In 1955, leaving Main Street, on your right side you could see an eatery called Red Wagon. It was a restaurant that shared its kitchen with the employee cafeteria. When Walt Disney undertook to launch the expension of Disneyland, the one that would include Pirates and New Orleans Square, he had this little restaurant renamed and enlarged. It would again be lavishly refurbished in 1999 to become the Plaza Inn we know today.
Since then, Disneyland Paris got its Plaza Gardens, largely inspired by the Disneyland’s Plaza Inn. Then, way later Hong Kong Disneyland, faithfully duplicating Main Street, had to host their replica of Plaza Inn, but instead replicated Disneyland’s Plaza Pavillion and named it after its more famous cousin.
This article is about the 3 Plaza Inn versions of the 5 Magic Kingdoms.
What we first notice is that only one bares a different name.
When Disneyland Paris open pompously in 1992, it had its own unique Main Street, different from Disneyland’s and Walt Disney World (and Tokyo Disneyland for obvious reasons
). So as the Plaza designed for Paris was to be somehow similar to his then Disneyland counterpart, Imagineers felt to name it differently. And Plaza Gardens came a natural choice not only because of the beautiful garden which would surround it but also for cultural reason. Gardens evoques more than the restaurant, but also the feel that Disney wanted attached to it. It evoques the great victorian pleasure parks, such as Tivoli Gardens in Denmark, Vauxhall Gardens or Renelagh Gardens from Great Britain. They were the ancesters of amusement parks, and in european countries, their Gardens title mark them as early place of entertainment. Beside, it is plausible that the Inn word, only known in non-anglophone countries as a place to sleep, like in “Holiday Inn” woudn’t fit right for a place to eat. It also reminds the Disneyland unique Carnation Plaza Gardens. An outdoor dance floor where hundreds of Disneyland patrons gather every week-end to practice their steps. A Disneyland exclusive that should soon be featured in my “Only In…” series.
Speaking of gardens, only Disneyland and Disneyland Paris have a garden surrounding their Plaza. In Disneyland there is a bigger seating areas to accomodate guests and a canopy to reach the door. There it’s a very popular dining area especially at night to watch the night time spectacular. Paris, minimizing outdoor seating, could add a beautiful fountain right in front of the entrance. Unfortunately, surrounding areas of Hong Kong’s Plaza offer no or very few outdoor seatings and only display some trimmed bushes. There, it sits on the left side of Main Street just like its Plaza Pavillion model.
But understand, it’s only a replica in facade, it’s with the inside that Hong Kong Disneyland stands out. The history in this eastern location is that an American family traveling to China loved it so much, that back in their American city, they openned a restaurant on Main Street to serve chinese food in a chinese decor.
And what a decor ! An Art Nouveau direction with some wood carved details of Mulan characters, lots of numerous paper lantern style hangings and fine asian furnishing make it an oriental delight for eyes as well as for the tongue. The cuisine is well praised by the locals and employ first class service. Therefore, Hong Kong Disneyland’s Plaza Inn is the only table service chinese restaurant in his Kingdom. Paris’ and Anaheim’s are respectively buffet and table service.
Which is it ? Clue is on the floor...
Those two by the way share a very similar interior. Let’s walk though them both.
You walk up the outside tent marquee at the Plaza Inn or around a fountain at the Plaza Gardens. Once inside you’re welcomed and amazed by a large hallway, opening on an even larger self service area with marble on the floor. Statues have been added in Gardens while at the Inn lays a salad bar isle in the middle. Then you have two seating rooms on each side. At the Gardens, each of those rooms has its own paded round bench topped by plants and bronze statues. The backs of the two version’s side room open on solariums bathing in the sun light of a rose window ceiling. The richely draped high windows are present in both locations, but only in Paris can you seat by one of the three Dan Goozee frescos. Add some woodwork and lightglobe incisions differences, as well as sets of furniture supplied by two different continents, and you’ve got your Inn and Gardens.
Just a note on the food served even though it’s really not my area. Plaza Gardens is a trendy buffet for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Courses vary accodring the seasons. Anaheim’s Inn is a table service three meal restaurant that serves typical American cuisine and is very famous for its fried chicken. For China, as mentioned earlier, it’s table service with chinese cuisine sponsored by Maxim’s
Those are very important restaurants even if not the most popular. Both Plaza Inn and the Plaza Gardens are the real image Walt Disney wanted to give of Main street. They complete it and are fancied by many family to finish their day in any Magic Kingdom. I realise they carry the same image and purpose as the 2 Crystal Palace of Walt Disney World and Tokyo, but those two have their own unique outdoors, interiors and themes and deserve their own article.
Remember that if you can’t experience any of the Inns and Gardens, for geographical reason, you can contemplate this fresco ornementing Plaza Gardens ; only Dan Goozee could put in painting this well what Walt thought of his Main Street.