Today is Mark Twain’s 176th birthday. I know this because the Google doodle told me. (Isn’t that how we find out most things?) Now, you may not immediately think of Walt Disney World when you think of Mark Twain, but that’s just the way my mind works. In fact, there are a number of references to Mark Twain and his works throughout the Parks.
So, here are three things to do in Walt Disney World if you love Mark Twain.
1. The American Adventure
I think I was an adult before I ever saw The American Adventure, because it seemed too educational. If you’re like I was, and you’ve never actually seen the show, you might not know that Mark Twain is one of the hosts. He’s played by a particularly advanced Audio-Animatronic (actually three), who smokes a cigar. (Not that I condone smoking, but a smoking Audio-Animatronic is pretty impressive.) He has some humorous lines, and I think he serves as a fitting narrator of American history.
2. Tom Sawyer Island
Accessible only by raft, this island in Frontierland is, obviously, named after the main character in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. According to this sign, all the names on the island can be found in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (Although I don’t know that that is true of Fort Langhorn, which is a reference to Mark Twain’s real name: Samuel Langhorn Clemens.)
The most famous scene from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is when Tom tricks his friends into whitewashing a fence for him, so each morning, cast members hide a few paintbrushes around the island. If you find one and turn it in to a cast member, you get a reward (such as a FASTPASS). They’re usually all found by midday, so if you want to hunt for one, head to Tom Sawyer Island as soon as it opens (usually an hour after park opening).
3. The Liberty Belle
In Disneyland, one of the riverboats on the Rivers of America is actually called the Mark Twain, but in Magic Kingdom, it’s the Liberty Belle. Mark Twain was a riverboat pilot in his youth, and that experience led to his adopting Mark Twain as his pen name. Calling out “mark twain” meant the river was at least two fathoms deep, making it safe for the boat to pass. So, I say a riverboat ride is a fitting way to honor Mark Twain, even if the boat doesn’t bear his name.
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A Mark Twain–themed day would actually be comparatively relaxing compared to many I’ve described here on Vacationearing. There are only two parks involved, and nothing that would require standing in long queues. If you want to try to find Tom Sawyer’s paintbrushes, you should start at Magic Kingdom and try to get on one of the first rafts to Tom Sawyer Island. You could frantically search for a brush or just wander around the island, enjoying all the literary references. When you’re ready, take a raft back to shore, and then take a riverboat ride. After that, head on over to Epcot (consider taking the ferryboat to the Transportation and Ticket Center) to experience The American Adventure.
Happy birthday, Mark Twain!