Disneyland Secrets Only Serious Insiders Know
Some Disney “secrets” aren’t quite so unknown anymore, like the fact that there are Mickeys hidden all throughout Disney parks. Luckily, there are still plenty of little-known tidbits that will surprise even the most devoted Disney fans. Let’s dive into the Disneyland secrets you’ve probably never heard before. Some are fun, others are interesting and then there’s a handful that are downright strange. All in all, you’ll be more of a Disney trivia whiz than before.
Find the Lone Build-A-Bear
Build-A-Bear once had a huge store located at Downtown Disney, but when it closed, Ballast Point Brewery and Kitchen opened on the second floor of the building. Today, you can find one remaining Build-A-Bear in the building (and in all of Disneyland).
Look for the pirate bear that hangs out on the wall next to the Ballast Point logo. Not only is this a small nod to the previous inhabitants of the building, but because the brewery has a nautical theme, the pirate Build-A-Bear fits well with the decor.
Tour a Rare VIP Train Car
The Lilly Belle is a special caboose car that’s sometimes seen throughout Disneyland attached to the train that runs through the park. It was named after Walt Disney’s wife, Lillian, and was even decorated by her.
The Lilly Belle is usually only available to VIP guests or for private tours (like the Grand Circle Tour, which you can book). But if you’re there when the park first opens and you spot the Lilly Belle, kindly ask a cast member if you can pop in. You might be allowed to take a quick peek.
One of the Refreshment Corner Light Bulbs Looks Funny
This one’s super easy to miss. If you pop by the Coca-Cola-sponsored Refreshment Corner, you can’t miss the red and white light bulbs that wrap around the overhang of the shop. Unfortunately, there’s an odd number of bulbs, making the pattern impossible to perfectly adhere to.
Look closely, though, and you’ll notice that one of the bulbs is painted half-white and half-red, a suggestion and easy fix that, as the rumor goes, Walt Disney himself made. The split bulb can be spotted in one of the corners of the room.
Your Favorite Snack Was Invented Here
Believe it or not, Doritos got their start in Disneyland. One of Disneyland’s first restaurants was Casa de Fritos (yes, those Fritos), and all of the meals came with complimentary Fritos. The restaurant had a waste problem, though.
In the 1960s, a salesman from Casa de Fritos’ tortilla maker noticed that stale tortillas were being thrown out. He suggested that the cooks make chips out of them instead. A marketing vice president for Fritos then chose to sell the chips on a national level, and the Doritos brand was created.
Alcohol Is Only Served in One Place in the Magic Kingdom
Disneyland’s members-only club, Club 33, is the one place where you can drink alcohol in the Magic Kingdom — if you can gain entry, that is. Set in New Orleans Square, Club 33 can only be spotted if you’re purposely looking for it; to the naked eye, it remains hidden.
The quickest way to get into the five-star restaurant is if you know someone who’s a member. You can also get on the waiting list, but it’s more than a decade long. Oh, and it costs a whopping $100,000 in membership fees.
Those Delicious Scents Are Purposeful
It’s not hard to imagine Disneyland smelling delicious; you can’t go 10 feet without bumping into another stand selling yummy food. Main Street seems to smell the most appetizing, though, and that’s no accident. Disneyland is regularly pumping pleasant scents into the park, like those of baked goods and fresh popcorn along Main Street.
Sometimes, scents are used to set the stage, even if they won’t necessarily make you hungry. For example, the Haunted Mansion smells a bit musty, which you can also thank the Smellitzer machine for. It was designed by Imagineers.
Employees Follow a Code of Conduct
If you stop a Disneyland employee and ask them a question or for directions, they’re expressly not allowed to do two things: point or answer “I don’t know.” They can, however, point with two fingers, because one-finger pointing specifically is seen as rude in some cultures.
Also, employees don’t have to know the answer to every question they’re asked, but they have to come up with a more creative answer or solution than a simple, “I don’t know.” They can research an answer or ask someone for help, for example.
The Buildings Are Smaller Than You Think
Forced perspective is used throughout Disneyland to make objects appear larger than they really are. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is an example of this. It’s not as tall as your perception thinks it is. Toward the top of the castle, the bricks are smaller to give the impression that they’re farther away.
Main Street buildings are built similarly. It looks like the buildings are three stories high, but the second and third floors are actually much smaller than the first. You see three stories, but the actual size is closer to two stories.
There’s a “Weenie” in Every Park
Every Disney park, including Disneyland, has a “weenie,” a term created by Walt Disney that refers to an eye-catching attraction. The weenie is what the park becomes best known for. The term comes from a game Walt played with his dogs — he’d tease them with a hot dog until finally letting them eat.
In Disneyland, the weenie is Sleeping Beauty’s castle. There are more focal points, too, throughout different parts of the park. For example, there’s the Ferris wheel with Mickey’s face in California Adventure and Spaceship Earth in Tomorrowland.
