It seems that Walt Disney and his creative Imagineers believed that the magic of Disneyland should extend way beyond the thrill rides, beloved characters, and action-packed parades. In fact, the entire park is full of hidden gems meant to surprise and delight, yet they were likely not meant to be advertised. We believe that Walt himself wanted most of these mysteries to live on and for our children, and our children’s children, to continue to believe in the power of magic. But now you are part of a secret club that is in the know and you can use it to enhance your own experience and help your children make even more unbelievable memories.
So, enjoy these 20 little known secrets about the “happiest place on earth” and the next time you head to California you will no doubt discover why Disneyland is the best!
Secret #1: There’s a Scent In The Air
Have you ever wondered why Disneyland always smells so delicious? Well, it’s not just the aroma of the snack carts selling popcorn, ice cream and churros. All of the wonderful smells of food and candy are actually sent through the vents and pushed out onto the crowd of people walking along Main Street. Most of the year it smells of vanilla but during the holidays the scent is changed to peppermint.
Secret #2: Get VIP Seating On The Disney Railroad
All you need to do is ask for the special tender seat on the Disneyland railroad. Just approach the conductor at Main Street Station and ask if you can ride it. Once the next train comes, you’ll be escorted past security to the front of the Tender where there is a special (albeit small) seat for two.
Secret #3: Be a Riverboat Captain
Did you know that you can pilot the Mark Twain riverboat? All you have to do is ask nicely and you’ll be directed to the wheelhouse, where you’ll be allowed to steer the boat (don’t worry parents, it’s on a track) and blow the whistle. You’ll even get a special certificate afterwards.
Secret #4: Get Dizzy!
Ride the purple teacup in the Mad Hatter ride because it spins the fastest! No one can really explain why that particular cup is the fastest, but it is!
Secret #5: Fake a Haunted Death
For a cool souvenir, ask for a death certificate when you enter the Haunted Mansion. Simply ask the host/hostess about it when you enter the foyer. If you’re lucky they’ll tell you to come back to the front of the mansion after your ride and they’ll have your certificate waiting for you.
Secret #6: Real Bones of The Caribbean
Did you know that there is one real human skull left at Pirates of the Caribbean? Creepy! When it first opened, there were human skeletons galore. Now, there’s only one remnant left of human remains, the skull and crossbones located over the bed in the Captain’s Quarters.
Secret #7: Disney Dream Suite
We’ve all heard the rumor and it’s true. There is a Dream Suite located directly above Pirates of the Caribbean. This luxury apartment was meant to entertain VIP guests during special events. It includes a living room, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and an open air patio.
Bonus secret: Park guests are randomly selected to stay inside the suite!
Secret #8: Exclusive Club 33
The super-secretive Club 33 is located right next to the Blue Bayou. The inconspicuous door is painted in noseeum green (a specific shade of green that Disneyland Imagineers created for anything that needs to be unattractive, like trash bins, fences and administration buildings) to keep the location more secretive. As you leave the Blue Bayou on the left hand side you can see the door to Club 33. There is a pass code box located near the door.
What is so special about Club 33? Originally built as a secret hideaway for dignitaries and celebrities, now anyone can join. But you’ll have to be patient. It takes about 10 years to get off of the waiting list, after which you’ll have to fork over $10,000 in initiation fees and another $3,500 each year that you’re a member. But its worth it because Club 33 is the only place in the entire park where you can get a cocktail. So for us moms, this secret might be why Disneyland is the best!
Secret #9: Hoops on the Matterhorn
Inside the Matterhorn, there is a quarter of a basketball court. Walt Disney did not like to waste any space so he asked the Matterhorn climbers what they would like inside and they voted for a basketball court! Later on, a ping pong table was added. Employees are allowed to take their breaks there and have some fun.
Secret #10: Underground Tunnels
Do you ever wonder how the characters at the park seem to appear as if by, well, magic? There is a story behind that. Apparently one day while strolling through the park, Walt Disney saw a Frontierland cowboy walking through Tomorrowland. He then decided that some things needed to be out of sight such as trash and costumed characters. These tunnels are not extensive and do not connect but they definitely ensure that we don’t ever see anything that could ruin the Disney experience.
Secret #11: Have a Disney Birthday
If you let ticket takers at the entrance know it’s your birthday, they’ll call over nearby cast members who will parade you to City Hall while singing Happy Birthday where you’ll be given a special Birthday sticker. As you wander through the park, different cast members will approach you with special birthday items. Cast members choose the birthday gift items themselves and none are the same.
Secret #12: Mystery Cat
If you try on a hat in the Mad Hatter gift shop, you might get a glimpse of the Cheshire Cat in the mirror.
Secret #13: The Goat Trick
If you are an adventure seeker you should try the “The Goat Trick” for an extra-thrilling ride on Big Mountain. Once you get to the second hill (the one with the snakes), start looking for the Billy Goat, who should be raised up on your right. Stare the goat down and don’t take your eyes off of him. Apparently you’ll experience a dizzy, disorienting feeling that will make the ride even more exciting.
Secret #14: Real Drawbridge
The drawbridge on Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is a real, working drawbridge. It has only been lowered twice though, once at the opening ceremonies and once more at the re-opening of a newly remodeled Fantasyland.
Secret #15: Scary Gargoyle or Adorable Squirrel?
Gargoyles used to be a common architectural detail because they functioned as drain spouts that channeled rain water away from buildings. Since gargoyles would look out of place on the side of the whimsical Disneyland castle, the Imagineers made gargoyles out of squirrels instead. Some say they are made to still look like gargoyles from the front and fluffy-tailed squirrels from the side.
Secret #16: Morse Code Magic
If you stand at the New Orleans Train Station you can hear the clicks and clacks of a morse code message coming from a telegraph sounder. Some claim that the message was Walt Disney’s inaugural speech, given at the Opening of Disneyland in 1955. Others claim it is not the entire speech and just a message that says “TO ALL WHO COME TO DISNEYLAND, WELCOME. HERE AGE RELIVES FOND MEMORIES OF THE PAST, AND HERE YOUTH MAY SAVOR THE CHALLENGE AND PROMISE OF THE FUTURE.” Either way, it is a very cool hidden secret.
Secret #17: The Light Shines On
Look for Walt Disney’s light at the Main Street firehouse – the light that never goes out. Walt Disney had an apartment above the Main Street fire house which he used with his family regularly. After his death, the light in the window which used to signal his presence in the park was, and still is, left on at all times. It is completely unchanged from the time Walt and his family lived there.
Secret #18: Don’t Follow The Rules
There are two fun, interactive things you should do at Indiana Jones.
- When you reach a bamboo pole with a sign that says “Do not pull the bamboo” do the opposite of what the sign says and pull the bamboo pole. There will be a loud booming noise and it will seem as though the ceiling is caving in.
- When you reach the well with a sign that says “Do not pull the rope” do the opposite of what the sign says and pull the rope. It makes an unseen worker “fall” and voices will cry out from the well.
Secret #19: Touch the Apple
There is a neat little secret at the entrance to Snow White’s Scary Adventures, and if you don’t know about it you’ll miss it altogether. If you touch the golden apple pictured here the queen will laugh maniacally, a little foreshadowing of the evil Queen’s presence on the ride.
Secret #20: The Evil Queen Appears
In one of the buildings in Fantasyland above the Snow White attraction, through the trees, the Evil Queen appears in a window for only a few seconds every few minutes. This can best be seen when standing near the entrance to Peter Pan’s Flight and looking across at the entrance to Snow White’s Scary Adventures.
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