Disney parks throughout the world have no shortage of things to do, characters to see and places to stay.
There are tens of thousands of hotel rooms on Walt Disney World property alone, from luxurious surroundings at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa to fun rooms near giant jukeboxes and yo-yos at Disney’s Pop Century Resort.
But the most special room of all is one that’s in the center of all the action at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. And, unlike Club 33 at Disneyland, guests can’t get on a waiting list and pay thousands of dollars to enter it. The room is actually absolutely free to stay in, but there’s a catch: you'll have to be really lucky!
So what is this room, and why do only a very select few ever get the chance to stay in it? Read on to learn more about the famed Cinderella Castle Suite...
An iconic address
The words “Disney” and “castle” became synonymous in 1955 with the opening of Disneyland. A replica of Sleeping Beauty’s castle stands in the center of the park in Anaheim, California. Walt Disney’s movie version of “Sleeping Beauty” hadn’t even yet been released when the park opened that July, but somehow he must have known that the castle concept was a good one, as a castle became part of the Disney logo.
More of the stately structures became the centerpieces of other Disney parks to follow, starting with the one completed in 1971 in Florida. Cinderella Castle, in the center of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, stands 189 feet tall – more than 100 feet taller than Sleeping Beauty Castle. Cinderella Castle’s height is just a little less than the dimensions that would require a flashing light on top to warn airplanes about a tall building. The design of both Walt Disney World’s and Disneyland’s castles was inspired by real places, such as Fontainebleau and Versailles, to help lend them a realistic touch.
Cinderella Castle is tall enough to be seen from Seven Seas Lagoon in front of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, but a visual trick called “forced perspective” makes the castle seem twice as tall as it actually is. Surrounding the castle are rose bushes, green grass and a wishing well (coins tossed into the well are donated to children’s charities) along with a moat that contains more than 3 million gallons of water. There’s also a drawbridge, but it can’t be raised. (The drawbridge at Sleeping Beauty Castle can be raised, however.)
While Cinderella Castle looks as if it’s made out of marble, it’s actually a concrete, steel and fiberglass construction. Some people believe that the castle was designed in such a way that it could be taken apart in hurricane-force winds, but that’s just a myth. The castle can’t be disassembled, but it can withstand winds of 110 miles per hour.
Walk through the castle’s archway and you’ll find five mosaic murals that tell Cinderella’s story. The 15-by-10-foot murals feature more than 300,000 tiny pieces of hand-cut Italian glass, in more than 500 different shades. Some of those pieces are as tiny as the head of a tack. The murals took nearly two years to complete, and many of their tiles are fused with 14 karat gold and sterling silver. And once you leave the archway, you’ve entered Fantasyland.
There are other attractions in the four-story castle that anyone can see, including Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where young guests can be transformed – through the power of makeup, hairstyling, fancy gowns and accessories – into princesses, and Cinderella’s Royal Table – a restaurant where Advance Dining Reservations must be made very far in advance in order to secure a table and where princes and princesses can dine on slow-roasted pork tenderloin, castle salad and a signature dessert called The Clock Strikes Twelve – a dome of white chocolate mousse covered in dark chocolate ganache.
And then there’s the part of the castle that most of the general public won’t ever get the chance to see...