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Monday, August 30, 2010
Disney In Ocala, Florida
Motorists traveling through Florida may have paid a visit to the Walt Disney World Official Information/Reservation Center in Ocala, Florida. This was sort of like a free-standing Disney Store (which was still a new concept when this debuted). At night, the trees in front of the building sparkled with lights, as Disney trees tend to do.
I believe the Information Center opened in 1987, and I think the first time I got a chance to go there was in 1988. On this particular trip, our destination was not Orlando, it was Venice, Florida. We stopped for dinner at the Cracker Barrel at Exit 68 and checked in to a hotel that night.
I will never forget being in the lobby of the hotel when I got this brochure. I overheard a man on a pay phone saying that his family had to cancel their vacation to Walt Disney World and drive back home because their child got the flu.
The next morning, we checked out of our hotel and went to the Walt Disney World Information Center. We weren't going to Walt Disney World, but that didn't matter!
What was the "free gift?" I don't remember that!
The front of the building had animated window displays just like Main Street at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. The displays at the park usually featured the latest animated released mixed with old favorites. The Information Center had a "Rescuers" window!
Here we see Penny and Miss Bianca the mouse (played by Eva Gabor) from the 1977 movie in a bucket searching the cave for the valuable diamond, "The Devil's Eye."
Of course, Bernard (Bob Newhart) is also around to help find the treasure.
Inside, this great "Mickey's Trailer" display can be seen amid the promotional materials for the resorts found at Walt Disney World.
Years later, I remember passing by the Information Center and seeing a giant balloon of Lady the cocker spaniel from "Lady and the Tramp." The Center was later themed to a Disney AAA Center, and eventually closed in 2005.
This was a fun way to take a break, get a taste of Disney World and pick up a souvenir!