmic!
One day, Walt Disney was looking at the Rivers of America. The Mark Twain rolled by, the canoes and the keelboats passed by. Walt turned to Dick Nunis (then president of Frontierland), and exclaimed, “Now THAT’S a busy river!” Dick thought Walt was complaining about the congestion on the river, but it turns out Walt had other plans in mind.
Walt then said “We need another big boat!” . He then proceeded to ask Dick if he knew that the Columbia was the first American ship to sail around the globe. Dick shook his head…..and the rest is History … The Columbia was dedicated in 1958, has been sailing the Rivers of America ever since. The Columbia was renovated in 1984. Her hull is steel, and her deck is laid with Douglas fir. It measures 110 feet in length, and has a 84 foot tall mainmast. The trip around the Rivers of America takes about 15 minutes. Below decks, and available only when the ship is operating, is a maritime museum, with information about the original vessel. The Columbia is used in Disney’s nighttime spectacular, Fantasmic!
Rafts to Pirates Lair
To explore Pirates Lair, you must board a raft which will ferry you across the River. Reminiscent of the raft from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the rafts to Pirates Lair run until dusk
Pirate’s Lair at Tom Sawyer Island
Originally opened as Tom Sawyer Island, Pirates Lair, opened in 2007, is an overlay to the existing caves and activities on the island. Numerous places to explore, including caves, abandoned shipwrecks, pontoon bridges and treehouses, Pirates Lair is a fun activity to do in the early morning because it gets too warm. You can get a map of the island from a Cast Member, which will help you navigate the island.
A number of activities, such as the bilge pumps and capstan wheel in Smugglers Cove are ‘hands-on’ and allow for secrets to be revealed. Explore Dead Man’s Grotto inside the caves for interactive elements and audio animatronic figures.
The treehouse is the original ‘Tom and Huck” treehouse from the original attraction, although not listed on any of the maps, it offers incredible views. Nearby, atop Castle Rock, you can use the stationary telescopes to see specific points of interest.
Fort Wilderness, a large structure in the center of the island, is now a facade and hides break rooms and cast member areas for the nightly ‘Fantasmic’ performances.
Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes
With the help of a Disneyland Guide, you travel down the Rivers of America and see some of the island and shoreline from a different vantage.
The canoes run seasonally, so be sure to check your Disneyland Today brochure for more information.
Frontierland Shooting Exposition
Take aim in the interactive Shootin’ Arcade in Frontierland. The themed shooting gallery is located just to the right after the main entrance to Frontierland. It is located next door to the Westward Ho Trading Company.