Conestoga Wagons
“Westward Ho!”
Conestoga Wagons at Disneyland

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor

Climb aboard one of the Conestoga Wagon in this corner of Yester-Frontierland. The blue one has “Westward Ho!” emblazoned on its canvas cover, while the brown one has “Oregon or Bust” on it.

Your Conestoga Wagon is pulled by two strong horses, taking you on a genuine dirt path along the Rivers of America and through the Rainbow Desert.

Conestoga Wagons at Disneyland

Photo courtesy of Ron Yungul

Conestoga Wagons loading area, next to the Rainbow Ridge Pack Mules loading area

Mark Twain and Conestoga Wagons at Disneyland

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor

Wagon along the Rivers of America

Yester-Frontierland is on the move. As you peer from under the canvas cover, you might see Mike Fink Keel Boats and the Indian War Canoes navigating the Rivers of America. As you continue to the Rainbow Desert, you’ll see park guests on the backs of Rainbow Ridge Pack Mules, riding the Rainbow Mountain Stagecoach Ride (on the same path as your wagon), or being transported in the ore cars of the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train.

Disneyland launched the Conestoga Wagons attraction in August 1955, the month after Disneyland opened to the public. Not everything was ready on opening day.

Here’s how a newspaper advertisement featuring Frontierland at Disneyland (Pasadena Independent, December 18, 1955) described the attraction:

You will ride the Conestoga Wagon in Frontierland—one of the most picturesque and vital vehicles in history.

It was the Conestoga, not the Covered Wagon, that developed the West. The great wagons were first built in the Conestoga Valley of Pennsylvania, with water tight bottoms that permitted safe crossing of rivers.

You will also ride authentic stagecoaches, pack trains, and buckboards in this remarkable re-creation of the old West.

Early Disneyland was all about having experiences that you were unlikely to have in the real world. By the way, the buckboards never materialized at Disneyland. (A buckboard is also a wooden wagon, but with a simpler, boxier design than a Conestoga Wagon.)

Disneyland guide book image, 1957

scan from 1957 Disneyland souvenir book © Walt Disney Productions

Image and caption from A Complete Guide to Disneyland, 1957

The Conestoga Wagons attraction was supposed to provide the experience of riding in a Conestoga Wagon. It wasn’t simply a ride vehicle from which to see something. Sure, there was great scenery, such as the clever anthropomorphic cacti of the Rainbow Desert. However, the real attraction was the wagon itself—an opportunity to travel like a “Westward Ho!” pioneer heading to Oregon.

Actual Conestoga Wagons of the 19th century were pulled by oxen, not horses. And actual pioneer families typically walked alongside their wagons, which were filled with the family’s possessions, rather than riding in them. But that wouldn’t have been as much fun for Disneyland guests.

Walt Disney’s Westward Ho the Wagons

movie poster © Walt Disney Productions

Poster for a 1956 live-action movie from Walt Disney

Speaking of “Westward Ho!” there’s a largely forgotten 1956 Disney movie called Westward Ho the Wagons. The cast included Fess “Davy Crockett” Parker, Jeff “Mike Fink” York, Sebastian “Mr. French” Cabot, George “TV Superman” Reeves, and four Mouseketeers—Karen, Cubby, Doreen, and Tommy. Not surprisingly, the movie is about the experiences of settlers heading west by wagon train.

In September 1959, the Conestoga Wagons attraction ended its run of slightly more than four years. It was time to begin construction of Nature’s Wonderland for the 1960 opening of the Mine Train through Nature’s Wonderland and the Pack Mules through Nature’s Wonderland.

Almost 40 years later, you could again find a Conestoga Wagon at Disneyland… sort of…

Conestoga Fries, hosted by McDonald’s, at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2006

Conestoga Fries, a more recent Conestoga Wagon at Disneyland

Conestoga Fries, hosted by McDonald’s, at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2006

“Treats manly enough for his hunger and delicate enough for her taste”

Conestoga Fries, hosted by McDonald’s, opened November 1998 at almost the exact spot at which guests originally boarded the Conestoga Wagons ride. It lasted almost ten years—considerably longer than the ride it referenced.

The McDonald’s logo disappeared from Conestoga Fries September 2008. Most other McDonald’s-branded eateries at Disney parks were renamed and given new menus, but this one was removed entirely.

Westward Ho Trading Co. at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2006

Westward Ho Trading Co.

“Westward Ho” lives on at Disneyland as part of the name of a Frontierland shop. Among other things, the shop sells pins.

But can you buy a Conestoga Wagon pin there?

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Updated March 8, 2019