You Can Hear the Opening Day Address…Kind Of
If you head into the Telegraph Cable Office, you can listen to a portion of the speech that Walt Disney gave on Disneyland’s opening day. It’s in Morse code, though (it is the telegraph office, after all), so you may not understand it.
The telegraph office plays the address on a loop. The portion that’s played says, “To all who come to this happy place, welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.”
You’re Not Supposed to Notice Certain Parts of the Park
There’s a specific shade of green dubbed “no see ’em green” that’s used on parts of the park that guests aren’t supposed to notice. The entrance to Club 33 used to be painted in this color, and it’s also used on areas for the cast or spots that are under construction.
The drab shade of gray-green was invented by Disneyland Imagineers because it’s not attractive and actually directs your eye away from instead of towards it. It’s also referred to as “go away green,” and it seems to do the trick.
Feral Cats Are Everywhere
You probably don’t see them as you wander around, but Disneyland is full of feral cats, and it’s on purpose. They handle the rodent problem and keep pests away in general (cats are better than rodents, you have to admit. Sorry, Mickey).
There are about 100 cats that roam Disneyland, but even though they’re technically “feral,” they’re safe to be around. Disney keeps them fed, neutered and vaccinated and gives them a place to call home. They’ve been a mainstay of the park since its opening all the way back in 1955.
Get a Peek at the Past in the Future
Disneyland is home to two time capsules. One is buried in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle and was put there in 1995 when the park turned 40 years old. It holds photos, newspapers and Disney memorabilia. It will be opened in July 2035 on Disneyland’s 80th anniversary.
The other one is in California Adventure under Buena Vista Plaza. It was buried there in 2012. It holds park mementos, like concept art, tickets, name tags and maps. It will be opened in June 2037.
Try to Find a Pack of Chewing Gum
In an effort to keep the park as clean as possible, you can’t buy chewing gum anywhere in Disneyland (or at any Disney park). You can, of course, bring your own pack into the park, because they can’t completely ban gum.
The rumor is that Walt Disney decided on this rule so that no guest would have the unlucky experience of stepping in gum. Because the point of not selling gum is to keep Disneyland as clean as possible, be respectful and dispose of your gum in a garbage can.
The Plants in Tomorrowland Have a Surprise
One of Walt Disney’s greatest visions was that of a sustainable future where people could take full advantage of all of their resources. (That’s the premise of Epcot in Disney World.) In Tomorrowland, that vision is most obvious in the plants — they’re all edible.
This type of advanced agriculture is a nod to his dream, and Tomorrowland has tons of fruits, vegetables, spices and other plants that you can nibble on. Just because you don’t see many people walking around the park snacking on plants doesn’t mean you theoretically couldn’t!
Parents Can Ride Without Kids
Parents can go on rides that the little ones have to skip without leaving their children stranded and waiting. There’s something called a Rider Switch system in which one person can ride. Then, when they get off, the other adult can get on the ride immediately — no more waiting required.
If you have two kids and only one can ride, the child can go on with each parent — two rides! When you get to the front of the line, ask a cast member if you can do a Rider Switch.
Strategically Choose Your Teacup
A lot of people avoid Alice in Wonderland’s teacup ride because all that spinning can make you dizzy and nauseous. You can purposely choose a teacup that spins slower than the rest, though — or one that spins faster, if that’s your thing.
There are two teacups with hearts in their patterns, and these are the slowest of the bunch. Your fellow passengers probably won’t even notice that they’re not going as fast as the others. If you want to test your limits, hop in a teacup with orange diamonds. They’re the fastest.
Order Something Special at Disney Restaurants
There are lots of places in Disneyland with secret menus, and because they’re secret, you may just have to ask at each place where you stop to eat. There are a few spots that are becoming better known, though, but those menu items still aren’t publicly listed yet.
For example, the Golden Horseshoe makes yummy and refreshing ice cream nachos, while the Galactic Grill has a galactic-style cheeseburger that’s topped with extra sautéed onions and fries. Over at River Belle Terrace, you can “secretly” order loaded tater tots, too.
Get the Royal Treatment at City Hall
Celebrating something extra-special, like a birthday, graduation, engagement or marriage? Make City Hall your first stop. It’s right by the main entrance. Tell a cast member what you’re celebrating, and you’ll get a commemorative pin to wear.
Throughout your time in Disneyland, you may get perks just for wearing the pin. For example, you may get attention from cast members or be allowed to skip lines thanks to friendly vacationers. For example, on your birthday, it’s possible that Disney’s barbershop quartet will stop you in the street to serenade you.
Bring Home a Souvenir From the Haunted Mansion
When you head into the Haunted Mansion, ask a cast member if you can have a death certificate. Make sure to do this before you climb into the Doom Buggie, or else you could miss your chance.
When you go to leave at the end of the ride, the cast member may have your special death certificate waiting. They don’t give them out to just anyone, so try to ask extra nicely to up your chances. Also, you can get a tour of the pet cemetery by asking for one.
The Popcorn Turners Have Unexpected Help
Next time you stop by a stand to order a bag of popcorn, take a close look at the popcorn turner. Each one has a Disney character on it! You’ll find the same at Tokyo Disneyland, too, where the tradition was adopted.
There’s more, though. The Disney character on the popcorn turner coordinates with the part of the park you’re in. For example, in Tomorrowland, you’re likely to spot a Rocketeer on the turner. By the haunted mansion, Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas might be on one.
A New Ride Pays Homage to an Old One
The Winnie the Pooh ride was created in place of the Country Bear Jamboree, but those goofy singing bears still have a presence. Three of the animatronics from the Jamboree are visible in the new Pooh ride, as long as you know where to look.
As you head into the honey room, look to the right and behind to spot them. There are a few other nods to the Jamboree, too, like the Hungry Bear Restaurant. They may be gone, but they’re definitely not forgotten as a Disney pillar.
The Main Street Cinema Has a Unique Employee
There’s an “employee” at the Main Street Cinema in Disneyland named Tilly, and her name tag says that she’s from Marceline, Missouri. That just happens to be the same place where Walt Disney lived as a young boy.
There are a lot of references to Marceline in Disney Parks, but this is one of the most clever and understated. Tilly pops up a few times, too — it’s also the name of the shrimp boat in Typhoon Lagoon in Disney World. It’s unknown if there’s any significance to the name.
One of the Carousel’s Horses Is a Bit Different
All of the horses on the King Arthur Carousel are lovely, but one is especially ornate and stands out from the crowd. The lead horse, as it’s called, is dedicated to Julie Andrews, who was in Mary Poppins. The dedication occurred during Disneyland’s 50-year anniversary.
The horse is officially named Jingles, and you’ll notice that it’s even more ornate than the others. The decorations are all in tribute to Andrews. To find Jingles and go for a ride, run around the carousel and look for the horse with the bells.
Get Your Spooky Fortune Told
There are lots of arcade-style fortune tellers scattered around Disneyland, but one has a special, spooky surprise for you. Esmeralda is in the Penny Arcade on Main Street, and her playing cards are Haunted Mansion-themed.
Want to learn even more about your future? Keep your eyes open for other fortune tellers around the park. There are several of them, but most of them are hidden in plain sight, so you have to be purposely seeking them out. Also, you can meet with Esmeralda on the Disney Parks app.
The Castle’s Drawbridge Is More Than Just for Show
You may know that Sleeping Beauty’s castle isn’t a real castle, but not all of it is just for show. The drawbridge may not go up and down daily, but it technically could. It’s an actual working drawbridge, but it’s almost never used!
Actually, the drawbridge has only been lowered two times since Disneyland opened. The first time was on the day that Disneyland officially opened in 1955. The other time was when Fantasyland opened in 1983. What would it take to have the drawbridge lowered a third time?
Rides Are Safer Than You Think
Disneyland rides, and the rides in other Disney parks, are created using what’s called the Envelope of Protection. That means that even if you reach out of the ride, like if you throw your arms up while on a rollercoaster, you won’t get hurt because you can’t actually reach anything that could hurt you.
Each ride is tested to make sure that it’s safe and that riders are protected by the “envelope.” This is also why selfie sticks were banned — they extend beyond the Envelope of Protection and can become dangerous.
The Jungle Cruise Used to Be Much More Threatening
Back when the Jungle Cruise originally opened, there were actual live alligators in pens to entertain people as they waited in line. The Jungle Cruise doesn’t feature live animals anymore, and not just because of the danger factor.
A lot of the Cruise’s animals would’ve been nocturnal and would’ve slept during the day, which wouldn’t give guests a thrill. The alligators, though, were definitely real, even though a lot of people assumed they were fake. They’d even thrown popcorn at the creatures without realizing they were taunting such dangerous animals.
You Won’t Find Pepsi Here
Have you ever noticed all of the Coca-Cola branding around Disneyland and Disney parks? Just one example is the Main Street refreshment center with the logo at the entrance. Disney only carries Coca-Cola products — nothing Pepsi in sight. You can even shop in a Coca-Cola-themed store during your trip.
Because Disney is so loyal to the brand, it gets the soft drink syrups for free. It still has to fork over money for the cups and containers, though, but it seems like both sides make out pretty well in the deal.
The Spotlight Is on You
Every detail in Disneyland was purposely planned. When you enter the park, the ground is red brick to give the impression of walking on a red carpet, something that Walt specifically wanted. You’re the star of the show when you arrive.
Imagineers designed the tunnels in a special way, too. When you stand back, you can see the tunnels were created to look like curtains opening to a stage. Once you pass through them, you’re in a totally new, fantasy-filled world. It’s the tiny, unnoticeable experiences like those that make Disneyland so magical.